Saturday, May 23, 2015

Saturday Morning Cult-TV Blogging: Valley of the Dinosaurs: "Volcano" (September 28, 1974)

The Butlers and Gorak’s cave family worry that a volcano -- known by the villagers as “Magog" -- is soon going to erupt.  

The only problem is that they can’t tell for certain, because the Tribal Council has forbidden anyone from ascending the mountain and troubling “Magog,” which it treats as a living creature, a God.

Mr. Butler realizes he must disobey orders, and go up the volcano anyway, without permission. Gorak goes with him, in defiance of the law, and the two men discover that, indeed, the volcano is ready to erupt.

Now they must return to the council whose orders they have ignored, and ask for help in diverting the lava flow away from the village and the family cave…

“Volcano,” this week’s episode of Valley of the Dinosaurs (1974), focuses again on two key series concepts: team-work and science.  

The cave-family and the Butlers join forces (eventually with the villagers, too…) to prevent lava from destroying their homes. Meanwhile, Mr. Butler -- former science teacher -- explains in detail such concepts as a compass, and how to split stone using spikes and water. 

Unlike Isis or Shazam, however, the scientific and social lessons of “Volcano” don’t hit one over the head, or become the focus of the show. Instead, action is highlighted.  This week, there’s a last minute escape from the lava using a Butler-built pedal-boat, as well as a race against time to beat the volcano. There’s also an interlude with a weird dodo-like creature.

It’s funny to think about, but “Volcano” also stresses -- on at least two occasions -- how it is sometimes necessary to break the law to achieve positive results.  

Butler notes that fact, and later, Gorok does too.  The underlying idea is good: that science and knowledge are sometimes more important than adherence to rules or dogma (especially unsubstantiated religious beliefs), but by the same token it’s weird for a kid’s show to advocate law-breaking.   I guess the appropriate idea here is: question authority; question those things that are not supported by fact, or logic.

Next week: "Pteranodon."

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