Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Land of the Lost: 'Album'

There is trouble brewing in the Land of the Lost. For starters, an unknown animal is coming into the Marshalls' cave at night and eating their stores; and then there is a strange buzzing noise that only Will can hear, that draws him to the Lost City.

In the Lost City, Will finds something that looks like a matrix table of the sort Enik used to open the time portal, but made with colored stones instead of the stones. On the floor is a pulsing blue crystal. When Will picks it up, a nearby doorway fills with mist -- as when Enik showed each of the Marshalls their deepest fears -- and in it he sees a woman beckoning him to come closer, whom he recognizes as his deceased mother.

Holly, who has been working on a trap to catch the animal eating their stores, eventually hears the buzzing; and she and Will go to the Lost City together. Holly sees their mother too, after she picks up the blue crystal. Will speculates that they've found a time portal has opened to a point where their mother is still alive, and that they see her through a mist because they don't remember her well. Their mother fades from view, and they return to their cave.

Rick Marshall notices how despondent his children have become, and when they wander off to the Lost City together the next morning, he fellows them. There he discovers that the whole thing is a trap. The Sleestak are using the blue crystal to show the Marshalls what they most love, as a way to draw them in, so they can feed them to the Sleestak god at the bottom of the pit. Rick frees his children, tackles two Sleestak and pushes them into the pit, and leads his family to safety.

Back at their cave, he explains to the children how the Sleestak trap worked; and Holly abandons her own efforts to trap the animal coming for their food.

What I loved about this episode:

It's tightly written. The subplot about trapping the animal synchs nicely with the larger plot about trapping the Marshalls. Rick explains to Holly that a good trap relies on offering the animal something it wants but doesn't already have easy access to. The Sleestak offer the Marshall children not just a loving parent, but a loving parent whom they have lost.

Family ties. There has been no mention the entire series that I can recall to the children's mother. Why wasn't she on the "routine expedition?" We're never told, until this episode, when we find out that she died, years ago. I can think of few things more upsetting to young children than the thought of losing a parent, particularly a mother. But that's what happened here. A 1974 children's Saturday morning show actually gave us a widowed father raising his children. Even more daringly, while the mirage of their mother is alluring enough to draw the Marshall children close, the trap doesn't work until the children believe they're seeing Rick.

The Sleestak. They don't move particularly fast, they hiss a lot, their aim with crossbows is terrible, and frankly they walk like they're grown men trying to move around in rubber suits. But they are cold-blooded, vicious, and evil to the core. When the Marshall children believe that they are walking through the Lost City with their father, the camera keeps showing us brief snatches of what is happening: A Sleestak is leading two trusting children to their intended deaths. I'm 45, and it still creeped me out.

I keep saying it, but it bears repeating. "The Land of the Lost" was an intelligently written TV series for children. Forty years after its initial broadcast, this remains a show that children and adults can watch and enjoy together in a way they can with few others.

Forget the Will Ferrell attempt to make a comedy about this show. It deserves a serious and respectful treatment, either as a new kids show revisiting the concept as respectfully as its original incarnation did, or as a serious show for the adults who grew up watching Spencer Milligan and his castmates.

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