Revisiting the Rotten: Star Wars Holiday Special


Every Thursday on Revisiting the Rotten, Calhoun Kersten uses Rotten Tomatoes’ famed “rotten” designation to dig back into the annals of trashy movie history and grant second chances, further burials or perhaps something in between. This week, the infamous Star Wars: Holiday Special.

Christmas came early this year. This week on Revisiting the Rotten, it’s Christmas (or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa) in July as I take a look at the Star Wars: Holiday Special. First aired in 1978, the TV special features the return of all of its main cast in a jumble of situations. The bulk of the story follows Han Solo and Chewie as they try to get back to Chewie’s home planet for the cleverly titled “Life Day.” With a score of 40% from critics and an even lower score of 31% from fans, Star Wars: Holiday Special forces us fans to ask…could it really be that bad?

The answer? Well, even now after several repeat viewings, I’m not sure I’ve got a straightforward answer for you. To be honest, the thought had crossed my mind to smoke or even drink before I took on the Star Wars: Holiday Special, but in the interest of journalistic integrity, and for the sake of my lungs and liver, I powered through. I’m not sure if either of them would have done the special any favors or if it would’ve just made it feel longer.

That’s one area where this special doesn’t need any help. Clocking in at a little over 90 minutes, the TV holiday special is so awkward and unevenly paced that it feels like an eternity. Truth be told, that might not just be the story structure. The musical interludes don’t do anyone any favors. That’s right, there are musical numbers in this one. Cleverly disguised as “proton packs” (not to be confused with the Ghostbusters variety), the special breaks into a music video because, ya know, that’s what the Star Wars universe was missing, more sweet jams. But what makes it even more awkward is the exchange that takes place before the music video. The kindly old father figure gives the young adorable wookie a present and says, “I know what you’d like… now insert this proton pack. I thought you might like this… it’s one of those- wow!” It’s like the Star Wars equivalent of a father giving his son his first skin mag.

In case you’re wondering, it’s actually weirder and more uncomfortable than the written word can do it justice. That’s actually a pretty appropriate way of describing this holiday special. It’s not…“bad” per se. It’s just, with a universe as iconic as Star Wars, it’s a little weird to see them pimping themselves out for network television. It feels more like the Sonny and Cher Show with aliens than it feels like a Star Wars program. And the worst part? It’s canon.

Now, I’m not sure if all readers are as lame as me, but let me explain canon. Canon means that, basically, it’s legit in the Star Wars universe. Yes, in the grand scheme of all things Star Wars we are actually willing to acknowledge that this monstrosity happened. It’s actually a sort of weird phenomenon, to be honest. It seems so out of keeping with the characters and the events that follow in Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, but yeah, I guess we’re just supposed to let that slide?

I don’t know, the special is just a mess, really, and my love of Star Wars (minus the prequels) is so firmly established that to try to make sense of the events in this holiday special? It’s just – it’s beyond me. Dancing between three separate plotlines, a multitude of locations and even media (yes, there is a cartoon segment) the Star Wars: Holiday Special is pretty much the definition of manic.

Still, I’ll try to give credit where credit is due. The Star Wars: Holiday Special is our first introduction to one of my favorite Star Wars characters, Mr. Boba Fett. Out of a dismal 97 minutes, there is at least that little beacon of hope. I mean. What’s that saying, “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade”? I guess that’s what I’m trying to do here because if there wasn’t at least one redeeming quality about this special, then I’d be faced with the reality that I’ll never get those 97 minutes back.