The Powers of Matthew Star

The Powers of Matthew Star was a show that aired on NBC from September 17, 1982 to April 8, 1983. It starred Peter Barton (Friday the 13th The Final Chapter, Burke’s Law, Sunset Beach) as the title character of alien prince Matthew ‘E’Hawke’ Star of the planet Quadris.  Also starring in this show were Amy Steel (Friday the 13th Part 2, For Love and Honor) as Matthew’s girlfriend at Crestridge High Pam Elliot, and Louis Gossett Jr. (Iron Eagle, Roots, Stargate SG-1) as Matthew’s guardian Walt ‘D’hai’ Shepherd, charged by Matthew’s father to protect his son until such time as Matthew’s powers were at a level that they were developed enough so that he could return to Quadris and liberate it from the alien armada that conquered it for reasons of their own.

The show was created by Steven E. De Souza, and was executive produced by Daniel Wilson, Harve Bennett (Star Trek’s II-V), and Bruce Lansbury (well known for many series produced in the 80’s).  It also boasted of an episode directed by Leonard (Spock) Nimoy called ‘Triangle’ and an episode written by Walter (Pavel Checkov, Alfred Bester) Koenig called ‘Mother’.  It also should be noted that both Peter Barton and Amy Steel beat out actors Tom Cruise and Heather Locklear for the roles of Matthew Star and Pam Elliot, respectively.  So there has been some star power (no pun intended), connected with this show.

The pilot episode was made back in 1981 under the title ‘The Powers of David Star’ with Barton playing the role of ‘David’ instead of ‘Matthew’.  Amy Steel was still Pam Elliot, but the role of guardian went to a janitor named ‘Max’ played by Gerald S. O’Laughlin.  David for the most part was unaware of his origins, despite having a strange dream at the beginning of the episode.  He then starts showing strange abilities like being able to read the thoughts of Pam’s parents (thoughts best left alone), glowing blue when he kisses Pam (a glow that might have enveloped Pam as well if David didn’t break away), and changing scores on video games.

We find there’s more to Max than meets the eye.  He has strange equipment in his attic and the hand he keeps gloved hides a cybernetic implant.  Add to David’s worries is a government agent (played by Dick Anthony) who is determined to find out what secret David Star is hiding.  Something David would look to find out if the original pilot had continued.

While NBC liked the show they thought changes should have been made.  And they were.  “David” Star was changed to “Matthew” Star.  Max was replaced by Walt Shepherd.  Matthew knows who he is, where he’s from and a bit of what he can do.  The FBI agent from the original pilot was replaced by an Air Force General named F.J. Tucker who finds out about Matthew and Walt.  Walt tells Tucker of the purpose of Matthew being on Earth, and in exchange for his silence Tucker asks to have dinner with Walt.  Tucker however would call on Matt’s help once for a government mission in exchange for keeping Matt’s secret.  Pam Elliot and Crestridge were the only things from the original pilot to carry over, other than a part of the script that called for a bus accident.  When the second pilot had its ‘accident’ in the story stock footage from the first pilot was used.

Production was originally scheduled to begin for a 1981 debut, but production was delayed when Barton fell backwards on some pyrotechnics involved in a scene.  Barton was badly burned and spent months in the hospital.  When he was released, production resumed.

In the new pilot, it is revealed that Matthew is really a Prince named E’Hawke from the planet Quadris, known on Earth as “Tal-Ceti IV”.  He was sent to Earth by his parents, King E’Tain and Queen Nadra, because an armada of marauders attacked the planet.  It is the hope of the royal family that Matthew will return to Quadris with his powers fully developed, and lead his people to victory against the Marauders (whose species name remains unrevealed).  Watching over the young prince, and training him in the art of his power is D’Hai, the best friend of the king.

Throughout the prince’s life he is moved around trying to stay one step ahead of their enemies.  Their travel path took them from New York to Connecticut to Wisconsin to Philadelphia to Idaho until finally they decide to stand their ground in Crestridge against the latest assassins.  D’Hai (who takes the name “Walt Shepherd”) tells General Tucker that during the fourth cycle of the Quadrian year 8312 a ship would come to take Matt and Walt home to fight the Marauders (we don’t know though how long this would be in terms of Earth years, though).

We also find out that the royal family possesses great powers.  Those powers appear to range from telepathy to telekinesis, to being able to talk to dolphins, to transmutation, to astral projection, to psi bolts.  It is presumed that Matthew was born with these powers, but whether they can be passed on to someone, like when a member of the royal family wants to wed, remains unknown.

We know very little of Quadris as well.  Viewers never see the planet, except in the opening montage where the marauders attack it from space and it is bombarded.  But Walt once talks about Matt’s father climbing a mountain on Quadris once.  Walt also mentions that the technology of Quadris is a thousand years ahead of Earth.  And we see a symbol called a Kashat that is the Quadrian version of the cross.  It is to this symbol that Matthew takes the Quadrian Creed of Kings when he finds out that his father was killed in a public execution, and takes up the mantle of the future King of Quadris.  It is also revealed that humans can live on Quadris, implying that Matthew may one day wish to take Pam there.

While the royal family may have the most remarkable powers, other Quadrians may have powers of their own.  The two that presided over Matthew’s coronation in the cave (played by Julie Newmar and Jeff Corey) had power to cast powerful illusions in an effort to test Matthew when he went with Pam to find her uncle in the episode ‘Triangle’.  Quadrians may also have the ability to delay death, if the two Quadrians in the episode ‘Triangle’ are any indication.  But it is very painful of them to do so apparently.

Sad to say these two episodes, ‘Triangle’ and ‘Mother’ (where Matthew’s mother Nadra is found alive, but dying) come out to be the best ones of the first half of the season.  The rest of the season dealt with Tucker’s mission, talking to a dolphin, a girl developing her own powers of premonition, a student discovering a new paint that explodes.  It was like the first few episodes had the show trying to determine what it was going to be.  Was it a coming of age story?  A teen fluff story?  Aliens as government agents?  A prince trying to find his destiny and hope to free his people?  As people tried to find out what ‘Matthew Star’ was supposed to be ratings were going down.

And when they decided what that answer would be for the second half of the season it turned out to be the wrong decision.

For the second half of the season the producers decided to have Matthew and Walt go down the path of being government agents.  When General Tucker is mysteriously reassigned to Greenland, Major General Wendell Wymore (played by James Karen) takes their case and uses them to the fullest potential possible.  Pam was gone from the second half, and with the exception of two episodes, Matthew’s high school life is all but forgotten as well as the mission to one day free Quadris.

But if ratings for the first half of the season were bad, they hit rock bottom in the second.  The premise of aliens working for the government seemed ridiculous to some.  And James Karen’s character did not come off as endearing.  Despite all his powers Matthew couldn’t save himself from cancellation.  The show ended ironically with the first pilot with Barton as ‘David Star’ being the final episode.

Like many Sci-Fi shows, Matthew Star had the potential to be greater than it was.  Unfortunately, that was not the case.  Perhaps if it took another path it would have been.

Written by JSC1

The Tombs of Kobol thanks Sierra and Dedra at The Powers of Matthew Star Yahoo Group, The Peter Barton Tribute Site, and this Powers of Matthew Star site for their invaluable assistance and for use of the images on this page.