Land of the Lost (1974 TV series) geography and technology
Land of the Lost was a 1974-1976 TV series presenting the adventures of the Marshall family (including Will and Holly and their father Rick, later replaced by their uncle Jack). The Marshalls become trapped in a pocket universe populated by dinosaurs, ape-like creatures called Pakuni, and lizard-like creatures named Sleestak. This article concerns the unusual geography of the Land and mysterious "technology" such as the pylons, crystals, heart, and other elements which control various aspects of the Land of the Lost.
The Land of the Lost is a very small, closed pocket universe that consists of a valley surrounded by mountains. A traveler attempting to pass over the mountains will find himself reentering the valley from the other side; at one point the Marshalls climb a mountain peak and using binoculars are able to see far enough across the valley to observe themselves from behind. There is one major river flowing through the Land, forming a similarly closed loop; it flows into a cave at one end of the valley and comes back out again in a waterfall at the other end. The Marshalls discover this when they attempt to raft down river in search of an exit from the Land in the episode "Downstream".
The climate of the Land is tropical, and the valley is filled almost entirely with dense jungle. Other major landmarks include a tar pit, a misty swamp filled with dead trees that appears to be locked in darkness even during the day, some high bluffs containing natural caves, and a narrow canyon or chasm that extends into the mountains. The Land lacks a nickel-iron core (or at least a magnetic field), rendering compasses useless.
The Land appears to have three moons. The smallest is also the fastest, moving visibly through the sky; the Marshalls dubbed it "Speedy". Considering the unusual cosmography of the universe in which the Land is located, however, it is possible that the "moons" are artificial or otherwise illusory. On two separate occasions, manipulation of a Pylon's crystal matrix table caused the motion of the sun and moons to halt, suggesting that the entire sky may be an illusion. Conjunctions of the moons appear to trigger the activities of some Pylons, including the elevator Pylon and the possession Pylon.
The Land's sun may also be artificial, as the Sun Pylon is able to control its level of flare activity and possibly other characteristics. An establishing shot in "Stone Soup" features a matte painting depicting two suns in close proximity to each other, one appearing significantly smaller than the other. This is not commented upon by the characters, however, and multiple later episodes show similar shots with only one sun.
The 2009 movie incarnation of the Land resembles that of the original series, but is actually a dimension where timelines converge. Outside an area of dense jungle is a vast desert where various things, ranging from ice cream trucks and limousines to ferris wheels and oil rigs, crash-land upon arrival and attract the attention of hungry dinosaurs within minutes.
Scattered throughout the Land of the Lost, often embedded in the walls of caverns and some pillars, are a variety of colourful brightly glowing crystals that the Marshalls dubbed "light crystals" and which Enik called "fourth-dimensional nodes." Sizes vary from boulder-sized chunks to the more common walnut-sized gems (which themselves are merely chunks off the larger crystals) and apparently were artificially grown or otherwise constructed by the Altrusians for use as a power source for their technologies. The larger crystals are possibly mildly radioactive and give off both heat and light as a byproduct of their nature. Rick Marshall theorized that they might even power the dimensional doorways.
Their most common colors are red, blue, yellow, and green, though other rarer colors, such as white, have been seen or mentioned.
In one episode, Rick Marshall laments the number of possible combinations of crystals. In fact, there are 6 possible combinations of 4 colors taken 2 at a time, and 4 possible combinations of 4 colors taken 3 at a time. The crystal matrix tables provide a 9x9 array, which would be capable of storing 162 bits (an astronomical number of possible states) if filled with crystals of 4 distinct colors.
The most common use of light crystals seems to be in crystal matrix control tables, or simply as sources of illumination. On their own, the smaller crystals generally do not have special properties beyond their glow, but bringing two different-colored crystals together can cause additional effects in some cases:
- Bringing a red crystal together with a green one causes the pair to emit a blindingly bright but generally short-lived light (Holly used this pair for sustained light in "Elsewhen"); this combination is often useful for driving away Sleestak.
- Bringing red and yellow crystals together causes an explosion after a very brief delay.
- Putting two green crystals together (or possibly two like-colored crystals) is also an explosive combination.
- Combining red and blue do nothing noticeable, but adding a third, yellow crystal to the pair causes them to emit a near-lethal shock.
- In general, yellow crystals appear to trigger releases of energy from other crystals.
- A blue crystal and a green crystal together create a temporary force field a short distance away. This use was taught to the Marshalls by Enik in "The Stranger", but in the later episode "The Search", the Marshalls attempted to reproduce the effect and nothing happened (it's possible the crystals were dead).
- In general, blue crystals appear involved in telepathic functions. Blue crystals alone can under some circumstances hypnotize people into seeing what they love most. Jefferson Collie also mentioned that blue crystals "make you sick", and discards them when he mines them in his cave. The Marshalls eventually receive a set of pendants from Rani - Holly's future self -with a number of tiny yellow crystals surrounding a larger central blue crystal that provide a sort of clairvoyance, in which one wearer can see what the other wearer is seeing and hear what they're hearing. Rani explains that the blue crystals pick up the wearer's heartbeat and transmits empathic signals that are received by the other pendants. In the Series Bible, blue crystals are said to have recording properties and can both record and play back "memories")
David Gerrold, in his DVD commentary to the episode "Circle", noted that the idea for the crystals was picked up from Harlan Ellison, who had wanted to use them in his Star Trek episode "The City on the Edge of Forever" but was blocked from doing so.
Pylons & Matrix Tables
Pylons are small golden (usually) truncated square pyramids, tall and narrow, spaced approximately every quarter mile in a regular pattern throughout the Land of the Lost. The surface of a Pylon is polished to a mirror-like precision and extremely smooth to the touch; Will described the sensation as being like "touching nothing". Holly also reported that the surface felt cold. When a Tyrannosaurus tried to bite a Pylon in the episode "Skylons", the Pylon emitted a powerful electrical shock that frightened it away.
Nearly all Pylons have a hand-sized tetrahedral "key" projecting from about two thirds of the way up one side; when turned, a diamond-shaped patch of the Pylon's surface below it dematerializes to provide a small doorway inside. Apparently, some pylon keys can be removed from a pylon by shining reflected sunlight on them, sealing the Pylon, and can be replaced by pressing the key back on the Pylon's surface. The interior of the Pylons is an extra-dimensional black void with no discernable boundaries or surfaces and is significantly larger inside than the Pylon appears from the outside, similar in some ways to the time traveling TARDIS from Doctor Who. Each Pylon will typically contain a "crystal matrix control table," a small square table made of rough stone with a grid (generally 9×9 decimeters) on the upper surface supported by a clear (possibly crystalline) pedestal set into a smaller stone base. Various light crystals rest on the grid. At least two known Pylons also have a large green viewing orb suspended beyond the crystal matrix table used as a visual display.
- Note: In Season 3, the Pylons were redesigned after many of the original sets were destroyed. The new Pylons were dull in color and the interior had clearly defined stone walls and floors with a mica-like appearance. Likewise, the matrix tables were redesigned with a stone pedestal and a grid of all-red crystals.
At least one Pylon, the Sun Pylon, features a circular hatch that can be opened and closed with the aid of a special blue crystal "key". It is the only Pylon which is known to be directly above the Lost City tunnels and the only known black Pylon. Although it's possible that the Sun Pylon's hatch is unique given the unusual exterior color and the fact that it is referred to as "special", it's conceivable that most (if not all) Pylons might have been erected above such tunnels and would possibly have similar floor hatches as well.
Pylons are part of the fundamental infrastructure of the Land of the Lost; when the light crystals on their crystal matrix tables are tampered with, all manner of effects on the Land can be produced. Examples include causing storms, opening and closing time doorways, triggering earthquakes, and even manipulating the rate at which celestial bodies travel through the sky. Pylons appear to have specialized functions; a "weather Pylon" controls rain, a "clock Pylon" controls the movement of celestial bodies, etc. The synchronization of the pylons with heavenly bodies is also seen in the episode "Pylon Express"; one pylon only opens when the three moons are aligned.
The episode "The Possession" presents the idea that the Pylons were built by the Altrusians. In David Gerrold's backstory for the series he confirms this, explaining that the Altrusians built the entire Land and everything in it as a way-station intended to let travelers cross between various places. The time doorways are gateways which allow their users to cross into the Land on their way to their destination. The reason that travel through the time doorways is unpredictable, at best, is that the Land has fallen into disrepair in the time since it was built. However, the series as presented remains unclear on this subject.
While the matrix tables are represented in the show as being crucial to the operation of the Pylons, they are sometimes found in caverns as well. Outside of the Pylons, the most frequent use of one is in Enik's chamber inside the Lost City. This particular matrix is primarily keyed to the dimensional doorways but has also been shown capable of converting matter such as when Enik transforms the entrance to his cave into solid rock. Another matrix table is located in a cavern discovered in "Split Personality". This table also appears to be able to open doorways and was shown to connect with a parallel universe.
In the 2009 movie, the Pylons have existed since the dawn of Time and - like those of the series - were created to make travel throughout time and space possible. However, in a design departure, the Pylons come to a point at its apex and appear to be made of pure crystal so clear that they are virtually invisible to the normal eye. The crystal emits sonic vibrations which distort soundwaves. While the interior of the Pylons appear to be as interdimensionally vast as those in the series, they were more than an empty void. In the film's script, the writers describe the inside of the Pylons as a constantly shifting perspective like "an M.C. Escher optical illusion". Numerous white "floors" could be seen floating in the distance amidst rotating shards of crystal with the floor nearest the doorway possessing a matrix table that seems to appear from nowhere. This table closely resembles the one in the 1991 series with clear shards of various lengths that change color when touched. The table itself seems to lack any type of base or foundation. Instead, it appears to hover over the floor.
Closely associated with the Weather Pylon are small flying golden bipyramidal objects the Marshalls dubbed Skylons. When the matrix table in the Pylon has been tampered with in a destructive way, Skylons will arrive and hover over the Pylon, while flashing a sequence of colours corresponding to the sequence of light crystals required to restore the table (usually the reverse order in which they were originally touched). Skylons also appear to respond to signaling with reflected sunlight. The Skylons are apparently only able to cope with problems resulting directly from mis-set crystal matrix tables. The Skylons are unable to handle problems resulting from outside forces such as the Zarn's gravity drive, though they do indicate Zarn as the source of the problem. This may suggest that they are relatively simple automatons and not particularly intelligent. Rick suggests that they are "living machines" and possibly sentient. The door aperture in the Pylon is roughly the same shape as Skylons, but it is not known whether Skylons actually enter the Pylon through it. Instead, they were seen hovering around the Pylon at about the same level as its key. Will originally suggested they be called "Sky Pylons", "Twirling Tops", or "Golden Streaks" before Holly finally agreed on "Skylons".
The Land's "Heart"
There is at least one location in the Land of the Lost where there should be a Pylon according to their pattern of distribution but where there is only an empty clearing in the jungle instead. The clearing has a hidden circular aperture in the center that sporadically opens to drop whatever was on top of it down a shaft into a black void. A jagged pulsating house-sized red crystal floats in the center of this void. Objects that have fallen down there "orbit" the red crystal for a while, but eventually the red crystal shoots the objects with an energy beam that pulls them into it. Rick Marshall speculated that this crystal was a "generator or giant heart" for the Land, and that it drew energy from what it consumed in this manner. Rick, Holly, and Cha-Ka fell inside the void once, but Rick managed to get them all out again by using his signal mirror to reflect the crystal's beam back at it. The crystal reacted by violently ejecting all the remaining orbiting objects from the pit.
A nearby Pylon appears to be a control station for this pit with a viewing orb that shows the interior of the shaft.
The Lost City
The Lost City is an ancient subterranean city originally built by the Altrusians but now inhabited by the Sleestak and partly abandoned. It is built into the base of a mountain in a region of the Land separated from the rest by a narrow but deep chasm; a fallen stone slab bridging the chasm is the only convenient method of access. Externally, it consists of a huge plaza with an arched entrance, crumbling rectangular pillars, and three tunnel entrances set into a mountainside. The plaza is the home territory of an allosaurus. The Marshalls dub this allosaurus "Big Alice", but the Sleestak call her "Selima", which means "Protector", because she keeps animals away from their eggs.
The left entrance to the City leads to the Devil's Cauldron lava pool, along corridors with many stone alcoves used by the Sleestak for hibernation. Accessible through the central entrance is a fog-filled pit at least seven meters deep called the "Hole of No Return," within which lives a carnivorous beast the Sleestak refer to as their god, to which they sacrifice people and animals as food. Sleestak legend tells that only once did someone escape from the Hole, but the legend doesn't detail how; one possible route is via a narrow tunnel that runs from the bottom of the pit to the top, too small for the god to pass through and normally hidden by fog.
Also through the central entrance is a passage to a chamber containing a crystal matrix table, where Enik spends most of his time attempting to open a time doorway back to his original era. Near this room is a door with a Pylon key next to it, beyond which is a small opening that leads to a bottomless pit. In the episode "Elsewhen", Holly descends into this pit on a rope, and she briefly finds herself hanging in the sky under an upside-down Land of the Lost. This bizarre vision is never explained within the show, but may be related to the closed nature of the universe that the Land is in; just as the river loops back to its origin, the pit may descend so far that it comes out in the sky overhead. (In Dorothy Fontana's script this is confirmed as the scene is specifically described as the chasm being upside down and that the light that suddenly shines on Holly is from the rising sun.)
Although the Sleestak occasionally venture beyond the chasm above ground (The Sleestak God, The Stranger, The Hole, Circle, etc.), there are caves and tunnels all over the underground of the Land, many of which link to the Lost City. The Sleestak sometimes use these tunnels to hunt, chipping upward to create a pit trap and waiting below for prey to fall in.
The 2009 movie incarnation of the Lost City is drastically different yet still has the original series' plot of being an Altrusian City once. The Library of Skulls surrounds the "Hole of No Return," with the Sleestak "god" was rewritten for the movie as a magma pool at the bottom of the pit.
Library of Skulls
The Library of Skulls (introduced in the episode "Fair Trade") is a foggy cavern in the Lost City that contains glowing Altrusian skulls and urns on pedestals and ledges. The Library is a relic of the Altrusian civilization. As shown in "The Longest Day" and "Blackout," the urns can emit a "sacred smoke" that induces a form of telepathy that allows the user to communicate with the skulls, and that also has the side effect of removing all language barriers, allowing Marshall to talk to the Sleestak for the first time. Lengthy exposure to the smoke causes hallucinations.
The skulls have various areas of expertise or specialization (e.g. the "Skull of History" or the "Skull of Wisdom"), and the "Index Skull" is an important starting point when asking the Library for information. They are also able to predict or prophesy the future, and they know at least some details about how to operate Pylon matrix tables. As knowledgeable as they are, however, the skulls do not appear to have any goals or will of their own; they only provide answers to the questions they are asked.
The Library is tended by a Sleestak Librarian, and the Sleestak Council and Leader consult the Library of Skulls on important matters. The Council and Leader claim exclusive rights to consultation, though they may allow others to ask questions under some circumstances.
The Builder Temple
Near the Lost City's plaza is a stone "temple" (discovered by Will and Holly in "The Test"). It is avoided by Sleestak, as it is not an Altrusian ruin but rather was built by some other humanoid agency of great stature. Outside the temple there are two very curious artifacts. The first is a large stone obelisk which Will suggests might represent the Pylons. The other is a stone tablet with mysterious markings that vaguely resemble letters of the English alphabet. Rick posits that there may be a possible connection. Inside the temple is an empty antechamber with a sundial set into the floor, somewhat of an oddity since sunlight does not reach that far into the room. As shown in "The Musician," there is a solid stone door at the back, and at the top of the door frame is a sculptured relief high on the wall of two hands touching; one hand is convex, the other concave. The door only opens when the "right" individual (Cha-Ka, in this case) puts his or her hand into the concave relief. Inside is an auto-illuminating chamber with "the great-granddaddy of all matrix tables" (as Rick described it). There are also several pieces of art including a chrome humanoid statue and a pane of hand-shaped glass.
When this chamber is explored in "The Musician", Cha-Ka touched the matrix table and caused the appearance of a glowing red humanoid figure, along with colored light smears in the sky. The figure was uninterested in the Marshalls, telling them "You have already proven yourself; it is not your time." When it encountered Cha-Ka and he faced the glowing figure bravely, it declared, "It is your time, Cha-Ka." The figure morphed from a tall, featureless red humanoid into a boy - a more human-like twin of Cha-Ka - before vanishing. Cha-Ka was apparently left with a powerful ring and improved intelligence; at the end of the episode, he is shown playing music on a recorder that he had previously been unable to comprehend.
Farther away from the Lost City is another smaller complex also called "The Temple". This other Temple is perhaps of Altrusian origin; its decorations include the half-sunburst symbol seen over the entrances to the Lost City. The Marshalls wound up using this temple as their primary shelter in the show's third season. A popular myth for the reason of this set-change is tied into the fire that destroyed the cave sets for another Krofft show Sigmund and the Sea Monsters. However, this fire took place during the second season of Sigmund, at which time Land of the Lost would have been in production of only its first season. Also, the first two seasons of Land of the Lost were taped at a different studio entirely from that of Sigmund. The show then moved to Goldwyn Studios for its third season. This was the studio where the fire did occur two years prior that destroyed the Sigmund sets.. The mystery of the Builders and their Temple was not explained further.
The Mist Marsh lies beyond a treeless ridge approximately one mile from High Bluff; neither Pakuni nor Sleestak venture near it. It is a dim, eerie, foggy field of dead trees, cloaked in gloom even during the day.
In the original script, the "mist" is described as having actual weight where it pours through openings in the rocks much like tiny waterfalls. While walking through one of these "fogfalls", Will is actually pushed back by the force of the mist but remains completely dry. This was not included in the filmed version.
The Zarn's spacecraft is located in the Mist Marsh. Like the Zarn himself the spacecraft is largely invisible, its streamlined shape outlined by spots of light that dot its surface. The Zarn's ship uses a gravity drive. When operating, it can cause significant increases in the local gravity field. This causes lots of activity in the Pylons and Skylons, but the Land of the Lost cannot counteract it all. In an attempt to escape the Land, the Zarn at one point[clarification needed] attempts to use the gravity drive to destroy it entirely. The Marshalls prevent this by distracting him at a key moment, and the uncontrolled gravity badly damages the Zarn's ship instead.
Foods available in the Land of the Lost, as revealed on the program, include:
- guinea pig
- goat (mentioned in Season 3 Ep.8 but unseen)
- toad (jewelled, offered by Enik in Season 3 Ep.9 but unseen)
Shown, but not mentioned by name:
Note that some of these are not exactly like those in "the real world". The strawberries and carrots, for instance, are quite a bit larger than the usual variety. Also, one supposes that the dinosaurs themselves could be a food source, and one character does mention that the Sleestak taste something like lobster.
- Land of the Lost (1974 TV series), the original children's television series created by Sid and Marty Krofft
- Land of the Lost (1991 TV series), the TV remake of the original series
- Land of the Lost (film), a 2009 film starring Will Ferrell based on the 1974 series
- "Hurricane". Land of the Lost. Season 1. Episode 16. 1974-12-21.
- "Blackout". Land of the Lost. Season 2. Episode 13. 1975-11-29.
- "Pylon Express". Land of the Lost. Season 2. Episode 8. 1975-10-25.
- "The Possession". Land of the Lost. Season 1. Episode 12. 1974-11-23.
- "Fair Trade". Land of the Lost. Season 2. Episode 3. 1975-09-20.
- "The Test". Land of the Lost. Season 2. Episode 4. 1975-10-04.
- "The Longest Day". Land of the Lost. Season 2. Episode 7. 1975-10-18.
- "Album". Land of the Lost. Season 1. Episode 7. 1974-10-19.
- "Skylons". Land of the Lost. Season 1. Episode 8. 1974-10-26.
- "Gravity Storm". Land of the Lost. Season 2. Episode 6. 1975-10-11.
- "One of Our Pylons Is Missing". Land of the Lost. Season 2. Episode 4. 1975-09-27.
- "The Hole". Land of the Lost. Season 1. Episode 9. 1974-11-02.
- "The Zarn". Land of the Lost. Season 2. Episode 2. 1975-09-13.
- "Downstream". Land of the Lost. 1974-09-28. No. 4, season 1.