Land of the Lost 1.9 – The Hole

Addressing some of the production stuff first, this episode is Dennis Steinmetz’s first one back as director, and the three done by Bob Lally just kicked everything into high gear. There’s a sense of urgency and desperation in this one that’s really lacking from the first five episodes, and I still think that tiny bit of Grumpy killing another dinosaur last time had brilliant, long-term effect, as I’ll get to.

The script is credited to Wina Sturgeon, a journalist who was for many years writer Theodore Sturgeon’s girlfriend, although the two never married and she only used his name professionally on this single teleplay, according to imdb. Born Wina Golden, she was nevertheless identified as Sturgeon’s wife in some accounts, such as this one. Theodore himself had written a couple of episodes of Star Trek, unsurprisingly, and would contribute a script for season two.

Finally, this episode introduces the second group of Sleestak actors: Scott Fullerton, Jack Tingley, and Mike Westra. My own pet theory is that they shot the first eight episodes in the summer before school started, and the first three actors, who were all basketball-playing high schoolers, needed to head back to class!

So this is the story where some more answers are provided. Rick Marshall gets thrown into the Sleestak pit, where he meets an intelligent Sleestak called S’Latch, who’d been thrown down himself just shortly before. S’Latch, who can speak English, explains that his people are not completely belligerent brutes, but incredibly afraid and territorial. They don’t understand much of their world, and none of its history, but every few years a “freak” like S’Latch is born who possesses some race memory of ancient Altrusia, and who urges his people to not be violent and impatient. Every time one of these “freaks” are born, the others eventually get sick of his loud mouth and throw him in the pit to be eaten.

Reading between the lines, S’Latch explains that his people do possess enough language understanding to know the names of these humans, but they don’t care. They’re familiar with humans because some have been to the land before. Some have died and some have vanished. The convenience of English has to be handwaved away; I was reminded of how the early seasons of Stargate SG-1 gave careful consideration to the difficulty of translation, but by the time they made Atlantis, the producers just said screw it, everybody talks like we do.

I mentioned the urgency of this episode, and it did quite a number on Daniel. It actually opens with Will and Rick outside the Lost City about to get roared at by Big Alice, so it doesn’t even have the setup of coziness before we’re avoiding dinosaurs and getting chased through tunnels by Sleestak. When Will runs out for help, Big Alice lunges at him from out of nowhere and Daniel leapt straight off the sofa and spent most of the episode hiding behind it. Some playful scenes at High Bluff with Holly and Dopey lulled him into a false sense of security before Grumpy begins menacing them and the unseen Sleestak god-beast continues punctuating Rick and S’Latch’s conversation with its own hideous roars.

Breathless at the end of this installment, he pronounced “I REALLY liked that!” Almost an hour later, he still hasn’t come down from the adrenaline high.

Land of the Lost 1.2 – The Sleestak God

Our son was so brave tonight. I convinced myself some time ago that we’d have problems with this episode, but he handled it almost stoically, blanket held tightly, biting his lip. About twenty seconds before the Sleestak emerged from their hiding places, he was worried for a completely different reason: “They’re lost!”

Then the bad boys of Saturday morning showed up. “WHAT ARE THOSE?!” Daniel demanded, retreating to Mommy’s lap.

The original three Sleestak, incidentally, were all basketball players who went on to pro careers. John Lambert played for UCLA, and David Greenwood and Bill Laimbeer were still in high school, but were each close to seven feet tall, ideal for great big ungainly green monsters. Playing for Detroit some years later, Laimbeer was probably even meaner to his opponents than he was in his Sleestak costume on set.

You know, this show kind of has a reputation, mostly deserved, for being sort of rudimentary in direction. But the climactic scene of Rick and Cha-Ka rescuing Will and Holly from the Sleestak has a pretty amazing sense of urgency. Dennis Steinmetz directed this, and about half of season one overall, and despite a tiny continuity flaw that happens when the nearly-extinguished torch that Rick is carrying in the tunnel becomes a roaring, flaming threat when he enters the sacrifice room, the sequence is really amazing, with lots of quick cuts and close-ups of the looming monsters.

The other thing I noticed: Kathy Coleman spends much of season one being really annoying when she’s whining. But on the other hand, watch this with a kid. The whimpering really emphasizes how much trouble they’re in, and kept our four year-old riveted and electrified.