Reviews

Land of the Lost: The Complete Series

Bill Gibron

Gerrold understood that sci-fi was more than just weird looking places and strange monsters. It was about story, and characters, and audience identification.


Land of the Lost

Distributor: Rhino Home Video
Cast: Spencer Milligan, Wesley Eure, Kathy Coleman, Philip Paley
Subtitle: The Complete Series
Network: NBC
First date: 1974
US Release Date: 2005-12-06
Last date: 1977
Amazon affiliate
Amazon

Change is not always for the best. On occasion, it can undermine an otherwise perfectly sound conceit. When Sid and Marty Krofft, two exceptionally successful producers of Saturday morning live action kid shows (with classics like H. R. Pufnstuf, Lidsville, and Sigmund and the Sea Monsters to their credit) wanted to branch out into a more serious action/adventure format, they hadn't a clue what to do. All they knew was that they wanted it to deal with dinosaurs, and provide a family-oriented offering of mystery and magic. Yet after three seasons, what had started as a serious speculative thriller was turned into just another wacky Saturday morning spree. And all because the powers that be wouldn't leave it alone.

Truth be told, Land of the Lost is not really a Krofft production in the purest sense. Sure, they masterminded the basics of the show, but they weren't prepared to take on the challenge of creating such a structured, sci-fi universe on their own. They knew they needed serious outside help. Setting aside their own vision, which was somewhat lacking, they wisely turned to David Gerrold, member of the illustrious Star Trek writing staff and guiding force behind the animated version of the series, to develop their idea. More or less giving him free reign to conceive and create the show, is was Gerrold who fathered what would eventually be one the longest running and best remembered series to carry the Krofft name.

It was Gerrold who devised the basic premise: a park ranger named Rick Marshall (played by stage actor Spencer Milligan) and his two teenage children, Will (soap star Wesley Eure) and Holly (newcomer Kathy Coleman), are whitewater rafting when a freak earthquake sends them cascading over a mysterious waterfall. They soon find themselves in an unusual land filled with dangerous dinosaurs, chattering ape people, and evil lizard men. It was Gerrold who dubbed the monkey men "the Pakuni" and the repugnant reptiles "Sleestak". Relying on many of his Trek buddies to pen scripts — including D.C. Fontana ("Elsewhen"), Ben Bova ("The Search"), Walter Koenig ("The Stranger"), and Larry Niven ("Hurricane," "Circle") — he hoped to do something unheard of in Saturday Morning TV; he wanted to make smart fantasy for the pre and tween set.

And believe it or not, he did. Season One of Land of the Lost is a true minor gem in the sci-fi genre, a show that took itself, and its premise, very seriously. Carefully balancing elements both solemn and slapstick, the series wanted to engage the juvenile while it explored a more mature message and mannerism. Using the bonds of family as its primary foundation, the first few episodes offered exploration as an excuse to focus on cultural differences (human vs. pakuni), human foibles (as expressed by an intelligent and empathetic Sleestak character, Enik) and the standard stranger in a strange land dynamic. While the F/X were as close to cutting edge as a '70s television budget could make them (meaning lots of now-laughable stop motion silliness), there was still a sense of fear and trepidation in the show. We wondered if the Marshall's would ever return home, and wondered how dangerous it would be for them to try.

Unfortunately, said potential was never really fulfilled. After Season One, Gerrold stepped down, and the untried Dick Morgan was brought in to guide the show. Right from the beginning, the changes were obvious: less overriding, serialized story arcs and more episodic installments with all dilemmas wrapped up neat and tidy in 25 minutes; greater emphasis on the 'cute' and 'commercial' Pakuni; more baby dinosaurs (Holly had a "pet" named Dopey that was a breakout character in the first series). In essence, they wanted to copy the obvious successes from the kiddie shows past. That is why we now had a new "intellectualized" evil character in the light-based bad guy, the Zarn. That is why we got Cha-ka (Philip Paley) and his parents (the only Pakuni on the planet) appearing in virtually every episode. It is also why Season Two feels like a retread, not an expansion, of Land of the Lost's possibilities.

This doesn't mean the Second Season was a complete disaster (the disaster would come later). No, inside the prehistoric animal antics and claymation critters are some stellar installments. When Cha-Ka has to prove his maturing "ape-hood" by stealing an Allusaurus egg, said stunt provides "The Test" with its surefire suspense. The Zarn is responsible for a threatening shift in the planet's particulars, creating a "Gravity Storm" and one of the show's most inventive storylines. The Sleestak trap Rick, blaming him for the neverending sunlight of "The Longest Day", while an accidental step inside one of the planet's mysterious gold monoliths results in a time travel trip on "The Pylon Express". Indeed, when viewed more closely, Season Two shines more than it shames. Though the lack of a linking plotline was problematic (the "heading for home" conceit getting lost in the shuffle), many of the shows found a way to stand out and surprise.

It was Season Three where things began to go downhill. Age was taking its toll on the performers, with stars Wesley Eure and Kathy Coleman looking more mature and less childlike. For undisclosed reasons, Spencer Milligan decided to quit. Needing to replace Rick Marshall with another father figure type, new script editor Samuel Roeca (an old Hollywood stalwart — having worked on everything from The Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok to Mission: Impossible) — conceived of "Uncle" Jack. He was Rick's brother who himself got "lost" while out searching for the missing family. In one of the more convoluted conventions in the show, Jack managed to tumble through the same time hole as the family, following them directly to the exact moment when Rick "disappeared" during an earthquake. To make matters worst, Cha-Ka also lost his kinfolk during the seismic shift. Thus, this newly formed family had to regroup and find a new home to replace their now-destroyed cave enclosure.

Naturally, they ended up in part of the Lost City, near the sinister Sleestak's temple. This allowed for a constant threat, as well as more interaction with the popular villains. The series began relying on guest stars, strange beasts, and other anomalies to keep the fantasy alive and fresh. Season Three would see Richard Kiel play a Godlike creature worshipped by the lizard men ("Survival Kit"); the random arrival of other humans, including a cavalry officer and the Indian brave he was chasing ("Medicine Man"); a hot air balloonist ("Hot Air Artist"); and a few new dino foes. Yet that wasn't apparently good enough for the creative brass, as unicorns, dragons, and other odd beasties were brought into the mix. Chaka became less chimp-like and more an unwashed human brat, and Uncle Jack was less fatherly and more flummoxed by everything around him. There were highlights: a particularly scary outing involving the loss of the sun ("The Repairman"), and another return from everyone's favorite cultured reptile, Enik.

But what this season showed more clearly was that Land of the Lost was resorting to gimmicks to get by. Good writing and proper production values were no longer important. When Gerrold was at the helm, he wanted the series to resonate with every age group. But by the time Roeca took over, the show was quite prepared to talk down to, and even a little bit below, its audience. It was no longer adventurous and fun — it was awkward and forced. Maybe Mulligan's leaving was the key, or perhaps the desire to dress up every episode with as much sci-fi froufrou as possible or probable was to blame. Whatever the case, what once was a timeless classic worthy of the genre moniker was now just another Krofft experiment in speculative silliness. Its cancellation wasn't unexpected. For some, it was merciful. Fans just couldn't fathom another reconfiguration of what was once their weekend repast into an ethereal land of possibilities and pitfalls.

What stands out today, some 30 years later, is how good those first few shows were. Unlike Lost in Space, or other Swiss Family Crusoe's concepts of individuals stranded in the cosmos, there was a real feeling of dread and danger, as well as a large dose of familial love. Gerrold understood that sci-fi was more than just weird looking places and strange monsters. It was about story, and characters, and audience identification. As the seasons passed, Land of the Lost got locked into its own little world, isolating itself from that which once made it great. Such insularity cost the show its creativity, and then its support. Had it simply stayed the course set out before, it could have continued on as a solid, seminal show. But every year, someone had to change something. And in the case of Land of the Lost, change was only took the show ever farther away from where it wanted to be.

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less
Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

Next Page
Related Articles Around the Web
Film

Subverting the Romcom: Mercedes Grower on Creating 'Brakes'

Noel Fielding (Daniel) and Mercedes Grower (Layla) (courtesy Bulldog Film Distribution)

Brakes plunges straight into the brutal and absurd endings of the relationships of nine couples before travelling back in time to discover the moments of those first sparks of love.

The improvised dark comedy Brakes (2017), a self-described "anti-romcom", is the debut feature of comedienne and writer, director and actress Mercedes Grower. Awarded production completion funding from the BFI Film Fund, Grower now finds herself looking to the future as she develops her second feature film, alongside working with Laura Michalchyshyn from Sundance TV and Wren Arthur from Olive productions on her sitcom, Sailor.

Keep reading... Show less

People aren't cheering Supergirl on here. They're not thanking her for her heroism, or even stopping to take a selfie.

It's rare for any hero who isn't Superman to gain the kind of credibility that grants them the implicitly, unflinching trust of the public. In fact, even Superman struggles to maintain that credibility and he's Superman. If the ultimate paragon of heroes struggles with maintaining the trust of the public, then what hope does any hero have?

Keep reading... Show less

The Paraguay-born, Brooklyn-based indie pop artist MAJO wraps brand new holiday music for us to enjoy in a bow.

It's that time of year yet again, and with Christmastime comes Christmas tunes. Amongst the countless new covers of holiday classics that will be flooding streaming apps throughout the season from some of our favorite artists, it's always especially heartening to see some original writing flowing in. Such is the gift that Paraguay-born, Brooklyn-based indie pop songwriter MAJO is bringing us this year.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image