The Lord of the Rings (1981 radio series)
It followed a previous 12-part BBC Radio version from 1955 and 1956, of which no recordings are known to have survived.
Each of the original 26 episodes received two broadcasts per week - standard practice for many BBC radio serials even today. The first broadcast of Episode 2 was blacked out across a large part of south east England because of a transmitter failure (a very rare occurrence even then).
The 26-part series was subsequently edited into 13 hour-long episodes, restoring some dialogue originally cut for timing (since each hour-long episode is actually around 57 minutes, as opposed to 54 minutes for two half-hour episodes), rearranging some scenes for dramatic impact and adding linking narration and music cues. It was broadcast in 13 episodes in 1982.
The re-edited version was released on both cassette tape and CD sets which also included the soundtrack album (noticeably taken from a vinyl copy).
A soundtrack album featuring a completely re-recorded and in some cases expanded, suite of Stephen Oliver's music was released in 1981.
- "The Long Awaited Party", March 8
- "The Shadow Of The Past (1981 episode)", March 15
- "The Black Riders (1981 episode)", March 22
- "Trouble At The Prancing Pony", March 29
- "The Knife In The Dark (1981 episode)", April 5
- "The Council Of Elrond (1981 episode)", April 12
- "The Fellowship Of The Ring (episode)", April 19
- "The Mines Of Moria (1981 episode)", April 26
- "The Mirror Of Galadriel (1981 episode)", May 3
- "The Breaking Of The Fellowship (1981 episode)", May 10
- "The Riders Of Rohan (episode)", May 17
- "Treebeard Of Fangorn", "May 24
- "The King Of The Golden Hall (1981 episode)", May 31
- "Helm's Deep (episode)", June 7
- "The Voice Of Saruman (episode)", June 14
- "The Black Gate Is Closed (episode)", June 21
- "The Window On The West (episode)", June 28
- "Minas Tirith (episode)", July 5
- "Shelob's Lair (episode)", July 12
- "The Siege Of Gondor (episode)", July 19
- "The Battle Of Pelennor Fields (1981 episode)", July 26
- "The Houses Of Healing (episode)", August 2
- "Mount Doom (1981 episode)", August 9
- "The Return Of The King (episode)", August 16
- "Homeward Bound (episode)", August 23
- "The Grey Havens (1981 episode)", August 30
- "The Shadow Of The Past (1982 episode)", July 17
- "The Black Riders (1982 episode)", July 24
- "The Knife In The Dark (1982 episode)", July 31
- "The Ring Goes South (1982 episode)", August 7
- "The Mirror Of Gadladriel (1982 episode)", August 14
- "The Breaking Of The Fellowship (1982 episode)", August 21
- "The King Of The Golden Hall (1982 episode)", August 28
- "The Voice Of Saruman (1982 episode)", September 4
- "The Two Towers (1982 episode)", September 11
- "The Choices Of Master Samwise (1982 episode)", September 18
- "The Battle Of Pelennor Fields (1982 episode)", September 25
- "Mount Doom (1982 episode)", October 2
- "The Grey Havens (1982 episode)", October 9
Differences from the book
- At one point, Minas Anor and Minas Tirith are referred to as though they were separate cities; these are merely alternate names for the same city.
- Part of the Battle of Pelennor Fields sequence is described in song by an opera-style vocalist rather than acted, which may distance some listeners from the action. Others may find the kinship between the sequence and Eddic style of storytelling interesting.
- The journey through Drúadan Forest and the subsequent alliance with Ghân-buri-Ghân's wild men, or "woses" is removed from the radio drama.
- Quickbeam the Ent does not appear in the story.
- Gildor Inglorion does not appear in the story.
- The radio serial omits the sequence in the book in which the hobbits visit with Tom Bombadil. However, in doing so, the Hobbits are never shown to receive their swords from the Barrow-downs and so it remained a mystery how the Witch-king was able to be so wounded with Merry's blade.
Re-release in 2002
In 2002, to cash in on the success of Jackson's movies, the BBC reissued the series in three sets corresponding to the three original volumes (The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of the King).
This version omitted the original episode divisions, and included a new opening and closing narration for the first two sets, and an opening narration only for the last, recorded by Ian Holm in character as Frodo Baggins - Frodo's narrations deal with his efforts to write his historical account of the War of the Ring in the Red Book, as well as his own personal reflections and musings on the story's events.
The re-edited version also included some additional music cues, which had to be taken from the soundtrack album because the original master tapes for the series music had been lost.
The soundtrack, now digitally remastered, was also included with The Return of the King set, with a demo of John Le Mesurier singing Bilbo's Last Song included as a bonus track.
The 13-episode series was also rerun on Radio 4 in 2002.
The series has not been heard on the digital BBC archive station BBC 7, despite frequent requests, reportedly because of copyright issues.