Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Land Of The Lost S1 E4: Downstream

"Tasted a whole lot like lobster."
-Mr. Collie on eating Sleestaks-
"This is a closed universe."
-Rick Marshall-
"I kind of feel bad for when you guys were kids."
-The Boy Wonder mocking my viewing enjoyment of The Land Of The Lost-
Leave it to our children to dismantle our rose-tinted glasses.

One of the most alluring aspects of Land Of The Lost to me, still, today, is its immersive world-building and science fiction universe. What Land Of The Lost achieved in creating its impressive pocket universe reality in the 1970s on a shoestring budget slated for Saturday morning children's fare is still nothing short of amazing.

When you consider the world creation of Stargate or The X-Files, and that generous application of British Columbia, one has to tip his or her cap to a series that genuinely transported its viewers to a very special, seemingly creepy and hostile place and planet.

Even more astounding is viewing Land Of The Lost with those mature adult eyes and finding it still holds up so incredibly well as an entertainment.

A recent viewing of The Herculoids and The New Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn proved not so kind. Those aforementioned series still look amazing, but the content doesn't hold up as well in the endurance test department. Quite the opposite stands steady for Land Of The Lost today.

Land Of The Lost really begins to pile on the mythology of its pocket universe by throwing viewers the best curve ball since the existence of the Sleestaks, while injecting the creepy creatures into the latest exercise for good measure.

Where are we? What is this place?

Walker Edmiston guests on the show as a civil war survivor, a confederate soldier. The little known Edmiston has made quite a career of character acting.

Edmiston, lo and behold was the voice of Sigmund The Sea Monster in Sigmund And The Sea Monsters (1973-1978). He delivered voice work for H.R. Pufnstuf (1969) and gosh darn Ernie The Keebler Elf.

He appeared in everything from Buck Rogers In The 25th Century to The Dukes Of Hazzard.

The actor even handled the voice of Balok in the Star Trek: The Original Series, Season One, Episode 10, The Corbomite Maneuver. And while Edmiston plays a significant role here in building on the Land Of The Lost universe it would not be his last and only experience. Edmiston would return as Enik The Altrusian, costumed as the intellectual root of the Sleestak race, in Land Of The Lost, Season One, Episode 6, The Stranger.

Land Of The Lost, Season One, Episode 4, Downstream wastes no time in establishing its clever intentions to build continuity and establish a set of operating characters and rules within its "closed" pocket universe. Just as Chaka and his band of primitives would make numerous appearances and return in future episodes, the Sleestaks arrive once again here (you could never get enough of the Sleestaks) along with Dopey who returns from his Episode 3, Dopey.

Dopey catches Marshall, Wil and Holly floating off downstream on their raft.

When the trio meet former Confederate fighter Mr. Collie and his faithful cannon it's another fascinating interaction.

The man has miraculously kept the Sleestaks at bay, but he has also discovered along with our heroic family the value of the various colorful crystals when struck together can create blinding light or explosions. This is the land of the lost and the mysterious and the unknown as our family learns to survive.

And what kid doesn't remember the family with Mr. Collie jumping into the water to escape the approaching Sleestaks as wooden arrows are hurled at them. It was truly frightening though those arrows never did have the kind of forceful impact of a true arrow. This was a kids show. It makes sense now.

What always impressed about the series was the genuine sense of an alternate universe on very small sets and blue screens. A truly incredible, vast environment was imagined and created.

Some real effort is paid here, following the establishment of important characters and a sense of place in previous episodes, to build a sense of mythology and offer, in its short timeframes, further information that lends Land Of The Lost a striking credibility and a more substantive tone than most for what became a Saturday morning favorite.

One of the most charming aspects of Land Of The Lost was the sincerity that was poured into the characters by the respective cast members. This coupled with wonderfully thoughtful, mythology-laced stories made for a thrilling adventure series. And it was indeed the spirit of this mysterious journey into an unknown pocket universe that seem to play so effortlessly. Each episode drew the viewer into its mysteries and rewarded with engaging adventures always leaving us wanting so much more. It began with the dinosaurs as kids but the creative minds behind the series, including actual science fiction writers like Larry Niven, made it so much more.

Writer: Larry Niven.
Director: Dennis Steinmetz.

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