"Perhaps Bea Arthur would
favor us with a tune..."
Ask any serious Star Wars fan: George Lucas doesn't like to leave loose ends. There is a story behind every detail in every scene, and if Lucas does something in one film, he usually does it with all of his other movies too. Actions, dialogue, and ideas repeat themselves to weave a thematic message. Hence, all the Star Wars movies have the line "I have a bad feeling about this." The bad guys, be they stormtroopers or battle droids, couldn't hit the broad side of a sandcrawler. C3P0 and R2D2 are always present, as are furry bipeds who speak in howls. And it's probably not a coincidence that Star Wars: A New Hope and Return of the Jedi were both followed by TV specials that featured aforementioned bipeds from those movies.
Perhaps one of the most perplexing holes in the Star Wars canon is the lack of a TV special after The Empire Strikes Back, especially considering that the film featured some standard Lucas-type hairy bipeds, the Wampas. A Wampa, of course, was that white big-foot thing that attacked Luke on the surface of Hoth. Evidence that Lucas was quite fond of the Wampas can be found in reports that the Wampas were meant to have a much larger role in the movie there were to be several of them loose inside the Rebel base before the Empire shows up. The Wampa's part was greatly increased in the Special Edition of The Empire Strikes Back, which is further evidence that Lucas would have liked to do more with them. After much digging we found out that Lucas did approve a TV special with the Wampas, though it apparently never aired, making it even harder to see than The Star Wars Holiday Special! We did eventually unearth a copy, albeit a fuzzy, incomplete one. Luckily, the plot isn't too hard to piece together, although the production values look to be just short of an old episode of Land of the Lost. Pity George Lucas: every scrap of footage from every misguided project he ever approved or participated in will eventually find its way to the table of bootleg videos that lurks in the corner of the sci-fi convention's dealers' room. Even we will probably balk when someone tries to sell us the script to an unfilmed Howard the Duck sequel. But enough about Lucas: we were talking about A Very Star Wars Christmas.
"We used to weld Tauntauns
with our goggles back on Hoth."
Rebellion forces abandoned Hoth after the Empire invaded the base, and, according to this TV special, some rebels were left behind. The story follows two such soldiers, Coren and Vila. (Our copy is missing the end credits, so bear with us if we can't identify any but the most famous actors in this special.) Forced to survive on the barren surface of Hoth, we are told, Coren and Vila have learned to live with the Wampas, who are not so much evil as misunderstood. Vila is particularly fond of one young Wampa whom she has dubbed "Christmas" after her favorite holiday. Yes, apparently they have Christmas in the Star Wars universe, complete with Christmas trees. There are even trees on Hoth, at least for this special. Hoth looks less like Norway and more like Wisconsin this time around.
Hey, who bleached the
Legend of Boggy Creek?
It seems that little Christmas is more important to the Empire than you would think. An evil Jedi-type named Darth Tyrannus (Christopher Lee!) shows up and, with the help of his toady Mopee, kidnaps the young Wampa. Mopee is some kind of shape-shifter (we think Tyrannus describes Mopee as a "Clawdite," though that term is nowhere on the official Star Wars site) but don't expect any great morphing effects from a movie of this vintage. After a video generated flash of light, Mopee appears in his new form through the magic of editing. Tyrannus and Mopee take Christmas with them to Coruscant, the seat of the Empire.
Left behind again on Hoth, Coren and Vila repair a ruined cruiser and take off in pursuit. Why they didn't do this in the first place to get the heck off the frozen planet is a question best left unasked. Obviously this special is more in the vein of the previous Holiday Special in that it doesn't treat the Star Wars universe with gritty realism. It's more like the Scooby-Doo version of Star Wars. The characters say what they're going to do and then do it.
"And you're sure Peter Cushing
died on the Death Star, Mopee? I'd
just like to be sure... you understand."
Filling out this slim plot are a couple of musical numbers that occur at a nightclub on Coruscant, featuring the best talent TV could attract circa 1982. Sadly, that talent is a Flock of Seagulls sound-alike band, complete with colored, poofy hair and extreme makeup. (We suspect that this was simply cheaper than outfitting a new group of alien club musicians.) And as one might expect, there is also a subplot about a small child who sneaks into Darth Tyrannus' secret headquarters (security provided by Arthur Anderson) and befriends the caged space Yeti.
Only the smallest of children could enjoy this special without irony. While the majority of the variety show atmosphere has been ejected (Harvey Korman is nowhere to be seen -- thank goodness) this is still not an entirely serious special. A Very Star Wars Christmas fits in tone somewhere between the Holiday Special and the later Ewok movies. Christopher Lee brings the same dramatic touch to this production that he brought to all of the Hammer films, but as with those movies, you can't help but get the feeling that his performance is better than the film deserves. Plus, you may not hear much of his dialogue because you'll be too busy sniggering at his Darth Vader-ish helmet, sans faceplate. Oh well, at least this isn't Droids.
At least they upgraded the Rebel
base from flat maps to globes.
Of course, hard-core Star Wars fans will notice that the Wampas in this special don't resemble the Wampa seen in Empire Strikes Back. But behind-the-scene information shows that the Wampas designs varied quite a bit even within that movie. Page 145 of the Star Wars: The Action Figure Archive shows several Wampa designs, all intended for use in the movie. Some other connections to Star Wars continuity appear to be coincidental. It's nice to see Christopher Lee in anything, and it's a bit prophetic that he appeared this project some twenty years before he landed the role of "Count Dooku" in Episode II. It's a shame that it didn't work out so that Lee could play the same character in both projects.
"Imprisoned and forced to listen
to Bea Arthur's singing... NOOOOO!"
Lest you think that this travesty of a TV special is somehow Lucas' fault, we should really point out that his involvement in the original Holiday Special was small, and we would be surprised if he did more than sign a few release contracts on this one. Certainly there is no sign of the original cast, whose contracts for the second film must have had specific clauses ruling out TV specials, particularly those that involved Wookiee-hugging or musical numbers. Even C3P0 and R2D2 are absent and when Anthony Daniels and Kenny Baker turn down work, something foul must be afoot.
Someday this special may see the light of day, but we wouldn't suggest that readers hold their breaths in anticipation. Even the original theatrical movies still aren't out on DVD. And considering how deep Lucas has managed to bury the original Star Wars Holiday Special which did make it to TV, you really shouldn't expect to see A Very Star Wars Christmas at all.