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on November 7, 2008
Unlike most all the previous reviews, I have received my copy of The Starlost and am very impressed with the quality of the dvd. It's a 4 dvd set and contains all the 16 episodes that were filmed and finished. They have been remastered and have a good quality to them. If you've been used to watching these episodes on a grainy youtube video you will be pleasantly surprised on the quality. No, it's not like today's sci fi quality but for the early 70's it's fantastic. There are scenes I have watched on youtube but on dvd it's much clearer and you see everything. It's funny, this is the first time I have seen a clear picture of the show in color. In 1973 I was a kid and we didn't own a color tv then. If you are a fan it's a must have. Bless you VCI. If you'd like to know more about The Starlost check out this fan site at [...]
Now go out and buy it!
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VINE VOICEon March 30, 2011
On the whole, 1970s television isn't known for its timelessness in most genres. Bushy mustaches and sideburns, funky guitar licks, and clothing that was generally on the unflattering side usually lowered the bar before subjects such as bad scripting, poor acting and limited effects budgets even enter the equation.

Science fiction of course is one genre that usually succeeds or falls on the believability of its effects if not the actors' abilities to make believable that which is under-whelming visually. That said the original Star Trek is a prime example of extremely limited effects being more than offset by a cast dynamic that integrated a level of believability beyond the rubber masks and wigs. The flip side of this, arguably, can be witnessed in later efforts like Buck Rogers and Galactica 1980; in which effects actually outshone the premise and acting.

So what does any of this have to do with the Starlost you ask? Simply this: Broadcast initially in 1973 in Canada and syndicated to local networks in the United States at the same time, SL finds itself cemented firmly in between the titles mentioned above. So even going in it's safe to expect limited effects abilities, wonky outfits and a whole lot of facial hair but it's the negativity surrounding this short-lived series that seems to be its notoriety first and foremost.

In the event that you have no clue as to the drama surrounding this space drama, allow me to briefly recap. The series began back in early 1973 when a 20th Century Fox television producer approached speculative fiction writer Harlan Ellison to develop an idea for a science fiction TV series to essentially fill in the void left by Star Trek's disappearance from airwaves. What would end up becoming The Starlost was actually a result of budget cuts and rough negotiations with networks in effort to get something off the ground. As such, rather than slipping into US syndication as had been hoped, the show was run on a station by station basis; essentially meaning local affiliates of major networks decided whether or not they would pick the show up and slip it into their lineup.

Even without the security of national syndication, The Starlost was picked up by 48 stations in the United States and earned a spot on Canada's CTV network.

Problems began literally on the ground level with everything from technical production difficulties to Harlan Ellison's decision to disown the whole project before the first episode even aired (invoking a clause in his contract to force the producers to use his pen name Cordwainer Bird in the credits).

20th Century Fox, which had been responsible for some executive production funding, went out and grabbed Ben Bova to be brought on as science advisor when Ellison bailed out. Frustrated that his advice too was being ignored, he watched the first show when it aired and quit as well.

Fox, shaken by horrible ratings, decided not to pick up options after only 16 of the original 23-epiosdes were produced and that's where the saga comes to an end.

I mentioned briefly that technical issues played a part in the undoing of the series as well and should explain these. The show was actually a bit too ambitious for its own good in deciding to buck the trend of shooting on film, instead deciding to record the shows on video tape with the goal being to use motion controlled cameras and blue screens for the actors to combine miniature sets with the humans to create a sense of massive scale no physical sets could match.

In hindsight, the idea really wasn't too far off the composite techniques filmmakers use today in creating motion pictures (often with fully digital sets superimposed upon blue or green screens), the trouble is that the technology did not work as reliably as anticipated back in 1973. In the end simple blue screen effects were used to combine the actors with miniaturized sets but studio space that had been rented was too shallow for any fancy photography techniques. In the end partial sets were built, but the lack of space forced static camera shots and the finalized work shows definite "halos" around the performers, a constant reminder of their having been superimposed over the backgrounds.

So, in case these past paragraphs don't reveal the gravity of the situation, The Starlost is a science fiction program known for its epic failures every step of the way more than any contributions to the genre. It's a shame too when one stops to consider what the show actually presents.

Set in the year 2790, the Starlost is a tale of three people (two guys and girl) from a sort of technology laced Amish culture who begin to question the rigid belief systems of their elders. Their defiance results in their discovering that what they perceived as their whole world is in fact a single self contained biosphere, one of hundreds in fact, within a massive self-sustaining spacecraft built by humans some 505 years earlier to escape their dying world/ seek a planet suitable for colonization.

Interestingly, some time in the past the overseers of the massive ship (scientists and crew) were wiped out by radiation exposure and the un-operated ship itself is on a collision course with a Class-G star similar to our own sun. The biosphere domes, because of their seclusion, have each developed their own societies and belief systems throughout the ages, all having lost touch with the reality of the situation at hand. Individuals inhabiting the complex tunnel systems between domes have been reduced to savagery, many having developed mutations due to radiation exposure.

The structure is absolutely brilliant with abundant potential for intriguing story arcs as the trio makes discoveries about the ship and contact with cultures previously isolated in biospheres. To that end, the show works. The limitations of the effects and the behind-the-scenes drama can easily be overlooked in the interest of an incredibly well crafted plot.

The show does suffer from periodic pacing bogs, amateurish scripting and less than subtle background music mixing but it's by no means unwatchable. In fact viewers with patience for the technical shortcomings will most certainly be rewarded with moments of brilliance.

VCI has, in their 4-disc release of the complete collection, digitally remastered all sixteen 50-minute episodes and includes the "presentation reel" created for potential broadcasters at the time. Additionally the full color insert is loaded with information on the airdates of each episode and even includes a lengthy introspective on the unfortunate events surrounding the production of the show.

In all, space science fiction buffs would be wise to give this collection a closer look. It's easy to focus on the negative here, just as critics surely did in the show's broadcast run, but the fact is there is definitely potential layered within the muddled delivery. Considering the circumstances surrounding its production, not only is it impressive that the show was ever made at all, but perhaps even more so that VCI has given it the DVD treatment that it deserves.
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on August 8, 2008
At long last this forgotten cult scifi classic comes to dvd! Many who remember this show have panned it for being stiff, with wooden acting and cheap sfx. Most of the sfx was done with the croma key effect. You have to remember that this show was made in the early 70s, on a very tight budget. The show was also abandoned by it's creator. While the show has it's flaws, as most shows do, it also has a charm the can only be found in an early low budget tv production. Fans of Doctor Who will appreciate the low budget effects and storylines.
All in all, this dvd release has been a long time coming and I cannot wait for my set.
Have an open mind, and give the show a chance before bowing to the critics who will pan the show, you may be pleasantly surprised!
My rating is on the content which hopefully will be matched by a superb quality dvd release!
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on August 9, 2008
I watched this show when it was originally produced, and was absolutely enthralled by it - for me it sat alongside Star Trek, Space 1999, UFO, &c. As the years went on I forgot about it, until about 15 years ago when I recalled the show (which nobody else seemed to remember), started a search and found the series, quite truncated, on VHS. While it's true that the acting is stiff and the series is not-so-special-effected (though not always, and generally fueled with good ideas) for me it held up and still contained a lot of the wonder from my original watching. With Walter Koenig, John Colicos, and Barry Morse appearing in various episodes it certainly holds its place as classic 70s sci-fi. I just pre-ordered, and I'm thrilled at the prospect of finally seeing the complete series!
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VINE VOICEon August 16, 2008
This series should be used as a teaching aid for prospective screenwriters to show them what happens when the "suits" get involved in the creative process.

Originally, this series had the involvement of SF great Harlan Ellison, but after everyone from studio execs to apparently the photocopier repair guy got to have their "input", the series was so gutted and emasculated that Mr. Ellison removed his name from the production completely and substituted his WGA alias (Cordwainer Bird) as allowed when someone is completely disgusted with what has been done to the screenplay.

There are faint glimmers of genius still left in the twitching corpse the stories became and some intruiging plot lines that never got resolved (There appears to be evidence that there may have been a mutiny as well as other problems among the crew running the generation ship..many critical log entries have been erased....)

Some of the plots are hokey to the point of beggaring belief: Giant bees (badly back projected) threaten our heroes in one area, in another, they must make repairs to a circuit board by being shrunk down to the size of transistors...apparently the ship lacks magnifying glasses, tweezers and soldering irons.

If you've never seen the show, rent it first. Some of us will buy it simply because of what it could have been.

Either way, pick up Phoenix Without Ashes to see what Ellison really intended.
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on February 19, 2009
Kudos to VCI for the great job they did on bringing this neglected TV series to DVD. The problems that plagued this series are very well known but this IS NOT AS BAD AS LEGEND HAS IT. Go into it knowing it is shot on video (having the look of the 70s Dr. Who episodes) but like that series, the basic story idea for the series keeps your interest. The budget was slashed drastically right before filming of the show and while the execution may show the budget slashing sometimes, the actual production design is pretty good. The gigantic Ark ship is pretty cool and many of the other set pieces like the imposing corridor-bounce tubes, abandoned bridge, shuttle craft, the various graphics for the different ARK departments and personal, could have had the polished look of Space:1999 if it would have been put on film. Harlan Ellison disowned the series but the fascinating core of his story still holds true. The three leads are likable and begin to develop chemistry through the course of the short series. You might even be surprised at who shows up as a guest star. Watch it knowing it had survived many troubles behind the scenes- you will still see something interesting and different. You may even lament the fact that the Starlost was not allowed to find it's way and develop! You can see a terrific website on the genesis and creation of the show with lots of information and photos at [...]
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on January 19, 2012
The Starlost was a victim of a lack of forethought and finance by the TV executives who had originally bought into the concept - and what a concept. Some 300 years into Earth's future, the best of the population design and launch a Space Ark to preserve what's left of humanity before the imminent destruction of our home planet.
Each community aboard the Ark house a different aspect of Earth's culture, ranging from scientific to agrarian societies. Some 100 years into the journey, an accident damages the Ark's navigation system, and cuts off each societies Biosphere from each other. Each society then evolves seperately, with no knowledge of each other, or knowledge they are in fact on an Ark.
400 years pass, and in one of these Biospheres a man called Devon falls foul of his Amish style community by constantly questioning the meaning of his and their existance. He loves Rachel who is betrothed to Garth a blackmith , and his antagonistic rejection of this arrangement have the elders ranging against Devon. He eventually finds a means of escape via an electronic portal key given to him by an older man, much like Devon in attitude, but not before persuding Rachel to join him.
With the entire community ranging against him, Devon goes through the portal with Rachel, with Garth following soon after to bring Rachel back ...
So begins The Starlost - sounds ingriguing doesn't it ? Unfortunately the execution was disastrous. Finance for special effects was not forthcoming when buyers for network TV in the US didn't materialise. Cheap (even by 1973 standards) chroma key effects with ineffective miniatures and very basic in camera effects set ups and sets defeated the whole sense of mystery and scale.
Such a pity as the lead star (Kier Dullea - 2001) and guests were generally of A list quality: Sterling Hayden and Walter Koenig were just two of top echelon actors who guested.
For all this, the show had it's moments and has huge nostalgia charm.
All the episodes - 16 in all - appear uncut, the only extra being a 7 minute promo reel with Dullea and Doug Trumbull (effects supervisor) showing the proposed Magicam system that never materialised.
With Dullea, Trumbull, Ben Bova, and Harlan Ellison on board, this should have been an epic - it never came close, and Ellison (credited as Cordwainer Bird) disowned it before production started.
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on May 22, 2011
I did not know about this series before I found it on Amazon by accident, I picked the show up and watched it and I must say I am very pleased that I did. The Starlost is about a young man, Devon who lives in am Amish like society, he get banished for not accepting the rule of the elders and for asking question and not accepting their decision to marry the woman he loves, Rachel to another man, Garth. Devon discovers that the world he have grown up in is a lie, his home is just one of a multitude of societies, each encased in it's own dome which makes up a giant spaceship. As it turns out Earth was destroyed and the descendants of the last survivors, some three million people, now live on this ship, most of them having forgotten that they are on a space ship in the first place. Devon also discovers that some accident knocked the Ark, as the ship is called, off course and the ship is now on a collision course with a sun. Devon convinces Garth and Rachel to go with him and the trio then go around the Ark trying to find a way to save the ship, all the while discovering new strange societies along the way that aid or hinder them.

This series is semi episodic in nature, each episode is a stand alone story, but a fair deal of time is devoted to the major storyline which is saving the Ark. A typical episode involves the trio of heroes stumbling on some strange society, solving their problems and getting a new clue for how to save the Ark. Most of the episodes is exiting, the show have a old fashioned sense of wonder about it. Now this show is dated, if you expect top of the line modern special effects you will not find it here, but the effects in this show is non the less charming, the models used are very detailed and generally the show looks great.

The characters in this show is a weak point, while the actors do a good job the characters are one dimensional. Devon is just, stubborn and inquisitive, Rachel is intelligent and sweet and Garth is traditional and easy to anger often abandoning or even working against his friends but always coming to their rescue in the end. There is no layers to these characters, but they do get the job done.

The packaging of the show is good with each disc sitting in individual slots in a normal sized DVD cover with a internal tray for this four disc set, there is not much extras but the extras there is I am pleased with, including some trailers and the original pitch for the show. The only real flaw about this show is that it is only 16 episodes and it has no real ending, we never get to know if the trio of heroes manages to save the Ark.

I recommend this show, it is dated but allow of love obviously went into creating it. The show give a sense of wonder while watching it and it makes me nostalgic for older science fiction movies and books. All in all I think most science fiction fans will enjoy The Starlost.
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on June 22, 2015
How did I miss this? Back when there was one tv per-house, if you were lucky, Majority ruled. So I never saw this show back then. I bought this set and gave it a try and here's my two cents. The acting was really bad, like 70's Saturday morning live action tv. The sets were funny and fake looking. None of the effects were special. Like Jason of Star Command or Ark 2 and others. With long pauses while gazing off into who knows where in silence. A few times I thought my disk was frozen. The characters never really seemed to get excited enough about impending death. With that being said, I absolutely loved it......... Wish there had been more. All the stories were interesting enough to easily make up for what it doesn't have. I'm sure this could be remade today. It would have been interesting tho, had there been time, to see into more of the domes. Lives can go in so many directions. So many stories to be told. I would say give this a try. I'm glad I did. A plus for this series is they didn't fall back on the same two or three stories that all sci-fi shows do. You know like the one where the Amazon Women are in control and the main character fights back............and so on...... Nice to see something different. Well,. I'm not sure if this was really worth 2 cents.
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on June 5, 2013
The Starlost is a show I saw in the 70s in Australia one very hot summer and its impact has never left me. The premise and the ideas in the show were highly engaging and thought-provoking. The low budget production style of this series got a lot of flak at the time, apparently, but I was raised on low budget British shows like Dr Who, Blakes 7 and Tomorrow People, so I was totally up for this one. The three main actors and their weird talking computer assistant are very likeable and easy to follow as they explore the giant ark. The different domes each week contain a host of interesting guest characters, too. It is very cheap looking due to the use of video tape and chromakey FX, but for my money, the premise of the show, the space ark setting and the brilliant ideas make it a journey worth taking. A triumph of imagination and ideas over money.
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