How Star Wars: The Radio Drama Pre-Copied Special Relativity

Today I started listening to Star Wars: The Radio Drama produced in 1981 by NPR. It’s five hours long, so it includes several original scenes not even hinted at in the movie, including one that prefaces the film’s opening encounter between Princess Leia and the Empire. In it Leia is confronted by Lord Tion, an Impreial Doofus who tries to get into her pants.

I immediately noticed an eerie similarity between the performance of John Considine as Tion and the performance of James Urbaniak as Mr. Wandell in my own sci-fi radio show, Special Relativity. I created a short video with a side-by-side comparison of the two. It’s uncanny. Listen:

As I edited the clips, I realized how strangely alike these two scenes are. Leia (played by Ann Sachs) and Nox (played by Alex Borstein) both confront men they disdain. Wandell gets all smarmy because he’s afraid Nox is going to kill him; Tion gets all smarmy because he wants to boink Leia. Mine ends with an exploding tripe bomb; I think Star Wars does too.

As far as I know, neither James nor I had heard Star Wars: The Radio Drama before, so this isn’t copying. Special Relativity does involve time travel, so I’m obligated to think this might be some sort of pre-copying on the part of the Lucas people. Either way, it’s clearly a sign that I’m sitting on a multi-billion dollar empire. Finally.

Here is Orson Welles’s “The War of the Worlds” and the Reasons Why You Should Listen to It

Orson Welles on the air with the Mercury Theatre

Update, May 7, 2015: Yesterday would’ve been Orson Welles’s 100th birthday. I originally wrote the piece below in 2012 when raising money for the pilot episode of my radio comedy Special Relativity. That show came to fruition last month, starring Alex Borstein, and you can listen to the first episode at SpecialRelativityRadio.com or on iTunes.

As today’s incentive to get you to donate to Special Relativity’s sprint to raise $125 a day for the next 20 18 days, I’m giving you a gift of my favorite radio show ever, which also happens to be one of the most important works of art of the 20th century. (I know that the way these pledge drives usually work is that I give you the gift after you donate, but we’re all family here, and if I had any business acumen I wouldn’t have driven six miles yesterday to save $1 on a box of Fruity Pebbles.)

The show isn’t comedy, but it is science fiction. It’s the Mercury Theatre’s adaptation of H.G. Wells’s The War of the Worlds, first broadcast on CBS Radio October 30, 1938, produced/directed by and starring Orson Welles. You can stream or download the entire hour-long broadcast after the jump, though you’re obligated to read through my explanation of why you should think it’s great. 1I should mention that the reason I’ve decided that it’s okay for me to distribute this recording is that the question of who, if anyone, owns the copyright to old broadcasts like this one is very unsettled. That’s partly because at this point nobody really gives a shit. And while the estate of the show’s writer Howard Koch unquestionably holds the rights to the script, those don’t extend to the actual broadcast. Lots of folks with no claim to the material at all make money by selling CDs and MP3s of the broadcast, so I figure I can give it to the world for free.

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1. I should mention that the reason I’ve decided that it’s okay for me to distribute this recording is that the question of who, if anyone, owns the copyright to old broadcasts like this one is very unsettled. That’s partly because at this point nobody really gives a shit. And while the estate of the show’s writer Howard Koch unquestionably holds the rights to the script, those don’t extend to the actual broadcast. Lots of folks with no claim to the material at all make money by selling CDs and MP3s of the broadcast, so I figure I can give it to the world for free.

“All Sound and Comedy”

Special Relativity - A Radio Comedy Starring Alex Borstein

I’ve been strangely quiet on these pages about  since it premiered, especially considering that for months I wouldn’t shut up about it. I guess now that it’s out in the world I’ve been too busy being terrified about it — not terrified that people will hate it, but terrified that its existence won’t even register in people’s brains long enough for them to hate it. Because I know that if people take 24 minutes to listen to the first episode, they can’t possibly hate it. I will now tell you how I know.

See, the great irony of being a scriptwriter is that, if you’re lucky enough for your idea to actually become a finished show, it’s almost always kind of disappointing. That’s because the final product can never live up to what you envisioned as you created it. But in my almost 20-year career, the first episode of Special Relativity is the only project I’ve worked on — in radio, TV, games, theater, anything — that came out better than I imagined. It’s better than what I’d been hearing in my head for years.

For that I have to give the credit to the cast, whose performances are so good that I would’ve had to willfully sabotaged the editing to make a bad show. I’m listing their names again here, because every one of them is pitch-perfect: Alex Borstein, Dee Bradley Baker, James Urbaniak, Ted Travelstead, Alyssa Potter, Andréa Moser, and Tom X. Chao. I want people to hear the show because it’s a felony to let those performances go to waste.

There’s a moment in the final scene which I won’t spoil but which when you hear you’ll feel a click in your brain, just like I did. That click comes from Alex Borstein’s effortless performance, suddenly not able to efface itself anymore, reaching over and closing that circuit in your consciousness that only electrifies when you’ve just experienced a tour de force. Don’t you want to hear that?

Well, I guess I like the show, because I just typed four paragraphs when I’d only intended to write a three-sentence set-up for a link to its review in the Los Angeles Times. Remarkably, the paper’s TV critic Robert Lloyd selected Special Relativity as a TV pick last week, despite it not being on TV or even having any pictures. He calls it “all sound and comedy… filled with evocative scenes and memorable characters, and of course praises its “crackerjack cast.” “Please, may I have some more?” he asks. I sure hope so.

Special Relativity Has a New BFF

Special Relativity - A Radio Comedy


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My radio show Special Relativity already has a cast, but now it has a new BFF and mascot, the chrono-weed. What’s the chrono-weed? I’m not telling. But I will tell you that it’s beautifully illustrated by Andrea Tsurumi, whose lovely drawings you’ll soon see on SpecialRelativityRadio.com.

Oh, and since the show now has a logo and web site, it’s now promoting itself. Literally. It made the image below all by itself. I found a print-out of it on my face when I woke up this morning. Please share it, or who knows what I’ll find on my face tomorrow morning.

Meet the Stars of My New Web-Radio Series SPECIAL RELATIVITY

I’ve been hinting for weeks that my web-radio series Special Relativity would have an incredible cast. Today, with my groin all a-tingle, I can introduce the people telling the story of the most evil woman on Earth traveling back in time and kidnapping her younger self to foil her own plan to destroy the Universe. Please meet the stars of Special Relativity:

Alex Borstein Starring as Nox, the most evil woman on Earth,

ALEX BORSTEIN

Alex has spent the last 13 seasons at one of the most continually popular shows on TV, voicing Lois Griffin on Family Guy. She also leads the cast of the truly exceptional HBO comedy Getting On. Despite of all that, she’s of course most famous for the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers episode “Bloom of Doom.”


Vulva Man

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Listen to the First Sound from Special Relativity

It’s been three years coming, but yesterday production officially began on the first episode of my web-radio series Special Relativity. (Which, as you remember, is the story of the most evil woman on Earth, who attempts to foil her own plan to destroy the Universe by traveling back in time to kidnap her younger self.)

Recording kicked off for this suddenly and unexpectedly bicoastal project on a snowy Sunday afternoon on the upper east side of Manhattan, while I listened in my apartment in Los Angeles in my pajamas. I present to you now a brief and beautiful product of that session, this alluring and seductive first sound from Special Relativity:

 

That, of course, is the terrifying battle cry of the Chief of the Royal Guard of the Prince of the Pigeon People.

I can tell you the name of the actor who’s making it later this week, when I announce the truly exceptional cast of the podcast. Stay tuned!