1965). Where others see cheesy sets and hammy acting, I see brilliance and originality. Well, OK, so I never understood how they thought they could get away with putting guys in off-the-rack Halloween costumes and calling them "aliens," but so be it. The show had serious budget limitations (which is why it got cancelled, in fact), but I still love it.
The first seven episodes of "Lost in Space" are brilliant sustained science fiction. The opening episode is breathtaking in its scope, showing the lift-off of a refugee ship from Earth, which is getting too overcrowded. The lift-off, though is just the prelude to some serious drama. Dr. Smith (Jonathan Harris) is a cold, hard saboteur whose motives are always in question. Some gadgets, such as Professor Robinson's (Guy Madison's jet pack and the chariot, are introduced (and unfortunately rarely seen again). John Williams' score is awesome, especially the background music as the
chariot rumbles across forbidding deserts. Light and shadow are used to
great effect in these black-and-white episodes.
Mid-way through the first season, though, things start changing, and
the series never looked back. Dr. Smith evolves. It is heresy for
characters in science fiction to evolve. Think about it. Kirk is always
Kirk, manly and triumphant. Spock remains Spock, emotionless (for the
most part) and calculating. Adama is heroic, Dr. Who indefatigable,
etc. However, name one other major character in science fiction who
changes the way that Dr. Smith does - and include the Robot and Will
Robinson in there, too. All go through a metamorphosis during the first
two seasons. That is actual character development, folks, the kind you
don't see often on television.
Another extremely tricky thing to accomplish is to combine science
fiction and comedy. "Star Trek" did it occasionally, as in "A Piece of
the Action," but not consistently. "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century"
tried and, for the most part, failed. "Lost in Space" achieved that
goal, even if sometimes the laughs were unintentional (see "The Great
Vegetable Rebellion" and some campy monsters/villains in other
It's difficult for me to pick out favorite episodes. One of the uncanny
features of "Lost in Space" is that the episodes can be so different.
There were many that featured the bumbling Dr. Smith getting the
Robinsons into - and sometimes out of - trouble, but there also were
episodes in which John Robinson acted as courageously as any other
science fiction hero ever did to save his people. Penny Robinson (Angela Cartwright)
carried an inventive episode featuring her "invisible friend." Every so
often, a guest star performance from the likes of Michael Rennie,
Warren Oates, Albert Salmi, Kurt Russell or Slim Pickens would pop up
and change the whole tone of the series for a spell.
Somewhat ironically, this series set in the "far future" is one of the
few that really captures the essence of swinging 1960s culture. This is
one of the best series to make full use of the medium through its use
of color, costumes and creative props. The final episode, one of my
favorites, does that as bluntly as any other TV show outside of, say,
the final episode of "The Prisoner." In it, the Robinsons have found
Alpha Centauri and believe that their journey finally is ended, though
the inhabitants show strong tendencies of being, well, hippies.
Watching Dr. Smith "get down" with them - oh wait, I already mentioned
the comedy aspect, didn't I.
If some people want to read sinister things into some of the
relationships on this show, well, I have no time for that. One of
show's outstanding features is its ability to show a relationship
between an adult - Dr. Smith - and a child - Will Robinson (Bill Mumy) - in which
the child is successfully portrayed as being often more mature and
courageous than his elder. Dr. Smith is child-like in many of his
passions and traits, while Will at least at first is too mature for his
years. Watching Will gradually lose his supercilious edge as he learns
a bit about human nature from Dr. Smith is one of the most
under-appreciated aspects of the show. The Robot becomes humanized
along the way, too. In addition to everything else, this is a "coming
of age" story.
Strangely enough, they did work in sex appeal here and there. It was tough, given the family orientation of the show, but they did manage it. Rather than have any bedroom scenes - I don't think there was a single one in the entire series, except when Dr. Smith was locked away his cabin for being bad - they masked it by having the pretty girl spacewalk, or being an alien, or both.
I don't know how you can say you like science fiction and not like at
least major aspects of "Lost in Space." It was far, far ahead of its
time. This is Irwin Allen's finest work, with "The Poseidon Adventure"
a close second. I give it my highest rating for a television
|This is how Dr. Smith started out....|
|This is what he became. Both are good, I prefer the latter.|
|A boy and his robot.|
|"Oh, the pain, the pain...."|
|Rare shot of the Jupiter 2 in a parking lot|
|Trick or Treat! Ah, trick, eh?|
|Look! He's touching the boy! Molester! Pervert! Gay! Sound the alert!|
|Do ya think I'm sexy?|