OTHER COMMUNITY QUEST SHOWS
Planet of the Apes
The Ark is the last hope for humanity. Launched from Earth before its destruction it is a huge space ship made up of self-contained biodomes holding small communities of people from Earth that have evolved since the ship first set off on its voyage, many of them forgetting that they are all in space. Devon lived in one of these communities, but was exiled when he took exception to the elders telling him that he couldnít marry Rachel. Beyond a forbidden doorway, he discovers the truth about the Ark and learns that a catastrophe has left the ship on a collision course with a star. The only place that the ship can now be controlled from is the auxiliary bridge and so Devon, along with Rachel and his friend Garth, head off through the biodomes in search of the auxiliary bridge and the technical knowledge they will need to save the last remnants of Earthís inhabitants.
THE STARLOST is a complete failure in every way that it could possibly be, other than that it was made at all. The special effects and sets are utterly appalling. Whatever the budget was for the effects it was clearly far too little as there isnít a single convincing model shot or back projection in the whole series. Many of the process shots are actually wince-inducing. That Douglas Trumbull is credited with the special effects is almost impossible to believe considering what he managed to achieve with almost no budget on SILENT RUNNING.
The acting from everyone involved (the central trio being supported by cameos from the likes of Walter Koenig, Alexandra Bastedo, John Colicos, Barry Morse, Simon Oakland and Sterling Hayden) is woeful, but the stories and the scripts that they have to deal with would be enough to encourage anyone not to bother. During their adventures the heroes come across mad computers, mind control, aliens, power mad politicians and medical staff who know about the impending destruction of the Ark, but donít consider it their problem.
Anyone who was connected with this show has almost certainly wiped it off their CV.Top
Voyage of Discovery
Cypress Corners is a peaceful agrarian society ruled over by the elders. Devon, however, has questions, lots of questions and the Elders are not fond of having to answer them. When they turn around and tell him that he is not genetically favourable to marry his love Rachel, he rebels and finds his way through a doorway that is marked 'Death Beyond Here'. What he finds is that Cypress Corners is just one community amongst many that make up the Ark, a spaceship sent out from Earth to avoid a disaster of global proportions. The Ark, however is now on a collision course with a star and Devon needs to find a place called 'Bridge' in order to save the last remnants of humanity.
THE STARLOST was, in 1973, a rarity - science fiction show on TV that took its subject seriously. This was in the period before the success of STAR WARS reignited the genre on television. Unfortunately, this opening episode shows that it was also that not so rare beast - a bad science fiction series. The concept is perfectly viable and clearly derives its inspiration from the film SILENT RUNNING which was released the year before and featured spaceships with biodomes of flora and fauna from a deforested Earth. The fact that Douglas Trumbull is credited with the special effects strenghtens that idea, though it is hard to believe that Trumbull could have supervised effects as staggeringly bad as those in this story. The external model shots of the Ark are clearly that, but they pale into insignificance against the appalling superimpostion of model backgrounds behind the live action. These effects are so bad that they distract attention from the plot right the way through.
The polystyrene nature of the acting doesn't help either. Keir Dullea is the 'name' actor, trading on his place in genre history for starring in 2001-A SPACE ODYSSEY, but neither he nor Sterling Hayden (as the corrupt town elder) can be bothered to come up with anything that could be termed as a 'performance' for the piece. That might be down to the script that they are given which is unbelievably clunky and, well just plain awful. Any actor would baulk at giving those lines.
THE STARLOST has a promising premise, but this opener is just a collection of everything that needs to change if the show is to live up to that.Top
Lazarus From The Mist
The escaped trio from Cypress Corners find their way to the central medical unit where several of the Ark's principal designers are held in cryogenic suspension. They thaw one of them out to find that he is a doctor who can't really help them in anything other than the most general way and a mob of the degenerated descendants of the Ark's security and crew personnel are banging down the door looking for everyone's blood.
It's the second episode and things are already not looking good for THE STARLOST. This episode makes barely any sense at all. Faced with a dozen or so frozen crewmembers, they choose to defrost the first one off the alphabetical list rather than figuring out who is most likely to help them. He turns out to be suffering from an incurable illness. If you are freezing experts to help the last survivors of the human race then you don't freeze experts who are close to death. And once all the problems are solved, the trio wander off to look for potential engineering books, schematics and the such like that might be found in the other domes. What about trying to unfreeze a few other people to see what they know?
Everything plays out on two sets which means that there's not much in the way of special effects, but it also means that almost nothing happens. Garth has to hold off dozens of maddened primitives with a single shot crossbow and manages to do just that. It's absurd.
Which is sadly a word that seems quite in keeping with the show in general.Top
The Goddess Calabra
Devon, Rachel and Garth come to a land where there are only men and Rachel is revered because of her resemblance to the Goddess Calabra. The governer of the dome decides that by marrying her he will consolidate his power base and remain in power. Devon and Garth look for the advanced information that they believed they would find here and then discover that they can't make any sense of it, except for the possibility of a back up bridge from which the Ark might be saved.
The presence of John Colicos (the original BATTLESTAR GALACTICA) and Barry Morse (SPACE:1999) in the cast list doesn't help this episode rise above the the dreadful standard set by the previous episodes. The superimposed backdrops are here even more pronounced and distracting and the level of acting and ridiculous costumes amongst the supporting cast just makes the viewer want to cringe. The fact that Colicos is halfway entertaining just throws the inadequacy of everything else into sharp relief.
The final battle in which farmboy Devon takes on and beats (that's not a spoiler because it is so predictable) the one-time best warrior in the dome is laughably terrible, but it is the only thing in the whole episode that will make anyone smile.Top
A research ship that left the Ark in search of planets for colonisation returns with a crew of three. These three have the skills needed to carry out the repairs to the Ark to put it back on a safe course, but the effects of extreme time dilation brought about by the speed of the vessel means that they think they have only been away for a short time rather than years and there are more lasting psychological effects that lead two of them to rebel and hijack Devon, Rachel and Garth on the ship, taking them away from the Ark forever.
For fully half of this episode all that anyone does is to sit around and talk about nothing very much in general. The static nature of the shots, the stilted delivery of the truly terrible dialogue and the fact that the cast don't seem to feel the need to try any acting makes this tedious in the extreme. When the crew rebel and steal the ship, things liven up a bit, but it's still a long way from being entertaining.Top
The Children Of Methuselah
The wandering trio work their way into a forbidden area and discover long-lived children on the other side of the doors apparently navigating the Ark past dangers in the space. The children have great mental powers and the leader is determined to keep control, even if it means killing the adults.
This episode starts off badly with Garth being able to work his way past top security systems by jamming a crossbow quarrel into the lock and hey presto. Things don't get much better from there as the diminutive children never seem scary enough to present a real threat to the adults despite the powers that they possess. Having the majority of the cast made up by children also means that the majority of the acting challenges are beyond them, though considering what the adults manage to do with the script that's not such a damning statement.
The idea of children remaining children for hundreds of years just doesn't work. You simply couldn't live that long without maturing in your mind and the final resolution, with the adults abandoning the kids in a conveniently empty nearby paradise dome strains credibility far further than it is willing to go.Top
And Only Man Is Vile
Devon, Garth and Rachel find themselves in the New Eden Leisure Village which has been abandoned by the inhabitants leaving only a shell-shocked girl behind. Slowly, the girl's influence drives a wedge between the two men and the villagers capture Devon and intend to kill him to show that the enemy can be killed.
The early stages of this episode are the best that the show has come up with yet and are actually quite eerie as the trio come into the deserted village and discover the shocked girl. From there, however, it goes downhill and the arrival of the villagers sends the whole thing over the edge since they are forced to mouth utter nonsense to make up some sort of threat.
Simon Oakland (KOLCHAK:THE NIGHT STALKER) sits in a control room and talks about how he is testing mankind to better organise his survival training for wherever the Ark lands might have made for a reasonable plot twist, but since mankind's survival has always depended on his being social animal, his arguments don't wash. It is also never made clear whether he or his companions are human or android.Top
Circuit Of Death
An alarm summons the trio to the Bridge Circuit Room where a technician has just activated the Ark's automatic self-destruct system, intending to save everyone from the slow degradation that the ship is suffering. When the escape ship he intends to escape on with his daughter fails to launch, he and Devon are minaturised in order to go inside the circuits and fix the damage that has been done and stop the countdown./p>
The technician here is a compentent and intelligent one, but does not apparently consider the option of sorting out the Ark's problems as an alternative to its destruction. This is explained away by describing him as depressive at the breakdown of his biodome's democracy. Despite this flippancy, the storyline is one of the more interesting that the show has come up with and the inside of the circuit boards is one of the better sets, though the characters show varying amounts of disregard for the dangers dependent on the script's requirements at the time.
Admittedly, there are some major info dump scenes and some of the dialogue is severely clunky, but this is the closest that the show has come to being watchable.Top
Gallery Of Fear
Strange winds drive the trio to a place that appears to be a gallery where the viewer's aesthetic actually alters the reality of the art. This is down to Magnus, a computer who needs human assistance to become self-aware and who is capable of creating beautiful women in hot pants.
This episode contains some of the more interesting concepts in the show to date, but still fails utterly to make any sense. The computer's artificial servant seems corporeal enough when she is handing out drinks to the companions and yet she is not able to input a code on behalf of the computer. And the humans realise early on that a lot of what they see is illusion and yet still keep falling for the computer's obvious tricks.
And that woman's pants are so tight that she's almost wearing them internally.Top
Mr Smith Of Manchester
Devon, Garth and Rachel come into a biodome that is being poisoned by factories whose chimneys smoke day and night. Only those who live in the inner city are safe. And what is the product being made in such huge amounts? Armaments.
Considering that it's been generations since the domes were in contact with each other it is hard to understand why anyone would still think making weapons was a useful pastime, especially as it is killing off the indigenous population. As a result, not a lot of this makes any sense. It is probably meant as a message about the environment, but that is lost in the rest of the nonsense.
It doesn't help that the modelwork of the factory city skyline belching out smoke is so obvious and poor, not least because it is dwelt on quite a lot throughout.Top
The Alien Oro
A spaceship crashes into the Ark, ripping open a section and leaving it exposed to the cold vacuum of space. The travellers find the ship's owner, an emotionless alien called Oro, working to get his ship repaired with his assistant, the lovely Idona. Devon wants Oro to stay and fix the Ark, but htat would miss his flight window at home and Idora wants to stay with Garth, but to do so would spell her death.
There is no end of talking in this episode. In fact, all that anyone seems to do is to talk at each other. Devon tries to persuade Oro to stay, Garth tries to get Idora to stay, everyone realises that they can't force anyone to do anything. STAR TREK's Walter Koenig provides a surprisingly bloodless performance as the unemotional Oro, perhaps taking the leaf out of a the book of a vulcan he once knew, but here it's not appropriate. Alexandra Bastedo just looks completely ill at ease with the whole thing as Idona.
The only good thing about all the talking is that it takes the focus off the particularly appalling special effects.Top
The Astro Medics
Devon is injured saving Garth from a sonic chamber. Garth and Rachel discover that there is a group pf doctors on the Ark, but they are more interested in saving a group of aliens than they are saving Devon's life.
This episode fails on just about every level that it is possible to fail on. The plot is full of blabk holes that suck all logic with them. The doctors are highly intelligent and know all about the impending destruction of the Ark, but say simply that they don't have the skills or knowledge necessary to do anything about it. They don't actually try to acquire those skills or knowledge or anything like that, simply accept that it's going to happen. Add to this the fact that the alien's medical emergency adds up to a need to turn down the heating a little and the inanity of it is staggering.
The usual appalling special effects are added to this time by aliens who, when they finally appear on screen, look like the makeup took about five minutes to design and apply. The dialogue includes a lot of psychobabble as well, but this has clearly been taken from 'Psychology For Dummies' considering how simplistic it is.Top
The Implant People
The trio happen upon a biodome where the Queen is locked in her chambers following the death of her beloved husband and her brother is grabbing power for himself by fitting the important people with a supposedly beneficial brain implant that he can then turn into a weapon by inflicting great pain.
This tedious tale takes place in about five rooms, since the production clearly couldn't afford, or couldn't be bothered with, outdoor filming or extensive sets. Model shots of the citadel are few and far between, but that's just as well since they have clearly been created in an infants' school art class.
The story descends into characters wandering from room to room saying that 'he's not here' and at one point Garth manages to wander over to a floor panel and descend a ladder without the two guards, who are supposed to be on alert, even noticing.
The Return Of Oro
Oro, the alien who Devon failed to keep on the Ark in order to help fix it, returns promising his aid. He sets about fixing up the reactors and rigging up a navigational array to guide them, but Devon is suspicious of his motives, and with good reason because Oro wants to take the Ark back to his own planet to be stripped for parts.
First up, the robot in this episode is just about the most ridiculous robot we've ever seen in a TV science fiction show (and we're including Crichton from BUCK ROGERS IN THE 25th CENTURY). There's also a particularly poor matted on backdrop to a ventilation shaft, but at least there is some action to be dealt with and the makers clearly believe that Oro is a villain worth keeping around for future encounters.
The plot actually manages to move along at fair pace, but that's still not enough to save it from its many deficiencies.Top
The Ark is struck by a series of impacts that at first the trio of Devon, Rachel and Garth take to mean an assault is underway. Instead, they discover that an astronomer has guided the Ark onto a rendezvous course with a comet, a course that could see the whole Ark destroyed unless someone goes outside the ship and fixes the reactors.
Wow, it's amazing what you can do if you try, apparently. Not long ago, Devon was a bit of a farmer, now he's carrying out EVAs and fixing nuclear reactors and all without the slightest training. Garth's to be congratulated as well since he's learned to pilot a small EVA pod that he didn't even know existed until ten minutes before he sat in the pilot's seat. And Rachel, well Rachel is given the job of looking at Devon, hardly a stretch.
As if the unlikely nature of all that wasn't enough to not just suspend disbelief but to take it out and shoot it three times in the head, then the existence of the scientists at all is hard to understand, considering that everyone else seems to have de-evolved, and one of them states that she helped to design the spacesuits, so how old are they? As to the spacesuit design, it's amazing that they work without any seals whatsoever and without any tubes from the backpack into the suit to carry the air.
Whilst the special effects are no worse than any of the other episodes (which is to say pretty bad), the limitations of the show in terms of plotting and practical effects (such as the suits) really shows here. Only the bickering of the two scientists, who might as well be married, has any sense of realism about it at all.Top
The wandering trio have encountered a biodome that has been turned into a research station specialising in the study of bees. These will be used to provide honey and cross pollination on the new planet. The bees,however, have started to behave strangely and it is learned that they are being controlled by giant mutant bees who may be capable of controlling humans as well.
Optically magnified bees provide the threat for this episode, but they are so poorly magnified that their only threat is to cause mass outbreaks of hysterical laughter. When a dead technician's tunic is opened, the result is definitely risible, which is something that death can rarely be accused of. Giant bees have rarely been this dull.
There isn't any sign of the smaller bees either. People wander about with so called safety equipment that wouldn't keep a single determined bee out let alone a swarm and half of the time they don't even use that.
The intent might have been good, but this is the worst example of killer insects that we've ever seen.Top
Garth is recruited by the Inter Ark Police as an investigator for a team that is about to set off to stall a planetary war. The launch of the ship, however, is being held up by a jamming signal. Whilst the team try to locate the source of the jamming, Devon and Rachel are slowly running out of oxygen in a freight elevator.
Apparently there are police precincts all over the Ark so why aren't they doing anything about the fact that it is plunging towards certain destruction? Furthermore, why aren't they doing anything about the lawless societies that the trio have come up against on their journey?
The basic plot of the traitor holding up the launch and thus causing interplanetary conflict is hampered by the lack of scope since all the action is limited to about three rooms.
The introduction of the police might be an attempt to shake things up for any future season, but we can only hope that never happens.Top
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