On a routine expedition,
Met the greatest earthquake ever known
High on the rapids,
It struck their tiny raft
And plunged them down a thousand feet below
To the Laaaaaaaaaaaand of the Looooooooooooost!
Land of the Lost is a 1974-1977 NBC Saturday morning Science Fiction kids' program created by Sid and Marty Krofft, Allan Foshko, and an uncredited David Gerrold, and produced by Sid and Marty Krofft Productions. A small family of outdoorsy tastes are thrust into a Lost World that initially appears to be some kind of "Hollow Earth" scenario, but later turns out to be a pocket universe. The Land of the Lost is a tropical jungle home to a wide variety of creatures long extinct on Earth including an amusing family of hominids and several large and threatening dinosaurs. And in an ancient ruined city, they find a race of aggressive but light-sensitive insect-lizard people called "Sleestaks" by a mysterious message written in English on a wall near its entrance.
The Marshall family must make their home amidst this alien terrain and defend themselves from its dangers. They find surprising allies — the previously-mentioned family of hominids, a time-lost scholar from the distant past of the Land, and the occasional visitor like themselves — and slowly learn a few of the secrets of the builders of the Land, but never do find their way home. (One episode, however, states outright that at least Holly will escape by her twenties with some mastery of the ancient technology; another shows the family leaving but, in a strange time loop, entering the Land at the same time.)
Although the show is probably best remembered for the bizarre mix of decent stop-motion and positively awful puppetry used to portray the various dinosaurs, it is more notable for the general high quality of its scripts, which were frequently written by "name" Science Fiction authors. Any given week might showcase a story written by Gerrold (the show's story editor in season one), Ben Bova, Theodore Sturgeon, Larry Niven, Norman Spinrad, Samuel Peeples, or D.C. Fontana, all of whom contributed to the increasingly complex and intriguing mythology of the series.
However, none of them contributed to the controversial third and final season, which many fans consider the series's Shark Jumping point for losing Rick Marshall and for abandoning much of the internal logic of the series mythology. Even as early as the mid-80's, network reruns of the show were omitting the third season, as did Syfy and Chiller in their marathons many years later. For several years, MeTV reran the show in its entirety (on Saturday mornings, appropriately). Some fans do appreciate at least certain elements of the third season, such as Uncle Jack's personality or the mysterious "repairman" entity, Blandings.
Land of the Lost contains examples of:
- Aliens Speaking English:
- Enik. Justified, since he's telepathic (or at least, the Magete artifact grants its wielder telepathy).
- The Zarn, who is a bona fide extraterrestrial (Enik is actually a native of the Land, albeit about a thousand years displaced in time). Again, justified because the Zarn is a telepath.
- Alien Sky: The Land has three moons that move very rapidly.
- All There in the Script: It's never mentioned on the show, but officially, both Rick and Jack Marshall are forest rangers, and the river the family was rafting down in the beginning was the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon.
- Alternative Foreign Theme Song: The German opening of the show, entitled Im Land der Saurier is completely different from the regular one. It is less of a theme song and more of an instrumental piece with narration dubbed over it. It would later get reused for the 90's revival.
- Anachronism Stew: Justified by the nature of the Land.
- And Knowing Is Half the Battle: During the controversial third season, Wesley Eure occasionally sang songs at the end of episodes to deliver An Aesop. No explanation was ever given for how he suddenly obtained a guitar.
- Artistic License – Paleontology: Granted that "Dopey" is one of the early episodes, before the show arguably comes into its own with "The Stranger," but Dopey the brontosaur's egg should not be that gosh-darned big, and he shouldn't be the size of a full-grown rhino at birth.
- The dinosaurs dragging their tails is more a case of Science Marches On than of this trope.
- Bamboo Technology: Reasonably realistic survival-skill constructions.
- Bigger on the Inside: The pylons.
- Breath Weapon: Torchy the fire-breathing Dimetrodon, in the third season.
- Claymation: The stop-motion dinosaurs.
- Closed Circle: In one episode, the family use some binoculars, only to see themselves and the hill they are standing on.
- Constructed Language: The Pakuni language was created by an academic at the behest of NBC execs.
- Crystal Spires and Togas: The Altrusian technology is what's left of such a civilization.
- Dinosaurs Are Dragons: The fire-breathing Torchy, although he's not a dinosaur but a proto-mammal.
- Don't You Dare Pity Me!: Played straight with The Zarn who feels physical pain from the emotion. Obviously, this is an incentive for him to be a Jerkass villain.
- Dumb Dinos: Even the friendly dinosaurs like Dopey and Spot aren't particularly bright.
- Eat the Camera: The roaring Tyrannosaurus, aka Grumpy, at the end of the intro, combined with a Fade Out.
- Expository Theme Tune: Sing it with me!
- Failure Is the Only Option: Mildly subverted in one episode in which the family actually left the Land, but only to balance the entry of their own analogues, who took up the story. See "Gainax Ending," below.
- Gainax Ending: Since the show's creators didn't know if there would be a second season, Larry Niven and David Gerrold wrote "The Circle" to provide an ambiguous ending that they could continue from if they needed to. You can either assume that the Marshalls really do get home, and that their past selves' arrival is simply a flashback to the beginning of the series (in other words, the time doorway that pulled them into the Land in the first place is the very one they eventually created to escape from it) or you can assume that the second season episodes are actually set after "The Circle," which would mean that that Marshall family are temporal duplicates. Note that many fans simply place "The Circle" at the end of the second season, giving the Marshalls a true happy ending and ignoring the third season entirely. Also note a small clue that Niven and Gerrold probably favored the first rather than the second interpretation: when the "newly arrived" Marshalls find their cave, there are no signs of a previous Marshall family having lived there, meaning that we really are just re-watching the events from the beginning of the series.
- Genetic Memory: S'Latch has innate knowledge of Altrusian technology.
- Hulk Speak: Cha-Ka. Justified in that he's a primitive humanoid learning English for the first time. The Marshalls do not do much better with Pakuni. They each get better at each other's languages over the course of the show. By season three he speaks it (almost) perfectly.
- Humble Hero: It's a nice touch that when Uncle Jack arrives in the third season, he often defers to the kids' long experience with how the Land works, rather than pulling rank on them.
- Invisible Aliens: The Zarn and his ship are literally invisible, except as a rough outline of twinkling lights.
- It Only Works Once: Basically everything they could use to escape. In "The Pylon Express," they discover a portal that reopens every three years, so they know that if they're still stuck in the Land by then, they'll be able to use it.
- The Zarn is a pompous ivory-tower academic who has no problem destroying the Land and everyone in it while attempting to escape it.
- Taa the Paku is also this on a smaller level, being pretty much a bully and petty thief who lies to the humans and other Pakuni to make himself look more important.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Enik is usually pretty gruff about the Marshalls coming to him for help or advice, complaining that they're interrupting his own research to get home; but he clearly regards them as friends and consistently provides them with the help they need. He's just grouchy about it. He mellows toward the Marshalls over the course of the series, and is downright friendly by the end of season 2. In the controversial third season, Enik starts acting like a Jerk With A Heart Of Jerk for no apparent reason, even actively helping the Sleestaks sometimes.
- Lizard Folk: The Sleestaks, though they also have some qualities of insects.
- Long Runner: Only by Krofft standards, otherwise, it's more of a Short-Runner.
- Lost Technology: The Sleestak city, the Pylons, possibly even the Land itself since it was a closed system pocket dimension.
- Lyric Dissonance: The theme song's a peppy banjo-driven number, with the lyrics talking about the family being caught in a terrifying earthquake, a plunge down a waterfall, and ending up in a prehistoric pocket dimension where everything wants them dead.
- Mentor: Enik — sometimes.
- Mind Screw: The aforementioned episode where they do escape, but their counterparts take their place.
- Muppet: Dinosaur puppetry.
- Mushroom Samba: In "The Longest Day," the Sleestak capture Rick and put him in a room with vapors that mess with his mind. He sees Will and Holly in there with him, in multiple identities, but when he escapes they tell him they never even managed to enter the Lost City.
- My Species Doth Protest Too Much: Justified, Enik is from the era when the Sleestaks were civilized. In Enik's earlier appearances, he claimed to be from the future, but quickly found out he was from the past, and that modern Sleestaks are the degenerate, savage descendants of his own people. And their ancestors.
- Neglectful Precursors: The Land is run by unattended equipment running on autopilot, which can easily be tampered with or break down all on its own.
- Non-Human Sidekick: Cha-ka is a furry proto-human.
- Obfuscated Interface: Pylons are controlled by a matrix of crystals that have various effects when you arrange them. It's a pity that there's no UI to give you any clue what a given arrangement will do in advance, especially when a bad arrangement can do things like cause the sun to go out.
- Ontological Mystery: The family's ongoing quest to understand how they wound up in the Land, how the place works, and how to escape from it forms the basis of the show.
- People in Rubber Suits: The Sleestak.
- Power Crystal: The glowing crystals are once described as "fourth dimensional nodes." They seem to power and control most of the Land's technology, and can be used for various effects all on their own. They are Color-Coded for Your Convenience.
- Protagonist-Centered Morality: In the third season (of course), after High Bluff is destroyed, Jack and the kids brazenly set up housekeeping in a Sleestak temple. They never acknowledge that in doing so, they've finally given the Sleestaks a legitimate reason to hate them. Later, in "Ancient Guardian," they steal what they think is a Sleestak idol (actually a gizmo for keeping a monster away) without giving it a second thought, and a bunch of the Sleestaks' eggs get eaten by the monster as a result.
- Put on a Bus: An earthquake opens a time portal that sends Rick back home in the Season 3 premiere.
- Real Men Cook: Will and Holly get into an argument about her cooking abilities in one episode. She says cooking's traditionally a female activity and he counters most famous chefs are men.
- Reptiles Are Abhorrent: The Sleestaks are bad. Enik is the exception, although he's still grumpy and in a lot of cases needs to be persuaded to take time out to help the Marshalls.
- Set Right What Once Went Wrong: Enik's goal is to return to his own time and prevent the downfall of his civilization, which produced the post-apocalyptic world he and the Marshalls are stuck in.
- Small Taxonomy Pools: Has all the stock dinosaurs: Tyrannosaurus, Allosaurus, Triceratops, Brontosaurus, Ankylosaurus... and Coelophysis, oddly enough. Pteranodon, Elasmosaurus, and Dimetrodon too, although they're not "dinosaurs" per se.
- The Spock: Enik always had elements of this, but the third season turns him into an obnoxious Straw Vulcan.
- Stable Time Loop: One interpretation of "The Circle." See Gainax Ending, above.
- Stock Footage: Some of the dinosaur animation gets reused over the course of the series.
- Stone Soup: Played completely straight in the episode of the same name.
- Sufficiently Advanced Bamboo Technology: The stone control tables full of crystals. To be fair, they may only look so rough because they're really, really old, but you'd think the pylons would protect them from the weather. Maybe the Altrusians just liked the "rocky" aesthetic. We do get the briefest glimpse of the Lost City in its glory days in "The Pylon Express," and it defies this trope, looking like a properly high-tech science fiction city.
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Uncle Jack. And, technically, the entire family after their exchange with their Alternate Universe counterparts.
- Team Pet: Dopey was only Holly's actual pet for one episode, but he does keep wandering back to visit the Marshalls because he likes them.
- Time Portal: The time doorways. They also function as Cool Gates between universes.
- Time Travel: Enik is in his world's future. Also, the time doorways can bring people and animals from any period in Earth's past or future.
- Trapped in Another World: The whole premise.
- Weaksauce Weakness: The Zarn is actually hurt by negative emotions. At one point he tries to escape in a manner which will collapse the pocket universe, killing everyone except him. The heroes are understandably angry with him — which is enough to stop him.
- Weather-Control Machine: It's heavily implied that the Land itself is artificial. The different pylons control various aspects of the place, from the weather to the sun's passage across the sky. Messing with them can royally screw up the environment; but since they are so old and unattended, they are prone to breaking down occasionally all on their own.
- Wham Episode
- The late second season episode "The Musician" can be considered this, since it implies that the Land was actually engineered by humans (or at least humanoids) rather than the Altrusians. This feels rather at odds with most of what we've learned up to this point, but the third season episode "Repairman" does seem to support it.
- The first episode of the third season definitely counts, sending Rick home, introducing Jack, destroying High Bluff, and allowing the appearance of bizarre creatures like Torchy.
- Wrap Around: If you travel far enough in one direction, you wind up back where you started. The river has no beginning and no end. If you climb the tallest mountain and look at the next peak over through your binoculars, you'll see your own back and realize it's the same mountain, endlessly repeated to create the illusion of an infinitely long mountain range.
- Zombie Gait: The Sleestak, the hissing 3 mph menace.