Sunday, September 07, 2014

Land of the Lost: "The Musician"

“The Musician” is Land of the Lost’s highly intriguing, Saturday morning version of 2001: A Space Odyssey

Only here, it is Chaka (Philip Paley) -- not primitive man -- who undergoes a sudden, evolutionary leap in intelligence.   We learn from a strange humanoid visitor to Altrusia -- a Builder?-- that now”  is Chaka’s “time.”  And, when the episode is over, Chaka has learned how to play Holly’s recorder, an act which previously eluded him.

One of the most memorable images from “The Musician” finds Chaka confronting a human, evolved version of himself; one also played by Paley.  The human version of Chaka informs the Pakuni that it is his time to be tested, and he wears a uniform that looks like it came straight out of Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979).  Is this form Chaka’s destiny? His form in another universe?

What precipitates Chaka’s evolutionary leap is a visit to the strange temple near the Lost City of the Sleestaks, the temple first seen (but not explored…) in the second season episode called “The Test.”   In a certain sense, I suppose, one might claim that Season Two of Land of the Lost boasts a story arc since elements of earlier stories pay off in later ones, and build on one another. 

Inside the temple, the Marshalls and Chaka find the “great granddaddy of all matrix tables” and it materializes a strange red ring, one apparently belonging to “The Builders.”

I love the idea that Land of the Lost -- on a TV budget and in a time slot for children -- attempts to tell a complex story in the vein of 2001: A Space Odyssey, one that gazes at, explicitly, the idea of intelligence, or genius, and asks (as Will does in the story): “where does it come from?”

I like the idea encoded in “The Musician” (as well as other episodes of the series) that Altrusia is an artificial world created by highly-intelligent, but mysterious beings.  On the temple wall in this episode, for instance, we see a sculpture of human hands.  What role do human beings -- perhaps a future Holly?  -- play in the shaping or maintenance of this world?  It would have been truly fascinating to learn where more about these beings, and their purpose, but a format change in Season Three left the idea unfulfilled.

Still, “The Musician” is likely one of the best episodes of Land of the Lost’s second season since it explores this (abandoned) mythology.  The episode features a Builder (or at least I think it’s a Builder), their strange temple, and the mysterious brain boost for Chaka.

Today, one can only wonder where this storyline might have eventually led if things had been different…

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