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The Starlost (TV Series 1973)
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Pow
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 04, 2022 1:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This was Harlan's description for the premise of The Starlost for the network.

Earthship Ark . . . Uncountable light years from earth.

Its passengers the last survivors of the now dead planet Earth.

Ark . . . Christened three hundred years before.

Launched in the hopes of seeking new worlds to colonize.

Ark . . . A structure two-hundred miles long. Riding on the strength of men's dreams for a new Earth somewhere beyond the infinities in space.

The gigantic space craft Ark is an entire world of some one-hundred levels. Each level holds a distant and separate civilization sealed off from the other.

In the centuries of the journey, countless generations have lived and died.

And man has forgotten everything, forgotten the reason for the journey, of the flight itself.

On each level, men believe they exist on an immovable planetary body and is surrounded by metal.

Our series begins when the colossal delusion is challenged. When one man discovers the stunning and nightmarish truth that they are The Starlost.
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mach7
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 04, 2022 11:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I also had high hopes for this show when it came out. I believe it was on TV shortly after UFO came to the US.

Sadly I agree with the comments posted, it never came close to archiving any of it's potential.

Bad production values
Bad writing
Bad producing
Bad acting
Bad directing

Everything that could make a show bad is present in TSL

low budget
inexperience writers
poor producers
shifting goals

Having said that, I do own the DVDs and occasionally i do watch an episode or two. It's hard to choke down more than two at a time.

So much potential lost.
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Bud Brewster
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 05, 2022 11:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

__________________________________________________

Mach, I love the way you formatted your post! Those lists of the bad qualities the show had were very effective.
Good job!
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Last edited by Bud Brewster on Wed Dec 07, 2022 2:35 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Pow
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 05, 2022 11:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

March 31, 1974, Harlan Ellison received a Writer's Guild of America Award for Best Original Screenplay for Original Script for The Starlost.

The Ark model had 37 Biospheres.

Detailed production drawings showed the Ark should have been 1,000 miles long carrying hundreds of 50-mile in diameter biospheres.

The episode production budget was approximately $100,000 per episode which was a little bit less than the average Star Trek: TOS episode. So you can see that the same amount of money used in 1966 on Trek brought in less by 1973 on The Starlost. For another comparison, Jason of Star Command was a 1978 Saturday morning TV series produced by the notoriously cheap Filmation Company. Their half-hour episodes cost $200,000.

Famed science fiction author Ursula K. Le Guin provided the story for the episode "The Goddess of Calabra with Martin Lager doing the teleplay.

Sidebar: It amazes me that the Starlost could have somewhat less money for their 1973 budget than Trek did in 1966, and yet, Starlost looks so incredibly cheesy in their production values. Apparently seven years between the two series did make a huge difference regarding the budgets and the look of those respective series.

Said it before & I'll say it again, Starlost still has enormous story potential and deserves to be revived as a weekly series. If they have a great story editor & writing staff, and with today's phenomenal visual effects, The Starlost could be fantastic!
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Bud Brewster
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 06, 2022 11:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Pow wrote:
Sidebar: It amazes me that the Starlost could have somewhat less money for their 1973 budget than Trek did in 1966, and yet, Starlost looks so incredibly cheesy in their production values. Apparently seven years between the two series did make a huge difference regarding the budgets and the look of those respective series.

I guess this is an example of the fact that a large budget doesn't mean a series (or movie) will be well made. Money doesn't guarantee the talent needed to make a good production.

Conversely, top talent can make a production look good, despite a low budget.

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Is there no man on Earth who has the wisdom and innocence of a child?
~ The Space Children (1958)


Last edited by Bud Brewster on Thu Dec 08, 2022 3:31 pm; edited 1 time in total
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mach7
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 06, 2022 8:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I agree The Starlost should be considered for a reimagining.

With enough budget and a production crew who cares it could
be good.

Just an FYI,

Star Trek TOS season 1 budget was $190K per episode
Season 2 was $185K, and season 3 was $175K.
Season 1 and 2 frequently went over budget.

So the $100K for the Starlost in 1973 is really not much at all.
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Gord Green
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 08, 2022 12:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just a couple of observations....

Along with the low budget was the fact that a good deal of that budget went to Kier and the "guest star" as payment. Even though he used his "alternate" name Harlan Ellison got a good piece of change out of it.

Also the producers were forced into using ONLY Canadian writers for the scripts. This is not to say there aren't very talented Canadian writers....Just that they didn't find any for this show!

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Bud Brewster
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 08, 2022 3:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

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I managed to find this rare group photo of the entire Canadian writing staff for Starlost, hard at work during a scripting session! Cool

These gentlemen are quite well known, and they're said to be "the best writers that beer can buy".




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PostPosted: Thu Dec 08, 2022 6:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Gord Green wrote:
Just a couple of observations....

Along with the low budget was the fact that a good deal of that budget went to Kier and the "guest star" as payment. Even though he used his "alternate" name Harlan Ellison got a good piece of change out of it.

Also the producers were forced into using ONLY Canadian writers for the scripts. This is not to say there aren't very talented Canadian writers....Just that they didn't find any for this show!

Phoenix Without Ashes by Edward Bryant & Harlan Ellison.
"Unfortunately, because of the nature of Canadian TV, which is vastly different from American TV, they [Canadian writers] had virtually no experience writing episodic drama as we know it. And, for some peculiar reason, with only two exceptions I can think of, there are no Canadian sf writers." Harlan Ellison.
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 05, 2024 5:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

John Kenneth Muir's Reflections on Cult Movies and Classic TV.

The behind-the-scenes problems on The Starlost remain the stuff of legend for the knowledgeable science-fiction TV fan.

Special Effects genius and talented director Douglas Trumbull (of Silent Running, Brainstorm, etc) served as an executive producer and was contracted to create the special effects for the space series during the early --- and experimental --- age of the medium of videotape. The original intent had been to shoot The Starlost entirely on videotape utilizing a revolutionary effects integration process known as "Magicam."

The technology would have permitted the actors to interact with miniature sets and locations in a fashion that was neither limited nor static, not entirely unlike the Introvision projection process spearheaded in the early 1980s and deployed in films such as Outlander (1981) and Darkman (1990).

However, in 1973 Magicam was undependable and the harried, under-the-gun team crafting The Starlost was forced to abandon it all together.

Instead, the team --- lacking adequate studio space in which to shoot their outer space epic --- resorted to old-fashioned chroma key or "blue screens" (in this case, utilizing sets that consisted entirely of blue curtains). Chroma-Key is the technique used as well, in Land of the Lost (1974~1977). Unfortunately, chroma-key requires a static background, which means the would-be grand shots featuring futuristic panoramas and vistas were sometimes boring rather than illuminating or fantastic. The dependence on such shots for even basic settings (like the oft-seen bounce corridor) results in a dramatic program that sometimes seems quite slow-paced and staid from a visual standpoint. There's a claustrophobic, cluttered feel to the series and star Keir Dullea in a Starlog Magazine interview once likened performing in the program to "acting in molasses."

Sidebar: I'm afraid that even if special FX maestro Douglas Trumbull at the helm had successfully managed to employ the Magicam technology for the series, the scripts were to substandard. All we'd have been left with is a visually stunning looking show with inferior writing.
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 05, 2024 9:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Harlan Ellison's ambitious plans for the writing of his Starlost show.

"And all of the stories will be springboarded by original storylines commissioned from leading Science-Fiction writers of the world. Names like A.E. Van Vogt, Frank Herbert, Joanna Russ, Thomas M. Disch, Alexi Panshin, Philip K. Dick, and many others."

Sidebar: How interesting if HE could have gotten these talented and established SF writers to pen stories for The Starlost. Often, in science-fiction television, creators do not enlist, or rarely enlist, excellent SF book authors. This doesn't mean that such series don't end up having some marvelous scripts by individuals who are not SF writers. The original Outer Limits had some sensational scripting by non-SF authors. However, for a SF TV show never to consider hiring any SF writers is a mistake. The Gerry & Sylvia Anderson SF TV series UFO had enormous potential. Yet, the Andersons never hired any SF writers to script any of the episodes. At least none that I have heard of before. How much better that series could have been with some real SF writers involved; especially in the story editor department.

Now, being a fine writer of novels doesn't automatically mean that they can turn out a teleplay for a television episode. Novels and TV scripts are two different animals. A SF writer can create fantastic ideas for a TV episode, however, the ideas can be unrealistic on a TV budget and shooting schedule. I believe that is some of what Gene Roddenberry encountered when he tried to hire noted SF writers for Star Trek. Some worked out on Trek, such as Harlan himself, others not so much. The fact that Harlan uses the term "springboarded" regarding the SF authors he wanted to employ indicates that he was well aware of such issues. Being the creator & story editor of The Starlost, he knew that some of these SF authors would submit wonderful concepts that he would have to rewrite in order to make it feasible for as a TV production's budget and short shooting schedules.
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 10, 2024 8:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Watching Silent Running (1972) where the scene takes place that shows the eco-domes disengaging from the Valley Forge and propelled into outer space, made me ponder The Starlost situation once they arrived at a planet that was livable for humans.

The setup for TS when they reached a habitable planet was to have the shuttles (similar to the Pan Am from 2001: A Space Odyssey) transport populations and cargo back and forth to their new world as they settle upon it.

It would be more interesting visually to see the entire bio-domes lift off from the main body of the Ark, and travel down to the surface of their new home. That way, they're landing with their bio-dome community with its entire infrastructure in tact. Once on the surface the various bio-dome inhabitants could expand their cities beyond the dome itself by having prefab material, 3D printing machines, and cannibalization of the massive Ark itself. All would be brought to the surface by the shuttles. Some of the domes would likely have 3D printing machines inside them, with more made available from the Ark cargo holds.
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Bud Brewster
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 10, 2024 10:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

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Your suggestion is brilliant, Mike! I totally agree. That would be the perfect way to colonize a new world. I love the idea of taking a large, self-sufficient biosphere from the home world which would include a safe area for the colonist until they were well settled.

Great thinking, Mike! Mr. Green

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 13, 2024 4:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

While I enjoyed HE's concept for The Starlost, there are some issues I had with the premise.

Ellison centers the show upon the three protagonists from the rural and rustic Cypress Corners. They have what looks like 19th century technology. How long could these characters be sustained on a weekly series? They have a lack of technological and educational sophistication on board a spaceship! Can the writers really continue to involve them in complex technological storylines each and every week? Almost all of the Ark's machinery is high above their heads. What skills can they truly bring to resolving these problems and challenges? Kind of like having the Waltons find themselves inside the space shuttle.

The other issue would be the leads going from biosphere to biosphere each week. No matter how technologically adept a biosphere civilization is, none of them can help with solving the tech problems with the Ark. Does that seem realistic? I realize correcting the path of the Ark from the impending doom of hurtling into a star takes away a dramatic story point for the show. Still, seems like one or
more biospheres working in unison should be able to address some of the challenges facing the Ark.

It also had the trio from Cypress Corners encountering quite a number of biospheres with hostile populations. Gives one kind of a depressing outlook for humanity. I know that drama means conflict. But if each biosphere is (mostly) filled with evil and corrupt people, who the hell wants to save them in the first place? Perhaps Ellison's idea was that not everyone in these biospheres is a terrible human being. If they can be removed from power, then the good and decent folks can take over.

I have to say just going form one biosphere to the next each week could have gotten weary as an ongoing plot. Maybe I need to look at it like the wonderful series Sliders. On that show each week we saw our heroes enter a vortex and land upon a parallel earth. Yet each earth was different from their home world, making it a unique experience. On The Starlost, I suppose we could look at each biosphere as a unique from one another. Each a mystery waiting to be discovered and explored.

In spite of my questions regarding this intriguing series, I still remain a fan. For all we know, Harlan might have addressed these questions I had with his series.
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Bud Brewster
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 13, 2024 6:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

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That is an excellent post, Mike!

You've convinced me that I should watch this series. I hope I can find downloads of it. Cool

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