Digging through some of the old Granada TV boxes I have discovered files outlining one of Granada’s shows from the 1980’s which was perhaps more notable as being stepping stone in the careers of someone who would become a much-loved TV and film star, rather than a show that has been remembered as being standout TV.
The show in question is Starstrider, running for two series from 1984-1985, it was a game show in a similar vein to the Krypton Factor, but with teams of school children taking part. The outline of the show borrowed heavily from science-fiction at the time, with the show taking cues from the likes of Star Wars and Doctor Who, with mentions of Galactic Federations and “Star-rays.” The Doctor Who-esque theme in particular is perhaps the most interesting aspect, as the show starred Sylvester McCoy, who would go on to play the Doctor a few years later. His role in this show, however, was as the assistant to Starstrider, who acted as the main host of the show, played by Roger Sloman. The pair would engage in back and forths between rounds, while the eponymous host would ask the questions and guide the teams through the show.
The show itself took the form of various different challenges including; team members seeing how long they could ride the “Astro-hopper” for while answering questions and trying negotiate their way through the “light-maze” blindfolded with verbal guidance from their teammates. This was interspersed with the teams having to answer general knowledge questions and the winner eventually decided by whoever had the most “Star-rays” from successfully completing these challenges. The prize for the winning team perhaps left a lot to be desired though, as they would walk away with just a trophy and a selection of books, pretty meagre by todays standard of prizes.
Starstrider was not a show which went down as classic television, however, shows like this and countless other largely forgotten TV shows have played important steps in the careers of many TV stars. As the BBC is going all out with its celebration of 50 years of Doctor Who, it is a nice reminder that the Seventh Doctor, played by Sylvester McCoy, may never have got his part had it not been for a short-lived game show which introduced him to the world of science fiction and playing a cooky character from another world.