It’s been 42 years since the original Star Wars Holiday Special aired and, frankly, I don’t think that could be recreated, even in some sort of laboratory. To be fair, I’m not sure why anyone would want to recreate it, but it’s a thing unto itself. It’s truly a remarkable specimen. I would pay money to watch a family in 1978 watch it. Seriously, try to imagine that. Put yourself in the shoes of someone who saw Star Wars in theaters the year before (which was pretty much everyone) and craved something more. People didn’t really have VCRs then so, outside of seeing it in theaters that were still showing it, it’s not like you could just watch it anytime you wanted like today. (Though, watching the original, non-Special Edition 1977 Star Wars is probably more difficult today.) Regardless, this would all end on November 17, 1978 when the whole gang would return for an adventure, right there on CBS.
And, technically, that’s true. It’s still weird to think something that stars Harrison Ford as Han Solo can be so hated, but the original cast makes what amounts to cameos (Ford might actually have the most screen time, surprisingly) and, instead, most of the two hours (with commercials) is spent with Chewbacca’s family as they wait for him to arrive home for Life Day. Now, what makes this especially trying is, like Chewbacca, his family are Wookiees. And Wookiees grunt and growl and certainly don’t speak English. So, this is what most of the special consists off – oh, yeah, and there are no subtitles so we seriously have no idea what they are saying. Then, every now and then, people like Bea Arthur, Art Carney, and Harvey Korman show up. (There is also a pretty nifty Boba Fett animated short, the character’s first appearance anywhere.) So I keep imagining those families in 1978, all sitting around the TV, starting off with big smiles, as those smiles slowly fade over the next two hours. (Or, as it’s also known, “my face while watching The Rise of Skywalker.”)
I do wish this iteration of Lucasfilm would release a pristine version of the Holiday Special. It’s not hard to find, it’s all over YouTube, but a nice, cleaned up version would be pretty great. Or at least throw the thing on Disney+, at this point the film is a historical artifact. It’s certainly not “secretly good,” or anything like that, but I’ll be honest that it’s kind of a fun thing just to have on in the background around the holidays. It’s pretty trippy to look at. It’s the best Star Wars installment that is better without sound. A good sign Lucasfilm is starting to embrace the Holiday Special is that at Star Wars Celebration in 2019, one piece of merchandise was the Star Wars Holiday Special lunchbox. Okay, sure, but it is the first piece of merchandise to ever come from the Holiday Special. and with Star Wars and all the merchandise that’s out there, that’s really saying something. Anyway, my point is if Lucasfilm ever released the original Holiday Special, I would buy it.
Another sign Lucasfilm is embracing the Holiday Special is, well, they made a new one. This time it’s Lego-themed and called The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special, which will debut on Disney +. And it takes the similar theme of heading to Chewbacca’s home planet of Kashyyyk to celebrate Life Day, only this time with the cast of the sequel trilogy in Lego form. There are a couple huge differences between this version and the 1978 version. The first is, this time, very few members of the actual cast returned to voice their roles. The second is, this version is actually watchable.
To be fair, I’m selling it a little short for the punchline there. The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special, coming in at a brisk 45 minutes, is quite enjoyable. And compared to the pacing of the first special, this one feels lightning fast. Taking place after the events of The Rise of Skywalker, Rey is trying to train Finn as a Jedi, but things are not going well. Rey takes off with BB-8 to seek guidance at an ancient Jedi temple. It’s there she discovers a mysterious crystal of some sort that allows her to time travel through some of the most memorable events of Star Wars canon. But Return of the Jedi era Palpatine and Darth Vader get wind of this and decide they want this power for themselves and chance Rey through space and time to get it. It’s all good fun!
Even though it’s not the actual cast, it’s nice to see these characters one more time in something that’s not The Rise of Skywalker, even in Lego form. (I’ve tried rewatching TROS and I can’t make it through. It’s just a depressing movie to watch, for all the wrong reasons.) Not to get too bleak, but it appears we are entering a not great time, pandemic wise. And a lot of us won’t be with our families over the holidays. So it is nice that we get a little treat from our buddies at Star Wars to help get us through.
But, hopefully, someday, things return to normal. And the way I envision it is, when this happens, Lucasfilm also does the right thing and releases the terrible 1978 version so that we can all sit around the television with our families and be miserable, together, like they were back in 1978.
‘Lego Star Wars Holiday Special‘ will stream via Disney+ on November 17. You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.