Land of the Lost 1.17 – Circle

It may be intensely silly to complain about a continuity error in a story about a time paradox, but it’s always bothered me that the Marshalls discover that the Sleestak have a dormant season in this episode, when they already knew about it four shows earlier and they watched that season come to an end when the underground lava pit rises. Yet this is clearly intended to be the series finale; kids shows never had “final episodes” back in these days, and nor was it all that common for live-action kid shows, particularly the incredibly expensive Sid and Marty Krofft shows, to get a second season. So Larry Niven and David Gerrold seem to have crossed their various drafts, originally intending this to appear much earlier in the season, but they realized it would make a fine finale.

It’s a bit heady, but basically Enik discovers that there are two sets of Marshalls: one made it into the Land and the other is trapped in a time loop on Earth. Nobody can leave through a time doorway – another sign that this was intended for earlier in the season, because Beau Jackson did just that in the previous episode – until it is resolved. Enik can manipulate a doorway to bring the alternate Marshalls into the Land, but will not; such interference is against his people’s code. So Rick Marshall does it, bringing the other family in so that his family can leave. There’s a little more to it than that, but there’s the gist.

So Marshall Family # 1 experienced the Land up through the events of “Circle” (wherever it actually fits in the show’s chronology, probably around episode 12) and went home. Marshall Family # 2 experienced the same events, skipped “Circle,” and continued onward, probably popping from Beau Jackson and “Hurricane” to the next episode that we’ll watch. Confused yet?

Don’t worry; kids can understand it. Daniel loved this episode and bravely insisted that he wasn’t scared. That’s actually not completely true, because he whimpered through all the Sleestak bits, and when one popped up out of nowhere to grab Spencer Milligan from behind, he leapt about three feet with a shout.

Sadly, this was the end of Gerrold and Niven’s tenure on Land of the Lost, and with them went most of the pipeline to all the Star Trek writers. But even without Gerrold’s guiding hand, season two still has a heck of a lot of great material in it, including what’s by far my favorite episode of the series. Gerrold went on to focus on writing some very good novels, but has occasionally dabbled in television. In 1989, I wrote him a fan letter and he kindly replied, noting that he and some associates had almost got to make a Return to the Land of the Lost series a few years previously. It’s a shame that program, whatever they planned, never happened. I am absolutely certain that it would have been superior to season three of this show, and hundreds of miles better than that diseased 1990s remake.

Land of the Lost 1.16 – Hurricane

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.

Land of the Lost 1.4 – Downstream

Further beefing up this program’s SF cred, Larry Niven scripted this episode. He’s another writer that Gerrold brought over from Filmation’s Star Trek cartoon from the previous season. Niven, who is better known for his novels and short stories than for television scripting, got the choice assignment of introducing the first big surprise to get dropped in the Marshall’s lap as they explore their world: there is no conventional way to leave the Land of the Lost. The river runs in a circle. This is a closed universe, a “locked door in space.”

From the swamp, the river goes out into a canyon before ducking underground into a series of caves, where it abruptly falls over a cliff as a waterfall. The Marshalls abandon their raft before the falls and meet an odd human who calls himself Jefferson Davis Collie III, who defends himself against Sleestak with an artillery cannon. He claims to have fought at Antietam, Bull Run, and Gettysburg, but is unaware how the Civil War ended, and has been mining crystals for what seems to be a few years. Collie returns to his cave at the end of the episode rather than deal with dinosaurs. While lonely, he’s happier eating fish and mushrooms – and the occasional Sleestak, which taste like lobster – than risking his life around Grumpy. Collie is played by Walker Edmiston, and we’ll see this actor again in a couple of weeks, although this is the best we see of what he actually looks like.

Daniel was slightly alarmed by the Sleestak in the caves, but thrilled by the explosions from Collie’s cannon, and by the first use of the crystals working together. I think they get the colors messed up in future episodes, but this time out, touching red and green together makes a blinding light that’s very painful to Sleestak, and adding a yellow creates a small explosion. But it’s the cannon blast that really surprised me; that’s a heck of an explosion to be setting off right behind a pair of tall sixteen year-old boys in green wetsuits. I’m going to assume their moms weren’t on the set when they taped that, because mine would have given Sid and Marty Krofft an earful.