Sunday, 2 December 2018


While at the Dragonmeet gaming convention yesterday, a pun entered my head. One that suggested that there yet remains a thin patina of derivative tut to be scraped from the bottom of the HP Lovecraft barrel. Ladies, Gentlemen and Elder Beings, I give you... Cthluedo! A board game for 3 or more players aged 8 to 888.

I banged out the rules below just now in a Lovecraftian fugue of intense mental creativity, purely for a laugh. Only the more I thought about it, the more it felt like it might actually work. I let you judge.

From the four corners of the world, and the angles in between, you have gathered. The dark gods in their cosmic wisdom have decreed that one among you shall be sacrificed tonight. Whosoever slays their quarry first shall be exalted in their god's non-Newtonian sight and be rewarded with power and life eternal.
Race around the board searching for weapons and sabotaging your rivals' progress, then race to trap your victim in the place of their execution. But beware! You yourself are also being hunted...

Object of the game: 
Be the first to sacrifice your dark god's chosen victim in the allotted location with the requisite means of destruction.

Set up: 
Each players chooses a cultist model and places it in the starting position in the centre of the board.
Shuffle the Who (victim), How (weapon) and Where (location) cards face down in three separate packs.
Shuffle the Weapon cards face down into one pack.
Shuffle the Power cards face down into one pack.
Each player draws a random Who, How and Where card and keeps them hidden in their hand from the other players.
Weapon cards are randomly distributed face down around the board, one to each location.
Each player draws a random Power card and keeps it hidden in their hand from the other players.

Each player rolls a D6. Highest goes first, then play proceeds clockwise around the board.
On their turn, the active player rolls 2D6 to move their cultist that number of squares around the board. Cultists may not leap over other cultists and may not occupy the same square.
Upon entering a location, the player may take the face down Weapon card from that location and keep it in their hand, discarding any previous Weapon card in that location.
Players may use Power cards at any point, as directed by the text of the card.
If a cultist occupies the same location as another cultist, the active player may use and discard a Weapon card to kill the other cultist and remove that player's cultist from the game.
If the cultist, Weapon card and location match the active player's Who, How and Where cards, then they have won the game, otherwise play continues as normal.

Miss Waite
Old Whateley
Captain Marsh
Doctor West
Mr Pickman
Mrs Mason
Master Curwen
Brother Bowen

Brown Jenkin
Shining Trapezohedron
Unusually Large Penguin
Essential Salts
Trusty Revolver
Amputation Knife
Greenish Soapstone
Brain Cylinder

Artist's Studio
University Library
Blasted Heath
Frozen Plateau
Old Barn
Lofty Garret
Church Tower
Anatomical Laboratory

Not Dead - if your cultist has been killed, bring them back to life in the starting position.
Fold Space - move your cultist to a location of your choosing.
Uncanny Summons - move another cultist to a location of your choosing.
Weird Sight - take a look at a single card of your choice in another player's hand.
Mental Exchange - swap cultists with a player of your choice. Cultist models do not swap location, but Weapon and Power cards are swapped.
Occult Theft - take a Weapon card from a player of your choice. Discard any previous Weapon card in your current location.
Indomitable Will: negate the effects of a single Power card.
Astral Misalignment: swap Where cards with a payer of your choice, without looking first.

Friday, 17 August 2018

Monsters of the Past

When I was 8 years old, I was given a book that so terrified that I eventually had to beg my mum to throw it away. That book was Monsters of the Movies, by Denis Gifford. I got it through the Puffin Club at school, the same club which gave me You're A Good Sport Charlie Brown, Wombling Free, Tarka the Otter and the Crack-A-Joke Book. And despite not owning that book for about 40 years, it has left a lasting impression on me.

Monsters of the Movies was a slim paperback with a jolly colour cover aimed squarely at kids, a sort of A-Z of random movie (and TV in the case of the Munsters) fiends, freaks and horrors, featuring an iconic black & white photo and a short text piece on every page. The selection was somewhat random (The Manster, anyone? The Blood Beast Terror?) and didn't limit itself to the predictable Universal/Hammer big guns, but I wasn't to know that at the time. As far as I was concerned, B-list vamps Barnabas Collins and Count Yorga got their own entries, so they must have been as big a deal as Dracula himself.

Specifically, it was page 94 that scared me so much I couldn't even bear to have that book in the house. Page 94 was The Zombie, featuring a picture of a grinning ragged cadaver sporting petrifying white eyes with tiny pinprick pupils. Awful. Just awful.

It was probably this still. Jesus.
Many years later I would unexpectedly discover that the picture was taken from Hammer's 1966 film Plague of the Zombies (the one set in Cornwall where an unscrupulous toff uses voodoo to resurrect the local stiffs to toil in his tin mine. Ah, the old 'zombie tin miner' storyline, how often have we seen that tired trope). The zombie in question, as I recall, has the distinction of emitting a manic undead cackle before menacing heroine Diane Clare, though I could be mistaken as I was experiencing a full-blown scarred for life flashback at the time and hiding behind a cushion.

Anyway, it took some dogged googling today (you try searching for 'monster' 'movies' 'book' and 'puffin' and see how far you get), but I've found a second-hand copy of the long-shunned book on ebay and now have 7-10 days for it to arrive in the post, whereupon I intend to face my fears and take page 94 on once more. Wish me luck.

Incidentally, the artwork on the cover has a familiar style. Could have been Denis Gifford himself but it doesn't look like his style. Reminds me of Gary Chalk, of Lone Wolf and Talisman fame. Suggestions welcome.

Monday, 21 May 2018

Star Wars Holiday Special: Survival Guide

A recent article written by the Ocelot for the Star Wars issue of fanzine Journey Planet.


It is a time of great rejoicing across Cinemaland. The young moviemaker George Lucas has captured the imagination of adults and children alike with his smash hit Star Wars. Across the world, Star Wars toys, Star Wars bubble gum cards and Star Wars comics are snapped up by eager fans. Some people even read Splinter Of The Mind's Eye.
But a new threat looms on the horizon. A shadowy empire called CBS, envious of the movie's success, seduces young Lucas to the Dark Side of Television, convincing him that what the world really needs is a ninety-minute Star Wars Holiday Special…

An ill-conceived made-for-TV extravaganza made (initially) with George Lucas' blessing, but none of his flair for the epic, the Star Wars Holiday Special took up a full two hours of CBS' primetime slot on the Friday before Thanksgiving, 1978. Now infamous as one of, if not the, worst things ever to befoul the small screen, it has never been repeated.
Of course none of us in Britain knew anything about this at the time. November 17th 1978 was just another day for us. While TV viewers across the Atlantic were reeling under the soul-sapping onslaught of the Star Wars Holiday Special, we were probably watching Edward & Mrs Simpson, or Cheggers Plays Pop. Lucky us. Later though, rumours of a fabled Star Wars television programme reached the ears of young British Star Wars fans. Another Star Wars film?, we thought, in those long, lean years between Return of the Jedi and The Phantom Menace, That sounds awesome. How can we find a way to watch it?
But these were the pre-Internet years. No YouTube, no Google, no Wikipedia, no IMDB. If you didn't see something when it was broadcast, you'd pretty much missed it, unless it was later released on videotape or later DVD. And as it happens someone had taped it. Some poor, trusting, hopeful soul, probably thinking they'd be getting another cool helping of droids, space battles, explosions and lightsabers; something to tide them over until The Empire Strikes Back came out. Star Wars completists and masochists the world over have come to thank and curse this unknown archivist for preserving the Star Wars Holiday Special for posterity when many, Lucas included, would rather it be eradicated from the memory of mankind. Only the foolhardy, the insane or those with incredibly low viewing standards would ever voluntarily sit through it in its entirety.
Which is why when James asked if there was anything I'd like to write for the Journey Planet Star Wars issue, I immediately thought of making my friends watch the Star Wars Holiday Special with me, and recording our experiences for your entertainment and education. So join me, Maisie, Ian and CJ as we waste ninety minutes of our lives that we will never get back.
And remember: We watched it so you don't have to.

* * *
H: …so I thought why not watch the Star Wars Holiday Special? We haven't seen it for ages -
I: There's a reason for that.
H: We can talk through the bad bits.
M: That means we'll be talking for the next 97 minutes.

CJ, with his professional background in law-enforcement procedure, feels obliged to go on record:

C: Statement of CJ Hooper, the date is the 21st of March 2018. I've not seen the Star Wars Holiday Special. I have seen the first 5 minutes many years ago and then stopped -
I: Wise man.
C: What you're doing today amounts to abuse. You shouldn't do this to a child, even if he's 40 years old.
M: I also haven't seen the Star Wars Holiday Special. I fast forwarded through to the good bits. They never came.

H: Ian, you're the only one in the room to have seen it in its entirety because I weakened last time.
I: I have seen the whole thing once, and bits of it again for some reason, but I couldn't bring myself to watch it again - it's too awful.
H: Until now!

H: I got hold of this in the days when if you wanted to see things you had to track down bootlegs.


H: That's how I tracked down the Roger Corman's Fantastic Four film and the Slaves of Jedikiah Tomorrow People serial, both on VHS. And I got the Star Wars Holiday Special on a DVD from a bloke at a comic convention.

This was back in the 20th century before comic cons were full of skinny kids dressed up as Deadpool and Harley Quinn, buying bobble head toys and getting Tyler Mane autographs. Back when it was just a smelly hotel room full of misfits such as myself riffling through actual boxes of actual comics.

M: And you could only get this as a bootleg because Lucas said he wanted to track every copy and destroy it.
I: Is that actually true?
H: He's quoted as saying "If I had time and a hammer I'd track down every bootleg copy and destroy it." But of course the genie's out of the bottle these days and we could all just go onto YouTube and watch it.
Hammer time
Poor old George, in those innocent pre-Internet days when you actually stood a remote chance.

H: Now, this particular bootleg DVD comes not only with the Star Wars Holiday Special itself, but also the Muppet Show episode featuring the Star Wars characters
I: Is that the one with Luke and the droids? I remember it. And it's far superior to the Holiday Special as I recall.

We play the first few seconds of the Muppet Show episode to confirm this.
Watch this instead
 C: Well this is rather serendipitous – oh, you're fast forwarding through it to the Star Wars Holiday Special.
I: You'll come to wish for that fast forward button

I: We who are about to die salute you...
M: I'd just like to say it's particularly poor of you to do this to us on a weeknight when we can't have a drinkie.


And so it begins.

M: Woo.

We open with stock footage of the Millennium Falcon leaving some planet. Captain Solo and his furry co-pilot are doing frantic things in the cockpit. A couple of star destroyers are firing in pursuit.

I: Hey, it's Han and Chewie! What could possibly go wrong?

H: What the hell was Harrison Ford thinking…
I: He gives it a good go. It's a shame he's not in it more, because he might have saved this colossal turd.

Ford continues to deliver all the plot exposition while Chewie makes his usual 'wet goat' noises. They make the jump to lightspeed and we get the good ol' Star Wars theme, accompanied by a jolly voiceover introducing the stars.
CJ stands to salute.
A headshot of Mark Hamill wearing what looks like a leftover pageboy blond wig from Village of the Damned. His face appears to be covered in thick orangey foundation. There is an outburst of laughter from the sofa.

H: What, what is he wearing on his head? He looks like a Von Trapp.

FORCE FACT: The Star Wars Holiday Special was made some 22 months after Mark Hamill's car accident in Jan 1977 which left him with facial injuries, which may have accounted for what the OTT hair and makeup.

H: Oh, Carrie Fisher's face. Look at her eyes. Was she actually off her face on drugs during all this?
I: Apparently.
H: I know we're all supposed to revere her like Space Princess Diana these days -
I: That's because people don't remember this.

FORCE FACT: Fisher is on record as having graduated from alcohol abuse and marijuana to LSD at this time. She would have moved on to cocaine by the time of The Empire Strikes Back.

Voiceover: "...and Artoo Detoo as himself."
H: Kenny Baker wasn't in Artoo for the Star Wars Holiday Special. It was just the radio-controlled version. So Baker at least narrowly escapes with his dignity intact.

Now we get to meet the show's 'guest stars' in a series of headshots. First, Chewbacca's Wookie family; Malla the missus, his dad Itchy and his son Lumpy.

I: Hooray for Chewbacca's family!
H: The real break-out stars.
Voiceover: "His wife Malla."
I: 'His'. Sorry, CJ.
Voiceover: "His father, Itchy."
H: As played by Uncle Jesse from the Dukes of Hazzard.

We then move on to the 'special guest stars', a very odd mix of ageing sitcom stars and a couple of pop acts.

Voiceover: "Beatrice Arthur."
H: For us Brits, this woman didn't exist before The Golden Girls.
Voiceover: "Art Carney."
H: I had no idea who Art Carney was at the time. Didn't know he was the other bloke in The Honeymooners, More interestingly, he played the villainous Archer in the Adam West Batman.

We also see all-round entertainer Diahann Carroll, 'The' Jefferson Starship (sans Grace Slick) and Mel Brooks alumnus Harvey Korman, who for his sins will play no less than three different roles in the Star Wars Holiday Special.

There is a brief glimpse of a cartoon Boba Fett whanging off a blaster bolt atop some sort of dinosaur. CJ gives out a little whoop.

I: Even that's not worth it. You'd think it's worth it for the historic first appearance of Boba Fett, but no.

CJ bemoans the lack of Edward of Wickham.


The show proper starts.
We get an interesting shot of a Wookie treehouse on the planet Kashyyyk.

H: I quite like this drawing? Painting? Set?
I: Yeah, it's good. It's different.

We then get five totally dialogue-free minutes of three Wookies pissing about in their treehouse. Uncle Jesse is whittling away at something, smacking his gummy chops, the bloody annoying proto-Ewok kid is running around with his wooden X-wing toy making more wet goat noises and Ma Bacca is in the kitchen.

H: For some reason they decided that the best way to start a Star Wars Holiday Special is with a totally non-verbal family of bigfoots.
I: Yeah, that was definitely the best way.

Itchy shifts around in his La-Z-Boy, grunting and smacking his toothless underbite.

H: Honestly, look at Granpa. He scares the bejesus out of me.
C: Isn't that Harry Enfield's character in Upstart Crow?

We stop the recording briefly while I go into a spontaneous rant about the mildly disappointing Not-Blackadder sitcom Upstart Crow.

Itchy continues to gum away.

H: My god, Granpa and his mouth. My Grandad used to do that when he took his teeth out.

Malla is wearing a long pinny because she's not only a subject of the evil Empire but also under the oppressive hegemony of the Space Patriarchy.

I: It was the 70s! It was OK then.
H: I notice that she's wearing a pinny but her arse is hanging out the back. Her big hairy arse.

We try to work out what the all-Wookie dialogue might mean.

H: I think Lumpy wants to run away and join the rebels.
C: Or go and pick up some power converters from Tosche Station. He can waste time with his friends when his chores are done.
H: I swear Lumpy just went 'Aw, gee whiz.'

FORCE FACT: Apparently, though he later distanced himself from the Star Wars Holiday Special, Lucas was the one who came up with the idea of the Wookie family framing sequence, and went so far as to present replacement director Steve Binder with a 'Wookie bible' of their look and behaviour.

C: In the beginning, George created Wookie
I: In the beginning, George ripped off John Carter of Mars, Dune...
H: Hidden Fortress...
I: New Gods, Doctor Doom, and many others.


Lumpy performs a perilous high-wire along the handrail around the outside of the lofty treehouse, in a scene loaded with more peril than when Antoni Karramanopolis fell to his death from the top of a multi-storey car park in Grange Hill. This will prove to be the high point of jeopardy in the entire Star Wars Holiday Special.
Ee chee wa maa.
H: Oh, Lumpy! Later on they decided that they couldn't just be called Lumpy and Itchy, so they made them Lumpbacca and Itchikaka, I think.
I: Is that like Blackagar Boltagon of the Inhumans?
H: Exactly like that.

FORCE FACT: Lumpy's full name is Lumpawarrump, and Itchy's is Attichitcuk. Malla's full name is actually Mallatobuck, and not Mochachocalatayaya, as I once believed.

Back inside the treehouse, there's some more unintelligible Wookie nonsense, with Malla and Itchy moping about by a delightful G-Plan divider, pawing at a photo of the absent Chewie.

H: You have to feel sorry for Malla, being saddled with this grotesque old freak. He's not even her dad.
C: I think he's actually both their dads because Wookies are like that.
H: I don't like his Beaker mouth.
I: He's the Wookie Alf Garnett

FORCE FACT: For US readers, Alf Garnett = Archie Bunker.


Still no intelligible dialogue.

H: Now CJ, as we're at the eight-minute mark we're already into new territory for you. We're about to discover what old Itchy gets up to when he's left to entertain his grandson on his own.

Lumpy runs back in and hugs/dry-humps his granpa's leg, much to the grotesque Itchy's amusement.

H: You're not even a Wookie Granpa. You're one of those Hoth guys.
I: Yeah, you wampa!
C: For the benefit of the tape, the suspect has long white hair...

Itchy pulls out a C-90 audio cassette and plugs it into what looks like the holo chess table from the Millennium Falcon. But sadly not. It's some sort of lycra-clad circus clown act, compete with 'quirky' musical tonalties.

I: Look at that gleam in his eye!
H: They must have thought, "Star Wars, that had a really cool living chess set game. Let's have that but make it more... I dunno... Cirque de Soleil."
I: With a bit of Liberace thrown in.

There's a green guy with a bunch of feathers up his bum, and a couple of human Fireys from Labyrinth. Or possibly orange poodles.
Lumpy's fuzzy upper lip positively quivers with joy and excitement that absolutely nobody else is feeling.
Chilly down
H: The bloke who made Star Wars Holiday Special, Steve Binder, had a number of TV specials under his belt, like the '68 Elvis Comeback and a Diana Ross in Central Park. But he was in no way a sci-fi director.
I: It's so obvious when you look at it. It's very much of its time.
C: I tend to find that 'of its time' is a general excuse for 'crap', be it rubbish dancing or racism.
I: You used to get these sorts of variety shows.
H: Well, we did in Britain, but I had no idea about America. If it was made over here, we'd have had Tom O'Connor hosting. And probably Max Wall.

M: I'd like to say that music (the bizarre synth tones of the Cirque de Henson segment) is an assault upon the ears.

H: Imagine some kid in 1978 looking in the TV Guide and going, "Mom, Dad, remember Star Wars last year? There's gonna be a TV show!". He would have out of his head with anticipation. Then this comes on. It's been ten minutes so far of Wookie grunts and poodle people doing crap dancing. I feel really sorry for that 1978 kid.
C: If you listen very carefully you can hear the sound of my childhood breaking.

H: Do you know what shows were knocked off the air that night on CBS to make way for this? Wonder Woman and The Incredible Hulk. What a swiz.

FORCE FACT: It was shown that night in the US and Canada, and later in Australia, New Zealand, Sweden, Brazil, Venezuela, Honduras, Argentina and France (in a shorter French-dubbed version which I can only imagine in my more lurid cheese-nightmares). It was never repeated.


The crap circus act is over. Lumpy pulls some bratty shit about having to do the washing up. Malla goes over to her Space TRS-80 and checks the Kashyyyk inbound traffic report: no sign of the Falcon yet.

M: So they can't speak English but they can read it, is that right?
H: Should they be showing us stuff in English? I mean, I don't want to be 'that guy' but obviously I am that guy.
I: We need something in English at this point. It's been all Wookie up to now.
H: Malla's all "Where's that man o' mine? Him and his little shaven friend?"

Free your lady Marmalade
CJ makes an obscure reference to an old sci-fi themed advert for saucepans, starring Sandra 'Trillian out of Hitchhikers' Dickinson and off-screen husband Peter 'the bland Doctor' Davison.

Malla and Itchy go over to the G-Plan divider and get out their Secret Rebel Two-way TV. And who do we see on the screen? Well, it looks kinda like Luke Skywalker, kinda. And Artoo.


All we can look at is Mark Hamill's face; Someone has clearly gone to a lot of trouble to give him lots of mascara and eyeliner.

H: What kind of accident was he in? Was it a car crash?
C: I think this is the car crash.
A brick wall... a brick wall... I must think of a brick wall...
Some alleged comedy ensues with the Wookie clan all gabbling at once, while Luke tries to make out what they're saying. Malla sends the excitable Lumpy away.

C: "I hate you! I didn't want to be born a Wookie!"

Meanwhile the space gadget Luke and Artoo have been repairing starts to hilariously belch smoke behind them.

H: Oh Artoo. You and your hijinks.
M: To be fair, he did try to tell Luke.
H: It's like they once saw a British pantomime. "What's that Artoo? There's someone behind me? Can you see it, boys and girls?"

Luke reminds us the audience that Chewie is supposed to be getting back home for Life Day, and then apparently coaxes a smile out of Malla's barely mobile fuzzy face.

H: Aw, look at her lovely face. Gwendolyn Christie must be grateful that they didn't give this role in the new films.

We discuss how come Luke can speak Wookie and CJ points out that he's just got a shedload of XP from blowing up the Death Star so probably used some of it on language slots.

I: What do they speak? Wookie?
H: Kashyyyki, I think.
I: Is that right?
H: No, I just made that up.
C: But Kashyyyk is their planet. That's like saying we speak Earth.
H: Fair point. It's probably wikki-wokki-wakka then.

The space gadget envelops Luke and Artoo in a cloud of smoke. Artoo starts bleeping away at Luke excitedly.

H: Artoo, WTF man? I think he's going "I'm done carrying you, fleshy one!"


The non-hilarious time filler of watching Luke and Artoo on a very small screen comes to an end.

H: I do like the Wookies' Spanish style chiminea. Very attractive.
C: That's where they do their Wookie pizzas.

Malla goes back to the Space TRS-80 and dials up a local trader's outpost. On the video we see a bucket-headed Imperial goon sporting a Ned Flanders 'tache, browsing the goods on display.

M: That is a stupid hat.

Art Carney comes in dressed as Space Gepetto, or possibly Han Solo's uncle.

FORCE FACT: He's a trader called Saun Dann. And 'friend to the rebellion'.

There's some nonsense about tiny aquariums.

Imperial Ned Flanders: "I hate fish."

For some reason, Imperial Ned seems to have been badly dubbed. Perhaps his original voice didn't lend the Star Wars Holiday Special the gravitas that this show deserves.

M: (huskily) I am evil. Because I talk like this.
Then Space Gepetto uses clever 'coded language' to assure Malla that Chewie will be home soon. So basically just the same as what Luke said.

H: Is Gepetto allowed to refer to Chewie as a shaggy carpet?
I: Well, it's part of his secret code, isn't it?
C: It's racist.
H: Yeah, I don't think non-Wookies can use the S-C words.

M: Can I just point out that I think Chewbacca's wife is far too young for him
H: How do you work out her age, out of interest? Is it the lustre of her pelt?
M: Yes.
I: Well, we know Chewie's about 150 years old.
M: And he's still running around butt naked (apart from his bandolier).
H: I think he's going through his midlife crisis. The Falcon is his Harley Davidson.

Imperial Ned is shown what look like a version of the Peltzer Bathroom Buddy and leaves without paying. Because the Empire is Evil. Space Gepetto trails off, muttering to himself pathetically.

I: This is what the kids want.
H: It's just so boring.


More stock footage of two star destroyers. Followed by redubbed footage of Vader and Imperial officer Chief Bast, played by Leslie Schofield.

C: It's Jonny Briggs' dad!
H: And Reggie Perrin's son-in-law #2

There is a brief digression while I hum the Jonny Briggs theme tune and then begin to wonder if it was in fact the theme tune to Woof! instead.

Then back to the treehouse of domesticity. Malla and Lumpy have finished the washing-up at last. Lumpy looks like he's ready to go off on an adventure with Huck and Jim. Sadly we do not follow the little guy on his adventure. Instead we are to be treated to perhaps the lowest point in the entire show.


Malla plugs some kind of tutorial tape into the kitchen viewscreen and we see Harvey Korman from Blazing Saddles done up like a pantomime dame in what looks suspiciously like brownface. He looks and sounds strangely like a Ronnie Barker character, or Charles Gray dressed like someone from the planet Ork.

H: Ah, surely one of the highlights now. The cookery bit.
I: I'd removed this it from my mind.
H: I'm told he was spoofing a particular TV chef in America called Julia Child. Like Fanny Craddock in the UK.
I: Ah, a cookery spoof. Just what the kids are after.

The chef is called Gormaanda. Two A's together, like a 60s Marvel monster.

H: It's a bit like a pantomime 'cake making' scene.
I: Every single bit that they put into this is exactly what the Star Wars core audience are not going to want.
M: And this isn't even a real recipe that you can use.

H: I like how Malla keeps flicking her hair behind her ears. Do Wookies have ears though?

H: So TV people all got together and said, "Right, Star Wars is a big hit. What were the good bits? Wasn't there a bit with... cooking?"
I: "And… juggling?"

Gormaanda produces an extra arm, to no hilarity whatsoever.

H: I mean, I know in Britain at the time we only had three channels and if this was on I'd have had to watch this, or the snooker or, I dunno, Nationwide. But in America, they must have had something better on than this.

Gormaanda produces a fourth arm. We can't believe the bold sci-fi vision behind this.

H: For the benefit of the tape we are only 23 minutes through this.
I: Just another hour and a bit to go.
H: Let's cling on to the illusion that the cartoon will make this all worthwhile.
M: When will it end?


Stock footage of TIE Fighters attacking the Falcon. Han and Chewie struggle to fight them off.

H: I've always like the 'pump guns' on the Falcon. The ones that thrust in and out. It's not a sexual thing.
I: They're just very memorable.

Chewie seems to be quite panicky and a lot more 'touchy-feely' in the Star Wars Holiday Special.

There is a brief discussion about Chewie's exact role in the Falcon. He doesn't seem to bring a lot to the actual operation of the ship in a combat situation, apart from making lots of wet goat noises.

M: I think he's the navigator?
C: No, that's the computer. He's the co-pilot, in case Han comes down with food poisoning in-flight.
H: I think that makes him Dom DeLuise in Cannonball Run.

Back in the treehouse, an annoying alert noise brings Malla and Itchy to the screen. Peter Cushing's younger American brother lays down the law, Empire style.

H: Did he just call the planet 'Gazook'? I thought it was pronounced 'Kashick'. Gazook's the little alien in the Flintstones, I think.

Space Gepetto turns up at the treehouse and gives the Wookies presents in exchange for hairy kisses. It looks like he's got Malla a sewing machine, because that's what all Wookie-mums want. Lumpy gets a shoebox of electronic junk which he takes up to his spacious bedroom.

H: I'm quite jealous of Lumpy's bedroom if that's all his.
M: Yeah, but there's no door on it. Everyone's going to see when he wants to have a wank.
I: I always thought Wookies would have weird furniture where they all hang upside-down.
H: Or maybe a tyre on a rope?

Downstairs Space Gepetto helps old Itchy into some sort of 'mento-hairdryer chair' and plugs in his present. The old Wookie wriggles and gums with anticipation, like Albert Steptoe expecting a bit of slap and tickle with the widow down the road.


Itchy's VR helmet summons up an image of a space lady, played by Diahann Caroll.

H: She's wearing a Movellan wig.

We are then subjected to five minutes of what can only be described as Wookie porn. Maisie and CJ both volunteer to go and make us more tea. Ian and I remain to sit it out, like MacReady and Childs at the end of The Thing.

H: It's all gone a bit Shirley Bassey. This looks and sounds like it should go at the beginning of Moonraker. Or released as a double A-Side with Lois Lane's 'Can You Read My Mind'.

Granpa's expression is very much that of Jon Voight 'appreciating' J-Lo in the movie Anaconda.
I: At least Itchy's getting something out of this. He's clearly 'very happy'.

Hairy Voight
Shaven Itchy

Ian and I manage to get through the Wookie porn sequence by ignoring what's going on on-screen and trying to name all of the spaceknights in ROM.


It's Leia and Threepio on the Secret Rebel Two-way TV screen!
They talk to Malla and Gepetto for a bit. Nothing of note happens.

We discuss the rebels-as-terrorists, and Luke's radicalisation by the charismatic preacher Kenobi.
Maisie and CJ re-enter the room.


Back to the Falcon. Chewie is still losing his shit. He and Han keep touching each other. Harrison Ford is forced to say some really embarrassing lines. The Falcon flies over Gazook.

We discuss heteronormativity in Wookie society and whether Chewie and Malla were forced into an arranged marriage, when he'd really much rather be off with his Corellian pal Han.

Some Imperials turn up at the treehouse.

H: Only two storm troopers? Why doesn't Malla tear their bloody arms off?
I: I'm surprised Lucas didn't CGI in hundreds more storm troopers later.

The main Imperial officer brings his Nazi A-game, doing the thing with the leather gloves. Lumpy almost gets smacked in the head.

H: This bit's almost tense.

FORCE FACT: Patty Maloney, the actress who played Lumpy also played a 'female' robot in Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. The robot may or may not have made sweet robo-love to Twikki.

The Imperial Nazis search the G-plan furniture for Chewie while Space Gepetto makes a number of desperate Bluff rolls, doing his best to distract them from the Secret Rebel Two-way TV screen. Malla's new sewing machine, shaped rather like K-9, turns out to be yet another entertainment device, as if the holo table and the porn helmet weren't enough.

We try to sing the K-9 and Company theme turn and then notice that various gadgets in the treehouse look a bit like ORAC and Slave from Blake's 7.

C: We are 43 minutes in, and are discussing any other sci-fi show except the one we're watching.


An Imperial buckethead sits down to enjoy miniature Jefferson Starship performing Light The Sky On Fire. They are dressed in a variety of Spinal Tap and Blake's 7 outfits.

H: Was that the opening chord to 'Gloria' by Laura Brannigan?

The lead singer appears to be singing into a battered saveloy or a very, very short lightsaber.
We pass the time by discussing the artwork of Paul Gulacy and I do my world famous impression of the Melkur from Doctor Who's The Keeper of Traken.

H: "Hey everyone, let's watch the Star Wars Holiday Special! It's got... cooking, and Wookie porn... and this..."
M: Something for everyone!
C: This is the bit I've enjoyed most so far.
M: If I stabbed you in the eye it'd be the bit you've enjoyed most so far.

The song ends, leaving the Imperial buckethead visibly moved by the miniaturised performance.

There's some more faff with Space Gepetto before he's finally thrown out. The Imperial Nazi Officer does a half-decent one-man good cop-bad cop routine, like a low rent Christoph Waltz.

C: Do you think by then end he'll discover the True Meaning Of Life Day?
H: No.


Lumpy plays with yet another electronic device. This one looks a bit like a Simon game. But no! It's actually a cartoon-player! IT'S THE CARTOON.
Repeat my flashing LIGHTS and SOUNDS. DO IT! 
M: Hang on a sec. How come there are cartoons of the rebels? Who's making them?
I: You'd think the Imperials would crack down on this sort of seditious material.
H: This is how the rebels radicalise the youngsters. Through animated adventures.
C: Is this the Ralph Bakshi version?

FORCE FACT: The Star Wars Holiday Special cartoon was produced by Canadian animation company Nelvana, who would later produce the Droids and Ewoks cartoons, as well as animating the singing horses in Three Amigos!

H: The animation. It's a bit… simplistic, isn't it? It reminds me of Danger Mouse.
M: If Danger Mouse was shit.
H: See, people say this is the best bit of the Star Wars Holiday Special, but I think the rest of the show sets such a low bar.

M: That doesn't even look like Princess Leia.
H: That doesn't matter; she's the only female in it.

Luke Artoo and Threepio follow Han and Chewie down to a planet and crash-land in a sea of pink custard. They're attacked by a hungry Nessie, which is then driven off by... BOBA FETT! On a purple brontosaurus-unicorn.

FORCE FACT: This is the first ever onscreen appearance of Boba Fett. Some 18 months before Empire Strikes Back.

H: Yay! Boba Fett! 53 minutes and 40 seconds in. Worth the wait?
C: You said 'Bobba'. It's 'Boeba'.
H: I had no idea. All these years.
Brontosaurus, will you wait for me?
They team up with Boba Fett. There's some nonsense with an invisibility talisman. Luke and Han are left hanging upside down for dubious medical reasons. Chewie and Boba Fett go off to a nearby city seek a cure for them.

H: Chewie looks particularly like Ms Lion from Spider-Man And His Amazing Friends in this.
M: He looks a bit like a Dr Seuss person.
H: They should have just kept the cartoon and ditched the rest of the cartoon.

M: I'm going to attempt to sleep so I don't have any more pain.
H: You're taking the coward's way out.

SPOILER ALERT! Boba Fett contacts Vader. He's totally not on the rebels' side.

M: Is he naughty then?
H: Come on, you know Boba Fett's naughty. You know that much.
M: I don't know who Boba Fett is.

After a brief Lumpy/Imperial Officer interlude, we're back with the cartoon. Boba Fett and Chewie get into a bit of a brontocorn/speeder chase with the some stormtroopers, then it's back to the Falcon, where Threepio and Artoo swiftly inform the revived Han and Luke of Boba's treachery who then escapes using his jet pack. Someone says something funny and our heroes fly off. The End (of the cartoon).

H: It's OK, but it's no Space Sentinels.


Back in the treehouse, the Imperials show their true villainy by trashing Lumpy's bedroom.

H: Oh, it's a little cuddly bantha! I take it back, this show's brilliant.
I: I can't believe George Lucas never sold cuddly banthas.

The imperial bastards pull the head off the toy bantha. Lumpy is sad, and we are slightly moved.

H: This is the day that Lumpy becomes, a man.

We hum the Binary Sunset tune in tribute to the fallen bantha.

Lumpy salvages a busted micro transmitter from his trashed bedroom and we are then subjected to Harvey Korman's second role, in an onscreen space gadget maintenance tutorial. His character, dressed as Dr Smith from Lost in Space, 'hilariously' malfunctions repeatedly. It's gripping stuff.

H: We've now moved on to the 'repair and maintenance' segment of any successful holiday special. It's literally like they tried to make the most boring thing they could.


Downstairs in the treehouse living room, the Imperial bastards watch some sort of 'Life on Tattooine' reality show, which for some reason the Empire has decided is morally instructive.

H: Hey it's the Mos Eisley cantina! The Modal Nodes! Playing their one and only tune, apparently. And Greedo! That werewolf guy! Muftak! Hammerhead! Walrus Man! Snaggletooth!
I: It's easy to forget what a big part of the original film the cantina scene was.

Bea Arthur, later of Golden Girls fame, plays Ackmena the grumpy bartender. Harvey Korman, in his third and final role enters the cantina. He plays Krelman, a pathetic stalker who drinks by pouring booze into the open top of his head, like a mini Sarlacc. He's very keen on Ackmena. It's either romantic or a bit creepy.

H: Why are there so many old people in this show? I mean, I know that half of the old people are all Harvey Korman...

SPACE SPECULATION: If this had been made with a British cast, instead of Art Carney, Bea Arthur and Harvey Korman we would have had Arthur Lowe, Mollie Sugden and Stanley Baxter.

An Imperial broadcast from Not-Peter Cushing imposes a Tattooine-wide curfew. Ackmena tries very unsuccessfully to persuade her patrons to leave the cantina. It's basically a monologue.

H: Only 20 more minutes to go.
I: Hooray!

H: It's nice that they had so many sitcom actors in this. They could have got the Fonz in too.
C: If the Fonz was in this, he could have deactivated the Death Star just by banging on the wall.

C: They could have had the cantina band playing the Marseillaise.
H: Yeah, they could have done a good Mos Eisley Casablanca

The patrons refuse to leave and stage a sit-in, banging their mugs on the tables.

C: This is like the bit in Excalibur where Igraine does the sexy dance.
H: I think she's about to climb up onto the bar and sing 'One Way Or Another'.

Ackmena does indeed break into song, belting out 'Good Night But Not Goodbye', Ethel Merman style. The band accompanies her by playing their one and only song.

I: It looks like they were about to kick off with a big Conan-style bar room brawl, but they chose to go with another song instead.
C: I am most terribly surprised that they couldn't get Alec Guinness to appear in this. Ahem.

H: Is she singing to a giant rat at that table?
C: Yeah, he's just finished filming The Talons of Weng-Chiang.
I: If only Mr Sin would turn up now.

H: If she's supposed to be clearing them all out, she's doing a very bad job of it, singing and dancing like that.
I: Yeah, lights on, music off.

H: This sounds an awful lot like 'Those Were The Days', or something from Cabaret.

Ackmena eventually uses the power of song to conga the patrons out the cantina door. Having cleared everyone out, she is 'rewarded' with a flower from creepy Krelman.


Back in the treehouse, Lumpy pulls a clever stunt with his repaired micro transmitter and tricks the Imperials into leaving, apart from one poor stormtrooper who's left behind to wait for Chewie on his own.

H: Lumpy, that clever little scamp.

The stormtrooper catches Lumpy in his bedroom with the transmitter and smashes it. For a moment we are worried that we'll have to sit through the repair and maintenance tutorial again, but fortunately Lumpy legs it outside instead, the stormtrooper in very slow pursuit, failing to shoot.

C: Is this one a good stormtrooper?
H: No, they haven't invented good stormtroopers yet.

Han and Chewie turn up! At last! Chewie does very little. Han tricks the stormtrooper and he falls through some shoddily-built Wookie railing to plummet to his certain death. Hurrah!

H: What did Chewie do there? Nothing.
I: It was lucky Han got there in time. Chewie was just about to surrender.

I: Han's like, "Don't worry everyone, I saved you."
H: And Malla's all, "You're my real husband, Han."

Han: "You're like, family to me."

Malla gives him a soppy look in a soft zoom.
There is a lot of hugging and wet goat noises as Han takes his leave and the four Wookies bond.

H: Han says, "Bye everyone. Hope you don't get executed for killing that stormtrooper."

We discuss what chores Malla has saved up for Chewie now he's back home. Possibly digging a sand pit out back.

Space Gepetto turns up again to do a bit more flim-flam and saves the Wookies' bacon.

H: It's about time he turned up again. He's the thin, watery paste that glues this plot together.
I: The true hero of the show.

Space Gepetto makes a critical Bluff roll and somehow convinces Not-Cushing on the viewscreen that everything's ticketty-boo at the treehouse. He may have been using a Jedi mind trick. There is yet more hugging.

I: Didn't we just have this scene with Harrison Ford?


Finally free to get on with Life Day, the Wookies get a bunch of crappy crystal balls from the G-plan divider. The lighting dims and this show finally looks like it has a bit of style.

H: I worry that those crystals hold naked flames. That has to be a risk with all this flammable fur around.
C: I think Granpa's crystal ball has a tiny hologram of another lady.
I: "It's Joan Collins!"

Slow fade to the Wookies all wearing long red gowns, floating in space. We have no idea. They join a procession of other space-bound Wookies, marching solemnly into a bright white light.

C: Don't go towards to the light!

H: It's almost the end of the Star Wars Holiday Special. But wait! Surely there's more to enjoy.


Cut to some kind of dry-ice disco cave full of robed Wookies. The sound of wet goats is deafening. Chewie and the fam can be seen filing in.

H: This is purely a Wookie thing, isn't it? No-one else really gives a stuff about Life Day.
C: "Oh here they come, the Bacca family. Turning up once a year for Life Day after the pubs have shut."

Threepio and Artoo are there. Threepio delivers a homily about emotions or something.
Luke, Leia and Han turn up. There is yet more hugging.

Han: "All of you are an important part of my life, pal. I'm glad I could be here."
H: He's probably thinking "Only another 27 years and I can happily get murdered by my own son."

Leia gives a little sermon about freedom and love and peace and courage while constantly stroking Chewie.

H: Right on sister.


To give Carrie Fisher credit, she does her absolute best, and sings it pretty well. The sort-of Star Wars theme playing in the background does it no favours though.
H: Beautiful.
I: Carrie "my mum was in musicals" Fisher.


Then we get a jolly up-tempo version of the Star Wars theme as Chewie remembers better times, i.e. clips from A New Hope. Hey, at least we get to see the holo chess board.

H: Oh, I do like the 'medal ceremony' music. Do you think Chewie will get a medal on Life Day?

H: Why are they showing us all the good bits from actual Star Wars now? It's like they thought, "Hey everyone, you've sat through an hour and a half of this farrago, you deserve something decent."

After Chewie's Greatest Hits, we close with the Wookie family back in the treehouse, holding paws and bowing their heads in reverence.

H: Are they having a séance?
I: Is this like that bit in Swamp Thing #50 where they all sit around a table and then one of them blows up?

A slow zoom out from the treehouse at night, its lights shining warmly.

H: "Goodnight John-Boy."

We finish with the credits and the proper Star Was music, as those responsible are named and shamed. Director Steve Binder in particular has a lot to answer for.

H: All the good bits of this are... this music. That's about it.

H: CJ, as the... I don't want to say virgin, coz nobody's a virgin having come through this. But now that you've been blooded, initial thoughts?
H: Are you pleased that you've seen it in any way?
H: Do you have anything to take away from this?
C: The fact that I have nothing to say, and I'm normally a gobshite, tells you everything.
H: This was voted as The Worst Thing On TV many times. And it's not that it's hilariously bad. It manages to be Just. Boring.
C: It promises nothing and it delivers less.
H: How can you fail so badly with Star Wars? You need some running around, some robots, some scary bits and some death-defying bits. But "No, we don't want any of that."
I: Music... half-arsed comedy...
C: You know how at the beginning we were joking about how bad this was going to be? I can't joke any more.
I: It's just boring.
H: It's a real effort to sit all the way through it. It really is.

We then sit and watch the original trailers for A New Hope and some old Kenner toy adverts, as a sort of palate cleanser.

H: Don't worry, there's still real Star Wars.

Maisie wakes up, the only real winner amongst us.

* * *
Don’t watch it. Just don't.