After Hours

Geek Trivia: May the Farce be with you

Which fan-favorite character debuted in the infamous 1978 <i>Star Wars Holiday Special</i>?

As citizens of the United States ready themselves for that rarified combination of food, family, and football known as Thanksgiving, equally rarified geeks across the globe prepare to mark one of the most obscure and, in some cases, reviled of all fictional holidays: Life Day. If you haven't heard of it, you obviously aren't a master-level Star Wars geek, because this little fandom factoid has been around since Nov. 17, 1978, when the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special first (dis)graced the airwaves.

For those of you unfamiliar with The Star Wars Holiday Special, perhaps you should count yourself lucky. In the fall of 1978, CBS looked to cash in on the smoking hot Star Wars-mania, and George Lucas agreed under the condition that he be allowed to plot the proposed two-hour show. That plot revolved around the Wookiee festival of Life Day, a sort of generic Christmas-Hanukkah hybrid celebrated by Chewbacca's homeworlders. As Han Solo and Chewie endeavored to get everyone's favorite furry first-officer home for Life Day, adventure (and cameo appearances) would ensue.

To say that what Lucas expected differed from what appeared on the air would be an understatement of galactic proportions (at least to hear Lucas tell it). Earth's first televised Life Day was a cheeseball variety show that rivaled the 1960s Batman series for pure camp. Its segments included musical numbers by Bea Arthur and Carrie Fisher, holographic circus acts, Stormtroopers distracted by rock bands, and the family tribulations of Wookiees named Itchy and Lumpy. (And you thought Jar Jar Binks was bad!)

The Star Wars Holiday Special was so terrible that George Lucas refused to let it air beyond its initial contractually obligated broadcast. The man who has never missed an opportunity to release yet another special edition DVD for any of his franchise films has buried this particular little embarrassment, swearing it will never again see the light of day. Not surprisingly, this has made bootleg copies of the original CBS broadcast a hot commodity in Star Wars fandom--and not just for the ironic comedic value. A fan-favorite Star Wars character made his world debut in the Holiday Special, which means this intergalactic icon shares an unofficial "birthday" with both Life Day and the worst Star Wars program ever created.

WHICH FAN-FAVORITE CHARACTER DEBUTED IN THE INFAMOUS 1978 STAR WARS HOLIDAY SPECIAL?

What fan-favorite Star Wars character has an unofficial "birthday" on Nov. 17—the anniversary of his debut on the infamously bad Star Wars Holiday Special broadcast on CBS in 1978?

The mysterious bounty hunter Boba Fett is our birthday boy, having first appeared in a 10-minute animated segment during the '78 Holiday Special. This cartoon short—titled "The Faithful Wookiee"—sees Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, C-3P0, and R2-D2 trapped on the aquatic moon of Panna, where Chewbacca is forced to accept the aid of the mysterious Boba Fett in finding an antidote to a sleeping virus. As you might expect, this is all part of an elaborate trap by Fett, who is working for Darth Vader. Chewie foils Fett's plot, and the bounty hunter makes his escape via his trademark jetpack.

It's also worth noting that Boba Fett's first appearance was made while riding a sea serpent (complete with saddle) and brandishing an electrified pitchfork (Trident? Tuning fork?), giving him a little more in common with Aquaman from The Superfriends than most Fett fanatics would like to admit. Still, Fett's goofy animation origins did not stop him from becoming immediately popular. In fact, "The Faithful Wookiee" is considered by many to be the only worthwhile element in the entire Star Wars Holiday Special. A Boba Fett action figure was released after the Holiday Special aired in 1978—years before he would appear in The Empire Strikes Back, which premiered in 1980—and this helped propel his popularity right from the start.

Despite its unhallowed place in Star Wars continuity, The Star Wars Holiday Special is considered official canon by Lucas and his professional Star Wars historians (talk about a geek dream job). Besides bringing us Boba Fett, it also introduces the aforementioned Life Day; names for the first time the Wookiee home planet, Kashyyyk; and reveals that Chewbacca had a wife and son, Malla and the previously noted Lumpy (full name Lumpawaroo), respectively. While it may not represent Star Wars' finest hour, the Holiday Special still makes for some Skywalker-worthy Geek Trivia.

Get ready for the Geekend

The Trivia Geek's blog has been reborn as the Geekend, an online archive of all things obscure, obtuse, and irrelevant—unless you're a hardcore geek with a penchant for science fiction, technology, and snark. Get a daily dose of subcultural illumination by joining the seven-day Geekend.

Quibble of the week

If you uncover a questionable fact or debatable aspect of this week's Geek Trivia, just post it in the discussion area of the article. Every week, yours truly will choose the best post from our assembled masses and discuss it in the next edition of Geek Trivia.

This week's quibble comes from the Oct. 25, 2006 edition of Geek Trivia, "Circuit of the stars." Member miraborn tagged me for being dangerously nonspecific when it comes to describing astrophysical distances: "The reference to: 'Larger than the sun itself, the Jovian magnetosphere reaches all the way to Saturn,' probably was meant to read: 'Larger than the sun itself, the Jovian magnetosphere reaches all the way to the orbit of Saturn.' I certainly doubt that the magnetosphere would reach to Saturn if it were on the opposite side of the sun as Jupiter."

Quite correct. Jupiter's magnetosphere intersects Saturn's orbit, not necessarily the planet itself (though that does happen from time to time). Great catch, and keep those quibbles coming.

Falling behind on your weekly Geek fix?

Check out the Geek Trivia Archive, and catch up on the most recent editions of Geek Trivia.

Test your command of useless knowledge by subscribing to TechRepublic's Geek Trivia newsletter. Automatically sign up today!

The Trivia Geek, also known as Jay Garmon, is a former advertising copywriter and Web developer who's duped TechRepublic into underwriting his affinity for movies, sci-fi, comic books, technology, and all things geekish or subcultural.

About

Jay Garmon has a vast and terrifying knowledge of all things obscure, obtuse, and irrelevant. One day, he hopes to write science fiction, but for now he'll settle for something stranger -- amusing and abusing IT pros. Read his full profile. You can a...

9 comments
scott.metter
scott.metter

You suggested that Boba Fett's "electrified pitchfork" might be a trident, but tridents have three "teeth" (tri-dent), not two as Fett's has.

Ike_C
Ike_C

Happy birthday to you, and pray tell, how could someone get a hold of a "copy" of the "Life Day" show?

Parrish S. Knight
Parrish S. Knight

1) "Stormtrooper" is one word, not two. 2) Please, please, please: it's "wookiee", not "wookie". I can't stand it when people misspell this word.

Allan.Micksch
Allan.Micksch

If Sci-Fi can handle a 5-book trilogy (even a 9-book trilogy of trilogies) surely it can take a two-tined trident (try saying that three times fast). I wonder if it's actually based on a tuning fork?

gfisher
gfisher

One source is Antimatter Multiverse, which offers the Holiday Special ("Episode 0") on an action-packed DVD stuffed with such additional marvels as the Muppet Show episode with Mark Hamill, a "behind the scenes gallery" (sort of a "garbage masher insider") and some Kenner Star Wars toy commercials. Find it at http://tinyurl.com/w4rbu. ($14.95 US/Canada)

Jay Garmon
Jay Garmon

Those little quirks have been fixed.

gfisher
gfisher

After watching (horrors!) the Holiday Special again over the weekend I'd have to say Boba Fett probably couldn't care less how many tines his weapon has -- his main use of it (in the clip) is as a bludgeon. Talk about the dark side of the forks...

Ike_C
Ike_C

Thanks for posting the info I was looking for.

gfisher
gfisher

You're welcome, Ike. While you're there, by all means check out the Turkish Star Wars. Incidentally, the Clone Wars DVDs (available from Amazon and elsewhere, 2 volumes) are another indispensible part of a proper Star Wars collection; there are details of the story arc which can be found nowhere else on film.

Editor's Picks