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Home > Sci-Fi > My Favorite Martians: Hammerhead

My Favorite Martians: Hammerhead

August 28th, 2009

Sci-fi fans born in the past 32 years (Great Gazoo, I’m old) have no idea just how massive was the impact of the original Star Wars. There had quite literally been nothing like it before in the history of cinema. It wasn’t just groundbreaking in its technical elements, but in its building of a fictional world. Part of the joy of seeing it again (and again and again) was that there always seemed to be something new lurking in the corner of the screen, some vehicle, droid or alien that you hadn’t previously noticed.

A big part of that was the Cantina sequence. Again, if you’re a youngun’, you just don’t get how much of a showstopper it was in ’77. There’s a good reason that for a time pretty much every space-based TV show/movie had to have a “Star Wars bar scene.”

Prior to Star Wars, the number of big-budget science-fiction films ever produced could be counted without even reaching for your toes. And if a flick had a “real” alien, and not just some dude in a leotard scolding us about our warlike ways, you can bet that they only sprung for one rubber suit.

That’s what made the Cantina such a favorite part of the film: there were dozens of aliens. There were giant preying mantises, humanoid flies and belligerent worms. There were wolf men, lizard men, mouse men and even a few men men for variety’s sake. Some had four eyes, some had only one. And with a couple of exceptions, none of them had names or were important to the plot in any way. Someone had gone to the trouble of designing and building all these things just to provide a backdrop to the main characters.

Without doubt, my favorite one was Hammerhead. Mind you, that was just the nickname that the production team used for him, later adopted by Kenner Toys when they made their action figure.

Hammerhead appears on-screen for all of five seconds, and all he does is sit at a table listening to another patron. But he made quite an impression on me, with his curiously inhuman noggin and his strange vocalizations.

While Kenner released a Cantina playset, they never made the bartender. Wouldn’t want to encourage kiddies to drink, I suppose. And so, in my world, Hammerhead ran the bar. That’s because Hammerhead was the coolest, and besides, who else are you gonna have run the bar? Snaggletooth? I don’t think so. He can’t even see over the counter. Walrus Man? After challenging Ben Kenobi, he’s down to one arm. And Greedo? Shot down in his prime by a mangy nerf herder.

Now, the time came when we could no longer allow all these wonderful creatures to remain anonymous. They had to have fully-fleshed out backstories so that we could use them in role-playing games and write novels about them. Every patron in the Cantina was there for a secret, special mission for either the Rebellion or the Empire. Not a single one could be simply popping down to the pub after work to knock a few down before returning to the hovel with Mrs. Belligerent Worm and the grubs.

And so, Hammerhead is no longer simply Hammerhead. He is Momaw Nadon of the peaceful, agrarian Ithorian race, a priest from the floating city of Tafanda Bay exiled to the desert world Tatooine after revealing his people’s technology to Imperial forces in hopes of saving the Mother Forest. One day, the Imperials demanded his help in locating an astromech droid. Arriving at the cantina…

Oh, fuck that. It’s Hammerhead. That’s all you need to know. And Hammerhead is awesome.

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Bonus content: the 1979 Cantina drunk driving PSA.

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