Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Discuss: The Starlost

Karen: Does anyone remember this obscure science fiction show from 1973? It featured a huge starship where the people didn't realize they were on a starship. Wikipedia says that it was developed from an idea by Harlan Ellison, who removed himself from the project because of numerous changes to the work. Only 16 episodes were filmed. I have only dim memories of the show, but perhaps some of you will remember it better. 

The website i09 has an article about why The Starlost might be the worst science fiction TV show ever made. What do you think?


Edo Bosnar said...

I only ever heard about this show a few years ago, when it was mentioned in some interview with (or an essay by?) Harlan Ellison I was reading.
I can't believe it stars 2001's David Bowman (Keir Dullea) disguised as a '70s porn star.
Thanks for the link to that article. The comments are also interesting, in that I noticed some opposition to the general consensus that the show was a real disaster.

david_b said...

I read about it back in the day in Starlog..

Sounds more like a SCTV extended sketch.

("....perhaps it was....")

Humanbelly said...

Well, the central concept was a well-worn, practically-cliche' SF trope even in 1973-- the whole society-evolving-on-a-space-ark idea has been around for EVER. There's a particularly solid X-1 (classic radio)episode that explores it rather deftly. But geeze, Andre Norton's touched on it, I think Robert Heinlein has, and several others whose names don't spring to tongue. Not sure what new, bold concept Ellison thought he was bringing to the table, here. And man, does there seem to be more than just an echo of the snotty, snarky, circumstances that enmired the creation of "City on the Edge of Forever" for Star Trek: TOS? Where Ellison submitted a script that any fool could see would be inappropriate for network television, and then spared no effort in trashing everyone else involved who tried to salvage it?

My only contact with the show at all, whatsover, is that it was perpetually supposed to be on very, very late at night on a low-broadcast, minor local channel when I was a teen for a year or so. . . and every time I managed to stay up and actually get the station to tune in, it either was pre-empted by a fishing show (?? Who watches fishing at one a.m.??) or the station just decided to pack it in early, and closed down for the night.


Tony said...

I have the series on DVD. It's ok, if you disregard the cheesy effects. Some of the stories are actually ok. Harlan Ellison did not want to be associated with it, so in the credits, he changed his name to Cordwainer Bird. The makers of the show, wanted to do more with the special effects, but there was no money since a national network wouldn't pick it up. It could have been a much better show. It's a good watch, but only 1 or 2 episodes at a time.

Murray said...

I actually recall watching it back in the grand old days.

It was bad. No question. "Worst"? Phooey. I'm finding i09's link-opinions to be increasingly a double punch of vapid and annoying.

Humanbelly has only part of the premise. It involved a generation ship lost puttering thru the stars, but with a different cliche tagged on. Namely, the civilization of the week gimmick. The Ark was huge and consisted of several dozen different biodomes where different Earth cultures made their nest. After a few centuries in this odd isolation, this is where we get the civilization of the week.

Well, Wikipedia covers the essentials better than I. Suffice to say, the premise, if not wonderfully original, was solid enough. They simply did not have a fraction of the budget for such a SFX spectacle.

david_b said...

It's basically 'Galactica in reverse'..

Actually Glen Larson was apparently pitching a similar concept called 'Adams Ark' about a ship full of important people filling a ship and leaving a destroyed Earth.

Once 'Star Wars' came out, the Universal picked Larsons idea, once revised.

Anonymous said...

Whenever the words "a double punch of vapid and annoying" are used, I must, by contract and moral obligation, appear. Then I do what I do only to disappear once again into that cold dark night.

The Prowler (one more front yard free day).

Humanbelly said...

Thanks Murray-- that's a helpful clarification. The show revolved around the events of the Starlost as a, uhm, "macro microcosm", as it were. (heh-- now I feel all clever. . . )

Man, Civilization of the Week is usually a trap that a show ends up in after it loses its way (think: some of the weaker arcs of classic Dr Who, or Star Trek's third season, say). This poor show started at that point? Yikers. . .


William Preston said...

I have often thought of and recollected (vaguely) this show as one of those that I kept trying to follow but that shifted time and then vanished. It seemed to happen a lot with SF series with long arcs, so you were always left hanging.

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