Anthony's Film Review
The Star Wars Holiday Special
(TV Special, 1978)
An unbelievably embarrassing atrocity to both the Star Wars universe and television itself...
All great works of art have an unfortunate risk: follow-up continuations being tarnished by lack of creativity, particularly by minds different from the original creator. There are many examples of this, including disappointing movie sequels and mediocre adaptations of a work in another medium. A fan of a specific piece of work may be unhappy about these sorts of sacrileges to the original work and may often want to deny their existence. It's something that just about anyone can relate to.
Even fans of Star Wars have suffered in this way. Following the classic science-fiction film in 1977, a sequel would be made the following year in the form of a television special. Just from the advertisement, The Star Wars Holiday Special looks promising. Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Chewbacca, C-3PO, and R2-D2 would be back, this time on the small screen in what might be another exciting adventure. But to everyone's dismay, this two-hour TV special (one and a half hours without the commercials) turned out to be one of the most awful things people have ever seen.
The first striking thing is the introduction. It's not the classic yellow Star Wars logo followed by a tilted scrolling introduction. Instead, it's a white Star Wars logo with a TV announcer introducing the familiar cast plus some new characters, mainly Wookiees that make up Chewbacca's family and some guest stars. If you want to make a Star Wars TV special real spectacular, you don't go for this low-key introduction.
As for the story, it begins with Han Solo and Chewbacca flying the Millennium Falcon, evading the Galactic Empire. Chewbacca needs to get home to the Wookiee planet of Kashyyyk for a celebration called Life Day. Han promises to get him there if they can escape. Now, keep in mind that the special effects scenes are just recycled from the 1977 film, and the cockpit scenes were shot for this TV special. In fact, there is a scene with Darth Vader, but it's recycled footage with the audio replaced by James Earl Jones's new lines.
Now it gets worse. The majority of the show from this point on until the last few minutes has nothing to do with Star Wars. You first see members of Chewbacca's family living their lives. The problem is that there are no subtitles to tell us what their grunts and roars mean. It is very painful to watch. There are also sequences featuring boring and forgetable guest appearances by Harvey Korman, Beatrice Arthur, and Art Carney. One sequence is really bizarre: one of the Wookiees is watching a virtual reality presentation of a seductive Dihann Carroll, as if this was some kind of pornographic video. And throw in musical numbers, including a hologram sequence of what appear to be clowns and the band Jefferson Starship. Again, none of this pertains to Star Wars in any conceivable way.
Luke Skywalker appears at one point as he is talking to Chewbacca's family. His appearance is problematic because his face looks so much more feminine than in the 1977 film. Apparently, Mark Hamill had been in a motorcycle accident in between the 1977 film and this 1978 TV special. Otherwise, the rest of the familiar Star Wars cast finally arrive on Kashyyyk, but only at the end after sitting through over an hour of mindless dreck. Even so, you could care less. And the worst part is that, during the Life Day celebration, Princess Leia is singing. In fact, she is singing to the melody of the famous Star Wars theme.
The only sequence that is watchable is an animated sequence featuring the familiar Star Wars cast in a miniature adventure. It's notable because the bounty hunter Boba Fett is introduced here. It clarifies who this character is, because he appears in The Empire Strikes Back with no background information presented. Now THIS is what the special should have been based on. If they would have expanded on this or had material that was along these lines, then you'd have a great Star Wars TV special.
Regardless, The Star Wars Holiday Special is a terrible insult to Star Wars fans and to television itself. There are also signs that the cast themselves have been very humiliated by their experiences with this TV special. Harrison Ford once appeared on Late Night With Conan O'Brien to promote a movie, only to be asked about The Star Wars Holiday Special. He said pretty much nothing, except "thank you" when someone played a clip from it. In addition, I once heard that Carrie Fisher claims to not remember doing this TV special, maybe because of drugs and alcohol, but I think it was out of pure embarrassment.
But if there's one person who is really upset, it's George Lucas himself. The Star Wars Holiday Special aired on TV only once and has never been officially released on video. However, it exists in bootleg form. Some have originally taped the show onto video cassette, and over the years, it's been copied multiple times onto VHS and eventually onto DVD. Lucas himself has said that he would destroy every physical and digital copy of The Star Wars Holiday Special. I don't blame him at all. Even with a few elements that have made their way into other Star Wars works, particularly the Wookiee planet Kashyyyk mentioned in Star Wars novels and Episode III - Revenge of the Sith, it would not be any different if this TV special never existed.
So if you want to do Lucas and all true Star Wars fans a favor, then do three things. One, don't ever watch this piece of crap. Two, urge people to destroy whatever copy of it is still around, and do it yourself if you can. And three, just flat out deny that The Star Wars Holiday Special ever existed. Period.
For more information about The Star Wars Holiday Special, visit the Internet Movie Database.