Monday, November 16, 2015
Cult-TV Theme Watch: Trees
A tree is a plant featuring a trunk, supporting branches, a stem and, most of the times, leaves. Trees have been on Earth for hundreds of billions of years, and are often quite long-lived.
And cult-TV -- to misquote Joyce Kilmer -- has rarely seen anything so lovely as a tree. Trees are figures of remarkable importance throughout the canon and re-appear frequently in many programs.
In the paranormal anthology One Step Beyond (1959-1961), for instance, an episode called “The Justice Tree” involves criminals attacking a family. In the end, the crooks are found hanged from a tree in the family’s yard…a tree that was once used to hang law-breakers.
Consider also the Lost in Space (1965-1968) episode “The Raft,” in which Will Robinson (Bill Mumy) and Dr. Smith (Jonathan Harris) mistake an alien being for a standing tree. It may still be a tree, but it’s a mobile one.
Or consider the talking trees of Living Island, on Sid and Marty Krofft’s H.R. Pufnstuf (1970). They talk, wear glasses and bandannas, and look like wooden hippies.
In Space: 1999’s (1975 – 1977) Year Two story “The Rules of Luton,” three judges serve as the rulers of Luton, a planet inhabited by sentient plants. These tree judges treat all mammals as lower life forms, and attempt to punish Commander Koenig (Martin Landau) and Maya (Catherine Schell) for the crime of picking berries.
A first season episode of Chris Carter’s The X-Files (1993 – 2002), called “Darkness Falls” occurs in the Pacific Northwest. Agents Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) tread into an old forest, where loggers and eco-terrorists are at war over old growth trees. The loggers have been cutting them down, while the radical environmentalists have been attempting to stop them. The agents discover that in the old growth trees something monstrous resides: a prehistoric insect that eats human flesh.
The Doctor Who (2005 - ) Matt Smith Christmas Special “The Doctor, The Witch and the Wardrobe” involves a forest of alien trees. These trees are imperiled by miners from Androzani Major and corrosive acid rain, but the Doctor helps to insure that their life-forces are transported to another world.
The Peter Capaldi episode “In the Forest of the Night,” involves sudden, rapid tree growth all over the planet Earth.
And in Game of Thrones (2011 - ), Season 4, young Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright ) makes his way towards a strange Weirwood Tree in Winterfell, aware from the visions of his friend that it plays some role in his destiny. The tree’s leaves are a remarkable, unearthly scarlet. When the tree is found, Bran and his friend are attacked by wights.