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.


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.

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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.

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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.