Doctor Aphra, written by Sarah Kuhn, is the second audio original from the world of Star Wars. Similarly to the first one, Dooku: Jedi Lost, this hardback is the result of fans requesting a physical edition. I had no idea what to expect when I picked up my copy of Doctor Aphra. But after turning that final page, I realised two things. Firstly, audio originals, particularly Star Wars-centered ones, are going to change the way we enjoy immersive stories. Secondly, Doctor Aphra has easily climbed the ladder in regards to my favourite Star Wars characters. In fact, I’m slightly annoyed at myself. I can’t believe it took me this long to become acquainted with the morally twisted yet adventurous archaeologist.
What exactly is Doctor Aphra? This hardback is essentially the printed version of the audio original. It’s a script. Although, unlike traditional scripts, this particular book doesn’t include directions for actors. It’s just a printed version of the dialogue and narration with a few paragraphs which help set the scene. Originally, I thought this would make it a fairly limited experience. Could I truly immerse myself in a primarily visual world with just dialogue? The answer is yes. As someone who is pretty unfamiliar with the format and the daring Chelli Lona Aphra, Doctor Aphra absolutely defied my expectations.
Set just after the destruction of the first Death Star, Doctor Aphra takes us to some new locations while bringing in a bunch of familiar faces. It’s a perfect combination of new elements and old. What’s brilliant is that the familiar elements don’t distract you from the core story. This is Aphra’s story and not even Darth Vader or Han Solo will change that. After Aphra’s latest plot goes wrong, she finds herself working alongside Darth Vader. In a deadly game with the Sith Lord, Aphra juggles Vader’s various tasks while trying to uncover the many secrets hidden behind his helmet. At the centre of this unraveling mystery stands a talented farmboy, the same farmboy who destroyed the Empire’s biggest weapon.
Doctor Aphra is available now
What I found truly captivating about this narrative was the way in which it was formatted. Like I said, I had no idea what to expect. Essentially, Doctor Aphra appears like one giant and continuous holo-message which really heightened the overall immersion. Aphra is constantly addressing the audience since she knows that we’re listening/reading and it worked perfectly. Especially for a reader like me. Doctor Aphra is new character to me. But in this one story I was able to understand her past, acknowledge her motives, and really respect the character she is despite her many flaws and rather twisted outlook on life. She is the one telling the story and that allows for some really fun and playful elements to shine through.
One of my favorites was the way she purposely withheld information in order to gear up for a dramatic reveal. She would constantly remind the reader to keep up and that a certain piece of information would crop up soon. She was always checking that we were paying attention. There were also moments where she would interact with the actual ‘recording’ by erasing certain bits or ‘bleeping’ things out. It made for an incredibly immersive and exciting read and it really allowed Aphra’s personality to take over.
These weren’t words written by an author per say, they were events recalled by Aphra herself and you get to see the events unravel the way she saw them while gaining outside anecdotes from Aphra’s narration. It’s truly a testament to Sarah Kuhn’s writing ability. She was able to brilliantly embody Aphra with all of her quirks and rather charming demeanor. Her personality flows through the story which moves the narrative forward and presents us with a different side of Aphra.
Aphra became an instantly likable character despite her moral compass being slightly off. She’s not the nicest person and she repeatedly affirms that she never wants to come across as weak. Without going into too much detail, her reminiscing helps to put things into perspective. She’s not a villain. She’s a survivor with a lust for the next big thrill. But what’s incredibly touching is that as the story progresses, you quickly realise that there’s a softness and vulnerability to her. She’s a tough character, that much is clear, but those brief moments where she allows herself to succumb to her feelings help bring her down to our level.
Obviously, Aphra isn’t alone in this story. She’s joined by some rather interesting characters. Some of them you’ll recognize, like Vader, Boba Fett, and Princess Leia. But others are relatively new. You’ll meet some really cool bounty hunters, Aphra’s ex-girlfriend, and two homicidal droids who are pretty much the exact opposite of R2 and Threepio. BeeTee and Trip (0-0-0) are absolutely brilliant. The trio have a really fun relationship and they continuously bounce off of each other. Their dynamic is definitely a highlight despite the two droids causing even more trouble for Aphra. Imagine having to deal with Darth Vader while babysitting two droids who are obsessed with torture and explosions. Poor Aphra has enough on her plate. But you’ll soon realise that Doctor Aphra has quite a few tricks up her sleeve.
Now, I didn’t listen to the audio original. Don’t worry, I will get to it. But I think reading the script without listening adds a certain flare to the story. I had no idea what these characters sounded like, but my imagination was able to fill in those gaps. I would love to actually hear them properly, but I came up with my own interpretation for each character- more so the ones that were new to me. That was a lot of fun and it allowed me to be creative in my own unique way.
Much like the holo format, this freedom added to the overall experience and I quickly fell into a rhythm of portraying each character as and when they appeared. With this, I found myself steaming through the book as though I had blasted off into hyperspace. The small and condensed scenes allow for a really quick read. Before I knew it, I was reaching the end of Aphra’s story. Now I have a hunger for more.
Doctor Aphra is fun, hilarious, and action packed. Aphra may come across as a particularly sinister and mischievous individual, but there’s more to her than meets the eye. While it isn’t necessarily a traditional read in regards to its format, the script-like nature adds an interesting spin to the narrative which gives new readers an outstanding introduction to the cocky and cunning Doctor.
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