Saturday, August 8, 2015

Retro Saturday: Lassie in "Space Traveler"

Click the arrow to watch the film. Video source: Collie Lover YouTube channel.

If you're of a certain vintage, the Lassie TV series was an iconic part of your childhood.

Each week, the Rough Collie improbably saved small boys, Forest Service rangers, and pretty much anyone else who crossed her path from mortal peril. How she obtained this superpower was never revealed, although “she” was always played by a “he.”

For some reason, her barks could be understood by humans, which became a running pop culture joke, variations on, “What's that, girl?! Timmy fell down a well?!”

Lassie ran from 1954 to 1973, the golden years of the Space Age, so it's only natural that she would one day stumble across a wayward missile.

This week's Retro Saturday is the episode “Space Traveler,” which first aired Sunday night January 10, 1960 on CBS. Timmy and his sullen friend find the nose cone from a missile test. Hilarity ensues.

For nitpickers, the nose cone was from a U.S. Army missile launched from an unnamed location. It had reached an apogee of 1,400 miles before falling back to near the Martin farm. In 1959, when this was filmed, the Army for the most part was phasing out of the space business. On July 1, 1960, the Army Ballistic Missile Agency, including Wernher von Braun and his Redstone Arsenal staff, were transferred to NASA.

Much of the episode was filmed at Vasquez Rocks, used as a filming location in many movies and TV shows. It's most famous for the Star Trek episode “The Arena,” which featured Captain James T. Kirk in hand-to-hand combat with the lizard Gorn alien.

Timmy and Lassie at Vasquez Rocks in 1959. Image source:

Filmed in 1966, Captain Kirk faces off against the Gorn at Vasquez Rocks. Image source:

How the Martin family's verdant farm could be right in the middle of an arid desert remains unexplained.

But watching Timmy running around the same rocks where, seven years later, Kirk would fight the Gorn brought to mind this wisecrack:

“What's that, girl?! Timmy got eaten by a Gorn?!”

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