Monday, July 16, 2018

Of Starhunter

Starhunter appeared at the tail end of the '90s-era science fiction television boom, and came into that long-crowded field quietly, at least in the United States. Rather than a prime time slot on even a cable network, it went to syndication--and in my area, late night syndication. It ran for only one year before getting a major overhaul (it became Starhunter 2300, with the principal cast mostly changed), then lasted for only one year after that during which, even in that period when I followed the scene very closely and caught something of just about every show (in fact, watched just about all of just about every other small screen space opera), I not only didn't see it but was scarcely aware of its existence until it was already off the air, past which it didn't have much of a life in reruns (not in my area, anyway), and only happened to see it years later on DVD. (Remember those?)

The slightness of the show's wiki (which, despite dating back to June 2009, has a mere 31 articles, most of them quite short) does not suggest much has changed since then.

All the same, a continuation of the show, Starhunter: Transformation is reportedly in the works, and perhaps that is why the show has recently been remastered and reissued as Starhunter Redux, while since May airing in prime time reruns on Robert Rodriguez's TV network, El Rey.

Catching one of those reruns recently the show reminded me of another space opera that flew under most people's radars, Lexx. Like Starhunter, Lexx was an internationally financed Canadian project, and relatively low-budget, but there they parted ways. Despite the slenderness of the resources put up for it, Lexx, packed with colorful sets and bright CGI and surprisingly globe-trotting location shooting (from Namibia to Thailand to Iceland the crew went, and it's all up there on the screen) inclined toward the exotic, the weird, the extravagant--the end of the universe in a gray goo-induced Big Crunch (and no, it wasn't just a dream, an alternate timeline or any other such lame cop-out, it really was the end of the universe) a mere season finale.

By contrast Starhunter, while having some hints of something bigger going on in the background (and not always just the background, as the season two cliffhanger shows), tended toward the low-key and small-scale in its plots and its look from episode to episode, the space ships and stations and colonies utilitarian to the point of being bare bones, and most of the episodes taking place in their dark, dusty interiors, which matched the tendency toward the noirisih and gritty in tone. Looking back on it I suspect this probably did not help it win over a broad audience, but it did set it apart from the generally flashier, splashier, zanier fare that characterized the genre then and now.

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