I watched it. I finally watched it. The much-maligned, infamously lampooned Star Wars Holiday Special – the story George Lucas preferred to forget. Debuting on 17 November 1978 on CBS, the story is set between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. It’s the very first appearance of Boba Fett! Of Chewie’s family! Of the Wookiee homeworld! Despite these firsts, it was near-universally panned and the special was never rebroadcast nor officially released on home video. But after writing about the Guardians of the Galaxy and their Holiday Special, it seemed fitting to watch the original (thanks YouTube!) as the latest installment in my holiday series. See, it’s Christmastime again, so ‘tis the season for me to read and watch a buncha Christmas specials and use them to reflect on what Christmas means to me just like Stevie Wonder does in the very song which inspired this series. And, just like Stevie Wonder sings about, “All these things and more, darling (all these things and more) / That’s what Christmas means to me, my love,” Christmas means a lot of things to me, too. It turns out The Star Wars Holiday Special is a surprisingly perfect example of an important one.
No, I Haven’t Seen That Show Yet. Here’s Why.
I’ve often heard it said we’re living in the era of Prestige Television (or Peak Television, if you prefer). Regardless of the terminology, there is the general sense among people who think, write, and talk about these things that the 21st century has seen the rise of a Golden Age – if not The Golden Age – of Television. The caliber of what’s being offered on TV is generally considered to have risen. There are more “high quality” shows generating more critical acclaim than ever before. The line between “TV star” and the once-more prestigious “movie star” is blurring. In fact, these TV shows with shorter seasons, renown casts, and complex storytelling, are often touted as six (or ten (or thirteen)) hour movies, broken up into smaller installments. You couple this with the rise of streaming services (and the accompanying “streaming wars” where each service tries to outperform the others to earn your subscription fee) alongside the culture of binge-watching and our experience of television’s been transformed. It is a remarkable time to be consuming such content and the excited query, “Have you seen [fill-in-the-blank-show] yet??” drives our pop culture conversations like never before.
The thing is, my answer is almost always “no.” Like 9/10 times it’s “no.” And here’s why.
Exploring All My Emotions Around Obi-Wan Kenobi
Almost as long as Star Wars has existed, there have been spin-off stories to “fill the gaps” and expand the universe. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (or, as it was known then, Star Wars!) was released on May 25th 1977. Marvel’s Star Wars comic began on April 12th 1977, the first six issues adapting the film followed by original stories. The first Star Wars novel, Alan Dean Foster’s Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, was released in March 1978. Both continued the story George Lucas began and served to sate people’s desire for new Star Wars stories until the eventual sequel arrived. Almost as long as Star Wars has existed then, fans have navigated their relationships with such stories. Which, if any, do you read/watch? Which, if any, become a part of your experience of Star Wars? Disney+’s Obi-Wan Kenobi is one of the most ambitious of such spin-offs, with Ewan McGregor (Obi-Wan), Hayden Christensen (Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader), Jimmy Smits (Bail Organa), Bonnie Piesse (Beru Lars), and Joel Edgerton (Owen Lars) reprising their roles from the Prequel Trilogy. As with all Star Wars stories outside Lucas’ six films, Obi-Wan Kenobi forces (ha! no pun intended) fans to consider how, if at all, it fits in their experience of Star Wars. For me, the show brought many welcome, if at times conflicting, emotions.
THIS PIECE WILL HAVE SPOILERS FOR OBI-WAN KENOBI (E1-6).
Memory Holobook: My Favorite Star Wars Memories
Today, May 25th, marks the 45th anniversary of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope…or as it was called then, Star Wars! When I started this blog I wrote about Star Wars all the time. Now it’s been years (literally!) since I wrote anything about the galaxy far, far away. My last Star Wars piece was in December of 2019, my reaction to and reflection on The Rise of Skywalker. I just haven’t had much to say about Star Wars as we go further into the Disney Canon. However, I wanted to write something to mark this occasion. Kiri wrote a beautiful (and super fun!) piece over on Star Wars Anonymous a year ago about her favorite Star Wars memories. I loved her post and told her I was excited to nick her idea and compile my own list of Star Wars memories. The wheels began turning as memories and moments came to mind…I just never wrote it. But the 45th anniversary of A New Hope’s original theatrical release feels like the perfect time to get nostalgic!
Shmi Skywalker – Fiction’s Fearless Females
By Jeffrey Cagle of The Imperial Talker
Young Anakin Skywalker turns and runs back to his mother, telling her that “I just can’t do it mom.” Offered the chance to flee his life of slavery on Tatooine, to travel the galaxy and become a Jedi under the tutelage of Master Qui-Gon Jinn, the 9-year-old boy has a reasonable moment of doubt. He has only ever known this life with Shmi, his mother. As an audience we know very little of their life prior to meeting them in The Phantom Menace, only small bits that are often short on details. Anakin and Shmi used to be the property of Gardulla the Hutt and are now owned by the junk dealer Watto. Shmi has taught Anakin to care for others who are in need, and she says he has no greed. Anakin is the only human who can fly a podracer, having incredible reflexes that are uncommon for a human. We learn these and other facts, but they remain superficial, lacking any depth to better understand the trajectory of the life Shmi and Anakin have lived together. When Anakin says he does not want to leave, and his mother never-the-less insists “don’t look back,” we are otherwise lacking any meaningful understanding of what looking back truly means.
A Doctor of Kindness: Doctor Who and a Universal Ethic
So…I may have a problem buying sonic screwdrivers. I’m not going to say how much I’ve spent but I will openly say I’ve purchased eight. But they’re worth it because I almost always have one on me and I almost always point them at any light as I turn it on or off. Regardless of the financial cost, my life is obviously immeasurably better being able to do this. On more than one occasion, while waving a sonic around at work, a student has asked if it was a lightsaber (an understandable mistake as a) Doctor Who isn’t as big in America as Star Wars and b) they know I love Star Wars). I explain that, no, it isn’t a lightsaber. It’s much better. A lightsaber is a weapon, the sonic screwdriver a tool. One has the potential to dismember and kill (which it’s often used for); the other to analyze, augment, and repair (which it’s always used for). When it comes to heroes, I’ll take the Doctor over the Jedi ten times out of ten. Early this schoolyear a student posed a question – If I had to pick just one fictional universe to enjoy for the rest of my life would I choose Marvel, Star Wars, or Doctor Who? The answer was surprisingly simple. There are many reasons I’d choose Doctor Who but the most important is the way the Doctor moves through space and time, always modeling an ethic of kindness and sowing the seeds of hope across creation.
Nomi Sunrider – Fiction’s Fearless Females
By Jeffrey Cagle of The Imperial Talker
Seeking a refuge for healing and peaceful contemplation, Jedi Knight Nomi Sunrider returns to the planet Ambria and the dwelling of Master Thon, her former Jedi Master. Traveling with Sunrider is her beloved 4-year-old daughter Vima and fellow Jedi Knight Sylvar who, like Nomi, seeks the peace and wisdom which Master Thon can offer. The joyful reunion with Master Thon is brief, however, disrupted by the sudden ambush of reptilian creatures swelling with the Dark Side of the Force and controlled by Sith assassins. Commanded to destroy Master Thon and his company, the Sith-controlled creatures surround the Jedi and launch their assault.
Queen Amidala – Fiction’s Fearless Females
By Jeffrey Cagle of The Imperial Talker
Standing behind the doors leading into the royal hanger, the Queen of Naboo, surrounded by her loyal handmaidens and advisers, must make a choice. One path will keep the teenage monarch on Naboo, with her people, risking capture and death at the hands of the invading Trade Federation. The alternative path will take her off-world, traveling with the two Jedi escorting her, running the Trade Federation blockade above her world in the hopes of reaching Coruscant, the capital of the Republic, to plead for help directly to the Senate. Continue reading
The Rise Of Skywalker – Excitement and Ambiguity in the Disney Era of Star Wars
I really wasn’t planning on writing something about The Rise Of Skywalker so quickly. In fact, I had a totally different Star Wars-related post planned for this weekend. But sometimes a movie hits and I, inexplicably, find myself with something to say right away. The Rise Of Skywalker was one of those films. The first trilogy of the Disney Canon has come to a close and the journey Rey, Finn, Poe, and Kylo Ren began in 2015’s The Force Awakens has ended. It left me with lots of thoughts, feelings, and questions. So let’s talk about it, huh?
Note, there will be spoilers but that section of the post will be clearly marked. If you don’t want to know anything at all before you see it, stop reading now. But if you’re fine with overall-type comments, I’ll speak generally first and then give a clear warning before any plot spoilers happen. Ready? Ready. Continue reading
Reylo’s Role in Rendemption – A The Rise of Skywalker Reflection
With The Rise of Skywalker just weeks away, speculation is rampant. Will Rey turn to the Dark Side? How the heck could the Emperor have survived the destruction of the second Death Star? How much of the film do Rey, Finn, and Poe really get to be together? How will Leia’s character be handled with Carrie Fisher gone? What role will Luke’s Force ghost play? Will Anakin return in some form?!? Of all the questions vexing Star Wars fans, perhaps none are so divisive nor as heatedly debated as the issues of Reylo and Rendemption. Given the prevalence and the passion for and against each, I wanted to explore them more closely. Continue reading