Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Sci-Fi Review "The Starlost" (1973)

"The Starlost" was a very ambitious 1973 Canadian/American Sci-Fi TV series created by Harlan Ellison and starring Keir Dullea .

The series has been widely panned as being one of the worst Sci-Fi efforts known to man, with bad acting, poor scripting and bargain basement special effects being mentioned over and over again, however when i recently watched the entire series, I found it to be an interesting, if flawed, piece of Sci-Fi cheese.

The plot is as follows:-

800 years in the future, the generational ship "Ark" drifts aimlessly through space. Within its many habitat domes reside the remains of human civilisation, drifting through space following the destruction of the planet Earth in an unspecified disaster.
One of these domes is "Cypress corners", a habitat which is home to a group of people who live in a community modelled on the Amish culture.
A young man named Devon (Dullea) is an outcast amongst his own people, due to his outspoken nature and his refusal to accept the dictats of the village elders, particularly the one which prevents him from marrying the woman he loves, Rachel, whom has been promised in an arranged marriage to his friend Garth, the local blacksmith.
Devon finds out that the "voice of the creator" that the elders state is the voice of God and whom issues commands to the villagers, is nothing more than an altered recording of the chief elders voice, and, after stealing the elders key to the computer terminal, he finds himself being convicted of heresy and sentenced to death, however Rachel helps him escape and the two pass beyond the door marked "Beyond lies Death" to find that there are whole worlds they never knew existed.
Garth, as a matter of honour, pursues the two with the elders blessing, but, once he catches up with the other two, they all discover that the Ark is on a collision course with a star, and everyones life is at risk.

The series main story arc concerned Devon, Rachel and Garth trying to find a way to reactivate the Arks engines and find someone who could pilot the ship off its doomsday course, although secondary plot lines included the trio thwarting the alien Oro of Xar ( Walter Koenig ) , Garths feelings of resentment due to Devon and Rachels obvious liking for each other (Garth seems to spend nearly the entire series being pissed off about something, or simply looking angry a lot. Which isn't surprising being as he is portrayed as being the dumbest of the group, preferring more often than not to use violence when faced with a situation when smarts would be better) 

The series was originally pitched to the BBC, and then to all of the major American TV networks, but none of them wanted to pick it up, simply because the series budget as planned was quite high for the time, and would have required the invention of several new special effects techniques in order to bring it to air as intended. The networks were also put off somewhat about the series' original storyline, which was much darker and adult in nature compared to the finished product, mainly due to Ellisons involvement as chief writer.

In order to get the series filmed, the producers decided to cut the budget of the series nearly in half, which also included abandoning development of the "Magicam" system which they had intended to use in order to superimpose the actors on to miniature sets in real time.
They also made so many cuts to the original script for the pilot episode "Voyage of discovery" (Originally to be titled "Phoenix without ashes", penned entirely by Ellison himself) that Ellison quit the series and insisted that his credit for the series be changed to his pseudonym "Cordwainer Bird" (A name he uses when he feels that his work has become too corrupted by outside influence that he feels that it is crap, so the name acts as a warning to those who know him that he feels this).

Despite having some interesting stories, the finished product is full of plot holes, wobbly set syndrome, cheap looking props and sets and dodgy blue screen/CSO effects that even big name cameo guest stars like John Colicos , Barry Morse and the aforementioned Walter Koenig couldnt make people like it much.

Still, nonetheless, if they did a remake of this series, they could probably do it now to Ellisons original vision and it would be good, but, as it is, the series isn't easy to watch, bordering on boring in places, laughable in others.

I give it 6/10

You can view the entire series HERE

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