The Starlost: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Starlost
The Starlost - intro.jpg
The Starlost intro
Format Science fiction drama
Starring Keir Dullea
Gay Rowan
Robin Ward
Country of origin  Canada
No. of episodes 16
Running time approx. 50 minutes
Original channel CTV
Original run 22 September, 1973 – 5 January, 1974

The Starlost was a Canadian-produced science fiction television series devised by writer Harlan Ellison and broadcast in 1973 on CTV in Canada and syndicated to local stations in the United States. The show's setting is a huge generational colony spacecraft called The Ark, which has gone off-course. Many of the descendants of the original crew and colonists are unaware, however, that they are aboard a ship. The series experienced a number of production difficulties, and Ellison ended up disowning it before the first episode even aired.[1][2]



Faced with the destruction of Earth, humanity builds a multi-generational starship "8,000 miles [13,000 km] in diameter." The ship contains dozens of isolated, self-contained biospheres, each kilometers across and housing people of different cultures. Early in the voyage, however, disaster struck, and the command section was destroyed along with its crew.

Centuries later, a young man, Devon (Keir Dullea), a resident of Cypress Corners (a biosphere with an Amish-like culture), discovers that his world is far larger and more mysterious than he had realized. Considered an outcast because of his continual questioning of the way things are, especially his refusal to accept the pre-arranged marriage of Rachel (Gay Rowan), the girl Devon loves and who loves him, and his friend Garth (Robin Ward) to whom Rachel was promised in marriage, Devon inadvertently finds his way into the service areas of the ship and uncovers its fate: the bridge has been destroyed, the crew killed and the Ark is on a collision course with a Class G star similar to the Sun. Devon returns to Cypress Corners to tell his fellow biosphere-dwellers about what he has learned, but is put on trial for heresy and condemned to death. Helped to escape on the night before his execution by Garth, Devon convinces Rachel and Garth to come with him to find the backup bridge if they are to save the Ark and all of the colonists aboard. Occasionally, they are aided by the Ark's computer systems portrayed by William Osler.

The scenario drew on themes common to science fiction. It also had obvious potential for an interesting, developing story arc as the trio made more discoveries about the ship and contacted cultures previously isolated in other biospheres.

20th Century Fox was involved in the project with Douglas Trumbull as executive producer. Science fiction writer and editor Ben Bova was brought in as science adviser.

Development and production

Harlan Ellison was approached by Robert Kline, a 20th Century Fox television producer, to come up with an idea for a science fiction TV series consisting of eight episodes, to pitch to the BBC as a co-production in February 1973.[1] The BBC rejected the idea.[2] Unable to sell "The Starlost" for prime time, Kline decided to pursue a low budget approach and produce it for syndication. By May, Kline had sold the idea to 48 NBC stations and the Canadian CTV network [1].

To get Canadian government subsidies the production was shot in Canada, and Canadian writers produced the scripts from story outlines by Ellison [1].

Before Ellison could begin work on the show's production bible a writers strike began, running from March 6 to June 24.[3] Kline negotiated an exception with the Writer's Guild, on the grounds that the production was wholly Canadian - and Ellison went to work on a bible for the series [1].

A drawing from the Magicam patent showing the basic arrangement of the system - a servo controlled dolly along with a secondary periscope camera filming a model background.

Originally, the show was to be filmed with a special effects camera system developed by Doug Trumbull called Magicam. The system comprised two cameras whose motion was servo controlled. One camera would film actors against a blue screen, while the other would shoot a model background. The motion of both cameras was synchronized and scaled appropriately, allowing both the camera and the actors to move through model sets. The technology did not work reliably. In the end a simple blue screen effects were used forcing static camera shots [2].

The failure of the Magicam system was a major blow - as the Canadian studio space that had been rented was too small to build the required sets. In the end partial sets were built, but the lack of space hampered production [2].

As the filming went on, Ellison grew disenchanted with the budget cuts, details that were changed, and what he characterized as the progressive dumbing down of the story. Ellison's dissatisfaction extended to the new title of the pilot episode; he had called it "Phoenix Without Ashes" but it was changed to "Voyage of Discovery".

Before the production of the pilot episode was completed, Ellison invoked a clause in his contract to force the producers to use his alternate registered writer's name of "Cordwainer Bird" on the end credits. This was a signal to anyone who knew him to show how disgusted he was with the whole business (see Alan Smithee for the motion picture industry equivalent).

Sixteen episodes were made. Fox decided not to pick up the options for the remainder of the series after seeing how badly it was doing in the ratings. Bova, frustrated that his advice was ignored, saw the first show when it was broadcast and quit. He asked the producers to take his name off the credits of all the shows, but he did not have a clause like Ellison's in his contract, so he remained credited.

TV scriptwriter Norman Klenman stated that he was called in to work on The Starlost because the production team were unable to deal with Ellison. Klenman claims he rewrote the pilot script, hired the writers for the series, chose the themes of the episodes and wrote four and heavily rewrote eight more episodes.


On March 31, 1974, Ellison received a Writers Guild of America Award for Best Original Screenplay for the original script (the pilot script as originally written, not the version that was eventually filmed). A novelization of this script by Edward Bryant, Phoenix Without Ashes, was published in 1975; this contained a lengthy foreword by Ellison describing what had gone on in production.

Bova, in an editorial in Analog Science Fiction (June 1974) and in interviews in fanzines, made it clear how disgruntled he had been as science adviser. In 1975, he published a novel entitled The Starcrossed, depicting a scientist taken on as a science adviser for a terrible science fiction series.


Date A.D. and Time Event
2285 Earthship ARK leaves Earth prior to Catastrophe of galactic proportions
Dome wars
2381/01/01 Spaceship Pisces leaves Earthship ARK to explore planets suitable for colonization
2385 Accident on Earthship ARK & locked onto collision course with Class G star
2390/02/19 06:00 About when Spaceship Pisces crew initially believed they returned
2790/04/03 03:20 Oro's Xar 531 spacecraft crashes into Earthship ARK
2790/05/02 12:30 Garth, Devon, and Rachel break into Alpha Bridge Complex
2790 Alien Oro and Idona depart for Planet Xar
2790 "Present" date


Episode Title Synopsis
1 "The Beginning" a.k.a. "Voyage of Discovery" Forced to leave his village because of persecution, Devon discovers his people live on a huge spacecraft
2 "Lazarus from the Mist" While Garth is held by "cavemen" descendants of service crew, Devon and Rachel awaken a scientist from suspension to help repair the Ark
3 "The Goddess Calabra" The trio visit a biosphere populated only by men, whose governor desires to marry Rachel, who resembles a goddess worshiped in the community
4 "The Pisces" (also titled "The Return") An exploratory vessel returns after an apparent ten-year journey, but it's been hundreds of years.
5 "Children of Methuselah" Thinking they've found the backup bridge of the Ark, they discover a module occupied by children who believe they've been piloting the Ark since it left Earth
6 "And Only Man Is Vile" A scientist intent on breeding a hardier race of man tries to prove man is too selfish
7 "Circuit of Death" A disillusioned man triggers the self-destruct of the Ark but intends to escape; he and Devon must undergo miniaturization to stop the detonation
8 "Gallery of Fear" A computer desires to become autonomous and tricks the trio to complete its programming
9 "Mr. Smith of Manchester" The trio find their way past a mysterious high-security biosphere entrance and discover a distrusting, power-mad ruler who tries to assure them of his peaceful intents while he pollutes his city to produce armaments
10 "The Alien Oro" An alien sent to make reconnaissance has crashed into the Ark and is now harvesting parts to repair his ship to return home; Garth falls for a woman who must leave with Oro in order to survive
11 "The Astro Medics" After Devon is injured by radiation, a medical ship that orbits the Ark comes to his aid, but the doctor who can help him is too intrigued by the possibility of helping aliens who've signaled for help
12 "The Implant People" The trio visit a biosphere where a despotic servant to the leader terrorizes the population with pain produced from mandatory implants
13 "The Return of Oro" Oro returns... as commander of Earthship Ark. He tells the trio and their temporary companion that his home world can support the people from Earth, but Devon discovers otherwise when a robot is asked the correct questions
14 "Farthing's Comet" A scientist alters the Ark's course to pass through a comet's tail so he can study it; Devon must make an EVA to rewire a panel so the service reactors can be fired again; cometary debris is damaging biospheres
15 "The Beehive" The trio visit a science installation where a scientist has bred giant mutant bees
16 "Space Precinct" Garth decides to return to Cypress Corners, but he is recruited into the inter-ark police force by an officer intending to take a flight to assist in resolving an interplanetary conflict

Episodes of the original series were rebroadcast in 1980. A number of episodes were also edited together to create movie-length installments that were sold to cable television broadcasters in the 1980s.

Movie Episodes
The Starlost: The Beginning "Voyage of Discovery" and "The Goddess Calabra"
The Starlost: The Return "The Pisces" and "Farthing's Comet"
The Starlost: Deception "Mr. Smith of Manchester" and "Gallery of Fear"
The Starlost: The Alien Oro "The Alien Oro" and "The Return of Oro"
The Starlost: The Invasion "The Astro Medics" and "The Implant People"

Commercial releases

All 16 episodes were at one time available in a VHS boxed set.

The first DVD release was limited to the five feature-length edited versions.[4]

In Fall 2008 the full series was released on DVD by VCI Entertainment.

Major characters

Episode Name Actor Character (in order of appearance)
1 Jeremiah Sterling Hayden Leader of Cypress Corners congregation
1- Devon Keir Dullea Adult outcast and orphan from Cypress Corners
1- Rachel Gay Rowan Devon's love interest, Garth's betrothed, "Goddess Calabra"
1- Garth Robin Ward Blacksmith from Cypress Corners
1 Abraham Gillie Fenwick Wise old 'fool' in Cypress Corners
1- Mu Lambda 165 William Osler Sphere Projector visualization programmed for general information; also computer voice and narrator
1,5 boy and 4 Prosecutor Scott Fisher short-straight red hair
1,8 Rachel's mother Aileen Seaton
1,8,13 Garth's father Jim Barron
2 Dr. Gerald W. Aaron Frank Converse Enclosure 78 Row 54 Section C, 090-40-6930, age 40 years, Radiation virus terminal 2hrs. A-34S Communications electronic engineer
2 James T. Atkinson 2nd of 17 Earthship ARK design and construction engineers suspended in cryonic vault
2 Sergeant Doug McGrath Leader of degenerate vault security guard descendants
2 1st Tube Dweller Clive Endersby
2 2nd Tube Dweller Mel Tuck
2 Jane Gregory-Aaron Vivian Reis Nuclear engineer, Dr. Gerald W. Aaron's long-dead wife
3 Captain Brad Michael Kirby promoted to Colonel Government house guard
3 Governor John Colicos Governor of State
3 Shaliff Barry Morse Head-priest of Temple, formerly Colonel in Guard
4 Colonel M. P. Garroway Glenn Smith Commander of ARK vessel Spaceship Pisces, age 44 years, 6', weight 173, health rating AAG3
4 Captain Janice Diana Barrington Electronic technician field promoted to Captain of Spaceship Pisces
4 Navigator Teal Carol Lazare
4 Admiral Baines unknown, only Gold Security Clearance rank crew
4 Captain Rodgers unknown
4 Captain Armstrong Former Captain of Spaceship Pisces, died while on away mission
4 A. C. Garroway long-dead relative of Colonel M. P. Garroway
4 Milton Carnes, Mabel Carnes, and George Carnes long-dead relatives of Captain Janice
4 Rick Malloy long-dead 32 year-old boyfriend of Navigator Teal
4 Daisy Garroway long-dead daughter of Colonel M. P. Garroway
5 1 David Tyrell Captain of Alpha (bridge) complex, boy, medium-curly blonde-red hair
5 Grand Council
6 Dr. Asgard Simon Oakland
6 Dr. Diana Tabor Irena Mayeska
6 Lethe Trudy Young woman
6 Village Elder Tim Whelan
6 Villager A John Bethune
7 I. A. Richards Percy Rodriguez electronic technician, First Class, from Biosphere Alpha 5, Valerie's father, former leader of dissolved & defeated citizens' party administrative assembly (by control party)
7 Valerie Richards Narene Virgin epileptic daughter of I. A. Richards, from Biosphere Alpha 5
7 Cort Calvin Butler Valerie Richards's friend, Biosphere Alpha 5 security
8 Daphne Angel Tompkins woman
8 Magnus Allen Stewart-Coates Earthship ARK commander's personal computer
8 Monster Danny Dodgkins
8 Admiral George Austin William Clune first officer commanding Earthship ARK
8 computer voice Jim Barron
9 Secretary Pattie Elsasser
9 Trent Pat Galloway aide
9 President Mr. Smith Ed Ames
9 City man Les Ruby
9 Nurse Doris Petrie
10 Egreck 419B2 Idona Alexandra Bastedo could not have children
10 & 13 Oro of planet Xar Walter Koenig Alien


Episode Name Role
1-8- William Davidson Producer
1-8- Douglas Trumbull Executive Producer
1-8- Jerry Zeitman Executive Producer
1-16 Cordwainer Bird Creator; Writer, Episode 1
2 Douglas Hall Writer
2 Don Wallace Writer
1- Leo Orenstein Director
2- Ed Richardson Associate Producer
2,6 Norman Klenman Story Consultant
2,6 Jack McAdam Production Designer
2,6 Ben Bova Science Consultant
2,6 Shirley Mann Costume Designer
2,6 Karen Hazzard Ltd. Casting
2,6 Score Productions, Inc. Music Producer
2- Carol Davidson Make-Up
2,6 Bob Bowkett Properties
2,6 Maurie Jackson Technical Director
2,6 Peter Edwards Lighting Director
2,6 Gordon White Art Director
2- Doug Drew Audio
2,6 Percy Brinkworth Video
2,6 Barrie Diehl Unit Production Manager
2- Gary Smith Unit Production Manager
2,6 Ray Fitzwalter Studio Director
2,6 Mary Lou Fraser Production Assistant
2,6 Derrett Lee Production Co-ordinator
2,6 Larry Wells Wardrobe
2,6 Bob Colouhoun Model Construction
2,6 Gordon Lowe Model Construction
2,6 Mereline Thompson Model Construction
2,6 Lissa Calvert Model Construction
2,6 Lori Margolis Model Construction
2- Ed Brennan Post Production Supervisor
2,6 Gordon Stoddard Video Tape Editor
2,6 Wally Weaver Re-Recording
2,6 Wally Harris Re-Recording
2- Bob Kozak Sound Editor
2- In the Sunrise Graphic Design
2- The McLaughlin Planetarium Research Assistance and Visual Materials
2- Glen Warren Productions Ltd. Executive Producer
2,6 Gerard Rochon Executive Producer
2- Arthur Weinthal Executive in Charge of Production
4 Jonah Royston Story and Writer
4 George Ghent Writer
4 Joseph L. Scanlan Director
6 Shimon Wincelberg Writer
6 Ed Richardson Director & Associate Producer
6 Bill Rennie Unit Production Manager
6 Cy Fawcett Floor Manager
6 Larry Wells (unknown)
6 Pat Burrows (unknown)
6 Art Claridge Audio
6 Doug McCormick Post Production Supervisor
6 Malcolm Fox Sound Editor
6 Phillip Stephens Model Construction
7 Norman Klenman Writer
7 Peter Levin Director
8 Douglas Trumbull Visual Effects
1- Keir Dullea Devon
1- Gay Rowan Rachel
1- Robin Ward Garth
1- William Osler Host/Computer Voice

Guest stars

  • Walter Koenig appeared in two episodes as an alien named Oro; in the first, he was accidentally stranded on the Ark while investigating it; in the second, he returns to seize the ark for use by his home planet.
  • Barry Morse appeared as Shaliff in the 3rd episode, "The Goddess Calabra".
  • John Colicos also appeared in "The Goddess Calabra", as the Governor.
  • Diana Barrington appeared in "The Pisces", as Captain Janice.


  1. ^ a b c d e Somehow, I Don't Think We're in Kansas Toto, Harlan Ellison
  2. ^ a b c d Mark Phillips, Frank Garcia. Science Fiction Television Series. McFarland.  
  3. ^ "A Brief History of Television Writers: 1949-1979".  
  4. ^ Simpson, Michael (2007-12-28). "VCI To Launch 'The Starlost'". CinemaSpy (Robert Falconer). Retrieved 2008-01-09.  

External links

Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address