Land of the Lost 1.6 – The Stranger

One reason I wanted to be sure and capture some images of Walker Edmiston in other roles without a costume is because, for a generation, this is what he looks like. Enik appears here to be a one-off character, but come on, with all the money troubles that Sid and Marty Krofft had, no way was this costume not coming back to be used again.

Anyway, I’ve mentioned Star Trek several times while discussing Land, and tonight’s episode is by leagues the most Trek-like of this series. It’s written by Walter Koenig, who had played Chekov in that show and had become a screenwriter as well, and had written for Filmation’s Trek cartoon the previous year.

This episode really embodies all the Star Trek aspirations of respect for other lifeforms, and compassion, and keeping anger in check. It’s also got a whammy of a twist that, unsurprisingly, Daniel is too young to appreciate. Enik had told the Marshalls that he is from the future of this land, and that the Sleestak are the barbaric ancestors of his people. But when they go to the Lost City, he realizes that he is actually from the past. The Sleestak are what his people are going to devolve into, and all of the crystal-based scientific knowledge of his universe will be lost as anger and spite wins out.

The script is a little clunky, and Will and Holly are super-annoying as they squabble, all the better to emphasize the pent-up anger issues of the storyline, and Will taking Enik’s pendant, which might hold a key to activating a time doorway. It builds to a genuinely horrifying climax as Enik uses a strange gas, or mist, to make the Marshalls hallucinate and see their worst fears to get back his pendant, and they completely freak out, screaming in terror. It’s downright eye-popping. You cannot imagine anything remotely like this scene on children’s television today, but it also foreshadows some of the wild, hallucinatory things to come in this show.

Technology note: this time out, touching one blue and one green crystal together creates a short-lived forcefield.

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.

Batman 2.55 – Black Widow Strikes Again

So here’s the one and only scrap between the Dynamic Duo and Miss Max Black, Widow, who is played by Miss Tallulah Bankhead – that is how she’s credited onscreen, “Miss Tallulah Bankhead” – and it’s pretty awful and not as amusing as it thinks it is, other than a reference to a company called Black Widow Weeds Removal Service. In the 1920s and ’30s, Tallulah Bankhead, native of Huntsville AL, was probably among the most beautiful women on the planet, but years of boozing and smoking – legend held that she smoked two entire cartons a day – had done their work on her. By age 65, she looked three times that and sounded worse.

Really, the most interesting thing about this story from a world-building perspective is that it’s established that Black Widow is a villain from Gotham’s long-distant past. Commissioner Gordon remembers her, but tells Chief O’Hara that her last caper was before his time. And the most interesting thing from a “hey, I’m looking at old TV” perspective is that one of her henchmen, shown on the right in the picture above, is Michael Lane, who’d later play Frank on The Monster Squad, and that the teller, below, is Walker Edmiston.

Edmiston, of course, many people know of for his voiceover work. He did character voices for the Kroffts, for Hasbro, for Keebler, for everybody, before donning a costume and playing Enik on Land of the Lost. I’ve always been curious what he looked like without lots of makeup – he actually did an on-camera role on that show before he played Enik, but looked so odd that one of my cousins could have played that role and I wouldn’t recognize him or her – and so there you go, that’s Walker Edmiston.

Black Widow’s hideout is underneath an old house, and she has two lifelike dummies on the porch to shoo away any snoopers. When I was a kid, those old folks unnerved me incredibly. But Daniel watched the whole thing without incident until Black Widow traps our heroes in a web (of course) and unpacks two ginormous spiders about the size of softballs, which prompted a gasp and a desperate clutch of the security blanket. The props people didn’t even try to make these look alive or dangerous, but when you’re four, “realistic” isn’t the problem; it’s that they exist at all.