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Who wrote this story and what was the name of the film?

The generations of people "on board" think it's a planet. The stars have always been moving, no-one questions this. They have a leader - a special messiah type person who is chosen by each generation. The Leader is the only one with access to "The Book" - a collection of "scriptures" or rules by which the population are controlled. The population follow these rules to the letter and and transgression is severely punished. They never question anything or think for themselves. But the Book holds the secret which must never be told to anyone except to the next chosen leader.

A young popular candidate comes to the fore and is proposed to become the next leader. However, he manages to get a glimpse of the information the Book contains, and realises they are not on a planet, but a travelling space-ship. He tries to tell the population the truth and is sentenced to death, but then the stars stop.

The population panic, and in the chaos the ship's automated system kicks in and tannoys (broadcast speakers) give instructions to leave the ship - they have arrived at a planet sustainable for human life - they walk out in wonder and begin a new life.

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    We have a few cases that match this. Let me dig up a few for you. When someone posts an answer that you think is correct, you can accept it by clicking on the checkmark by the voting buttons. – FuzzyBoots Dec 22 '18 at 14:25
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    Hmm... I'd swear I knew of more of these. Do you remember if this was a theatrical release, or seen on TV? – FuzzyBoots Dec 22 '18 at 14:50
  • Thanks for the suggestions so far. They are close but sadly not correct. Keep looking for me, I have been searching for years! – Irene Woodhead Dec 24 '18 at 3:02
  • Alright. We have some prompts at scifi.stackexchange.com/tags/story-identification/info. Can I get you to go through those and see if any more details come to mind? Also, if there are reasons you can rule out the answers ("Well, it couldn't be that one, because I remember the protagonist was Asian and had a dog."), please share. :) – FuzzyBoots Dec 24 '18 at 3:07
  • My description of the film is pretty accurate. There is a book which holds instructions for the chosen leader of the time to follow if the stars stopped. This is actually how to operate the ship and open the doors after landing on the new planet. There's no skeletal remains or collision course. No automated lifeboat or muties in my memory of the story. But similar to both films. – Irene Woodhead Dec 24 '18 at 4:44
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Running parallel to my other answer, The Starlost could be the "film" you're referring to. It's a 1970s 16 episode TV series involving a boy from an agrarian society who learns the truth of the elders, that they're on a generation ship.

In 2790, four hundred and five years after the accident, Devon (Keir Dullea) a resident of Cypress Corners, an agrarian community with a culture resembling that of the Amish, discovers that his world is far larger and more mysterious than he had realized. Considered an outcast because of his questioning of the way things are, especially his refusal to accept the arranged marriage of his love Rachel (Gay Rowan) to his friend Garth (Robin Ward), Devon finds the Cypress Corners elders have been deliberately manipulating the local computer terminal, which they call "The Voice of The Creator". The congregation pursues Devon for attacking the elders and stealing a computer cassette on which they have recorded their orders, and its leaders plot to execute him, but the elderly Abraham, who also questions the elders, gives Devon a key to a dark, mysterious doorway, which Abraham himself is afraid to enter. The frightened Devon escapes into the service areas of the ship and accesses a computer data station that explains the nature and purpose of the Ark and hints at its problems.

When Devon returns to Cypress Corners to tell his community what he has learned, he is put on trial for heresy and condemned to death by stoning. Escaping on the night before his execution with the aid of Garth, Devon convinces Rachel to come with him, and Garth pursues them. When Rachel refuses to return with Garth, he joins her and Devon.

Eventually they make their way to the ship's bridge, containing the skeletal remains of its crew. It is badly damaged and its control systems are inoperative. The three discover that the Ark is on a collision course with a Class G star similar to the Sun, and realize that the only way to save The Ark and its passengers is to find the backup bridge and reactivate the navigation and propulsion systems. Occasionally, they are aided by the ship's partially functioning computer system.

The catch here is that they don't credit the plot to a piece of literature (although Harlan Ellison initially wrote for it, and eventually published Phoenix Without Ashes, which was a novelization of the show). Also, neither the arc of the series nor the 1980 TV movie, The Starlost: The Beginning (consisting of the first three episodes), seem to follow exactly the plot arc you describe.

Here are the opening titles:

And, potentially of interest, the pitch film:

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    According to wikipedia, the script was novelised as Phoenix Without Ashes – cryptarch Dec 22 '18 at 20:32
  • @cryptarch: Added. – FuzzyBoots Dec 23 '18 at 13:39
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Could it be Robert Heinlein's Orphans of the Sky?

The gigantic, cylindrical generation ship Vanguard, originally destined for "Far Centaurus", is cruising without guidance through the interstellar medium as a result of a long-ago mutiny that killed most of the officers. Over time, the descendants of the surviving loyal crew have forgotten the purpose and nature of their ship and lapsed into a pre-technological culture marked by superstition. They come to believe the "Ship" is the entire universe, so that "To move the ship" is considered an oxymoron, and references to the Ship's "voyage" are interpreted as religious metaphor. They are ruled by an oligarchy of "officers" and "scientists". Most crew members are simple illiterate farmers, seldom or never venturing to the "upper decks" where the "muties" (an abbreviation of "mutants" or "mutineers") dwell. Among the crew, all identifiable mutants are killed at birth.

The story centers upon a young man of insatiable curiosity, Hugh Hoyland, who is selected as an apprentice by a scientist. The scientists ritualistically perform the tasks required to maintain the Ship (such as putting trash into its energy-converter to generate power) while remaining ignorant of their true functions.

....

But then things go wrong. Narby never believed Hugh and was only playing along as a means to gain power. Once in control, he treacherously sets out to eliminate the muties. Joe is killed in the fighting. Jim sacrifices himself to hold off their pursuers long enough for Hugh, Bill, Alan and their wives to get to a highly automated lifeboat. Hugh manages to land on the habitable moon of a gas giant. The colonists disembark to uneasily explore their alien surroundings.

I don't see any TV adaptations, although there was a radio adaptation, and there were similar episodes on Star Trek and Space: 1999, albeit from an outsider perspective.

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  • Thanks for the suggestions so far. They are close but sadly not correct. Keep looking for me, I have been searching for years! – Irene Woodhead Dec 24 '18 at 3:04
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Can it be Clifford D. Simak’s short story “Spacebred Generations” ? It has many points in common with the question, a generation ship, young protagonist, secret or even sacred book with the knowledge, "stars stop" at the end, when the ship arrives at the destination.

The Book, he thought—the Book will tell what destination is.

With shaking hands he hauled the Book out of the drawer and opened it to D and followed down the columns with an unsteady finger, desquamative, dessert, destinate, destination

Destination (n) The place set for the end of a journey, or to which something is sent; a place or point aimed at.

The Ship had a destination.

The Ship was going somewhere.

The day would come when it would reach the place that it was going.

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  • Because it has many points in common with the question, though it was a while since I read that book, to be fair - Generation ship, young protagonist, secret or even sacred book with the knowledge, "stars stop" at the end, when the ship arrives at the destination. – demp Nov 8 '19 at 0:05
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    If you edit that into your answer, it would increase its quality. – Valorum Nov 8 '19 at 0:11

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