YES! YES! YES! Land of the Lost on DVD!!!

by Jimmy Akin

in Film and TV

lotl_logoOne of the all-time GREAT Saturday morning shows is The Land of the Lost, which aired back in the mid-1970s. For me, as for countless other boys and girls of my generation, Land of the Lost was the EPITOME of cool.

And deservedly so! Just look at what the show had going for it:

1. First and foremost, it had DINOSAURS! Lots of them! You can’t get cooler than that!

2. It had a likable family living in a world filled with groovy science fiction concepts.

3. It had A-list science fiction authors (like Larry Niven, Theodore Sturgeon, Norman Spinrad, Ben Bova, David Gerrold, and D. C. Fontanta) doing the scripts.

4. It had the semi-insectoid, semi-reptilian Sleestak, the barbaric descendants of the Land of the Lost’s original builders.

5. It had the short, ape-like Pakuni

6. It had guest stars from the past of our world (like Jefferson Davis Collie III–a loney Confederate veteran convinced that “The South will rise again”) and from the future of our world (like Beauregard Jackson of Ft. Worth, Texas–an astronaut plucked from flying a hypersonic glider over Ecuador) and the main cast themselves as guest stars from their own futures or alternate universes–as well as other guest stars too bizarre to classify.

7. It had spray-painted chickens, giant carrots, turnips, and strawberries, glowing power crystals, lost cities, abandoned temples, circular rivers leading nowhere, peril-infested swamps, earthquakes, talking skulls, and everything else that makes for coolness.

What a show!

pakuni01It’s probably the most intelligent show ever to appear on Saturday morning. It wasn’t dumbed down and didn’t patronize the children in the audience. How many Saturday morning shows that expect kids to understand–and succeed in communicating to them–that the series is set in a parallel universe so small that you can stand on the top of a hill and see the back of your head with binoculars because its space-time is curved. Not only that, but it is an *artificial* universe built by a once noble race that has now fallen into barbarity. It is a universe still being run by an automated control system that the characters must interact with. It is a universe connected to any point in our world’s history–and countless other worlds–via time doorways.

Some favorite lines following a dinosaur attack:

BEAUREGARD JACKSON: Hey, I sure am happy to see you kids. . . . Where am I? And, uh, what in the heck was that?

WILL MARSHALL: Aw, that’s only a coelophysis. It’s omnivorous.

JACKSON: Don’t much care where it goes to church. It sure has got bad manners.

The series also had an evolving storyline, in which the characters progressively learned more and more about their new universe and how it worked, with concepts building over time, enabling the stories to to grow more complex, with the characters getting ever closer to figuring out how to return home to Earth. This was not a series where everything gets reset to just the way it was at the beginning of the episode.

The characters also are more realistic than on most childrens’ series. The kids do not function as grownups in miniature. They make mistakes and do juvenile things, and the series underscores the need for them to hang together and obey their father in order for the family to survive. Even though the family members may squabble, the genuinely love and depend on each other. The kids also grow and mature over time.

Sleestak2You may be of the impression that Star Trek’s Klingon was the first TV sci-fi language to be developed to the point that people could actually speak it, but you’d be wrong. The Land of the Lost’s ape-like Pakuni spoke a language that had hundreds of words and its own grammar and phonology–designed by a professional linguist (as with Klingon).

The show also had all the delicious scare-factor one could want. The Sleestaks in particular provided the satisfying chills every young boy was longing for as a way of testing his courage. I can’t tell you how many nights I lay awake, convinced by the shadows in my bedroom that there was a Sleestak standing in my closet door–yet I wouldn’t have missed Land of the Lost for anything!

Now, at last, Land of the Lost comes to DVD. The first season (of three seasons) came out yesterday in an affordable edition that contains the foundational episodes of the series, which set up the key concepts that come into play later. Watching them now, the child-like aspects of the series are more noticeble to me than they were when I was nine, but it’s still AMAZING how different, more mature, and more sophisticated the series is than ANYTHING else ever made for Saturday morning TV.

I must admit that I am a huge fan of Land of the Lost. In fact, I pre-ordered the DVDs, so they arrived early, and I’ve just taken the DVD bonus materials quiz on the show and scored 100% (on 13 questions with four options each), so I’m very proud of myself.

For those who saw the series when it was first on, it will be an unbelievable nostalgia fest, and for those who missed out on it the first time, you’ll WISH you’d seen it as kids back in the 1970s. It’ll also provide an unending delight for your own children.

BUY IT!!! BUY IT NOW!!!

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{ 6 comments }

Anonymous June 30, 2004 at 6:00 pm

Yeah! I love those shows. A friend got them for me on videocassette a couple years ago and they’re hilarious! Have you watched the one called Tag Team yet? It’s so funny when Cha-Ka and his parents (I think they’re his parents?!) start yelling out to each other, and it sounds like they’re yelling “Versace! Versace!”. When I was watching it with friends we all howled and were wondering why Cha-Ka et al were yelling about an Italian designer!

Love them Sleestak–Isn’t it great how Will and Holly always said to each other, “It’s OK. We can go into the caves. They’re dormant this time of year.” But *every* time they went in, the Slee’s came alive and chased them, hissing and spitting.

Ah, yes. Those were the days.

Tara June 30, 2004 at 6:01 pm

Oops. Forgot to sign my name on that last post. :-)

Anonymous July 1, 2004 at 11:20 am

“It had A-list science fiction authors (like Larry Niven, Theodore Sturgeon, Norman Spinrad, Ben Bova, David Gerrold, and D. C. Fontanta) doing the scripts.”

You’ve gotta be kidding! I had no idea. Excellent. I remember digging the show a whole lot when I was a kid. Never got to see it as much as I wanted ‘cos my older brother was always watching baseball! Now, I’m a huge baseball fan but LOTL was too cool to miss!

Gene Branaman July 1, 2004 at 11:21 am

“It had A-list science fiction authors (like Larry Niven, Theodore Sturgeon, Norman Spinrad, Ben Bova, David Gerrold, and D. C. Fontanta) doing the scripts.”

You’ve gotta be kidding! I had no idea. Excellent. I remember digging the show a whole lot when I was a kid. Never got to see it as much as I wanted ‘cos my older brother was always watching baseball! Now, I’m a huge baseball fan but LOTL was too cool to miss!

Gene Branaman July 1, 2004 at 11:22 am

Oops. Sorry for the double post.

Jeff July 1, 2004 at 11:46 am

The green alien on the left in that picture is played by Bill Lambier, former basketball player for the Detroit Pistons when he was in high school. I saw an interview with him on the Land of the Lost a few weeks ago.

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