There’s precious little pulp on TV these days – and in the past it was not better.
But sometimes I get lucky.
Summer has brought back to the Italian airwaves The Lost World, and I am a happy viewer again.
Now, I know many that do not like the series – not to the point of despising it, but let’s say it is not high in their appreciation where fantasy shows are concerned.
I’ll get to the main objection I registered later, because it is interesting.
Now, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World (that’s the complete title) is an Australian/Canadian show which takes its lead from the classic novel, and soon ditches most of the Conan Doyle plot and develops as a dinosaur-infested, lost-civilizations-laced, weird-science-loaded feast of pulpy goodness.
The basic premise – a band of heroes gets trapped on a plateau in South America, a lost world filled with… yeah, dinosaurs, monsters, lost cities, mysterious strangers, weird civilizations, relics from other times, crashed aliens, magic…
There’s even an access to the Hollow Earth!
The writing is fairly good, the effects are cheap but fun, the cast is competent, and adequate to the over-the-top premises of many an episode.
The main characters are a fine sample of pulp clichés…
. omni-competent scientist
. fearless big game hunter
. two fisted journalist
. unreliable femme fatale*
. fierce jungle queen*
Earlier seasons feature a second scientist character (as per original novel), sparking scientific and philosophical debate, acting avuncular and more importantly allowing the screenwriters to split the team.
And I’d welcome such a team at my gaming table, as it is the kind of ensemble which just sparks off stories: such a bunch of individuals would turn a jaunt down at the supermarket for snacks into an adventure.
Some of the recurring elements in the series are also highly entertaining.
There’s a civilization of lizard-men mimicking the Roman Empire.
There’s the afore-mentioned access to the Hollow Earth.
There’s the growing idea (actually turned into a solid plot element in the later seasons of the series) that the lost world plateau is sort of a time-distortion crossroads.
And then there’s everything else – including the kitchen sink.
Which is where many friends of mine start groaning.
There’s too much stuff, they say.
C’mon – dinosaurs today, aliens last week, yet another lost civilization next week…
How comes the science guy is able to build almost any kind of gadget, and yet he can’t telegraph home for rescue?
How comes they never run out of ammo?
How comes the women are always gorgeous, the guys alway handsome and athletic?
And yet, that is exactly what I like – because it’s in line with the classics.
Well, my kind of classics, anyway.
If it was good enough for Tarzan, or Doc Savage, why shouldn’t it be fine for a team of adventurers trapped on a plateau in South America, surrounded by dinos and weirdness?
Are we really counting shots and dissecting dinosaurs for plausibility?
All in all, to me, The Lost World remains a competent, fun, lightweight fantasy show – with some hidden gems lost among the many episodes.
Maybe it’s a guilty pleasure – but it is a pleasure indeed.
* Yes, I know there’s no femme fatales or jungle queens in Conan Doyle. There should be.