Saturday, September 01, 2012

Saturday Morning Cult-TV Blogging: Land of the Lost: "Tar Pit" (September 6, 1975)



Tar Pit,” the first episode of Land of the Lost’s (1974 – 1976) second season is elegant simplicity. 

Beloved pseudo-pet Dopey, a brontosaur, becomes trapped in a tar pit -- sinking ever lower -- and the stranded Marshalls must find a way to save him.

The rescue attempt begins with ingenuity and know-how.  Together, Rick (Spencer Milligan) and Will (Wesley Eure) construct a pulley with which to tug Dopey out of the pit, but he’s just too heavy. 

Then, the Marshalls turn to a collective effort and work with the Pakuni to accomplish the job.  

When even that effort proves fruitless, the Marshalls camp out at the tar pit by night to be with Dopey during his last moments of life.  It’s a very human touch, and the idea, of course, is a didactic one: compassion.

Then Cha-Ka (Philip Paley) -- who has demonstrated evolved traits and capacities, like becoming the first Pakuni to paint -- comes up with a new solution.  He summons Mommy Brontosaur Emily to the tar pit so the Marshalls can use her weight to free Dopey.  Cha-Ka’s idea works and the animal escapes imminent death.  As Rick Marshall importantly notes, “We all did it.  We all did it together.”

Although there are no real science fiction concepts at work in this second season premiere, and no real villain to speak of, “Tar Pit” by Margaret Armen ably re-establishes Land of the Lost as a human drama, presenting a tale that hangs on communication, compromise, and collective action.  

I watched this episode with my five year old son, Joel, and he found it legitimately uncomfortable, and a little frightening that Dopey might die.  And indeed, that’s the very point of this installment; that the (presumably young) audience must countenance and accept the idea of a pet’s death.

Most of all, however, I appreciated the episode’s spirit of cooperation, embodied by Holly’s (Kathy Coleman) line that “we can all pull together and help.”  That should be our American creed and ideal, especially today in the unfortunate era of “Every Man for Himself.”

Next week, it’s back to spooky science fiction on Land of the Lost with “The Zarn.”

2 comments:

  1. Anonymous5:32 PM

    John nice review of LOTL "Tar Pit". I remember that for us as children in the '70s Dopey represented our pet dog or cat. We all wanted the Marshalls to protect him. Dopey's constant loud 'barking' made you want to protect him too.

    SGB

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  2. Thanks to your review, John, I grabbed the 2nd season Land of the Lost set (years one and three were sold out). "Tar Pit" was the first one I watched ("Mentor Huebner?!") and was impressed. While clearly aimed at the young set, LOTL is superior. And I agree with your points about the spirit of cooperation as put forth in the episode. A gentle story.

    The only concern I had, and I'm surprised it got by the educational consultant, was the method of attaching the rope/vine to Dopey... around its neck.

    I also watched "The Zarn". Very good, and quite different, to put it mildly, from "Tar Pit".

    While watching "The Zarn", I thought: "Of course, Mentor Huebner... makes sense." (His name is misspelled, probably intentionally, as "Hubner" in the show's end credits.)

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