The Starlost (TV Series 1973–1974) Poster


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the pros & cons of the starlost
powersroc26 October 2004
The Starlost had the potential to be a classic science fiction series as it was created by the superb writer Harlan Ellison. The premise was intriguing: earth is abandoned by the humans that have poisoned it in various ways. A great spaceship arc is constructed and a series of domes house various cultures. At some point in their journey an accident occurs killing the crew, the domes are sealed off, and in time the different societies within them come to believe only in their own world and are unaware they are part of a massive starship.3 individuals from a dome with an agrarian community discover the truth, along with the fact that the ark is on a collision course with a g-class star.The series revolved around their attempts to save the ark. unfortunately Ellison came into conflict with the producers & writes extensively about this in an intro into the book based on the series, Phoenix Without Ashes.The fact that the show had a shoestring budget did not help either.This would be a wonderful premise to revive with Ellison on board, and the state-of-the-art special effects now available.
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The Creepiest Family TV Show Ever Made
Squonkamatic3 October 2007
Forget about "The Twilight Zone" or "Outer Limits" or the classic "Doctor Who" years with Tom Baker: CTV's THE STARLOST is the creepiest, most subtly disturbing television show ever made for general audiences. The background story about how the show came to be reads like a Nazi War Criminal Tribunal transcript: Harlan Ellison -- not exactly the most laid back person in first place -- is suckered into helping to create an epic television show set in the future, with space ships, laser beams, intergalactic voyage, combining the best talents of the era (Douglas Trumbull, Ben Bova, "Star Trek"'s alumni of superlative writers) with state-of-the-art technology, to be filmed in London for a worldwide audience hungry for creativity that had never been seen before. The scope would have dwarfed "Star Trek" with an emphasis on real science, astronomy, physics, engineering and a fearless sense of speculation about what could be out there in the universe.

Then it all fell apart: The budget was drawn & quartered, the production syndicated, to be made on the cheap in Canada with a production staff of unknowns who were not trained or equipped to handle such a project. The story premise reduced to the lowest common denominator and the talent marginalized by the stupidity of those who only saw it as another way to sell toilet paper, frozen dinners and underarm deodorant. Blatant misrepresentation of intent finally drove Trumbull and Bova from the sets, and finally Ellison announced he'd had enough. Before the first pilot episode was ever taped he'd demanded that his name be removed from the credits lest the producers reap an undeserved bounty off his well-respected propz. Hyped beyond any possible ability to deliver what it boasted, the show premiered in 1973 to abject indifference from thunderstruck audiences who could not fathom what the point of it all was, mixing 3rd rate television production techniques, bizarre illiteracy of both form and content, and bare-bones production values that were put to shame by that which it attempted to mimic.

Without Ellison's guidance the show became a sort of working example of how NOT to approach the science fiction genre, at the same time dumbed down beyond belief and yet defying any sort of accepted formula. Punctuated by bizarre, ultra-cheap quasi-minimal production design, brain dead writing and lunkheaded conceptual inconsistencies, it is a unique, remarkable failure of humanity attempting to do something great and yet stubbing their toe on the wainscoting with each step. It was canned almost immediately with the basic conflict of the last remnants of humanity in search of a new world on a giant, derelict space ark unresolved. They are still out there, somewhere, lost and unable to find their way home due to indifference, greed and incompetence.

And yet what a show it IS in the form of the precious 16 episodes that were made, 10 of which are available now on a DVD box set from Britain. It's the creepiest television show ever made for family audiences, nightmares of it's basic concept of three lost humans moving from compartment to compartment on an unbelievably huge, lumbering, abandoned "Earthship Ark" haunted me for thirty years. Most of it isn't very good in the traditional way of looking at television, but as a kind of kitschy, ambiguous and hopelessly retarded entertainment it's truly one of a kind, for which we should probably be thankful. Harlan may not wish it so but THE STARLOST remains a remarkable example of humanity at their most clueless, with the potential of what could have been eclipsing that which was.

I will let others describe the details of the premise, what interests me about the show is how utterly rudderless, forlorn and misdirected it all feels looking at the remnants 30 years later. If you want a more accurate look at what the show COULD have been, make sure you read the book adaptation of Mr. Ellison's "pilot episode" story, PHOENIX WITHOUT ASHES, which opens with a really eye-opening 20 page account of the hell he went through just to get this much accomplished. By all accounts he is to this day bitter, caustic, and openly hostile about the experience, and I agree that an authorized present day attempt to re-visualize his concept is entirely appropriate. Not a "re-make", since THE STARLOST as it is known today doesn't really officially exist. It was taken away from him and made stupid by those who pulled the strings; The idea is still worthy.

None of which, by the way, is meant to denigrate the efforts of those who stuck around & gave it the good old college try. It's not their fault. They did their best and just happened to come up empty, though some of what survives to this day is remarkable: The principal leads (Kier Dullea, Gay Rowan, the perpetually gruff Robin Ward, and William Oster as the endlessly helpful computer "host") were very well cast and gave their all, and the guest appearances by some of the best & brightest of the day (the late Lloyd Bochner, a misplaced Walter Koenig, "Space: 1999"'s Barry Morse, priceless Ed Ames, and John Colicos who even makes the word vegetable sound like a Shakespeare sonnet) are wonderful. Trumbull's special effects don't come across well on the small screen but are entirely practical given Bova's scientific guidance. Superficially the show resembles "Doctor Who" though far, far less profound as realized.

If it had been made right by honest visionaries who were interested in amounting to more than the sum of their parts it could have gone on for three or four seasons at least, perhaps even fulfilling Ellison's proposed story arc of the three heroes eventually repairing the ark and setting it on it's way again. Yet as an unfinished sketch of that idea it exists like a half remembered dream, haunting because of it's fleeting nature rather than hampered by never having been finished.

8/10. In spite of everything, 8/10.
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Ellison's Folly?
possum-33 May 2005
After many years of not being able to see this program, but only being able to hear the scathing opinions of others about it, in particular those of the series' originator, noted SF writer Harlan Ellison, I was anxious to actually see it for myself.

And when I finally did...? Well, I actually enjoyed the 10 or so episodes I could see. Yes, the production values were very small, but shows like 'Land of the Lost' or 'Doctor Who' (which Ellison has said he actually likes) have made very enjoyable, watchable programs on similar budgets. Frankly, an interesting story is the first requirement, and trivia like sets and special effects are, at best, secondary. Castigating the show for a low budget is easy. But the shows I saw were primarily enjoyable, and I liked watching them even with particular flaws here or there or a less enjoyable episode now and again.

How much of this reputation for the show is of people simply jumping on Ellison's bandwagon? He has famously trashed the series, and has every right to whatever feelings he has on the subject. But his opinion is formed on the basis of what he originally wanted, and the experiences he had while working on the project (which, as much as they are known, are simply HIS versions of events). What effect could that whole experience have had on his opinion of the show? And why should his opinion have any effect on mine, formed simply on the basis of the program itself? I wonder how many people have formed their perspective of the series based on Ellison's recounting of events and his own view of the series. How much of Ellison's opinion has built those of others? Does it have its flaws? Most certainly, sizable ones. And it is certainly a low-budget production with poor episodes. But is it the worst show of all time, as many people seem to see it? I don't think so. It is, in many ways, enjoyable.
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Great concept, cheesy execution and still fun!
ruffrider15 September 2006
I was in my my 20's when I saw the pilot episode in 1973 - a story about an Amish-style community, some of whose young inhabitants defy their elders then stumble upon a portal into a much bigger world. The reactionary little town turns out to be just one pod in a gigantic spaceship, built to save samples of the Earth's populations - a Noah's Ark to transport humans to another world when the Earth is threatened with extinction. The concept was completely unique and though I only saw only a few episodes the memories stayed with me over the years. I finally acquired the entire series (16 episodes) on DVD last week and watched it end-to-end.

I still find Harlan Ellison's concept intriguing, and that's what kept me watching a series that's been so maligned the bad press alone probably scares off most viewers. It's cheesy 1970's TV, all right, with the actors plopped down in the middle of colorful and completely artificial-looking chroma-key sets and all the buildings in the various life pods look like 18-inch-high models sitting on tables, but still I wanted to see what our 3 intrepid heroes Devin, Rachel and Garth would find in their efforts to save the giant ship.

Often the show looked like it was made for kids (each pod seemed to contain an evil dictator, who ruled over an "empire" consisting of about a dozen people), but I hung in there, all the time wondering what might have been with good writing and state-of-the-art technology. "The Starlost" still seems like a concept worth doing right - maybe even on the big screen.

One thing that troubled me was the simple lack of logic, even on the show's own terms. The premise of the series was that it was up to 3 young people to save the giant starship, who's control section and crew were long ago destroyed, putting the ship on a collision course with a star. If a way could be found to correct said course you'd think all would be well and the series could be concluded, right? Not so fast! In episode 14, 2 scientists help Devin, Rachel and Garth fix the reactor(s), enabling the Starlost to avoid its most imminent danger, a comet. At this crucial juncture, with the ability to change course at hand, does anyone, (scientists, heroes, producers or writers) say "hey, while we're avoiding the comet, let's just reset the course so we won't be heading for the star any more and SAVE THE SHIP?" Not with a contractual obligation to produce 2 more episodes they don't, so the series plods on through 2 more episodes then stops dead. I wonder if anyone realized they might have simply repodered the episodes to make #14 the last one and use it to wrap up the series.

To sum up, you may find this series campy fun, in spite of all its shortcomings - I did, but I had to make a lot of allowances ...... and swallow a lot of cheese.
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I thought it was kind of cool.
meltedbrain28 February 2001
Of course I was only 8 years old at the time. But in retrospect, the storylines, weird synthesizer music and general atmoshphere were wonderfully creepy. Yes it had super-cheap production values but what could you expect from Canadian TV in the early 70s? The highest budgeted entertainment of the day would have been Hockey Night in Canada or the Irish Rovers Show (remember that one?).

The Starlost is a giant Ark ship hurtling through space on a collision course with a star. The earth has long since been destroyed and the ark ship itself was crippled by a meteor collision several generations into it's long journey. The technical people are dead. What is left are multitudes of biospheres, each with different sub-cultures of human "tribes", all cut-off from one another. These descendents of the original travellers have lost all knowledge of their journey and history. None of them even know they are on a space ship. Their biosphere is simply their home. You have to admit there is something mythic about that premise. I thought it was a nifty idea.

The series follows the adventures of 3 inhabitants, Devin, Rachel and Garth, who escape their biosphere, slowly find out the truth of the Ark, and travel from dome to dome.

I remember catching a few reruns of The Starlost in the early 80s and it was still as good (relatively speaking) as I remembered it. The use of those super-cheesy chroma effects did add a certain other-worldliness to the production that is hard to describe. It was as if it was so bad that it was actually effective (or almost). Certainly if this was redone today with a bunch of flashy, overblown, modern cgi, all the spookiness and creepyness of the original series would be diminished.

I think the reason why this series actually worked for me is because it had that "Space 1999" theme of being disconnected, alienated and lost, while scrambling like mad to get back to "somewhere" more connected. There is something metaphysical and tragic about that set-up which I guess appeals to introspective individuals.

I also liked the way that almost every episode ended on a down note, with the trio jumping to yet another Dome filled with raving madmen of one sort or the other.

Anyway, too bad this series seems to have disappeared. It would have been cool to watch a few episodes again. But I guess the original videotape that it was shot on has since decayed! :)
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This idea's time has come.
jives29 July 2005
OK, so everyone thinks the production values were terrible, then why after 35 years, does this series still exist as clear as a bell in my mind? It was amazingly thought out and the possibilities for plots were infinite like any good sci-fi series. Of particular interest were the "bounce tubes". A travel method that involved jumping into a tunnel that had no gravity and being sucked to the other end. I couldn't wait for each time the characters did that! The show was filled with "wow" moments like the view of the destroyed command center, and the view out the the window at the incredible length of the ship. Note: The ship in this series was recycled a few years later as the ship in the movie, "Silent Running".

I desperately hope that there is a television producer out there that is looking for an idea to remake. With modern computer animation and a cast of a few talented young stars this could easily be the Star Trek of the new century.
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What Might Have Been...
arion110 July 2005
Like all of Harlan Ellison's writing, the original concept is staggering.

Take dozens of disparate cultures (Amish, old Chinese, Futuristic, etc.) and isolate them in self-supporting domes 100 miles in diameter. The domes represent the various cultures of Earth, and are intended to be planted onto a new planet because Earth is dying out. Each culture is just one part of a huge spacecraft on a multi-generational sublight trip to another star system.

Now comes the problem. During the voyage, something breaks down on the steering mechanism and the ship veers off course. The people in the domes forget they're on a starship.

Hundreds of years later, an Amish child is hoeing in the fields and accidentally strikes the door-opening mechanism, and he finds his way into a hallway which connects the domes! He can't explain what he's found to his fellow Amish because they have no A Priori experience with something like this.

Added to which, the ship is now on course for a black hole! Somehow, a way must be found to awaken the various cultures, teach them about the nature of reality, and save the ship.

Done properly, this could have been an amazing show! Regrettably, the TV executives decided (as TV people often do) that "audiences are basically stupid" so they dumbed it down, gave the computer an artificial personality (that sounded like a telephone operator on quaaludes) and basically ran the show into the ground.

Harlan Ellison changed his name on the credits and bailed out, refusing to compromise his integrity. Bravo for him!!!
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If by "cheesy" you mean "primitive," sure
bevansaith20 March 2011
A lot of reviewers choose to bury "The Starlost," but I'm here to praise it. This four-DVD collection of all 16 episodes of the show may be one of the most awaited releases ever — at least among a certain crowd.

The Canadian television series is largely known as being a high-profile disaster — not a financial one, but a creative one, thanks to the loud mouth of legendary science-fiction writer Harlan Ellison, who created it. Ellison had a bad break-up with the show's producers (after writing the first episode), and he began to cry artistic compromise, brandishing the finished product as just south of loathsome.

The show — run in Canada in 1973, followed by a late-night stint in the United States on NBC — has been an obscurity since. In that time, it gained a reputation for being a lifeless, cheap piece of junk, a laughable disaster deserving ridicule. Does it deserve that legacy? I don't think so.

The set-up is inspired. The show begins in a weird Amish/hillbilly community called Cyprus Corners, where Devon (Keir Dullea) finds himself on the wrong side of the town elders when the girl he loves, Rachel (Gay Rowan), is promised to his friend Garth (Robin Ward).

Rebellious and shunned, Devon makes his way to a site of local worship — a dark cave protected by a massive steel door. He manages to get past the door and discovers that his world is merely one biosphere of 53 on-board a giant spaceship called the Ark, which was launched from Earth 500 years before. It is now without a crew and hurtling toward a sun. Eventually, Devon, Rachel and Garth all find themselves wandering the ship, moving from biosphere to biosphere in an attempt to find someone with the ability to correct the doomed course.

This journey sometimes results in stories that are pretty intriguing — check out "The Goddess Calabra," which has Rachel captive as the only woman capable of breeding in a biosphere ruled by cryptic religion, or "Gallery of Fear," which has the trio stumble upon an art gallery where their memories become part of the installation. Other times, the story can be admittedly a bit silly — witness "The Beehive," in which the travelers discover a biosphere of giant bees. It's hardly ever boring though.

The show is realized via clunky but sincere performances and sets that look good but suffer thanks to the use of video, which adds little ambiance to the surroundings — scenes are often just way too well lit. The production is comparable to British science fiction of the same era — often it looks better than "Doctor Who."

"The Starlost" seems less like a professional television production and more like a spirited public-access show, but that's really part of the charm. Slick production values often mask old ideas and this shows' contemporaries — "Battlestar Galactica," "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century" and "Man from Atlantis" — only drive that point home. "The Starlost," by contrast, was a low-end maverick among standard television fare. If it doesn't quite match an episode of the new "Battlestar Galactica," it certainly beats every episode of the original one, and that's the comparison that counts.

Admittedly, "The Starlost" is not for everyone, but I found it to be every bit as eccentric and diverting and exciting as it was to me as an 8-year-old. If shallowness is the biggest scourge of much of today's screen science fiction then "The Starlost" stands up very well. The DVD set is a great bit of video archeology.
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Great idea if.........
sp2734320 April 2001
IF the shot had used film instead of video tape, IF the supporting cast around Keir Dullea could act, and IF there had been some better scripts. The show had three good episodes; the first: "Voyage to Discovery", the second: "Lazarus frim the Mist", and one of the last "Farthins Comet". In all there were only 17 produced before the plug was yanked in the winter of 1973. I remeber how much I liked the show, and had it had a little more money spent on its prouction it might have lasted a bit longer. As it was shot on video tape, which degrades over time, I doubt any of the shows still exist. If they indeed still exist it would be great to see it on the Sci-Fi channel. I thought The Ark (the spaceship) was totally cool, and believable from the concept of the show. I read on the website devoted to the show that some one is trying to restore the Ark studio model back to as it originally existed!
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I missed some comments on "The Starlost" for years !!!
gilsonl-119 September 2007
I read a post from someone in the USA that summarizes what I think. How can a awful series could rest vivid in mind of too many people ? The answer is : Because it is good in essence !!! Great job ! I am hoping that some visionary remake "The Starlost", really. This series was presented in Brazil in 1978, and I remember that the boys on my neighborhood liked to discuss the episodes. I remember clearly the first episode, mainly the moment when Devon touched the "sky". Of course that time I did not see this appeal like this, but now I can see that the authors took care to create many dramatic scenes inside the sci-fi movie. As the other person told, nowadays, with such developed special effects, this would be a very interesting remake.
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childhood memories, flashing through
bbbl678 September 2004
You know, I was just sleeping and having a dream about a huge generational spaceship, with separate hanging living complexes, which carries most of the population of Earth away to a distant world. Then I realized, I'd seen this concept before on TV, when I was a kid. Reaching through my own memory banks to the distant past, I could only come up with the words: "lost", "ark", and "Walter Koenig" (Chekov from Star Trek). Did the search for Koenig through IMDb, and sure enough found this entry. If I had instead done a search for "lost" and "ark", I'd have probably ended up in "Raiders of The Lost Ark", so it's a good thing I didn't do that search. :-)

Wow, now that I'm looking at the list of stars of this show, I am surprised by how many of them are well-known. Walter Koenig was just a guest star on it. I didn't realize that one of the stars was Keir Dullea, Dave from 2001: A Space Oddessy. Also Robin Ward, I remember he used to be a weatherman or something later on. Ah, ancient Canadian memories.

Koenig seems to have a knack for memorable guest appearances on sci-fi shows. He also had a memorable turn as Bester on Babylon 5.
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Lost in translation
wtdk1229 December 2003
Harlan Ellison's first and only attempt to create a science fiction television series, The Starlost was doomed to failure almost from the start. Ellison had his name removed from the series when the producers decided to make a number of knuckleheaded decisions about the show and its direction.

It's too bad as the series premise itself would make a fascinating weekly series or movie. Science fiction author Ben Bova wrote a parody of the situation that occurred to Ellison with a novel (I believe it's now out of print)entitled Starcrossed.
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"The starlost", a great idea,poorly executed in 1973, Would be subject matter for a re-make in 2005.
FRANKSTUF822 October 2004
I recently purchased a video cassette copy of "The Starlost, the beginning". While viewing the film, I could not help but notice the dismally poor quality of the sets and the weakness in the actor's portrayals of the characters.I enjoyed watching the film despite the obvious shortcomings, I mean after all, It was filmed way back in 1973. Again, I enjoyed the film and I intend to purchase other episodes of the short lived series as soon as I can. I remember when the show first aired in 1973. At the time, I was only 11 and was unaware of how poorly executed this fascinating story had been done.When the show was canceled, I had pretty much forgotten about the show. It has only been within the last two years that I rediscovered this rarely seen science fiction series.I can appreciate what the series producers tried to do with the show, but their ideas fell apart. Let's cut the producers and actors of the time a little slack.It was filmed in CANADA,on a extremely limited budget. The technically sophisticated filming innovations used to produce science fiction shows of today, was virtually non existent back in 1973.Although the television show that we first viewed back in 1973 was a complete disaster, the story is fresh and renewed for a new generation of science fiction fans yearning for something new to watch . I for one, hope to see this show revived just like they did with "Battlestar Galactica".A remake of "The Starlost" is a science fiction story that the television big-wigs, should really consider bringing back for a viewing audience of the 21st century.
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Much maligned.
Blueghost5 February 2009
And deservedly so, but I think the harshest critics of this show are being overly hard.

The best way I can describe "The Starlost" is as a low-budget version of "Dr. Who". In fact, for the longest time (like someone posted on the BBS) I too thought this was a lost episode of the British TV show that I just needed to it track down.

Through the miracle of Youtube I rediscovered it, then went on to investigate what happened to this show.

Ho boy.

As has already been posted, the creative powers were sold a bill of goods. The money people wanted to recapture that low steady audience market share that Star Trek had proved existed, and talked sci-fi types into creating what eventually became "The Starlost". The creative types, seeing that the wool had been pulled over their eyes, walked and put all the blame on the backers.

I think this too is also too harsh. Harlan Ellison and his confederates were duped, of that there is no doubt, but, in my opinion, they should have bucked the money people, shot what they wanted, and pull a page out of the BBC's play-book by making a quality low-budget TV show.

And, believe it or not, this is what they did, though unwillingly and begrudgingly. As other commentators have pointed out the production values are sub-par. The "special" effects are not so special, the supporting cast is hit-and-miss, and the rewritten dialogue should not have been as dumbed down as it was.

But, in spite of all the poor tweakings by the financial powers, and despite the callous and blame-minded psychology that the creative team eventually adopted, the crux of the story still manages to shine.

Poor production values to somewhat hamper this show, but despite marginal execution, the coordination of story and those same low production values help preserve the creative teams' intent.

The SFX are poor (marginal at best), the actor thesping the computer terminal acts like he's in a B-movie, before CGI we're treated to a poorly shot (though magnificently designed) miniature and cheap video animation, and the local theatre groups cast in the support parts have a hard time keeping up with the leads. But, for all that, and for a show produced in the early 70s, it's actually okay for what it is.

Mind you, if I were to helm this thing I would've either stopped production entirely or thumbed my nose at the backers and shot what I wanted. But, I would've made the best of a bad situation, and not cry foul when given the opportunity of a lifetime to shoot what could have been a truly magnificent sci-fi show.
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Access to "the straight dope."
Sierra_Buttes20 February 2007
There is a LOT of inaccurate info in these comments.

It can probably be attributed to memories changing over time.

Yes, there was a Bible (The Word), but the producers all but tossed it.

Harlan Ellison wrote the award winning script that was hacked to bits, which is why he is listed as Cordwainer Bird.

See for yourself:

It does look really cheesy as an adult, which is why it should be remade...awesome premise...

The episodes not in the box set are available...only three episodes from having all **16** episodes. Keep Looking!
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Good idea, bad bad bad bad execution (did I mention it was badly done?)
lorne-224 May 1999
The idea of people living in a spaceship for generations until they forget they're on a spaceship is not a bad concept. The idea of having them divided up into completely separate domes with our heroes traveling from one to the other made good sense for episodic TV. But doing most of the special effects with chromakey (an early blue-screen technology that wasn't even ready for TV weathermen in 1973) was a disastrously bad idea. Even stupid children who loved Godzilla movies in 1973 knew this looked cheap. Still, Canadians of a certain age remember it with enthusiasm, if not fondness. Why doesn't someone do a big budget remake of this instead of Lost in Space?
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Harlan Ellison and storyline
interstel6 November 2011
I am surprised at the Harlan Ellison connection having just watched all 16 episodes back to back. As the story more correctly resembles a book called the Star Seekers from Milton Lesser in 1953 for the first part. The mix with strong elements of Robert Heinlein's Orphans of the Sky from 1963. Then add the ship design from Silent Running modified for more domes. You get the story concept of the Starlost. So if considering how much these earlier these stories predate Ellison it more likely he adapted them and the other authors were never given credit.

Oh and in case no one corrected the commented about Silent Running. It predated Starlost and it was the Silent Running footage that was used to pitch the project to US television networks.
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Stiff acting, cheap sets, mildly interesting plot, but still sf on TV
mhlong15 March 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I discovered StarLost when it was first broadcast, late at night. Recognizing Keir Dullea immediately from 2001: A Space Odyssey, I found the plot interesting, the acting fairly stiff, the sets basically cheaply done. Yet, here was a 'live'-action television series post-Star Trek about space and had what looked like an interesting plot (and didn't seem as pretentious as Space1999) .

Basically, Earth had been destroyed and near the end, the world (at least the US, for most the people seemed to speak the same language), built this gigantic space 'ark' with spheres connected by tubes. Each sphere held a community that seemed to be plucked and plopped into this sphere and shut off with no outside contact. I suppose the plan was to move as much of Earth culture in-tact to another habitable world and start anew with a significant part of the various cultures little affected by space travel and ready to continue the human experience.

The story starts with Keir Dullea's character (Devon) in one of the spheres, some fundamentalist religious community (like Amish). He wonders about something more outside the sphere and thinks there must be a way to find out. (no concept of stars or galaxies exists to these people). Being at odds with the elders who seem to have dictatorial control over the peoples' lives, he also loves this young woman, Rachel, who is promised to someone else, Garth. It's decided he's a trouble maker and should be restrained (or worse). He escapes and starts his search for a way out.

Stumbling upon a hatch door by accident, he makes his way into one of the connecting 'bounce' tubes, learning to 'bounce' to the next sphere. Along the way, he comes across a computer monitor that has a man's image who occasionally answers some but not all of his questions.

Going back to his sphere, he tries to convince the others of what he has found but is considered a real problem and is not believed. He gets Rachel to join him and Garth goes after them to bring our hero back to 'justice'. The remaining episodes are their adventures as they go from sphere to sphere trying to find out what's going on.

I saw a few episodes again about 5-10 years ago when it was re-broadcast somewhere, seeing about 10 or 12 of the 16. I had several problems with the show and even more when I read Harlan Ellison's (aka Cordwainer Bird) account in one of his books and his original script.

First, the three characters eventually team up as Garth begins to understand what is going on. Garth went from antagonist to just a hanger-on. I assumed the reason for him was for tension – two men competing for a woman. But that plot device disappeared rather quickly. Mostly he just glowered, doing little to further the plot.

Each sphere these characters visited was similar in many ways to the one they came from, totally self-contained and basically unaware of any other sphere or the space ship (apparently there had been more generations of lives during the space travel then expected). Part of the plot revolved around the fact that the computer monitor was constantly saying that the space ship was on a course to plunge into a star and be destroyed but it never said how long until that would happen. Also, the command bridge apparently had been destroyed at some time and the secondary bridge was uninhabited causing the space ship to wander.

Our characters went from sphere to sphere and came upon problems that needed to be solved. At the end of each episode, they left each sphere a better place, but with that sphere still practically cut off from any other. Not once did anyone say, Hey, what IS out there? Can I join? Nor for the most part, did our trio ever seem to find someone smart enough to maybe find the controls and divert the space ship from possible catastrophe.

One episode had our trio coming upon a docking port - and a small scout ship with several people on board - which at that moment returned from some expedition. You would think the ship's commander of that would want to know the situation, forget whatever issue was the 'problem d'jour' and go immediately to the secondary bridge and take control. Nope. Our trio had to help them solve some very mundane problem, and I think the scout ship left again. Our trio even came across a highly advanced society who had gone nuts over schematics and things, but eventually left them to solve their own little problems and pushed on.

Finally, the real issue I had was with Harlan Ellison's whine about the show, which can be found in several places, i.e. Strange Wine. I read his original script which he seemed to believe was the best ever written, which really wasn't much better then anything else on TV at the time. Also, he whined that the TV representation of the space ship was laid out in a grid like pattern, but his idea of something like a grape cluster was so much better. Please, who really cares.

Actually if you want to read a better story (which Ellison must have read but never gave any mention of), read Heinlein's novella, Universe. Almost exactly the same plot, but handled a little better and far more believable (and written much earlier).

I have fond memories of The StarLost because so little else in the SF genre was available as the impetus from the success (or buzz) of 2001:A Space Odyssey was now in serious decline. However, with the cheap budgets, mediocre acting, and behind the scenes fighting, I'm sure the show did nothing to help further the cause. We had to wait for Star Wars to put SF back in popular standing.
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Personally, I couldn't sit through the first episode.
JamesL-49 November 2001
I don't remember a whole lot about this one, but I do remember that it was done on an absurdly low budget, and looked and sounded every bit of it. It was shot on videotape at a time when even most sitcoms were filmed, and it looked like it had been shot with cheap cameras on cheap tape. The whole concept of some disaster destroying Earth, with enough warning to allow for a huge generation ship to be built, then another disaster, a century or two later, destroying the bridge and killing the crew, and the passengers, 500 years after launch, having forgotten they were on a spaceship, was rather depressing and pessimistic. The sets were as cheap and boring as the video, and the music was utterly creepy.
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Old Canadian Sci-Fi --- good or bad you decide
digitalzomby31 December 2019
I remember watching this on TV in 1973 and thought it was a really bad Canadian Sci-Fi show, but I kept watching each week thinking it has to get better. BTW I'm one of those Canadians.

OK jump to 2019, 36 years later I go and buy the DVD from VCI hoping some magically sci-fi thingy happened to make me like it.

NOT... every episode is exactly how I remember it... BORING and everything everybody says is just psycho mumbo jumbo nonsense with a lot of numbers thrown in to make the viewer lose a little bit of grey matter every freakin episode!

Every actor had a dumb look on their face, like they would rather be in a mall shopping for bell bottoms than being on a sound stage... AND the scripts were dreadful and ridiculous... I would rather just head into the sun and get it over with!

I am glad to have actually watched it again to let me know I haven't lost it from watching it all those years ago...

I can sell my DVD now to get it out of my life.
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Creepy, cheesy and really low budget.
Java_Joe12 November 2019
The Starlost was a series that really could have been much more than it was. The main writer, at least at the start, was sci-fi legend Harlan Ellison and it starred Keir Dullea who is best known as Dave Bowman from the classic "2001: A Space Odyssey". And numerous well known character actors as guest stars, specially from Star Trek. So what went wrong? Well... everything.

Originally the series was to employ a new kind of blue screen technology in which the characters could interact in front of a blue screen which would then track their movements. Unfortunately this didn't work out and any blue screen effects had to be static. Secondly the show was on a shoestring budget meaning that the effects they did have were cheap and looked it. The show, originally supposed to be filmed in London England, was then transferred to Toronto Canada. The budget was slashed and finally there was a falling out with head writer Harlan Ellison and, from what I understand, a writer's strike during that time. This mean that some of the episodes were actually penned by nearby high school students. Add this all up and you're looking at a disaster.

The show itself had an interesting premise. The Earth had been destroyed and the survivors were put on board a giant ark with biodomes all along the length. An accident early on killed the crew, the biodomes were sealed and the people living in those domes forgot they were on a spaceship. Unfortunately without a crew to pilot the massive ship, it's now off course and heading towards a star which will eventually kill everybody. So it's up to our heroes to get to the command deck and somehow figure out how to save everybody.

While there were some good episodes, most of them are rather forgettable and, let's be honest, it really hasn't aged very well. The special effects are pretty sub par and the episodes written by the high schoolers are pretty bad.
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Big Disappointment-Too Cerebral I Remember
otisarea11 April 2019
I remember when this show aired on Saturday nights on Ch4 in NYC. I was a little over 10 years old, and was a big fan of Lost In Space, by then, and Sci Fi week on the 4:30 Movie on Ch. 7 in NYC , weekdays. From what I recall, I could virtually hardly understand what was happening every week. Something had happened to the ship, and they spent every episode in a different part of it, trying to figure out, 'is this where the controls are located?'

Virtually no 'action,' in terms of the typical sci fi, land on a new planet, special effects fest, typical of say Lost In Space, Star Trek, or even Forbidden Planet, or The Day The Earth Stood Still, type of plot line. From what I recall, special effects were virtually non existence. Being I'm 40 years older now, it may be time to view these again, and see if my opinion has changed.

I gave up on the show very quickly; maybe after 3 or 4 episodes. And those I m not sure I watched in their entirety.
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Beside being terrible the story line is plagiarism
tanstaaflneaz11 August 2017
The concept and basic story line of this abomination is plagiarized from Robert A. Heinlein's novel Orphans Of the Sky. The "special effects" were laughable even for the 1970's. Placing Keir Dullea as the star was an attempt to cash in on his role in 2001 Space Odessy. Move along folks. Nothing to see here.
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You can Watch this Show....
sagerave25 March 2017
Wonder of wonders....I found this series in ROKU's channel store! While it may be low budget, the premise and all its little metaphors are timeless. It was taped but is a fine example of green screen techniques used before the advent of cgi. It's also nice seeing Dullea before his 2001 Space Odyssey appearance.Since it is on ROKU, it may also be available through specialty stores.
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Starlost: great concept ruined by production-company greed (spoilers)
boltar4691 February 2014
Steve Nyland pretty much said all there was to re assessment of this project's quality.

Despite the cheesiness I managed to stick with this thing through a few episodes - I suspect it was a matter of TV access/control at that point in my life rather than losing interest in the show that kept me from watching more. I saw John Colicos' evil dictator character (that seems to have been a notable shtick during some parts of that excellent actor's career) - never made it far enough to see Walter Koenig's evil alien.

Having watched a few minutes of the first episode on YouTube early this morning (I can't wait to show it to my wife, having described it to her as one of the most awesome wasted-talent epic fails in the history of television) I think the inimitable Sterling Hayden deserved mention for his totally unbending Amish bishop character in the first episode and possibly others.

My main reason for starting this review is to mention a mid-70's Trek convention in a ritzy hotel we couldn't afford - we had to walk through an almost completely deserted and personality-free section of town for a few blocks. Most of my memories revolve around a panel featuring Bjo Trimble, Walter Koenig and the man himself, Harlan "Cordwainer (give Paramount the) Bird" Ellison. Listening to Harlan read all of "I'm Waiting for Kadak" in a thick Yiddish accent was an absolute delight - but the recent Starlost train wreck got mentioned and Harlan launched into an entertaining tirade about Paramount's assorted lunacies in connection with his thoroughly Frankensteined brainchild. I recall him mentioning the non-existent effects budget with particular reference to the orange throw rugs whose function was rapid transit of halls hundreds of yards long - he was quite dumbfounded by the fact that nobody thought to secure the rugs in any way. When our dauntless heroes jumped from some off-camera box or shelf, frequently en masse, to simulate landing from being catapulted down the hall, the rugs just naturally went sliding. I wonder whether anyone was actually hurt during a take? I don't remember what reminded me of The Starlost this morning (I was about half asleep at the time) but it's been a great trip down memory lane. I'm a bit disappointed that my first-generation Roku box doesn't seem to have a YouTube channel, so I can only stream this wondrous train wreck to my PC!
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