Does anybody else remember “Far Out Space Nuts”, a Sid and Marty Krofft show from 1975? Here are the the opening credits:
Did you see Chewbacca too, or am I crazy? Here’s a freeze frame:
Am I the only one who sees Chewbacca pop up during the credits for this show? It’s a proto-Chewbacca for sure, not an exact match, but basically this is where George Lucas (and crew) had to have seen and swiped the look and costume to create Chewy, isn’t it? It would be one hell of a coincidence that absolutely not one of the hundreds of people working on the movie, especially those designing Chewy, to have never seen or mentioned it.
And then I saw “The Deadly Assassin” Doctor Who series today and saw a prototypical Emperor Palpatine in the portrayal of The Doctor’s nemesis, The Master:
It’s a bit less of a direct copy-paste than the Chewbacca instance, but when you actually watch the episode, this mysterious character stays in the shadows (like E.P.) with his black hood hiding his face for the first several scenes, giving orders from afar (like E.P.), and is finally revealed to be The Master as well as all grisly-looking under that hood (like E.P.). Even his powers of mind control and ability to influence and control people occur during this Doctor Who serial and are very similar to how Emperor Palpatine is portrayed and revealed.
George Lucas was interviewed recently on AMC’s “James Cameron’s Story of Science Fiction” series (which is quite good and worth watching), and it was good seeing him finally begin to own up to his unattributed borrowing/theft from many others before him, but I hope he eventually tells the full truth of how Star Wars came to be instead of continuing to peddle his bald lies like how “Chewbacca came to me whole cloth based on my dog”, etc. I think that being on that show, being interviewed by Cameron and other masterful directors, Lucas finally began to drop his facade and, almost like in an intervention, he finally gave up on trying to hold together his tangled web of too many lies about inventing many of the details that he in reality had stolen or borrowed.
Lucas absolutely created an amazing thing and invented so many ingenious special effects and new filmmaking techniques and deserves all the credit for that and much more. Maybe it’s just a pet peeve of mine, especially now that it’s been over four decades since “Star Wars” was released, but the fact that he has held on to those white lies for so long, held on to that 1% (or whatever) of the things that he directly copped from others and has never really admitted his true creation process or the real origin of where he got the basis for so many things that he claimed to invent is a bit absurd. It’s not like he needs to hide that information any longer. He will still be considered a groundbreaking genius for creating “Star Wars” and for inventing entirely new filmmaking techniques in order to execute his vision. Admission of the petty thefts doesn’t diminish the greatness of his work at all, and if anything, it would heighten people’s respect for him.
I don’t have any problem with Lucas using all the resources that came from film and television before him. That’s just how storytelling works. I think Cameron made an excellent point on the show in saying that the revolutionary brilliance of Lucas’ vision was by creating a science fiction/space opera universe that appears well-worn, dirty, and old-looking (as opposed to the clean and sleek science fiction depictions that came before Star Wars). Giving the Star Wars universe that relatable feeling of a “lived in” reality was George Lucas’ own innovation, and he will always be respected and remembered for that. Without “Star Wars”, we wouldn’t have gotten “Alien”, with its own dark, grimy, and dirty aesthetic. There are countless other movies and shows influenced by “Star Wars”, and those creators readily admit that influence. So why has Lucas remained so reticent?
If Lucas finally comes clean about his resources and methods, current and future filmmakers can learn a great deal from him. Those working in (and those wanting to work in) the medium and also have to go through the creation process themselves can learn a lot from how Lucas borrowed from the many others who came before him but added his own spin on things to create something new and wonderful. Doing so would make the creative world a better place. Not doing so, especially in the age of the internet where anyone can stumble across a nearly completely forgotten, short-lived Saturday morning kids show that was thrown together to replace a canceled cartoon in the early 1970’s, is a mistake that could tarnish his legacy. At this point, there’s no reason not to spill the beans and finally give whatever credit where it’s due.