Saturday, May 20, 2006

SATURDAY MORNING CULT TV BLOGGING: Land of the Lost: "The Hole"

This first season Land of the Lost episode boasts a familiar scent (or is it stench?), especially if you're a long time sci-fi fan. "The Hole" (by Wina Sturgeon and directed by Dennis Steinmetz) is that old, oft-revived chestnut about a hero and a villain (or enemy...) trapped together in a remote location and forced to put differences aside to escape a deadly situation.

You may remember this familiar tale as the feature film Enemy Mine (1986) with Dennis Quaid and Lou Gossett, or, if you're a Trekker, as the Next Generation tale involving Geordi and a Romulan trapped on Galorndon Core, the third season entry called "The Enemy." At least "The Hole" arrives earlier in genre hitory than either of those two entries (though it comes after the Planet of the Apes story with Burke and Urko trapped in underground San Francisco...).

The idea here is that Rick Marshall - while exploring the Lost City - is pushed into the smoky Pit where the hungry Sleestak God resides. As he falls, we see the actor actually hit the matt beneath a bed of fog...oopsy! Anyway, Marshall teams up in the dark pit with another prisoner, a very verbal and intellectual Sleestak named S'Latch, who was born "with the genetic heritage" of his ancestors, and thus possesses "all the knowledge of the universe." Quick - take this guy to Las Vegas!

Anyway, Rick and S'Latch overcome their differences and escape the pit, and Rick also teaches S'Latch a lesson or two about life. "We call helping each other brotherhood," he suggests. Then Marshall goes further, suggesting that only Mirror Spock can change the future by questioning the Evil Empire. Oh wait, wrong show!!! Marshall tells S'Latch, "You must teach your people peace and understanding."

Yes, there's a little snark here, but as always, I love Land of the Lost. How can you not? It's a morally valuable program for kids, and honestly - it's just the thing I want to nurture my future child on. We might take these trite messages as hackneyed in our cynical, sarcastic world of the twenty-first century, but it's been a long, long time since TV had the courage to actually boast a moral point. I relish this facet of the program, to tell you the truth. Land of the Lost evidences a point of view about how people should get along, and it isn't afraid that it will be read as biased; as liberal or conservative, and that simply rocks. It isn't just corporate sponsored nonsense that walks the middle of the road.

"Everything has some good in it," Rick tells Will at episode's end. "You just have to look for it." That's a valuable point, and well-taken. We can all stand to remember that next time we want to hate someone who is different - gay, an immigrant, of color, or different religious affiliation.

Of course, "The Hole" ain't perfect. As the story opens, Will and Marshall are exploring the Lost City and evading the allosaur named Big Alice, but Holly is left at home at High Bluff to "clean the cave." Damn! Why can't Will stay behind and do the housekeeping? It's amazing how a show can understand and explore some stereotypes, and then turn around and reinforce others, isn't it?

Keeping track of Land of the Lost story developments, we learn this week that the Sleestak call Big Alice "Selema," and that her job at the Lost City is to protect the Sleestak eggs before they hatch. "The Hole" also reveals that Sleestak are hostile because of fear and ignorance. The city is "all" they have "left" after centuries of war and barbarism and thus their security depends on protecting it, so they are violent and dangerous. Hmmm...that's pretty interesting, especially in these times.

Basically, you've seen "The Hole" before if you've ever watched science fiction TV, but heck, there is no such thing as an original story, I guess, and the fun is in the way it is told. "The Hole" is indeed fun because it grants the audience a new view of the Sleestak threat, and because it isn't afraid to be about something that today we consider hokey (brotherhood). Sure, the points could be made in less preachy fashion, but didactic drama like this has a good, honorable history in literature, and remember, this is a show for kids. A good show.

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