Genre: Space Opera
Runtime: 6hrs 5m
Release Date: 31/08/2021
Cast: Jessica Almasy, Dan Bittner, Orlagh Cassidy, Sullivan Jones, January LaVoy, Kathleen McInerney, Tara Sands, Vikas Adam, Neil Hellegers, Saskia Maarleveld, Soneela Nankani, Marc Thompson, Shannon Tyo
Lourna Dee, a Tempest Runner of the Nihil, has been captured by the Republic. But even in the bowels of a prison, the republic are far from her only problem. For the Nihil do not easily forget, and they most certainly do not forgive . . .
Tempest Runner is my third foray into Star Wars audio dramas (meaning I’ve listened to all of them in the new canon) and it’s my first exposure to the High Republic timeline. Obviously, familiarity with the books and comics already released would help with an understanding and full appreciation of this audio production, but for people like me there is a quick run down of the important information. The Nihil are a band of pirates attacking the Republic, and Lourna Dee is one of them. The Nihil embrace storm-based naming conventions, and a tempest runner is fairly high up in their ranks.
Right off the bat, the High Republic period is a very interesting one. The Jedi have legions of mighty force-users to send into action. It does strike me as odd that something so pedestrian as pirates are able to prove such a devastating opponent, but then even Rome fell to barbarians. The Republic itself clearly has large focus of its own, but is not the shining beacon of hope it is often portrayed as. There is open slavery on member worlds, and the prison system is rife with corruption. Yes, there are good people in there, but the system itself is already showing the strain that will break it a few centuries from now. For most of the story, we’re limited to a single ship,but the Republic’s correctional facilities grant a fascinating glimpse of the contradictions at the Republic’s heart. Even in a place of reform, old habits are hard to break.
The overall story of Tempest Runner is, for me, a little lacklustre. It splits between past and present in much the same way as the previous Star Wars audio dramas have, more interested in revealing backstory than furthering any particular story arc. The problem with Tempest Runner is that both the present and the flashbacks tell a fairly similar story. In both, Lourna is captured by her enemies and forced into servitude. Endless scenes of imprisonment soon grow wearisome. The choice of when to place the breaks between sections does’t help with this, as we flash from Lourna in a cell now to Lourna in a cell then and back. When the story gets going, it’s really good, but there’s a lot of wandering along the way. And when we reach the end, we’re pretty much back where we started.
As ever, the production itself is impressive. There’s quite a big cast in this one, but the characters remain distinct even when there are half a dozen in a single scene. My one complaint here is that voice modulation has been overused. Pan’s synthesised gurgling conveys his injuries, but it also makes him difficult to listen to. If anything, he sounds like one of Mass Effect‘s Krogans suffering from a bad cold. That aside, the sound design is strong. Blasters, lightsabers, and the roar of engines all make themselves known without detracting from the dialogue. And of course the music will always be great in Star Wars.
Overall, Tempest Runner is a decent audio drama, but my least favourite of the three currently on offer from Penguin. Being a small part of larger story doesn’t help, but if you’ve been following that larger story, you’ll likely get more out of this than I did.