Saturday, October 06, 2012

Saturday Morning Cult-TV Blogging: Land of the Lost: "Gravity Storm" (October 11, 1975)

This week on Land of the Lost, a gravity wave suddenly drops the Marshalls, the Paku, and even the dinosaurs like some kind of “giant invisible hand.”  The wave is so powerful, in fact, that it threatens to pull down colossal trees by bending and breaking their ancient trunks.

In “Gravity Storm,” this strange force recurs, and the Marshals join up with the worried Paku to find the source.  At the Weather Pylon, the allies discover the Matrix engaged in some critical but unexplained activity, and Will sees the Skylons -- Altrusia’s weather repair mechanism – hovering over the Mist Marsh.

After Holly injures her ankle and Ta is enlisted (actually bribed…) to help carry her back to High Bluff, Will and Marshall head to Marsh to find the cause of the gravity wave.  

There, the unemotional alien composed of Light, the Zarn, is attempting to activate his drive system and escape from Altrusia.  Marshall warns him that this kind of forced departure from the Land of the Lost is not possible, but Zarn stubbornly maintains his efforts to break out of the pocket universe.  

To keep the Marshalls occupied while he does so, the alien sends “Fred” after the two men.  Fred is a giant dinosaur robot….

After Fred is dispatched by a lucky lightning strike, Will and Rick bombard the Zarn with their human feelings, an act Will calls “emotional chickenpox.”  Before long, the Zarn is incapacitated and his ship is crushed by the failed drive system.  When the gravity disruptions cease, Will feels gratified to have won the day, but Rick reminds him that they didn’t win.

 On the contrary, the Land of the Lost did…

“Gravity Storm” is an all-together more intriguing episode of Land of the Lost’s second season than we’ve seen in a few weeks.  The episode not only features a good villain in the form of the unemotional and ruthless Zarn, but introduces that strange new minion: Fred.  

As it turns out, Fred is actually a stop-motion dinosaur model made for the series, only sans skin.  He’s just a metal dinosaur skeleton, in other words.  Fred’s not particularly menacing, however, since he possesses no arms, and squeaks like Dopey or Junior.  He’s actually kind of cute.  We never get to his like again in the series.

Like many episodes of Land of the Lost, “Gravity Storm” is encoded with an environmental message.  Here, the Marshalls, Paku and the Skylons team up to solve a problem, and that problem turns out to be a misbehaving individual who puts his own welfare ahead of the common good.  The very environment of Altrusia falls out of balance because of the Zarn, and threatens to destroy everyone, if an accommodation can’t be reached. 

The episode does a good job of exploring the Zarn’s stubborn behavior.  When Rick tells him he could break the land of the lost “in half” with his gravity drive, Zarn replies “I will break it half.”  He clearly doesn’t care how his behavior impacts others.

With no compromise possible, the Marshalls reluctantly resort to mental violence, blasting the Zarn with aggressive emotions, and his least favorite feeling of all: pity. 

The episode holds up well today not only because the series’ environmental theme is powerfully voiced, but because the Marshalls are shown to have some regret about their irreversible actions.  

They make the right choice to save the land of the lost, but Zarn’s beautiful ship of lights is crushed like a tin can.  It’s rewarding that the writers allow the Marshall’s to feel this emotion of regret, and make the point (for the kids in the audience) that destruction has a price..  Violence may sometimes be necessary, but that doesn’t mean you have to enjoy it.

Next week on Land of the Lost: “The Longest Day.”


  1. Anonymous11:53 AM

    John another thoughtful review of a Land Of The Lost episode. "Gravity Storm" was and still is a great episode. The '70s saturday mornings series were impressive and I am glad I was a boy back then.


  2. God I loved this series.