Stewart Gardiner investigates television’s back catalogue for signs of Star Wars
Pop culture is endlessly recyclable and Star Wars is a perennial pop culture favourite that uniquely lends itself to be quoted, critiqued, joked about and integrated into other works. Television provides many of the greatest examples. I selected four highlights for #FutureOfThe4th
LOST “Not in Portland” (season 3, episode 7)
LOST is a treasure trove of Star Wars references and this one stands out as a classic. Sawyer, Kate and Alex need to get into a facility guarded by one of the Others. Kate hatches a plan where she and Sawyer have their wrists bound and pretend to be Alex’s prisoners. Sound familiar? Alex attempts to talk her way in. The guard engages her in conversation, they argue, and he is distracted. Sawyer seizes the opportunity to free himself, hit the guard over the head and take his rifle. He points the gun and fires off one of his trademark quips. It’s a doozy:
“Don’t get mad at me, just cause you were dumb enough to fall for the ol’ Wookiee prisoner gag.”
Sawyer was designed as a Han Solo type and here it comes full circle. Instantly quotable, in character and utterly brilliant.
This is the perfect Star Wars reference because it feeds back into Star Wars. After watching this scene you will forever refer to what Han, Luke and Chewie do on the Death Star as the Wookiee prisoner gag.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer “The Freshman” (season 4, episode 1)
In many ways the big bad of Buffy season 4 is college. The Scooby Gang is split up after high school and the family dynamic must be rebuilt over the course of the season.
Buffy may be the Chosen One, but college is a demon she doesn’t know how to fight. She is therefore glad to see the friendly face of Xander, who has returned from a summer out of town. He’s not at college and is therefore ideally placed to offer her some perspective. In attempting to dispense some sage advice, Xander overdoses on the sage. He goes all Yoda and hilariously stumbles over lines from The Phantom Menace:
Buffy, this is all about fear. It’s understandable, but you can’t let it control you. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to anger… no, wait… Fear leads to hate, hate leads to the dark side… Hold on… no, um… first you get the women, then you get the money, then you — Okay, can we forget that?
The idea of Xander as a Jedi master is delicious. It also completely works in context of this comedic yet heartfelt scene.
Justified “Sounding” (season 6, episode 5)
Patton Oswalt. Dude knows his Star Wars. Put him on screen and nerd fireworks will go off. A recurring guest role as Constable Bob Sweeney on the criminally underrated Elmore Leonard adaptation Justified was not an obvious choice for him. Surely his geek credentials couldn’t be tapped into on a neo-western crime drama. But that assumption would be wrong.
“Errol’s a big guy,” Bob says to latter-day cowboy Raylan Givens. “What if he don’t listen to me?” “Well,” Raylan says, “you got a badge and a set of balls, don’t you? There you go… use those.” Cue Star Wars quote:
Hell yeah, I got a badge. And I got balls like Death Stars. Let’s do this!
It’s a Kevin Smith movie boiled down to a couple lines of dialogue. As delivered by Oswalt it is also comedy dynamite.
LOST “Some Like It Hoth” (season 5, episode 13)
Like I said, LOST has Star Wars running through its DNA. It’s therefore worth another mention.
The island comes unstuck in time and a number of the Losties find themselves trapped in the 1970s. Hurley decides to use his knowledge of the future to, well, write The Empire Strikes Back. Let’s call it the mynock effect.
It’s 1977, right? So Star Wars just came out. And pretty soon, George Lucas is gonna look for a sequel. I’ve seen Empire 200 times, so I figured I’d make life easier and send him the script… with a couple improvements.
In Empire, Luke found out Vader was his father, but instead of putting away his lightsaber and talking about it, he overreacted and got his hand cut off. I mean, they worked it out eventually, but at what cost? Another Death Star was destroyed, Boba Fett got eaten by the Sarlacc, and we got the Ewoks. It all could’ve been avoided if they just, you know, communicated. And let’s face it, the Ewoks sucked, dude.
LOST rewriting Star Wars is funnier and kinder than a thousand Family Guy specials.
What are your favourite Star Wars references on TV? Join the conversation with the hashtag #FutureOfThe4th