Saturday, September 22, 2012

Saturday Morning Cult-TV Blogging: Land of the Lost: "One of Our Pylons is Missing." (September 27, 1975)

One of the qualities of Land of the Lost that I’ve always very much admired is the series’ sense of internal consistency, at least during the series’ first two years.

Watching the episodes, even today, one gets the unmistakable feeling that things happen in Altrusia for a reason.  Sure, the forces at work aren’t the governing forces of nature as we know and understand them here on Earth.  The rules are different. But the point is that the rules make a brand of sense, or at least they usually do.

In “One of Our Pylons is Missing,” for example, viewers discover how this unusual lost world is powered.  Chaka (Philip Paley), Holly (Kathy Coleman), Will (Wesley Eure) and Rick (Spencer Milligan) discover a strange hole in the ground where a pylon should be, and find that it leads down -- for lack of a better word -- to the planet core.

But this is no ordinary planet core. Instead, they discover a huge red, glowing mass there.  It is “like a sun,” as Rick notes.  This mass is the main source of energy for all of Altrusia, and the weird “heart” consumes matter, transforms it into energy, and then distributes that energy throughout the land via all the pylons.  It’s a perfect system…if it’s fed and supported.

Unfortunately, Rick, Chaka, Holly and Spot all end up orbiting the giant sun or heart, and are nearly consumed by it.  Spot gets zapped, dragged in, and then absorbed.  Finally, Marshall and Holly give the mass a terrible “heart ache” by reflecting back its absorption ray with their mirror signaling devices. 

I still recall the first time I saw this episode.  It was a Saturday morning in 1975, and we were visiting my grandparents’ house in Verona, NJ.  I sat down to watch the show in the family room, and was absolutely blown away by the visuals, especially the moment where poor Spot gets digested by the giant power source. 

Today, of course, the special effects don’t hold up particularly well.  In fact, they seem kind of clumsy now.  But the important thing is that when I was a kid, the effects successfully showcased a world (and a place) unlike any I had ever seen.  Today, it’s plain that action figures are utilized to depict Holly, Rick and Chaka getting tossed down the hole into the heart chamber.  Worse, the chroma-key effects showing the threesome orbiting the coruscating heart are crude and a little funny, to say the least. 

Still, the idea of the Marshalls finding (unexpectedly) the power source for the Land of the Lost is a great one.  As a child, I loved the concept, especially since there was a dangerous aspect to it.  For a while, it indeed looks like Holly’s goose is cooked.  But this episode fulfilled the promise of exploring a new world, and finding things in that new world that made sense, and were consistent with what came before.  That’s no small deal.

When I watched “One of Our Pylons is Missing” again for this review, I could more also detect the flaws in the story, to be certain.  The first ten minutes of the episode consist largely of the Marshalls’ trying to understand why Chaka is upset.  He keeps trying to explain; they keep trying to translate.  It’s tiresome, and a very, very long scene.

Once the hole opens up and we have our first look at the “master scheme of things” in the Land of the Lost  -- “the most vital part” as Marshall establishes -– the episode picks up substantially.  So I still have nostalgic appreciation for “One of Our Pylons is Missing” because it is one episode I remember watching in first run. But, yes, it could certainly be paced a little bit better.

That said, this was a Land of the Lost episode that absolutely inspired by five year old son, Joel.  After watching it, he quickly transformed his Star Wars Death Star toy into “the heartbeat of the Land of the Lost” and then proceeded to feed it every small, loose toy he had nearby, from game pieces and dice to mini-figures and accouterments.  Then Joel insisted that we overfed it, and had the heartbeat of the Land of the Lost…vomit. Instant mess!

Still, it’s nice to know that -- dated special effects and all -- “One of Our Pylons is Missing” still inspires imaginative and creative play.

Next week: “The Test.”

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous5:46 PM

    John it is so good that your son is enjoying Land Of The Lost as much as we did as boys in the '70s.