Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and his co-pilot Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) are flying through space in the Millennium Falcon chased by two Imperial Star Destroyers and beginning to worry. Chewbacca wants to return to his home planet for Life Day, a worldwide celebration, but the Empire is cracking down on the Rebels of which Han and Chewie are two. Luckily they can jump into hyperspace, but it will be a tough slog as his family wait patiently for him to arrive - especially as the Empire's troops are conducting searches and a curfew. Will our heroes survive unscathed?
Well, if they survived this unscathed then they might as well have been invincible. Before the prequels came along to ruffle Star Wars fans' feathers, there was the little recalled Holiday Special as a mark of shame upon George Lucas' most enduring franchise. Some refused to accept such a travesty existed, but Lucas knew better and tried his darnedest to have the thing destroyed so all traces of it would be wiped from the galaxy. However, like some intergalactic cockroach it proved very difficult to exterminate, and now is one of the most popular bootlegged titles in the history of television.
The reasoning was that it would be another two years before The Empire Strikes Back would be out, so the suckers - sorry, punters who had lapped up the original film would be keen to see anything with the Star Wars brand upon it. And so a variety show based on the concept was born, a bastard child of pulp sci-fi and imagination-bankrupt musical extravaganza that made audiences suffer through song versions of John Williams' famous themes and cheap-looking filler with too-briefly seen stars looking embarrassed (Ford seems especially uncomfortable), all mixed in with footage from the film, which hadn't turned up on television in its own right yet.
Mainly this is about Chewbacca's family and their agonising wait for him to return, a wait that is just as agonising for the viewers though for different reasons. It appears to have been made by someone who has had Star Wars described to them, yet has never actually watched it; every segment starts out with a basic idea that is never developed, just allowed to run on for five or ten minutes with tedious results. The guest stars are people you cannot envisage Lucas asking to appear in the real thing: Art Carney turns up as a trader, Harvey Korman is on the television screen in three guises and Beatrice Arthur is the owner of the Cantina.
A lot of it is plain weird, though not in a stimulating manner, such as the sequence where Arthur is romanced by Korman with a hole in his head into which he pours his drink, then sings a Kurt Weil-style version of the Cantina Band theme. Chewbacca's son is named Lumpy - what do you say to your friend when he calls his offspring Lumpy, then? - and is the main character, or at least the story revolves around him. And what are we to make of the grand finale where the "could it be any less specifically titled?" Life Day ceremony is symbolically represented by red robed Wookiees soberly parading into a star? And then have Princess Leia (the luckless Carrie Fisher) sing lyrics to the main Star Wars theme? There is one bright spot, a short cartoon that introduced Boba Fett to the world, but for the most part the Holiday Special operates on a level between excruciatingly embarrassing and incredibly boring. The most tragic thing about it is that the diehard fans it was produced for still feel the need to endure it at least once all these years later.