I did promise our son that this episode was not a frightening one, but he sure pretended that it was, and found reasons to run and hide whenever possible, just because he enjoys the little rush. Even the reasonably harmless triceratops, Spike, had him making a dash for safety. About which, I’ve always wondered why the miniature unit shot that dinosaur in such a long shot. You know the one, they used it about five times, with the beast at the far end of a clearing, munching away, and making a sudden turn toward the camera as though something startled it.
This episode, written by Larry Niven and David Gerrold and directed by Bob Lally, sees a one-off visitor to the Land. Ron Masak, who would later have a major recurring role as Sheriff Metzger on Murder, She Wrote, plays Beauregard Jackson, a pilot from at least twenty years in the Marshalls’ future, who parachutes in from a glider, or possibly a Moonbase rocket, after Will opens a time doorway which slices off the back of Jackson’s ship.
The story includes another of the all-time freaky images of the show, as the characters use Jackson’s high-powered binoculars to look across the Land and see themselves from behind. It’s such a neat visual that it will make you forget that the mountaintop backdrop behind them has a great big vertical line running down the center of the sky, because it’s two separate panels badly aligned.
It also has fun with the reality of an open doorway from our world into the closed universe. Will opened the doorway into Earth’s upper atmosphere, where the wind is traveling much, much faster than the calm breeze of the Land. Interestingly, the skylons appear and try to tell the humans how to correct the weather, but their instructions don’t fix anything; the wind that is coming in is unnatural, and the force growing. I’m intrigued that the pylon used in this story can manipulate both weather and time doorways, and also that the pylon and one of the skylons are actually swallowed by the doorway, where, presumably, they plummeted into the ground or the ocean from several miles in the sky and were smashed to pieces.
Also of note: Jackson flat out says that the pylon is “bigger on the inside than the outside,” which is exactly what everybody says when they first step into Doctor Who‘s TARDIS. Now, at the time this was made, only thirteen of Jon Pertwee’s first fourteen Doctor Who serials had been offered for sale in the United States, and Jo Grant does indeed use that line in part one of “Colony in Space,” but only sixteen markets in the country ever picked up the package over the four years it was offered, and KCET in Los Angeles didn’t start airing it until 1975. While it is technically possible that Niven or Gerrold could have seen the concept and description in Who, it’s more likely that this is a delightful little coincidence.