There is little doubt that, with a tip of a hat to Jonny Quest, Land of the Lost was probably THE best Saturday morning “kids show” ever. In many respects, with a better budget, it could have been transported to prime time easily.
Don’t believe me? Let’s hop in the Wayback Machine, dial ‘er up to 1974, and find out for yourselffffffff …
Land of the Lost was created (though uncredited) by David Gerrold and produced by Sid and Marty Krofft (H.R. Pufnstuf, Lidsville) who co-developed the series with Allan Foshko. During its original run, it was broadcast on NBC. However, it also aired in daily syndication in the early 1980s as part of the Krofft Superstars package. In 1985, it returned to late Saturday mornings on CBS as a replacement for the canceled Pryor’s Place (also a Krofft production). It was later shown in reruns on the Sci Fi Channel in the 1990s.
The series, now in reruns Saturday mornings on Me-TV Network, has become a cult classic and is also available on
I wasn’t tickled with either.
For the uninitiated, the Marshall family (father Rick and his teenage children Will and Holly) is brought to the mysterious world of Lost by means of a dimensional portal, a device used frequently throughout the series and a major part of its internal myth. This portal opens when they are swept down a gigantic 1,000-foot waterfall. We later learn in what should have been the series finale (titled "Circle," which explains the time paradox) that this portal is actually opened by Rick Marshall himself, while in Enik's cave, as a way for the current Marshalls to return to Earth, resolving the paradox and allowing Enik to also return to his time.
Outfitted only for a short camping trip, the resourceful family takes shelter in a natural cave and improvises the provisions and tools that they need to survive. Their most common and dangerous encounters are with dinosaurs, particularly a Tyrannosaurus rex they nickname "Grumpy" who frequents the location of their cave. However, many of the dinosaurs are herbivores, posing no threat to the Marshalls. One is a particularly tame young Brontosaurus whom Holly nicknames "Dopey," and whom the family looks upon as a pet.
They also do battle with the hostile Sleestak (lizard-men) and "cave men" called Pakuni (one of whom, Cha-Ka, they befriend), as well as a variety of dangerous creatures, mysterious technology and strange geography.
The main goal of the three Marshalls is to find a way to return home. They are occasionally aided in this by the Altrusian castaway Enik. At the start of the third season Rick Marshall is accidentally returned to Earth alone, leaving his children behind, and is replaced by his brother Jack. Spencer Milligan's absence was explained by having Rick Marshall disappear after he was trying to use one of the pylons to get home, and that Jack had stumbled upon his niece and nephew after he embarked on a search of his own to find them.
Though the term "time doorway" is used throughout the series, Land of the Lost is not meant to portray an era in Earth’s history, but rather an enigmatic zone whose place and time are unknown. The original creators of these time portals were thought to be the ancestors of the Sleestak, the aforementioned Altrusians, though later episodes raised some questions about this.
Many aspects of the Land of the Lost, including the time doorways and environmental processes, were controlled by the pylons, metallic obelisk-shaped booths that were larger on the inside than the outside and housed matrix tables — stone tables studded with a grid of colored crystals. Uncontrolled time doorways result in the arrival of a variety of visitors and castaways to the Land. Shades of Gilligan’s Island? Not!
Land of the Lost was not only fascinating science fiction, it was fun, adventurous, entertaining and stayed consistent within its own little world. I believe that is the definition of a great TV program.