Star Wars The High Republic: The Tempest Runner is the third audio drama released in canon. Dooku: Jedi Lost was an original story written by Cavan Scott covering the Count of Serenno’s time in the Jedi Order. Doctor Aphra adapted Aphra storylines from the Star Wars: Darth Vader 2015 and Star Wars (2015) comic runs. Now, the High Republic era has its entry, The Tempest Runner also written by Cavan Scott. The main difference between these audio dramas and the traditional Star Wars audiobooks is a full voice cast and the exclusivity to audio format. These exclusives, which are throwbacks to the old radio dramas from 1930-the 1960s, are perfect for a space opera franchise…in theory.
While Lucasfilm Press’ commitment to this format is inspiring, these Star Wars audio dramas have not quite worked. Dooku: Jedi Lost was just a backstory on Count Dooku through the eyes of his Apprentice, Asajj Ventress but did little to provide insight on Asajj and Dooku’s relationship. The quirky tone of Doctor Aphra did not translate to Doctor Aphra the audio drama. But that popularity and quirky tone of the comic did not translate as an audio drama. For Tempest Runner, it is a combination of the narrative structure and the lack of compelling side characters surrounding Lourna Dee that make this story drag.
The story begins shortly after the events of Rising Storm, where Lourna Dee is mistaken to be the leader of the Nihil. Dee and her Nihil storm face Jedi Master Sskeer and Jedi Knight Keeve Trennis while attempting to raid and acquire a relay post that is important to Marchion Ro. Dee wisely disguises her droid to resemble her before it gets destroyed in an explosion, and she is presumed dead. Lourna gets captured by the Republic and assumes an alias of Sal, a regular Nihil runner. Most of her time in this story is then spent on the Galactic Republic prison ship, Restitution. Meanwhile, one of her crew members runs across Pan Eyta, who has his own plans for Lourna.
The narrative goes switches from past and present frequently. Too frequently, which kills momentum. And it only emphasizes that Lourna’s past is vastly more interesting than what is occurring in the present. Her past explores her tragic childhood on Aaloth (a colony planet of Ryloth), being saved from slavery by the Jedi, and her relationship with Oppo Rancisis, and her journey to the Nihil and becoming a Tempest Runner.
The High Republic team must have big plans for Lourna and felt this present story of being held captive by the Republic was important to tell. However, Lourna’s character development would have been better served staying in the past and expanding on certain parts. Her rise in the Nihil organization is so quick, and it is hard to believe that Lourna would accomplish Tempest Runner with one honorable act given the rules established within the Nihil.
The Cast and Characters
Lourna Dee’s growth comes from untethering herself past trauma. And, when Lourna is in control of her own story, things shine. Jessica Almasy is fantastic as Lourna Dee, portraying an unstable sociopath that you briefly want to root for but just can’t. Her disturbing laughs as she tries to navigate various situations and read people do not feel out of place from her character in the novels. Marc Thompson is great pulling triple duty as Pan, Sskeer, and Marchion Ro. Also, Jonathan Davis has impressive comedic timing as Andrik, even though the transitions from past and present do him no favors. Lourna’s key present relationships are with a fellow prisoner named Sestin and a Councilor abord the Restitution named Wittick. Ultimately most of the characters in this story do not matter the same way secondary characters mattered in the other High Republic novels. Everyone is there to serve Lourna’s journey and promptly exit when they have fulfilled their purpose. We get brief appearances of Avar, Sskeer, Keeve Trennis, Nib Assek, and Burryaga. Two Republic pilots we spend time with early gives a sense of more significance but go nowhere. Pan is as ruthless as ever and is obsessed with revenge, but I would have liked a few novels without him before his inevitable return. This audiobook did little justice to their complicated relationship, only hinting at many more layers to Pan and Lourna’s past together. Speaking of past relationships, her first love, Bala, is introduced as an opportunist who earns Lourna’s scorn early with a devastating betrayal. Bala’s presence looms over the story as the start of Lourna’s trust issues.
This is more of a production criticism, but it is worthy to note as an audiobook listener. In Light of the Jedi, Marc Thompson does a British accent for Avar and Nib, but here they have American accents. Lourna has the same accent even though narrated by different voice actors, so the attention to detail is present for one aspect and not for another.
Is There A Star Wars Moment?
Not really. Although Lourna’s connection to Jedi Master Oppo Rancisis might pay off with a memorable moment later if the two meet again.
The story works best when it focuses on Lourna and the insight that she is a chameleon, changing herself to suit different situations and appease people rather than being herself. And again, Jessica Almasy carries those moments brilliantly with her voice work.
There is also a great observation that Andrik makes about Sskeer and his nature as a Trandoshean that feels more foreshadowing than anything else in this audio drama.
Least Favorite Thing
Aside from the narrative structure and flashback cuts that do not flow as smoothly as in Doctor Aphra, it is more of what is not present in The Tempest Runner. There is a missed opportunity to explore the differences and similarities in beliefs between the Nihil and the Republic. As we move further into the High Republic era, the more the Nihil and their sympathizers interact with Republic members. However, there has been a lack of dialogue between sides arguing their vision for the galaxy. It is touched upon here through Lourna’s relationship with Wittick, but still one-sided towards the Republic simply because Lourna Dee doesn’t really know why she is with the Nihil.
Star Wars audio dramas have felt the most like filler content than anything from canon so far. However, I still believe there is a place for audio drama content in Star Wars canon. Audio dramas in 30-minute increments play incredibly well for mystery genre stories (Harry Nile, Sherlock Holmes). Even radio drama adaptations of The Twilight Zone (1959) have maintained their eeriness in translation. Perhaps an audio-only series would better serve the format and could (like comics) be released monthly.
On a more positive note, Lourna Dee starting and ending The Tempest Runner as an antagonist for the Republic and a protagonist to her followers feels true to the character. She serves her own interest but is fairly loyal to her crew and has survived because of that loyalty. I hope that The Tempest Runner has put redemption (at least our sense of redemption in Star Wars) behind us has Louna put past traumas behind her. If anything, The Tempest Runner shows that it is OK to have a character be empowered to take control of their life and still be a villain.