JoDee and I just finished up watching "The
" which was
"Canadian-produced science fiction television series created by writer
Harlan Ellison and broadcast in 1973 on CTV in Canada and syndicated to
local stations in the United States." (thanks, Wikipedia!). I won't go
into the history of the show, the premise, or how it was literally
disowned by Harlan Ellison (who used his "Cordwainer Bird" moniker to
show his complete disavowal of the show. There are plenty of other
sources for that, and frankly I would be parroting them here (thanks,
Wikipedia!). I will however provide a link toarchive.org
so you can view the show yourself. And I frankly hope you do watch this
show, not because this show has amazing special effects (which it does
not) or because the stories stellar (which they certainly are not), but
because even though this show has issues (which it does) it still
manages to tell whatever ridiculous story as best it can. The actors
still show up and still deliver their lines as though they truly believe
their lives depend on them. Even when the sets, effects, and writing
fail the actors they still move through as though their very actions
will somehow avert their eventual doom. It's what makes what could be an
entirely wacky and forgettable TV series into something much, much more.
OK, I said I wouldn't mention the premise of the show, but here's a
quick synopsis: Devon, an outcast from the rustic world of Cyprus
Corners, finds out that Cyprus Corners are part of a larger ship called
The Ark. Each world is a separate biosphere, with different technology
levels, aims, and means. Devon escapes from Cyprus Corners and is
eventually joined by Rachel, his love, and Garth, the man who is
betrothed to Rachel. Devon finds out that The Ark is on a collision
course with a star or something that will destroy The Ark and it is up
to these three folks to save The Ark from eventual destruction.
The first few episodes of The Starlost felt a lot like the laser disc
part because of the set design and in part because of the exploratory
nature of the main protagonist Devon. As the show progresses and Garth
and Rachel become part of the exploring trio they uncover all sorts of
weird situations and characters of various skill levels and intellects.
Most are aware that they're on the Ark but none of them seem to be able
to help in any meaningful way.
In many ways this show reminds me of a roleplaying game. Initially the
goal is to find the bridge to see if The Ark can be saved. However, that
would make for a short campaign, having found the initial goal so soon.
So, turns out, the crew are all dead and the bridge doesn't directly
control the ship. They instead need to find the backup control room in
order to try to control The Ark. Each episode they encounter another
challenge (or biosphere) where they try to convince the denizens to
help. Naturally they get embroiled into something that they need to
solve. Sometimes it makes sense. Many times it doesn't. If that doesn't
scream "roleplaying game" I don't know what does.
The characters also feel like archetypes. Devon is the intellect; the
curious one who keep the party going where they might not otherwise go.
Rachel is kindness and heart, and is the voice of helping others when
the rest of the party might want to keep exploring. Garth is brawny and
cantankerous. He's loyal to his friends, though, and helps wherever he
can. Together they feel like many facets of one character.
The original "trailer" for The Starlost promised the latest and greatest
in TV effects and a story and premise that really could have been
something special. In many ways though The Starlost really did become
something special. It presents a concept that could be easily extended
into a campaign or a game setting. And even though the show itself
didn't make any sense it did so with heart and conviction. This is what
makes The Starlost such an enjoyable series to watch, despite it's