They made thirteen episodes in the third season of Land of the Lost. Three of them are absolutely brain-hammeringly godawful. This is one of those three.
For those stumbling through, this is the episode in which the gigantic Richard Kiel, who’d later battle Roger Moore in a couple of James Bond movies, plays a loudmouthed “cro-magnon” and battles the Sleestak. Since their leader now speaks English, we now suffer the indignity of watching the baddie plea for mercy because the caveman has diverted a river(!) to flood their egg chamber. You want to know how to instantly remove all the menace from a villain? Make them grovel. For two seasons, the Sleestak were the greatest monsters of all American television. You could scarcely communicate with them and only make bargains if somebody interceded on your behalf. You didn’t know what they wanted, they just made horrible hissing noises and leapt at you from shadows. And now this. This episode should never, ever have been made. It cheapened everything done in the first two seasons.
So I’ll talk about something different.
Back in the VHS trading days, season three of this show was incredibly difficult to source. It was something that nobody owned but many people had on their wants list. CBS had shown most of, or possibly all of, seasons one and two in 1985 and 1987, so those were out there, but finding season three meant finding somebody who had taped it on the syndicated Krofft Super Stars package between 1979 and 1983 or so.
So there was this one guy who finally landed a set. This guy was everything bad about tape traders. He parlayed his collection into this magazine that was nothing but episode guides on the cheapest newsprint available, his plot descriptions plagiarized shamelessly from old issues of Files Magazine and Time Screen. I started buying them from the dollar boxes at Titan when he started adding these long, paranoid, hilarious editorials about how various interns were screwing him over, and how the massive economic recession that Bill Clinton created to personally destroy his publishing empire meant that his magazine wasn’t selling what it used to, and how the Sci-Fi Channel was ruining his life by (a) putting that little planet logo in the bottom corner of the screen and (b) not purchasing the Mel Brooks sitcom When Things Were Rotten.
Well, his whining about the Sci-Fi Channel must have come later, because my friend Mike finally worked out a deal for the third season of Land of the Lost from this guy, and of course Mike had to pay hand over fist for them, because that’s what kind of trader this guy was. Mike probably had to send the guy nine or twelve blank tapes in exchange for three with the episodes, and if he had to include a small monetary donation for “wear and tear” on that guy’s VCRs, I would not have been at all surprised.
So he got these in on a Thursday and I came back to my parents’ house from Athens the next day, and that is what we did Friday night: we watched all thirteen episodes of season three, and I think that about the time this episode ended, I must have put my head in my hands because I could barely make it through this turkey and yet I was pretty sure that at least one episode coming up was even worse. (It is.)
About a year later, the Sci-Fi Channel started running edited copies of this (and Stingray and Captain Scarlet) on a morning block called “Sci-Fi Cartoon Quest.” We could finally get off-air copies, but these fourth- or fifth-generation copies we got from the trader were still handy. I was so annoyed by the edits that I reconstructed the episodes, dropping in the chunks that the Sci-Fi Channel cut. What really annoyed me was that the episodes weren’t being cut for commercials, they were being cut for these dimwit twenty second bumpers in which three models wander around a post-apocalyptic music video set in silly costumes chasing a little Sci-Fi Channel logo.
As tedious as “Survival Kit” is, it’s not half as tedious as watching it side-by-side on two monitors looking for cut footage. I can promise you that.