Wednesday, October 7, 2015

So Bad It's... Bad

So, it seems that Amazon had a 4-DVD set of The Starlost.

For those of you who were fortunate enough to have missed this, it was the CBC's early 1970s attempt to blahblahblah Star Trek.

They somehow talked Harlan Ellison into being their creative consultant.

Well, OK, they offered him money, and he said something to the effect of "Hey, you're Canadian TV, you have a  limited budget, I have some ideas for how to do a quality SF show on video" which...

OK, if you didn't grow up within broadcast TV range of Canadian TV pre-cable/satellite TV, you may have developed some weird ideas about it, based on the fact that there are some pretty good shows coming out of the Great White North these days, not to mention a lot of US shows that are made up there, due to tax breaks and incentives and subsidies and the like.

Before the 1980s, Canadian TV was execrable. All the talent was fleeing to the US, where it could get rich. Canadian TV, OTOH, was a government thing, and lived down to the assumptions we make about government monopolies. (The BBC notwithstanding.)

So, anyway, Harlan had these Ideas, and they said "Great!", and proceeded to ignore just about everything he said, and make a series that was every bit as bad as everything else they were making back then.

It was so bad that after an episode or two Ellison bailed, while exercising the clause in his contract tat said they still had to give him credit, using the name he specified.

He specified "Cordwainer Bird."

When they tried to get Ben Bova to take over, he asked them why Ellison bailed, and they claimed they didn't know, so Bova asked "What name did he specify in the credits?" and they said "Cordwainer Bird" and he said "I'm out. That's Harlan giving you the finger!"

So it got worse.

Anyway. Series lasted all of 16 episodes. The story lines ran along the lines of the Original Star Trek episodes "Specter Of The Gun" and "Spock's Brain." The CBC wasted much of the budget building a "Bridge" set, even though there was no need for it; the show "bible" envisioned it as being revealed in the final episode, never written. It featured such Hard Science as references to "solar stars."

I remember in high school we were all excited that a new SF series was coming on. I think we managed an average of 3 episodes before giving up.

When Mrs. Drang was making a list of SF series she missed this one; I mentioned it and she said she hadn't seen it.  I congratulated her on her good fortune.

It was, as I said, "So bad it was... Bad."

So. You have been warned.

NOTE: The Ed Bryant novelization of Ellison's original screenplay, with commentary by Ellison, is available on Kindle: Phoenix Without Ashes: Harlan Ellison, Edward Bryant: Books, as is Ben Bova's spoof of the experience: The Starcrossed, Ben Bova.

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