So, recently, I’ve been taking advantage of the wondrous interwebs and watching episodes of the sole Irwin Allen production I was unable to see as a kid, Land of the Giants.
The story, in true pseudo-scientific Irwin Allen style, concerns the crew and passengers of the Spindrift, a sub-orbital flight on its way from Los Angeles to London, in the far-off future of 1983. The ship is pulled toward a giant glowing tennis ball a spatial anomaly and transported through a warp to another unnamed world where everything is approximately 12 times the size it is on Earth.
The crew, Captain Steve Burton (Gary Conway), co-pilot Dan Erickson (Don Marshall) and flight attendant Betty Ann Hamilton (Heather Young), try to survive alongside orphan Barry Lockridge (Stefan Arngrim) and his dog Chipper, socialite Valerie Scott (Deanna Lund) , wealthy engineer Mark Wilson (Don Matheson), and Alexander Fitzhugh (Kurt Kasnar), who originally professed to be a naval commander, but was revealed very quickly to be a bank robber on the run from authorities with a suitcase containing $1 million. Fitzhugh, as was common in ensemble television, was the cowardly character that occasionally had unwilling or accidental bouts of near-heroism, which made him quite similar in theme and role in the party to Jonathan Harris in his protrayal of Dr. Zachary Smith in another Allen hit, Lost in Space.
The “Little People”, as they were referred to by the giant inhabitants of the mystery planet, struggled to survive long enough to repair the Spindrift and, with luck, make it home*. Their survival is complicated by the fact that they are on the run from the authoritarian government of this new world, as well as from mad scientists, circus owners, and lonely children – some but not all of whom are interested in the substantial reward offered for the capture of the earth people. They also encounter other earth people who have crashed on the planet before them, with varying results. The Giants,as they are called (although, to be fair, this is their planet – you guys are the ones who are a little out of proportion here) know of, or have a least heard of Earth, but are unable to travel there, for reasons that remained unclear. What is clear, however, is that Giant technology is about 20 years behind that of the Earth folk, so part of the challenge of the Spindrift crew isto avoid their technology falling into the wrong hands.
I wasn’t really sure what I’d make of this program – I’d wanted to see it for as long as I can remember, and was quite concerned I’d be let down when I finally did. Mind you, I had no problems enjoying the fantastic and often quite wild adventures I’d seen on Allen’s other three 60s sci-fi classics: Lost in Space, The Time Tunnel and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. I sat down to watch, with all the positive feeling I could muster.
And you know what? I love this show. Imaginative, crazy, and so completely 1960s, with great characters and quite franlky exceptional special effects – this is a close second to my favorite Allen series, The Time Tunnel in my childlike heart, and then only because I find time travel, even ludicriusly presented, to be a more interesting science fiction concept. I’m more than halfway through Season 1, and still have Season 2 of LOTG ahead of me, and I can’t wait!
For a little video treat, here’s a promo from Australian television:
And, last but not least, an excellent 40th anniversary tribute from YouTube:
* Spoiler: Unfortunately, not by the time the series was cancelled, although a ‘return’ movie has been in the planning stages on and off. We wish them well.