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The Bionic Woman 3.7 – Motorcycle Boogie

Bigfoot wasn’t the only major seventies icon to appear on the bionic shows. Evel Knievel, the idol of every under-twelve in that decade who ever aspired to pop a wheelie on their bike, got to play himself and brought along some 16mm stunt footage of him jumping thirty-odd junk cars. He gets to dodge bullets and rockets, although the great big super-jump in the end is done with edits and trick photography, sadly. For those of you who like other familiar faces and places from the seventies, Spencer Milligan plays an East German agent and the Rose Bowl pretends to be a stadium in West Berlin.

Our son tried to be all cool and say that this was only kind of exciting and kind of weird, but we know better. He was in seventh heaven, of course, incredibly thrilled and happy with the story. There were motorcycles and explosions and a very straightforward, simple, and easy-to-follow story by James D. Parriott and Kenneth Johnson. It’s a light and silly adventure, along the comedic lines of the previous year’s “Black Magic.”

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The Bionic Woman 1.11 – Fly Jaime

I selected the episodes of the bionic series that we’d watch quite some time ago. I chose the ones with the big-name villains, and the ones with interesting guest stars. Spencer Milligan, Vito Scotti, and Christopher George are in this one. I didn’t pay attention to what the stories were actually about.

But I’m glad I picked this one for the novelty. It’s a remake of Mann Rubin’s story from the first season of Six, “Survival of the Fittest,” only with Jaime and Rudy Wells in trouble, and not Steve and Oscar. They even have the medical student who needs redemption, a wound that needs cauterizing via the wires in a bionic finger, and the producers hired the same three actors for the airplane’s crew so that they could reuse some footage of them bouncing around a cockpit and shouting “Mayday!” About the only thing new to this story is Scotti’s character, a swooning romantic fool named Romero who’s besotted with Jaime.

Marie had a late day and came home about six minutes before the end of the story. “Didn’t we watch this story just a few months ago with different characters?” she asked. If he noticed, our son didn’t say a word. He was thrilled by the plane crash and scared of the snake as though they were brand new problems.

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Logan’s Run 1.9 – The Judas Goat

I wasn’t very interested in the previous episode of Logan’s Run while our son enjoyed it, and tonight’s was one that I quite liked while he grumbled “This is the wrong episode for me.” He wasn’t interested in this at all. In it, the Sandmen use that face-change machine shown in the movie to give a Sandman the face of Hal 14, a dissident that Jessica knows, hoping that he can find Logan outside and persuade our heroes to return and become the figureheads of a (non-existent) rebellion.

But things get complicated in a very unexpected way. Logan, Jessica, and Rem are considering returning to the City of Domes when they get captured by the very first known runner to escape, a guy named Matthew. He has enslaved a small group of simple farmers who see him as their provider, and guard his complex in exchange for a daily hour of computer-controlled “joy.” It’s a complex and clever story with a couple of satisfying twists by John Meredyth Lucas, who had written a few episodes of Star Trek, Mannix, and The Six Million Dollar Man.

The most interesting bit for me, however, was the casting. The Sandman wearing Hal 14’s face is Nicholas Hammond, who was occasionally appearing in CBS’s Amazing Spider-Man specials at this time, and the lead slave, Garth, is played by Spencer Milligan, who had left Land of the Lost a couple of years before. So here’s a rare picture of three seventies sci-fi leading men all in the same TV episode!

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Land of the Lost 2.13 – Blackout

If the previous two episodes were horrifying because of their alien strangeness and lack of answers, then this one is a more conventional creepy, with a pretty epic battle against the Sleestak. They apparently figured that if a malfunction in a pylon earlier in the season would keep the sun from going down, then some deliberate sabotage would keep the sun from coming up. They had asked the Library of Skulls how to obtain “eternal night,” and the Skulls showed them precisely that. The Sleestak want it to be night to be able to hunt their moths – important for their eggs’ fertilization somehow – but the longer it’s dark, the colder it gets, killing all the moths.

This turned out to be Spencer Milligan’s last episode of the show, but he went out on a high note. It’s written by Dick Morgan and Donald F. Glut – and I’m pretty sure that everybody in the United States who was under the age of twelve in 1980 owned a copy of Glut’s Empire Strikes Back novelization, which was a whole lot better than Mel Cebulash’s Love Bug novelization – and directed by Bob Lally, who did an amazing job making those three Sleestak costumes look like dozens this time out. Turning down the studio lights to represent darkness worked pretty darn well, too.

So that was it! That was all the Land of the Lost they made. It was more than just a great show, it was absolutely the best of its genre, but it ended after thirty episodes, and that’s all there is of that, yes.

No. No, that’s not true at all. I’m lying. There’s more to come. I’m sorry. There’s more.

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Land of the Lost 2.12 – Split Personality

This episode is horrifying. It’s completely amazing and it’s completely horrifying. I can’t imagine anything like it being shown on kids’ TV today. We can make some pretty good guesses about what happened, but, like last week’s episode, we don’t get any kind of definitive answer. But this time, unlike “The Musician,” it’s not just the unknown alien nature of the situation that’s frightening, it’s the amazing acting job that Kathy Coleman pulls off.

What seems to happen – and this is the most obvious explanation, built on the assumption of decades of media fantasy and SF, but by no means the only one – is that another Marshall family in another universe met a horrifying accident. They attempted a way home just as an earthquake hit, a quake so powerful that, with a time doorway open, it merged their Land of the Lost with ours.

In the mid-1980s, there was a popular computer game called Wizardry, the only one of its genre I ever played. If you cast your teleportation spell wrong, then you and your party would be trapped in rock. I swear the game’s writers got that from this episode. See, the “other” Holly, fading in and out of our reality, begs them for help, using our Holly as an anchor to speak, and leave mixed memories. Our Holly explains that she’s inside the rocks, and the rocks are inside her. And then there’s that image. The merging of dimensions is so scrambled that their floor becomes our wall.

But between those two moments, there’s one of the most shocking scenes in the entire series. Our Holly won’t go in the cave, slowly panicking, tears running down her face as the other Holly’s memories fade. “I’m losing her, Daddy, I’m losing her…” The implication is obvious: the other Holly has died of her injuries. You might could read that another way – after all, the beauty of this episode is that we are not given specific answers – but I can’t, not with Coleman’s stunning acting. It’s a heartbreaking moment.

Daniel was so scared by this episode he refused to acknowledge liking anything about it except Grumpy falling into a crevasse when the earthquake hits. Just about anything can be forgiven when a tyrannosaurus falls in a hole, I guess. I didn’t get the chance to ask him what he thought about the other Holly trying to explain that they should not trust the black Sleestak.

It’s natural to want answers, and to think that maybe had Dick Morgan stayed with the show into the next season, we’d learn more about the Zarn (and have him meet Enik!), and the Builder, and the black Sleestak, but another part of me kind of enjoys how, like the Marshalls, we never got those answers. All we can do is speculate in the dark.

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Land of the Lost 2.8 – The Pylon Express

I remembered this one as a very fun episode, without anything that would shock our son too badly. Wrong!

It turns out that every few years, the moons will line up in a certain order several times over the course of a few nights, opening time doorways inside a locked, key-less pylon, and dumping things into the Land. Ta has taken advantage of this, and leads the Pakuni in a ritual dance as though he opens it. He also quickly realizes this is a chance to get rid of the humans and get all their stuff, too. Holly spends several worried hours with her brother and father missing before Ta agrees to “open” the door for her as well. They return right behind her and we see, from her perspective, the bizarre journey across time and space until she can get back as well.

This was Theodore Sturgeon’s only script for the series, although his associate Wina had written a season one episode under her professional name of Wina Sturgeon. Since the journey is a real tax on the show’s meager resources, even with a lot of cut corners, more than two-thirds of the episode is in the Land, with Holly trying to get the Pakuni to explain what happened, and where they got a shopping cart full of groceries. Daniel loved all this business, as well as the only dinosaur moment of the episode, when the baby allosaurus, Junior, stops by for some squeaks.

The trip is just kind of curious and odd. One of the stops is apparently ancient Altrusia, with a beautiful (drawn) depiction of the Lost City before the civilization crumbled, and Daniel said later that he really liked that. Then Holly gets a strange fellow passenger – the robot box shown above – and then we see an alternate version of the Land – it looks like they turned the greens of the jungle up to purple on the video desk, wild fringing and all – which has the words HOLLY DON’T written in the dirt. The robot box bounces out and is destroyed by an unseen force.

Then things fell apart. Holly only spends a few seconds on the next world, depicted by animation. It looks like a miles-long vacuum cleaner hose, emitting a horrible beeping noise, spots the pylon and investigates with a menacing red glare. Daniel was absolutely horrified. You can never tell! I didn’t think anything in this episode was all that troubling, but those ten seconds of animation, and Kathy Coleman’s shocked reaction to the cleaner robot, sold the scene as much scarier to kids than I remembered. He confessed later that he really liked this episode except for the giant robot vacuum. I assured him it wouldn’t return.

Suddenly it’s a shame that it didn’t…

Oh, yeah, and the words HOLLY DON’T…? Rick and Will didn’t write them. So who did? Hmmmmmm…

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Land of the Lost 2.7 – The Longest Day

Forty years on, and it remains absolutely astonishing that “The Longest Day” was broadcast on Saturday mornings with the rest of the television for children. This is the episode where Rick inhales a roomful of Sleestak smoke in order to have a telepathic conference with the Sleestak leader, and has to come down via a boatload of freaky hallucinations. In these, his children recede into the distance, they become cavemen, and Kathy Coleman briefly plays a young lass from the 1760s who will not be born “for two hundred years hence.” Will becomes a football player tackled by two ungainly fellows in green uniforms, and a weird swirly video effect makes a silent bargain with the human.

Joyce Perry’s script is obviously playing on a couple of archetype, folk notions. This story is effectively about climbing to the top of a mesa and ingesting your weight in peyote and mushrooms and communing with spirits in order to understand them and your enemies better. No, I’m somehow not surprised that something like this was made by Sid and Marty Krofft, but I am amazed that the snickering chuckleheads who insist that H.R. Pufnstuf stands for “Hand Rolled” aren’t watching this with their jaws on the floor, and I’m absolutely astonished that NBC broadcast it.

Naturally, this was unsettling and weird for Daniel; heck, it’s weird for everybody, but it’s really the visceral shocks of Sleestak jumping out from behind people in dark corridors that provided the real punches.

In an earlier entry, I mentioned that the Kroffts invested in some new sound effects and music and seem to have split the cost between this show and Far Out Space Nuts, which was made at the same time and shown on CBS. About half the aliens in that series spoke through some kind of vocoder or processor which must have sounded insanely weird in 1975, and in this episode, Walker Edmiston got to use it to play the disembodied voices of some of the ancestral skulls. We’ll be hearing more from them later.

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Land of the Lost 2.4 – One of Our Pylons is Missing

Here’s a great example of that wonderful phenomenon of “the memory cheats.” My recollection of this episode had been a completely amazing special effect sequence at the end, with the people and objects sucked down by the large red “power source” moving very believably, and much, much faster. Think of all the oddball objects spinning around at the end of the video for “And She Was” by Talking Heads. The reality is a little less impressive.

Bill Keenan’s script challenged the special effects team more than anything in the show before. We learn this time that in a clearing where there should be a pylon, there’s a “black hole” that occasionally opens and sucks things down below, where a glowing red ball of matter waits. It keeps everything it sucks in an orbit until it absorbs it, and then redistributes it into the Land as energy. The “floating in space while orbiting” effect is accomplished by having the actors sit awkwardly on a blue screen floor, the sort of oddball acting school exercise that was a long time in Spencer Milligan’s past.

Daniel was absolutely terrified by this episode, despite the absence of Grumpy, Spike, or Sleestak. “I just want to go wait in my room until this is over,” he whimpered, but he never did actually budge, just frozen in place waiting to see what would happen next.

Last time, we either had the Sleestak egg caves and nursery on Grumpy’s side of the chasm or the animators used the wrong dinosaur model. This time, they’re evidently exploring on Big Alice’s side, but they refer to the allosaurus model as “he” and the sound effects crew gives Alice the roar of Grumpy. Unless there is a male allosaurus on that side of the chasm as well…?

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