‘The Starlost’ Comes to DVD November 4
Fans of Harlan Ellison know that when he’s not happy, we hear about it. It might involve his invoking the name Cordwainer Bird on a screenplay or writing about the horrendous experience or, in some cases, both.
Ellison was involved in the creation of The Starlost, a science fiction series for CTV in Canada and the experience was so bad, it has become legendary. Now, VCI Entertainment is releasing the 16 episodes on four DVDs in a $49.95 box set due out November 4. Extras include The Starlost Sales Pitch: “This is a long-lost piece that was sent to the networks to sell Starlost for syndication. It stars Keir Dullea and Executive Producer Douglas Trumball. It’s only been seen by a few, this is a rare gem.”
Created in 1973 and starring 2001’s Dullea, the producers kept misunderstanding what science fiction was all about or let their budget limitations hamper their imaginations. VCI describes the premise this way:
“After an Earth-destroying threat endangers the planet, Mankind builds a gigantic Earthship Ark spacecraft to save the last of humanity. After an accident takes place and kills the crew, the airlocks connecting the ship’s domes are sealed. Cut off from the outside world, many communities simply forgot that they were on a spacecraft. As the centuries pass, each culture evolves in an enclosed society, each a world unto itself that is fifty miles in diameter. Unbeknownst to the ARK’s inhabitants, they are drifting through deep space on a collision course with a sun. In 2790 A.D., a young man named Devon, a resident of a biosphere called Cypress Corners, discovers that his world is much larger than he was taught to believe and uncovers the Ark’s fate. Devon and friends Rachel (Gay Rowan) and Garth (Robin Ward) must learn all they can about the Ark if they are to save it and the colonists aboard.”
It aired in America on NBC stations, usually Saturday evenings at 7 p.m. before prime time programming began. The series featured guest appearances from John Colicos (Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek), Barry Morse (Space: 1999), and Walter Koenig.
Ellison’s experiences were so bad that he quit the series during production and insisted his pseudonym be used on the adulterated pilot episode, robbing the producers of his name value. The writer had the last laugh, though, when he won the Writers Guild of America’s Award for Best Original Screenplay in March 1974. By then, the series had been canceled. Edward Bryant used the original screenplay as the basis of Phoenix Without Ashes, a novelization that came out in 1975 long after the series was forgotten. The book contained a lengthy piece from Ellison about his experience which has become a textbook example of how not to make a television series.
Bova also got his revenge when he wrote the satirical novel The Starcrossed, which was also released in 1975.