Land of the Giants was an hour-long American science fiction television program lasting two seasons beginning on September 22, 1968 and ending on March 22, 1970. The show was created and produced by Irwin Allen. Land of the Giants was the fourth of Allen's science fiction TV series. The show was aired on ABC and released by 20th Century Fox Television. The series was filmed entirely in color and ran for 51 episodes. The show starred Gary Conway and Don Marshall. Author Murray Leinster also wrote three novels in 1968 and 1969 based on the television series.
Set in the then-future year of 1983, the series tells the tale of the crew and passengers of a sub-orbital transport spaceship called the Spindrift. In the pilot episode, the Spindrift is en route from Los Angeles to London via the ultra-fast route of a parabolic trajectory. Just beyond Earth's boundary with space, the Spindrift encounters a strange space storm and is transported to a mysterious planet where everything is twelve times larger than its counterpart on Earth. The Spindrift crew calls the inhabitants "the giants". Given relative proportions shown on the show, the giants are about 72 feet tall (similar to Gulliver's situation in the second part of "Gulliver's Travels", when he is in the land of Brobdingnag). Everything on their planet is built to their scale — buildings, cars, animals, etc. The Spindrift crashes on this planet and becomes inoperable.
These giants are humanoid in form, and though their society resembles in some respects that of 1960's America, their government is totalitarian. However few precise details are given and no governmental symbols are ever seen. The giant government has offered a reward for the capture of the tiny Earth people, presumably because of the Earth's superior technology. Episodes often have the plot of giants capturing one of the passengers or crew with the rest having to rescue him or her. The Earth people avoid capture most of the time because their spaceship is hidden in a forest outside the city. They also occasionally form alliances with individual giants to achieve some commonly beneficial purpose.
The show was created by Irwin Allen. With a budget of US$250,000 per episode, Land of the Giants set a new record. The actors had to be physically fit, as they had to do many stunts themselves, such as climbing giant curbs, phone cords and ropes. Don Marshall who played the part of Dan Ericson, credited his previous football, track and pole vaulting work that helped him with the stunts required.
Elements of Allen's Lost in Space series recur in Land of the Giants, notably the relationship between the foolish, greedy traitor, an on-the-run bank robber named (Naval) Commander Alexander B. Fitzhugh (Kurt Kasznar), and the young boy Barry Lockridge (portrayed by Stefan Arngrim); paralleling the relationship in Lost in Space between Doctor Zachary Smith and the young Will Robinson.
Very little is known about the home planet of the Giants. That is partially because the Spindrift crew very seldom leaves the "City of the Giants" where their spaceship crashed in the pilot. Only two other giant societies are ever seen, in the episodes "The Land of the Lost" and "Secret City of Limbo". No name is ever given for either of these societies.
No name has ever even been established for the mysterious planet, but the inhabitants seem to know of Earth, Venus and Mars, referring to them by name in one episode. (The first mention of Earth by the giants was in the second episode, and was matter of factly mentioned.) This may be because of prior crashes of ships from Earth. Exactly where this planet is located is also never made clear. However it can be supposed that it is a natural part of the Earth's solar system, but is, by some quirk of nature/parallel universe, unknown to Earth, perhaps the natural warp that transits ships from Earth also prevents the passage of light and perhaps even gravity perturbations. In the episode, "On a Clear Night You Can See Earth", the character Captain Steve Burton (Gary Conway) claims to have seen Earth through a set of infrared goggles invented by the giants, implying that the two worlds are indeed different but near enough to each other to be able to see one from the other. Whether or not he is telling the truth is unclear.
The only established method by which Earth people may reach the planet is some sort of high-altitude spacecraft, passing through what one giant calls a "dimension lock" which seems to act more as a space warp or wormhole. The first (and only) mention of the phrase "dimension lock," by a giant in the second episode of the first season ("Ghost Town"). The giant refers to the space warp as "our dimension lock", as if it were built or at least known by the inhabitants of the giant planet. The Spindrift crew just calls it a space warp. The term wormhole is never used. It is not entirely clear what the term dimension lock means.
Although several episodes show that at least six other flights have landed on the planet, no episode shows that anyone ever successfully returned to Earth. The first mention of other visitors from Earth was in episode 2 ("Ghost Town"), where another ship was described as crashing long ago without any survivors. In episode 4 ("Underground") another Earth ship is described as crashing three years prior with no survivors.
Several episodes show crews surviving the initial crash, only to be killed later. The episode "Brainwash" has a crew of little people surviving long enough to build a radio station that can communicate with Earth. They are killed shortly thereafter. The episodes "Golden Cage" and "The Lost Ones" show there have been a few survivors of other crashes. Only the Spindrift crew seems to have survived long term, with its party intact. The impression given is that Earth people do not do well for long in giant captivity.
One country or continent or hemisphere is wholly dominated by an authoritarian government which, however, tolerates the existence of entrepreneurs and businessmen. Giant society does not seem very militarized nor is day-to-day life restricted with curfews and other regulations; it simply does not tolerate any effort to effect political change. In the episode "Doomsday" it is mentioned that there are many nations on this giant planet. Exactly what the political situation is on other continents is not known, although at least one overseas land ("The Land of the Lost") has a despotic ruler. The voice of an Air Traffic Contoller will tell those who venture far out to sea that they should turn back, that nothing beyond that sea has been explored nor is there current contact; whether this is an official government line or the truth is not known. It should be noted that the Air Traffic Controller has behind him what appears to be a map of the giant planet.
In spite of the authoritarian government, there are several dissident movements at work that either help other dissenters (such as the Earth people) or are actively working to unseat the government. Whether or not these dissidents are any better than the government is not known. In later episodes the Earth people end up fighting with these dissidents. They do this to stop efforts to disrupt giant society. The government has established the Special Investigations Department (SID) to deal with assorted dissidents, but it also has taken the lead in dealing with the Earth people.
The technology of the planet reveals areas that are behind 1960s Earth (does not have microelectronics, hearing aids, or manned space flight), though significantly more advanced in other respects (cloning, portable nuclear reactors, force fields, teleportation devices). Culturally, the society resembles the United States. The Earth people find themselves able to cope at a cultural level, dealing with movie studios, musicians, hobos, nuclear families, orphanages, folklore, jealousies and rivalries, law-breakers and patriots, criminals and honest people, poor and rich, sympathetic and hostile. Their efforts to get around are facilitated by the ubiquity of large drains directly from interior rooms to the pavement level at an outside wall of most buildings. The fact that English is the local language no doubt adds to these conveniences. (In the first few episodes a made-up language is used for signage but this is quickly dropped. English is spoken throughout).
The Earth people's objectives are: (1) survival, by obtaining food and by avoiding capture by the native people or menace from small animals like cats and dogs; (2) repair of their spacecraft so they may take off and attempt a return to Earth. They largely manage survival with the help of their ingenuity, their small size (enabling them to sneak around and hide), the occasional giant sympathizer, and, of course, their technology, which (per dialogue spoken in one of the episodes) is about fifty years ahead of most of the giants' technology.
They do not achieve the second objective, however, since the primary systems of their craft, the Spindrift, are heavily damaged, and they may have had to use precious resources in order to safeguard themselves from capture. The secondary systems are insufficient to allow take-off and the sub-orbital flight required. They are unable to successfully integrate the native technology as it is bulky and less advanced; in one episode, an experimental nuclear reactor provided by an engineering student produces dangerous side effects and is prone to overload. They also cannot trust the giants who might be able to offer the Earth people a ride home in exchange for technical assistance.
They are aided in the first goal, and at least somewhat hindered in the second, by the leadership of Captain "Steve" Burton. He behaves as leader, protector to the passengers and crew and his leadership has rescued them from a number of difficulties. However, Captain Burton also functions as a guardian of the gate who tries to keep the giants from ever reaching Earth. In the episode "Brainwash", giant police officer Ashim (Warren Stevens) says "Maybe we can find the home planet of these little people. It may be a very tiny planet, but rich beyond our dreams." It is not entirely clear what that means. Nor is it entirely clear what the giants would do if they ever reached Earth. In several episodes Steve puts keeping the giants away from Earth above the need to get his people home. At the end of those episodes, he destroys devices that would get the Spindrift back to Earth, but would probably also enable the giants to journey there as well.
- Gary Conway as Captain Steve Burton
- Don Marshall as Dan Erickson
- Don Matheson as Mark Wilson
- Kurt Kasznar as Alexander Fitzhugh
- Stefan Arngrim as Barry Lockridge
- Deanna Lund as Valerie Scott
- Heather Young as Betty Hamilton
- Kevin Hagen as Inspector Kobick (recurring character)
Land of the Giants guest stars included many familiar faces from other 1950s and 1960s sci-fi/fantasy and adventure series (e.g., Star Trek, The Twilight Zone, Gilligan's Island, Lost in Space, I Dream of Jeannie). These popular, well-known character actors included Chris Alcaide, Michael Ansara, Warren Stevens, John Carradine, David Opatoshu, Charles Drake, Jonathan Harris, Jack Albertson, and Alan Hale, Jr.
All 51 episodes were released on DVD in a limited-edition 9-disc Complete Series release on July 24, 2007 from Fox Home Entertainment. This includes the un-aired original pilot, which has some differences (extra scenes but not others later added to the aired version) and score music familiar to Lost In Space fans and interviews with cast members etc.
Merchandise & Licensing
The pilot episode was the subject of a View Master reel & booklet set in 1968 (GAF Packet # B494). One notable difference between the aired episode and the reel set is an image of the Spindrift flying through the giant forest in apparent daylight. In the aired episode, the Spindrift arrives on the giants' planet during the night, and its flight through the forest also occurs that same night. Though the following is unconfirmed, either the daylight shot was a special effects sequence cut from the aired pilot, or a special set up for the View Master photographers.
In 1968, Pyramid Books published an extended novel adaptation of the pilot (Land of the Giants, Pyramid Books, X-1846), written by famed author Murray Leinster. Among notable changes or inventions is that the Spindrift is still an operational, flying ship after the initial crash, with enough "atomic power" to last as much as several months. Another invention for the novel is the knowledge that two other ships, the Anne and Marintha, disappeared via (what will turn out to be) the same mysterious phenomena which sends the Spindrift to the giants' planet. The Spindift castaways encounter a female survivor of the Anne named Marjorie, who joins the castaways in this novel. Although the TV series featured 3 episodes with other on-screen survivors from previously lost earth-flights, the novel's character Marjorie and the ships Anne and Marintha do not appear and are not mentioned in the series.
Also in 1968 Gold Key Comics published a comic book version of Land of the Giants. It lasted for five issues. In 2010 all five issues are being reprinted together as a hardcover book by Hermes Press.
- The Irwin Allen News Network: Land Of The Giants
- Land Of The Giants Society
- Land of the Giants at the Internet Movie Database
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