Sci Fi TV Reboots That Should Happen: The Starlost




Television reboots are all the rage mostly because the entertainment industry prefers name recognition over original ideas. But there are some properties that truly deserve a re-look because they didn’t quite achieve their goal the first time around or they were cut short.

What Is It? This mid-1970’s TV series–created by Harlan Ellison–was set on the multi-generational colony starship named Earthship Ark that is comprised of multiple dome enclosures each housing a different society from Earth. The ship was sent out to space to save the last remnants of humanity from a dying Earth, but an accident caused it to go into emergency mode and cut off each dome from the rest of the ship. Now, hundreds of years later, the people have forgotten their original mission and live their lives in their isolated domes. But three people discover the interior of the ship and the truth of its nature and also learn that the Ark is on a perilous course.

When Did It Originally Air? Syndicated, 1973-74, 1 Season Totaling 16 Episodes

Where Did the Original Fall Short? The budget was too low for its ambitions and tinkering from the studio led to a change in direction from the more serious science fiction direction Harlan Ellison had originally planned for the series (leading him to take his name off the show in place of his infamous Cordwainer Bird moniker).

Why Reboot It? This show had a promising concept as evidenced by the award-winning script for the pilot written by Ellison and it aired in syndication where Star Trek was tearing it up at that point in the 70’s. But the technical limitations of television at that time couldn’t quite realize the show’s ambitions (despite having Douglas Trumbull onboard as sfx consultant) and the studio had a much more dumbed-down vision for the show. Plus, they cut the budget and switched from film to video tape (like what classic Doctor Who used) at the last minute, making it even more difficult to follow the show’s original plan. Ellison’s initial script was recently adapted to comics (IDW’s Phoenix Without Ashes), proving that there was a good idea in place when this thing started. And with the technical advancements since the original aired (leaps and bounds above 1970’s sfx), this idea would work quite well on television today. It could do dome-of-the week stories which would be less costly and give it somewhat of an episodic feel while also working in an overall story arc that that emphasizes its space opera potential. The original Starlost series had promise but was cut down by technical, budget, and creative limitations. A reboot, though, could maneuver past that and give us the grand space-based epic that the sci fi audience currently craves.

Did You Know? 2001: A Space Odyssey veteran Keir Dullea had the lead role in the series and Star Trek Alum Walter Koenig dropped in for two episodes playing the alien Oro.

Where Can I Watch the Original? The full series has been released on DVD. All of the episodes are also available on YouTube (at this link), including the original sales pitch for the show. And interestingly enough, there is a Roku channel dedicated to the show that has all the episodes available. It is titled–appropriately enough–The Starlost.