Wednesday, April 20, 2016
The Starlost DVD Set Liner Notes
Just when you thought it was safe to go back into outer space, here comes the 1973-74 Canadian-produced science-fiction television series, The Starlost.
To be honest, the tales of the Earthship Ark hit video stores back in November of 2008. A friend contacted me one day to ask if The Starlost is one of those television shows I know way too much about. Yes, I do. Once we got that out of the way, and agreed on basic terms, he told me that a company was scheduled to release the much-maligned show to DVD and suggested I contact them to offer any help. He knew I would be interested.
Through a little research I discovered that the company in question was VCI Entertainment, a U.S.-based (Tulsa, Oklahoma) home video distributor of cult films and television. (I use the term loosely as some may argue that many VCI titles would not fit comfortably into that category. But as I've been known to say at times, "you know what I mean".)
As I'm not one to be left out of the picture I contacted the distributor via their main email address and left a short bio on me and a note about my continuing efforts to research Canadian television programs. The Starlost is but one that has fallen into the folder. (My journalistic endeavours had me interview several people who were involved with this show: Writer Harlan Ellison, actors John Colicos and Gay Rowan, producer William Davidson, story editor Norman Klenman, designer Jack McAdam, writers Martin Lager and Doug Hall, and a few other Starlost production personnel.)
I offered VCI my services as Resident Geek. That line must have been the clincher: Minutes later someone responded and asked me if I would like to write something up for the DVD boxed set's insert booklet; the "liner notes". The only catch was they had to be finished and ready for production by Friday at the latest.
(Oh....did I not say I sent the first-contact email on Tuesday?)
There was another restriction: Keep my essay to within 1,300 words. Anyone who knows me can tell you that 10,000 would be a more realistic limit for a 'chatty' guy like me. (Anything less would force me to act like some kind of professional.)
After soaking in the invitation I telephoned VCI and spoke with a very pleasant chap. I had not misread the parameters for the liner notes. Like a regular Jim Phelps, I accepted the assignment.
Somehow I came through, even with the rigors of my day job involved, and the deadline was met. My contact at VCI was very happy, which made the whole race worthwhile: "This is wonderful !!"
Last year I re-read my piece for the first time since the set had been delivered to me in November of 2008. I didn't wince too often, but like any self-proclaimed writer I would love to rewrite. I won't blame the three days; I'd even take three more.
As I state in the liner notes, The Starlost is not that bad, at least it's not to me. But it's definitely not great and could have been much better.
However, there is one big thing my studious "television production" research has taught me: It's really hard, really blinking hard, to make any television series, period, never mind one that works splendidly as a dramatic presentation and manages to win a substantial enough audience to keep it on the air.
Any attempt to make a show where most pieces of the puzzle come together in a harmonious way is an act best left, perhaps, to the gods. Few mortals posses such gifts. If more could find the magic potion, then we wouldn't have so many crappy (and overrated) drama shows on the airwaves at any one time. Very often, the best drama is what went on behind the scenes.
On those terms, The Starlost is just another television product.