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I’d never heard of the TV show ‘The Starlost’ before I found this essay. By Ellison’s account, the show is justly forgotten. This article details his involvement in the show and how a vision succumbs to a death of a thousand mutilating cuts.

Early on, Ellison gives a hypothetical overview of the show to a producer. This is recorded, illegally transcribed and sent to prospective studios as if Ellison was planning to write the series. The advertising, featuring a picture of a generic bullet-shaped starship, is created before the TV concept artists had started work on what a viable starship should look like. Ellison’s scripts are rewritten by someone who openly admits he doesn’t understand science fiction. And so on and so on, crushing everything special out of the show until it is utterly generic.

On one level this is quite a depressing read, especially for anyone aspiring to work in Hollywood. On the other hand this is Ellison writing, so he doesn’t mince words with his accusations and insults, and is therefore immensely entertaining. Comedy is pain plus distance, after all.

Somehow, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore, Toto by Harlan Ellison

Availability: print only

Word count: 7,100

First published: Phoenix without Ashes, 1975, Fawcett Gold Medal (appears as the introduction to a novelisation of the first episode co-written with Edward Bryant)

Where to find it: The Essential Ellison, collection, 1997, Morpheus International

Edgeworks 2, collection, 1999, White Wolf Publishing

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One thought on “Somehow, I Don’t Think We’re in Kansas Anymore, Toto by Harlan Ellison

  1. Actually the first episode isn’t too bad. It goes rapidly downhill though. The concept was really, really amazing and they butchered it. But they did manage some cool details considering when the series aired–my favorite had to be the information AIs they found littered about the spaceship.

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