Star Wars Audiobooks: Did You Hear That?

Four O’clock. I remember my parents waking my brother and I every year at four O’clock for the family holiday. Groggy (who wouldn’t be), crammed into the back of a car surrounded by luggage and not an electronic device in sight. Children don’t know how lucky they have it now, with mobile devices able to engage them every second of the day. But we didn’t mind. As soon as we had driven onto the motorway and were driving down the M5 to North Devon, my dad would get a cassette (ok, I know I’m sounding really old) and would put on an audio drama. Our favourite for these journeys was called Journey into Space, a BBC production from the 1950’s that used to have my brother and I wide-eyed and half-terrified as my dad drove in the dark. It started my love for audio dramas.

When I was a little older, I began to have problems sleeping and my dad suggested that I listen to something in bed. Out of a cupboard, far away from prying hands, he pulled out a selection of cassettes. Along the spine, carefully written, was Star Wars, with an episode on each side. I dared to ask what these could be? He explained that they were a Radio Drama of Star Wars that he had recorded off the radio before I was born. Not questioning why on earth these had not been put into my clutches before, I lay down with my Walkman under my pillow and clicked play on episode one, A Wind to Shake the Stars. I was enthralled! Luke, and I mean Luke (Mark Hamill himself) was taking me back to Tatooine, but not to a story I knew. This was Luke before I knew Luke. This was Luke flying his T-16 skyhopper, this was Luke viewing a battle that I had seen but didn’t know Luke had and meeting a whole cast, very few who I actually knew. It was back story that I could have only dreamed of back then. I quickly turned the tape over to hear episode two, and found I was listening to Leia’s back story. Of course, being past my bedtime I was actually dropping off to sleep, with the wonderful sounds and music that I found so relaxing… Until the cassette reached the end and my Walkman went clunk. How we thought technology was amazing!

And although I may joke about technology, the Star Wars audio dramas were very much needed back then. I had a TV in my room, but a VCR? No way. There was no way to bring Star Wars into my room without the Radio Dramas. I loved it all, the extra bits, the fact that Mark Hamill and Anthony Daniels were in it, just to hear the story in such a different from. It added to this galaxy that I loved so much. I quickly found that The Empire Strikes Back had also been done and listened to that just as intently. And finally, after a few years searching (and not realising it hadn’t been released at the same time) Return of the Jedi. The last being a little disappointing as there was no Mark Hamill, a lot fewer extra pieces and what seemed to be more music than actual voices. However, even so, these audio dramas were much loved by me.

I didn’t expect there to be much more out there in terms of Star Wars. I remember buying Truce at Bakura, thinking that it might be just as engaging, I was a little disappointed. I don’t mean to knock the skills of Anthony Heald, who was the main reader back in the 90s of Star Wars audiobooks, but it just wasn’t the same. That was until I found two actual audio dramas, Nightlily and We Don’t Do Weddings. Both of these were adaptations from the Tales of Mos Eisley. They didn’t really feature the main characters from Star Wars, but they were tales I didn’t know and had a full cast, really making the experience. Not only that, but Dark Horse Comics also adapted several of their comics into audio dramas as well. To say I was happy was an understatement. These stories had a little something extra to them compared to the audiobooks and I listened again and again to every single one.

And then the audio drama for Star Wars seemed to take a dive and to be honest, I wasn’t surprised. Two new faces came to the audiobooks: Jonathon Davis and Marc Thompson. Along with special effects sounds, John Williams music they gave (and still do) performances that are almost as good as an audio drama. I’m very happy listening to them as I drift off to sleep (yes, I still have trouble sleeping but may the force bless iPod’s as I don’t have that clank when the cassette stops anymore). Even better, while I’m painting or cooking, I can listen to the adventures of my favourite characters.

I thought that was the end. That was until a few months ago when a new audio drama was released called Dooku: Jedi Lost by Cavan Scott. This wasn’t a reading; it was an actual audio drama with a full cast. I couldn’t believe it! As soon as Audible said it was available, I purchased it, downloaded it to my iPod and was about to click play…when I stopped. With the greatest restraint for the next few months, I didn’t listen to what I’d been waiting decades for…

Our family holiday began at the far more respectable time of ten O’clock, like I was going to subject my children to four o’clock (let alone myself!). We were packed with a bit more room than what I use to have as a child and began our drive. In the back were my two boys (Jake and Charlie) and the newest addition to the family, my two-year-old daughter Ember. Jake and Ember, as is customary, fell asleep, Charlie was on his phone. I then did what my dad did all those years ago and put on an audio drama. The voice of Asajj Ventress coming through the speakers, it couldn’t be anyone else. Charlie’s phone was away in a heartbeat. And so, we began to listen. I’ll be honest, I was concerned at first as it sounded more like an audiobook, with Asajj’s monologue, but I needn’t have worried. I was taken back in Dooku’s life and was enthralled all over again. So was Charlie. What really shocked all of us, at one point in the story, a building falls on Dooku and Ember cries out, “Oh no, Dooku!” A two-year-old following this audio drama along, a proud dad moment I can tell you!

We listened to it on our way to Wales and back, but alas, the journey to Wales is a lot shorter than to North Devon and we haven’t yet finished it. Charlie has memorised the track we’re on and has said we’ll finish it on the next long car journey. He doesn’t want modern technology in the car, he wants the story. And for me, that really means the world. Even my two-year-old asked for Dooku on! There is something that is so special about an audio drama, how even in today’s world, it can enrapture listeners both young and old. I’m really hoping this is the dawn of a new era for Star Wars audio dramas as I would love to listen to even more, but for now, I’ll guess I’ll just have to settle for listening to the end of Lost Jedi…

Mark 'Spooked Hippie' Alders
Mark’s day job is a primary school teacher, where in his classroom you will find life size cut outs of Darth Vader and Chewbacca, trying his best to educate the youth of today in the ways of the force.