I have written previously that I am reading all of Harlan Ellison’s books in published order. I had finally reached the novelization of the script Phoenix without Ashes. Although the book is written my Edward Bryant it is based upon Harlan Ellison’s script for the pilot episode of The Starlost.
Now there are a few variations of the printed script as well as the filmed episode itself. I decided to indulge in all of them, the original script, the episode, the novel and finally the graphic novel in that order.
The basic premise of The Starlost is that 500 years ago the earth faced unknown destruction, and the scientist, technicians, artists and humanitarians of the world got together to construct a gigantic space ark that would carry 450 million people to another star system. The people were separated into different biospheres in order to preserve their cultural heritage. The script focuses on one of these biosphere which appears to represent a culture very similar to the Amish, in dress, and speech.
I will not go over any of the plot point, if you are really interested you can always buy the book. I just want to give a little take on each of the formats.
First, the script. This is a wonderful way to read the story, it is beautifully written by Mr. Ellison and his descriptions really put the images right into your head. I would really have liked to have seen this script be the basis of the television pilot.
After reading the script I watched the actual pilot which was renamed “Voyage of Discovery”. The show is pretty unwatchable. Although the series kept the main premise of the original screenplay, it changed some other major plot points and order of scenes. The biggest mistake is that the audience knows that it is a large spaceship from the very start. Also the costuming is horrible the residents of the biosphere have 70s style “old clothing” and they give the information holograms 70s style “future clothing”. The costuming is so bad they give the main female character pants in later scenes although they are of a type of Amish heritage. Also the effects are horrible, and not horrible for the time period just horrible. Everything is shot on green screen, even if it is not needed. Finally the acting is just bad. Not one person emotes any feelings.
I then read the novelization by Edward Bryant. This novel follows the script pretty well, but also adds some scenes and make some minor changes to strengthen the love story. It is very short easy read, but not a great book. I finished it and it was mostly meh. I think the problem is that I really liked the script and the book just does not add anything to the overall story.
Finally I finished up with the graphic novel. I really love this book. It is taken directly from Harlan Ellison’s script and the visuals match perfectly with the descriptions in that script. The artwork is beautifully done by Alan Robinson. Reading this graphic novel is like looking at what The Starlost series could have been.
So out of all the versions, I would recommend the original script and the graphic novel.