Saturday, June 27, 2015

Saturday Morning Cult-TV Blogging: Valley of the Dinosaurs: "S.O.S." (November 9, 1974)

In “S.O.S.,” the valley of the dinosaurs has suffered from a month-long drought and is drying up. Animals are dying, or leaving the area. And the drought means no food to eat for Gorak’s family, and the Butlers. 

Mr. Butler comes up with the idea of creating a damn, and driving water from an underground spring into the lagoon.  The idea is promptly accepted by Gorak, but Tana arrives during work on the project and reports that she has seen a strange flying bird in the sky.

This bird, the Butlers realize, is a plane…a modern airliner flying over the valley!  Although the dam needs to be complete before the next storm hits, the Butlers stop aiding Gorak’s family on this project and instead attempt to contact the plane, which passes overhead every day at approximately 2:00 pm.

Katie retrieves the Butlers’ electronic equipment from their raft during a dangerous dive to the bottom of Black Lagoon, and Mr. Butler goes about building a transmitter tower.  Greg and Katie also use giant white clam shells to spell out the letters S.O.S on the ground, in hopes that the message will be seen.

Meanwhile, Gorak and his family labor to finish the dam in time. But the work is too difficult for three adults.

The storm hits the Valley of the Dinosaurs, just as the plane is due.  John attempts to contact it, and the plane picks up a signal and investigates.  But working on the dam, Gorak is badly injured.  A tree falls on him, and he can’t free himself.

Now the Butlers must make a choice. Continue to defend the transmitter from the storm (and from a curious but destructive Pteranadon) or give up the dream of going home and save Gorak from certain death…

“S.O.S” is a compelling and fast-paced episode of the 1974 CBS Saturday morning cartoon, Valley of the Dinosaurs.  The story has one overall theme: United we stand; divided we fall. 

In particular, a crisis in the Valley occurs at the precise time the Butlers have a shot at returning home to twentieth century civilization.

Faced with the opportunity of a return home the Butlers promptly turn their backs on the problems of the valley, devoting all their energies and time towards contacting a passing plane.  The Gorak family doesn’t complain or object, but is left to finish the impossible work of constructing a dam before a hurricane hits.  At the end of the story, the Butlers abandon hopes of escape, and run to save Gorak. 

John notes that his family made a mistake, and should have stopped working on its own task to help Gorak’s family.  “We’re in this together,” he acknowledges.

In the words of the episode, “S.O.S.” is also about “the importance of friendship.” The Butlers are distracted by their understandable desire to return home, but when Gorak is hurt, they help him without question, without recrimination.  Gorak apologizes to them for preventing their rescue, but they note, accurately, that he was not responsible. 

All in all “S.O.S.” is a strong episode in the canon, and it concerns the necessity of pulling together in times of crisis, and devoting resources where they are needed to help everybody, not just a few.

The episode also commences with a good long look at a Triceratops named Old Three Horn and a stegosaurus having a battle with one another. These dinosaurs look more “authentic” to research of the time, than many of the fantastic looking prehistoric creations seen thus far on Valley of the Dinosaurs.

If I were to rank the episodes I’ve seen so far of this series, “S.O.S.” would be at the top of the list, because of the dynamic character interaction, and the surprise arrival of a 20th century air-liner in the skies of the Valley of the Dinosaurs. 

I had forgotten about this story, and didn’t realize there was a tale in the canon in which the Butlers had to choose between rescue and helping Gorak’s clan.

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