NPR’s adaptations of the Star Wars films, written by Brian Daley, are a highlight of radio drama, in my opinion. Originally aired in 1981 (A New Hope), 1983 (The Empire Strikes Back), and finally completed in 1996 (Return of the Jedi), the series expands on the films and provides an immersive experience all its own. This, however, is not one of those episodes.
“Rebel Mission to Ord Mantell” is a children’s album released in 1983. It is a stand-alone tale of happenings between the first two films. It was written by Brian Daley and could very well have been written for the Empire adaptation, but not used. Still, it is very well produced, and I always include it when I listen to the Star Wars radio series. I had the record as a kid and have listened to it countless times. May you enjoy it as much as I have, and may the Force be with you.
“Rebel Mission to Ord Mantell”
Writer: Brian Daley
Producer: Buena Vista Records
“Black Jack Justice” is Decoder Ting Theatre’s second main series (I previously talked about ” The Red Panda Adventures”). This is Gregg Taylor’s unique take on the hard-boiled detective genre. One of the twists Taylor gives us is dual detectives – the titular Jack Justice and his partner, Trixie Dixon, girl detective.
Beginning in 2005, “Black Jack Justice” and “Red Panda” alternated airing in sets of 6 episodes. Currently, BJJ – also in its eighth season – debuts new episodes on the 15th of the month from September through February. Taylor produced 12 episodes for the first season, but the series has had 6 episodes per season since (with a fill-in series rounding out each year). The series is reminiscent of the wonderful Old Time Radio detective shows like “Sam Spade,” “Philip Marlowe” and “Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar.”
This particular episode may not be the best one for an introduction, but it is my absolute favorite. One of the most dramatic episodes of the series, “The Albatross” focuses on my favorite supporting character, Police Lt. Victor Sabien, played by series creator Gregg Taylor. In this episode, Sabien is haunted by the murder of a young girl. The department wants the case to disappear, so Sabien enlists Jack and Trixie to try and find out what happened. While Christopher Mott (Jack) and Andrea Lyons (Trixie) are always wonderful in this series, this episode belongs to Taylor. The emotion on display here should have earned him an Academy Award, if such a thing existed for audio drama.
As I said, this episode may not be the best choice for an introduction to the series, and it can be a hard listen even for longtime followers. It is, however, a dang fine piece of drama and well worth listening to. I hope you give it a listen.
BLACK JACK JUSTICE
January 14, 2011
Cast: Christopher Mott, Andrea Lyons, Gregg Taylor, Clarissa Der Nederlanden, Peter Nicol
Writer: Gregg Taylor
Director: Gregg Taylor
“The Radio Adventures of Dr. Floyd” is a wonderfully fun podcast audio drama. Created by Grant Baciocco and Doug Price, it is family friendly entertainment in the style of “Rocky & Bullwinkle” cartoons. The series produced 8 seasons of shows from 2004-2010. Later seasons even feature coded messages at the end of the episodes (and you can still get the official decoder ring on their website!).
The time travel comedy-adventure series is a serial which, again, makes it difficult to pick a favorite single episode. However, most episodes are quite short (4-8 minutes), making it easy to listen to a chunk of them at once. Since the kids and I were hooked on this show from the very start, I thought I’d just go ahead and share the first arc of the series.
These first three episodes (“Where It All Begins… Again!,” “Steve Defeats Floyd!” and “Stop the Presses… And Dr. Steve!”) introduce us to the main characters (Dr. Floyd – the World’s Most Brilliant Scientist!, his protege Dr. Grant, their faithful robot companion CHIPS, and Evil Mastermind Dr. Steve with his sock-shaped assistant, Fidgert) and give us an idea of the fun to come. My kids will actually sit and listen to this show a whole season at a time, laughing out loud almost the whole time. May you and your kids enjoy it as much as we do.
THE RADIO ADVENTURES OF DR. FLOYD
“Where It All Begins… Again!”
“Steve Defeats Floyd!”
“Stop the Presses… And Dr. Steve!”
Cast: Grant Baciocco, Doug Price, Nicholas Skinner
Writers: Grant Baciocco & Doug Price
Producers: Grant Baciocco & Doug Price
Like many comic book fans my age, I had a few of the Power Records/Peter Pan Records story albums as a kid. I didn’t have many, I think the Lone Ranger and a Superman album were it, but my friends had others and we would listen to them and read along with the comics if we were lucky enough to have the book & record version.
My Superman album was one of the later versions (pictured above). It had two stories which had previously been released on separate albums, resulting in Superman being voiced by a different actor in each story. The one I’m sharing today – “The Mxyzptlk-Up Menace” – features my favorite of the two Superman voices. Power Records cast lists are by-and-large a top secret piece of information, but according to a blog I read a year or so ago, Old Time Radio veteran Elliott Lewis was the Man of Steel for this adventure.
Power Records were intended completely for children’s entertainment – this was before the days of the VCR, after all – and, as a result, plots are often kind of silly. In this one, Mr. Mxyzptlk takes away all the vowels in the world. Today, it’s fun listening to the actors try and read their vowel-less lines, but as a kid this was a serious dilema. How could Superman save the day and send Mxyzptlk back to his own dimension? I hope you’ll listen and find out.
“The Mxyzptlk-Up Menace”
Cast: Elliott Lewis
Producer: Power Records
“Night Beat,” like “The Six Shooter,” is an Old Time Radio series that I had never really heard much about. Everyone knows about the Lone Ranger, Jack Benny, the Shadow, etc, but there are gems out there that are not as well known that we stumble upon accidently. In this case, I decided to seek out the series when I saw that Radio Archives released a book based on the show and written by several New Pulp authors. I’m glad I did, as the series has proved to be excellent. Frank Lovejoy, who had played radio super hero the Blue Beetle previously, stars as Randy Stone, a night reporter for the Chicago Star. The show originally ran on NBC from February 6 – November 10, 1950. It was brought back for a special broadcast in March 1951, and then returned from May 18, 1951 until September 25, 1952.
In this episode, William Conrad guest stars as a punch-druck former boxing champion. Besides being Matt Dillon on radio’s “Gunsmoke” (and the narrator for “Rocky & Bullwinkle”), Conrad guest-starred in many Old Time Radio series, and often multiple times in multiple roles. I’ve heard him in many shows over the years, but this performance is quite a standout. This episode has been called “heart-wrenching,” and I cannot argue that statement. I hope you enjoy it.
“A World All of His Own”
February 20, 1950
Cast: Frank Lovejoy, William Conrad, Lurene Tuttle, Larry Dobkin, Bill Lally, Leo Cleary
Writer: Russell Hughes
Director: Warren Lewis
Today I’ll talk about a favorite episode of one of my favorite modern audio drama series – “The Red Panda Adventures” from Decoder Ring Theatre.
Again, some background for those unfamiliar: “The Red Panda Adventures” began in 2005. A super hero podcast series in the style of Old Time Radio, it stars creator and writer Gregg Taylor as the Red Panda, and his wife, Clarissa Der Nederlanden, as sidekick, the Flying Squirrel. Originally set in 1930s Toronto, time does advance in the series and, currently in Season 8, the timeframe is now mid-WWII. (The episode I’m sharing today is from Season 2.) The series is fun and family-friendly (my kids love it – one of my boys was the Red Panda for Halloween and another has built an entire Lego Red Panda collection), in the spirit of Golden Age radio, comics and pulp magazines. In the years he’s been producing the series Taylor has also spun the characters off into a line of pulp-style novels (Tales of the Red Panda) and an upcoming digital comic mini-series (Mask of the Red Panda).
Gregg Taylor and Decoder Ring Theatre consistently produce outstanding audio drama. This episode introduces my favorite of the Red Panda’s super villains – the Mad Monkey, delightfully played by Christopher Mott. Taylor’s dialogue is always wonderful, and this episode is certainly no exception. This episode is just loads of fun, and I hope you enjoy it.
THE RED PANDA ADVENTURES
April 7, 2007
Cast: Gregg Taylor, Clarissa Der Nederlanden, Christopher Mott, Steven Burley, Brian Vaughn, Gregory Z. Cook, Kevin Robinson, Michael Booth, Monica Kote
Writer: Gregg Taylor
Director: Gregg Taylor
Today, my favorite episode of my favorite series – The Lone Ranger. The Lone Ranger is my favorite character, which is part of why it is my favorite series. A large part of why the character is my favorite, aside from his heroic nature, has to do with my family. As a kid, my dad and my grandfathers enjoyed westerns and sports, all of which I found boring. I loved super heroes and cartoons. The Lone Ranger was a show (the Clayton Moore TV series, of course) that I could watch with any of them. I have fond memories of watching that show, and it didn’t matter if I was at home or at one of their houses. If the Lone Ranger was on, we could watch it. That’s a big part of why I love the character.
In the last couple years, as I’ve listened to more and more of the radio shows, Brace Beemer has really become “my” Lone Ranger. His commanding voice is what makes everyone he encounters listen to him. Clayton Moore was great on TV, but Beemer was the man, in my opinion.
The Lone Ranger debuted in late January 1933 on WXYZ out of Detroit. Of the 3,377 original episodes produced, only 2,606 were ever recorded. Of those, only around 1,850 episodes are believed to still survive. Beemer took over the role in April of 1941 after Earle Graser, who had been the Ranger since April of 1933, died in a car accident. Beemer continued in the role until the series went off the air in May 1956.
The Lone Ranger gets a bad rap these days due to “the mistreatment of Native Americans.” Anyone who has listened to or watched more than a couple shows can tell you that is not the case. Tonto is the Ranger’s partner, not his slave. Most of the time if Indians are accused of wrong doing, there are evil white men behind it and the Lone Ranger helps prove the Indians innocence. That has nothing to do with this episode, but I thought it worth mentioning.
This episode, “The Return of Cavendish,” celebrates the 20th anniversary of the show. The show recounts the Ranger’s origin and features the dramatic final confrontation between our hero and his greatest enemy. It gives me chills each time i listen. I hope you enjoy it.
THE LONE RANGER
“The Return of Cavendish”
January 30, 1953
Cast: Brace Beemer, John Todd, Fred Foy
Writer: Fran Striker
Director: Charles D. Livingston