My mother remembered watching a show about small people lost in a world full of giants. Her memory was imperfect but we narrowed it down to the TV series Land of the Giants. I reluctantly agreed to watch it with her. The pilot didn’t cheer me up as it was unbelievable both in story and logic. The first episode proper was no better.
That was all I could take. She loaned the first disc to me since she worked the next day and I was off. I decided to put it on while I was folding laundry. Figured that I could keep up with it while doing chores. The 2nd episode was interesting enough that I kept pausing it each time I left the room. Finally, I just sat on the sofa and watched the final episode straight through.
My trepidation was justified in that the plots are pretty simplistic. Some of the acting makes me cringe. But the special effects are lots of fun, and I was entertained in spite of myself.
In 1983, passengers on a “suborbital” shuttle flight go through some kind of wormhole and find themselves on a planet full of giants. Their ship, the Spindrift, is damaged upon landing, which makes it impossible to return to Earth. They spend some effort on repairs but the bulk of their time is spent on wacky missions. I would have preferred to have seen them struggle to survive on the inhospitable planet but adventures work too.
The captain of the ship is Captain Steve Burton (Gary Conway), very square-jawed and stalwart. His co-pilot is Dan Erickson (Don Marshall), more on him in a bit. There is a stewardess Betty Hamilton (Heather Young) who has yet to do anything of note. The passengers include an obnoxious young orphan Barry (Stefan Arngrim) and his dog, a conman Fitzhugh (Kurt Kasnar) , a wealthy young woman Valerie Scott (Deanna Lund) and Mark Wilson (Don Matheson) an engineer.
The Special Effects:
As we watched it, my mother commented that it must have been an expensive show to produce at the time. IMDB asserts that it was. You can see a bit of the blue screen work at places, particularly in Framed. The giant hands are obviously puppets which I don’t mind. I do wish they had done a better job on the painting.
My mother wondered whether the safety pin and rope ensemble that the engineer carries is a nod to Pod from The Borrowers series by Mary Norton. It would be delightful if that were true.
The huge props are enormous fun, and I enjoyed watching the characters laboriously climb up steps. It’s still a treat to watch people mimic dolls. I would have thought doll people it would seem silly (what with Sims and CGI and all) but somehow the concreteness of the over-sized props amuses me no end.
I once wrote a paper on how Hollywood portrays computer scientists and other technologists. Weird Al Yankovic’s “White and Nerdy” song easily sums up the stereotype. I started working on a list of how many people, not of European descent, had techie roles in science fiction films over the years. There weren’t many and few were positive. So, I was interested in seeing how Marshall’s character Dan was portrayed. I was pleasantly surprised that it was a decent role. Dan proves to be sensible and extremely brave.
I looked up Marshall. From Wikipedia and the Irwin Allen Network, I learned he was studying to be an engineer before he began studying acting at the Bob Gist Dramatic Workshop and Los Angeles City College.
He starred opposite Nichelle Nichols on a show named, Great Gettin’ Up Mornin’. He was a reoccurring character on Julia and Little House on the Prairie. He played Lieutenant Boma on the original series of Star Trek.
They fair pretty badly in the first disk. Maybe things get better later. In the credits, Valerie is shown with her eyes closed. The flight attendant waves her hands helplessly. Valerie is spoiled and annoying. When she has the opportunity to share the adventure, she’s constantly a blink away from full hysterics. Disappointing.
Pilot: The Crash – They encounter giant humans and animals and slowly realize that they aren’t in Kansas any more. Dan neatly resolves a crisis when he points out that only he can pilot the ship. The characterizations were banal and the boy and Fitzhugh made me cringe each time they had a scene. The scene in which they are nearly run down by a car is nicely done.
Ghost Town – They encounter a town made in their size. Some of the viewer of this episode commented snidely that it was amazing that the set designers could find such small props for them.
This episode was so dumb.
- The electric force field was selective in whom it hurt and how much.
- They took far too long to realize that they weren’t back on Earth.
- The last bit of stupidity had Dan jumping through fire to save his captain from harm. This seems heroic until the camera pulls back and it’s clear Dan could have just walked around the flame in perfect safety. What’s worse is that the actor dislocated his shoulder in the dumb stunt.
Framed – A lecherous photography frames a homeless man for murder. The tinies set out to prove his innocence. I liked this episode a lot better. They solve their problems step by step and there are a lot of big props in this episode. Even though getting involved seems dumb (even to some of the characters), they do it for the noblest of reasons.
Underground: The tinies infiltrate a government vault to retrieve a letter that would condemn 20 people. They didn’t solve the problems quite as I expected but they work them out reasonably well. The giant Gorak they encounter is a morally gray, at best, but the tinies are pure of heart and ignore it.