Saturday, January 18, 2014

Saturday Morning Cult-TV Blogging: Land of the Lost (1992): "The Sorceress" (September 12, 1992)

In “The Sorceress,” Annie Porter (Jenny Drugan) laments the fact that she possesses no female friend to talk with about boys and other pressing concerns in her adolescent life.  However, when a Sorceress named Keela (Adilah Barnes) appears in the land of the lost, she grants Tasha the power of speech as a way of thanking Annie for saving her life. 

Unfortunately, once she begins to talk, Tasha won’t stop…

Meanwhile, Keela’s deadly nemesis -- a strange Cyclops creature called Magas (Ed Gale) -- also encounters the Porters, and seeks revenge against her.

The second season of the 1991 Sid and Marty Krofft live-action series Land of the Lost commences with “The Sorceress,” a relatively undistinguished episode in the canon.

Like many other stories in the franchise, this installment involves a visitor in the land who interfaces with the Porters, and then parts ways at story’s end, but doesn’t provide any clue about escape.  Here, a world of “magic” is encountered, but not explored in any meaningful fashion, or in any fashion that would help us contextualize the stories better.

What seems missing (and what was abundantly present in the 1970s Land of the Lost) is some underlying theme to the stories that connects them all together, or suggests a way of “reading” the series as a whole. 

The original series concerned four groups, essentially -- the Marshalls, the Paku, the Sleestak, and the dinosaurs – sharing a territory: Altrusia.  When things went wrong in that territory, the Marshalls had to be shepherds of the land, and join with their recalcitrant neighbors to fix things.  It’s not difficult to read this running theme as commentary on being good stewards of the environment.  Similarly, the Land of the Lost was known to be a pocket universe with a sense of balance.

The new series never offers any such specific details, re-hashed or original, that make the episodes cohere into something larger. 

Here, visitors come, visitors go, but there’s no sense of a creator working to some meaningful end, or on some meaningful theme, alas.  That’s the real difference between the two series.  You can compare special effects, performances, and set design, but the 1970s series is unequivocally superior in one sense: it was open to analysis and multiple interpretations. The new series, while entertaining, is not.

The underlying theme in “The Sorceress” involves  the down-side for wishing for something better when what you already have is pretty darn good.  Although Tasha is given the power of speech, she also begins to develop unfortunate character traits.  She has changed from being herself, to being someone new and different, and Annie never reckoned on that fact when she made her wish.

The same idea might be applied to Magas.  He has become a monster because of his power-hungry nature, and has learned nothing from his transformation. He wanted power, and he got it...but now he's little more than an ugly beast.

Although it is interesting to see a character whose inner ugliness is reflected by his outward appearance, Magas may just be the most ridiculous-appearing creature to appear in either iteration of Land of the Lost.

Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of “The Sorceress” is geographical. Keela reports that the dimension gate she traveled through was far, far away in a “great desert.”  So far, viewers have not seen that desert, only the portions of the Land of the Lost depicted by Vasquez Rocks, and the landscape near the compound… that looks rather like a park or nature reserve.

Next week, I’ll review “The Dreammaker,” which is the most-oft remembered episode of the new Land of the Lost, and is widely considered to be the best episode in the remake.

1 comment:

  1. John I agree that that only interesting information about “The Sorceress” is geographical. As you stated, the original '74 series was open to analysis and multiple interpretations. This '91 series scripts lack that because it does not treat the viewer with respect.



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