“Holiday” Specials: Star Wars (Wait, what?)

Half Star

Half Star.

Star Wars Holiday Special

You remember this classic? You don't? Good.

Like I said in the Charlie Brown Christmas review I wrote earlier, there seems to be no such things as “Holiday Specials”. Every one of the so-called “holiday specials” specifically centers around the Christmas holiday and ignores all the other holidays that are celebrated at the end of December; and yet we’re supposed to believe that the term “holiday special” is politically correct because it’s supposed to include all of the other holidays that the specials themselves ignore. It’s one of the more prevalent hypocrisies of the political correctness movement. You don’t see too many specials about Hanukkah or Kwanzaa, and until I saw a special that didn’t revolve around Christmas in particular, I was going to continue to call them “Christmas Specials”.

But guess what. There’s actually a “holiday” special that doesn’t revolve around Christmas! It defies all logic and becomes it’s very own presence, no longer making it a Christmas special, but attempts to become a holiday special. What is this crazy special I speak of? Why, it’s the Star Wars Holiday Special!

Other than specifically calling itself a “Holiday Special” rather than just a Christmas special, Star Wars does a lot of other things to make it different from all of the other specials. It also attempts to create a tour-de-force in artistic and abstract imagery. But we’ll get into that later.

The movie starts off with special effects footage reused from the original 1977 film Star Wars of the Millennium Falcon being chased by the Imperial Star Cruisers. New footage shot for the special starring Harrison Ford as Han Solo comes in to give the exposition that Chewie wants to go back to his home planet for the holiday called “Life Day”.

So, instead of honoring some of the already existing holidays, the show makes one up for Star Wars. I can sort of understand that it all needs to fit in the Star Wars universe, and it would be kind of blasphemous to have Jesus be born in the little town of Mos Eisley, and it would be somewhat offensive to have the 8 candles of Hanukah explained in the context of “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away“. But at the same time you lose any emotional connection that should naturally come with a TV special about the holiday celebrated in your traditions. The very universe of Star Wars alienates it from any cherished traditions that are supposed to be expressed in a holiday special. For a holiday special that’s supposed to bring us warm fuzzy feelings of cherished traditions, the very fact that it can’t address them in it’s own universe is a major fault in the show’s basic premise.

Now that we’ve realized the issue here (and so very early on in the show), let’s see how the rest of this so-called “holiday special” holds up.

An announcer at the beginning of the show explains that Chewie has a wife, kid, and father to get back to. And it’s a good thing there was an announcer explaining this too, or we wouldn’t have a clue. The rest of the show’s opening is literally made up of wookie grunts and moans unaccompanied with subtitles. Now to the show’s credit, you can actually get a sense of what’s being said by just the body language. But the technique becomes instantly doomed when the show tries to attempt three-way conversation between the wookies.

And on top of that, the Wookie Planet looks nothing it did in Revenge of the Sith. I know that Revenge is no standard for anything, and I know there was no budget for something extremely elaborate in this special, but when I saw the wookies with machines I thought they were seemed like a weird indigenous tribe that grasped the concept of machines. NOT CULTURE! I mean, what’s with the picture frames and the ugly green carpet. The Wookie Planet I knew in Revenge had wood floors and not much else. Certainly they could handle that in this special.

Chewie’s son (I’m not even going to bother memorizing names) plays a video on his 3-D hologram table thing, and a weird dance scene takes place in the hologram. As a visually artistic expression, this isn’t that bad. Not great in the slightest, but not bad. You have acrobats swinging on little bars suspended in mid-air and dancers juggling stuff on a table. But I thought this was supposed to be Star Wars. None of this really looks like anything from the Star Wars world. The dance suits are all the wrong color a style for anything in that universe, and the scene itself serves absolutely no purpose to the story about Han Solo being shot at by the reused Star Wars footage.

Speaking of that almost forgotten plot, Mrs. Chewie uses a computer to try and track the Millennium Falcon‘s whereabouts. (I don’t care what her name actually is, and if you know her name then you’re a sad, strange little man and you have my pity. I‘m calling her Mrs. Chewie just to get through this review.) The computer code comes up on her screen as a series of… Xs and Os?! Seriously? The computer code of Star Wars is the language of puppy love in elementary school?

Luke Skywalker appears on the screen with a bad haircut and admits that Chewie left on schedule, but does not know where Chewie is if he hasn‘t made it home yet. He suspects fowl play. The plot thickens.

Mrs. Chewie (shut up, obsessive Star Wars fans) calls the local store manager to see if Chewie picked up something on the way home. As she grunts at the man, an Imperial Inspector arrives to search the store for… something. Nobody’s quite sure yet. The Inspector leaves with what appears to be a Wookie toothbrush, though he suspects it‘s a rebel spy tool of some sort. You know how intergalactic toothbrushes can be used as spy equipment sometimes.

Darth Vader declares in his Star Cruiser that he’s cracking down on the households looking for Han Solo… for no reason in particular, just ‘cos.

Bea Arthur

"Stir, whip! Stir, whip! Whip, whip! Stir, beat!"

So to pass the time, Mrs. Chewie watches a cooking show starring Bea Arthur dressed as a black person, Tyler Perry style! And apparently what ever she’s cooking requires a lot of multitasking. So Bea sprouts… A third arm?!! A FOURTH ARM?!!! And she’s stirring and whipping and beating and… doing something else with her fourth arm. I was never able to keep up with cooking shows either, but this is just cruel.

So after being interrupted by that stupid moment, we finally get to see Han Solo get shot at yet again by the footage from the last Star Wars movie. And an Imperial Star Commander sends a message to the wookie planet that the Empire suspects Rebel activity on the wookie planet of…Kazook?! What is that? I thought the wookies lived on a planet called Kashyyyk, or whatever. What is this Kazook? So the Empire is sending Storm Troopers to every household on the planet to find Rebel Activity.

Jeez, I sure hope Kazook isn’t a heavily populated planet.

So, the store manager guy comes with presents and wishes everyone a happy “Life Day”. I’m still not sure what that holiday Life Day was supposed to be, but…. I really don’t care. And the special doesn’t do much to make me care, either. No explanation or anything; which is actually in line with the conventional method of Star Wars storytelling of throwing the audience in a story they can follow without explaining any of the cultures on the planets the characters visit. But this whole special is about the culture! And if you’re not going to use a preexisting culture, you can do us well to explain what this whole “Life Day” thing is about.

The store manager gives Grandpa Chewie (what’d I tell you, Star Wars fans…) what is supposed to be… a slightly erotic fantasy visual program for his virtual reality device.

Weird…

The show then starts to throw abstract kaleidoscope visuals at us with some weird female monologue about her being a creation of Grandpa Chewie’s fantasies. Okay, I can enjoy a good visual tour-de-force in film. But this just looks cheap and doesn’t fit anywhere in this franchise’s continuity. In fact, this isn’t Star Wars at all! It’s weird and abstract, kind of creepy (especially Grandpa Chewie’s reactions to it), AND HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE SPECIAL AT ALL!

Mrs. Chewie contacts Princess Lea. Thank god for Princess Lea pushing the plot forward, even if just a little bit. All Lea does is tell us that she doesn’t know where Chewie is either and the show goes back to the local store guy and his time-wasting antics.

So without ever seeing how, Han defeats the reused footage of New Hope and reaches the planet of Kazook. But the show fakes us out when the Empire comes to the Chewie house instead. How did they know to come here? Did the Empire trace the message from the Princess to the house?

We’ll never know! The movie needs to instead show us- not a fight scene, but the Storm Troopers snoop around the house, and then literally take over the TV remote of the house and force us to watch their taste in television.

Now we know the Empire are the bad guys because they watch rock & roll music videos!

Wait, what?

Now, the song and band isn’t all that bad, though the visuals in the video looked like the band asked to be “human lightsabers”. (I know. It made less sense to me right after I typed it out.) The song is “Light the Sky on Fire” performed by Jefferson Starship and, even though it’s a cool song, it still doesn’t do anything to advance the plot of the show. But since when was that anything new in this show?

After they watch TV, the Empire chase out the store manager and search the upper area of the house. Meanwhile, the little wookie tyke watches an animated show… and I can’t tell if it the animated show is telling us what’s happened to Han Solo or not. Bobba Fett shows up for the first time in Star Wars history (he wasn’t in the original cut of New Hope) and helps Luke find Han who crashed landed on a planet somewhere. Luke finds Han, but is affected by a sleeping gas that only effects humans that aren’t Bobba Fett. Bobba goes to get the remedy and tell Vader that Han has been found. The little tyke watching reacts and-…

Somehow this animated show IS giving us live visual updates on the whereabouts of Han Solo! And it’s complete with a narrator! I don’t know how to react to that. On one hand it’s really absurd, on the other hand… we get to see how weird late 70’s Star Wars animation looked. Yeah, neither of these are really good trade offs.

Anyway, just to speed things up… There’s another scene that interrupts the plot where Bea Arthur sings as a white person about closing up the Cantina Bar, which was actually more interesting than the entire rest of the Star Wars special. Han comes into the Chewie household, watches a Storm Trooper trip over his own gun (way to go, government funded task force), and somehow that means that Han has saved the day. Chewie joins his family, the wookies howl some Life Day holiday carols in their native screeching (I’m being totally serious, here), and the special finally stops.

This movie hurt to watch. It doesn’t know what it wants to be, so it ends up being about nothing. It literally make you question any Star Wars fandom you’ve had before watching the show. And if you come back for seconds on this “holiday special”, then you’re a more pitiful Star Wars fan than anyone else out there. Go find a job!

Not only does this show keep interrupting the story by showing us random miniature dances, cooking shows, semi-erotic abstract video monologues, bar musicals, and even a how-to video to help you set up a transmitter (wait, what?), but it completely abandons anything that would make the special an actual holiday special. There’s no emotional connection to the cultures and traditions portrayed in the special because the cultures and traditions don’t really exist, ultimately making it a special about nothing. There was a reason why this so-called “holiday special” was forgotten by man, and I suggest you do the same.

It's over!

Yes. They're singing in wookie.

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About Stefan D. Byerley
Stefan D. Byerley is an independent filmmaker and freelance visual artist currently residing in North Carolina. He likes detailed storytelling, intriguing imagery, massive bloody violence, crying at the movies, and long walks in the park during the Autumn season.

2 Responses to “Holiday” Specials: Star Wars (Wait, what?)

  1. Mac Colestock says:

    I watched this years ago when a Star Wars fanatic I knew got the DVD for Christmas. Goddamn. It was terrible.

    • Stefan D. Byerley says:

      Yeah, I especially didn’t like… any of it. Parts of it were slightly interesting, but none of it was relevant and all of it was very disjointed.

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