Attack of the Monster Reviews

Pay the Piper

Writer: Richard Shapiro
Director: Harry Harris
Production number: 4718
Airdate: 1/11/70

By Bruce Fedow
October 7, 2007

STORY SYNOPSIS:
The little people must save themselves and a giant senator's son from the evil Pied Piper and his magic horn.

BEST LINE:
"Have you ever been troubled by locusts? Gophers? Starlings? Rats? Termites?" Jonathan Harris as the Piper to the little people he has just captured.

The Earth people minus Steve and Mark trudge through the giant forest that is their home when they are suddenly compelled to enter a wooden trap thanks to the sweet music of a huge alien (played by Jonathan Harris) that fills the air. He claims to be the original Pied Piper, fiend of Earth folklore who kidnapped all the chidren from the town of Hamelin with his magic flute in 1763 when their parents refused to pay the Piper for his rat-exterminating services and kept them-forever. On this planet he is much larger than his tiny prisoners but he explains to them he is neither giant nor human-sized but an alien force without a corporeal body who has roamed the universe since the beginning of recorded time offering his services to those who need them for a price. He apologizes to Dan and the others for capturing them-unfortunately, they are already "on consignment."

Barry, who injured his ankle before he could get in the box trap but has witnessed everything runs back to camp to tell Captain Burton and Mark who disbelieve him, even after all the adventures he's been through with them. The sound of music through their walkie-talkies quickly convince the men Barry is serious and the intrepid trio run off to rescue their friends.

Steve, Barry and Mark arrive at the spot in the woods just as the Piper takes his tiny captives away and covertly follow the garishly-dressed giant to The Senator's house (Peter Leeds). Young Timmy (Michael James-Wixted), the senator's son answers the door and invites the Piper in, who hands Fitzhugh and the rest over to the senator as part of a deal agreed upon between the giants at a political rally some time before. The senator plans to use the Earthlings as part of a publicity campaign to get himself re-elected but he balks when he hears the asking price of four thousand giant dollars, pushes a twenty dollar bill into the startled Piper's hands and roughly shoves him out the door.

Just like in Hamelin back on Earth hundreds of years ago, the Piper begins his revenge on the senator by attempting to kidnap Timmy. The hypnotic power of the Piper's horn is strong so the senator turns to Dan and the others for help. Released from the cage Dan uses a giant tape recorder to record the Piper's song, then somehow splices the tape in a continuious loop so that it plays the song backwards, rendering Timmy impervious to its lyrical spell. The Piper trudges off in a huff but not for the last time. Instead of being grateful and releasing his little rescuers the senator calls them enemy aliens and orders them back into their small cage.

Dan Steve and Barry have found a way into the senator's house through the basement where they set some rags on fire in an effort to rescue their captive comrades upstairs. As the smoke billows through the vents the senator grabs the cage and he and his son flee the house. Once they are all outside Burton pulls a hidden rope tight and trips the senator who drops the box, setting the Earthlings free. Together the Spindrift crew return to camp, where the Piper's tune begins again as he walks into camp, now human-sized. The men rush the Piper who returns rapidly to giant-size, along with his horn, now a huge deadly weapon that traps Steve under its massive weight. Rescuing Steve, the Piper offers him and the others a proposition: if they help the Pied Piper snatch the senator's son the little people will be returned to Earth as a reward. Harris positively rolls the words "back to Earth" off of his silver tongue several times and his words are as m esmerising to Fitzhugh as the music was earlier.

The boy Timmy, declares the Piper would be much happier if he went away with him to "a magnificent little planet on the far edge of the universe, with fields for a boy to romp in, streams where the fish fairly dance on their tails, trying to take your hook...and all the toys and bicycles and ice cream he could wish for..." There's a good lesson to be learned here-whether alien or not predators lurk everywhere in the universe, waiting for their chance to strike, clever devils armed with wits and wiles and all the words children love to hear, so be careful and watch your children closely.

Of course Steve and the others (save Fitzhugh) refuse to co-operate and Barry refuses the Piper's personal offer to go with him to that unnamed planet as well, where the hapless children of Hamelin met their fate centuries before. Rebuffed again, the Piper leaves but the wily Fitzhugh follows and finally confronts him with an offer to assist in the kidnap plot.Both alien and human are whisked away with a toot of the Piper's horn to discuss the deal away from Steve and the rest, and they arrive at the Piper's office, a giant room with one wall bathed in flashing lights and the other three completely black in a familiar style employed by both Irwin Allen and Gene Rodenberry in their various televised efforts. The Pied Piper is once again a giant and he places Fitzhugh on his enormous desk where the two calmly discuss the pros and cons of kidnapping children. A plan is devised: Fitzhugh will sneak back into the senator's house in an hour and shut off t he tape recorder that is still playing its backwards song in return for a trip back to Earth for him alone.

The Piper returns Fitzhugh to camp where the man enlists Barry's help with his evil plot, citing Captain Burton's inability to get them home for over a year and the fact that Timmy would be much happier away from his greedy father. Together the pair travel to where Fitzhugh has stashed his embezzelled cash which he plans to take back with him to Earth-alone.

Steve and the others at camp realize Barry and Fitzhugh are missing and as they rush out of the spaceship to save Timmy they are driven back inside by a large angry badger, summoned by the Piper's song to keep the tiny humans at bay while he and Fitzhugh carry out their dastardly plot. These scenes, using a normal-sized badger (of course) and the larger Spindift miniature are well-executed and make the author miss the days of models before CGI took over.

Inside the Spindrift passenger cabin-turned Irwin Allen Leftover Computer Center the badger's prisoners try to come up with an escape plan, first with a box of red pepper from the ship's galley that is too impractical then with a set of metal rods hooked up the the Spindrift's batteries that shocks the beast away from the ship. Dan stays with the girls at camp while Steve and Mark rush off on another rescue mission-this time to save a giant boy.

With Barry hidden in the bushes Fitzhugh invades the giant senator's study once again and shuts the tape off but is caught in the act by Timmy. He vainly tries to convince the boy that the Piper's plan is the best way but it's a moot point as the haunting music drifts through the window for the second time that day. This time there are more tragic results as the Piper departs with the hypnotized boy, presumably to his office in space. Fitzhugh returns to Barry and his money and some uninvited visitors-Steve and Mark. Although together somewhat reluctantly the group's mission is to right Fitzhugh's crime of kidnapping and rescue Timmy.

Of course Fitzhugh knows exactly how to transport the group to the Piper's lair so that's where they go, finding the Piper with Timmy by his side. Steve offers to buy the boy with the stolen Earth money but according to the Piper's ethics it must be the money's owner (Fitzhugh) that makes the wager, which the terrified, greedy angry man refuses to do. In retaliation the Piper brings Dan and the others to his office desk also and begins a macabre giant version of the shell game, with poor terrified Chipper as the first contestant. If Steve or Dan can guess which shell the dog is under they win Timmy's freedom. If not...the game goes on. They lose and Barry's pet is off to "that wonderful planet overflowing with juicy bones and dog biscuits." Next to play-and lose-is Betty, with the remaining little people powerless to stop the loss of their loved ones. This is one of the series' greatest limitations that may have aided i n the show's demise after only two seasons. Once our heroes are captured, which they always are, sometimes more than once in the same episode, they are at the giants' mercy until they escape, which they always do. No where is it more evident than in this episode.

When it's Barry's turn to possibly meet the same fate Fitzhugh insists on inspecting the huge cups. He wagers the boy's life against the release of Timmy and all the rest and remarkably wins! He is still entitled to a trip to Earth courtesy of the Piper but there will be a few stops along the way first...the constellation of Andromeda, then on to the Crab Nebula, then a little business in the neighborhood of Alpha Centauri (perhaps writer Shapiro's nod to the now-extinct Lost in Space), arriving on Earth in the year 2743. Fitzhugh feels slighted and expresses this rather loudly, much to the already-angry Piper's chagrin. Grabbing a flyswatter (giant, of course, and lovingly rendered by the Fox art department) the Piper tries to swat his tiny tormentors as they flee, with no success. In a last attempt to stop them the Piper raises his horn to his lips and shrieks in agony, thanks to Betty's red pepper dumped into the mouthp iece by sneaky Steve, then disappears in a flash, returning the Earthlings to their ship as well.

Fitzhugh confesses he cheated by scratching the giant cup when it was Barry's turn, ensuring he would guess correctly. The fact that this man had just aided in a felony crime of kidnapping and enlisting a minor (Barry) to help as well is never mentioned as Steve claps Fitzhugh on the back and we FADE OUT.

SCRIPT CHANGES:
Although for some reason not even known to myself I have searched for a copy of this script for over thirty years I have never discovered one. Perhaps they were all burned by the author in shame. When you think about it what could have been bad enough to have been REMOVED from this awful episode? I shudder to think about it...

WHAT WERE THE WRITERS THINKING? DEPT:
This one should be called "What were the Writers Smoking? Dept." Where to begin?
Why has this alien traveled to the Land of the Giants? To collect four thousand dollars? He probably spent more than that in gas and tolls to get there. How much is he getting at the Crab Nebula? Five grand?
Why is he dressed like a Christmas ornament? Can he ever change clothes or does he-ugh-like that outfit?
If he can change his size at will why didn't he make himself small and shut the tape recorder off himself? Is the backwards music (a plan devised by Dan that makes absolutely no sense anyway) a magic spell that keeps the Piper from entering the house? We aren't ever treated to an explanation-reasonable or otherwise.
Dan and Steve create a distraction by setting the senator's house on fire in a well-populated neighborhood. Good plan! Maybe flaming giants running from their houses in shock and horror will create a good distraction.
Where is the Piper's office located? Who is his decorator? And does he have such a problem with tiny pests he keeps a flyswatter on his desk? Couldn't he just use his horn to rid the room of flying insects?

CONCLUSION:
A terrible episode with a plot riddled with so many holes a spaceship ccould fly through them. When the most exciting part of your script is a two-minute fight between the Spindrift and a giant badger you know you're in trouble. A mess barely worth watching saved only by Jonathan Harris in his last acting role for Irwin Allen.


Fitz and Val, Dan and Betty dance...


...to the Piper's tune


Timmy, the senator, the Piper and a box of little prisoners


Trapped again!


Burning down the house


Let's make a deal!


The Piper's single-walled office


In the passenger cabin-turned engine room


Big angry badger vs. the Spindrift


How to stop a badger from charging


The Earth people wager for Timmy's freedom


"Barry are you under here?"


The dreaded giant fly swatter


Safe in the forest-for now...


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