Are you excited for the holidays? How about for Star Wars: The Force Awakens opening tomorrow, the first Star Wars film since 2005, and the first since 1983 to not star a whiny child with a rat tail? Of course you are! Do you also, perhaps, like to dabble in hallucinogenics and/or possess an unhealthy amount of self-loathing? Oh boy, do I have a treat for you.
As legend has it, in 1978–before Empire Strikes Back or Return of the Jedi ever hit theaters–The Star Wars Holiday Special aired on CBS a week before Thanksgiving. I say “as legend has it” because barring that fateful night in 1978, the Special was never rebroadcast or released on home video. The reason? It is pure, unadulterated Bantha fodder. It makes Jar Jar Binks look like Alec Guiness. It’s only notable achievement is introducing Boba Fett, which completely explains why he has the lamest on-screen death in the entire Star Wars saga. That the majority of the core cast appears is only notable in that you can literally watch as Harrison Ford’s soul leaves his body. C3PO himself, Anthony Daniels, once referred to it as “the horrible Holiday Special that nobody talks about.”
I’m here today to talk about it. All of it. Thankfully, the invention of the internet ensures nothing is truly lost, and I was able to watch The Star Wars Holiday Special in its almost-entirety. Now all I can think about is Wookie grandfathers jerking off to holo-porn and the fact Chewbacca once had sex. None of that is a joke. Just…bear with me. This is about to get weird in way less than 12 parsecs.
- Here’s the crazy part about the Star Wars Holiday Special…okay, here’s the one of MANY crazy parts about the Star Wars Holiday Special–the story-line actually had the chance to be pretty damn cool. It’s set mostly on Chewbacca’s home planet Kashyyyk during Life Day (yes, Life Day, not Christmas, so if you’re the type of person who gets pissed at people saying “Happy Holidays” you’re about to be real mad). The only problem? The Empire set up a blockade around Kashyyyk, and Chewie might not make it home in time for the holidays. That’s amazing. That’s like Planes, Trains, and Automobiles but instead of John Candy and Steve Martin you have Chewbacca and Han Solo, and at the end John Candy’s wife isn’t dead she’s just a Wookie. Picture them flying the Millenium Falcon the wrong way through an asteroid field.
- That, to say the least, is not what The Star Wars Holiday Special is. The first thing to understand is that the first chunk of this is devoted solely to Chewbacca’s family -wife Malla, son Lumpy, and father Itchy. No actual human being shows up until about 15 minutes in. Which means for 15 straight minutes all of the dialogue is Wookie noises. All of it. If you close the tab and just listen all conversations sound like a warehouse full of cats being put into blenders. Should a warehouse like that actually exist, would you want to spend any amount of time in it much less 15 straight minutes? It doesn’t help that Itchy doesn’t even resemble a Wookie, but more like a weird Wookie-Wampa hybrid thing.
So yes, less than five minutes in you are presented with the thought at some point in history a Wookie fucked a Wampa. Solid start.
- The wook-ialogue is annoying, yes, but had you tuned in to the original broadcast already a Star Wars fan, you’d at least understand. Then, around the 20 minute mark, it becomes clear this wasn’t written by Star Wars fans but a room full of chimpanzees being fed coffee and LSD, and something has gone terribly wrong.
That’s Lumpy watching some sort of hologram dance performance…thing, I assume to distract from the fact his father, a known rebel, is most likely dead. It goes on for more than five minutes, but doesn’t really develop past that picture up there. It’s genuinely uncomfortable for even the staunchest Star Wars fans, and I can imagine was pretty damn perplexing to anyone who tuned in to watch that night’s regularly-scheduled The Incredible Hulk episode.
- A worried Malla phones Luke Skywalker to see if he knows why Han and Chewie are late to Life Day, and 27-year-old Mark Hamill just looks so damn happy to be wearing a Star Wars costume again. Bless him. If it’s one thing to take away from all this, it’s that Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford are all so darn charming they can basically sleep-walk their way through the abomination that is this script and still look great. “You know how Han and Chewbacca are. They could have stopped off somewhere or be held up by an Asteroid storm,” Luke tells Malla, because “stopping off somewhere” is strictly such a Han and Chewie thing to do.
“Come on, let’s see a little smile,” Luke requests. Malla either obliges, or just smoked some of that good Kashyyyk herb.
- Alas, Life Day preparation must go on despite Chewie’s absence. This involves cooking. Any by cooking I mean watching some terrifying Willy Wonk-ian nightmare cooked up by someone who watched the world-building in A New Hope stoned as balls and thought “this should be weirder.”
That..thing is teaching Malla how to make “Bantha Surprise.” A quick reminder, this is what a Bantha looks like. The “surprise” is that shit is going to taste awful.
- Around this time Han and Chewbacca make their first appearance, struggling to get through the Empire’s blockade. “Why do I always think taking you home for Life Day is going to be easy??” Han yells, which brings up the hilarious-yet-never-answered question of why bringing Chewbacca home for the holidays is usually so hard.
- Throughout, Academy Award winning actor Art Carney plays San Daunn, a trader on Kashyyyk. San Daunn shows up at the Wookie household bearing Life Day gifts, and presents Itchy with a virtual reality helmet. “Happy Life Day, and I do mean happy Life Day,” he says. And you’re like okay, that’s a strange line delivery there Art and then Lumpy turns on the helmet and there’s really no other way to say this other than Lumpy watches some porn. It’s porn. It is 100% porn. Grandpa Wookie straight watches porn in the middle of the living room in front of his daughter and grandchild and if that’s a Life Day tradition you can just count me out.
Celebrated stage actress Diahann Carroll shows up as an overly sexual hologram, throatily whispering things like “My voice is for you alone. I am found in your eyes only.” Then Ms. Carroll sings a really, really long song, just long and sexual enough to let you wonder in abstract horror what’s happening outside the hologram. Then the Star Wars Holiday Special takes it one step further and just shows you, and I’ll let you come to your own conclusions.
FYI, we’re about halfway through at this point. Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia shows up right around here, but I can’t honestly say I processed a thing she said, on account of just being privy to the private sexual thoughts of Chewbacca’s grandfather just moments earlier.
- At this point Empire officers arrive with some Stormtroopers to sweep the home for Chewbacca. There are definitely some odd WWII vibes throughout the whole thing. It’s like the opening scene from Inglourious Basterds, except way less tense and with a Wookie spanking it to holo-porn in the background. Although there is one scene where a Stormtrooper tears apart Lumpy’s stuffed animal, and it’s…genuinely sad? Remember that moment in the middle of the ridiculous climax to Return of the Jedi, when out of nowhere two Ewoks get blasted to shit, and the one Ewok tries to wake up the dead Ewok? And you’re like “Oh come on this is stupid oh my God why am I crying?” Lumpy trying in vain to put back together his ruined stuffed Bantha doll is exactly like that.
- Unfortunately, the genuine feelings are followed up with a Jefferson Starship music video. Somehow, porn peddler San Daunn feels the best way to distract the Stormtroopers is with Malla’s music box, which just happens to have an entire Jefferson Starship video queued up. This either means the members of Jefferson Starship are many thousands of years old, or the musical styling of Jefferson Starship are the only remnant of our civilization to travel through multiple galaxies. I don’t know which option I prefer. Either way, the most entertaining part of all this is Jefferson Starship’s keyboard player having no idea what to do with this glowing keyboard.
- I bet you’re at least interested in hearing about the mid-show cartoon that introduced the world to Boba Fett, right? Well…
- Harvey Korman shows up, and I like to think his first scene was filmed right after he read the script for the Star Wars Holiday Special.
- Harvey Korman shows up again, as some other character attempting to woo Bea Arthur in the Mos Eisley Cantina on Tattooine. Honestly, I don’t even know. At this point this whole thing has devolved into a terrible drug trip and the details don’t really matter. Seriously, if you can’t get a copy of the Star Wars Holiday Special, just drop an entire bag of shrooms and binge Star Wars: The Clone Wars on Netflix. It will be the same exact experience. Bea Arthur sings a song at one point. Harvey Korman pours a drink into his head.
Dude, I don’t know.
- Amazingly, though, the Star Wars Holiday Special features the most Stormtrooper-y moment in the history of Stormtroopers. Yes, even more Stormtrooper-y than the time that Stormtrooper hit his head on the door. So, Han and Chewie finally land on Kashyyyk and are sneaking past some Stormtroopers into the house. Han knocks the gun out of one Stormtroopers hands, and in going to pick it up the Stormtrooper trips over his own feet and falls to his death. It’s amazing. It honestly makes the whole thing worth it. I’m pretty sure if you stuffed a Stormtrooper uniform with balled up newspapers it would be less inept than every living Stormtrooper in all six Star Wars movies.
- Theory: Here the Chewbacca family is reunited, and the Empire just sort of leaves because…well just because. An Empire general videos into the house to inquire about the whereabouts of the Stormtrooper, who I must repeat tripped and fell to his death, and San Daunn is like “Oh, he’s totally on his way back right now.” And the Empire buys it. It reminded me a lot of “These aren’t the droids you are looking for.” Am I saying San Daunn is secretly a Jedi who decided to go into hiding as a simple shop-owner on Kashyyyk after the Emperor executed Order 66 in Revenge of the Sith? Why yes, yes I am. Does it explain the Wookie porn? No, no it doesn’t.
- Apparently, the big tradition of Life Day is that once the family is together, they can hold up some glowing rocks and teleport across time and space to a cave where all the other Wookies are celebrating Life Day. Yeah, it’s a little out of left field. Han, Luke, Leia, R2D2 and C3PO are there, too, for some reason. “No matter how different we appear,” Leia says, “we’re all the same in the struggles against the powers of evil and darkness.” Someone put that on a Starbucks cup, ASAP.
- Carrie Fisher closes us out with a song, and hey it’s not that bad. But on another note, a lot of people like to talk about the way Harrison Ford isn’t a Star Wars fan. In fact, he’s on record (wearing a hot dog costume) saying he wanted Han Solo killed off in the original trilogy. Let me tell you, absolutely none of that would be a mystery once you see Harrison Ford’s face during the final moments of The Star Wars Holiday Special.
- You want to know the most interesting part of the Star Wars Holiday Special? Okay, there’s a lot of interesting parts but you know what was genuinely surprising? I watched the entire credits, all the way until the end, and George Lucas’ name does not appear once. Apparently the man who takes most of the blame for ruining Star Wars, the same man who had the future Darth fucking Vader say this, didn’t even take part in the saga’s biggest embarrassment. That basically says it all right there.