The Powers of Matthew Star
was a short-lived sci fi drama run on NBC
in 1982. It ran one season. It was a reworking of a your classic "kid from outer space with mysterious powers is trapped on earth" plot line. That it came out the same year as E.T.
(which was itself about a cute alien kid, albeit highly alien, is trapped on earth and has mysterious powers) might be somewhat telling. However, the show was supposed to premier in 1981, a full year before E.T.
. The lead, Peter Barton, was injured during taping and the series was delayed by a year. (Barton fell on a flare
during the filming of a scene where a room was supposed to look like it was engulfed in flame. He was very badly burned.)
The delay and post-E.T.
release might have seemed serendipitous
to NBC. Aliens trapped on earth with a yearning to go home were suddenly popular and NBC had a series in the chute
. Oddly the silver screen would also bring the series to a quick end. See, Peter Barton's sidekick was a character named Walt Shephard, a kindly major-domo
charged with protecting Star and helping him master his super space alien powers. Shephard was played by Louis Gossett Jr.
, who ended up winning an academy award
for his role in 1982's An Officer and a Gentleman
. Gossett was suddenly bankable and sure wasn't going to stick around on some hokey NBC show.
The show had its early appeal, owing to Gossett 's acting and the series "wish fulfillment" premise. Star was an alien prince who, as a baby, was sequestered
on earth after his home world was invaded. The plan was on earth Star would learn to use his powers and then when he was skilled in the ways of the forc... err telepathy
. The series picks up with Star in high school. Shephard has taken a job as a science teacher to stick close to Star. Meanwhile the alien invaders have discovered Star's hiding place and the first half of the season featured various plots where Star had to evade and defeat robots sent to kill him.
For reasons not understood, NBC changed the format half way through. They yanked Star out of high school and made him a super secret agent
working for the government (they also gave him a bigger cache of powers, including astral projection
and the ability to transmute
elements). Assuming the show had an audience -- not a safe assumption given the show ran Friday at 8 pm -- the move probably alienated (ha ha) its core viewers: lonely high school kids that didn't have dates on Friday night and could identify with an awkward high school aged space alien.