Having endured an endless series of life-or-death adventures alongside Devon and Rachel, during which he faced up against threats he could barely begin to comprehend, Garth decide’s he’s had enough: he’s leaving to return to Cypress Corners. Despite the others’ best attempts to convince him to remain with them, he parts company with them and goes his own way…and it seems like he’s barely out of their sight when Garth is accosted by a uniformed man claiming to be a member of a security force on the Ark, something Garth finds unlikely since no such force has ever intervened during the many crisis situations he’s personally seen. It turns out that this security force isn’t native to the Ark itself, but instead comes from outside; the chief of this squad is keen to recruit Garth for his instincts, his sense of order, and his local knowledge of the Ark. As soon as Garth dons his new uniform, however, he’s embroiled in a series of incidents including hijackings, political posturing and the threat of an imminent war – all with the Ark helpless in the middle.
Guest Cast: Ivor Barry (Rafe), Nuala Fitzgerald (Reena), Richard Alden (Mike), Diane Dewey (Technician), William Osler (Computer Host)
LogBook entry & review by Earl Green
Review: Many observers are quick to declare The Starlost to be the worst SF series in the history of television, and if they’ve only seen Space Precinct – not to be confused with the 1990s Gerry Anderson-produced series of the same name – it’s easy to see how they could form that opinion. Not only does Space Precinct commit some common television drama mistakes (such as pushing the regular characters off to the side in favor of non-recurring characters we’ve never seen before), but it also raises its dramatic stakes impossibly high. A war is in the offing, there are hijackings and other excitement…all of which are heard about and not seen. More recent series have made a virtue of not having the budget to show major action sequences (see the new Battlestar Galactica’s Hand Of God segment, whose major battle is played out over radio with the command crew following the action on a tactical plot), but in this final installment of The Starlost, it just feels like a cheat – the stakes are raised to gripping heights with absolutely no indication of what the concrete consequences would be for our heroes (2/3 of which are stuck in an airlock, in spacesuits, for most of the story anyway).
I still stand by my belief that The Starlost had a brilliant premise, and offered a scope of storytelling that could have dazzled us even on the show’s meager budget. Indeed, even the episodes that were produced seem to be a little bit higher-concept than some of The Starlost’s contemporaries (i.e. the series based on the Planet Of The Apes films), rather than falling back on the great bugbear of ’70s SF: plots that could’ve just as easily been done on western series or man-on-the-run shows like The Fugitive. But The Starlost was ahead of its time – it demanded a slightly serialized format, a la the early seasons of Babylon 5. What it got instead was a scattershot of character development: whether it’s because of episodes being aired out of order, or just a casual attitude to continuity, our heroes discard and then recover their Cypress Corners garb, or Ark uniforms, or other futuristic clothing almost at random, with no indication that they’re carrying anything more with them than the clothes on their backs. The only episodes offering any kind of forward motion in the plot are The Return Of Oro – out of necessity since it’s a sequel that refers back to The Alien Oro – and Space Precinct, which shows a fatigued Garth ready to pack it in and run back to the safety of Cypress Corners. Those two episodes aside, The Starlost episodes could be told in nearly any order.
So in the end, was this the worst SF TV series ever? It may well come close – but let me qualify that by saying that The Starlost’s execution didn’t produce a show worthy of its incredible premise. The time is right for this concept to be revived in a format and with a budget allowing it to do what Harlan Ellison originally intended – and perhaps to accomplish even more than its creator could have imagined.