Sunday, December 09, 2012

Cult-TV Blogging: The Starlost: "And Only Man is Vile" (October 27, 1973)

“And Only Man is Vile” isn’t exactly vile, but it’s surely he worst The Starlost (1973-1974) episode to come along since “The Goddess Calabra.”  

Although terrible, that earlier episode was at least watchable due to the presence of John Colicos and Barry Morse in major roles.  “And Only Man is Vile” features the great Simon Oakland (Kolchak: The Night Stalker) as a guest star, but even he can’t bring much to this particular tale which is, politely-put, sluggishly-paced.

I already wrote last week that I fell asleep in this episode three times, on three successive nights. 

Since then, I fell asleep in it a fourth time, and just moments before the episode ended.  Sorry folks. I failed you here.

Now, I hate it when critics complain that a film or television series is boring, because I believe “boring” is a judgment call meaning, essentially, that, a critic refuses to engage with a work of art. 

Well, I may have to re-think that belief. I tried to get through this episode four times and I just couldn’t stay with it.  As much as I hate to describe TV or film productions as boring…“And Only Man is Vile” is incredibly boring.  The episode consists of endless scenes of Oakland watching events unfold on a view screen in his laboratory.  Those scenes inevitably involve Garth, Devon and Rachel walking around an empty Leisure Village.

“And Only Man is Vile” concerns a biosphere called New Eden. There in “Leisure Village,” two doctors, Asgard (Oakland) and Tabor (Irena Mayeska) conduct experiments on the fear-filled, ignorant denizens.  

These psychologists want to determine the truth about human nature, and Asgard is particularly keen to prove his theory that human beings are horrible, disloyal creatures.

To establish his point, Dr. Asgard uses a very sexy young woman, Lethe (Trudy Young) to cut a wedge between the loyal threesome of Devon (Keir Dullea), Garth (Robin Ward), and Rachel (Gay Rowan).

Lethe is gorgeous and friendly, and her first successful mark is Garth who has -- let’s face it -- been turned over by Rachel in favor of Devon.  Only when the villagers threaten to kill Devon, and Garth realizes Lethe’s duplicity, does he step up to save his friend.

I have so many questions about this story, but I’m reluctant to air them all for fear that they were actually answered, and I merely dozed through them.  I will state, however, that I don’t understand why Asgard and Tabor are still alive some five hundred years after the mission of the Ark began.  Did they take the life-preserving serum we heard mention of in “Children of Methuselah?” 

Furthermore, since Lethe uses coercive or artificial means to sway Garth, and to a lesser extent, Rachel, I’m not sure that Asgard legitimately makes his point about human nature.  Sure, acting under the influence, Garth proves disloyal for a time, but it seems like the books are cooked, so-to-speak.

A commenter here last week, Neal P., cogently explained how The Starlost seems to making things up as it goes along, presenting contradictory and bizarre stories, week-after-week.   “And Only Man is Vile” is especially hard to fit into any kind of coherent chronology of Ark history.  Were the doctors conducting these experiments when the Ark’s catastrophe occurred?  If so, why didn’t they stop their experiment and try to help people?  Do they know that the ark is on a collision course with a star now, and if so, wouldn’t they stop their experiment to do something about it?

I don’t know.  I’m just lost with this one.

Don’t worry, I stayed awake through next week’s selection, the abundantly silly and yet highly-entertaining “Circuit of Death.”


  1. Anonymous2:08 PM

    John, as with Land Of The Lost season 3, Starlost seemed to suffer from the writers not honoring the established history of the series writers' bible. It is not the budget that hampers an episode, but instead that lack of imagination by the writers. I think that I will watch Starlost “And Only Man is Vile” while I write my thoughts about this


    1. Hi SGB,

      At its worst, the Starlost indeed induces snoring. This episode was a killer in that regard. So much potential for interesting stories...and such boring episodes. ZZZZZZZZ indeed!

  2. Don't worry, John, your questions were never answered in the episode. In fact, they were the same questions I had. There was so much potential in the concept of The Starlost, it's a shame the episodes are so dull and confusing. Like Star Trek or Space:1999, they could have discovered new civilizations each week simply by moving from one biosphere to another. Each society could have been extrapolations on current Earth societies if they had been set apart for hundreds of years like the Galapagos animals. Along the way, if they had found clues to the inner workings of the Ark, the audience would've felt like we were building to something. Alas, I feel like I'm wading through the dreams of the most boring human being on Earth.

    1. Neal,

      Amen, brother. This episode is the worst of the bunch so far (which is saying something...). So many possibilities, and "And Only Man is Vile" is the best the writers could come up with?

      I am trying hard to see the good and positive in The Starlost, but this episode makes that task very, very difficult...


  3. Somebody got me this series as a gift and it was so great to own a really bad show, lol. But I just can't get past the Pilot-3 years and counting!