Land of the Giants was a low-budget American television sci-fi series from the 1960s. It was created by the legendary Irwin Allen; who was the brains behind other TV series such as Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Time Tunnel, and arguably his most celebrated show, Lost In Space. He also came up with the classic 1970s disaster movie, The Towering Inferno.
The Pilot Episode
The pilot episode of Land of the Giants started with a routine flight between New York and London in the space shuttle Spindrift. As was the fashion in those days, the crew and passengers were made up of the usual collection of heroes, women, children, token black men1 and foreigners2.
Steve Burton (Gary Conway) was the captain of the ship; he was your rugged all-American do-gooder type.
Dan Erickson (Don Marshall) was the trusty co-pilot and flight engineer.
Betty Hamilton (Heather Young) completed the crew as stewardess; she always wore very short skirts and bizarrely coloured outfits.
Mark Wilson (Don Matheson) was an expert engineer, who just happened to have had a major hand in the development of the Spindrift.
Valerie Scott (Deanna Lund) was the spoilt rich actress of the group.
Barry Lockridge (Stefan Arngrim) was an orphan on his way to a new foster family, accompanied by his loveable mutt Chipper.
Alexander Fitzhugh (Kurt Kaznar) completed the passenger roster; he was the well spoken but eminently roguish character, who bore a striking similarity to the well spoken but eminently roguish Dr Zachary Smith from Allen's Lost In Space.
Of course, the journey doesn't go quite to plan, and the shuttle is sent spinning through a 'space warp' (which appears to the viewer as a big, flashing, misty, wobbly thing) before crash landing on an alien planet, where everything is just like earth, except roughly 12 times bigger. Of course, the space ship is now broken and the little people have to find ways to survive in this new world, whilst trying to repair the ship to get home. As the series continues, we discover that the giant world is in fact under a totalitarian government that will stop at nothing to get its hands on the little people and their advanced technology. This government is manifested in the sinister form of Special Investigations Department operative Inspector Kobick (Kevin Hagen), the nemesis of the little people.
The charm of the series lies in its naive special effects, like the wobbly 'space warp', and gaping plot holes, such as: if the Giants' technology is more primitive than our own, then how are they able to change the relative size of themselves and the little people, which they manage to do in several episodes? And how are they able to create huge force fields to prevent entry into certain areas?
As far as the effects go, the main talking point is the 'Giant' hand. This was supposed to be a life-like replica of the human hand, albeit 12 times bigger; instead, it barely moved, and sort of waved about the place looking like a giant polystyrene prop. To make matters worse, they only had one hand, which was used for every giant, regardless of gender or age.
For all its faults though, Land of the Giants managed to attract some fairly big (if you'll pardon the expression) guest stars. These included a pre-Happy Days, pre-Apollo 13, and pre-pubescent Ron Howard. Bruce Dern starred as a size-changing alien type in one of the weirder episodes. Jonathan Harris, who played Dr Smith in Lost In Space made a quite bizarre guest appearance as the Pied Piper, who seems to have expanded his business beyond Hamlyn, if the episode in question is anything to go by.