6 reasons 'The Powers of Matthew Star' is one of the most interesting sci-fi shows of the '80s

Pyrotechnics disasters, Spock as director, and an Oscar winner make the backstory just as fascinating.

For science-fiction fans, 1982 was arguably the greatest year for going to the movies. Mindblowing new blockbusters like E.T., Blade Runner, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Tron, The Thing and The Dark Crystal glued us to theater seats.

Some of that otherworldly action made it to the small screen, too. The talking car K.I.T.T. began zipping about on Knight Rider. A pair of time-travelers hopped about through history on Voyagers. And a pair of aliens hid on earth in The Powers of Matthew Star.

Blending superheroes and space opera, Matthew Star centered around the titular prince of the planet Quandris (Peter Barton), who flees 12 light-years to pose as a teenager on earth with his protector, who assumes the role of a high school teacher (Lou Gossett, Jr.).

The behind-the-scenes tale was rather fascinating, too. Let's take a look.

1. Peter Barton nearly died filming it.

Donnie Osmand look-alike Peter Barton moved from Long Island to L.A. to pursue his acting career. A big break came quickly in 1979, as Barton landed a role as one of the lead characters on Shirley, a sitcom vehicle for Partridge Family mom Shirley Jones. Then, 18 months follow the show's cancelation, Barton got the call for Matthew Star. Tragedy struck early in the production, when Barton caught fire during a stunt. "I fell on this magnesium flare. I knew I was on fire," he told Chicago Tribune in 1994. "They cut my clothes off. I was stunned." Third-degree burns covered nearly 15% of his body. Four operations were required.

Image: The Everett Collection

2. Louis Gossett Jr. had just given an Oscar-winning performance.

The casting coup of the series, however, was the role of Walter Shepard, fellow alien-in-hiding. Louis Gossett Jr. won the job. The first episode aired a few months after An Officer and a Gentleman had hit theaters in the summer of '82. Gossett would go on to win the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. He was the first black actor to win a supporting Oscar.

Image: The Everett Collection

3. The plot changed drastically midway through the season.

A few favorite sci-fi shows of that era underwent significant changes midstream. Battlestar Galactica came down to earth for Galactica 1980 in season two. Similarly, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century retooled to more of a Star Trek concept in season two. Matthew Star, however, shifted gears dramatically in the midst of its one and only season. The early episodes focus on Matthew coping with life as a human high-schooler with extraordinary powers. Think Starman (which came out in 1984). The later episodes see him working as a government agent, more along the lines of Wonder Woman.

Image: The Everett Collection

4. It gave Star Trek veterans an opportunity to branch out.

Hey, Trekkies! Some Enterprise legends were behind the camera on Matthew Star. Leonard Nimoy directed "The Triangle" — just his second time helming a TV episode, following his directorial debut on Night Gallery. Meanwhile, Walter Koenig wrote "Mother," just one of a handful of screenplay credits for the Chekov actor.

Image: AP Photo

5. The pilot episode was oddly the final episode.

The pilot episode, "Starr Knight," was drastically different, with a different sidekick. In that story, Gossett is nowhere to be seen, and Barton's character is living with a school janitor named Max (Gerald S. O'Loughlin). Oddly, this episode aired last, ending the series on a confusing about face in the spring of '83. Oh, to make things more confusing, Barton's character was named David Star…

Image: The Everett Collection

6. The show went through many changed in the early stages, too.

Which brings us to our final tidbit of info. The series went through several titles and character name changes early on, which even made it to air in the pilot. Alternate titles included The Powers of Daniel Star, The Powers of David Star, Star Prince and Knight Star (which was probably scratched when they learned about Knight Rider).

Image: The Everett Collection

 
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Dreamcast 24 days ago
It's released on Amazon now. https://www.amazon.com/Power-Matthew-Complete-Seasons-Episodes/dp/B07FPVM4F3
AlainFLucas 26 days ago
It would've been nice if it was 1 more season to finish the series on a little more story with Walt and Pam..even General Tucker..and Matthew's mother for some more adventure. It was too abruptly canceled. The series had great potential... wish they continued this in a graphic novel or comic mini series...i do miss these kinds of stories..gone too soon.
DJS3 4 months ago
I used to have a most likely "grey market" copy of the entire show, which included some behind the scenes footage, on DVD. I picked it up at a record show in 1998/1999-ish at a booth that was selling imported releases of concerts/films/TV shows. I was amazed when I found it because I wasn't even looking for it, but rather a copy of a Greatful Dead concert my brother and I attended in Philadelphia. The guy was also selling copies of Ark II, but I only had enough cash left on me to buy one of them, so Mathew Star it was. I wish I still had it, but sadly I don't. One of my nephews "borrowed" it and it never returned. I've yet to see another copy of the show on the market, legitimate or not. What a pity, it was a good show.
smartblonde 4 months ago
Did you know this? Feb. 9, 2013 — -- A man who died last summer willed his estate to two actors he never met, leaving them an estimated half a million dollars each.

Ray Fulk was 71 when he died last July. He lived alone on a 160-acre property in Lincoln, Ill. that he inherited from his father. He had no family or children.

"He was a loner, and a lot of neighbors didn't know who he was," Behle said.

What Fulk did have, though, was an admiration for actors Kevin Brophy and PETER BARTON, whom he had never met. He admired them so much that he left his estate to be split between them. https://abcnews.go.com/Business/dead-man-leaves-estate-actors-met/story?id=18443026
Jaybonaut smartblonde 3 months ago
It's right here: https://www.visualentertainment.tv/products/the-powers-of-matthew-star-7071?variant=12384060080233 it's legitimate, and the quality is excellent. I ripped these for my own Plex server and I just finished the 'Mother' episode of the Powers of Matthew Star. I saw the name Walter Koenig as familiar but I didn't put it together until I read this article. There are 22 episodes on the discs.
PencilSharp 4 months ago
Jeez. 1982 was a rough year for a young TV fan. Lost WKRP, Police Squad! and the Incredible Hulk that summer without notice, but got three brand new series on NBC Friday Nights: The Powers of Matthew Star, Knight Rider, and Remington Steele. Sigh.
And I'll second (or is it third by now?) the idea of a One-Season-Wonder. Heck, make a MeTV Original Series out of the concept featuring pilot episodes of OSWs from over the years. Surely, we can find someone in Chicago worthy of hosting such a show a la Rich Koz... or maybe check with Joel Hodgson or Mike Nelson for a MST3K style riff on these shows? The studios sitting on hundreds of these duds will surely appreciate monetizing them somehow. Anyone for MeTV3K...?
Stoney PencilSharp 3 months ago
I love this idea!
Pacificsun 4 months ago
When will producers learn? You can't fiddle with shows like that. They're complicated enough (usually). But fan enthusiasts hang on, and get a lot of enjoyment from the adventure & intrigue. But they're not stupid either, and most usually respect the "story arc" (at least cannon). If somebody had messed around with Quantum Leap like that, it wouldn't have lasted very long either.

The premise of Matthew Star should be looked at again, today. Add contemporary touches, and a quality team! They've certainly got the technology now to do that.
Aaron 4 months ago
Dear MeTV, just when we get in to a show, like ALF let's just say, you replace it. And usually with something stupid like Mathew Starr. A one season show. But it is free TV afterall.
Pacificsun Aaron 4 months ago
😉 The point being is that sometimes a new audience can appreciate an old premise. Shows like that need to be aired once in a while. Not for a direct "reboot" but just to let creative folks know what's possible.
ValT 4 months ago
Off topic, but please stop calling Galactica 1980 the second season of Battlestar Galactica.
Pacificsun ValT 4 months ago
😉 IMO, a correction is never off topic!
pidge 4 months ago
I saw Peter Barton at a bar in Studio City, CA about four yrs ago. But I think he lives back East.
Amalthea 4 months ago
My husband & I were dating at the time. He had gotten a 2nd shift job. Some evenings I would go over and watch TV with his father. We loved watching "Matthew Starr" together. I can still see Bud (who passed away in 1998) settling into his favorite chair, and saying, "Well, Karen...let's see how Matthew dumps Pam THIS week!"
denny 4 months ago
I hate to criticize, but that was so poorly written. It's Osmond, "6 The show went through many changed in the early stages." How about changes. "1. Then 18 months follow the shows cancelation" How about following or even after. Love the site but come on.
stephaniestavropoulos 4 months ago
FYI: For those of you who already knew, but forgot that you did, or those who are reading this for the first time: {from what I just iscovered,} 3 years ago TPOMS was rebooted. It struck me as odd to learn this. Becuase it seems to me, the majority of the shows that get rebooted, were on for more than one season.
If anyone's curious, I found it on You Tube while "channel surfing."
Actually the YouTube clip wasn’t a reboot of the show, they put the video together using clips from the Supergirl TV show.
TVFF 4 months ago
I plan to check it out. Can't remember if I ever saw it back in '82.
SashaPayneDiaz 4 months ago
I never even heard of this show.
Until recently I hadn't either but I was overseas in 82.
stephaniestavropoulos 4 months ago
Music shows have done episodes about one-hit wonders, METV [or any retro station for that matter,] should showcase/set aside a day where all that's aired are one-season wonders. There seems to be a # of them to make this happen. Heck, {pardon my French!} there might be enough O-S-W's to devote an entire station to them!
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DJS3 VagueMan 4 months ago
You're in luck if you have a Roku device! You'll need to search for and install the "Area 52" channel to watch it. It is listed as "Salvage" in the channel's listing, but it is indeed "Salvage 1." The channel describes it as "Pilot for a TV series starring Andy Griffith, a junk dealer who builds an independent spacecraft to go to the moon and bring back the junk the Apollo missions left there. 1 Hour 35 Minutes - Rated G - 1979." I just found it a few months ago and was very happy I did. It seems to be transfered from a home VHS copy, so the quality is a bit fuzzy, but I didn't seem to notice once Andy started talking, which is in the first 2 minutes. I didn't know of the show when originally aired, so it was new to me. After a little research, I've learned that more than just the pilot was produced, but only the pilot was show in the US. Along with the pilot, the other episodes were shown in the UK, so it is possible someone was recording while watching them on their telly, so they may make it to the light of day someday. By the way, the first person who has the capacity to capture and/or mine an asteroid for its resources will be the world's first trillionaire. Research shows there are some that contain enough raw gold, uranium, platinum, or even Element 115 to wipe out the US's debt, and still have enough to buy another smaller country. Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos didn't start SpaceX and Blue Origin just because they were bored one day.
If you're a fan of Super train, you might want to check out a new show that just came out on TNT called "Snowpiercer." It's Science Fiction and not at all like Supertrain was trying to be "Hotel on rails." I won't give away all the show in case you want to watch it, but it does star Jennifer Connelly, and that is reason enough for me to watch.
VagueMan DJS3 4 months ago
I do have memories watching this more than just once with my Dad back in the day, so I feel like more than just the pilot aired in the US.
Tim DJS3 4 months ago
You remember correctly VagueMan. There were 20 episodes produced, 16 of which aired on ABC. The final four episodes aired on cable's The Nostalgia Channel in the 90's.
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