Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Land Of The Giants S1 E2: Ghost Town

"Even God would be lonely in a place like this."
-Betty Hamilton-

Not unlike the Hanna-Barbera production The Adventures Of Gulliver (1968-1969) for The Banana Splits Adventure Hour (1968-1970) or the comedic island adventures of Gilligan's Island (1964-1967), there is a charming adventure-like spirit to this Irwin Allen sci-fi production of Land Of The Giants (1968-1970).

The late 1960s was rife and bountiful with series loaded with imagination. UFO (1970-1973) was happening on the other side of the pond along with Thunderbirds (1965-1966) by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, but stateside Irwin Allen was making all sorts of waves on television with his Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea (1961) film eventually adapted for television (1964-1968), Lost In Space (1965-1968), The Time Tunnel (1966-1967) and finally the expensively prop-heavy production work of Land Of The Giants (1968-1970).

With Land Of The Giants, Season One, Episode 2, Ghost Town it was clear Allen and his creative forces (directors, writers and production design staff) had intentions to go out BIG!

Land Of The Giants was another example of ensemble science fiction adventure at its most ambitious if not finest.

The story idea was conceived by Anthony Wilson but penned first by Gilbert Ralston (ST:TOS, S2, E2, Who Mourns For Adonis?) and William Welch (Lost In Space).

Ralston expressed disappointment in the final product here with the series entry as "childish" in Starlog Magazine #159 (p.66). Veteran writer Welch would take the writing chores and essentially lay out the direction of Land Of The Giants and what the adventure series was essentially shooting for. Ralston's later assessment definitively captured the concerns of the series.

"They were interested in basic gimmicks. Star Trek, on the other hand, was an intellectual exercise run by sensitive and knowledgeable producers."

As much fun as Irwin Allen generated for his productions in many respects the action-based productions were very much a reflection and manifestation of the child-like creator's very detached and some would say insensitive drive for the bigger, better, extravagant production. Allen was far less concerned with the characters and their respective development than he was in the situational action adventure they might find themselves dropped.

Ghost Town sets straight that the crew of the Spindrift have landed on another planet. If The Crash (S1, E1) made any suggestion of an alternate Earth or some kind of atomizer or shrinking ray storm only to return to Earth, Ghost Town's giant caretakers of its model, hobby-sized town make it clear the giants are not of our world. They are actually pleased to see these pint sized little Earthlings populate their little toy town and intend to trap them there.

Ghost Town offers all of the fascinating little touches of big rocks, toy cars, model town structures and so on even if it lacks some of the production grandeur of Allen's opening volley. It's still a solid outing into the Land Of The Giants as we continue to root for our tiny crew of the Spindrift while not learning much in the way of character. The stories and action are driving this behemoth so far, thus plot-driven not character-driven adventure appears to be an establishing formula.

This is still fabulous 1970s adventure television of which there is nothing like today.

And where else will you get a full on screen child spanking in this politically correct and socially neutered day and age in which we live today where responsibility and consequence are becoming as extinct as the dinosaurs or an Irwin Allen production.

Ghost Town: B.
Writer: Gilbert Ralston/ William Welch/ Anthony Wilson.

Director: Nathan Juran (directed for all four of Allen's 1960s series).

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