Tag Archives: walker edmiston

Shazam! 3.1 – The Contest

So now we’re in 1976, and Shazam! has started its third season, this time with six new episodes and no cast upheavals in the middle of production. CBS continued promoting this and its companion show as The Shazam! / Isis Hour, a standard Saturday morning trick to fool the kids into sticking around on the channel they were on just a little bit longer. This season, though, it honestly made sense as the stars would be crossing over into each other’s episodes more often. Filmation kind of threw a little thanks toward their stars for coming back for such abbreviated runs by giving their lead actors guest star parts on the other shows twice each.

Speaking of stars, the notable guest this time out is Walker Edmiston, whom we all know as Enik from Land of the Lost, playing the owner of a motorcycle shop. It’s a rule of the blog that whenever we spot Edmiston, we include a screencap, so here he is.

Daniel enjoyed the episode, although – and I didn’t tell him anything about any forthcoming crossovers that we’ll see in the next few weeks – he was curious where Isis was. At the end of the story, the villain, who was played by David Crosby lookalike Dennis Olivieri, tries escaping with a stolen gyroscope macguffin on a speedboat. Since a few days ago, we saw Isis and Captain Marvel teaming up for a water-based rescue, he just figured they’d get together again this time. Very close, but not quite!

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Land of the Lost 3.12 – Scarab

If you ever want a perfect example of a middle-of-the-road “just okay” episode of Land of the Lost season three, this’ll do. It’s perfectly exciting for kids – ours was practically hopping up and down – and has lots of dinosaurs, and the central mystery of “why is Cha-Ka acting awful” is perfectly directed at five year-olds, who won’t figure it out instantly. It has the requisite spooky caves and danger, with the Sleestak Leader giving clearly understandable threats and villainy. It’s all perfectly adequate kidvid, in other words. Daniel was excited and worried, which is exactly how this should be.

From grownup eyes, there are plot problems (everything about Enik’s knowledge of ancient Egyptian magic bugs), production problems (it wasn’t just a fumble in the title sequence; the Grumpy puppet evidently didn’t survive between seasons) and direction problems (once again, somebody has the Sleestak actors try to run, which they simply cannot do in those costumes). It’s succeeding as entertainment exclusively with kids, which wasn’t how this should be.

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Land of the Lost 3.11 – Ancient Guardian

Well, here’s a pleasant surprise. This episode is markedly better than I remembered it. I’d place it in that top tier with “After-Shock,” “Cornered,” and “Timestop.” Weirdly, this is another one of the better episodes of year three that ends with Wesley Eure lip-synching one of his bubblegum songs. You’d think that sort of thing would lower the installment a notch or two, but no, it’s really not bad, and better than the average.

I love that it just dumps more information and half-explained material into the story, including a new area that they’ve never visited. Most unusually, the episode opens with the Marshalls being pursued by some unseen tree-climbing creatures that are throwing things at them. These beasts, whatever they are, are never mentioned again.

The ancient guardian of the title is a statue with a heat ray inside. It has been protecting the valley from an incredibly long-lived hairy beast called Kona for many, many years by keeping the rocks and air in the only passage from a high mountain area super-heated.

It’s clunky, and during one dopey moment where Jack concludes that some algebraic equations on the statue have to do with optics, obnoxiously so. It’s directed with absolutely no grace or style by Joe Scanlan, who has to once again lower the Sleestaks’ threat level by having them flee, awkwardly, in terror from Kona rather than fighting to the death. It’s written by Peter Germano, and 90% of his resume prior to this was westerns and not SF, but somehow it all just about works, and there’s a sense of weirdness and urgency that raises the episode above the low average for the season.

Incidentally, some money was clearly saved this week by having the Tapa costume from “Abominable Snowman” dyed and sent back for a different actor to wear. Last time, Jon Locke, who normally played the bombastic Sleestak Leader, wore the suit, but this time, Locke has to appear in some of the same scenes as the beast, so Mickey Morton plays Kona. Morton, who was a really big guy, would later play Solomon Grundy in Legends of the Superheroes and one of Chewbacca’s relatives in The Star Wars Holiday Special. He’d earlier worked for the Kroffts on two episodes of Far Out Space Nuts, and in a Wonderbug installment that was probably made within a month or so of this. The first commercial break came with the hairy monster casting a shadow on the Marshalls’ temple door, which gave Daniel a solid little fright. He really enjoyed this episode, especially since both Grumpy and Spike put in brief appearances.

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Land of the Lost 3.10 – Timestop

From the ridiculous to the (almost) sublime, “Timestop” is by leagues the best episode of Land of the Lost‘s third season, and it’s probably not coincidental that it’s the only one of the thirteen to have any writing or directing input from somebody who worked on the show’s first two years. Tom Swale had been a “production coordinator” – I’m honestly not sure what that entails – on season one and moved up to associate producer on season two, where he contributed two excellent stories.

“Timestop” is almost as good. I think it’s one draft away from being ideal. It really should have written out Enik, which, to be completely fair, isn’t the sort of thing that kids’ shows did forty years ago, but it missed a great opportunity by way of a big plot hole. The story concerns an old Altrusian “temporal regulator” that Will and Holly find. Enik wants it to return home, but they find themselves at cross-purposes. Things get worse when Torchy, the fire-breathing dimetrodon, chases Cha-Ka out onto a geyser bed and – get this – sinks to its death beneath the soft mud. I clearly remember this blowing my mind as a kid, and today, my son also gave this a solid, eyes-popped-out “whoa.”

But Cha-Ka is now stranded next to the geyser on a small patch of rock, and will also be killed when the geyser next erupts. Enik explains to Jack that anybody inside the pylon that the temporal regulator controls will be unaffected by reversing the flow of time, and they agree to a deal: Jack reverses time to save Cha-Ka, and then Enik opens a separate door to reverse his own timestream and go home, but then Enik idiotically steps outside and lets Jack get on with it, meaning he gets reversed as well, while Cha-Ka and Torchy get saved. As errors go, that was a massive one. Why in heaven would he do that?

In a perfect world, this should have been the season finale, writing out Walker Edmiston’s character, and giving the Marshalls a heroic finale, sacrificing their opportunity to leave to save both Cha-Ka and Enik. Since the series was not going to get renewed – more on that in a couple of weeks, although, since all thirteen episodes were probably taped before the first one aired, they couldn’t have known that – it would have served as the best possible series conclusion from the shows available.

So on the one hand, I can’t help but grumble about the missed opportunity, but “Timestop” is nevertheless a really good half hour. It brings back that sense of exploration and discovery that has been badly lacking this year – to its credit, the next episode also has a bit of it, though nowhere as good – and plays with science fiction elements with more success than any other installment this year. The sense of danger is massively ramped up, and the split-second error where Jack accidentally moves time forward, almost killing Cha-Ka with the geyser’s eruption, gave Daniel a sudden and genuine scare. When the episode concludes with another dead end – the resurrected Torchy blasts the pylon with enough heat to fuse its key in place, keeping anybody from entering it to use the temporal regulator – it’s downright heartbreaking.

But honestly, what’s really heartbreaking is knowing that Land of the Lost was once this good every week.

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Land of the Lost 3.3 – The Orb

A couple of entries back, I mentioned how the characterization of Walker Edmiston’s Enik in season three is all wrong. It feels for all the world like the new producer Jon Kubichan understood that this show was created by people with a Star Trek background, remembered that Mr. Spock was all about logic, and concluded that would be a good hook for Enik. It doesn’t work, and just leaves the character saying “That is not logical” constantly. It’s pretty obnoxious, actually.

But the really obnoxious bit is the Sleestak leader in season three, played by Jon Locke. Now, back in season one’s “The Hole”, we met a Sleestak called S’Latch, who could speak English and explained that every few years, a “freak” Sleestak, born with intelligence, language, and an understanding of their history, is born. I’ve always figured that there is a gap of many months between “Blackout” and “After-Shock,” and during that gap, a new “freak” was hatched, and this one managed to not aggravate everybody else with talk of compassion, because he was instead a big bully with dreams of conquest. It’s still a massive miscalculation, going from “weird hissing monsters who don’t talk” to “we want to conquer the valley and rule everybody,” but that’s really the only explanation that makes any sense.

Giving the fiction of the show a sizable gap between seasons also covers the fact that Kathy Coleman grew about five inches between the second and third production block, and that the Sleestak plan in this episode – eternal night – was one that they just freaking pulled three episodes ago. Even Daniel piped up and said “Their moths will die and their eggs won’t hatch!” If a five year-old is pointing out your plot holes, you have a problem. This only makes sense if enough time had elapsed since “Blackout” for the new leader to be hatched, grow to maturity, and take over the tribe. It’s not as though we really know how long it takes for Sleestak to mature, or what their life span actually is.

But even though Daniel saw the flaw in their plan, he still really enjoyed this one. He liked the exciting bit where Will, made invisible for most of the episode via some pylon shenanigans, pulls an Orb out from the Sleestak God’s pit and snatches it away from the Leader, and said there weren’t any bad bits. Perhaps toning down the horror in favor of kid-friendly excitement might have been the right idea for the target audience, even if it resulted in something more tame and dull for grown-ups.

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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 2.3 – Fair Trade

I think this is the only time in the series that we get to see that city slicker Ta without the other Pakuni, and I suspect there’s a fun reason why. This episode features Walker Edmiston as Enik, along with the three Sleestak actors. That probably only left room in the budget for one Paku. This could have been a cooperation with Cha-Ka as we’d normally see, but Wesley Eure and Scutter McKay have a very fun chemistry as antagonists, so that led the script in the direction of Will taking advantage of Ta, which could never happen with their friend Cha-Ka. But anybody concerned that the humans are taking advantage of the gullible, uneducated ape-man, hanging him up over a trap as bait for a 400 pound pig, don’t be too concerned. Ta’s a rascal and a bully, and he’ll pull one over on the humans before the season’s up.

Daniel decided to let us know as the credits rolled that he hates Grumpy, and Spike, and Sleestak. Just his luck this episode features two of the three, which had him crawling all over Mommy for protection. There is a completely brilliant bit of animation this week, by the way. Grumpy is chasing a Spot back and forth until he gets his foot stuck in the hole that the Sleestak dug. As he figures out how to free himself, Spot waits behind a tree until, getting a chance, he dashes into the clearing and bites Grumpy’s tail!

Geography note:This episode introduces the Library of Skulls, which will become a regular feature over the rest of this and the next season. However, it very strangely has the Sleestak tunnels and their egg nursery on Grumpy’s side of the chasm. I think this must have been a miscommunication to the stop-motion animation team and Big Alice should have been the big dinosaur chasing the small one. We’ll see Big Alice in action in a couple of weeks.

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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.

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