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Series / The Lost World (2001)

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The Lost World is a 2001 TV miniseries based on the novel The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle, and co-produced by A&E and the BBC. It stars Bob Hoskins as Professor Challenger, Matthew Rhys as Edward Malone, and a variety of prehistoric creatures created by the team behind Walking with Dinosaurs.

The miniseries follows the plot of the novel, in which Professor Challenger leads an expedition to a remote South American plateau where dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures have survived, but adds some deconstruction of the novel's attitudes, and a thread reflecting on the conflict between creationism and evolutionary science, with the former represented by a missionary (played by Peter Falk) who attempts to sabotage the expedition. His niece, Agnes, ends up joining the expedition.

This work contains examples of:

  • Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder: Ned Malone is rejected by the girl he loves because he's never done anything adventurous, so he joins the Challenger expedition to prove himself, but discovers on his return that she's engaged to marry someone else. Which is okay, because in the mean time he's fallen in love with Agnes. Agnes, to her and the writers' credit, is suspicious of how quickly he switches his attention to her, and initially accuses him of just being on the rebound, though he's able to convince her that his feelings are indeed genuine.
  • Adaptational Alternate Ending:
    • Challenger successfully convinces the press that the prehistoric plateau is real before changing his mind when he realises how much damage mankind could do to it. He, Summerlee, and Malone are then able to convince the public that this was all a publicity stunt to promote their much more boring discoveries.
    • There's also a fairly explicit rebuke of the novel's ending with the Pteranodon the party take back to London with them, which then escapes and tries to fly home. In the book, Roxton cheerfully suggests that, unsuited as it is to long-distance flight, it will probably die before it gets as far as Dover (and rightfully so!). The series' final scene shows it flying all the way back to the plateau (which is Truth in Television in that most pterosaurs were powerful fliers, with sea-faring ones like Pteranodon being capable of intercontinental flight over seas like albatrosses).
  • Adaptational Nationality: Downplayed with Malone. In the book, he is depicted as an Irishman. In this series, while he keeps his Irish surname and is presumably of Irish background, it's never brought up in dialogue and he speaks with an English accent. His actor, Matthew Rhys, is Welsh.
  • Adaptational Wimp: Downplayed in the case of Challenger, who in the book is a large, muscular man, which Bob Hoskins is decidedly not. But his temper and bravery remain mostly the same.
  • Adapted Out: Mrs. Challenger. This version of George Challenger is explicitly unmarried (and somewhat lonely, though he's hesitant to admit it), in contrast to his Awful Wedded Life in the book.
  • Agent Scully: Prof. Summerlee is a skeptical, hard-headed sort of scientist who generally takes the establishment position on an issue. At times this makes him the voice of reason, but at other points this has him dogmatically adhering to positions that were the consensus in 1911 but have since been discredited; see Science Marches On for an example. He does learn to open his mind quite a bit over the course of the story. This is in contrast to the resident Agent Mulder, Professor Challenger. See below under Cloud Cuckoolander for more.
  • Anachronism Stew: The plateau is home to Jurassic and Cretaceous dinosaurs, as well as at least two species of otherwise-extinct mammal (the ape-men, and some kind of entelodont) and an entire tribe of human beings. One scene has Challenger marveling at the "unique balance" that allows all of these species - which must have arrived on the plateau millennia apart - to coexist.
  • And the Adventure Continues: The series ends with Challenger announcing that he's found a clue to the location of Atlantis and asking for volunteers for his next expedition.
  • Because You Were Nice to Me: The Ape Men respond to Malone untying them by masking his scent to protect him from an approaching allosaurus.
  • Bring It Back Alive: A Pteranodon is dramatically unveiled in London, proving that Challenger was right.
  • British Stuffiness: Professor Summerlee and Professor Illingworth, played respectively by professional stuffy Englishmen James Fox and Robert Hardy.
  • The Cameo: In a way, the Diplodocus and entelodont, as their CGI models seem to be re-used from Walking with Dinosaurs and Walking with Beasts respectively.
  • Cannibal Tribe: Prof. Challenger blithely points one out in an early scene of the party travelling up the Amazon. They seem content to leave our heroes alone.
  • Canon Foreigner: Reverend Theo Kerr and Agnes Clooney. Kerr strands the others in the plateau, taking Gomez's role from the novel.
  • Cargo Cult: The reverence that the Plateau natives hold for Padre Mendoz, the Portuguese missionary who converted them to Christianity, borders on this. When Challenger arrives - apparently bearing a great resemblence to Mendoz - they become convinced that he is the missionary, returned to them at last.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • At the beginning of the expedition, Roxton brags that his rifle can take down an elephant and Malone points out that there are no elephants in Brazil. The elephant gun ends up finishing off the two allosaurs that attack the village.
    • Roxton and Maree's hunting method, initially used to catch an enteledont, is later used to bring down one of the allosaurs that attack the village.
    • When a pterosaur steals their dinner, Kerr insists that it was simply an Amazonian vulture, which he points out to be "a very large bird". Malone uses the same lie to keep the plateau a secret.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: Prof. Challenger likes "to keep an open mind", accepting the possible existence of Atlantis and discussing a number of not-especially-credible theories about pre-Columbian contact between the Old World and the New. note 
    Challenger: There's a dialect spoken in Honduras that sounds very much like Welsh.
    Summerlee: Really? I know a kind of English that sounds very much like gibberish.
  • The Cuckoolander Was Right: Challenger is right that the Plateau does exist. He is also occasionally shown to be more in line with modern values than most of the rest of the cast: see Insufferable Genius, It Will Never Catch On, and Stay in the Kitchen below.
  • Dinosaurs Are Dragons: Challenger, as evidence of the validity of his theory about Living Dinosaurs, mentions that the sole survivor of a previous expedition to the Plateau was "raving about dragons" upon his return.
  • Dumb Dinos: Discussed by Prof. Summerlee at the beginning as the most likely reason why the dinosaurs went extinct. Note that this series is set before the popularization of the Chicxulub impact theory.
  • Expy: Reverend Theo Kerr fills the role of the treacherous Gomez and his niece Agnes fills the role of Enid Challenger, who did not appear until "The Land of Mist", as Ned's love interest. The book also gives the party a large, slow-witted black man named Zambo who speaks in You No Take Candle to carry their bags; the series wisely replaces him with a toned-down native South American man named Samuel, though even his role is pretty minimal. The Posthumous Character of Padre Mendoz, a Portuguese missionary who visited the plateau decades earlier, fills in the role of the book's Maple White, an American explorer who had also been to the plateau.
  • Fire-Forged Friendship: Challenger and Summerlee greatly dislike each other at the beginning of the story, but bond over the dangers they face and discoveries they make together. Most specifically, it's when they've been captured by the ape-men are have little hope of escape that they finally break down their walls and are honest with each other. From that moment on, they are firm friends.
  • First-Name Basis: Challenger rather mockingly calls Professor Summerlee "Leo" at the initial lecture, but the two stick to the more professional "Professor Challenger" and "Professor Summerlee" for the journey to the plateau. Once they are in the plateau and face mortal danger numerous times, they wind up using "George" and "Leo" with genuine friendliness.
  • Frazetta Man: The ape-men, which Challenger speculates to be some manner of Dryopithecus or Pithecanthropus. These are in contrast with the fully-human natives of the Plateau.
  • Gentle Giant Sauropod: The Diplodocus on the plateau seem pretty chill, and Challenger is able to get very close to one of them in one scene.
  • Great White Hunter / Gentleman Adventurer: Lord John Roxton. In a twist on this trope, he actually seems to have the best understanding of the plateau's natives and how vital it is not to try to force English values on them. Likewise, the natives admire his hunting skills.
  • Gun Struggle: This is how the conflict with Rev. Theo Kerr concludes. When Prof. Summerlee has had enough of him trying to stop their expedition, even at gunpoint, they end up struggling and a bullet mortally wounds the reverend.
  • Happily Married: Prof. and Mrs. Summerlee. Challenger, a bachelor, confesses to Summerlee that he envies his stable family life. This is in contrast to the book, where Challenger was married, and miserable.
  • Handsome Heroic Caveman: Maree's brother, Achille. Though he's a bit of a foil to the heroes and is the most outwardly suspicious of them throughout the story, he's still clearly a good guy.
  • Identical Stranger: Prof. Challenger's uncanny resemblance to Padre Mendoz, though as the Padre never actually appears, being a Posthumous Character, this is an Informed Attribute. We do see a painting of him, though.
    Prof. Challenger: Handsome chap.
  • I Choose to Stay: Roxton stays on the plateau at the end with the native tribe and the woman he's fallen in love with.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: An Allosaurus falling into a deep, spiky trap at the beginning of Episode 2. This is the first evidence we see that there are humans on the plateau. Another allosaur is speared through the upper jaw later in the film.
  • Insufferable Genius \ Jerkass Has a Point: Summerlee is easily goaded into a debate with Kerr over the age of the Earth, and, by proxy, the validity of science over a literal reading of the Bible. Although he's frequently used as a mouthpiece for long-discredited ideas, in this scene, the scientific facts are completely on Summerlee's side... but he doesn't need to be a dick about it, especially not to someone who has shown them a lot of hospitality. Challenger later upbraids him for his lack of "humility".
    Challenger: I don't know if there is a God. But I do know that man is no substitute if there isn't.
  • Ironic Echo: Upon seeing cave paintings of a quadrupedal Iguanodon, Challenger mockingly repeats Summerlee's earlier claim that they walked on two legs "like a kangaroo".
  • It Can Think: The ape men are initially seen as mindless, violent cannibals, but are later seen mourning their dead with a burial (with flowers, no less). Challenger is fascinated by this, despite their earlier attempt to eat him.
    I was a potential source of protein!
  • It Will Never Catch On: Prof. Illingworth mocks Prof. Challenger for having previously suggested "the possibility of conveying mankind to the moon! In a rocket!"
  • Living Dinosaurs: Most of the fauna of the South American plateau.
  • Lost World: The high altitude and physical isolation of the plateau is the justification for why all kinds of weird things survive there. Challenger briefly talks about how amazing it is that dinosaurs and more recent life forms like the ape-men and the natives are all able to coexist (though not always peacefully) up here.
  • Misplaced Vegetation: Prof. Summerlee lampshades the strange combination of flora he finds on the plateau.
    Summerlee: They shouldn't even be growing in the same hemisphere!
  • Misplaced Wildlife: Invoked as a minor Running Gag, with Edward repeatedly correcting people on this ("But there are no elephants in Brazil!").
    Gladys: Pedantry is not a virtue, Edward.
  • Named by the Adaptation:
    • Prof. Summerlee's first name, Leo, is not found in the book.
    • Inverted in the case of the Lost World itself. In the book, the plateau was eventually given the name of Maple White Land, in honour of the American explorer who had been there decades prior, and in whose footsteps the Challenger Expedition is following. Since White is cut from this adaptation (his role given to a Portuguese missionary named Padre Mendoz), the plateau itself is never given a proper name.
  • Nubile Savage:
    • Maree, The Chief's Daughter, is very pretty and has a romantic subplot with Lord Roxton.
    • Edward initially sees Agnes as a form of this, since she grew up in the sheltered mission in South America instead of in the bustling cities of Britain. When he notices Lord Roxton flirting with Agnes, he tries to dissuade him, feeling that any such relationship would be an Unequal Pairing since "socially, she's a bit, well, backward". Agnes, who overhears the conversation, is deeply offended.
  • Obstructive Zealot: Rev. Theo Kerr, a missionary who attempts to prevent the expedition reaching the plateau and bringing back evidence of dinosaurs.
  • Palate Propping: This is done to a rampaging Allosaurus. It only inconveniences it for a few moments, though, before it snaps the piece of wood between its jaws.
  • Piranha Problem. Defied during an early scene in the Amazon.
    Agnes: Oh, piranha aren't dangerous. That's a myth. It's the snakes you have to watch.
  • Prehistoric Monster: The miniseries deconstructs a lot of the imperialistic thinking of its source material, showing the dinosaurs, and the much-maligned ape-men, to be well-adapted, often beautiful, and sometimes fairly intelligent creatures. That said, the ape-men are utterly hideous under that makeup. Notably, a major subplot (and one completely absent from the book), has Prof. Challenger preventing the natives of the plateau from exterminating the ape-men, but in doing so — and imposing his own values on them — he inadvertently brings disaster to the village when the vengeful ape-men summon a pair of Allosauruses, and the series ends with him and the other explorers deciding to keep the plateau a secret in order to protect its inhabitants, while the book seems fairly cheerful about the possibility that they'll all go extinct, because they're monsters and that's what they deserve. This trope also shows up in-universe with Prof. Summerlee, who, representing the kind of paleontology contemporary to the 1911 setting, refers to an Allosaurus in one scene as a "creature from Hell", and indeed, we see little of the Allosaurs beyond their hunger. There's a charming scene of Malone befriending a Hypsilophodon - though a moment later, Roxton refers to Hypsilophodon as an "ugly brute".
  • Promoted to Love Interest:
    • Roxton gets a romance with one of the women of the native tribe that has made its home on the plateau. In the book, none of the tribe members are individual characters.
    • Malone ends up with Agnes, a completely new character invented for this adaptation.
  • Refuge in Audacity: When claiming that the plateau doesn't exist, Malone passes off the material he's submitted about the plateau so far as extracts from a novel he's writing. A metafictional joke here, since Doyle's novel is indeed written from Malone's point of view as an in-character travelogue of the expedition.
  • Science Marches On: In-Universe. In an early scene, Prof. Summerlee shows an early illustration of an Iguanodon as a quadruped, and comments that, although previously thought to be quadrupedal, it is now known to have walked on two legs, "somewhat in the manner of a kangaroo" - much to Prof. Challenger's amusement. Later on, when we actually see an Iguanodon, it turns out to be a facultative biped (meaning it can switch between two and four legs, which happens to be the current scientific consensus).
  • Shout-Out: When they return to London, Edward's boss - a diminutive, white-haired Scotsman - says that "no expense will be spared" in capitalizing on the discovery of the plateau.
  • Snakes Are Sinister: In an early scene before they even reach the plateau, Edward is menaced by venomous coral snakes. This can be taken as equivalent to a similiarly brief scene in the novel, in which the party encounter a single huge constrictor snake of some kind.
    Challenger: One bite from one of those coral snakes, you'll be dead in seconds.
    Summerlee: Not necessarily. A young man in good health might live up to a minute!
  • Social Ornithopod: The first dinosaur the group see is an Iguanodon, who is portrayed as a very amiable Gentle Giant (we see a full herd of them later on). In the very next scene, a curious Hypsilophodon befriends Malone.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: Discussed when Agnes first offers to accompany the expedition. This being 1911, Roxton, Summerlee, and Malone all initially object, though she quickly proves that she can pull her own weight, knowing the ways of the jungle pretty well, and never needs rescuing.
    Challenger: She'd be less of a liability than Mr. Malone here!
  • Supporting Protagonist: As in the book, Malone is the protagonist but Challenger is the hero.
  • Unabashed B-Movie Fan: A variation with Malone, who enthusiastically tells Agnes "I love bad novels! It's my ambition to write one!"
  • Urine Trouble: To get back at him for an insensitive comment he had made earlier, Agnes tricks Edward into thinking that he can repel the biting insects of the jungle by rubbing his skin with his own urine. It doesn't go well for him. Later, he gets smeared with ape-man poo, which does repel an Allosaurus.
  • Voiceover Letter: As in the book, Malone sends regular updates on the expedition back to Britain, where they are published in his employer's newspaper. Doyle's book is effectively an Epistolary Novel, made up from Malone's letters to the paper, but in this miniseries, they take the form of occasional voiceover narration from Malone, usually over montage sequences. See Refuge in Audacity for how this is resolved.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • A borderline example. It's never officially confirmed what was in Edward's bag that attracted the snakes, but on a rewatch, you'll figure out that Reverend Kerr had the opportunity and the motive to slip something in there.
    • The Hypsilophodon that Malone befriends is a straighter example. He even gives it a name ("Figaro"), but it never appears or is mentioned again after that scene.
  • You Shall Not Pass!: When things go sour with the Plateau natives, a gravely-wounded Roxton holds them off while the others escape. This works because the natives really like Roxton, and don't want to kill him, and he's able to face them down without any further bloodshed. He's later seen to have healed from his wounds and living happily among them, married to Maree.
    I'm sorry, old chap. You have to let them go.