By Jim Fanning
The Muppet Show was always a showcase for stars, but never more so than when the stars of Star Wars joined Kermit and Company for some intergalactic insanity. In this January 15, 1980, episode, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), C-3PO, and R2-D2 burst into the Muppet Theater with an SOS from Chewbacca:
“Help, I am being held prisoner by a bunch of weird turkeys.”
The comedic chaos jumped into hyperspace with the appearance of Luke’s “cousin,” Mark Hamill as himself. Finally, aboard the “Pigs in Space” ship, the Swinetrek—with first mate Piggy filling in for Princess Leia—Luke and the droids rescued Chewbacca from Dearth Nadir (Gonzo in full-on Vader armor).
As zany as it was, this unique episode boasted some of the only new Star Wars material created between the first movie in 1977 and the release of The Empire Strikes Back on May 21, 1980. The Empire Strikes Back, of course, introduced Yoda, performed by master Muppeteer Frank Oz who later commented on the cosmic connection between the Muppet and Star Wars universes: “They both had the vitality and purity and joy and dreaming, and there’s certainly geniuses behind both of them. George Lucas and Jim Henson worked together on Labyrinth, and I think that which got them together was that synergy. There was an awareness and an appreciation… They were [both] very smart, very quiet, very strong people.”