While crowds gather in theaters across the world to watch the latest entry to the now-annual Star Wars series, knowing roughly what to expect from the movie they’re about to see, we should remember that there was a time when the tone of these films was a lot less predictable.
A video from Vox tries to make some sense of the wild early days of what would go on to become a media empire, gazing with wonder at the true sequel to A New Hope, the Star Wars Holiday Special that aired on CBS only one year after George Lucas introduced his sci-fi/fantasy mashup to the world.
Revisiting its distinctly slapshod premise (Chewbacca visiting his buds to celebrate something called “Life Day”), celebrity cameos (Jefferson Starship! Bea Arthur! Harvey Korman!), and wondrous script (which includes Chewie’s dad kicking back with some holographic porn), Vox admirably works to make sense of the context in which Holiday Special was aired.
Mostly, they conclude, the strange variety show represents a very short period of time where Star Wars was still new and relatively shapeless enough to allow for its characters to sing and dance on TV or crack terrible jokes in officially sanctioned releases—a time when the vise-like grip of Lucas-mandated fiction bibles hadn’t yet fully determined the parameters of the series’ universe.
While our own writers have wrestled with the existence of the Holiday Special for years, there’s no real end to this noble work. Vox’s video offers just one more step along the road to reckoning with the impossibly weird cultural artifact.