Suicide by Star Wars Apocrypha: The Confusing Life and Times of Freedon Nadd

Tales of the Jedi, the Official Audio Drama

SW11 Image 7Author: John Whitman

Medium: Audio drama

Publication Date: Apparently sometime in 1997

Timeline Placement: 4,000 – 3,998 BBY

This is an audio adaptation of the first three Tales of the Jedi story arcs: Ulic Qel-Droma and the Beast Wars of Onderon, The Saga of Nomi Sunrider, and The Freedon Nadd Uprising. There is some minimal effort to weave these stories together into a single narrative, as the Nomi Sunrider portion is interspersed with two or three short scenes set on Onderon, but for the most part it just feels like three separate tales glued together end-to-front, similar to the Human Centipede.

This adaptation is delightfully cheesy and suffers from all the shortcomings you might expect of its medium, from characters awkwardly describing the scene for the listener to line readings so comically bizarre you can’t believe the director couldn’t get a better take (“My baby. It’s got my baby,” an Onderonian woman says flatly as a Dxun beast devours her child). Ulic’s voice actor is probably the weakest in the cast, seemingly incapable of delivering a reading that sounds at all natural or unstilted, but most of the performances range from acceptable to okay.

Given its structural ungainliness, John Whitman’s (better known for his Goosebumps-knockoff series, Star Wars: Galaxy of Fear) adaptation is a very faithful retelling of the comics, with a few points of curious exception, one of which is how that ungainliness affects not only the plot but the narration as well. A narrator introduces the story and chimes in again with a brief recap at the halfway mark, but at certain points Nomi Sunrider lapses into first-person narration as well. It’s very confusing and unnecessary, especially when those segments, which were clearly written as narration, are actually Nomi monologuing at other characters

There are also a lot of weird continuity errors, like Whitman wrote the whole thing in one draft and just turned it in without proofreading it for any sort of consistency. When Nomi Sunrider first sees Oss Wilum, her fake internal monologue says that she instantly sensed he was a Jedi. Later, however, when he identifies himself as a Jedi, she appears to be surprised and only then mistakes him for Master Thon.

When Ulic and the others first arrive on Onderon, they’re told that King Ommin has recently died, but shortly thereafter Princess Galia mentions that he is “dying” and no one is at all confused by this, except me. Later still, when Master Arca and the others confront Ommin for the first time, Galia tells him that she thought he was dead. What.

Galia’s attitude toward the Jedi doesn’t make much sense either. The comic explicitly states that she’s eighteen, but when Ulic and the others arrive on Onderon in the audio drama, she’s all down on them about their age, calling them “untutored youths” and mocking them for being “such young Jedi,” even though they have to be at least early-twenties.

She’s also much ruder to the Jedi when they mistakenly rescue her at her wedding, and when Ulic calls her out on allowing the Beast Riders to murder Iziz soldiers as part of her masquerade, something he doesn’t do in the comic, she dismisses the victims as “cruel men, evil men.” Even though they just seemed like normal dudes trying to do their job, and the Beast Riders easily could have just stunned them like they did Galia’s demonstrably much more evil mother.

But those soldiers “deserved to die,” says Galia. Ulic begins to protest that no one deserves to die, but the princess cuts him off to complain more about her teen problems. I’ll still take this characterization of Galia over the one in the comics, however; at least this version has a character.

Warb Null remains an uninteresting waste of time and sound editing software, but the new manner in which he is dispatched bears mentioning. Rather than the swift beheading he receives in the comic while fighting Ulic Qel-Droma, here Null is at first only maimed. Ulic severs his arm and Warb Null cries out in pain, begging for mercy. Ulic is too stoked with rage over Arca’s capture, however, and brutally murders his enemy after he had already surrendered.

Ulic never shows any signs of remorse over this cold-blooded execution and apparently no one noticed him do it because it never comes up again. It’s a pretty dark moment to just throw out there and then not comment on, but the comics probably could use more moments like this given the way that Ulic’s fall is eventually written (spoiler alert!!!).

This section of the audio play also introduces a new character named Gomie, apparently for the purpose of comic relief although he never does anything funny. I guess technically he’s not a new character since there’s an unnamed Beast Rider in the comic who does something in like one panel that Gomie does in the play but whatever. After the Beast Riders shoot down the Nebulon Ranger, the scene with the bomas is completely omitted; instead, Gomie is the dumb animal tricked by the Jedi into revealing Oron Kira’s stronghold. The last we see of him is when he unwittingly stumbles across King Ommin’s lair beneath the city of Iziz. I assumed he was killed but Wookieepedia’s entry on him mentions nothing of the sort so I’ll always wonder.

Oron Kira: “Did he say ‘die’?” Gomie: “That’s what he said!”

Oron Kira: “Did he say ‘die’?”
Gomie: “That’s what he said!”

Speaking of ambiguous deaths, Novar’s role is somewhat expanded in this version. He is now the one who severs Cay Qel-Droma’s arm, replacing the nameless soldier in the comic and somehow accomplishing this feat with a handheld blaster instead of a large bladed weapon. He also faces off against Oron Kira during the Beast Riders’ assault on the city. Oron is struck dumb by Queen Amanoa’s dark-side power, but Master Arca’s Battle Meditation restores his will to fight and he wrestles Novar’s knife away from him and apparently kills him with it. Apparently he doesn’t actually though since Novar still has to grow a beard and show up for one scene in The Freedon Nadd Uprising.

There are a few notable deviations in Nomi Sunrider’s story as well. We spend a lot more time with Gudb and Bogga the Hutt’s other henchmen in this adaptation, as they completely replace Finhead Stonebone and his crew in the final confrontation with Nomi and Master Thon, demonstrating just how redundant that subplot was in the comic.

Gudb is also much more proactive in discovering the Sunriders’ Adegan crystals; instead of Andur running his mouth about their precious cargo in a wretched hive of scum and villainy, Gudb and his coworkers scan each ship as it approaches the Stenness Hyperspace Terminal and detect the crystals on board. (“Adegan crystals!” exclaims Quanto joyfully. “Oh, boy, Gudb! Adegan crystals! Ho, never thought I’d ever see any, uh . . . hey, Gudb? What are Adegan crystals?” You know, that old classic.)

Also I’m not sure what the point was in making Gudb’s gorm-worm, Skritch, an intelligent accomplice instead of a trained pet. He now gleefully anticipates Andur Sunrider’s murder with a high-pitched cackle, sounding almost exactly like Jabba the Hutt’s imp in Return of the Jedi.

There’s an odd sentiment about Andur Sunrider’s death that comes up a few times. It was touched on a little in the comic and gets brought up here as well, first when Gudb mockingly chastises Andur to Nomi for splitting his focus between so many enemies and again when Oss Wilum lends his insightful commentary. “The protection of the Force is a matter of attention,” Oss explains. “A Jedi can be undone if his attention is drawn away from his attacker. Over the centuries, some opponents of the Jedi have learned to exploit this vulnerability.” Thanks for the protip, dude, but this seems like pretty common-sense stuff. “A Jedi can be undone if his attention is drawn away from his attacker,” well duh. I’m pretty sure the Jedi don’t have a monopoly on that fatal flaw.

The entire subplot with Nomi traveling to Onderon to build her lightsaber and study under Master Vodo is excised, replaced by a new scene in which Nomi and Thon go to Coruscant to address the Galactic Senate and convince them to intervene on Onderon. Master Thon is actually my favorite part of this adaptation; the whole production is dripping in cheese, from the voice acting to the sound effects to the inappropriate musical cues, but Thon has two legitimately well-written scenes that didn’t exist in the comic and I appreciated their counterbalance to lines like “That’s nothing compared to the hole I’ll make in you if you don’t freeze like an ice cube on Hoth!”

The first comes in the aftermath of Nomi’s first use of Battle Meditation against the hssiss dragons in Lake Natth. Confused by what she’s done, she returns to Master Thon’s house and asks why he’s been ignoring her all these long months, refusing to speak to her and communicating only in bestial, incomprehensible growls. For the first time, Thon says words she understands, and Nomi gasps in shock.

“Of course I speak,” says Thon. “All the time, in words and otherwise. In the Force, every moment is an oratory. . . . I have waited for you, daughter. My words have not changed, but now you have ears to hear me.” This scene has a very Star Wars-y tone and would feel right at home alongside Yoda’s meditations on Force mysticism in The Empire Strikes Back; by opening herself to the Force, Nomi has unwittingly dropped the blindfold from her eyes and can now understand the universe on a level she never realized existed before.

Thon’s second great scene comes when Nomi is about to ship off to join the fighting on Onderon. Nomi confides in him that she’s frightened of ending up like her husband and asks if she really has to go through with this. “No,” Thon answers concisely. “There is nothing you must say and no one you must see. There is nothing you must do, and nowhere you must go, Nomi Sunrider. That is the wonderful, terrible truth of life. You are putting yourself in grave danger, Nomi Sunrider. You do not have to do so.” Then he just turns and walks away.

“You know I’m too timid to be a Jedi, Andur . . . I’d rather just stay home and dye my hair.”

“You know I’m too timid to be a Jedi, Andur . . . I’d rather just stay home and dye my hair.”

Despite the many shortcomings of this audio drama, I’d still recommend it over the three comics it’s adapting. Their inconsistent art, forgettable plots, and underdeveloped characters have less to offer than the unintentional comedy and weirdness of their adaptation. (My favorite scene comes when Master Arca is being tortured by King Ommin. Ulic Qel-Droma and Princess Galia calmly describe what’s happening with no sense of interest or urgency while Arca screams continuously in the background.)

And despite the many lackluster performances, hearing these characters emote flat dialogue is more interesting than reading that flat dialogue on a flat page; what little personalities they have pop that much more, and it’s easy to forget how little we care about the Twi’lek Jedi Tott Doneeta when he’s constantly exclaiming, “By the Goddess of the Twi’leks!” Listen to it if you can find it and have literally nothing better to do for 160 minutes, or if you’re compelled to experience the first three Tales of the Jedi arcs firsthand for some ineffable reason.

3/5 Death Stars on the masochism scale.

(Check out the Suicide by Star Wars Apocrypha Archive for more meditations on obscure Star Wars lore.)

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