"A Review of the Land of the Lost Writer's Guides"
by Bryan Derksen
As I mentioned in a different thread, a while back I purchased the writer's guides to both the Land of the Lost and Land of the Lost: The Return from David Gerrold. Far be it from me to begrudge Gerrold for making these available to our little niche market, but really, I don't think they were worth what I paid for them. :) I'll summarize their contents in as objective a manner as I can, though, so that everyone can make their own judgment on that.
The Return was planned in 1987, which is when it's set - thirteen years after the first series. It apparently ignores the events of season three of the original LotL, and possibly the events of "Circle" as well (depending on how one interprets the events of Circle) since it establishes that the Marshalls didn't make it back to Earth.
It is revealed that Rick Marshall actually had a third child, Rob Marshall, who was 17 at the time when the rest of the Marshalls disappeared while camping. He was unable to join them on their rafting trip through the Grand Canyon (specifically in Northern Arizona) due to a broken leg. Every summer since then, Rob has gone to the area where his father and siblings disappeared to search for any trace of them. He married, had two children (Eric and Diane), and divorced. The routine expeditions in search of Grampa Rick, Uncle Will and Aunt Holly are a family tradition. The local indians have legends of the Land of the Lost (they actually call it this and know some details about what's in it), and Diane has a green crystal pendant that was given to her by an old indian wise man who told her never to take it off because it would always protect her from evil.
The three Marshalls seem basically the same people as the corresponding characters in the first series, just with different names. (Aside: I've just noticed that Eric is described as somewhere between sixteen to eighteen years old, which means Rob must have had him three to five years before his father and siblings disappeared, when Rob was between 14 and 12 years old. I suspect this is an oversight on Gerrold's part rather than an intentional character detail. :) They enter the Land of the Lost when they're exploring a cave and discover a cavern with crystal-encrusted walls. I quote now from the description of the main title sequence:
"Everything is glowing with light and magic! Standing high in the center of it is the Mysterious Prince of Dark Powers: Prince Vozko! The Dark Prince lifts his power-wand and there is a flash of crimson light!"
Over the course of nine sentences there are ten exclamation marks. The density of exclamation marks goes down somewhat later on, but not by much. :)
Anyway, Prince Vozko is the main villain of the series. He is a magician of the Dark Powers, part lizard and part machine, with glowing red eyes.
He wields a power wand and occasionally wears his magical Cloak of Dark Powers. Before Vozko can become a king in his own world he must conquer the Earth to demonstrate his worth, and Diane's amulet turns out to be the key to that - it's a "key crystal" that can unlock the power of the other crystals in the Land of the Lost, and that can open a time doorway to Earth. He sends his Sleestak minions in pursuit of the Marshalls, who run away into the tunnels and eventually come out in the plaza of the Lost City. There they are confronted by Mega-Zora, a giant robot Tyrannosaurus rex that's a prototype of the robot dinosaurs Vozko intends to conquer Earth with. Vozko can either remotely control Mega-Zora from his underground laboratory or ride around on him like a tank.
The guide then gives an outline of the pilot episode, picking up where the credits leave off. Mega-Zora gets in a fight with an allosaurus named Big Dinah, allowing the Marshalls to run for it. The Marshalls eventually hole up in the cave in High Bluff, where the old traces of the original trio's habitation remain. High Bluff has been abandoned for quite some time, though. The writer's guide says that it will eventually be revealed that Rick Marshall died saving Will and Holly's lives when Prince Vozko first appeared in the Land of the Lost. Will is still around, and appears in the pilot episode; he's now living with the Pakuni as a Tarzan-like "wild man". Prince Vozko has stolen Will's ability to speak English, taking it for himself in preparation for his invasion of Earth. Holly is also still around; according to the outline "Holly Marshall has been transformed into a mysterious and beautiful sky-princess by the Skylons." She travels in a glowing globe of light and will appear only to Diane and only in moments of great stress or danger.
Cha-ka is also still around, now an adult Paku, but there aren't any details about him specified in the outline aside from the fact that he's learned pidgin English. Dopey's around too, now a full-grown brontosaurus that Will sometimes rides around on. Filling Dopey's old role as the large lovable adopted pet who eats everything in sight is a baby mammoth the Marshalls name "Trumpeter".
Also returning from the first series is Enik. Enik has apparently given up on trying to return home and is now trying to civilize the current-day Sleestak. He is serving as Vozko's reluctant henchman; Vozko has promised Enik the power to restore the Sleestak to glory in exchange for Enik's help conquering Earth. The Sleestak now speak a primitive form of English. They resent Vozko and are not too thrilled with Enik either.
There's a section recapping information about the original Land of the Lost series with a few interesting tidbits:
* There's a Pylon that controls the direction the river flows. It takes two and a half days for something floating down the river to return to its starting point.
* Power crystal abilities are summarized: green ones hold "magic spells" (like computer programs), blue ones create energy fields (like force fields or tractor beams), and yellow crystals identify the specific abilities of the other kinds of crystals. White crystals do all of the above. Black crystals are deadly. Amber crystals contain "recordings", such as music or memories or emotions.
* If you go deep enough into the tunnels you come out upside down in the sky over the Land of the Lost. If you go straight up you find yourself coming back down again.
This writer's guide has 37 single-sided pages of text (not counting cover and title pages), apparently laser-printed and bound with a pair of those brass button-things with the two fold-out leaves. It's got an 8-page outline for the pilot episode and three pages describing some of the setting details that were established in the original series.
The writer's guide for the original Land of the Lost series is much shorter, with 18 pages of text (not counting cover and title pages). One of the pages contains just the tail end of the last sentence in a section, so it's effectively only 17 pages of text. It's more of a writer's guide than it is a technical manual; 7 of the pages are focused solely on the subject of "how to write a script we can use," including what sorts of stories the series is supposed to have and three pages devoted to a discussion of how to deal with the tight special effects budget.
It also appears that some of the details it describes were changed when the series actually started filming. Major differences I noticed were:
* The writer's guide describes Sa as male.
* Ta is "old and grizzled" (he didn't strike me as significantly older than Sa in the actual series.). It also describes him as "a small furry Hitler", which seems about right.
* The Pylons are described thusly: "a truncated, three-sided pyramid, four or five meters high, with a strange golden-metallic surface [...] Each pylon has different functions. All of them have mysterious inscriptions on their surfaces." In the actual show they were four-sided and had no inscriptions.
* Will's character description is drastically different from what we saw in the show. In the interest of historical curiosity and what-might-have-been, I'll quote the second paragraph of his description where all the really big differences are:
"Will is basically a quiet, bookish person. He wears glasses, seems very studious. He prefers to stop and think about a situation before he moves. (This is not to be confused with laziness. His stolidity is in sharp contrast to Holly's impishness, but he is not incapable of joking or kidding, nor is he incapable of the arduous physical tasks that will be required of him. He admires his father very much, but although he is cast in the same mold, he occasionally wonders if he has what it takes to grow up into the same kind of man."
* The writer's guide suggests that the Sleestak might hide their eggs in amongst Big Alice's so that she'll guard them along with her own, but when we saw the Sleestak hatchery and Alice's eggs in the show they were definitely in different places.
Interestingly, the section on "how to write a script we can use" shows that the series' overall concept changed over time too, even in the second season. It says "no flying saucers, no robots, no aliens from space" - the Zarn was clearly not present in the initial planning stages. It also says "no outright fantasies - no wizards, no magicians, no unicorns, no griffins. Definitely no stories about magic or magical powers [...] no stories that are independent of the Land of the Lost. No long lost soldiers still fighting WW I or WW II, no lost cowboys, etc.
We must develop what we have - not complicate it." Obviously many of the third-season episodes diverged widely from this guideline.
Anyway, I suppose both of these are interesting from a historical perspective. But neither of them is likely to help a fanfic writer (unless someone's keen to take a crack at doing "The Return" in book form :), and there were no deep mysteries revealed in them that aren't already revealed in the series itself.