The Star Wars Holiday Special is a 1978 American made-for-television film set in the famous Star Wars universe. It starred the film's main cast while introducing the character of Boba Fett, who would appear in later films. It was one of the first official Star Wars spin-offs, and was directed by Steve Binder. The special was broadcast in its entirety only once, in the United States, on November 17, 1978 (the week before Thanksgiving), on the U.S. television network CBS from 8:00 pm to 10:00 pm Eastern Standard Time (EST), prior to Wonder Woman and The Incredible Hulk; and on the Canadian television network CTV from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm EST. It was also broadcast in New Zealand on TVNZ and in Australia on the Seven Network.
The Special has never been rebroadcast or officially released on home video. The only way it survives is through copies of home VHS and Betamax recordings of the show's one-time airing.
On Life Day (a Wookiee holiday similar to Christmas), Chewbacca, accompanied by Han Solo, is headed home to see his family. Along the way, the duo are chased by two Imperial Star Destroyers, but they escape into hyperspace.
Meanwhile, on Kashyyyk (mispronounced as "Kazook"), Chewbacca's family is preparing for his return. Hoping to find the Millennium Falcon, his wife Malla runs a computer scan for starships in the area, but is unsuccessful. Malla contacts Luke Skywalker, who, along with R2-D2, is working on his X-wing starfighter. Luke tells her that he does not know what happened. Malla contacts Saun Dann, a local human trader. He tells her through a carefully worded message that Han and Chewbacca are on their way and should be arriving soon. Malla then attempts (unsuccessfully) to prepare a meal, the instructions of which are being aired via a local cooking show by an eccentric four-armed alien cook, Chef Gormaanda.
Saun Dann arrives with Life Day gifts for everyone. Back on the Falcon, Chewbacca and Han have just come out of hyperspace not far from Kashyyyk. Han notices an increased Imperial presence, so they decide to land in an unguarded area to the north. As they enter the atmosphere, Chewbacca's son Lumpy hears the roaring of the ship. Believing Han and Chewbacca might be arriving, Malla opens the door, but instead finds an Imperial raiding party.
The Imperials force their way into the house. An officer orders a search for Chewbacca. As they search, Saun Dann and the others attempt to distract them with food and Malla's music video box (which features Jefferson Starship performing "Light the Sky on Fire"). When the music finishes, the head officer orders the search to continue. The head officer tells Malla to keep Lumpy busy while they search his room, so Lumpy (and the viewing audience) watches a cartoon on a viewscreen of one of his father's many adventures.
The cartoon shows Luke, Han and Leia's first encounter with Boba Fett. During a search for a talisman, the Millennium Falcon crashes on a water planet known as Panna. Upon landing, they run into Fett, who claims to want to help them after saving Luke from a giant monster that attacks him from behind. They all board the Falcon, where Han has been infected by a mysterious sleeping virus caused by the talisman. Luke then contracts the virus as well.
Fett and Chewbacca go into Panna City to get the cure. Once they get into the Imperial-occupied city, Fett instructs Chewbacca to stay behind while he gets the cure. Once away from Chewbacca, Fett contacts Darth Vader. On the Falcon, as C-3PO is caring for Han and Luke, R2-D2 intercepts the call between Vader and Fett, causing concern for C-3PO. Evading the Imperials, Fett and Chewbacca return to the Falcon with the cure. After everyone recovers from the virus, they learn of Fett's true allegiances. Fett escapes with his jet pack, vowing that they'll meet again. Everyone then escapes from the planet, and return to the rebel base on board the Falcon.
When the cartoon finishes, Lumpy works to create a translation device from his Amorphian machine that will fool the Imperials into returning to their base by faking their commander's voice. To do so, he first must watch the manual for the device, being presented by a malfunctioning, incompetent robot (Harvey Korman again).
While the Imperials are all searching downstairs, the living room viewscreen activates, announcing that Tatooine is now being put under curfew by the Empire, due to "subversive forces." The video is announced as required viewing for all Imperial forces and much of it features Ackmena running the Mos Eisley Cantina. Part of the scene is shown in the bar. Ackmena is approached by an admirer: Krelman, an amorous alien, who misunderstood something she said to him the other night. When The Empire announces the curfew, Ackmena announces "last drink," and when the creatures ignore her, she sings a song, "Goodnight, but not Goodbye" set to the "Cantina Band" theme. Lumpy uses this opportunity to put his plan into motion, faking a repeated call for the Imperials to "return to base." They leave, but the head officer instructs one of the stormtroopers to stay behind. After the other Imperials leave, the stormtrooper hears the repeating signal and realizes they have been tricked. He finds Lumpy and destroys the machine, then chases Lumpy outside.
As they both run onto the deck, Han and Chewbacca arrive. Chewbacca protects Lumpy as Han causes the stormtrooper to trip over his own gun, sending him plummeting over a railing to his death. After Chewbacca reunites with his family, an Imperial officer appears on the viewscreen, giving a general alert for the missing stormtrooper. Saun Dann quickly says that the trooper stole food and supplies before deserting, and the officer says he will send out a search party to find him. The imperial threat averted, the family prepares to go to the festival at the Tree of Life.
The family is then seen in space, travelling toward a bright star. They walk into it, arriving at the great Tree of Life, where many Wookiees dressed in red robes are gathered. As Chewbacca takes the stage, C-3PO and R2-D2 suddenly appear, along with Luke, Leia and Han. Leia gives a short speech on the meaning of Life Day and sings a song in celebration, to the tune of the Star Wars theme, missing the high note. At the conclusion of the ceremony, Chewbacca remembers his adventures in the previous film and his friendships with Luke, Han, Leia, R2 and 3PO.
That night, the Wookiee family sit around the feast table, celebrating Life Day and being back together again.
Why It Sucks
- No subtitles for what Chewbacca’s family is saying, even though we spend the majority of the movie with them. To make things worse, there are no real lines for those characters.
- The Wookies (aside from Chewbacca) are terrible costumes that look ugly, ridiculous or both.
- Horrible and forgettable songs that obviously don't have anything to do with the Star Wars franchise.
- Extremely poor acting.
- Mark Hamill was still recovering from a serious car accident during filming. To hide his disfigured face he was made to wear heavy makeup during his scenes, which made him look extremely lifeless and creepy.
- No real story, feeling more like a variety show.
- No exploring the holiday known as Life Day.
- Pointless moments.
- Little focus.
- Stock footage abuse from the first film, including a deleted scene featuring Darth Vader and Chief Moradmin Bast, the latter of whom perished in A New Hope when the first Death Star exploded.
- There's a very disturbing scene where Itchy, Chewbacca's father, is implied to be masturbating to a VR porn tape.
- Carrie Fisher was reportedly whacked off her skull on drugs during her involvement in the special.
- The comedy is annoying and a waste of talent from Harvey Korman and Art Carney, especially the "Stir, whip, stir, whip, whip, whip, stir!" segment.
- The script was written assuming the special was only going run for one hour. When CBS extended it to two hours in the last minute, the entire thing had to be drawn out as much as possible, making it feel incredibly slow and scenes often lingered way longer than necessary.
- It introduced Boba Fett, though he was most likely already in the Empire Strikes Back script.
- The original characters are in it.
- Bea Arthur's performance as Ackmena is pretty good, especially when she sings "Goodnight, But Not Goodbye".
- Jefferson Starship's "Light the Sky on Fire" is a very good song.
- The Special was only ever a tenuous part of the Star Wars universe and was shunted off into "Legends" after Disney acquired the Star Wars franchise. A reference to Life Day still turned up in EA's Star Wars: Battlefront II. This doesn't mean that the Special is back in the canon, though.
- Mark Hamill's makeup was needed to cover up injuries sustained from a car accident that occurred after filming of A New Hope wrapped up. This is also why the early scenes of Empire Strikes Back have Hamill's face covered with snow and why he is injured and put in the Bacta Tank at the Rebel Base, as there were worries the film might have to explain Luke's face changing if Hamill looked different once his injuries healed.
- While George Lucas is often blamed for making the special, he had little to do with it, since he was acting as executive producer of The Empire Strikes Back.
The special is notorious for its extremely negative reception, both from Star Wars fans and the general public. David Hofstede, author of What Were They Thinking?: The 100 Dumbest Events in Television History, ranked the holiday special at #1, calling it "the worst two hours of television ever."
George Lucas hated the special so much that he famously said: "If I had the time and a sledgehammer, I would track down every copy of that special and smash it." Carrie Fisher revealed in a 2010 interview that she had forced George Lucas to give her a copy of the special in exchange for recording DVD commentary for the Star Wars films. She added that she sometimes showed it at parties, "mainly at the end of the night when I want people to leave."