Legend has it it's the worst thing ever made for TV, anywhere, ever. A thing so bad it should've killed off Star Wars for good. But, in a modern world in which you're not really allowed to say anything bad about Star Wars lest a billion souls cry out in terror then try to force-choke you through a browser tab, surely the Star Wars Holiday Special is now considered a classic?
With Christmas around the corner and the Force Awakens breathing like a tubercular Vader down our necks, it's time to revisit the much-maligned TV special. Airing on American TV just a single time back in November of 1978, can it really be as bad as history has proclaimed it?
Yes. Yes it can. We watched it so you don't have to, and it nearly made blue Force-spirit people out of us. Sit back, grab the popcorn and revel in the misery of our Star Wars Holiday Special review.
Star Wars Holiday Special review
Well it starts off extremely badly, no doubt about it. The first skit is a dialogue-free Christmas parable in which a family of young wookiees grunt out their special day. In terms of broadcast horror, you can see why the Holiday Special is thought to be one of the worst things to ever happen, even from the first few minutes.
It's hard to be too cynical about it, though as every scene and frame is so... bizarre. Here, the young wookiee is being impressed by small holographic mime artists, in what was probably quite a dazzling special effects showcase for TV in 1978.
A very odd looking and heavily made-up Mark Hamill (perhaps due to the show filming after Hamill suffered a mystery car crash some time during the late 1970s) then explains we've just seen Chewbacca's family. The events of this celebratory morning were therefore canon before JJ Abrams convinced Disney to evaporate the expanded universe. So yes, there's a story to it all. Chewie's not arrived home in time for "life day" which is a bit like Christmas in the wookiee calendar, so those old wookiees -- his mum and dad -- are worried.
"I hate fish" says an off-duty imperial guard when presented with a miniature aquarium. If you're shopping for any imperial workers this year, bear that in mind. Go for chocolates, as he buys himself the futuristic grooming product for his moustache.
It did foretell video calling and internet shopping, though. George Lucas wasn't just winging it with his samurai story clone, he was a forward-thinking visionary.
The hearts of even the most hardcore Star Wars fans will sink to a new low 20 minutes in, when it's back to the wookiee household for a comedy cooking lesson; and realisation dawns that this entire thing is about pretend wookiee Christmas.
Then it gets exciting! Han Solo! Those spaceship things off the actual film! Effects! All we can think now is how sad and grumpy Harrison Ford always seems to be, and can only imagine what sort of extreme sexual menaces had to be made to convince him to be in this disaster.
Then there's an abstract interlude, to get some legs out for any dads struggling to stay awake, and we stop even trying to follow the plot.
This seems to be another visionary imagining of the future, where a wookiee puts on a VR headset and starts having a gurn and a wank over a fantasy image of his own creation. A human woman, which is a bit weird. One who looks like Donna Summer.
She then sings a song, which is safe to skip, as it turns out it wasn't Donna Summer and it's not I Feel Love even though that also came out just before this.
Then Leia expresses concern about the missing Chewie and Han, in a bit recorded in a little studio in an afternoon.
And there's a rock interlude.
And a cantina sequence where one of the Golden Girls pours a drink into a man's head...
...before singing a song. And that's only about the first two-thirds. Several rips of the full Star Wars Holiday Special exist on YouTube, albeit missing some key audio due to lightning-hot copyright lawyers. But that's for the best, as being exposed to less of it is actually more.
But is it the worst thing to have been broadcast on TV?
Apart from maybe the odd live assassination attempt of a politician and some of the mid-1980s episodes of Doctor Who, yes.