2018 marks the 40th Anniversary of the Star Wars Holiday Special.
In case you missed the original broadcast, The Star Wars Holiday Special is a 1978 television film set in the Star Wars galaxy. It stars the first film’s main cast while introducing the character Boba Fett, who would appear in later films.
The Star Wars Holiday Special originally aired on CBS November 17, 1978.
It has never been rebroadcast or officially released on home video. It has become something of a cultural legend, because of the “underground” quality of its existence.
According to Charles Lippincott, who was head of marketing of what was termed “The Star Wars Corporation”, CBS brought the idea of doing a TV special to George Lucas, although there is some debate within Lucas’s inner circle about this claim. Lucas was not heavily involved with the special, and his name does not appear in its credits. Still it was Lucas’s idea to build the narrative around a family of speechless Wookiees and their celebration of Life Day.
The special was broadcast in its entirety only once, in the United States, on Friday, 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), pre-empting Wonder Woman and The Incredible Hulk.
The special is notorious for its extremely negative reception, both by Star Wars fans and the general public. Anthony Daniels, in a documentary promoting the worldwide tour of Star Wars: In Concert, notes with a laugh that the Star Wars universe includes “The horrible Holiday Special that nobody talks about”.
The official Star Wars site states that the holiday special “delivered mixed results” and states that the highlight of the special was the Boba Fett animated segment.
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 Chewie go into Panna City to get the cure. Once they get into the Imperial-occupied city, Fett instructs Chewie to stay behind while he gets the cure. Once away from Chewie, 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 worry for C-3PO. Evading the Imperials, Fett and Chewie return to the Falcon with the cure. After everyone recovers from the virus, they learn of Fett’s true allegiances. Fett blasts away in his jet pack, promising that they’ll meet again. Everyone then escapes from the planet and back to the rebel base on board the Falcon.
The Star Wars Holiday Special is significant for being the first film-length Star Wars story after the original theatrical film and for showing an expanded look at parts of that universe.
The Star Wars Holiday Special was mostly forgotten after its only airing in 1978, until some time in the early-to-mid-1990s when individuals came forward and offered original videotape recordings of the TV airing. These have since been duplicated and reduplicated so that most copies of the special available today are based on second- to sixth-generation VHS dubs. Some of these fan-made copies include the original commercials that aired during the show, as well as the newsbreaks, the most notable news item was the sentencing of William Kampiles. One such recording from WCBS-TV in New York City featured anchor Rolland Smith teasing a story on “fighting the frizzies” for that night’s 11 p.m. news, an ID which itself has gained popularity over the years on the Internet and television shows such as South Park.
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