Land of the Lost
This show debuted during the 1975-76 season on NBC. It was one of the greatest science fiction series of all time, even though it was initially presented as Saturday morning kiddie fair. The most notable thing about it at the time were the stop-motion dinosaurs, but what really set it apart from other Saturday morning TV was its reliance on hard science fiction themes that were well ahead of their time.
I first saw this show when I was going into first grade in 1975. The stop-motion dinos on the commercials blew me away. I had been hooked on prehistoric beasts since before I’d seen the “Turu the Terrible” episode of Johnny Quest. At school I was already known as a dinosaur junkie. It seemed almost too good to be true then, that that fondly remembered TV season featured not one, but three prehistoric-themed shows—Land of the Lost, Valley of the Dinosaurs, and Korg:100,000 B.C. As far as prehistoric beasts themselves, Valley of the Dinosaurs was arguably the best of these three. It was an HB cartoon that featured a modern ‘70s familiy, the Butlers, who, while on a trip down the Amazon, get swept into a hidden valley not unlike Burroughs’ Caspak, inhabitated by all sorts of prehistoric mammals and reptiles from all ages. They are befriended by a family of Cro-Magons, and each helps the other to survive in this hostile new world. The writers for this series did their research, as all manner of ancient fauna are represented accurately on the show. Unlike LOTL, Valley of the Dinosaurs got its own Charleton comic book series. Korg, an HB live-action series, which was advertised as “A different kind of Adventure show”, told the story of an actual family of Cro-Magonons living as they did 100,000 years ago. In order to be technically accurate, the show featured no dinosaurs. The animals featured were only the modern-day variety though, and not Plesticene, with the exception of a young elephant with a fur coat as a wooly mammoth (which I did not see). Korg, by the way, also got his own comic by Charleton.
It was Land of the Lost, however, that went over the biggest with viewers, including myself. What got us hooked were the live-action dinosaurs, even though there were a limited number of them. What kept us engrossed, however, and what made the series as fondly remembered as it is today were the stories and themes, which refused to talk down to their audience, and far exceeded the intellectual level of not only most kiddie shows (which is generally wretched), but many of the adult shows as well. How did this happen? Sid and Marty Kroft wanted to do some kind of live-action series centered around dinosaurs. They initially had no idea what the show would be like, but they were aiming for a more serious approach, and hired veteran science fiction writer David Gerald, among others, to develop the show for them. Gerald is perhaps best remembered for his writing fro the Star Trek series, most notably the “Trouble with Tribbles” episode.
Among his other works are many excellent science fiction novels, including The War Against the Chtorr series. Other contributers to LOTL include such big names in s-f as Ben Bova, Larry Niven (author of the acclaimed Ringworld series), Theodore Sturgeon, Dick Morgan, and well-known dinophile Donald F. Glut. Gerald served as the story editor for the entire first season.
As all those who remember the series know, LOTL centered on the adventures of the Marshall family, forest ranger Rick Marshall and his two children Will and Holly. While exploring a canyon river, they are thrown over a waterfall and into a time doorway. They awake in a strange prehistoric world, and are immediately menaced by a tyrannosaurus rex. The intro shows them fleeing the dinosaur through the jungle. The Marshals take refuge in a cave which they call High Bluff and becomes their home for the first two seasons. As the series progresses, both the Marshal family and ourselves find out just where they are, and what their situation is. They have not been sent backward in time, nor have they fallen into some lost corner of modern-day earth, as I initially believed, after watching the first few episodes. The three moons in the sky indicate that they are on another planet altogather, (called Altrusia by its inhabitants) albeit one virtually identical to earth during the height of the Mesozoic era, but even more surprising revelations are soon to follow. The first episode introduces the Pakuni, a race of dimunitive, sentient prehuman “ape-men”. Cha-Ka, the young Paku who Will and Holly save from the tyrannosaur becomes a regular on the show, as do his two elders Ta and Sa. I’ve read that the producers of the show even created an actual language for the Paku with actual phonetic principles and grammatical rules. What intrigued me the most about the Pakuni dialect is their names for the dinosaurs that shared their world. It must have made day-today life a terror what with those huge reptilian monsters running around, and the Paku had to be small, and quick to survive. “Agumba” was their word for tyrannosaurus, “aboba” was allosaurus, “amena” triceratops, “agobi” coelophysis, and I’m not sure about the words for brontosaurus and pteranodon, two other species known to be native to the land.
Their word for sleestak was “sireesa-taka”, the other sentient race native to the land. These bug-eyed, scaley-skinned baddies were introduced on the second episode, and they were among the most memorable aspects of the show. I will never forget their first appearance. On the first episode, I had seen one of these weird beings on the “blister card” between commercials, but it never crossed my mind such a creature might appear on the show itself. I was pleasantly surprised when they showed up the following episode . If one persuses the memories Gen-Xers have of LOTL on YL.com, it becomes obvious that many of us were seriously spooked by the sleestak. There are some out there who had the eerie feeling, tucked in bed on Saturday night, that their gaping closet door became a time doorway to Altrusia, and the sleestak could creep up from the twisted tunnels under the Lost City to sieze them as they slept. Most found them even more terrifying than the flying monkeys in “The Wizard of Oz”. The strange thing is, I was fascinated by the sleestak, and I thought they were the coolest ever, yet I wasn’t really frightened of them. What’s strange about that is that I was hardly a courageous child, and during “The Wizard of Oz”, just the sight of those winged simians made me turn to another channel even before the classic scene where they whoop jibbering out of the cloud-darkened sky like bats from hell. But somehow, the sleestak never gave me shivers, even with their habit of lurking in dark, mazelike tunnels, and bursting out suddenly upon the Marshals without warning, when I was always afraid of things that did that. That year I just had to be a sleestak for Halloween. There were no sleestak costumes available at the stores, so my mom made me one out of a paper bag. The next year, however, I did see a kid at my school wearing a genuine sleestak costume. The mask was yellow with red highlights, and the front shirt had a picture of the huge head and claws of an enormous sleestak emerging from the jungle over three Pakuni screaming in fear. Years later, after I described this costume online, someone emailed me a picture of it. I also happened upon another sleestak mask in a bin at a dime store sometime later (they still had dime stores in those days, holdovers form the 1950s). This mask was tan in color, and resembled Enik more then the sleestak proper. I also found the original costume mask on sale in a bin in 1981, and constructed a cheesy paper-mache sleestak “head”, with car relector eyes from it.
But enough with memories. What about the sleestak themselves? The second episode introduced the Lost City, proof-positive that a highly evolved race had once inhabited the land. But it wasn’t until the episode the “the Stranger”, which introduced Enik, that we found out where the sleestak came from. Enik was the intelligent sleestak-like being who identified himself as an Altrusian. I often refered to him as the “orange sleestak”, though he was more baige-colored than orange. He was also shorter than the devolved sleestak, and wore a garment made of some glitter orange fabric. Unlike his devolved cousins Enik spoke perfect English. It was clear from the start however, that this was not his native language, and he somehow had a knowledge of humans, and presumably their languages and cultures. When Enik and the Marshals first meet, Enik believes that he has traveled backward in time, and that the sleestak are his ancestors. However, upon seeing the Lost City, he realizes that his highly scientific society has fallen into ruin, and that the sleestak are his degenerate descendents. It is a moment not unlike the stunning revelation at the end of Planet of the Apes, for Enik at least. There was also one other intelligent “good” sleestak on the show. This was a sleestak called “S’latch, who physically resembled the evil sleestaks, but had inherited the knowledge and wisdom of his Altrusian ancestors. He appeared on the episode “The Hole”, when Rick Marshall gets thrown in the pit of the mysterious Sleestak god. S’latch is also condemned because his intelligence is considered an aberration, and the two help each other to escape. Curiously, although Enik appeared on two other first season episodes, and a few more during the second and third seasons, S’latch was never seen on the show again.
As the show progressed more of the land’s hidden secrets were revealed. On the episode “Downstream” the Marshals attempt to escape the land by building a raft and sailing down river, only to wind up back in the swamp where they started, thus proving Rick’s theory that they are marooned in a closed universe. Although the pylons were initially discovered during the premier episode, it wasn’t until “Skylons” aired, about halfway through the first season, that we discovered what they were for. On this episode, Will and Holly are on food gathering expedition, when they discover how to open and get inside the pylons, and unwittingly unlease a storm. They must then learn how to operate the “crystals” of the matrix table within the pylons in order to set things straight. It turns out that the Land of the Lost is an artificially created environment, and the pylons are for controlling the weather. As we find out more about them however, we learn that some have more specialized functions, such as the “Clock Pylons” (discovered during the second season) which regulates the passage of time within this closed universe. Then there is the pylon that contains a time doorway which is accessible when Altrusia’s three moons are in alignment, and the “haunted” pylon controlled by a strange enity that is addicted to crystal power in “Possession.”
Land of the Lost happens to be the only ongoing show I’m aware of that actually contains a “final episode”. The last episode of the first season, “Circle”, actually has Enik finding a way for the Marshalls to return to Earth. This episode is kind of bogus however, since the series was renewed for a second season, and even the third. Though the second season’s stories could have been incorporated into the original run as “lost episodes” that transpired before the Marshals went home, the third season’s episodes obviously could not, given that season’s radical changes.
Like the majority of shows, the first season was the best, at least in the opinion of most viewers. While many of the first season’s episodes centered around outdoor survival and included much dinosaur footage, such as “Dopey”, The Paku that came to Dinner”, and “Tag Team”, only two second season episodes were produced where dinosaurs were main theme. These were “Tar Pit”, that season’s first episode, and “The Test”. “Tar Pit” on which Dopey, the lovable baby bronto who pulled carts of giant strawberries for the Marshalls throughout the first season, falls into a tar pit to be rescued by his gargantuan parent, is one of the most touching dino episodes they produced. “The Test” introduced a new cast member among the land’s dinosaur residents, the baby allosaur, Junior, who hatches unexpectently when Cha-Ka attempts to steal one of the mother allosaur’s eggs for his rite of manhood. The other second season episodes however ( with the exception of the outdoor survival episode “Nice Day”), were of a bizarre science fictional nature that may have had the effect of alienating some kids. David Gerald left as editor after season one, but the remaining writers seemed determined to maintain the show’s quality as a science fiction series, and perhaps were almost too successful, as some of these new stories had an eerie, disturbing quality. There were a number of first season episodes in this category as well, like “Album”, and “Possession”, but it was the season two that really emphasized this “weird” aspect of the show. In fairness, that is not to say that the series “jumped the shark” at this point, as indeed, no matter how fantastic the plots, all the second season stories were grounded in hard s-f, and many of them were quite good. All of them challenged viewers to think; the trouble was, some of them went way over kids’ heads.
The most eerie and intriguing character this season was the Zarn (whom I called “the polka-dot” man at the time). He was a human-shaped alien entity who appeared composed of hundreds of tiny sparkling lights. His starship, which also was formed of countless glittering lights, had crashed in a region of the land known as the “mist marsh”, a place of swirling fog-like mists shrouded in perpetual darkness. He was introduced on the second episode of the second season, and appeared again two times afterward. On that episode, Will and Rick Marshall, after taking refuge in the Mist Marsh, discover the alien’s starship, and encounter a strange woman named “Sharon Williams”, who has far too much in common with Rick and the other Marshals. The twist is (stop reading this paragraph if you don’t want to know) “Sharon” is actually an android built by Zarn and sent to study human behavior.
On another episode, Zarn attempts to escape Altrusia by blasting his starship out of the land. Rick assures him, however, escape from a “closed universe” is impossible, and he will only end up destroying the land and himself. Will and Rick use their minds to defeat Zarn, to whom human emotion is toxic. They stop him, but end up destroying the Zarn’s starship. This episode introduced another robotic “pet” of the Zarn, a dinosaur robot called “Fred”, who chases Will and Rick through the mist marsh until they lure him to high ground where he is struck by lightening. This mechanical dino is actually one of the model’s steel-frame armatures (I assume the one for the coelophysis?).
One of the most intriguing episodes during the series entire run was “The Musician”. On this episode the Marshals and Cha-Ka explore a previously unknown sector of the Lost City, where the architecture looks different, like it was built by someone other than the Sleestak. They find strange hyrogliphic writing that shares uncanny similarity to the English alphabet, and the imprint of a human hand on the stone masonry precisely matches Holly’s own. Will remarks that this proves that the ruins were contstructed not by the sleestak’s ancestors but by humans-and Holly’s enigmatic handprint seems to prove some additional conection with the Marshals themselves. Could it it be they were brought into the land on purpose? On the episode “Elsewhen”, during the first season, Holly encounters an older version of herself, who gives her crystaline communication devices that are used through the rest of the first and second season, and who gives her the courage to rescue Rick and Will from the Sleestak. What is the entire story of Holly’s future self, and what is the connection to the land? What strange technology created the communication devices? The “Musician” episode seems to provide additional clues but no real answers. Getting back to that story, the Marshalls discover a secret room in the new ruins, which contains what looks to be a prototype of all the matrix tables (perhaps it is what keeps the Land of the Lost containned in a “closed universe”?). They also discover some futuristic sculptures, and a humanoid statue. Cha-Ka accidently “activites” the table, causing a strange shimmering light to appear in the sky over the land, and a crimson ring materializes on the table. Holly puts it on, and it becomes stuck. After they leave the ruins, a pulsing red human-like shape materializes and follows them. Later they are unable to remove the ring from Holly’s finger, and decide to return it to the ruins. Then strange voices call on the wind, and Holly becomes possessed by an enigmatic entity called “The Builder”. While returning to the ruins, the Marshals and the Pakuni run afowl of the glowing crimson being, who waves its arm, causing them, one after another to fall into a trance after saying the enigmatic words “it is not your time”. The two elder Pakuni merely flee in terror. Cha-Ka , although terrified by the being, refuses to desert his human friends. The red being shrinks to Cha-Ka’s own size, and materializes into a human boy (actually Phillip Haley himself, the actor who played Cha-Ka), dressed in futuristic garb, who says simply, “it’s your time Cha-Ka,” then walks mysteriously into the jungle, never to be seen again. The ring is gone, of course, the lights above the land cease, and the Marshals come to. The last scene shows Cha-Ka playing “Rock-by-baby” perfectly on a primitive wind instrument. At the beginning of the episode, Holly is angry because she is unable to teach Cha-Ka how to play music on said instrument, and her father replies that “perhaps it isn’t time for the Pakuni to play music yet”, and remarks on the millions of years it took humans to evolve. Has the mysterious “builder”, caused an evolutionary “jump” to occur in Cha-Ka’s DNA, that will make him the seed of a new, perhaps “better” human race? And are the builders of the temple really some sort of humans themselves, perhaps the ancestors of, or even the descendents of the Pakuni themselves in some sort of time loop? An article on this series, written by Grant Goggins for the unpublished “Encyclopedia of TV Fantasy”, when discussing this epsisode, hints that perhaps the arrival of the Pakuni was “planned”—engineered by a mysterious parent race.
Another second episode in which more secrets of the land are uncovered was “One of our Pylons is Missing.” The Marshalls discover (and are nearly consumed by) a powerful underground energy source for the entire Land of the Lost, which consumes living matter and transforms it into energy which is then distributed into the network of pylons to control time, the weather, and so forth.
In “Blackout”, the final second season episode, the sleestak sabetoge the clock pylon, leaving the land in perpetual night. In folly, the sleestak council believe that by making the night go on forever, they will be able to consume the sacred Altrusian moth in limitless numbers and their eggs will increase until the sleestak will again cover the land, unknowing that this will also cause the extinction of all life on Altrusia’s surface, including the moths, and finally, the sleestak themselves. Just what the ecological relation the sleestak share with the Altrusian moth is never really explained. Do devouring the moths increase the fertility of their females? Enik discovers the plan from the council, then seeks out Rick Marshal for help. Rick agrees to accompany Enik to the Library of Skulls, an Archive Room in the Lost City where the sleestak council can commune with the knowledge of their ancestors. Enik is able to grant the human “Altrusian grace”, meaning Rick will be able to ask two questions while Enik serves as his councilor. They discover that the sleestak race is doomed if the night continues, and that the pylon in need of repair is guarded by three sleestak. They seek out the pylon, and Rick is able to repair the crystal configuration while Enik provides a distraction. What I found most memorable about this episode, though, is that it is the only one in the entire run that, despite all the dino footage, actually shows the “famous battle”, between tyrannosaurus rex and triceratops. This occurs in the beginning, when we are shown a brief nighttime shot of Spike and Grumpy battling it out before the camera cuts to a sleestak stealing through the nighted jungle.
As most every LOTL fan knows, the third season was far inferior to the previous two. Here is a summery of just some of the problems with the third season: When Spencer Muligan (who played Rick Marshal) left the series, Uncle Jack (played by Ron Harper) joined the cast in an obvious plot contrivance. The two elder Pakuni were killed off in an earthquake, presumabley because those actors quite the series as well. During many of the shots the painted background of hopelessly fake mountains was painfully obvious. On the first two seasons the tunnels of the Lost City resembled black basalt studded with mica. During the third, they just looked like paper mache. During the previous seasons, the sleestak moved in a manner that actually suggested an alien lifeform. During the third, they walked like the humans in costume that they were. The sleestak leader spoke perfect English, with of explaination of how he learned it. We do hear the leader “talk” on two episodes of the second season, but it seems this is my some form of telepathy. The sleestak refer to themselves as sleestak, even though "sleestak", was a term coined by anbother human visitor. During the previous season, the sleestak referred to themselves as Altrusians, same as Enik did. When we are shown close-ups of “Grumpy”’s head, they use the foam-rubber puppet of Alice (Didn’t they think kids would notice??). Many of the characters introduced during the first and second seasons were strangely absent from the third, indicating for the first time a serious lack of continuity. Dopey the young apatosaur, one of the show’s most likeable characters, was gone entirely, as was Junior, the baby allosaur from season two. Other dinos that were inexplicably absent were Emily the adult apatosaur, and Spot the coelophysis. Actually, these two did appear on a few brief recycled shots in the third season, but that was it. Most puzzling was the absence of the Zarn. Though the episode “Flying Dutchman” appears to take place within the Mist Marsh (or somewhere very like it), the enigmatic alien is nowhere to be seen or heard. And not only was this lack of continuity painfully obvious, the third season wasn’t even consistent with itself; an example of this was a unicorn given to Holly as a birthday present on one episode. Though the Marshals risk their lives to recover the animal, it is never seen from again. What’s more, not only are these characters absent, the third season introduced new characters that are among the worse on the show. One such character was Malak, a Cro-Magnon from stone-age Earth who inexpilicably spoke English. Clayton Barr, owner of the “Tyrannosaurus Lex” website dedicated to LOTL, considers the introduction of Malak to be when the series truly “shark-jumped”. Another such character was Medusa, a figure from Greek Mythology who was about as out of place on the show as one could get. Other human characters would inexplicably show up in the land, and then leave without taking the Marshals with them, not unlike the plethora of visitors to Gilligan’s Island.
It seemed that Sid and Marty Kroft hired a new team of writers for the third season, which was obviously a very bad move. Unlike those of the previous seasons, these were generic TV writers, who had no previous experience with hard science fiction. This, added to the fact the Marshall kids were fast growing up, caused the series cancellation by the following year. If every effort had been made to maintain the show’s quality, the series could have lasted at least as long as Filmation’s Tarzan series, even if the Marshal kids had to be recast.
But not all the third season was bad. Two new dinos were introduced, a mutant, double-headed plesiosaur, named Lulu, and a fire-breathing dimetrodon called Torchy. Like most aspects of the series at this point, these new dinosaur mutants were implausible, built they still made for new model animation, and added color and excitement to a show whose quality was fast diminishing. Torchy, in particular, was a favorite of mine, more for his species than his implausible breath-weapon. There were even some third season episodes that at least tried to be serious s-f. One such was “Repairman”, in which the sleestak again sabotoge one of the pylons –a “solar” pylon found to control the planets nearness to the sun this time—by removing a sun crystal from the matrix (To show just how cheesy these episodes were, they also shut mouth of the tunnel behind them, so how to they get back to their tunnels, since the only other way out is from the pylon main entrance in broad daylight?). A mysterious, English accented man who calls himself “Blandings” shows up to help the Marshals and to recover the stolen crystal. Though seemingly from a time in the Earth’s past, Blandings demonstrates feats of what appear to be a stunningly advanced technology, including an oridinary-seeming umbrella that creates a pocket of air-conditioning beneath it, and a strange device that causes a magnetic force-field against dinosaur attack. After an adventure with the sleestak, Blandings, Jack and Will recover the sun crystal and restore the pylon. Blanding goes back to wherever he came from. He also tells the Marshals, like Roni on the first season, that they will eventually escape the land of the lost.
Perhaps the best third season episode was “Timestop”. On this episode, Will and Holly recover a crystal attached to a placard with some hieroglyphs dating from Enik’s time. Enik explains that it is a key to running time within the land forward or backward if in conjunction with a larger energy source (meaning a special pylon). Enik tells the Marshls that it is more important that he use the crystal to return to his own time to warn that his people will devolve into sleestak, but with a sleight of hand, jack steals the crystal, and they use it as a compass that will help them locate the needed pylon. It turns out the special pylon is located near a geyser bed. Before they are able to use the crystal, Torchy attacks. They scatter, and the dimetrodon chases Cha-Ka out onto an island in the geyser bead. The “bridge” collapses, and the finback drowns in the boiling mud. The Marshals make camp for the night, and jack and Will locate the pylon, only to be ambushed by Enik who has summoned an army of sleestak to his aide. Jack explains their situation, and Enik allows them to use the time crystal to rescue Cha-Ka. Inserting the key into the pylon’s matrix, Jack rolls back the events of that afternoon, to the precise moment before Torchy chases Cha-Ka onto the island. At this point the otherwise excellent story goes awry; how is Holly able to warn Cha-Ka to run the other way this time, since she is unaware of what Jack is doing? And since Jack is the only one immune to the passage of time (he should have been the one to warn Cha-Ka), how is it that he, too, forgets what happened a few moments later? This slip-up is quite a shame, especially since just a few slight script revisions could have corrected this inconsistency. Anyway, once both Torchy and Cha-Ka are saved, the Marshals try to use the key to return home. But again the fire-breather attacks, and they take refuge behind the pylon, only to learn afterward that the Torchy’s flame fused the pylon key to the door.
While LOTL ended that season, the episodes were rebroadcast about the middle of the following season, when most of NBC’s Saturday morning lineup weren’t doing too well. They continued airing into the next season in the wee hours of the morning when few kids were watching, and were gone soon after that. Time gave the series some overdue respect, however, as sometime during the mid-eigties, CBS rebroadcast the entire first and second series of episodes, and appropriately listed them in TV guide as “science fiction”, along with a brief synopsis of each episode. They wisely refrained from showing the often embarrassing third season, though I, for one, missed Torchy. As a side note, LOTL followed the new “Dungeons and Dragons” cartoon in the CBS timeslot. This was one of the most inventive, and well-written Saturday morning series of all time, and employed such professional fantasists as Gary Gygax and Micheal Reaves as writers, much the same as the original LOTL did with science fiction. There were no new LOTL episodes, of course, until Sid and Marty decided to revive the series in the nineties.
Almost anyone familiar with the original LOTL series dislikes this remake. When I first heard it was being redone, I had high expectations, especially with the improvement of special effects (though this was still the pre-Jurassic park era). It turned out that the dino models themselves were slightly more detailed than the originals, but were just as cheesily animated. What’s worse, they didn’t show any more dinosaur species than the original did, only different ones. The new series boasted a tyrannosaurus (named Scarr), a stegosaurus, a triceratops, a parasaralofus, a brontosaurus, and a pteranodon. Oh, and also a hoplessly fake baby parasauralofus who resembled the baby on the Jim Henson comedy, “Dinosaurs.” But even worse were the so-called “sleestaks”, who were semi-comical figures who resembled a cross between Tolkien’s orcs and giant iguanas. This new series, for what it was worth, told the story of a different family, the Porters, whose van fell through a time doorway into a different land of the lost that was radically altered from the original. While the original sported a landscape that truly resembled a Mesozoic jungle (albeit a plastic one), complete with cycads, williamsonias, primitive conifers, and towering prehistoric cliffs that resembled those in Rudolph Zallinger’s famous “Life Through the Ages”mural, the new series looked like it had been filmed on location in some California backwoods. One thing retained, by the way, were the three moons in the sky.
To be fair, though, the new series stories were solidly written, and though they lacked the serious s-f approach of the original first and second seasons, they also avoided the extreme cheesiness of the third. This LOTL was clearly a different world from the original, with an entirely different history. It was apparently far more extensive than the “closed universe” area of Altrusia that the Marshals were restricted to. The new “sleestaks”, a dying race, once had cities in the land, and were apparently descended from dinosaurs. One episode from one of the later season had the Porters discover an ocean in the land, and a representive of a race of aquatic beings. Though, they may have lacked the budget to show any of the larger sea-reptiles, this episode also included a brief struggle with an aquatic reptile that looks to be a mesosaurus, which grew to about three feet long. Another episode featured a knight, who had fallen into the land from Earth’s middle ages. He promptly mistakes the local T-rex for a dragon. I sort of wanted an episode like this to take place during the third season original, only with Torchy, which would have been more appropriate.
The new series actually left the old one in the dust in at least one aspect: on the original, the pteranodons were frequently shown sailing overhead, but nothing was ever done with them. On the ninties LOTL, however, there is a great deal done with the animated pteranodon, who is presented as a true menace, almost as much as the T-rex. One other fact regarding LOTL’s pteranodons: Harlan Ellison, the one writer for the first series whose draft was never completed wanted to use the flying reptiles. In his script for the proposed “Guardians of the Pit” (which you can read on www.linkline.com/personal/enik1138/ ), Ellison has a scenario in which Holly is lowered into a deep pit, and is attack by two pteranodons, before “lizardmen” (sleestaks?) capture Rick and Will. It’s only a rough draft, but even as such, it’s evident from reading it that this could have been one of the series best episode once polished and completed. Why wasn’t it produced? According to David Gerald, in an interview conducted by Clayton Barr, Ellison submitted the first two acts of the draft, but refused to write the third unless Gerald first bought the script uncompleted. Gerald, fearing the company wouldn’t allow it, turned him down, but later regretted this move.
One of the most unusual mysteries of the first series LOTL was the issue of “missing” dinosaurs. On the first season the dinosaurs featured were Grumpy the T-rex, Spot the coelophysis, Big Alice the allosaurus, Spike the triceratops, Emily the apatosaurus, the baby bronto Dopey, and pteranodons. The second season introduced Junior the baby allosaurus, and Zarn’s dino-bot Fred. The third series introduced the two mutant dinos Lulu and Torchy. What some viewers may not remember was that one of the “cards” shown during the first season before commercials depicted a scene where Alice faced off with a horned dinosaur that is obviously a styracosaurus (I saw a still of this years later to confirm it). In his book “The Dinosaur Dictionary”, author Donald F. Glut says that the dino models for LOTL were modeled on models from an educational childrens’ film called “The Dinosaurs.” These included, according to Glut, the tyrannosaurus, the apatosaur, the triceratops, the coelopysis, and a styracosaurus. The latter never made into any of the actual episodes. If they had a styracosaurus model, as they evidently did, why didn’t they use it? It would have added more color even it were only shown occasionly and didn’t receive a moniker like the other dinos. That still leaves Big Alice, Dopey, the pteranodons, and the dinosaurs from the other two seasons, so perhaps these were created from scratch.
Two more cases of “missing dinosaurs”, (or more properly “barely glimpsed” dinosaurs) occur at the opening of the episode “Dopey”, when we are shown an arial view of the Mesozoic landscape. Below on the ground are what looks like two ankylosaur models. Look closer and you will see what is certainly an eryops, a huge amphibian of the early Permian swimming sluggishly through the turgid swamp. There is one other case of a dino that should have been included on the show, but wasn’t, which I will describe in the merchandise section below.
There has been a fair amount of LOTL merchandise produced over
the years. The problem is, the bulk of it has to do with the inferior nineties
version. This also unfortunately includes most of “good stuff”, including
action figures and playsets. Stuff for the first series LOTL is surprisingly
sparse, given that show’s popularity. However, a number of coloringbooks,
storybooks, games, the aforementioned costumes, a lunchbox, a jigsaw puzzle,
and a few cheaper items were made.
The lunch box is an interesting item, because it features a scene from the episode “the Test” on one side, and features Big Alice, Cha-Ka, Holly and Will. One of the coloring books features an attack by a carnivorous iguanodon, and a battle with a “smog monster”. Also featured is a dimetrodon, before the third season’s Torchy arrived on the scene. One of the Little Golden books had the Marshals and Cha-Ka hatching a T-rex egg, and returning the baby to its’mother. One other kids book made mention of multicolored “sky snakes”. I later found out that the sky-snakes, along with a storm of falling white bugs, were intended for the episode “Skylons”, but the script was changed. All of the LOTL books produced were obviously child-oriented with simplistic stories, unlike the series itself, whose mind-bending plots outdid most adult science fiction. I would like to have seen at least one series novelization based on the series by one of the writers, in the manner of the numerous Star Trek novels. They never did it, but some some of the today’s LOTL fanfic writers offer series stories (some of which are even better then the original episodes), and are toying with the idea for a long novel. What’s most seriously lacking in all of the first series merchandise, however, is the absence of any action figures. Even in the last few years, when Kroft began releasing figures based on its classic series, any figures or bean bags of the sleestaks or Enik remained curiously absent. One LOTL fan remarked that it was even more curious that Electra-Woman and Dyna-Girl figures produced, and no LOTL figures were, since Electra-Woman and Dyna-Girl lasted only one season, and LOTL lasted three. There has indeed been some talk of producing such items, but so far none has materialized.
The best merchandise item produced for the first series was undoubtedly a Viewmaster set of slide reels based on the first season episode “Elsewhen.”, that featured additional (deleted?) scenes. There was also a reel series based on the notoriously cheesy third series episode “Abominable Snowman”, which stuck strictly to episode, but cut out all the dinosaur footage. The “Elsewhen” reel came with a booklet that gave the background and related the episode, but with additional scenes before and after the episode itself. The story began with the Marshals fending off Grumpy at their cave, then discovering a new pylon which contained a tunnel that connected with the Lost City. The first slide of reel 1 shows a dinosaur at the Marshal’s cave which is supposed to be Grumpy, but looks more like Big Alice, only it is charchol-gray. The second slide shows a head peeping into the cave that is also obviously an allosaur. Another “missing scene” showed three dinosaurs, Emily, Spike, and the allosaur, surrounding the pylon. After the main story, the Marshals are led out of the Lost City by S’latch, the friendly sleestak who only appeared on “The Hole” episode of the actual series. Then there is a scene included of Will, Holly, and Cha-Ka (only the top of whose head is visible) pushing the car of giant strawberries. The most enigmatic “missing” scene occurs after this. It shows the model of High Bluff, with Dopey hauling the cart of strawberries below. Above, perched on the limb which jutts out by the side of the cave is a flying reptile. The book tells us that “Will’s pet pterodactyl was guarding the cave.” What pet pterodactyl? Everyone knows that no such animal ever appeared on the show. Where did this scene come from? Was Will supposed to have such a pet pterosaur in the scripts, but budget constraints forced them to abandon it? Does any one out there know?
There were many more tantalizing mysteries on the show itself, of course many of them involving the backstory of the land, and possible future ties to the Marshals themselves. We still do not know who mysterious figures like the ghost-like Alrusian entity who fed on “crystal power” in Possession was, or the black Sleestak mentioned on the episode where the Marshals meet their other universe counterparts. We don’t know who wrote “Holly Don’t” (in Rick’s won handwriting no less!) in the “Pylon Express”, episode, or why Holly’s handprints fit the ones in Builder’s temple. Did the writers have any definite answers to these questions? Some fanfic writers have tried to answer them, and often the conclusions are excellent. Many of these questions are answered by Marc C. in his fanfic “Personality Split”, which may be read on Clayton Barr’s Tyrannosaurus Lex site. Other fanfic writers featured on this site include Lisa Bell, who wrote a third season story where the Marshalls finally get home, and Jeanne Rudmann Grunert, whose story “Long Trek up a Small Mountain”, tells an interesting tale of what Rick and Will encountered on their expedition on the episode “Babysitter”. (That episode dealt with Holly’s encounter with the Zarn at High Bluff). Even if we never learn what, if any, answers the writers had in mind, these fanfics are good enough for now, at least.
\ Tyrannosaurus Lex, a site with tons of LOTL info. I also have two stories in the fanfic section. There are also stories by Clayton Barr, Jeane Rudman Grunert, and other very good fanfic writers