This weekend I happened to spend a lot of time at home with the BBQ going on the back patio, and a Sam Adams in my hand. Enjoying some rays, drinking a few ales, and burning some meat and veg on the grill is the perfect Memorial Day for me.
But a certain marathon on the Sci Fi channel kept me running into the back workshop to tune in the TV. What had me so interested? A little show I grew up with called Land of the Lost. In honor of the movie the network had a non-stop marathon of the old show on, and it brought back some great memories.
I grew up with this show. In fact, outside of comic books this was the first piece of “speculative fiction” that I geeked out on. I was only about 10 years old, and I read comics for the wild super-combat, not for any philosophy or rationalizing about time travel and alternate universes. Those concepts would come to obsess the comic book geek teen I would later become. But LOTL instilled in me the first love of weird places, creatures, and worlds. It was for sure my very first pocket universe.
Watching with adult eyes, I was struck at the adult nature things in the show. I didn’t know this as a child, but a variety of great science fiction writers, including Star Trek’s David Gerrold, and Sci Fi icon Larry Niven, brought along some real weight and meaning to the magical goings-on of the chaotic land filled with dinosaurs, aliens, and powerful cosmic, inter-dimensional energies.
This show was no doubt a great influence on the gaming I would get into in the couple of years to come. It really prepared me for my early “anything goes” nature of my game environs (only Dave Hargrave would be a bigger influence of the weird and out of place). I do remember using pylons as gateways and time travel devices in some of my earliest scenarios (I placed a couple on the Isle of Dread). I haven’t used them in decades, but after getting inspired by the show…
I was also struck by the intense drama of the show. Sid and Mary Kroft’s earlier shows, HR Puffenstuff and Lidsville would feature young kids lost in a mad pocket world, but LOTL really pumped it up a notch with constant danger. I mean, every time the kids went out to get water or firewood they had to contend with a pissed-off T. Rex lovingly nicknamed “Grumpy.” And I still kind of get chills when I see the boulder near the Lost City with “Beware of Sleestak” painted on it. Those friggin’ lizards won’t just eat you, but will even go so far as to lure kids into traps with visions of their dead mothers. Bastards.
And I’ll admit it, Holly was my first TV crush. She was just a little older than me, and carried a knife. She lived in a world filled with dinosaurs and various monsters, and got out of every situation alive and well. You know that if she never got out, that girl grew up into an Amazonian badass with dino-armor and a huge sword.
For the third and fourth season they had dad make it home and his brother show up to help the kids. Pretty convoluted. Plus I remember being sad thinking about the dad at home worrying about his kids still being in that closed-off nightmare realm. You know he must have turned to drink, staggering around the grand canyon looking for an entrance to that world so he could find his kids.
So they made a big budget movie out of it. Sounds like a no-brainer. A capable, ranger-like dad, and a brother and sister who constantly bicker, but are always at each other’s side with the save when danger looms. But no, sadly, they have raped the material (sometimes I hate you, Hollywood) for the sake of Will Farrell’s cheap humor. Holly has been made into an older, non-related research assistant for the sake of sexual humor (har har), and Will has been turned into a fat, crude trail guide ( ha ha). And Rick Marshall, as played by Farrell, is an incompetent Paleontologist (har dee har har). It’s hard not to think of what a great movie it could have been if done with some seriousness, but I guess I should not dwell on what might have been in Hollywood. That could drive ya crazy.