With the classic 1960s Irwin Allen fantasy adventure Land of the Giants enjoying a new lease of life courtesy of a complete rescreening on Horror Channel, STARBURST is sad to hear of the death of actor Don Marshall who played Spindrift’s co-pilot Dan Erickson across the series’ fifty-one episode run.
Born in San Diego in 1936, Don commenced his professional acting career in 1961 with TV credits including episodes of Tarzan (starring Ron Ely), Daktari, Dragnet, Ironside and as Lt Boma in the ‘Galileo Seven’ episode of Star Trek in 1967. His career blossomed at a time when few African-American actors were able to make decent headway in the industry. “There weren’t that many jobs, guest starring jobs, for African-Americans or any minorities, really. I was very grateful to get the opportunities I got, and it made me work very hard on each part, to make sure that whatever I was doing was right and that the characters I played were very strong people,” he said in an interview in 2012. A role in a TV pilot entitled Braddock led to a chance encounter with producer Irwin Allen who cast him as the resourceful, resilient Dan in Land of the Giants. When the series was cancelled after two seasons due to network concerns over its high production costs, Don continued to appear regularly on US TV in series as diverse as The Bionic Woman, The Incredible Hulk and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century and late in the decade he set up DJM productions which specialised in television commercials and documentary films.
Years after Land of the Giants disappeared from TV rumours continually surfaced that a reboot series or feature film adaptation was in development and Don wrote a script proposal entitled Escape from a Giant Land. Although the series has maintained a strong and enthusiastic fan following over the decades it has never made it way back to the screen. Perhaps now, with Hollywood still in the grip of remake/reboot/reimagine fever – and with Netflix reviving Irwin Allen’s Lost in Space next year – audiences might finally get a chance to visit the Land of the Giants with the benefit of all the incredible visual trickery available to modern film-makers. It would be a fitting tribute not only to Don Marshall, who passed away quietly on 30th October, but also fellow fallen cast members Don Matheson and Kurt Kasznar.
STARBURST’s thought are with Don’s son and daughter and his twin brother Doug.
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