Saturday, November 21, 2020

Saturday Morning Flashback: Land of the Lost: "The Zarn"

The Land of the Lost gets a new resident -- the emotionless and pitiless alien “Zarn” (Marvin Miller) -- in this week’s episode penned by Dick Martin and directed by Bob Lally. 

The Zarn is an energy being, mostly invisible, whose presence is accompanied by the unsettling sound of wind chimes. 

What’s even scarier is that the Zarn’s space craft has crashed in the gloomy Mist Marsh, place of fog and gnarled old, dead trees.  And as the Marshalls learn this week, The Zarn can read their very thoughts, though he is repelled by the power of intense emotions.

In “The Zarn,” this stranded alien creates an android in the shape of a human female to observe and study the human Marshalls.  

Because she is created expressly from Rick’s thoughts, Sharon (Brooke Bundy) shares his memories of growing up in Indianapolis.  Holly and Will immediately recognize Sharon is too good to be true, but Marshall is lonely and hungry for adult companionship.  He can’t help but love Sharon.

Rick Marshall’s tunnel vision about Sharon may be a little unrealistic in these circumstances, but this is nonetheless one aspect of Land of the Lost I admire. 

It’s that part of a “kid’s” show that is very grown-up, and features mature plot lines.  Rick’s confession of loneliness is heartfelt and rings true. And yet Holly and Will’s feelings of being shunted aside for the interloper are just as valid.

The alien Zarn himself makes a great addition to this series extensive “creature” list, a new not-quite friend and not-quite foe who -- like the Sleestak -- possesses his own distinctive technology and world view.  

Despite his great knowledge and science, however, the Zarn -- like The Marshalls -- is a prisoner in the Land of the Lost.  

And keeping with the series’ environmental message, the character is something of a loose cannon, one will apply his technology at the expense of Altrusia as we see in the episode “Gravity Storm.”  The Zarn is out to help himself, in other words, and no one or anything else.

One question raised by the Zarn’s presence here involves the last episode of Season One, “Circle,” which established that balance in Altrusia must constantly be maintained.  So if the Zarn came in, who left?  And how did they escape?  This episode never addresses this contradiction.

Another aspect of this episode that seems dated poorly involves Holly, who is left at the High Bluff Cave to cook dinner for Will and Rick while they explore the Mist Marsh.  Girls can’t go exploring?  

Worse, it is Holly who feels most displaced by the presence of Sharon, another woman.  She’s clearly jealous that someone could jeopardize her standing in the family, and it comes off as catty and kind of demeaning…even though she’s right that Sharon is hiding something. 

For a series that stressed Holly’s courage (“Elsewhen”) and dawning independence/maturity (“The Search,”) this re-establishment of 1970s traditional American sex roles feels like a big step back into the prehistoric era.

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