The Star Wars Holiday Special
|Title:||The Star Wars Holiday Special|
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.
The legendary, the infamous, the horrifically bad, The Star Wars Holiday Special holds a special place in Star Wars fans' hearts. This TV special featured the original cast of Star Wars and aired once in 1978 before George Lucas thought the better of it and refused to air it or make copies of it available ever again. Nonetheless, some fans had taped the original airing, and copies of it (first analog, then digital) have circulated clandestinely ever since.
The plot (if there is one) involves Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, and Princess Leia trying to get Chewbacca to his home planet of Kashyyyk, so he can celebrate Life Day, a Thanksgiving/Christmas-like holiday observed by Wookiees with his family. It is also notable for featuring an animated segment by the Canadian studio, Nelvana that included the first appearance of Boba Fett.
Fan Reactions in Zines
1979From the 1979 zine Time Warp #3:
How, as we all know, this it the year that Hollywood decided "all's fair when it comes to Big Bucks and STAR WARS." Which it to say, the prime motivation behind CBS making this special was more likely big bucks and/on ratings than creating something George Lucas and I would be proud of. Those of you more astute tube watchers may even have noticed that Lucas' name was conspicuously absent from the list of credits at the end of the show. Apparently he wasn't even consulted as a "creative advisor", although whether this was his choice on CBS's is unknown.
So we're off to a bad start already, night? Then CBS labels the whole two-hour extravaganza a "musical-variety" special so as to have a good excuse to plug members of its current stable of unemployed singers and comedians into a lot of specially related bit roles, I mean, tune, everybody's got to make a buck, but when it comet to the point of casting "Maude" as a cantina owner and Diahann Carroll at a dirty old Wookiee's feathered fantasy, things are definitely sliding downhill.
Incidentally, there was something more curious in the latter role than the casting. Why would an ape-like creature delight in an erotic vision of a black, humanoid female? Has something been going on between the Wookiee species and humankind behind closed doors that we don't know about? Or it this just a simple example of eorthnocentrlcity on the part of the writers (they like Diahann Carroll -- why shouldn't an old Wookiee?)?
Add to all this the fact that our beloved heroes, the Star Wars regulars, appeared for a total of 15 minutes out 120 and you will quickly come to the conclusion that this was an A-1 rauncho exploitative bit of garbage. Well, I may get shoved into the nearest trash masher with a Dia Nogu, but I've got to admit I kind of like it.
It's not that I'm a masochist or anything. It's just that there actually were some redeeming features in those 120 minutes.
First of all, there was actually home kind of original plot holding the whole thing together --a rather juvenile one, admittedly, but let's not forget that it was a "children's special". Heck that's more than an episode of "Battlestar: Galactica" usually has.
The information incorporated within the script was logical [i.e., it made made tense than Alan VDean Fotter'h SW "novel", Splinter of the Mind's Eye, and it did not go against any of the premises Lucas established in the original movie). Even the characterization was within the limits of credulity [Han Solo was a bit too soft-hearted for my taste, but again, it was a kid's show).
Redeeming Feature #2: Costuming and make-up were surprisingly professional for a TV special The use of Rick Baker's original cantina characters made the scene at the "Scum and Villainy Bar & Grill" one of the high points of the two hours, despite Bea Arthur and Harvey Korman's incongruous presence.
Redeeming Feature #3: There was an intriguing bit of Japanese animation presented about midway through the special. Gee whiz — neat stuff. They've come a long way from "Speed Racer." Well-researched and nicely carried out. I'd brave a Saturday morning hangover to get up and see something on the order of that on the tube.All in all, there was about an hour's worth of "hey, not bad!" stuff out of two hours worth of show. [snipped] 
Jean Stevenson wrote a review in Jundland Wastes #12 (December 1982). She listed some highlights: it portrayed regular Wookiee life, and showed Wookiees continuing their alliance with the rebels. The reviewer found several things problematic, one being a male Wookiee being sexually aroused by watching a human woman sing. The reviewer includes all the lyrics to the songs sung and analyzes them at great length, and concludes that "In summation, the Star Wars Holiday Special cannot be dismissed, forgotten or ignored when considering the saga as a whole. For even the "irrelevant" and/or "useless" can have meaningful application."
From Jundland Wastes #13 (March 1983) a fan referred to The Star Wars Holiday Special as "a less than successful experiment in bringing Star Wars to television." Another fan comments on the show and writes: "[name redacted] got a lot more out of the SW Holiday Special than I did, obviously. I found the show for the most part rather boring, definitely overlong, and downright embarrassing in spots. Cut to half the length with most of the "musical interludes" removed, it would have been much better in my opinion. I doubt the writers, etc, had in mind the meanings Jean found in the songs-the sequences seemed to be shoved into the plot sideways rather than an integral part of it. The story itself, the portrayal of Chewie as a family type, Han's relationship with the family, the character of Sonn Dann-all these were fine. I just think the whole program would have benefited from concentration on these elements in a shorter span of time."In Jundland Wastes #14 (May 1983), a fan wrote:
First off then is Jean Stevenson's article about the Star Wars Holiday Special. As one who looks at cinema and TV from a production point of view, I found Jean's article disappointing. It is not the overview that at first glance it gives the impression of being. Instead, it is another of what seems to be endless attempts to prove Han Solo is the central/pivotal/main (choose one) character in the Star Wars universe. In making this attempt, Jean ignores the many flaws in the special, especially the fact that the personalities of the characters are changed to fit the story-particularly Leia's. Her attitude toward anyone or anything that is not of immediate use to her is abominable. I've never been of the "Leia is a bitch" persuasion, but she certainly appears to be one in this production. Luke, who in both ANH and TESB has always been quick to act, respond and aid a friend in need, is made to appear too busy. If these two peoples' characters are made to appear flawed for the sake of the TV production, it's possible that Han's character has been stretched to fit the script as well, albeit more favorably. Also, let's not forget that George Lucas disavowed the Star Wars Holiday Special and insisted his name be removed from the credits.
1985In Comlink #22 (1985), a fan wrote:
How come the last Lucas TV-movie disappeared without a trace? I was looking forward to a rerun of that Wookiee Christmas special, and it never came out again. Was it unpopular or did Lucas retain the copyright and refuse to rerun it? Perhaps it was supposed to sell Wookiees and it ended up not selling much of anything.
1994A fan in Southern Enclave #40 (1994) wrote:
In the SW Holiday Special, Han looks as if he were facing the hangman's noose when Leia starts warbling. Luke is swallowing a big lump in his throat. Is it the girl's singing — or the fact that they have been caught in such a silly kiddy show that brings tears to their eyes?? Mark really looks like he did a nose dive into the makeup pot. Even his hair looks dyed (a totally unnatural yellow ... Talk droid Gold or what ever you call it). The whole haircut is strange, too. It's my guess that this special was taped just a month or two after Hamill got out of the hospital, where (according to some sources) the doctors used some ear cartilage to reconstruct his nose. That would account for his hair being cut off around his ears in this ridiculous fashion.
- "Star Wars" Invades TV: Starlog Magazine Issue 019 ("A behind-the-scenes look at the CBS Stars Wars TV special, a star-studded affair that broke all the rules regarding the do's and don'ts of television.")
- Wikipedia article
- Parody version at Blue Milk Special