Forget the new Star Wars – instead catch Luke, Leia and Han in the long-lost ‘Holiday Special’
Last week the long-awaited trailer for Star Wars Episode VII was released. True fans, however, know that it’s really
Star Wars Episode VIII. Why doesn’t George Lucas want us to remember the first sequel, The Star Wars Holiday Special, which aired on CBS in 1978 and has rarely been shown since?
Thanks to the internet, a technology that doesn’t exist in
The Star Wars Holiday Special, anyone can watch it now. It’s an all-singing, all-dancing extravaganza, which opens with Han Solo and Chewbacca trying to get to his home planet so that Chewbacca can celebrate “Life Day” with his family.
Chewbacca is a Wookie, a sort of sentient shag carpet. Han Solo is Harrison Ford, a sort of sentient Mark Hamill. And Life Day is basically Wookie Christmas. On Life Day, presents are given, Wookies spend time with family and presumably celebrate the birth of Wookie-Christ (the theology of Life Day is a bit vague).
Chewy is an absentee father, and his son Lumpy, his wife Malla and his father, Itchy, wait for him, growling and grunting, in their swish 1970s-themed treehouse. There are slapstick diversions. Rebel trader Saun Dann brings gifts including a music box containing the band Jefferson Starship (seriously) and some virtual reality erotica (seriously) for Itchy. This involves a singing human woman who appears to Itchy and says: “I am your fantasy. I am your experience . . . I am your pleasure, enjoy me.”
It’s a bit creepy for a family special. Then again, it’s the 1970s, a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.
Malla watches a cookery programme featuring a four-armed alien in a dress. There’s an animated sequence with fan-favourite Boba Fett (his first appearance). Then Bea Arthur serves space-drinks to aliens in the cantina from the first movie while being hassled by an alien-suitor and inexplicably singing Brechtian songs.
“Just one more round friend, then homeward bound friend,” she sings, before locking herself in the bar with her stalker (much of the Holiday Special feels slightly off, like it should be called Lars von Trier’s Star Wars Holiday Special).
Murdering stormtroopers Back in the tree-house, Imperial stormtroopers appear. Chewbacca and Han arrive and show Lumpy the true meaning of Life Day by murdering a stormtrooper. “Best. Life Day. Ever,” Lumpy would say if he could speak. Although, there’s always
The ‘Star Wars Holiday Special’ is a bit creepy for a family special. Then again, it’s the 1970s, a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away
a possibility he can’t speak because he’s traumatised.
Murdering fills Han Solo with warm feelings. “You’re like family to me,” he says to Chewbacca’s family. Well, his mouth says this. His eyes say: “I’m going to fire my agent.”
Then dozens of Wookies make their way to the “Life Tree”. All are wearing long red robes, which means that Wookies have a concept of clothing, which means Chewie, Itchy and the rest have been wilfully nude until now (Chewie wears a gun-belt, but if anything that makes him more nude.)
Luke, Leia, R2D2 and C3PO arrive. C3PO laments having no emotions with which to appreciate Life Day and after an hour watching this I understand. I too can feel nothing, C3PO.
Han says: “All of you are an important part of my life.” He still hasn’t managed to get through to his agent.
A zonked-looking Carrie Fisher makes an impassioned speech about the true meaning of Life Day. I say Carrie Fisher rather than Princess Leia, because there’s a look in her eyes that suggests she thinks this is really happening (“Dear diary, great day today, sang for some Wookies at the Life Tree, signed, Carrie”).
So bad it’s bad She starts to sing to the tune of the Star Wars theme: “We celebrate a day of peace, a day of harmony.” Off-camera I imagine someone saying: “This isn’t in the script.”
I know. This all sounds amazing, especially the Bea Arthur bit. But Star Wars Episode V: The Star Holiday
Special isn’t “so bad it’s good”. It’s so bad it lays eggs in your brain and spiders of awfulness hatch in your dreams. It has never been re-released. It’s said that George Lucas travels the world destroying all copies and eliminating all who’ve seen it.
I don’t care. When Lucas finds me, and his hands clutch my throat and things start to go black, I’ll make my peace with Wookie-Christ and say: “It’s still better than The Phantom