I'd noticed that there had been a dvd set of this short lived series back in 2008 but it was 50 bucks when it came out and poorly discounted for a long long time. It seemed like a big investment in something that might turn out to be a big pile of crap. It was pretty much universally panned when it first aired in 1973. I know I watched it but I'm not sure if I saw all the episodes. I don't have any memories of it, fond or otherwise. For no good reason I was curious to see it again. Series creator Harlan Ellison probably isn't curious to see it again. He created the series for 20th Century Fox. They were looking to get a co-production with the BBC going. After the BBC passed the producer, Robert Kline, turned to syndication. He went to Canada to take advantage of the tax incentives. He sold the show to the CTV and syndicated it in the USA. The show's budget took a tumble and the script got changed. Harlan took his name off the series, replacing it with Cordwainer Bird. I put it in my NetFlix queue, and after a good wait, the first one came yesterday. The set has 4 discs, each with 4 episodes. There aren't any extras on the first disc and I suspect the others are the same. Each of the shows is about 50 minutes long.
Producer Douglas Trumbull had created a process he was calling Magicam. That drawing on the left is from the Patent. The idea is to use two cameras, one to film someone against a blue screen, and the other to film a miniature set. Kind of like that they are doing today with computers and green screen. Problem with Doug's setup is that it didn't work and they had to use traditional blue screen to add the backgrounds. Some of that blue screen looks pretty poor, even for 1973. Their studio was small, rented based on the working Magicam system, and they didn't have room for large sets. A lot of shots look pretty cramped. It's shot on video and doesn't always look that good. The quality of the shows on the dvd really varies from shot to shot. Some of the ship effects shots are really fuzzy. I bet no one is going to do a nice CGI replacement like they did on the original Star Trek for The Starlost.
That's the logo and the cast. I thought it was a pretty poor logo. The cast is somewhat better but not much. Left to right we have Robin Ward who plays Garth, Gay Rowan who plays Rachel and Keir Dullea who plays Devon. Keir had been in 2001: A Space Odyssey. He started working in 1960 and still works today. It was Gay's second job and she continued to work through 1983. Robin started working in 1969 and he still works. I just don't see much of their work. What I'm seeing in The Starlost sure isn't anything to write home about. A lot of the acting is so-so and same can be said of the direction. It's just not a well made show.
That's the model of the Ark on the left. It's 50 miles wide and 200 miles long. That's big, huh. It's a generation ship that's carrying 3,000,000 people to a new home out in the stars. It doesn't have a destination but sends out smaller ships to look for habitable planets. The earth had a big catastrophe and some people got to leave. They live in domes that are connencted to the main body of the space ship by tubes. You travel the length of the tubes by a levitation mechanism that pics you up and flies you along the tube to the other end. You land on a bit of green foam on the floor. If you look around you'll see a lot of that green foam around the sets. It was probably cheap to buy and it's green. The ship has been in space nearly 500 years and the people in the domes no longer seem to know about their mission to find a new home or the other domes.
In the first episode, Voyage Of Discovery, we start our story in a dome called Cyprus Corners. It's an Amish like community run by big bearded Sterling Hayden. He's a fire and brimstone kind of dick who's got complete control over the citizens. He's got it in for Devon, who questions authority, and he forbids Devon to marry Rachel even though they're in love. Devon is friends with an older guy who also questioned authority. He gives Devon a key to the door that leads to the tunnel between the dome and the main ship body. Devon leaves and flies down the tunnel to the ship.
That Devon by a piece of that green foam. He goes exploring and finds a computer that gives him some of the backstory to the series. It's all new to Devon but he understands that the ship is off course and going to hit a star. He goes back to Cyprus Corners where he's tossed into jail. Garth lets him out and tells him to leave. Rachel goes along and Garth follows thinking he'll get her back. It doesn't happen and that's the three of them on the empty bridge. Now they have to figure out how to save all their lives. Not to bad a start for a story. Lot of people have written novels with the idea of a generation ship and I would have read some of them by 1973.
In Lazarus From The Mist Devon introduces Rachel to the computer. They find out there are frozen people on the ship, waiting for the ship to reach it's destination. They are in the medical area. They find it but are attacked by some primitive types in dirty clothes. Devon and Rachel get into the medical area but Garth gets captured. Devon and Rachel open a tube with an engineer in it but he's not too much help. He's not the right sort of engineer to help them with the reactors. He's also terminally ill so he has to get back to the freezer or die.
Frank Converse plays the frozen guy. He does tell them how to subdue the primitives using knock out gas. Good thing the stuff has a 500 year life span. They knock out the primitives and rescue Garth. Another helpful bit from Frank gives the primitives a nice place to live with apples growing on trees. The poor primitives were so ignorant of the paradise just a door away. If only they would have had the key. Frank also tells them that there is info on some other domes. They will have to collect it to save the ship.
In The Goddess Calabra our trio find an all male society that had eliminated women as being weaker. They use their man seed and artificial eggs to create men for their vaguely Roman society. How is that a good idea. Notice the green foam on the throne of the leader. John Colicos plays the leader and Barry Morse plays the head priest. John decides to marry Rachel because she looks like the statue of their goddess. That can't be good.
Lookin' at Rachel you'd think that she's bummed out about that gettin' hitched news wouldn't you? Nope, that's how she almost always looks. None of the main characters have much personality and that just might be the best they can act. I know the characters are supposed to be from a repressed society but it seems like a poorly thought out concept. I like my lead characters to have some personality. Anyway, Devon fights John and somehow beats him. The fight wasn't very good. They get a bit of info and leave for the next dome.
The Pisces is the title of the fourth episode and the name of the exploration ship that has been scouting out habitible planets. Lloyd Bochner plays the head of the three person research team that has been away ten years. Devon has to tell them that they have been away for 400 years and things are pretty screwed up. The crew of the Pisces try to adapt to the Ark's conditions but they can't and leave in their exploration ship. Kind of sad for Garth as he was hoping to get something going with the woman on the left. maybe he'll meet someone in the next dome on their quest.
Like I said earlier there's a bit of a good idea in the concept but the exectution killed it. The poor production values, acting, and scripts sure caused the ratings to fall and Fox stopped production after 16 episodes. They aren't so awful as to be unwatchable but they sure aren't up to the level of the poorest episode of the orginal Star Trek. I'll contiue to watch the rest of them and think about all the money I saved by not buying the set.