Saturday, October 20, 2012

Saturday Morning Cult-TV Blogging: Land of the Lost: "The Pylon Express" (October 25, 1975)

This is my son’s all-time favorite episode of Land of the Lost, and I understand why.

In “The Pylon Express,” young Holly (Kathy Coleman) unexpectedly enters a pylon and takes a trip through time and space.  She visits the land of Altrusia in the distant past when the Lost City was a thriving metropolis.  She visits an alternate land of the lost, but one possessing a poisonous atmosphere (shaded in violet).  

Holly also meets aliens and creatures great and small, and even returns briefly to 1970s California, her home…where she catches a frisbee in flight.

Best of all, “The Pylon Express” involves a great mystery.  When Holly is about to follow a strange bouncing life-form out of the pylon, she pauses when she sees a note scrawled in the sand.  It reads, simply: “Holly Don’t.”

The message (rightly) gives her pause, and suddenly she sees her little strange friend explode in the poisonous atmosphere.  At the end of the episode, when Holly thanks Will and Marshall for leaving the warning in the sand (on their separate journey on the pylon express), they inform her that they didn’t write it.

If they didn’t write that note, then who did? 

It’s a unique and interesting puzzle, and part of the reason I love Land of the Lost so much.  This episode harks back in some crucial to the great entry "Elsewhen" from the first season, written by Dorothy Fontana, in which Holly met her future self.  That future-self, named Ronnie/Rani informed the girl that there would come a time when Holly would be alone in the Land of the Lost, without her father and brother. 

And of course, that’s what happens, for a time anyway, in “The Pylon Express.”  Similarly, one wonders if Holly’s future self traveled through time to save Holly here, and wrote that note in the sand herself.  But of course, how did she ever survive through her trial in the first place?

Again, I should just pause here and ask you to consider how many kids’ Saturday morning shows from the 1970s involved temporal incursions, alternate worlds, and open-ended mysteries.  As I've always said,  Land of the Lost succeeded by never insulting the intelligence of its young audience.

In addition to this mystery, Land of the Lost is a great Holly-themed episode.  All alone and confronted by terrifying ideas (the loss of her family, and transportation through time and space), Holly’s constant -- and very adult -- refrain is “what would Daddy do?”  This reliance on lessons learned from a parent shows terrific character and maturity, and I’m glad the series allowed Holly to grow up and show good-decision making skills.  In too many episodes, she is relegated to cleaning up the cave or cooking, and it's great that "The Pylon Express" does right by the character.

“The Pylon Express” is such a fun and imaginative show -- and my son enjoys it so much -- because of Holly’s colorful and extended trip through time and space.  The episode takes her to a snowy mountaintop, to the world of that strange bouncy thing (a robot?) and to a terrifying world where a giant machine seems to be absorbing materials from the atmosphere.  It looks like a malevolent vacuum cleaner crossed with the Martian war machine from the Pal version of War of the Worlds (1953).  

Again, none of these realms are explained, just briefly visited.  It’s very…cool, and represents a vast opening up of the Altrusiverse.

Also, very interestingly, this episode suggests that the pylon express will open again in three years or so (when the three moons align in the night sky), which means that the Marshalls --  if they can survive -- have a guaranteed way home.  Of course, as we know from the events of the third season, this does not occur…

Next week: “Nice Day.”


  1. So true, another classic episode of the series. Right up there with Elsewhen as one of my faves.

  2. Anonymous11:49 AM

    John excellent review of LOTL “Pylon Express”. I agree with your son Joel , this episode was one of my favorite too since I first saw it as a boy in ’75. It defines the endless potential for stories on Altrusia in the Land Of The Lost. It let Holly finally show her strength and her character to grow. I always thought that the Sliders(1995-2000) television series with countless alternate Earths might have been inspired by this LOTL “Pylon Express” episode. This episode defines why LOTL was a brilliant series for both children and adults to enjoy watching together.


  3. Indeed, a fine episode. And I say this as someone was in his mid 20s when he first saw it.

    Anyway though, the third season hardly counts. What with no longer worrying about pesky details like internal consistancy.