Squeaky Mouse Droid: That Dreaded Holiday Special
As we wait for more news about The Force Awakens (possible reveals at D23 Expo in August, or the Lucasfilm marketing geniuses dropping a trailer on us in – possibly – September) things have been pretty quiet on the Star Wars front. Sure, we’re getting more and more details about that new Battlefront game almost each week, but the bottom line with the game is that this is an essential purchase if you like Star Wars (duh!) and if you like first-person shooters. I kind of suck at those kinds of games, but I might cave to get it just the same. In the meantime, there isn’t a lot of news, so why not talk about that calamity known as the Star Wars Holiday Special?
It aired on television only once in 1978, and the only way to watch it is to see that bootleg version of it (clearly copied from a VHS-taped recording of the special directly from television the night it aired) before spending the next three days wondering where you went wrong to deserve that kind of punishment. Yes, you’d rather be fed to the rancor than sit through that special one more time.
But why? It has previously unseen footage of all the main characters in the first Star Wars film (except Ben Kenobi) all played by the original actors. Even Darth Vader, as voiced by James Earl Jones, has a new scene that should, by all rights, make it better for some fans than the entire prequel trilogy.
Yet, it doesn’t.
Not long after the special starts- about the time we find ourselves on Kashyyyk as Chewbacca’s family waits for him to return home – a small yet impenetrable force field bubble (that you can’t see) forms first around the television before covering the entire room that you are in, making it so that time itself seems to stretch somehow and move more slowly for anyone inside that bubble who’s watching the show. The wookiees in these scene spend a lot of time talking to each other using the wookie-language (none of which is subtitled for the audience) but exactly how much time passes for these scenes to be over remains uncertain. Even if you time it with your watch, you can’t help but know that somehow, more time has actually passed during the first act of this incredibly long television special.
You’d think things would get better when we catch up with our heroes in an “exciting” animated adventure (the which Boba Fett, albeit wearing all-white armor in his all animated form is first introduced. Nope. This animated short is pretty lousy.
We continue to suffer: there’s musical numbers in the cantina bar, an actual song with lyrics set to the tune of the Star Wars theme and sung by the totally-baked Princess Leia. There’s also a scene where Chewbacca’s son Lumpy (yes, Lumpy) puts on some virtual reality prop to watch something that might be classified as “wookiee porn.” There’s Art Carney, who shows u spending what feels like an hour trying to distract an imperial guard. If he just used a karate chop to the guard’s neck it would have saved us an eternity.
The Holiday Special is a variety show, a form of television programming that’s about as current as the do-do bird. At the time there was no internet, so the special was made to remind people that a new film will be coming shortly,. In fact, variety shows themselves work a lot like a YouTube playlist in terms of their entertainment value: they consist of often separate humorous bits that can be enjoyed together or separately. I use the word “enjoyed” lightly, as variety shows ha
Now, of course, it’s seen as a misstep. Don’t check it out. I will say that this review could have been longer. I’ve spared you from descriptions of events that would be as unsettling as seeing the events themselves play out on screen. The Star Wars Holiday Special was the worst possible way to “continue” a franchise after a successful film – yet it was done at a time when sequels were unheard of (the practice of creating a special like this would be unnecessary today) but it does teach us just how “fragile” our favorite franchises are: characters that work perfectly in a well-made and well-edited feature film might turn out to be disasters if taken out of that context and used in some other fashion. That is what happened with the Holiday Special.
For any true Star Wars fan, there is that inevitable curiosity that forms when he or she hears about this special: that person wants to see it for themselves. Bottom line: no matter how big of a fan you are, you don’t want to see it.