BBC Dramatized Radio Broadcast of The Lord of the Rings

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

So I know it was forever ago, but you guys remember my review of the BBC radio adaptation of The Fellowship of the Ring, right? If not, that’s cool; it’s still there, so you can go read it. Done?

BBC Dramatized Radio Broadcast of The Lord of the Rings | Lydia Sanders #TwistyMustacheReviews


The complete BBC Radio Broadcast of The Lord of the Rings, written by Brian Sibley and Michael Bakewell, aired on BBC Radio 4 from March to August 1981. There were 26 half-hour episodes.

Today’s post will focus on the portions of the story considered equivalent to The Two Towers and The Return of the King.  I’m not going to talk about production quality, voice actors and stuff like that today because I already covered it in my previous review of this drama.

The Lord of the Rings BBC Radio Broadcast Review

One of the first things I noticed is the perspective shifting in the adaptation. While the books keep Frodo and Sam’s journey separate from their friends, the radio adaptation mixed them together. This makes the story more chronological and allows each of the main storylines to be referenced often enough to keep listeners from forgetting what the story is about. I found this more engaging than the books. Because of the alternating perspective, some things from The Return of the King are represented in The Two Towers’ section.

The radio adaptation is more true to the books than the films are, but they also have to streamline the story because of time constraints. The scriptwriters did this by cutting out a bunch of small try/fail cycles, unimportant side characters, and repeated foreshadowing. The core of the story is still there and basically unchanged; if you ever read the books, you’ll find little nuggets that weren’t in the drama, which is always fun, but they’re not that important.

The scene at the beginning of Sam’s plotline in The Return of the King is streamlined a bit too much to make total sense, but you would probably only know that if you were already familiar with the book or were listening very closely. It’s not nearly as confusing as the end of The Hobbit BBC radio broadcast where they mushed Bilbo’s two forays into Smaug’s lair into one incident. Overall, I am very satisfied with what they cut and what they didn’t.

The radio adaptation also cuts out overly graphic details, like when the orcs throw severed heads over the walls into Minas Tirith (yum). So if your kids read The Hobbit an want to experience LOTR, but you don’t think they’re ready for that kind of graphic content, this would be a better choice.

This adaptation has even more music and song lyrics than the books did originally, especially after heroic stuff happens. Some of the events of the story get put into song as a way of telling the story while also giving the flavor of the world. In the last segment, I actually found some of the music a little annoying, but the overall effect was still nice.

The fight scene near the end of The Two Towers section is awesome. I like it way better in audio than on film, but you have to listen and think about the scene to understand why.

As in the books, the resolution is quite long, but I was never bored. Far from it—I wanted to celebrate with the victors! Most of this (basically a bonus story on the end that shows how the hobbits have changed since they left the Shire) is missing from the Jackson’s The Return of the King film, so I’m glad the audio drama has it.

After  I finished listening to this, I had to listen to Karliene’s cover of Into the West several times for closure, because I didn’t want the story to be over.

Good thing I still had the last two books to read…

Bottom Line

I love this adaptation. It remains true to the books as much as possible, but the perspective shifting and dramatized audio format make it even more engaging. I recommend this radio drama to kids and adults alike and wish I had my own copy. That makes it a six-mustache listen for me.

Have you listened to The LOTR BBC radio broadcast? Or maybe the American one? What did you think of it? Leave a comment below or my hairless ghost lemur will haunt your dreams.

BBC Dramatized Radio Broadcast of The Lord of the Rings | Lydia Sanders #TwistyMustacheReviews

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