The Starlost

So I’ve been watching this show, which for the uneducated is a 1973 Fox-produced sci-fi show that was intended for American audiences but wound up not only being filmed in Canada but aired there as well (on CTV). It’s rather famous for the show’s original writer (Harlan Ellison) and science adviser (Ben Bova) being incredibly unhappy with it (the former had his named changed to Cordwainer Bird in the credits while the latter, unable to get his name removed, wrote a satirical short story about his experience). Keir Dullea (Bowman from 2001/2010) stars.

Honestly it feels like I’m watching early 70s Doctor Who, without the Doctor. Shot on video, cheesy music, ship models and lots of matting (Douglass Trumbull btw was the executive producer). A generational ship called the Ark, loaded with separate independent biospheres with different societies, has fled the earth and is looking for a new home; the crew has all mysteriously died off and the biospheres are isolated from one another. A farmer from an agrarian biosphere manages to find his way off (through some various things that happen in the first episode, with his beloved one and her suitor/metalsmith guy), and discovers that the Ark is basically locked on course to head straight into a sun. So they have to figure out how to make that not happen throughout the series.

In many ways the show is painful, so I dunno why I’m watching it. It’s interesting at least, and I did want to see what all the fuss was about… and wonder how it differs from Ellison’s original story and what was “dumbed” down (claim by Bova).

— Alan

I went through a serious Harlan Ellison fascination/reading jag a little over ten years ago, read everything I could pick up by the guy. As such I have copies of the White Wolf reprints of his works, which I believe were never completed – or at least I only have the first four volumes. In any case, I know there is a section in one of those volumes recounting his experiences with the Starlost. I have never seen the show myself, only read about it, but I can try to track down the essay Harlan wrote about his experience and track it back to an original source (think the White Wolf books are hard to find these days).

I hated this show when I watched it as a kid.

Terrible stuff, even for a time when there wasn’t nearly enough SF.

I used to have those White Wolf volumes but sold them off awhile back (wasn’t Ellison pissed off about those as well? something about huge numbers of typos, etc.) I seem to remember something about Starlost in there.

— Alan

Ellison has a reputation for being pissed off about pretty much the entire world. So it wouldn’t be surprising.

Well yeah that’s true. Remember the show he used to have on the Sci-Fi Channel where he just complained about stuff? Those were the days.

— Alan

Speaking of EllisonRage:

— Alan

I loved Starlost as a kid. Even today, I sit down at a computer and think “Can I help you?”

/runs off to find a torrent…

I’m kind of surprised I’d never heard of this show, but here’s a youtube link for others to see what everyone is talking about.

Now I want to go and dredge up all the crappy 70s scifi shows I watched, like Jason of Star Command, Ark II, Isis, Shazam, Logan’s Run TV series, Space: 1999, UFO, The Man from Atlantis, Planet of the Apes TV series, and … oh god, my brain, it hurts …

I so wanted the Ark II jet-pack.

The Fantastic Journey, The Questor Tapes, V, Wonder Woman, and the terrible Jason of Star Command spin off: Space Academy.

All of these shows that you and I mentioned were better than Starlost.