Monday, December 15, 2014

Cult-TV Theme Watch: Cave Drawings and Cave Writings

A cave drawing/painting -- or cave-writing -- is a work of art or sometimes a message that illustrates the interior of an underground chamber. In real life, cave drawings are as old as 40,000 years old, and the most famous may be in the Chauvet Cave, in France.

In cult-tv history, cave drawings and cave writings appear quite often in programming, perhaps because they signify such a gap in time. 

It’s strange (and a little disconcerting) to think about technological, modern (or future…) man countenancing a work of ark from pre-history or from Antiquity.  The sight of astronauts stepping into an alien cave and finding evidence of a long-gone civilization is also a powerful reminder how time destroys all civilizations.

In Land of the Lost (1974 – 1977), the warning “Beware the Sleestak” appeared on a rock in one early episode. The message was written by Revolutionary War soldiers who, through bad luck, happened into the pocket universe of Altrusia. The message still stood -- plain as day -- when the Marshalls arrived in the Land from their own time period, the 1970s.

In the final episode of Space:1999 (1975 – 1977), Year One, “The Testament of Arkadia” by Johnny Byrne, The Alphans discover a cave of skeletons on a far distant world and -- even more mysteriously -- Sanskrit writing on the walls, roughly 40,000 years old.  This discovery connects the alien planet to Earth, and to the rise of man.

In Battlestar Galactica (1978 – 1979), an episode called “The Long Patrol” finds Lt. Starbuck (Dirk Benedict) incarcerated in a long-forgotten prison. There, on his cell wall -- inscribed over stone -- is a map of Earth’s solar system. Later, Starbuck has difficulties remembering the details.

The Buck Rogers (1979 – 1981) second season premiere, “Time of the Hawk” features a look at the drawings in Hawk (Thom Christopher’s) ancestral cave on another world, Throm. The cave art resembles similar works from Easter Island, and tell of a Bird-Man culture that once thrived on Earth, before mankind destroyed it.

In Smallville(2001 – 2011), the second season involves, to a large degree, Clark Kent’s (Tom Welling) exploration and protection of the Kaawatche caves near his farm. 

These Native American caves and tunnels are decorated with drawings that suggest the native culture interfaced regularly with earlier generations of Kryptonians. The caves are intimately connected, ultimately, to Clark’s ability to create his Fortress of Solitude.

In The Vampire Diaries (2009 - ), a cave system is discovered under and near Mystic Falls, Virginia.  Cave paintings there report the arrival of the vampire Originals in the New World.

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