Saturday, May 02, 2015

Saturday Morning Cult-TV Blogging: Valley of the Dinosaurs: "What Goes Up" (September 14, 1974)

The second half-hour episode of the animated series Valley of the Dinosaurs (1974) is titled “What Goes Up,” and it aired on September 14, 1974.

“What Goes Up” opens with a stampede of angry dinosaurs -- including a tyrannosaurus -- charging through the jungle near the Butler family cave. The prehistoric brutes are agitated because millions of over-sized ants called “Tagas” are on the march towards the valley.

Before you can say The Naked Jungle (1954), the Butlers and their prehistoric friends are grappling with this new and troublesome issue.

They realize that no force in the valley can stop the onslaught of the army ants, and so decide to create a defense line of "fire rocks" (or hot coals...) as a barrier between their cave and the marauding ants.

"Back home, we'd just call the exterminator," quips Katie.

Mrs. Butler, however, suggests another more helpful alternative. She wants to create a hot air balloon that can transport both families and their pets to the mountaintop and out of harm's way.

In short order, this mission is accomplished. Gorok makes a visit to the cave of "giant snakes" and steals their cast-off skins for the weaving of the balloon.  They weave a gondola basket, and prepare to lift off.

Disaster is averted when the Butlers and their prehistoric counterparts fly away in the balloon, and the ants obligingly retreat during a storm.

The threat this week on Valley of the Dinosaurs feels a bit run-of-the-mill in one sense because there is no follow-up.  The tagas decimate the valley, especially the plant life, and move through village, but by the story’s end everything is back to normal.  Of course, this is a Saturday morning TV series, so it’s natural that some aspects of the danger are minimized for the sake of children.

What makes the threat interesting is the idea that something tiny -- miniscule, actually -- can scare giant dinosaurs.

The events in “What Goes Up” also, however, call into question the overall premise of Valley of the Dinosaurs. If the Butlers can make a hot air balloon and fly to the cliff top -- why not fly out of the valley of the dinosaurs all together?
We’ve got to assume that the Valley isn’t that gigantic, so a short flight ought to do it.  Even if it were a long flight, the Butlers would no doubt feel it worth the effort.
One of the Butlers' actually suggests this notion in the episode, but then, at the end, the balloon is destroyed and Kim says something along the lines of "so much for going home."
Why? Can't the family just build another balloon? There's a cave full of giant snakes nearby, and their skins make for great balloons, as we’ve seen.

The plot device of the hot-air balloon was a popular one on Saturday morning shows of the 1970s.  Return to the Planet of the Apes (1975) had a story about one, “Terror on Ice Mountain,” and the third season of Land of the Lost (1974 – 1977) highlighted a tale called “Hot Air Artist.”

Next week: “A Turned Turtle.”

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