Review: Doctor Aphra script book is a thrilling, unpredictable journey with Star Wars’ greatest rogue archaeologist

Doctor Aphra (Star Wars) cover. Photo: Amazon.
Doctor Aphra (Star Wars) cover. Photo: Amazon. /

Everyone’s favorite chaotic, morally questionable archaeologist Doctor Aphra learns to be her own boss amidst several brushes with death in the printed script adaptation of the Star Wars audio drama — out April 6. The second audio drama to be adapted into a printed script, Doctor Aphra gives new life and dimension to the adventures of Chelli Lona Aphra, first seen in the 2015 comic runs of Star Wars and Star Wars: Darth Vader.

The screenplay follows the events of the aforementioned comics but is told from Aphra’s point of view as she (sometimes unreliably) narrates her journey on a recording device. An adapted screenplay is the perfect medium for this as it reads like Aphra herself is telling you a story while letting you into the inner workings of her brilliant, turbulent mind. Indeed, anyone who already knows even a little about Aphra knows how witty and wacky her mind is.

For Aphra, confronting death or injury is just another day at the office. But confronting her past and the emotional trauma of it is something she’d rather just shove away for another day. Aphra does both in the script book, which follows the archaeologist as she struggles to find her place and power in the galaxy while teaming up with the infamous Sith Lord Darth Vader and accompanied by homicidal droids Triple-Zero and BeeTee.

Fans of the comics will recognize the story playing out on Sarah Kuhn’s pages, but the expanded script shows more of the emotional undercurrent running through the engaging dialogue, especially in the conversations between Aphra and Vader. No matter their stark differences, the book shines a light on the relatability of Aphra and Vader — both to each other and us readers. They’re both struggling to reflect on and accept past traumas in order to move forward, and they’re both completely closed off from any sort of relationship with another sentient being that isn’t a business dealing.

For Vader, that means grappling with his purported failures after the destruction of the Death Star, working to get back in the good graces of his master Emperor Palpatine and finding out exactly who is “the boy” who destroyed the planet-killer. Though the book is chiefly about Aphra and narrated by her, it does give an intriguing viewpoint of Vader’s mindset as Aphra watches him obsess over finding Luke Skywalker and learning details about the burial of Padme Amidala.

As for Aphra’s relationship, the book delves more into the comfort she feels speaking the “mechanical language” of machines, weapons and droids as opposed to forming any sort of meaningful relationship with, as Triple-Zero would say, an organic.

Doctor Aphra, audiobook
Doctor Aphra (Star Wars) cover. Photo: Amazon. /

Fans of the comics will be excited to see the return of Sana Starros, as the book explores more of the fraught, romantic relationship between her and Aphra. Their scenes together are intense and sometimes heartbreaking, but they provide key context to the raw emotions Aphra feels but covers up with biting banter and sarcasm.

Overall, Doctor Aphra is an adventurous, complementary addition to the Aphra repertoire of stories. While it is the script of the enthralling audio drama, it feels like experiencing Aphra’s story from an entirely different vantage point.

It’s fascinating to read and hear key events in Star Wars play out through the eyes of other characters besides the Skywalkers, and Aphra is the perfect, unreliable narrator to do so. Doctor Aphra is at times both edge-of-your-seat unpredictable and emotionally thrilling, and a great starting point into the riotous world of Chelli Lona Aphra.

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Doctor Aphra is available on April 6 from Del Rey.