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Trivia / The Star Lost

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  • Alan Smithee: Series co-creator Harlan Ellison took his name off the project and used instead "Cordwainer Bird", which was his version of the pseudonymous "Alan Smithee" credit used by film directors. The only aspect of the series that Ellison kept his name on was Phoenix Without Ashes, the novelization of the show's pilot episode.
  • Creator Backlash: Harlan Ellison publicly denounced the series for years. He started out on as the writer/creator, but later removed this name from the production (using a pseudonym, instead) thanks to Executive Meddling.
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  • Keep Circulating the Tapes: It finally got a full-series Region 1 DVD release in 2008.
  • No Budget: Most of the budget was blown trying to get a special-effects camera system to work, which ended up not being used very often.
  • Troubled Production: Unsurprising given how this turned out.
    • Originally pitched as a Fox-BBC coproduction but was rejected by the BBC. The producers were able to salvage it by selling NBC and the Canadian CTV network on it (albeit at a lower budget than originally hoped for). An early potential problem—a writers' strike that was set to begin before Ellison could finished the show's bible—was averted when producer Robert Kline negotiated an exception with the Writers' Guild since the show was being produced in Canada to take advantage of tax credits available there.
    • The first serious problem was a Special Effects Failure. A camera system Douglas Trumbull was developing called Magicam that would have allowed moving shots of actors against a blue screen to be combined with models of the set simply did not work well enough to use. As a result the show had to rely on standard (for the time) stationary camera shots of the actors against the blue screen, which were less exciting.
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    • They couldn't use full-size sets either, as the Canadian studio space was too small, so they had to rely on partial versions of the sets.
    • To fully avail themselves of the Canadian subsidies and credits, Canadian writers had to be involved. Ellison, back in LA, wrote outlines which the Canadian writers then fleshed out into scripts. With this distance from the process, and the low budget, it was inevitable that there would be changes at the production level—and that they would not be to Ellison's liking. Once he saw what was happening to the pilot episode (which, to give you an idea of how much it had been dumbed down, was retitled "Voyage of Discovery" from Ellison's original "Phoenix Without Ashes"), he quit and invoked the clause in his contract which allowed to slap his "Cordwainer Bird" pseudonym (meaning to all in the know that he disowned the product completely) on the script and bible. Supposedly this was his worst experience ever in TV and film, even more so than "The City on the Edge of Forever."
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    • Ben Bova, also hired as science advisor, was similarly peeved at being ignored, so he quit not long thereafter, but couldn't take his name off the credits.
    • While the show was canceled after 16 episodes, Ellison and Bova salvaged something out of it. In the former's case, it was a Writer's Guild award for his original script for the pilot (later novelized as Phoenix Without Ashes with a foreword by Ellison explaining just how badly the show was screwed up). Bova, after publishing a similarly-themed editorial in Analog, got the last laugh when he wrote a novel, The Starcrossed, that was a lightly-fictionalized version of the whole experience.
  • Writer Revolt: After watching the Executive Meddling get started, Ellison bailed on the project and forced the producers to use his "red flag" pseudonym "Cordwainer Bird" for all his credits.

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