Lost in Space: Season 1
BY G. NOEL GROSS | February 20, 2004
Click for the second of this two-part tribute.
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V I D E O
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Let's see, 29 episodes clocking in at 52 minutes a pop. That's 1,508 keister-numbing minutes that should serve as an incontrovertible testament to yours truly's life-long love for this quirky, sci-fi cavalcade of camp. Or a testament to any number of other social shortcomings. Regardless, bless the TV-to-DVD revolution for inspiring and Fox Home Video for crafting this stellar 8-disc collection that ushers the dreams of many a fellow fevered fan into reality. Grab a seat on my sweat-stained couch and let's GET LOST! with the Space Family Robinson ...
Dr. Zachary Smith (Jonathan Harris): From foreign-funded saboteur to conniving clown, Dr. Smith is wholly devoted to selfish interests and his desire to return to Earth is matched only by his greed and terminal laziness. But who'd have our fussy, silver-tongued dandy any other way? Mr. Harris ranked "His Majesty Smith" (24) among his favorites -- for obvious reasons.
Will Robinson (Billy Mumy): The genius trapped in a squeaky boy's body, desperate to be all grow'd up in the eyes of his father, whom he's more likely to call "Sir" than "Dad." When not tinkering with the Robot, baby-sitting Dr. Smith or saving his entire family from certain doom, Will most often pursues his greatest obsession: rock collecting.
The Robot (Dick Tufeld, voice and Bob May, body): First programed to murder the Robinsons by Smith, then redeemed by Will, this beloved bubble-head completes the core triumvirate. "The Oasis" (9) lends the first hint at future hilarity with a gratuitous shower scene in which Dr. Smith's serenaded by a robotic rendition of Largo al Factotum or That Figaro! Song to we knuckle draggers.
Prof. John Robinson (Guy Williams): A thinking man's action hero, devoted father and loving, if sometimes vaguely condescending husband. Rarely seen without his right-hand castaway Major West, though these two bucks have been known to lock horns, such as when sweltering heat threatened to charbroil his clan in "The Hungry Sea" (5).
Maureen Robinson (June Lockhart): Most often a June Cleaver-esque hausfrau filtered through an ever-worried gaze. Although, a bit of '60s womens lib does supplant mama's automatic shrink-wrap'd laundry and insta-clean dishwashing contraptions in "One of Our Dogs is Missing" (13) and "All That Glitters" (26) when the ladies muster a collective "roar" of empowered self-defense.
Major Don West (Mark Goddard): This jocular workhorse is quick to lend a hand or throw a deserved fist. His mortal enemy and, ironically, greatest source of amusement? Dr. Smith, naturally, whom he considers "slipperier than a bucket of eels!" Fortunately for the not-so-good doctor, Don's got a pretty young thing to keep him distracted, temporarily TWO if you count child-star-turned-silky-sexpot Sherry Jackson in "The Space Croppers" (25).
Judy Robinson (Marta Kristen): To put it country simple: The Babe! No wonder Don doesn't seem to mind being lost in space. Judy wiles her days tending the hydroponic garden and picking new 'dos from an order-by-number hairdressing gizmo. Ms. Kristen best shows her thespianic mettle via dual roles in "Attack of the Monster Plants" (14).
Penny Robinson (Angela Cartwright): Allegedly as much a brainiac as Will, though infinitely more at ease at just being a KID. Geological surveys hold no interest for her, instead she devotes herself to creative pursuits like music or dressing up her space ape. Poor Penny was once trapped with CineSchlocker idol Michael J. Pollard in "The Magic Mirror" (21).
Debbie (Various primates): Penny's bestest pal was first domesticated in "Island in the Sky" (3). Think chimps are funny? Well, wait to you see one wearing fur PANTS and a matching pointy-ear'd chapeaux! Also known as "Bloop!" for the sound she makes.
Even 29 episodes of Britney Spears oil rasslin' Jessica Simpson could be daunting. Here's some select adventures for immediate perusal:
The Reluctant Stowaway (1): It's the episode that started it all -- and it's also high among the best. Viewers are asked to leap 30 years into the future, the year 1997, a time of boundless technological advances and an era where overpopulation threatens to choke the life from Mother Earth. Hence the need for our extended astro family to boldly go where no one has gone before -- the brave new suburbs of Alpha Centari. Yep, John Robinson probably would've been cutting the space grass in short britches and black socks if not for Dr. Smith's bungled scheme to scuttle the Jupiter 2 en route. That unpleasantness aside, there's some terrifically fun "weightless" footage and a hysterically unconvincing karate chop by Mr. Harris.
There Were Giants in the Earth (4): After fending off previous attacks from weird-beard pillow monsters, an electric tumbleweed and a Guinness-worthy pea pod, getting crossways with a 6-story cyclops might seem like par for this cosmic course. Maybe so, but he's more than grumpy enough to make a lasting impression as well as three-foot-deep depressions wherever his value-sized Buster Browns hath trod. Now where there's a GIANT, there's gotta be a scrappy young fella itching to slay 'em. No beanstalk required. CineSchlockers should note Will is also responsible for the earliest Dr. Smith impression: "Stop! My mechanical friend!"
Welcome Stranger (6): When the Robinsons spy a rocket barreling straight for them, Dr. Smith offers his diagnosis: "Space devils, no doubt! ... A deadly intruder swooping in on us with the speed of light! Spitting flame and cosmic dust! Burning up our precious oxygen! Spreading its lethal virus!" But, when said space devil arrives, his first word actually turns out to be "HOWDY!" That's right, Jeff Foxworthy would be proud, there's REDNECKS in them thar stars. CineSchlocker fave Warren Oates' Jimmy Hapgood left Earth in 1982 aboard "Travelin' Man" bound for Saturn and never quite made it. Our castaways certainly sympathize.
The Sky is Falling (10): No doubt shunned in their own land, a family of non-practicing MIMES arrive via a beam of light on what, come to think of it, is quite a highly trafficked little planet. The patriarch has a Christopher Walken hairdo and Reverend Al Sharpton's former affinity for gaudy medallions. Yet no matter how congenial the professor's brood are, these stone-faced folks keep mum, preferring solitude and living in invisible boxes. That is until Will learns that friendship can begin with a well-placed snot rocket.
Return from Outer Space (15): Young Will Robinson's teleportation back home sweet home marks the starting line of a remarkable sprint of episodes. While on Earth, he gets to eat cookies, slurp milk and even arrives in time for Christmas. What more could a kid ask? Well, for ANYONE to believe a goldang word he says. Seems he's plunked down in a town of hayseeds who've heard tell of the Jupiter 2 tragedy, but don't cotton to fib tellin' youngsters who run around in their pajamas. So it's off to a home for wayward boys if Will's wits should fail.
The Keeper (16-17): OK, this is really two episodes, you caught me. Jonathan's former "Third Man" costar Michael Rennie guests as The Keeper, a stately gent who wanders the universe waving around a skinny barber pole that lights up, plays a tune and hyp-mo-tizes critters two-by-two. Even primitive beasts such as HUMANS! If anything, the first part sorta drags a bit until the big fun manifests when Dr. Smith accidently unlocks all the cages aboard this latter-day Noah's ark. What then ensues is loop'd footage of the same six beasties barreling down the gangplank over and over and over again while you-know-who shrieks like a school girl. Then the FX crew REALLY goes nutzoid with Part 2 by glueing a bunch of crap to THREE drowsy iguanas to create GIANT reptilian monsters. Also notable for featuring the first dual usage of the Smithisms: "Oh, the pain, the pain!" and "Never fear, Smith is here!"
The Sky Pirate (18): Long before Talk Like a Pirate Day, there was Albert Salmi's stupendous Cap'n Tucker and his Epictetus-quoting tin parrot Nik. Arrrrr, what a treat they be, mateys! William sure thinks so, because even after being kidnapped by the good-natured Tucker, he can't WAIT to take the pirate's blood oath. Now just how did this seafaring stranger start tooling around the cosmos? Well, um, the cap'n got himself ABDUCTED BY ALIENS way back in 1876! Ask his age and it's the plank for sure, me bucko!
The War of the Robots (20): The Robot's domestic bliss among the Robinsons strays far from what he computed when a malevolent "robotoid" crashes his scene. But our castaways are unaware that, despite its miraculous contributions to their lives, this "robot that goes beyond its programming" covertly plots against them with its Galactic Werewolf masters via a See 'n Say. Fortunately, a certain "animated weather station" sees past the ruse and goes mano y clawo with this interloper, drawing such barbs as: "You are even more stupid than when I first computed!" Now any CineSchlocker would know Robby the Robot first appeared in the 1956 classic Forbidden Planet, but might be surprised both he and Lost in Space's "B-9" share the same papa -- designer Bob Kinoshita. We're talkin' brother-against-brother grudge match here!
Each episode ends with an old-style tease to the next harrowing adventure -- usually foretelling utter doomsday while typically resolving themselves rather benignly. Especially now, given we denizens of the digital age don't have to spend a week or even TWO weeks waiting, nerves frayed, for any assurance of our space family's survival. Spine-tinglers include ... Extra-Vehicular Activity: John Robinson's treacherous space walk was the first and most rife with tension of 'em all (1). Mini-Scooter O' Death: Conversely, Smith's screeching reaction to a s-l-o-w-l-y approaching aluminum-foil'd crab critter will always be recalled with a snicker (9). Deer in the Headlights: Poor penny nearly got herself blow'd up in a previous cliff, but that's not near as ominous as when she tinkers with an alien gizmo that bathes her in a spotlight of oblivion (14). The Ol' Fishin' Hole: Following a scene right out of "The Andy Griffith Show," Will, Dr. Smith and The Robot shoulder their cane poles only to discover a deadly cybertronic castaway (19). Catch the Rainbow: The series makes its eye-popping switch to C-O-L-O-R following an uncharacteristically grim season finale (29).
Fave space aliens
Over the years, fans have often joked about producer Irwin Allen's penchant for double or even triple dipping on special effects among the FOUR series he had on the air at any given time. "Spy a critter on 'Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea' one week? See it again -- but painted purple -- on 'Lost in Space' the next." Whether that's fact or farce, here's a roll call of this season's best beasties ... The One-Eyed Giant: This 50-foot tall, boulder bowling bully would've made meals of Daddy Robinson and Major West if not for the mighty sling of a little shepherd boy (4). Ol' Fish Face: This inter-dimensional rocketman resembles the product of an amorous rendezvous betwixt Enik the kindly Sleestak of "Land of the Lost" and The Creature from the Black Lagoon (28). Horny Dirt Demon: The lady Robinsons are terrorized by this fur-suited stunt man who burrows from a sandy lair lookin' for love (13). Duplicating Daisies: The "Cyclamen" ain't men at all, rather they're plants with an indiscriminate reproductive process that makes carbon copies of whatever happens by -- including comely coeds (14). Gladbagitcus Gigudicus: This billowing bag o' brain -- a.k.a. The Thing from Cygnet Four -- doesn't take kindly to pilfering space pirates (18).
Dr. Smith vs. The Robot
How does a "Special Guest Star" stick around for 83 episodes? By using his brainpan, my dear boy! Among other "bits," as Mr. Harris called them, he cultivated a vaudevillian relationship with The Robot, which most famously featured astoundingly alliterative insults. The first appears in "The Hungry Sea" (5) when Smith roasts his metallurgical friend as a "pusillanimous puppet." Although less artful barbs were more the norm until the poetic dam burst with the immortal "YOU BUBBLE-HEADED BOOBY!" first issued in "The Challenge" (22).
... pusillanimous puppet! (5)|
... blundering bag of bolts! (7)
... steely-eyed sorcerer! (15)
... mumbling mass of metal! (19)
... miserable mass of metal (20)
... metallic murderer! (20)
... bubble-headed booby! (22)
... cackling computer! (22)
... tin-plated traitor! (22)
... deplorable dummy! (23)
... disreputable dunce! (24)
... deplorable dunderhead! (25)
... Neanderthal ninny! (27)|
... monstrous metallurgical meddler! (27)
... garrulous gargoyle! (28)
... scurrilous scatterbrain! (28)
... cowardly clump! (28)
... nondescript ninny! (29)
... malicious moron! (29)
... bubble-headed booby! (29)
... Dr. Dunderhead! (29)
... deplorable dummy! (29)
... blithering bumpkin! (29)
While somewhat underwhelming, extras selected for this debut season are duly appropriate. Of most interest is the full-length, UNAIRED pilot "No Place to Hide" startlingly devoid of Dr. Smith AND a certain blundering bag of bolts. Other differences are more subtle such as the Jupiter 2 having originally been dubbed Gemini 12 after the burgeoning NASA program. The real Gemini 12 launched November 11, 1966 -- more than a year after the series premiere -- carrying astronauts James Lovell and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin into a 4-day orbit. Neither were "lost in space." However, Lovell very nearly WAS during the ill-fated Apollo 13 moonshot three-and-a-half years later. Back to the pilot: Will I miss anything by not watching it first? Not really. Irwin being Irwin recycles all the unused footage within the first five episodes. Also included is an amusing pitch reel CBS used to lure potential advertisers (5 mins). Pity other, more nostalgic materials were overlooked such as the "Lost in Space Forever" reunion special. Guess fans are stuck with Image's overpriced disc unless future box sets right this slight.
Whata hoot! Marvelously mastered in black and white. Love the "Thin-Pak" keepcases, each with handy episode blurbs on the back. Seasons 2 and 3? Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!
G. Noel Gross is a Dallas graphic designer and avowed Drive-In Mutant who specializes in scribbling B-movie reviews. Noel is inspired by Joe Bob Briggs and his gospel of blood, breasts and beasts.