In the hands of the inept, the untalented, the venal, and the corrupt, The Starlost became a veritable Mt. Everest of cow flop, and, though I climbed that mountain, somehow I never lost sight of the dream, never lost the sense of smell, and when it got so rank I could stand it no longer, I descended hand-over-hand from the northern massif, leaving behind $93,000, the corrupters, and the eviscerated remains of my dream.Producer Robert Kline wanted Ellison to do The Fugitive in space, but Ellison preferred to come up with his own idea. The basic gist was that a bunch of people leave Earth on an ark as it is being destroyed. The population of the ship is sealed off in biospheres and develops new societies over the next 500 years and forgets all about Earth. That's where the "drama" of the show starts. Ellison was in the middle of a writer's strike when Kline demanded ideas for artwork, because they needed to advertise the series:
It has always been one of the imponderables of the television industry to me, how the time is always now, when three days earlier no one had even heard of the idea. But I gave him some words and to my horror, saw the ad a week later: it showed a huge bullet-shaped thing I guess Kline thought was a spaceship, being smacked by a meteorite, a great hole being torn in the skin of the bullet, revealing many levels of living space within...all of them drawn the wrong direction. I covered my eyes.
A few hours after arriving for his first day of work at Disney Studios, Ellison and several fellow writers headed off to the studio commissary for lunch. Once there, Ellison jokingly suggested they "do a Disney porn flick" and proceeded to act out the parts while imitating the voices of several animated Disney characters. Unbeknownst to him, Roy Disney and the other studio heads were sitting adjacent to his table. Ellison claims that he returned to his office to find a pink slip on his desk and the name on his parking space whited out.Here's a bonus Harlan Ellison interview from 1976, three years after the debacle: