One of the most popular film franchises, Star Wars has impacted the lives of many fans, tackling many different genres and tones. However, a holiday special is something most wouldn’t think would be part of the franchise. But in 1978, one was aired only once and never again. The Star Wars Holiday Special is legendary for how bad it was, being considered to be a bizarre mistake by all involved and never getting a physical release, only saved by some people who recorded it during its one airing. Nowadays, it can be found with a simple web search rather than in some fan circle 50 miles from home on a bad VHS. But the franchise has many works that are subpar at best and after 44 years of existence, it must have done something right….right? I knew I should have signed on for Attack of the Clones.
So it’s Life Day, a holiday with some significance to the Wookiees, so Chewbacca is on his way home to his family: his wife Malla, his son Lumpy and his father Itchy. However, due to Imperial interference, he is taking a while to show up and his family is getting worried. A group of Imperial soldiers later arrive to search the home for potential rebel activity and the family has to deal with them.
That summary was the best I could do with the plot. Despite being an hour and a half long, not much happens in this special. Instead of a plot, we get a circus performance shown on screen for five minutes. And then a short cooking show the mom watches to prepare food, followed by the grandpa putting a pornographic program in his VR headset. So what really happens throughout the special is just random stuff that has nothing to do with the plot and is just an out-of-franchise character to do. Why does a Star Wars anything need a performance from the Jefferson Starship? Or really any musical number at all? Why do we have bad comedy skits and guest stars that probably were famous at one point? This is the least Star Wars film ever made. Not even the Episode 4 stock footage or the appearances from the main cast can give this the feel of Star Wars, something that I can’t say of any other entry.
Now with our leads being Wookiees whose language consists solely of growls and grunts, you'd expect subtitles to appear to help the audience understand the language being spoken. But you’d be completely mistaken, as there are none. The film is literally these characters grunting and growling the entire time while the audience has no idea what they’re saying. This also isn’t helped by the fact that Chewbacca’s family is as interesting to watch as a board of wood. Even if I could understand what they are saying, unless the writing was top tier, the characters would not go beyond the stock cutouts that they are. And the writing is unmemorable, not so bad it’s good, just unmemorable. I can’t really think of any stand out lines from the special from any character, which is especially bad considering that each Star Wars film has at least two per film.
One thing that I like about Star Wars as a franchise is that even in the worst film, there manages to be some hidden silver lining. This special’s surprising silver lining is an animated segment, which is so beloved that it was given a Disney+ release. It involves Luke, C-3PO and R2-D2 going to rescue Chewbacca and Han after they strangely crash land on a planet. While there, they run into the notorious bounty hunter Boba Fett. This animated segment marks the first appearance of Boba Fett and feels like the pilot to a possible animated series. Unfortunately, the series never came to fruition. But it says a lot that the best part of the special is something that would be typical of any normal TV series.
The Star Wars Holiday Special is probably the worst thing ever made in this franchise. That includes The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones and Rise of Skywalker, which don’t even compete with this special. The biggest sin of this special is that it is just boring and tedious. You don’t care about anything going on in the special and one animated backdoor TV pilot isn’t enough to make the special interesting or even enjoyable. It was honestly a bad move to make and considering how it has been received by its creators and actors, everyone knows it was a bad move. Despite its quality though, it has had an influence on the franchise as a whole, with many concepts making it outside of the special and into both the mainstream canon as well as Star Wars Legends. Ultimately, the special’s influence shows just how the Star Wars franchise can make some gold out of even their worst works.