Archive for September 2021

Good News about Babylon 5   2 comments

WITH MY JUSTIFIABLE CRITIQUE OF SUPERFICIAL CRITICS

A few days ago, I read that my favorite science fiction series, Babylon 5, will return in a rebooted form.  J. Michael Straczynski, the creative genius who created and wrote most of the original series, will helm the rebooted series.

This reality fills me with optimism about the integrity of the upcoming series.

Most of the articles I read about the reboot of Babylon 5 mentioned subpar special effects of the 1993-1998 series.  I have heard of people younger than I choosing not to watch B5 because of its special effects.  In the 1990s, the special effects of B5 were state-of-the-art.  Technology has moved on.

The writing, acting, and character development in B5 are excellent.  The show, a pioneer in serialized storytelling, stands the test of time.  Those who cannot see past now-dated special effects to appreciate the changes in the characters of G’Kar and Londo Mollari, for example, are superficial critics.  I own the original Star Trek series (1966-1969) on blu-rays.  I have the option of watching episodes with original effects or new effects.  Spock’s Brain with enhanced special effects is just as stupid as it is with the original effects.  Likewise, The City on the Edge of Forever is no less impressive with original effects than with enhanced effects.  Emphasizing storytelling is better than focusing on special effects.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 30, 2021 COMMON ERA

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Posted September 30, 2021 by neatnik2009 in Babylon 5-Crusade, Star Trek (1966-1969)

Tagged with ,

How is That Offensive?   Leave a comment

I am taking a momentary break from revising some test items (for use in public school classrooms in Georgia, U.S.A.).  I write such test items for an arm of the State of Georgia.

I drafted a test item about the federal immigration law of 1924.  This law was notoriously racist, grounded in White supremacy, scientific racism, and eugenics.  In that test item, I used the term, “White Anglo-Saxon Protestants,” usually abbreviated “WASPs.”  One reviewer (whose word I must heed) advised removing it, given that some may find it offensive.

I find racism offensive.  The term “White Anglo-Saxon Protestants” accurately describes many people.  The immigration law of 1924 favored them, in fact.

By the way, I grew up a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant.  I am of mostly Western European ancestry–primarily from the British Isles.  I can trace the presence of the European side of my family in the Americas to German immigrants, English people, and Huguenots, during colonial times.  My family tree also contains a healthy dose of Cherokee DNA, but I look Caucasian.  I grew up a Southern Baptist then a United Methodist.  I am a member of The Episcopal Church, and I have strong Roman Catholic tendencies.  Whether I remain a Protestant depends on whom one asks.  I no longer think of myself as a Protestant.  I am too Protestant to be a Roman Catholic, and too Roman Catholic to be a Protestant.  Take those details for whatever they are worth, O reader.

I have written critically of thin-skinned people on this weblog. They have deserved every harsh word.

Life must be miserable for thin-skinned people, regardless of where they fall on the political-ideological spectrum.  Perhaps they would have an easier time if they tried removing the pole before sitting down.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 30, 2021 COMMON ERA

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Posted September 30, 2021 by neatnik2009 in Political Statements 2021

Cultural Rot as an Internal Threat to Representative Government   Leave a comment

Steve Paikin is one of the great journalists.  He, one of the hosts of The Agenda, from Toronto, Ontario, hosts this depressing interview.  Professor Tom Nichols correctly diagnoses the predicament in which much of the developed world finds itself politically.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 29, 2021 COMMON ERA

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Posted September 29, 2021 by neatnik2009 in Political Statements 2021

Blogging Update–September 19, 2021   Leave a comment

Thank you, O reader, for visiting SUNDRY THOUGHTS.

SUNDRY THOUGHTS is one of seven weblogs I maintain.  Obviously, I do not focus on all seven weblogs simultaneously.  Each weblog is a different channel of my online presence.

As of today, I am focusing on BLOGA THEOLOGICA, which links into SUNDRY THOUGHTS.  A project, “Reading the General Epistles,” is underway at BLOGA THEOLOGICA.  A follow-up project, “Reading Revelation,” is underway, in longhand, in a notebook at my writing desk.  The Jerusalem Bible, the germane volumes of The Interpreter’s Bible (1957) and The New Interpreter’s Bible (1998), M. Eugene Boring’s 1989 commentary from the Interpretation series, and Ernest Lee Stoffel’s The Dragon Bound:  The Revelation Speaks to Our Time (1981) are stacked up on that writing desk.

For daily devotions, I refer you, O reader, to ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS, which also links into SUNDRY THOUGHTS.  Each of my weblogs links into the other six.

May something you read at any of my weblogs bless you.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 19, 2021 COMMON ERA

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Update:

I have completed “Reading Revelation.”  I have scheduled the remainder of “Reading the General Epistles” and all of “Reading Revelation” for publication at BLOGA THEOLOGICA, at the rate of one post per day, through October 21, 2021.

KRT

September 27, 2021 Common Era

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Posted September 19, 2021 by neatnik2009 in Various Memories and Opinions

Tagged with ,

The Starlost (1973-1974): An Assessment   Leave a comment

Above:  My Starlost-Related Books

Photograph by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

We believe that [The Starlost] is a fresh and startling exercise of the imagination–an audacious television concept which lends itself perfectly to sophisticated production techniques and to unlimited dramatic stories and characters.

–Keir Dullea, in The Starlost series pitch film (1973)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Actually, The Starlost was a stale and tedious exercise in ineptitude–a stultifying television series which lent itself to subpar production techniques and to amateurish dramatic stories and characters.  The series was awash in bad hair, worse wardrobe, lamentable science, poor storytelling, and rank gibberish.  How else can one explain a “Class-G solar star,” “space senility,” and “radiation virus”?  Episodic television was a poor choice for a series that should have been serialized.  With few exceptions, nothing that happened in one episode influenced any other episode.  For example, Devon became the commander of the Earth Ship Ark at the end of The Return of Oro (episode #12 in the proper viewing order).  Yet Devon did not seem to know that he was the Ark commander in the remaining four episodes of the series.  Most importantly, though, the series jettisoned its premise early in the sixteen-episode-long run.

The series pitch film is a wonder to behold, even with its faded colors.  Keir Dullea and Douglas Trumbull, their hopes for the series not yet dashed, pitch The Starlost as if it were to become a classic.  The ship visuals come from Silent Running (1972), a fine and profound film on which Trumbull worked.  In the pitch film, the name of Dullea’s character is Victor, not Devon.

I know, based on reading that Douglas Trumbull, one of two Executive Producers, left The Starlost before the series ended.  I do know when that happened, though.  I do know that Trumbull’s name remained on the opening credits until the end.  Furthermore, I know that Science Consultant Ben Bova left a week after Trumbull did.  I know, too, that Bova’s name eventually disappeared from the end credits.

The fictional counterpart to The Starlost in Ben Bova’s 1975 novel, The Starcrossed, was The Starcrossed, based on Romeo and Juliet, yet set aboard spaceships and on planets.  That fictional series was also horrendous, but the studio, in the novel, kept making it.  The fictional series, The Starcrossed, found its audience.  Many science fiction fans, in Bova’s novel, enjoyed criticizing the series.  They watched it then criticized it.  The Starlost seemed never to have found its audience in first-run syndication, though.

The Starcrossed (the novel) is hilarious.  Likewise, the novelization (1975) and the graphic novel adaptation (2011) of Harlan Ellison’s original script for Phoenix Without Ashes (rewritten and turned into Voyage of Discovery) are enjoyable reads.  The novelization includes an informative introduction Ellison wrote.  I recommend it to anyone who wants to know more about The Starlost and what went wrong with it.

The concept and premise of The Starlost are interesting.  Proper execution of it would lead to a series worth watching repeatedly.  This is perhaps more likely in this age of streaming services and serialization.

As I conclude this project, I know I will carry some seemingly odd memories with me.  I will never think of green egg crate mattress roam the same way again, at least.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 17, 2021 COMMON ERA

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Starlost (1973-1974): The Proper Viewing Order   1 comment

Above:  Title Card

A Screen Capture

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

With one exception, I recommend the original broadcast order of episodes as the proper viewing order of The Starlost.  That exception is Circuit of Death the seventh episode broadcast.  It is number fourteen in the proper viewing order.

Each hyperlink below leads to my post about the germane episode.  Within each episode post is a hyperlink to that episode at the Internet Archive.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

  1. Voyage of Discovery
  2. Lazarus from the Mist
  3. The Goddess Calabra
  4. The Pisces
  5. Children of Methuseleh
  6. And Only Man is Vile
  7. The Alien Oro
  8. Gallery of Fear
  9. Mr. Smith of Manchester
  10. Astro-Medics
  11. The Implant People
  12. The Return of Oro
  13. Farthing’s Comet
  14. Circuit of Death
  15. The Beehive
  16. Space Precinct

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 17, 2021 COMMON ERA

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Posted September 17, 2021 by neatnik2009 in The Starlost (1973-1974)

The Starlost: Space Precinct (1973)   2 comments

Above:  “A sun, a real star”

A Screen Capture

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

EPISODE 16

Aired January 5, 1974

0:49:24

The episode is available here.

STARRING

Keir Dullea as Devon

Gay Rowan as Rachel

Robin Ward as Garth

GUEST STARRING

Ivor Barry as Rathe Mathers, Chief of the Intra-Ark Police

Nuala Fitzgerald as Reena, Chief of Planetary Police, Federation of United Planets

Richard Alden as Mike, the Pilot of I.A.P. Module Number One

Diane Dewey as “Tech,” Police Technician, Class A, Intra-Ark Police

William Osler as Computer Host and Voice

BEHIND THE CAMERAS

Series created by Cordwainer Bird (Harlan Ellison)

Episode written by Martin Lager

Story Consultant = Norman Klenman

Director = Joseph L. Scanlan

Producer = William Davidson

Executive Producers = Douglas Trumbull and Jerry Zeitman

Above:  Garth, “Tech,” and Rathe

A Screen Capture

THE INTRA-ARK POLICE (I.A.P.)

Where have the Intra-Ark Police (I.A.P.) been for the previous fifteen episodes?  They would have been helpful as early as the second episode, Lazarus from the Mist.

Diane Dewey’s character has no name.  The end credits list the character as “Technician.”  The character herself and all other characters who encounter her call her “Tech.”

Why do the Intra-Ark Police, who have long known about the impending doom of the Ark, tried to do nothing to save it?

Above:  I.A.P. Module Number One

A Screen Capture

The I.A.P. modules allow for mobility on the Ark, a large vessel.

Most members of the I.A.P. are “textbook-trained graduates of the Ark Academy,” as Chief Rathe Masters refers to them dismissively.

Where is the Ark Academy?

Who controls the Ark Academy?

Does Rathe answer to the Director of Security, mentioned in Farthing’s Comet?

The I.A.P. violate the already-broken concept of The Starlost.

Members of the I.A.P., except for mini-skirted women, wear uniforms identical to those of the Astro-Medics.  “Tech” dresses identically to Lethe, from And Only Man is Vile.

The I.A.P. knows much about the residents of the Ark.

The I.A.P. has been tracking Devon, Rachel, and Garth for seven months, since Voyage of Discovery.  This timeframe contradicts The Alien Oro.

Chief Rathe Masters’s base of operations is I.A.P. Module Number One.

The I.A.P. has at least twelve divisions.  We hear about yet never see Division 12.

Rathe has grand plans for the I.A.P.-F.U.P. police force.  The result will be a force that “will be able to handle everything from a burglary to a space shootout.”

The Solar System of the Federation of United Planets

A Screen Capture

THE FEDERATION OF UNITED PLANETS (F.U.P.)

The name “Federation of United Planets” is terribly derivative of the United Federation of Planets, from Star Trek (1966-1969) and its successors.

The F.U.P., contained in one solar system of ten planets, consists of nine inhabited worlds.  The habitable zone in that solar system is extremely unlikely, to understate the case.  But recall, O reader, that The Starlost is the series that mentions a “solar star,” “radiation virus,” and “space senility.”  Are you expecting science?

The worlds of the F.U.P. orbit what Rathe describes as “a sun, a real star.”  I hope they do not orbit a “solar star”!

The F.U.P. is about to go to war over the mining rights on the uninhabited world of Apor.  The two main planets, leaders of competing alliances, are Arak and Accombra.  Arak passed on the opportunity to mine on Apor until Accombra staked its claim.  Now Arak threatens to wage war and Accombra threatens to secede.  The hijacking of Accombran ore freighters is increasing tensions.

Above:  Federation Headquarters

A Screen Capture

The headquarters of the F.U.P. is an orbiting space station.

The F.U.P. and the I.A.P. have been in contact for five years.  Now that the Ark is close to the solar system, a launch window is about to open.  The next launch window will open in about a year.

Above:  Reena

A Screen Capture

Reena, the Chief of Planetary Police, F.U.P., seeks Rathe’s help in preventing an interplanetary war.  She says she needs his advanced police techniques in the F.U.P.

Reena’s uniform reminds me of clothes in Gallery of Fear and The Beehive.

Above:  Chief Rathe Masters, I.A.P.

A Screen Capture

SUMMARY OF THE EPISODE

As Space Precinct opens, Rachel is consulting a sphere projector while Devon and Garth look on.  The members of the trio are wearing their usual clothing from Cypress Corners, also known as M124.  Rachel is gathering information about biosphere M71, a scientific, experimental, agrarian station.  The last reported contact with M71 was in 2386, in the year after the Ark‘s accident.  M71 was high-tech in 2386.  The regular access routes are sealed, but access may be possible via service channels.  The sphere projector provides directions.

Devon and Rachel are enthusiastic about going to M71, but Garth is not.  He says goodbye and heads back toward Cypress Corners.  Garth does not get far before Rathe Masters, Chief of the Intra-Ark Police (I.A.P.), detains him for questioning and takes him to I.A.P. Module Number One, docked in its assigned place.

Meanwhile, Rachel and Devon don spacesuits before entering a freight elevator with little air in it.  They are en route to M71.  The elevator gets stuck, and the supply of air in the space suits is limited.

At Module One, Rathe learns more about Garth than Garth may have known about himself.  Rathe offers Garth a job as a detective in the I.A.P.  Garth accepts the offer.  Rathe is convinced that Garth can help him prevent a war in the Federation of United Planets (F.U.P.).

Rathe calls Reena, the Chief of Planetary Police in the F.U.P.  He tells her that Module One will leave in a few minutes, when the launch window will open.  Yet Module One can never leave because someone is jamming the system.  “Tech,” Rathe’s trusted aide, tells him that the jamming signal comes from the F.U.P.  He believes her.  Yet she is lying; she keeps jamming the system.  “Tech” spends most of the episode casting blame onto innocent people, mainly Reena and Garth.

Garth suspects that Reena may have a traitor on her staff.  This turns out to be correct; he is Ragar, whom we never see.  Ragar and “Tech” are working together.  Ragar, responsible for protecting the ore ships, is orchestrating the hijacking of them and getting rich.  He, planning to win the F.U.P. war and have Reena killed, has offered “Tech” Reena’s job in one year.

Poor Garth!  Mike suspects him of being a traitor.  Rathe suspects.  Even Reena suspects him.  Then she reveals that “Tech” is a traitor.

Back in the freight elevator, Devon removes his helmet then the helmet of the unconscious Rachel.  The air in the elevator is all the air they have left.  Reena calls in Division 12 to rescue Devon and Rachel.  Then, when alone, she calls off Division 12.  Next, she tells Garth that Devon and Rachel have died.

Soon, however, Garth overhears “Tech” speaking with Ragar.  He knows that she is a liar and a traitor.  She tries to kill him by stunning him and leaving him in an airless elevator.  But one of his boots prevents the elevator door from closing completely.  “Tech” tells Rathe that Garth is dead.  He is alive, though.

Rathe sends Division 12 to rescue Devon and Rachel.  Division 12 rescues them, off-screen, of course.

Until nearly the end of the episode, Reena suspects Garth of being a traitor.  Then she tells Rathe that “Tech” is a traitor.  “Tech” goes to the Ark jail.  The plot ended, tensions in the F.U.P. begin to cool.

Reena says,

Garth, we’ll make a detective out of you yet.

Garth replies,

Well, I’ll let you know.

Le fin.

Above:  Mike, Pilot of Intra-Ark Police Module Number One

A Screen Capture

OTHER UNANSWERED QUESTIONS

Where is the laundry in the tubes and corridors of the Earth Ship Ark?

Where are the bathrooms and showers in tubes and corridors of the Earth Ship Ark?

How does Garth maintain that early 1970s haircut while on the run in the tubes and corridors of the Earth Ship Ark?

Given that Devon, Rachel, and Garth have been to the Bridge, why do they need to find the backup Bridge?

Why are so many people on the Ark fatalistic?

Why does Devon not invoke his authority as the Ark commander?  (The Return of Oro)

Why does Devon’s level of interest in saving the Ark vary from episode to episode, and sometimes within an episode?

How many zoological laboratories are on the Earth Ship Ark?

What is M71 like in 2790?

Will Devon and Rachel go to M71 after all?

Will Garth rejoin Devon and Rachel?

Is the Ark doomed to collide with the “Class-G solar star”?

Above:  “Tech”

A Screen Capture

OTHER COMMENTS

For the record, Garth, Identification Number 774833-BXL-871, was born to Rebecca and Old Garth on May 22, 2767.

Space Precinct was the final episode of The Starlost filmed.  However, there were scripts for episodes #17 and 18:  God That Died and People in the Dark.

The full season run would have been twenty-four episodes.  However, NBC chose not to order the final eight episodes.  Good riddance to bad rubbish!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 17, 2021 COMMON ERA

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

All images in this post are screen captures from a series that is freely available at archive.org and YouTube.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Starlost: The Beehive (1973)   3 comments

Above:  Dr. Heather Marshall, Devon, and Ron Calisher

A Screen Capture

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

EPISODE 15

Aired December 29, 1973

0:49:27

The episode is available here.

STARRING

Keir Dullea as Devon

Gay Rowan as Rachel

Robin Ward as Garth

GUEST STARRING

William Hutt as Dr. Pete Marshall, Director of Station C100

Antoinette Bower as Dr. Heather Marshall

Alan McRae as Ron Calisher

John Friesen as Harry Keeble

William Osler as Computer Host and Voice

BEHIND THE CAMERAS

Series created by Cordwainer Bird (Harlan Ellison)

Episode written by Norman Klenman

Story Consultant = Norman Klenman

Director (Credited) = Bill Davis

Director (Uncredited) = George McCowan

Producer = William Davidson

Executive Producers = Douglas Trumbull and Jerry Zeitman

Above:  Dr. Pete Marshall

A Screen Capture

SUMMARY OF THE EPISODE

Devon, Rachel, and Garth have cast aside their usual wardrobe in favor of brown outfits with white trim.  They had “worn” imaginary outfits of this sort in Gallery of Fear.

Reena, a humanoid alien, wears the same outfit in the next and final episode, Space Precinct.

Maybe the Cypress Corners clothes are in a laundry facility.

The trio arrives in a biosphere, Station C100, because of an alarm they heard in a bounce tube.  There is apparently an emergency.

Drs. Pete and Heather Marshall (husband and wife) have just walked a colleague, Ron Calisher, out of a bee-infested area.  The swarm has stung Calisher.  Could this be the emergency?  No; Calisher recovers quickly.  And “Dr. Pete,” as people call him, is belligerent; he orders Devon, Rachel, and Garth to leave.  His wife, “Dr. Heather,” as people call her, cooperates with the trio, though.

Some 27 years ago, the Marshalls found this biosphere, abandoned and rundown.   Dr. Pete apparently appointed himself the Director of Station C100 and built it up into the best-run zoological laboratory in the Earth Ship Ark.  x

Station C100 specializes in honeybees.

Devon, apparently having forgotten that he is the Ark commander (The Return of Oro), does not use his authority.

To simplify and abbreviate a long story….

Ron Calisher is obsessed with understanding the communications of bees.  Dr. Pete is under the control of the mutant queen bee, one of a few giant bees.  The mutant bees–the queen, in particular–want to convert all the other biospheres into hives.  They are willing, however, to let the bee scientists and our trio live, in exchange for service.  The mutant bees control the regular bees.  Harry Keeble dies of a combination of insecticide and bee stings.  Dr. Heather plots to kill the mutant bees and liberate her husband from the queen’s control.  The mutant bees can mimic Dr. Pete’s voice.  Garth kills the queen mutant bee with freezing spray and liberates Dr. Pete from her control.

Garth no longer likes honey.

Unfortunately, some mutant bees have survived.

Le fin.

Above:  Dr. Heather Marshall

A Screen Capture

UNANSWERED QUESTIONS

Where is the laundry in the tubes and corridors of the Earth Ship Ark?

Where are the bathrooms and showers in tubes and corridors of the Earth Ship Ark?

How does Garth maintain that early 1970s haircut while on the run in the tubes and corridors of the Earth Ship Ark?

Given that Devon, Rachel, and Garth have been to the Bridge, why do they need to find the backup Bridge?

Why are so many people on the Ark fatalistic?

Why does Devon not invoke his authority as the Ark commander?  (The Return of Oro)

Why does Devon’s level of interest in saving the Ark vary from episode to episode, and sometimes within an episode?

How many zoological laboratories are on the Earth Ship Ark?

Why do the Marshalls, who have long known about the impending doom of the Ark, tried to do nothing to save it?

How much time will pass until the surviving mutant bees cause more trouble for the bee scientists?

Above:  Harry Keble

A Screen Capture

OTHER COMMENTS

The less I write about The Beehive, the better.  This episode is tedious and irrelevant.

Harlan Ellison, in his introduction to Edward Bryant’s novelization of Phoenix Without Ashes (the original title of Voyage of Discovery), described most of those responsible for the production and writing of The Starlost as “the inept, the untalented, the venal, and the corrupt.”  The Beehive provides ample evidence for ineptness and lack of talent.

Next Episode:  Space Precinct

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 17, 2021 COMMON ERA

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

All images in this post are screen captures from a series that is freely available at archive.org and YouTube.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

This is post #2350 of SUNDRY THOUGHTS.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Starlost: Circuit of Death (1973)   2 comments

Above:  Avatars in the Microcircuit

A Screen Capture

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

EPISODE 14

Aired November 10, 1973

0:49:22

The episode is available here.

STARRING

Keir Dullea as Devon

Gay Rowan as Rachel

Robin Ward as Garth

GUEST STARRING

Percy Rodrigues as Electronics Specialist First Class I. A. Richards

Nerene Virgin as Valerie Richards

Calvin Butler as Cort

William Osler as Computer Host and Voice

BEHIND THE CAMERAS

Series created by Cordwainer Bird (Harlan Ellison)

Episode written by Norman Klenman

Story Consultant = Norman Klenman

Director = Peter Levin

Science Consultant = Ben Bova

Producer = William Davidson

Executive Producers = Douglas Trumbull and Jerry Zeitman

Above:  Valerie and I. A. Richards

A Screen Capture

SUMMARY OF THE EPISODE

I. A. Richards and his daughter Valerie walk onto the main Bridge of the Earth Ship Ark.  They notice that someone has cleaned up the Bridge and removed the human remains.  I. A. Richards has a plan of which Valerie is dubious.  She alternates between cooperating with him and arguing with him.  The Richardses enter the Circuit Rome, adjacent to the Bridge.  They do this without authorization, so they set off the alarm. which Devon, Rachel, and Garth hear nearby, in tunnel.  The trio still wears the silver-and-red space suits from Farthing’s Comet.

I. A. Richards, who has known of the impending collision of the Ark with a “Class-G solar star” for years and has given into hopelessness, intends to blow up the Ark immediately.  This, in his mind, will be a quick and merciful end to the suffering of the people of the Ark.  Before he can activate the self-destruct sequence, he needs to bypass the fail-safe circuit.  He succeeds in bypassing the fail-safe circuit before Devon, Rachel, and Garth arrive on the scene.

Devon, who has been the Ark commander since The Return of Oro, seems not to recall this fact.  Later, when I. A. Richards tells him that there is no crew, Devon does not contradict him.

Biosphere Alpha Five, the home of the Richardses, used to be a mature democracy.  There were two political parties.  The Citizens’ Party favored freedom.  The Control Party, which won an election and formed the new government, thought of discipline and thought control as essential to the maintenance of peace and social order.  The Control Party outlawed the Citizens’ Party, which I. A. Richards led.  Then the Control Party imprisoned I. A. Richards in a psychiatric institution.  Furthermore, Alpha Five is biodegrading, and the Control Party is doing nothing to address that problem.

Back to the narrative….

Shortly after Devon, Rachel, and Garth arrive on the main Bridge, so does Cort.  He, Valerie’s boyfriend, is a security agent from Alpha Five.  Cort must wait with Devon, Rachel, and Garth, who are locked outside the Circuit Room.  Cort has an arrest warrant for I. A. Richards.  Inside the Circuit Room, I. A. Richards initiates the Ark‘s self-destruct sequence.  He and Valerie try to escape in the escape rocket, but the rocket does not launch.  Cort and the trio get into the Circuit Room and let the Richardses out of the escape rocket.

Then I. A. Richards initiates his plan to save the Ark he just tried to blow up.  This plan entails he and Devon projecting their minds into miniature avatars, to reinstitute the fail-safe in the microcircuit.  They have fifteen minutes yet waste time engaging in expository dialogue.  Eventually, I. A. Richards falls ill.  So does Valerie.  Garth, after getting a massive exposition dump from the nearest sphere projector, sends his avatar into the microcircuit, to assist Devon.  I. A. Richards sends the Devon and Garth avatars away in time to save the Ark by sacrificing himself.

Valerie mourns her dead father.  Devon, who had confronted I. A. Richards a few minutes prior, tells Valerie that her father was a brave and great man.    Valerie and Cort depart for Alpha Five.  Devon laments that he had not met I. A. Richards before that day; Richards could have restored the Ark‘s navigation system.

Above:  Cort

A Screen Capture

UNANSWERED QUESTIONS

Where is the laundry in the tubes and corridors of the Earth Ship Ark?

Where are the bathrooms and showers in tubes and corridors of the Earth Ship Ark?

How does Garth maintain that early 1970s haircut while on the run in the tubes and corridors of the Earth Ship Ark?

Given that Devon, Rachel, and Garth have been to the Bridge, why do they need to find the backup Bridge?

Why are so many people on the Ark fatalistic?

Why does Devon not invoke his authority as the Ark commander?  (The Return of Oro)

Why does Devon’s level of interest in saving the Ark vary from episode to episode, and sometimes within an episode?

How many people know where the main Bridge is?

Who cleaned up the main Bridge and removed the human remains?

Where were I. A. Richards and Valerie Richards last on the main Bridge?

What will happen to Valerie Richards on Alpha Five?

Will Alpha Five continue to biodegrade?

How long will Alpha Five remain a police state?

Above:  Repairing the Microcircuit

A Screen Capture

OTHER COMMENTS

IMDB lists the name of the character Percy Rodrigues portrayed as “Sakharov Richards.”  However, dialogue names that character as “I. A. Richards.”  “Sakharov” hearkens back to the Soviet scientist and dissident Andrei Sakharov (1921-1989).

This episode originally aired as the seventh episode, between And Only Man is Vile and Gallery of Fear.  However, the wardrobe of Devon, Rachel, and Garth places it immediately after Farthing’s Comet.

The storytelling in this episode is subpar.  Much of the dialogue is redundant.  Two badly-done special effects sequences take up time.  Too much background comes out via amateurish exposition.   During the plotline about the miniature avatars in the microcircuit, the passage of time contradicts the times given in time checks.

The background of biosphere Alpha Five and its Control Party is obviously based on Germany (from the Weimar Republic to the Third Reich) and the Soviet Union.  The Control Party, modeled mainly on the Nazi Party, is fascistic.  The government’s policy of incarcerating dissidents in psychiatric institutions is a nod to that policy of the Soviet government.

I. A. Richards is correct in his contemptuous evaluation of Cypress Corners as “that place.”  Devon does not mention the crew-in-training, from Children of Methuseleh.  He has met the doctors of the Institute for Reeducation, in And Only Man is Vile.  Devon has met the Astro-Medics, in Astro-Medics.  Devon recently–in the previous episode–encountered the two astronomers in Farthing’s Comet.  Does the robot Tau Zeta, from The Return of Oro, count as a member of the crew?

Would not abandoning the premise of the series been so hard for those who made The Starlost?

Cort is a plot element, not a character.

Next Episode:  The Beehive

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 15, 2021 COMMON ERA

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

All images in this post are screen captures from a series that is freely available at archive.org and YouTube.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Starlost: Farthing’s Comet (1973)   4 comments

Above:  Dr. Linus Farthing, Chief Astronomer of the Earth Ship Ark

A Screen Capture

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

EPISODE 13

Aired December 22, 1973

0:49:25

The episode is available here.

STARRING

Keir Dullea as Devon

Gay Rowan as Rachel

Robin Ward as Garth

GUEST STARRING

Edward “Supertrain” Andrews as Dr. Linus Farthing, Chief Astronomer

Linda Sorensen as Dr. McBride

Allen Stewart-Coates as Computer Voices

William Osler as Computer Host and Voice

BEHIND THE CAMERAS

Series created by Cordwainer Bird (Harlan Ellison)

Episode written by Douglas Hall (Credited)

Episode written by Norman Klenman (Uncredited)

Story Consultant = Norman Klenman

Director = Ed Richardson (the Associate Producer)

Producer = William Davidson

Executive Producers = Douglas Trumbull and Jerry Zeitman

Above:  Our Main Characters at the Sphere Projector

A Screen Capture

SUMMARY OF THE EPISODE

This episode opens with Devon, Rachel, and Garth, clad in their usual Cypress Corners attire, in a tunnel.  The Earth Ship Ark is rocking and shaking.  The nearest sphere projector, which does not know the source of the external attack, refers the trio to the Director of Security and to the Chief Astronomer.  Unfortunately, the Director of Security is available only by appointment.  The Chef Astronomer is not taking calls either, but the sphere projector provides directions to the aft Astronomy Module.  Devon, Rachel, and Garth head for the Astronomy Module and enter it.

Dr. Linus Farthing, the Chief Astronomer, is absorbed in his work.  In the adjacent office, Dr. McBride is monitoring damage to the Ark.

Dr. Farthing has fired the auxiliary reactors of the Ark and altered its course so he can become the first (human) astronomer to get close to the nuclear of a comet.  In so doing, he has placed the ark in the paths of meteors.

Both Drs. Farthing and McBride have known about the impending doom of the Ark and given up all hope.

Devon, forgetting that he is the Ark commander, argues with Dr. Farthing.  Finally,, Devon wears Dr. Farthing down.  The Chief Astronomer agrees to let Devon, Rachel, and Garth take the small repair craft, A.S.C. 45, and repair the auxiliary reactors, damaged in the meteor shower.  This repair must occur outside the Ark.  Drs. Farthing and McBride take turns telling our trio what to do.  Devon conducts the repair.  Rachel and Garth remain inside the A.S.C. 45.  Perils and dramas arise, but they pass.  Oh, and Drs. Farthing and McBride argue.  He accuses her of bickering.  She denies bickering.

Dr. Farthing fires the repaired auxiliary reactors and takes the Ark away from the meteors.  Devon, Rachel, and Garth are back on the Ark, which is back on course to collide with a “Class-G solar star.”

Devon does nothing within his authority as the Ark commander.

Above:  Dr. McBride

A Screen Capture

UNANSWERED QUESTIONS

Where is the laundry in the tubes and corridors of the Earth Ship Ark?

Where are the bathrooms and showers in tubes and corridors of the Earth Ship Ark?

How does Garth maintain that early 1970s haircut while on the run in the tubes and corridors of the Earth Ship Ark?

Given that Devon, Rachel, and Garth have been to the Bridge, why do they need to find the backup Bridge?

Who educated, trained, credentialed and hired the Director of Security, Dr. Farthing, and Dr. McBride?

Does the Director of Security know about the Ark’s impending collision with a “Class-G solar star”?

If so, does the Director of Security care?

Who is the Director of Security?

Why are so many people on the Ark fatalistic?

Why does Devon not invoke his authority as the Ark commander?  (The Return of Oro)

Why does Devon’s level of interest in saving the Ark vary from episode to episode, and sometimes within an episode?

How did Rachel and Garth know how to pilot the A.S.C. 45?

Above:  Green Egg Crate Foam

A Screen Capture

OTHER COMMENTS

Farthing’s Comet, which has too little story, is tedious and full of padding and drama that lacks suspense.

It I ever have nightmares about The Starlost, those dreams will feature green egg crate foam prominently.  The foam is ubiquitous in this series.  It is in the walls.  People sit on it.  They stop on it.  And they recline on it.  The foam must have been on sale in Toronto in 1973.

Devon, as the Ark commander, has the power to fire Dr. Farthing, I suppose.

The shooting model of the Ark is in Dr. McBride’s office.

Farthing’s Comet has more plot holes than a big block of Swiss cheese.

The Starlost has jettisoned the last vestiges of its premise with Farthing’s Comet.  We still have three episodes to go, however.  The sensible ending would have been (a) steer the Ark out of immediate danger, (b) fire Dr. Farthing, (c) revive some engineers in cryonic suspension, per Lazarus from the Mist, (d) get the main reactors back on line, (e)call in the children from Children of Methuseleh, (f) send them to the main Bridge, and (g) start searching for a planet to call home.

Some days, I wonder if most of the people who made The Starlost suffered from “space senility.”  (The Pisces)

Next Episode:  Circuit of Death

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 14, 2021 COMMON ERA

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

All images in this post are screen captures from a series that is freely available at archive.org and YouTube.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++