Thursday, July 19, 2012


The Powers Of Matthew Star was another show, like The Phoenix, which appeared at the very tail-end of what I define as the Space: 1970 era, premiering on NBC in the Fall of 1981. It starred Peter Barton as the titular character, an alien prince in exile on Earth possessing various psi powers. Helping him hide from his extraterrestrial enemies and keeping his alien identity a secret from us simple Earthlings was his guardian, played by future Academy Award-winner, Louis Gossett Jr. Matthew's human girlfriend was played by Amy Steel.

The show had a troubled production, with considerable changes made between the pilot film (including the character's name) and the subsequent, single-season series. There was also a mid-season course change as the show more-or-less dropped its original premise of a super-powered teenager trying to keep his true identity secret while struggling with the trials and tribulations of high school (rather like Smallville's early years, actually) in favor of Matthew and his guardian becoming secret agents for the government.

A number of Space: 1970 vets worked on the show, including Six Million Dollar Man/The Invisible Man's Harve Bennett, and producer Bruce Lansbury, fresh off Buck Rogers In The 25th Century. Star Trek actor Walter Koenig wrote an episode, and Leonard Nimoy directed one.

I honestly don't recall much about the show. I remember watching the first episode and not getting into it, despite my love of the genre. I think part of it was that I was getting older, and could sense, even if only subconsciously, that the producers and network were battling over the show's direction, and it just wasn't coming together. I also remember thinking Barton looked too mature to be a High School kid.

But it did just well enough in the ratings to get a full season - which is more than shows like Planet Of The Apes, Logan's Run, and the aforementioned Phoenix managed. As the clip embedded above shows, it also aired on the Sci-Fi Channel back in the 90s.


  1. Yeah I remember this one. It was one of many shows/books/stories that solidified the idea in me that psychic powers were SciFi but magic was horror/fantasy. It may have been 1981 but it had more in common with the 70s I think. Except for maybe the hair.

  2. The early years of what is now the SyFy channel were the best. Great shows from here as well as from across the pond. Their original shows actually covered topics about science fiction. I remember the short spots between shows that featured writers and more commenting on the genre. The FTL news feed was a favorite. A shame all that signature character is gone now.

  3. That show was almost cursed, given all its misfortunes. Worst of all was poor Peter Barton, who received third degree burns in an accident while filming. Burned bad enough that production had to be shut down for many months while he recovered. That hiatus may be when they decided to retool the show. I think it was originally supposed to premiere in the 1981 TV season but didn't actually air until 1982.

  4. Thanks for the post on this show. I watched this show when it was originally on and liked it (I was about ten). Wikipedia indicates the show was broadcast from Sep 82 to Apr 83, which fits my memories. I was slightly annoyed at the "D&D" episode ("Swords & Quests", 4/8/83) because they dressed up as their characters, and I knew by then that wasn't how the game was played.