After returning from exile as punishment for sacrelige, Devon returns to the rustic farming community of which he is a member, still bitter that he will not be permitted to marry a woman named Rachel. Devon demands a second opinion, and so the town’s preacher asks the computer system – a device which gives him direct access to his Creator, and which he refuses to question or second-guess – and it once again declares Devon an unfit genetic match for Rachel, regardless of her feelings for him. Devon refuses to stop his attempts to interrupt the impending marriage of Rachel and Garth, and is cast out from his community again. But when Devon learns that the “voice of the Creator” is actually programmed by the preacher himself, a new decree is issue: Devon must be purged from the gene pool. He ventures into a remote cave with a torch-and-pitchfork-toting mob hot on his heels – and a metallic hatch closes behind him. Devon discovers himself in an enormous chamber filled with technology the likes of which he has never seen. He stumbles across a talking console which reveals to him the truth about this place: his village is part of an agrarian biosphere, one of many biospheres clustered together to form an enormous spacefaring vessel called Earthship Ark. Constructed between the Earth and the moon and launched after a catastrophe in the year 2285, Earthship Ark’s sealed biospheres contained a representative sampling of Earth’s flora, fauna and cultures, carrying them away from their dead homeworld and seeking a solar system around a class G star, capable of supporting life.
But Devon doesn’t even know what space is, the people in his biosphere dome having reverted to a more primitive way of life (and yet one that acknowledges the prefabricated boundaries of the world, computer equipment, and other anachronisms). The machine tells him that 100 years into Earthship Ark’s multi-generational flight, an unspecified accident occurred, and the command module containing the Ark’s bridge, from which its flight was guided, was damaged; the bridge has not been heard from in over 400 years. Devon returns to his village with this knowledge, but he is branded a heretic and is sentenced to be stoned to death. Garth breaks Devon out of his prison cell on the condition that Devon should leave and not come back, but instead, Devon does the one thing that he knows will reveal the truth to the rest of his neighbors: he takes Rachel through the hatch into the Ark’s infrastructure. Only Garth is brave enough to step through, and he does so armed with a crossbow, intending to bring Rachel back by force if necessary. The three of them make their way to the bridge, finding it littered with the skeletons of the Ark’s crew. And blazing through the enormous windows in the distance ahead, they see a class G star – suitable for settling the Ark’s precious cargo of life if it has habitable planets – but there’s just one problem: the Ark is locked on a collision course for that star…and no one left alive knows how to alter that course.
Season 1 Regular Cast: Keir Dullea (Devon), Gay Rowan (Rachel), Robin Ward (Garth)
Guest Cast: Sterling Hayden (Jeremiah), George Sperdakos (Jubal), Gillie Fenwick (Old Abraham), William Osler (The Computer), Sean Sullivan (Rachel’s Father), Aileen Seaton (Rachel’s Mother), Jim Barron (Garth’s Father), Kay Hawtrey (Garth’s Mother), Scott Fisher (Small Boy)
Notes: The concept for The Starlost was credited to series creator “Cordwainer Bird”, a well-known pseudonym for renowned SF writer Harlan Ellison, who frequently used this nom de plume to signal to his fan following that his writing had been tampered with by producers. (At one point Ellison campaigned to have his famous Star Trek script, City On The Edge Of Forever, credited to Cordwainer Bird, and claims that Gene Roddenberry threatened to smear his name in Hollywood if he did so; afterward, Ellison included contractual provisions to have his work credited to Cordwainer Bird, and he triggered that clause on The Starlost.) The producers at Canada’s CTV network obviously had the relatively-recent 2001: a space odyssey on the brain, as Keir Dullea (2001‘s David Bowman) and 2001 special effects maestro Douglas Trumbull both worked on The Starlost.
LogBook entry & review by Earl Green […]