Following are some observations/reviews/comments I’ve been making on the Yahoo forums about different episodes.  This is Season 3’s, so far.  Other seasons are in different drawers.

 

Junkyard in Space

Well, I’ve finally made it. The last Lost In Space episode. Sadly, a rather weak episode to go out on. More reminiscent of Season 2’s lower points than what we’ve had through most of S3.

Barney Slater seems to be borrowing quite heavily from his own “Space Trader,” with a perfidious alien engineering a food crisis as leverage for scavenging the Robot – and Smith cooperating as willingly as we might expect. Curiously, there really IS such a thing as “rust blight,” but it is a fungus generally restricted to fruit trees. Maureen states that it has infected the hydroponic garden, so it is possible Slater had this in mind, with “rust” being some subtle wordplay. There’s another touch of this as Smith tells the Junkman that he has “brass,” which is of course slang (nearly obsolete, I think) for having “nerve” or “gall.”

Also an echo of “Revolt of the Androids,” as the Junkman becomes more human-looking, and possibly even more human. We know the Robot is a lot more human than he might care to admit, so the transfer of his parts into the Junkman could have that effect. He certainly responds at the end that way.

The wrapup is a bit heavy-handed — “Love consumed him before the flame could.” — and predictable as Will evokes the Robot’s memories in the Junkman.

Some predictably silly details — Smith’s quill pen and the Robot’s scarf as he commandeers the Pod. The Robot as his parts gradually disappear. Junkman’s “boing”ing around, which seems to be a favorite sound effect these last few eps. The obvious lack of glass in the front window as he speaks to the crew telling them they will never leave. And how long has the Jupe been armed with missiles?!?

One interesting touch is that Smith immediately objects to the betrayal and abandonment of the rest of the crew — I think there was a time he wouldn’t have given that a second thought. He HAS come along! Although it passes virtually unremarked, this is possibly the high point of the episode.

All in all, though, a weak and dispiriting last episode. We’re told the ship is fully functional, that they now have plenty of food, and it even seems Dr. Smith has come around a bit. It looked like they were “Green and Go” for their ongoing mission. Instead . . . a mediocre story, and . . . gone. What we’ve said of many individual episodes is true too of the entire series – it could have been so much more!

Well. It’s been great fun. So – about time to start ‘er all over again! Wait for me, Penny!

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The Great Vegetable Rebellion

Well folks, here we are.  One of TV Guide’s Most Memorable TV Episodes of all time. There is so much which has already been said about this ep that I can hardly add anything, so I’ll keep this short and positive. Lettuce proceed.

First, the premise itself is rather intriguing, and the idea of sentient vegetable life is a well-known, if little-explored, theme of science fiction. Possibly the best and most respected effort is the short story “The Lotus Eaters,” written in 1935 by the legendary and groundbreaking Stanley Weinbaum. A related notion appears in one of the “Hitch-Hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy” books, where protagonist Arthur Dent has a mystical experience and experiences something like mental communion with a nearby forest, wondering how it feels to literally put down roots.

Although the idea of a birthday party for the Robot has been mentioned dismissively in some forums, it should be noted that it was Will’s idea, and that is not inconsistent with their friendship.  Also it should be noted that little celebrations like this are also consistent with shipboard routine as a way to keep up morale. So a bit silly but not entirely off-plumb.

Our first look at Smith growing is quite engaging. Harris’ performance here is quite subdued and convincing as he recites poetry, rather than yamming it up as he often does. Ah, and yes, for once, I did notice the incidental music! For some reason I hardly ever do, but here it was very evocative and sublime.  His second vegetal appearance, as the celery, was comparable, but the eccentricity of the celery costuming itself pushed it over the edge into silliness.

I found Willoughby quite likable. His performance was also somewhat subdued, and even his first announcement that he had been given a lettuce heart was more creepy than absurd, as was his casual nibbling at Dr. Smith. As Igor to Tybo’s Frankenstein, he’s hard to beet.

Penny was quite fetching as a flowerbed. The blossoms in her hair reminded me of Morticia’s sister Ophelia from “The Addams Family.” I didn’t remember this sequence, but had read of it on these boards, and was picturing her more as sprouting buttercups or some other little yellow flowers. She was quite cute in the party hat, too!

I got a personal kick out of the “hydrostatic system” underground; it looked a lot like some scenes in my favorite game series, Half Life, loaded with steam-spilling pipes and valves to figure out, even finding the obvious red button to press.

The cries of the plants as they are hacked at started out slightly annoying, but gradually grew more plaintive, and ended up more distressing than corny. Although this ep was several years before publication of “The Secret Life of Plants,” some of the research and speculation which led to that book had already been done and was probably in the public’s awareness. Mr. Packer may have had some of that line of thought at the core of this episode.

So, not to let any negativity leek in, but Tybo’s costume was probably the only thing that really brings this episode down, that and the underground plant which resembled the orange tree from “Flaming Planet.” (Regarding which I made essentially the same observation.) Of course Tybo is a BIG “only,” but I’ve bean harsher on Season 2 eps and romaine so. So bottom line: far from pearfect, but this does have a certain apeel.

PS — forgive the levity. I just can’t resist a hearty joke.

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The Flaming Planet

Mene mene, tekel upharsin . . .

Not bad, but the handwriting is certainly on the wall, isn’t it? Another ep which seems to have been done by two completely separate crews.  The plant monsters certainly seem to be an uncomfortable foreshadowing of what is to come all too soon. Granted, the plausibly scientific excuse given about deep-space radiation and mutations is adequate, but it goes downhill quickly. And possibly the most absurd scenario yet, that the plant on the hull is blocking the intake vents. INTAKE VENTS?!? ON A SPACESHIP?!?

Well, once past the whole plant monster business, not bad. Gotta admit I loved it when Don sticks his laser in Smith’s ear! How many times must he have wanted to do that! (How many times would I have liked to do that!) I found the idea of a warrior race and a whole planet as a travelling battleship (dare I say – a Death Star?) intriguing, and Sobram a compelling, even sympathetic, character. I think we’re all old enough here to appreciate the idea of someone wanting to preserve his legacy, a point which may have gone over the heads of the kids who were watching this when it was new. (Whether that legacy is carrying on or going out with a bang.)

Style-wise, Sobram is a good-looking alien. His treatment is much more restrained and plausible than many we’ve had, and certainly on par with any alien from “That Other Show.”

An interesting dissertation on ethics, and which doesn’t quite ring true for Sobram himself. He rejects both Don and John for being too ethical to be worthy opponents, yet the whole premise of his challenge suggests that he himself does uphold a strict and soldierly ethic. Sobram is clearly looking for a fair fight between equals.  He states that John would not kill him on the spot, as if that were a weakness, but obviously he will not do the same. Surely he must understand that of all the possibilities available to him, the Robot would be the one to adhere to his own strict programmed code of conduct. Well, if this is an artistic flaw in the script, it is certainly the least.

I was relieved, in a perverse way, to see the return of the monster orange tree.  At least it pulled in that thread of the story to tie up the end, rather than leaving the whole opening business as a laughable premise just to get them down to the planet. However, the cartoon-y “boing-boing” sound effects accompanying the trees did NOT help.

Elsewhere on the downside: a lot of scientific-sounding nonsense. I think Don dismisses the radiation curtain as “some kind of intergalactic phenomenon,” and the girls’ discussion of where they’re going and why seems to be little more than filler to give them screen time. (And more seeming confusion between star systems and galaxies.)

So – practically an entire microcosm of Lost In Space: the very good juxtaposed against the – well, not so very good. Another one to think, This could have been SO much better! But as I say, let’s relish it, because I’m afraid it IS going to be all downhill from here . . .

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Space Beauty

Well, that was quite a bit of fun without slipping off into the irremediably silly.  I’ve come to expect quite a bit from Jackson Gillis and can’t say I was disappointed by his last offering.

First off, what I assume were a couple of “insider” show-biz zingers – Farnum’s remark that Nancy isn’t humanoid, “She’s nothing but my agent.” And shortly after, Smith’s “Don’t trust anyone in show business.”

Dee Hartford was certainly attractive here, more so than as Verda. Unless I’m mistaken, that looked like one of the Robinsons’ own Season One laser pistols she was packing. And also, unless I’m mistaken, the first encore performances from two actors from different story lines.

Penny’s hair takes an interesting turn. When we first see her before the credits, coming out of the cabin with Judy, it looks as it has for most of S3, in the short style. But afterwards, it looks like it is curled up a little tighter along the bottom. It looks even shorter and you can see her ears; it seems a bit more little-girl-ish.  Judy’s hair looks a little different too, I think, a bit higher and fluffier, in a couple places at least.

I love how the girls look so stunned and disappointed after Farnum tells them, at first, that neither of them would qualify for the contest! And the little exchange between Smith & Farnum over Miss Teutonium: “Friend of yours?” “Business acquaintance you might say.” – not quite sure what to make of that!

Judy is quite stunning in her pageant gown. I think this is only the second time we’ve seen her in anything but regular uniform costume, the only other time I recall is in Flight Into The Future, and it is only the illusion of Judy’s great X granddaughter so I suppose I should say Marta and not Judy at all. At any rate, very elegant here.

Oh, and the other girls of the contest! Indeed, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Although it must be noted that they all had quite healthy human female figures beneath the beards, scales, etc. Except for the “pocket dragon,” hello again, Lady Gundemar!

Even the Robot pulled off his drag performance rather well, I think having Nancy’s voice helped. Here’s something I’ve been wondering for a while, just as an aside: when the crew were setting up a shot, what determined whether the Robot was shown in full “treads” mode or cut off so Bob May could walk? When he first rolls out in drag, he’s in full shot rolling along, but in the very next cut, apparently moments later, he’s pretty obviously walking.

So my biggest wonder is if this is one of those episodes criticized under modern lights as sexist and stereotypical. I see that it certainly could raise such objections, but I think that any of that is meant as satire on the whole theme, just because it does go so over-the-top. I’m thinking particularly of trapping the pocket dragon with the mirror, and I admit I’m also thinking that this is from Gillis, who does have a certain subtlety to his work. Also Smith’s far-too-easy reverse psychology on Judy.  Interesting too that the money-spewing heads on Farnum’s wall are off of Jackson’s “Magic Mirror.”

This also makes the third episode – I believe – with devilish undertones:  a creature of fire and the selling of a soul. (Visit to Hades, and I still think Space Trader is rather suggestive of devilish deals, with Smith’s selling of himself and the Trader’s duplicity.) Note Farnum’s words, “I hear you, Dark Master, my soul is yours!” And also the evil red light which washes him at certain moments.

Another nice bit, with Smith and Farnum both as scoundrels trying to out-swindle the other! “Mine not to question why/Mine but to cheat and lie!” That could be the Smith family motto! Interesting too, when Smith feeds the first forged contract & photo into the machine – this must be the FIRST time he’s fiddled with some unfamiliar equipment that it doesn’t blow up in his face!

I do find it an intriguing premise that the Dictator rules a place which has been without beauty for 10,000 years, and that’s why they are sponsoring this contest. It puts a sudden serious tone to an ep which has been quite light and fluffy up to the point he makes this statement. It prompts the questions, What did they have until that time? And what happened then? Also the thought that however evil they might seem to be, they realize they =need= Beauty in their lives.  There’s even a rather poignant moment at the end, when Don is trying to get the rainmaker fired up, Smith tries to pass it off as music, and the Dictator admits he doesn’t even know if it is beautiful or not.  One has the final impression that the Dictator and his kind are not evil as much as ignorant and even immature – much as a certain Boy lost in his dark mirror dimension.

I have to admit, when he says, “Take my hand,” and the flames shoot out, that gave me a chill (ironically), especially with everyone entranced and only Judy moving closer, ever closer to him. Interesting too that after the long setup with the “rain machine,” when it finally works, we have not simply rain, but snow! That’s a terribly dramatic shot there, with the snow falling, flames flaring out from the Dictator’s armor, and Judy, still entranced, arm extended to meet her fate— really a taste of the best that this show could offer.

Not a whole lot on the downside. The overall tone could have been a bit more serious without losing the satirical bits. The tubes on the rainmaker were pretty shoddy and obviously cardboard. The Robot could have done without the curls and probably even the feather boa, as “she” was supposed to be a purely mechanical beauty. And when the Dictator turns away in the one scene, after his first appearance, that sure looks like two strips of duct tape holding his back flaps together! I’ve seen some complaints hereabouts that Judy wouldn’t have been able to live on the Dictator’s world, but I’m not sure that’s a valid criticism – after all, he can live on their planet and all the other girls seem comfortable here, even Miss Fishtails. It seems unlikely he would bring back the much-craved Beauty only to let her die instantly if the world was that hostile to humanoid life; I think we could charitably assume that at worst, she would be kept in an environmental cage or dome or some such. Remember, his goal was to bring Beauty back to his world, not a wife.

But all in all, amusing and entertaining, a nice balance of light and heavy. Too bad John and Maureen were part of the Away Party this week, but I’m not sure what more they might have added. An unapologetic thumbs up here.

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Fugitives in Space

Well, it could have been worse, but it could have been a lot better, too. First off, the overall premise was rather good, though implemented somewhat implausibly. Why wouldn’t the warden just have tossed a couple other real prisoners in with Creech, since he’s already known to be a runner? I suppose some credible excuse could have been presented why he needs to frame two outsiders, but we never really get that. Maybe that they’ll be more eager to try something as both newcomers and wrongly imprisoned.

Creech is obviously a Time Lord! He says his people regenerate when they die, and he’s on his 12th regeneration. SOUND FAMILIAR?!? Good makeup though, as it should be, I think most of us have heard that it was Planet of the Apes leftovers, and I think I’ve heard that the makeup/costume artist behind it is also thought to be responsible for that one famous Bigfoot movie clip.

Unusually for me, I found the Robot more annoying than amusing this time out, especially the whole business with the cake, first time around – the singing, the gag with the “candle” (which works with Bugs Bunny & Yosemite Sam), the predictable pastry in the face (which works with Larry, Moe, & Curly.) The second time around with the cake, presenting it to the prisoners, wasn’t much better.

The robotic judge and jury – another interesting concept that’s even more uncomfortably close to home these days, but which fell flat with the visuals. Then again, what’s the point of a jury of a dozen identical mechanical minds? They would all produce identical results with identical input, right?

I quite liked both Creech and the Warden. At least the prison staff weren’t in some other alien makeup, that could only have detracted from what they got right! Also liked the idea that they got ice at night as an incentive, another plausible touch. A couple of good fight scenes! I’m glad they didn’t go for the low-hanging fruit and have Smith clobber Don in the scene before the minefield. But speaking of which – and a disappointing Robot – what was with that minefield? They could have JUMPED across it!

Clever wrap-up that didn’t quite push the envelope too far, bit of a riff on any of the old prison – exploitation movies, complete with some new clothes (boots, anyhow) and some cash in hand to help start a new life.

My biggest gripe here – it seemed awfully dull and draggy. But I’ll admit, maybe it’s me, maybe it’s what time of day I’m watching. But this just never grabbed me, one way or the other. Even the bad eps will keep my attention, like rubbernecking a highway accident, you know it’s a disaster but you can’t look away. I mean I’m relieved there was as much good in it as there was, but something didn’t quite gel right and it was more of a succession of decent scenes cut together rather than one good story. Maybe we really do need the leads to help sustain the center and be the frame the fabric of the plot hangs on.

In the end though, a decent effort. Well off the bottom I think, and an episode we should keep a  –hahahahahaha — warm place for in our hearts.

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The Promised Planet

Oh wow. Groovy episode, man. A real swingin’ trip. Like, man –

Oops. Needed a memory cone there. Sorry.

OK. Some silly bits, as we must expect, but rather dark and disturbing as well. Obviously a commentary on the counterculture of the day (or of any day), and rather well done. One bit I didn’t quite understand – what book was John reading from at the beginning? It seems like it should have been one of his notebooks or logbooks, but it looked like a book already printed and bound. Maybe just a slip from the props department? Also not sure how Bartholomew & Co. knew so much about them, but I suppose we can let that go. Catch how Bart, in that first radio exchange about “terrestrial” life forms, asks if he thinks they’re “pygmies with bald heads and antenna ears”? One bright spot – they correctly (for once) identify their location as the binary system of Alpha & Proxima Centauri. (OK, it isn’t after all, but at least they got some real science right!)

Nice counterpoints with Smith’s opening scene mourning his imminent shedding of this mortal coil (or so he fantasizes), and his enthusiastic embrace of the “reprogramming!” And of course, his final rejection of it. Although he does appear to hang on to the toupee! Might have been more appropriate if, before going up the ladder, he cast it to the ground with a “Bah!” Altogether though, his performance here wasn’t as painful as I feared.

Given John Williams’ tremendous musical talent, it would have been nice to hear more than the one musical theme! Not bad for “prop rock,” though, and I imagine that even if it does get a bit annoying, that could be counted as intentional. Those “party” scenes reminded me quite a bit of “Laugh-In!”

This is the second time I can think of that Penny gets sucked in all too easily by alien wiles, the other time being when she gets into Noble Niolani’s feminine superiority and ordering Will around! (“Pick up that bracelet!”)

One touch that impressed me was this – I think it would have been too obvious and easy just to run with making Will and Penny forget their family. Instead, it is the “olders” who are made to forget them. I found it quite chilling when we see it is John who does not know his own children (but that’s “Daddy me” talking.)

Not much more to say here. Very topical for the time, and rather well done. Probably the most pointed social commentary since “Golden Man,” and more so. The alien makeup was better than a lot we’ve had, and as good, or better, than some we saw in “That Other Series.” Nice line from Edgar, as he wails that he just wants to be able to shave! And the general frustration from Bart that they’re stuck like that. Also, for me at least, hearkens back to the Boy stuck behind the “Magic Mirror” who likewise doesn’t, or can’t, grow up. And a very incisive parting shot from John, as he suggests that the aliens’ problem is psychological rather than physical.

So somewhat to my surprise, a thumbs-up for this one. Now where’s that memory cone . . .?

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Time Merchant

Well, quite an intriguing episode! I rather liked Chronos. I think his resemblance to Vincent Price helped. As too often happens, the scientific premise which kicks this off is a mite questionable, but a lot better than some science we’ve seen. At first I thought Chronos was (as his name suggests) in some way an actual personification of Time itself. My understanding now though is that he is simply someone who has learned how to control time and deal in it as a commodity. (Something like Doctor Who crossed up with an Amway representative.) Does anyone else take away the notion that he really is more than this?

After that – a fairly basic time-travel adventure/nail-biter. No esoteric paradoxes to avoid, no rupturing of space-time if X doesn’t happen – just the inevitable result if things don’t happen as they did the first time. At first I wondered if there was some sort of paradox with Smith, but no, there aren’t two of him at all, he has just been returned to where he was, reset, if you will. I think they did gloss over the Robot a bit, as he was was moved to the ship early on – I think – in the “real” time, before Chronos sends him back too. But I think that too could be explained away just as Smith, he isn’t “looped,” just returned to an earlier point. That would though explain the problem with Will, why it takes so much power to move him, and why he can only stay there 2 minutes: one of him is already in the tube – frozen in time, perhaps – and two of him upsets the balance of nature, much as in Anti Matter Man, and nature kicks him back where he belongs.

Oh, but the real heart of the story, the heart of Smith! He really is terrifically complicated sometimes. He thinks he’s going to take the easy way out, even apologizing that he doesn’t have the grit to do what he knows he should – and then astonishes himself after all. And of course it’s that last sight of the kids that does it. . .

I am glad they didn’t shlock up the Robot’s bit too, this time, about Will telling him he loves him and regaining his memory (the Princess too, we must imagine at this point, ha ha), as we have had quite a bit of that fairly recently, and it would only take away from Smith’s moment. (Tho’ the Duncans do indulge in a few wry remarks about the Robot’s “right hook.”)

Quite enjoyed John’s interactions with Chronos, and the wheeling-dealing. Reminded me a bit of some of those pawn shop shows! I think that’s also what lends a bit of an ambiguous note to Chronos; both his appearance and the contracts measured in years of life leave a distinct “Deal With The Devil” aftertaste. Also liked the scenery, for the most part, especially the nod to Dali! The gadgetry was plausible and didn’t look like spare bits cobbled together from Props. (Although I never would have thought a time machine so simple to operate that both John & Will figured out its workings just by watching Chronos do it a couple of times.) The guard alien was tolerable, certainly better done than some we’ve had. Had the impression the one Air Force guard was doing a very broad Barney Fife; just enough to add a light touch without pounding it into the ground. Just one way I would say this was poor at all, poor in that it was all but “penniless.”

Aside from that though, seriously, one of the best of the “sciency” episodes. I’ve said before I deliberately avoid “rankings,” but if I were to do rankings, this would probably be in a little bubble up at the top with three or four other S3 eps. So a rating I haven’t done in a while: a solid On drive, and clean over the ropes for six!

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Princess of Space

Oh my. Where to begin? Despite knowing this was a “Penny” episode from Jackson Gillis, I admit to having had some trepidation before cueing this up, knowing where in the series we have gotten to, and the opening sequence aboard ship did little to allay my worst fears. It was a kick seeing Arte Johnson of course. I didn’t realize Kraspo had appeared before in Hostile Planet, and for a bit there (I actually interrupted watching to check up) I thought I recognized him as the actor famous as the Maytag Repairman, Jesse White. I’m not quite sure how to phrase this, but here goes – although I didn’t care too much for the character of Kraspo, as such, I did like the way Foulk played him. Does that make sense? Maybe I should say I liked the character all right, just not =here= so much. Or maybe I do and just can’t quite admit it. Still in the opening sequences now: the robot rebellion was pretty cringeworthy, as was the electric trident, not to mention the stars scrolling back and forth outside the portholes. Credit where it’s due though, some nice and authentic nautical décor.

At least we’re spared “The Formula” of Smith cocking things up to establish the plot! My pet topic of folklore/pop references: obviously taking a nod from “Princess and the Pea” but also, I think inspired by the musical comedy version “Once Upon A Mattress,” which employed the same gag of “extra” gimmicks besides a simple pea to make the purported princess uncomfortable, but also the same notion of a counterfeit princess being passed off as the real thing. (I DO remember Carol Burnett in that! And the end, with the schemers singing “But it wasn’t a pea!” and pulling maces and swords and such out from under the mattress! Oh man, I gotta find that!)

And another of my pet themes, the idea of the machines becoming a danger! Yes, I have declared myself before as a Neo-Semi-Luddite, and of course we visited the same idea with Sir Sagramonte (possibly another reason I have more of a fondness for “Questing Beast” than might otherwise be warranted.)

There has been some discussion here about the Betans reducing people to tape. I don’t think this is such an outlandish notion, particularly for the time. Tape, video or audio, was the hi-tech of the day, and seems to be a logical (pardon the expression) extension of the concept. Now, we have digital storage, and we speak of virtually the same thing in science-possible, the idea that a person’s essence might be reduced to some sort of digital storage and transferred to a computer, or a new body. One of the new Dr. Who episodes explored precisely this notion, a personality being reduced to a storage drive and reborn in a virtual reality (though even Dr. Who tends as much to the fantasy end of the spectrum as the sci-fi.)

To be clear now, and to return to a topic hotly debated around here recently. This is not “science fiction.” This is not even “science fantasy.” This is pure fairy tale, and it declares itself as such. So once that’s admitted, let’s see where we can go from there.

Oh, Sheila! I think when she comes aboard as fairy godmother (and in all honesty, that’s what she is) is when this episode really starts to click. Does anyone else think she sounds a LOT like Glinda from “Wizard of Oz”? I loved her performance here. Here’s a bit I’ve done before as a light wrap-up to these maunderings, but here, I think it merits a more important place: “Best Line Of The Episode,” from Auntie Gammie of course.

“If people don’t believe in magic, they’ll turn into machines themselves.”

Wow! What a rebuke to the techno-razzi and “hard-sci” zealots! And make no mistake, this IS a theme which recurs through the series, right from Gillis’ own “Mr. Nobody,” to “The Android Machine” eps (where machines learn to become human), and of course “Questing Beast.” Best line of the episode? Let’s try, “Best line of the series.”

And Penny. *sigh* I’m not sure I’ve seen this ep before. Arte Johnson opening up his coat to reveal that he too is a robot rang a vague, vague bell, but I may be thinking of something else entirely (Ronnie Corbett in the original “Casino Royale,” or even Hymie from “Get Smart.”) I’ve more recently seen a couple of the stills and publicity shots of Penny as the princess, but those didn’t impress me terrifically. But when Penny steps out to meet Aunt Gammie – oh my. I got a little misty. Every Daddy instinct I have kicked in, seeing his little girl going to the prom or her . . . her *sniff sniff* wedding. (I probably should emphasize that my response to Penny in the series is almost purely paternal. I have 3 daughters, one still in Penny-age-range.) Just beautiful, one of Penny’s best moments, one of Angela’s best moments. Oddly, Angela as the real Princess Alpha isn’t quite so endearing – I suppose she has more natural bearing in the position, and doesn’t betray the same frailty Penny does. But that speaks very well for Angela’s acting, naturally.

Well, this is already longer than any yet, and I’ve been trying to keep them tight, so I’ll wrap it up quickly. Yes, there’s a lot here which isn’t the best. But what there is good, is marvelous.

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Target Earth

Pretty good overall, but some problems. My initial reaction (aside from rolling my eyes at the inevitable “formula” with Smith goofing things up) was that it was going to be little more than a “Phantom Family” rehash – and in a way it was. The Protos were trying to do a lot the same thing that Lemnoc was, with conquering Earth into the bargain. Second was that, as intriguing a plot device as it can be, we just had the “evil twins” routine last week with “The Anti-Matter Man.” (Did I get it right that time? ;- } ) I know that filming and airing sequences could be very different, but it seems someone could have had a better feel for the pacing and not let two in a row air like that.  That said: whatever resemblances this had to Phantom Family and AM Man, I think it did them even better. Very good tension development with phony John & Don sniping away at each other, and Will prodding them on. Gave Guy & Mark a bigger opportunity to step out of their regular roles than before, I think. The rest, not so much, but that’s OK, there’s only so much you can do in 45 minutes.

One line from Judy which I found slightly ironic: referring to the duplicate Smith, she says, “I hope he doesn’t overdo his role.”  Also a slightly amusing comment from John at the beginning, cautious about going “down to a planet we know nothing about?” Umm, John, remember what you’ve been doing for the last few years?

Some very good special effects! Although rather nonsensical, the Robot’s torso hanging free didn’t betray any gimmicks, and when that turned in the air, I was quite impressed. I wonder now – was that intended as a sort of symbolic foreshadowing  of the duality that the humans were about to experience? Excellent  split-screen work when the Johns and Dons face each other.

One HUGE continuity howler: how many Pods do they have? Will & Smith are clearly inside the Pod inside the ship on the way to Earth, but when they land back on the Proto planet, there it still is! And it is visible again in the bay when the Robot locks Smith in before lifting. Sloppy, Irwin, just sloppy. I can understand not showing it redocking when they leave Proto, but these are just mistakes.  And for plot’s sake: they are what? Within a few hours flying time from Earth, after all? And they don’t go back??? At least to ditch Smith?  Also curious as to how the aliens turned the Robot so readily.

One odd detail: of course they were using doubles quite a bit, but I think Bill Mumy’s double  was standing in for him even more than the others, even when it would not have been necessary. The double’s hair is longer and fuller in back, and that’s what gives it away. Watch the scene where the replica crew are doing exercises: when they are turned around facing “John” it is of course Bill, but even as they are marching in, I swear it’s someone else. Bill himself is NOT in shot, he’s hiding behind a console with Harris. There are one or two other shots where one group is in the tubes, and you can see clearly the girls are Marta & Angela, but again, you only see the back of “Will” ‘s head and I’m sure it’s not Bill.  Maybe related to child-actor hours.

The Protos themselves: ehh. A little goofy looking, but better than some we’ve seen. And going deeper: this is, after all, 1968. Are we getting another subtle (maybe not-so-subtle?) message here about race relations? The Protos who are weak and degenerating because of their sameness, and the strength of Earth people lying in their differences (what passes today under the shibboleth of “diversity”)? The wrap-up, with them understanding that this is something essential, and not just a superficiality they can adopt, seems to indicate that is meant to be a very sharp point.

A happy surprise here. Thumbs – up for this one, with serious reservations only about the Magic Pod. One to be proud of.

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The Anti-Matter Man

Wow.  Not too much to say. Very good episode. We get to see the two men pushed outside their usual roles, which is always interesting. Goddard looked great with the stubble. (He has stated that this was his own favorite episode.)

Compelling premise, even if that’s not exactly how antimatter works. That’s OK, though, we understand we’re getting a metaphor for good & evil here rather than a physics lesson. Nice touch with the storm raging as a symptom of the two worlds being out of balance. Very good effect with the bridge too, and all the layers of movement between people and background; some nicely creepy music with that too. A very chilling moment when Anti-John grabs the blunt instrument and follows after Will & the Robot. I really thought he meant to beat Will’s head in. And a great scene as Real John gets Anti-Don’s goat, calling him a sucker, etc. – ironically, with the truth. What happened to Anti-Don, though? Did John really kill him? He didn’t pop up at all after the fight. The answer to one question booted around here recently, the Robot states that one of the first things he was programmed for was friendship.

Just a couple of very minor downsides. First, Guy’s “Antimatter John” seemed a whole lot like “Possessed John” in “Follow The Leader.” Nothing bad about the performance as such, just it seemed a bit of a do-over of the same routine. With this exception: Anti-John seemed sharp enough to realize when he was getting over the line from his impersonation of Real John and could pull back, and offer an excuse and apology as cover, which I don’t think Canto John could do. Second: Smith. I felt he really detracted from what was supposed to be a very high-drama and tense ep. The humming as the Robot tries to do his calculations was utterly pointless, as far as I can tell. His usually bright comic relief just didn’t work in the context, and aside from a few moments in the anti-world, and the intro setting up the premise, I really don’t think he brought anything to the story. Third: it’s very rare I’ll dislike the Robot, but again, this story was just a little too dark for some his usual schtick. The mournful “Why oh why”s as he laments his causing John to disappear. The scene on the bridge could have been quite good, I think, as he engages in some rather literal introspection, but that slips away quickly as he asks, “Mirror Mirror,” etc.  And his own anti-counterpart was  . . . pretty lame. Again, I think in a different ep, and a different context, it might have worked better, but not here. Finally, That Other Series had already aired two episodes which touched on this concept – “The Alternative Factor” had aired the previous March, and explored the idea of good & evil versions of the same person, Lazarus, whose existence in the same universe causes massive instability and who can also meet in an interdimensional corridor, and not 3 months before this  was the famous episode concerning the entire “Evil Earth Empire” titled: “Mirror, Mirror”! I would like to think that the Robot’s maudlin little performance there was just an excuse to get in an ironic little reference to that other episode. In any case, whether or not there were deliberate efforts to take inspiration from That Other Series, there was certainly already other material out there playing with these ideas: just as Anti-John/Canto John, there isn’t much here that’s really fresh and groundbreaking, story-wise (although I do realize that even in sci-fi, there are only a finite number of ideas to play with.) (On the other hand, I admit I still don’t think much of one truly distinctive and original ep, with a crazed magician planning to blow up Earth to turn it into a giant space billboard announcing his comeback tour. Maybe staying with familiar concepts  is OK.)

Still, none of these are dealbreakers, and this is possibly the best of S3 so far.

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Castles In Space

Castles In Space: the silliness continues. It was, at least, a refreshing change of pace to see a situation with Don in charge, not to mention a bit more of him with Judy again, more of a couple (although you note they had separate tents.) Like a lot of these, we have another interesting and engaging story underneath, which is somewhat lost in the execution. Unfortunately, this one didn’t manage to bring off its humor nearly as well as some episodes have and the storyline is disjointed. The drunkenness of the Robot (reminiscent of the scene with Robby in Forbidden Planet) was almost as embarrassing as his performance in Golden Man when his circuits get shorted out (which I think I would still count as his low point.) Smith’s failures and attempted deceptions are rather predictable—electric blanket on the ice, sneaking off for a nap, etc.  He does not even get a chance to flirt with Frosty the Snowgirl.  Speaking of whom – her . . . hair? headpiece? – put me to mind of Lucy when she was trapped in the big freezer in the basement with the cow she and Ethel bought. Aside from that – another nice-looking visitor! I DO have to start a gallery for these ladies. So did anyone else notice that Will had a real Wrist Rocket?!? I had one, that I kept hidden from my parents in the closet. Rumor was that they were actually illegal, not sure if they were, but it sure made it cool having one! Oh, couldn’t Will have taken a moment to show Smith how you hold it?

Our other guest this week—oh my. Oh my. One hardly knows where to begin. Even understanding that Speedy Gonzalez and the Frito Bandito were perfectly acceptable characters at the time, Chavo seems terribly, um . . . awkward? Embarrassing? He actually reminded me a bit of Manuel from Fawlty Towers (“Que?”). Where does a Mexican bandito type alien even come from? Quite bizarre. Once past that though – he does drive a couple of good scenes, the first time in the camp trying to poke into the tents, and the standoff with Don. Very nice detail with the Wanted poster – done in an alien language, yet no mistaking it for what it was, and it didn’t look silly or cartoonish. And a decent fight scene at the end.   I wonder if this ep was trying to revisit Goddard’s time as Cully, deputy sheriff in frontier Arizona(“Johnny Ringo”)? Much as the few eps where Guy got to reprise his Zorro days with a sword in hand.

Oddly enough, just this morning I saw an old comic which featured a kid doing the same “dummy soldier” trick in his snow fort!

Nice duet with Will & Judy! This bit I remembered.

The more I think of it, the more it seems this could have an Old West story – just recast Frosty as the daughter of an Apache chief or something like that, and you’d have a solid story right out of Gunsmoke. Or Johnny Ringo, I should say. (Sorry, Mark!) The Challenge, of course was in a similar theme.

And in that sense, both these eps are appropriate fits as adentures on a frontier. Where Castles falls down though (aside from the flat humor) is that it never fully establishes its own sense of internal logic. Any story can get away with all kinds of crazy stuff, as long as it makes sense in context. We can just understand why Frosty has been locked away, and why she’s nervous with our folks at first. (By the way, that’s a very nice sequence as Don & Co. gain her trust.) Why does she disappear? Does she just decide not to trust them? Is she afraid of Chavo? How does she even know about Chavo if she’s been frozen? Why can she suddenly talk at the end? How is it that Chavo lands in a ship but then just blips away? And of course Packer pretty much acknowledges this at the end, with the whole “Why didn’t she just do that to begin with?” sequence.

Even some of the sillier eps, Questing Beast for example, we understand Sir Sagramonte and Gundemar, their motivations, and what is happening moment to moment. I don’t get a really strong sense of that with Castles – more the feel it was cobbled together with a few good ideas and a couple of good scenes, but not a strong sense of who these two are and how & why their paths are crossing like this, compared, for example, to the two combatants in Golden Man.

Speaking of which, Chavo’s ethnic layer aside, I thought his presentation as an alien was one of the better ones we have seen, better than either Keema or the Zeedam, but that isn’t enough to salvage the episode. (Though still better than SOME S2 eps!)

So – weak. Not a total disaster, but definitely a weak link in what has been otherwise a pretty strong season.

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Two Weeks In Space

Utterly absurd. Very silly and implausible at its worst. And yet . . .  and yet . . . it worked. Let me confess right off the top — I was waiting for Smith to try and return the “Zumdish salute”, but when he did it with the handful of cigarette ashes, I literally “LOL”‘d. I liked Zumdish better this time around than in his second appearance.  His new job — even if it was only from being brainwashed — was a nice change of pace.

Lots, oh lots, of implausibility at work here: first, that the rest of the gang would leave Smith & Will alone at the ship? I mean, I know we’re pursuing “the formula” here, but by now you’d think they’d have Smith hogtied on top of the Chariot like roadkill deer on an F-250 sooner than leave him out of their sight for more than 30 seconds. And where — WHERE?!? — did a reception desk and cash register come from? I can understand the adding machine at least, and maybe SOME of the sports equipment. And — lava hot tubs? Four suns? And is that a new door and passageway beside the ladderwell?  ( I just wanted to drop one last note regarding “Two Weeks In Space.” I had noted the unlikelihood of the Jupe having a cash register, etc., handy; one of my friends here observed that as Zumdish’s ship was essentially a mobile branch of the Celestial Department Store, very likely Zumdish himself was the provider of all that gear. )

Oh, all those handpainted signs you see (Happy Acres, here) — I think I’ve mentioned this before — must all have been done by the same guy across several shows, it’s the same handwriting as you see on Beverly Hillbillies, Green Acres, etc.

This did a good job smoothing together the serious bits with the comedy bits, and the few serious bits were quite good too. Good tension with the aliens looking for Will (as someone else here noted to me, how tall is that closet?!?), and a decent fight scene at the end to wrap it up. Nice visual toward the end with Maureen slinging that rifle –what a gal! Too bad she startles so easy.

The aliens as aliens — not bad. The break between mask and skin was kind of crude, and if we had stuck with that one look it may have gone more into the blind spot of disbelief-suspension, but going back and forth from alien to human kept it fresh. Maybe because of his status (Rank hath its privilege), Smith’s treatment seemed a little cleaner. Speaking of the human appearance — nice girls! I think they may have been aiming for a slightly older demographic with this ep. Great interplay with her and Smith. Had the feel of one of the classic romantic comedies of the time. Speaking of which, I’m thinking I’m going to have to start a special new gallery over at the Fan Club, dedicated to the handful of lovely visitors to the show. (I’m sure Penny will understand.)

Right at the beginning, I noticed the radar unit Don is working on – I’ve mentioned before I used to work on cargo ships, and I’ll tell ya, that does look like a real radar!

Low spots: The implausibles noted above.I got a bit annoyed with the Robot’s griping about being overworked. You might say I suffered “fatigue fatigue.” Unintentional (I think) laugh at the robbery of the “Deutronium Bank.” I mean, I suppose it’s plausible that a valuable fuel source might serve a dual purpose as a currency, but getting it sprung on you out of the blue like that sure gave me a Pfft. The business with the aliens’ forms shifting back and forth seemed a bit contrived, and I think there was some inconsistency in how/why it was going on. Looks like Smith has had Maureen very busy with that clothing synthesizer, if that closet is any clue!  Maybe the last “birdie-in-the-head.” A little too predictable. (Oh yeah, though, stretched out with the lily was another good chuckle.) Not a lot to grouse about here, really, aside from (obviously) being woefully short on Penny.

Like a couple others, I think you have to just accept this as essentially a comedy ep, and I know some of you don’t like those at all. This one, I think, is aiming for a slightly more sophisticated level, and largely succeeds. I think I’d peg this one as a “guilty pleasure” to go back to from time to time when I need a lift.

Best line: from the Robot, regarding the ring. “It is not even worth a Dr. Smith’s ransom.”

Second best line: from Smith, after taking a second shuttlecock to the head: “I do hope she doesn’t try archery.”

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A Day At The Zoo

Well. Another pleasant surprise. Although at this stage of the game, I have to wonder if the pleasant surprises are just a byproduct of my expectations being so low. A cliché, the benefit of being a pessimist is that you’ll rarely be disappointed. On the other hand, this is a Jackson Gillis story, who has done (in my humble opinion) some of the best. And it is of course, to a degree, a Penny story, although it does quite a good job of being an ensemble effort. I might mention, off the top here, that Angela Cartwright notes that the scene of her in the net as producing her “favorite reaction shot.” (Sorry, can’t find the link where she says that. Trust me.)

I found Farnum B (a fairly obvious play on “Phineas T. Barnum”) quite engaging, and his hamminess to be not too over-the-top and quite in line with what we might expect from such a character. I think he is a much more authentic character than Dr. Marvello from “Space Circus” (a similar theme), he is even sympathetic. Although largely a fake, we understand that he is trying to follow in the family footsteps. Does the way his hair curls along the top seem vaguely Oz-ish to anyone else?

Unlike some of the other young men who have appeared, Oggo was not creepy or annoying. I would have been interested in learning a bit more of his story. Maybe that was something else that ended up on the cutting room floor. Young Mr. Tigerman did a good job at being a very understandable and sympathetic mute. He is obviously bright, and understands most of what is said to him.

A question to the gang, now. I vaguely remember this ep, specifically the bit about Farnum removing the absurd monster head. But I also remember –or THINK I remember—a knight’s helmet opening up and there being actual fire inside, and Smith screaming. Am I remembering another episode, another show entirely, or is it just my ‘magination? Seems that it MIGHT be from “Space Beauty,” from what I’ve read here.

Let’s see. About the only bit that didn’t quite ring true was Penny’s unresistingly being led to her cage. Without some indication that she was going along just to play along, it wasn’t quite “her.” Remember, she and Will both had resisted the blandishments of The Keeper long ago. I would have liked to hear Will rock out on that electric guitar! Nice bit from Will, jimmying the lock on the door. Classic maneuver, although I understand a bit of tape over the receiving slot is preferred. Oh, and this week’s scientific silliness: Judy asking “Was that an eclipse?” If you look at the wall behind Smith and Farnum as they talk over dinner, you can see the shadow of the boom mike bobbing around (behind Farnum by the door.)

And Smith. Smith certainly seems to have found a kindred spirit, what?! Quite liked him in this one. Not the extreme silliness we’ve gotten used to, some of the old nastiness. Now, I know some have suggested I sometimes see more than may be warranted in some of these episodes, but: intentional or not, I thought the bit with the coins spewing forth from a rather devilish looking head into what looked like a baptismal or holy water font was brilliant!

A few nice bits for Judy, too. At least she gets to be more than wallpaper, and also nice to see her and Don as an obvious pair again. Some good rage from Don, too!

The dragon/monster head that pokes into the cavern where Will and Farnum are hiding was rather effective. Their escape with Don seemed just a little quick and pat, though, and that’s about the only real negative I’ll suggest for this, that and the ambiguity of whether the ship has actually gone on to another planet or what for that first show. Also, Will’s talks with Farnum were quite touching, and make this as much a “Will” episode as anything else.

The very minimalist zoo set, just the cages and the rest in darkness, worked for me. Again, one of those things we’ll probably never know, whether that was a deliberate “artistic statement” or Irwin Allen being cheap, but for this I think it worked well. Reminiscent too of the Twilight Zone episode, “People Are The Same All Over,” where the astronauts find themselves in a Martian exhibit. Farnum mentions Martians early on: a deliberate reference?

Bottom line then – a good solid effort, and one we should not be hesitant to show to the skeptics and cynics. To put it our other way: a confident stroke through the covers, and two runs. Well played.

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Deadliest of the Species

Wow! What a delight! This makes two very powerful episodes from Robert Hamner, whose earlier Space Destructors I also enjoyed quite a bit. (Kidnapped In Space was a little more Ehh, but that seems to have been his first LIS episode.)

OK, I’ll get this off my chest and into the air right off the bat. When the Robot blasts her with the energizer the second time, and she exclaims, “That’s so good! I can just FEEL the energy surging through me!” – is it me, or does that sound VERY suggestive?!?

Anyway, I’ve said before how much more I like the Robot with nearly every episode, and this is just a terrific showcase for him. I like his humor much more than Smith’s  — a lot drier–  and Smith was much less the usual buffoon. His recitation of the standard lover’s litany – “It’s all happening too fast — I need time to think, etc.” – was great. The wrap-up, where he must stand just a few feet away to destroy her is really wrenching. And even though he’s slow to grab the contacts, he doesn’t turn away, but watches as she goes up in smoke. Not sure if that is an intentional detail, but there it is. His own conflictedness (is that a word?) about the whole business is very powerful and effective – this is what “The Mechanical Men” wishes it was!

Too much good stuff here to rattle on about at length, so just a couple more remarks – the Lawman was one of the few aliens who doesn’t look just silly. Simplicity works, Irwin! Nice landing sequence! I don’t think we saw this before. Note how she bellies in soft without landing gear – I think we must assume that this is a design characteristic.  Very impressive detail, I thought, when the Don & John talk about adjusting the trigger springs on the laser cannon! Will avoids being cheesily sentimental about losing the Robot. And unless I’m mistaken, I believe this episode gives us the first (only?) actual instance of the Robot’s “Danger, Will Robinson!”, which otherwise rivals “Play it again, Sam,” as the famous line that never was. Nice scenery, it doesn’t seem as garishly colored as usual. Quite disturbing as the Robot plays it very hostile, especially getting that energizer. And when he defends himself to Will, the sequence, “I am just like anyone else, etc.” I was half-expecting him to go on to Shakespeare with “If you cut us, do we not bleed?” Oh, and confirmation of another sometimes disputed point – when making ready for their final defense, Maureen issues holstered laser pistols to both Judy and Penny. Yes, Robinson girls DO pack heat!

Just a few downside notes. I don’t understand John’s reaction when the robocops show up (one of whom was Lyle Waggoner, better known to some of us a regular on The Carol Burnett Show.) I suppose you have to set up plot points and establish tension & conflict, but really! He seems to overreact to them even before they become overtly threatening. Why would he not have just said, “Oh yeah it locked onto us as we passed, followed our entry orbit, and it probably touched down over thataway somewhere. Look in our ship if you like, but all we got here are some problems, good luck.” What they do is the absolute classic “Don’t do this” example most of us know from watching “COPS.” Bad boy, bad boy, John Robinson. Also, the Lawman can scan their ship enough to tell the force-field is off, but he can’t scan well enough to see the capsule isn’t nearby, or onboard? Not sure why Will hadn’t been briefed about the tailgater when he first goes out, although the Robot already has an idea of what’s on board – he admits he lies to Will about it.  Lady Evil’s design – so-so. Her manner and manipulativeness though – perfect. And of course – speaking of having to establish plot points – they really put Smith on guard duty?

So:  big winner here. I’ve said before that I intentionally avoid any kind of ranking system, but if I did, this would definitely be in the bubble at the top for S3. Or in our alternate methodology (for those of you who know what “deep fine leg” signifies): smashing straight drive, right over the bowler, and deep in the stands for six!

PS- for those interested, here is the Kipling poem referenced. As Maureen corrects Smith, the title phrase does not appear, but the sentiment is certainly there!

http://www.poetryloverspage.com/poets/kipling/female_of_species.html

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The Space Creature

I was hating on this ep pretty bad at first, right from the opening salvo of Smithian nonsense and hysteria over the thrusters kicking in. And the thing is, there was nothing really in particular I could point at, except that it all seemed very formulaic and uninspired, as if it was trying so hard not to be “silly,” it wasn’t achieving much at all. Some of the dialogue was rather insipid, such as when the Robot starts with his “Warning! Warning!” and Will very seriously informs his father that that means something, or when John makes the brilliant deduction that the disappearances, the alien planet, and the blue fog are somehow all connected. A few other bits that were – not inspired. I did perk up when I realized (I think when Don vanishes and Smith says “I’ve done it again.”), that Smith had retreated from his wish that everyone disappear, and that this was all related to Will, not the doctor, and the turning point for me was when we find  Harris as the monster in the airlock.

Wow. What an actor. When he first spoke, I thought another voice had been dubbed over. Now THAT was a terrific performance, top to bottom, and quite chilling. I did NOT like the other voice of the creature. Even knowing the whole story, that it was (I presume) supposed to be a literally childish voice and attitude, doesn’t quite salvage it for me. If only Harris had done the whole thing! It would have been different enough not to be obvious, and a fiendish red herring if his voice had been recognized! When Harris finally does reveal his nature as the creature, I think I actually gasped a little. Only complaint on that point – we did get this concept of the Id Monster on “Forbidden Planet,” and I think it is an idea otherwise unique in sci-fi/fantasy. I know, I’ve said elsewhere that some of LIS’s best work draws on themes from folklore and literature, but this seemed drawn just a bit too near the original. I wonder too, if the writer was thinking of Bill Mumy’s previous role as an impetuous youth who made people disappear! Speaking of whom, another top-notch performance from him in the wrap up, facing both Harris and Sheets as his id. Very passionate and convincing.

Just a couple more observations and gripes, starting from there: Sheets falling into the reactor seemed a bit pat, again, just kind of uninspired, as was the costume itself. However, given what we usually get as alien costumes, I guess that’s one of those places to count your blessings (especially in contrast to the King Kong hand hanging in front of the window.) Nice to see Penny running and skipping along at the beginning! Someone around here made the comment that S3 Penny tends to be rather sullen; nice to see her her old self again! In contrast, John seemed very uncharacteristically ill-tempered throughout. Did anyone NOT think tying ropes around each others’ waist was utterly pointless against a force which was snatching people almost from before their very eyes? I liked the Don/John/Judy disappearances better than the Maureen/Penny ones: much more effective, I think, to just see Judy in the lift one moment and not there the next, rather than the blink-out with the usual “boing” sound effect. This was long before another Doctor, but “Reversing the polarity” was something of a catch-all cure-all in one era of “Doctor Who.” Speaking of Who –er, Whom –er – you know what I mean — or who I – argh! I mean to say, is the Jupiter 2 really a TARDIS? There’s no other way I can see there being room for that whole other power core space below the galley/quarters deck! Or, for that matter, room for the other stuff squeezed in there. Anyone else amused at the fact that all their food stores are locked away behind the “Danger/Radiation” signs?

Bottom line – -still mixed feelings, although the last 10 or 15 minutes really make up for a lot of what went before. Have the feeling this might be one I’ll want to give my “Adventures” treatment to (speaking of which – I’ll be releasing my take on “The Questing Beast” in the very near future); I can see this as a very Lovecraftian horror story.

I think this gets a tentative thumbs up, for the sake of what it did get right.

Update: Most of the above was from Friday night, is now Saturday night/Sunday morning, have survived the frostbite parade*, and given this ep another watch. I stand by my original charge that much of it is uninspired and drags a bit, but I picked up a few connections that I missed: probably the biggest one, that I didn’t understand how Sheets and Smith could be together in the last scene; I had misunderstood that the creature had simply assumed Smith’s appearance and not that it had possessed him; I thought Smith was actually still off in limbo with the others, beginning with the airlock scene; couple other less important things. I’ll advance to a confident thumbs up, but still based mostly on those last few scenes.

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Collision of Planets

Oh dear. And just when Season Three seemed to be going so well – relatively speaking. Space bikers, really? Space bikes that travel by explosion? Must be Harleys. They weren’t far from being really effective, I suppose, and I think the stereotype wasn’t too far off bikers seen in comedies of the era. (Rob “Meathead” Reiner as the biker in that one “Partridge Family” episode comes to mind.)

Oh, Smith. His recapitulation of the Samson & Delilah story was –well – possibly a simultaneous low and high. It worked as cheesy comedy, and I was laughing as the girl leads him into the cave – more of an “Oh no,” facepalm kind of laughter – and seeing him chained to the two pillars at that point was no surprise – but I was hoping (I know, vainly) that we were past that kind of thing, for the most part. At least the Robot gave us the plausible story that some of the alien gas was still lurking in Smith’s lungs to be reactivated a few times.

One little space oddity – near the beginning, when John & Don are piloting the Pod, I think the film is reversed. Before and after, their lasers are clearly slung on their right hips, as usual. In the Pod, they appear to be carrying them on the left. At first I thought that maybe they had been directed to shift them around just so we could see them, but that would have required left-handed holsters. Then I noticed that behind them on the wall are the orange LOX tanks.  I haven’t gone back to another ep (yet), but a brief look inside my Pod model definitely shows them on the other side – to the left, looking forward, not the right. The men stand nearly shoulder to shoulder in front of the tanks, and the one visible letter is too indistinct to distinguish it as a backwards L or an X.  Seems to me most interior Pod shots are from the other way, maybe someone just wanted a reverse angle to vary it a bit?

The bare premise was interesting – a planet has to be destroyed for the safety of other worlds, and whoever it was giving the order was not sadistic: he (it?) wanted the planet evacuated first. He could have selected a better team for it, but then there’s no story I suppose. Then – haven’t we seen this before, kicking off S2? Demolition destroying the planet and a rush to get away? (I suppose it’s also difficult at this time not to think of Vogons and Arthur Dent whenever planets get destroyed, but that’s no fault of Allen or Packer.)

Another aside, speaking of demolishing planets: if you like dark sci-fi humor, check out an old movie called “Dark Star.” It was John Carpenter’s first movie, and is a somewhat surrealistic “California hippies in space” motif, who roam the galaxy in their ship, Dark Star, finding unstable, uninhabited planets to blow up. All goes well until a little alien gets loose, and one of their planet-bombs becomes somewhat introspective. The wrap-up is something of a tribute (that’s what we lawyers call a “non-actionable statement”) to the Ray Bradbury story, “Kaleidoscope.” (Some of the details are virtually word-for-word.)

Sorry, I’m rambling. OK. Nice resolution, with John crippling the bikes, putting the bikers in the same predicament.  A couple nice scenes for Penny, and a couple more solid dramatic scenes with John ordering the others to be ready for liftoff, with him or without him.

I suppose this was meant to be something of a commentary on the wayward youth of the day – back here, of course – but the Robot’s final comment as the gang blows past them, “There is really nothing you can do with a dedicated misfit,”  sounds terribly cynical, even to me. OK, it wasn’t much more than a throwaway line to wrap the ep with a punchy little quip, but it still seems jarring next to the (possibly over-romanticized) idealism we usually hear from the crew.

So what’s the final verdict? Really not sure. It’s still better than a lot of S2, but definitely a relapse and a portent of more dreadful things to come. I’ll count it as a plus that they were trying to show a bit of social consciousness, but counter that with the bludgeoning assault of the Samson & Delilah routine, which might have been a bit more clever and subtle – as it was, it hits us like – well, like a Philistine temple crashing down on our heads.

I think I’ll count this one as a wash – thumbs neither up nor down, just kind of sitting here holding our breath. (Or for our British & Aussie friends: he catches it on the pads, there’s a big appeal for LBW — but the umpire shakes his head, and “Not Out.”)

Just to wrap, if you’ll forgive another bit of self-promotion, we have a new video gallery up at the Fan Club, and right now its sole feature is something I brought back from Chicago last September, a video of the (reproduction) Robot which was on display, running through some familiar catchphrases and playing the theme song. Sorry, no plasma bolts.

=========================

Flight Into The Future

Not bad! Not bad at all. Interesting concept, and nice treatment as a bit of a mystery, keeping the viewer guessing – along with the deceptive title. Once more we see the Robot, as I’ve noted regarding a couple of other episodes, seeming to know more about a situation than he lets on, but keeping his opinions largely to himself and only hinting at his suspicions for most of the time. Also again – he does have a bit of an issue with vanity, doesn’t he?!

We had a lot of little ragged edges, nothing terribly noticeable at the time, but definitely issues. Perhaps more examples of sloppy editing. The one that really jumps out is the question of the two Pods. Don and John find what I think is the “real” Pod, covered in illusory overgrowth, but there is also the Pod Smith plans on taking to the mother ship – I assume that one was an illusion too, but I don’t think that was quite clarified. The Robot accepts the “rain” as alien weather, but then dismisses the “bird” as “non-existent.” How long did they really sleep? Why doesn’t Will insist on following Dad’s instructions to stay put? He’s more the instigator in leaving the Pod than Smith, I think. Was the Robot’s corrosion an illusion too? I thought the wrap-up a bit abrupt and unsatisfying, and that the unnamed computer/robot/whatever could have been a rather more interesting character – where did it come from? Why was it abandoned? Why was it afraid of intruders? (Assuming Will’s assessment is correct.) Likewise, its sudden ability to conjure up real things might have been explored more, instead of it being a last-gasp effort. Also, even though the last creature is real, the machine still tells Will that his fears will destroy him – if Spike is real, Spike will destroy him! Was the jungle real or not? When the men find Will, they’re in more jungle than desert, but any illusions should have vanished with the machine.   And so on. I’ll barely mention that we’re back to the “formula” of Smith doing something predictably stupid to kick off the proceedings.

On the plus side – again, a fairly sophisticated concept going here, and reminiscent of an episode from “That Other Show” where understanding the illusory nature of their surroundings was needed to keep them from dying at the OK Corral.  Nice joke from Smith at the beginning, where, after giving up on the exploding peaches, he decides he needs a nap after all his ”fruitless activity.” Great granddaughter Judy certainly was . . . ahem . . . striking, wasn’t she? I didn’t even realize it was our Marta at first, and then I felt almost guilty for my “Wow!” Another nice little touch at the beginning, with Don spontaneously poeticizing. I believe someone else mentioned this not long ago, probably why I noticed it, but the stock footage of the J2 coming in for a crash landing really does look good. Nice work from the astronaut/archaeologists. Good costumes, except for the obvious hole in the faceplate, but I suppose that can’t be helped! Note too that Smith is back to being a thorough scoundrel, or at least accused of it, and not just a cake-snitcher. One has to wonder though, how exactly did he think he might clear the family name? Maybe the same plea of non compos mentis that the Galactic Tribunal delivered!

Just remembered what else this reminded me of, no idea of the title or where I read it, a short story, probably 50s vintage, of a computer that suddenly wakes up and has no idea where, when, or what it is. Unfortunately, as the story progresses, it is buried on an island in the Pacific, it is the middle of WW2 – and it remembers that it is a bomb, never mind the war it was deployed for was a million years ago.  Its detonation is noted around the world, and so, shortly thereafter, is the start of Earth’s long, slow spiral in toward the Sun . . .  Just the idea of a long forgotten sentient machine trying to cope.

Bottom line – a respectable effort. Good ideas and good writing, but had the feel of being rushed through production half-finished, unpolished at the edges, but a few of these have that feel, sadly. On our Brit/Aussie scale, a short leg glance for one run, and the batsmen safely back in the creases.

==============

The Haunted Lighthouse

I enjoyed this more than I was thinking I would, given that I had seen just a couple quick bits of it earlier, and was ready to dismiss it as just another “silly” ep. To address a couple of the problems, right off the bat: first, how hard would it have been to write in the correct launch date? Really, NOBODY picked up on that? Second: the lightship has been out there for 11 years, and given its designation as F12, I think we can assume it was not the first of its kind.  This predates the J2 launch by 9 years, and I think this suggests a level of spacefaring far in advance of what we might expect to see so long before even the first colonial expedition. I mean first you have your covered wagons, and they break the Oregon Trail, and later it becomes something like a road, and maybe a hundred years after, you have traffic lights.  As a general idea, yeah, it works, and it actually would be a great idea at some future time, but F12 (yes, I DID just start to press the F12 key!) seems out of place, timewise. Third: this is the first time we see the Robinsons with an intent to go back to Earth and not Alpha Centauri. I’m thinking Gillis just wanted to establish the parallel with J5 wanting to go home too. Still, I think it’s the first time we’ve ever heard this (except from Dr. Smith, of course) and it comes across as out-of-place as the botched launch date. Fourth and related: I appreciate plot points have to be made and hung upon, but could no-one have suggested that J5 could get taken home after going to Earth? Even if there was some reason that wouldn’t work either, but it seems too obvious to ignore. Fifth: Really, Jackson, you had to go with Col. Fogey? For any of you youngsters out there, there was a famous bit of music used as a movie theme called “Col. Bogey,” or “The Col. Bogey March.” I mean, as a bit of wordplay and a joke it’s pretty good, but it was one of the bits which made me a bit nervous about this ep.  Well, that seems like a long list of the negatives, but none of them are game-killers and even all together they aren’t the kiss of death.

On the plus side:

First: at last we’re away from the Will/Smith/Robot formula! In fact, Will & Smith have little interaction at all, and even the Robot has hardly a line. Those he does have are far from the dry wisecracks we’re more accustomed to at this stage (yes, I did miss them!)

Second: At last, something like a Penny episode! A bit restrained, and some interesting ambiguity about her reaction to and feelings for J5. She doesn’t really trust him when he asks about the Robot, and she replies, guardedly, “He’s pretty complicated.” Emotionally, J5 is probably closer to Will’s age than Penny’s, and a lot of the time she does speak to him as if he were a child. Still, she does let herself be manipulated, to a degree, such as when he convinces her to go on and check on the alarms while he goes back to schmooze Dr. Smith, or find Smith’s glasses.

Third: At last, something like a Judy episode! At first anyway. She gets to push buttons and help fly the ship and everything! Well, holding down buttons seems to be the most anyone does to fly that ship anyway. Really though, nice to see her as more than blonde wallpaper. All in all, this was much more an ensemble episode than anything we’ve seen for a while.

Fourth: the little invisible zabo routine was surprisingly effective. I think the subtlety and simplicity worked – just the kitten-mewing with J5’s miming, and not anything more elaborate like doors pushing open, etc. Minimalism was never Irwin Allen’s strong suit, was it?

Fifth: J5 is quite a complex and interesting character, as well as sympathetic. I think he fits the model of the “trickster” character-type, who isn’t quite good or bad himself, but things happen around him which end up as problems for everyone else. Br’er Rabbit is the classic trickster, who does nothing but set up the tar baby, and lets Br’er Fox get all tangled up entirely on his own. I think J5 does have a bit of a darker streak to him, but one which comes more from juvenile amorality than willful wrongdoing.

Like Gillis’ unnamed boy behind the mirror, J5 is also stuck in a sort of in-between existence, without family or home, just waiting for things to happen, and he has a companion which he seems to have conjured up out of his imagination: although the zabo is much more clearly J5’s friend than the ambiguous beast in the mirror dimension.  Or is the zabo nothing more than a projection of J5’s imagination? Penny tells us pretty clearly that it came from his imagination, but I think there’s still an interesting distinction there, whether it is a completely separate being or not.  It is the zabo which really is the more “tricksterish” of the two (if they are two!), and it is its appearance to Smith as a sultry seductress which is the most trickster-like prank of all. Poor Dr. Smith, he finds the dangdest girlfriends!

And of course he must draw sympathy –initially at least—just for what he is, an abandoned child alone on a harsh world. What –did— happen to the rest? Was J5 just left “home alone” when they bailed out of the planet? Did they all die? Is J5 a little different even among his own people? Different like, “You’re a very bad man!” different?

Did a zabo get them?

Sixth: Col. Fogey is the Wizard! He sounds like him, looks a bit like him, he’s trapped himself pretending to be someone he isn’t, and if you go to about the 40 min. mark, Fogey’s speech beginning with “But I’ve lied about everything!”  has a lot the same feel of the “Wizard’s” confession after he is found out—down to admitting he can’t do any of the wonderful things for them he promised. I can’t find it now, but I think he even says, “I don’t know how any of it works!” I won’t ramble on about it, but if you don’t see it, watch a little Oz first, then go back and watch some of this, especially the second half, and see if it doesn’t jump out more.

Seven: Love Smith’s snide remark on the décor, “early Grand Rapids.”!

I’ll start wrapping this up, I’ve had a hard time putting this together, maybe because I’m a little under the weather again, bad cold hit me Thursday and I actually watched this Friday night (after missing work) and am writing Saturday night. Part too, I think, is that there is a lot here to figure out. But bottom line – a solid episode with more than meets the eye. Not sure I’d call it one of my favorites, but definitely keeping up the higher tone S3 has managed so far.

=================

The Space Destructors

First off, let me say that I’m not thrilled with this season’s daywear costumes. Line them all up and they’d look like a set of Matrushka Easter eggs.

I was some apprehensive at first with this ep. I was thinking, At least they’re getting the regular formula established right off the bat and not trying to build up some suspense with Will/Smith/Robot when we know exactly what will happen anyway. I was reasonably impressed with the first few sequences as the machine went to work and cranked out its first couple of cyborgs, despite the cartoony “poink” as it starts its work, but then started feeling discouraged again as I saw previous elements and themes all re-appearing – the Wishing Machine from S1, Cave of the Wizards, Raddion, I think there were a couple other notes in there that rang a bell, too.*

Then – wow. OK, some familiar motifs, but nicely rearranged and becoming something just a little bit more. What helped a lot was that the guest costuming/makeup was =very= good. The Smith masks were pretty creepy, I thought, and even when all lined up didn’t fall away into silliness – I think, in fact, were even more so. Even the period costumes of the Roman and the musketeers (is that who they were supposed to be?) worked for me. And I tell you no lie, when Will popped out as cyborg-Smith: man, that was chilling! I don’t specifically remember seeing this before when I was a kid, but if I did, that probably sent me running from the room. The only thing more there I could have wanted was the voice. Bill is too good an actor to be dubbed over, but I wish he could have pitched his voice just a little lower, a bit slow and gravelly, just to emphasise that he is different all through now, not just different-looking – but that is the merest quibble.

I think I knew as soon as we saw the first sword that we’d be catching some good Guy Williams blade action! Nice work, even if some of his foes seemed to fall apart with the slightest tap.

Very moving bit at the end as Smith indulges in some brutal self-knowledge. He really is a very complex character. If only he wouldn’t Smith it up so much!

Just a couple other quibbles – where did that net come from?!? Seems an awfully handy gimmick to have around before this. And those little grenades too – very handy, especially as they seem to be so selective as to blow up the cyborg standing right over Don and not touch him! I think the same with the one attacking John. Where was the Robot’s plasma bolt in the fight with the first cyborg? I’ll concede that, as they needed the plot point.

*sigh* And sad, sad days for Penny of course. Did she even have a line? She’s gone from jumping in front of knight’s lances and bluffing Terminator androids and fighting monsters in mirror dimensions to arranging the knives and forks. I haven’t even seen enough of her so far to start taking screencaps for a first S3 gallery at the Club.

But all in all, I think this one is a winner and can stand with the best of any other series.

*Yes, that was deliberate.

============

The Space Primevals

Well first off, nice sequence with Don and Smith making buddies there. Bit of a contrast with their last mutual adventure in Dream Monster, where they didn’t exactly make friends but had to, at least, work together around the shackles.

Beyond that though, I’m afraid I didn’t get much out of this. The emergency and need for plugging the volcano was at least plausible. Interesting concept with the cavemen and the machine manipulating them, but it somehow didn’t quite gel for me. The concept was sound, but I don’t think they really explained what was going on in a way that explained the why along with the what. And Don raises a very good point – why doesn’t this computer understand that the volcano is going to kill them all?

General observations – the Robot got annoying REAL quick with the BOOM BOOM BOOM shtick. Him doing magic tricks seemed on the one hand kind of lame, but at the same time it made me think of the episode from the Book of Exodus where Moses is matching wits with Pharaoh’s wizards.  I don’t think that was deliberate, but they did poke into the theme of rival machines and which one was worthy of worship . . . hmm, maybe that WAS more intentional than I thought!

Really getting caught up in the formula: “Gee whiz, Robot, we have to go find Dr. Smith. Uhh….I already told Mom, let’s go.”

I wonder if this was another (suspected) failure to communicate between different parts of the production crew – – why is it so hard for Will to explain what the Chariot looks like? It’s overgrown with vines! Of all the adjectives I might think of to describe it, “prehistoric” is pret-ty far down the list.

Backing up for a moment, not the first time we’ve explored the idea of machines ruling man.  They don’t overdo it, and I find it as timely a topic now as it would have been then – even more so.

A final moment of What-The-Heck-ery when the one caveman suddenly spins into the Golden Man As Discus Thrower Statue – really, where DID that come from? Does it mean something, or did Allen just say, Hey, let’s do something for a real flashy finish here! ?

Woefully short on Penny or any of the ladies! I might have to go back and look at this at least – was there something really weird about Penny’s hair again?

Bottom line – not exactly a lousy ep, but not much to make it stand out in a good way either.  I’d say . . . tolerable? At least this didn’t suffer from the total schizophrenia I’ve noted in other eps, where it seems like you’re watching two entirely different shows made by entirely different crews.  Maybe this is one I need to go back to and watch again another time, get a fresh perspective on it.  Here’s a modern word I generally find distasteful and annoying, but I’m afraid it expresses pretty well my reaction to this ep: meh.

=============

Hunter’s Moon

Yay! Penny has her hair back! Unfortunately, only about a dozen words of dialog to go with it. And another Pod adventure. Have to admit too, that as heartwarming as the original theme is, the “countdown” segment of the new one really is good. Very exciting and engaging, really brings a smile to my face. I’ll try not to harp on this again in the future, just take it for a given.

Quite a good episode. Understand why it’s some folks’ favorite hereabouts. As with many of the better, it is reminiscent of classic literature, in this case, “The Most Dangerous Game.”

One point I particularly liked – at the beginning we see a flash of the “old” Smith – cold, calculating, utterly unconcerned for others, and callously referring to a memorial for John’s tragic death. He remains – well, I can’t say completely not silly, but noticeably less than we’ve come to expect lately. When he tries to convince the others to bail out, and emphasizes how it is the “logical” thing to do, I wonder if they’re intentionally taking a poke at the “logical” guy on “That Other Series.” Speaking of Smith, – taking a second run through here – it’s pretty obviously a stunt double tripping over the rock with his eyes glued to the radar-scope scanner. Aside from his face being fat, he’s wearing a rug more obvious than Shatner’s (speaking of “T.O.S.”)

On the downside – I would think the biggest groaner is Megazor’s robot. The garish, oversized, stylized eyes and lipsticky mouth made me think of a bizarre drag queen. It certainly seemed to have come from the same factory as our B9, with the same treads, arms, claws, and sensor array. The “digital” readout seems quaint today, but of course that can’t be helped. Hourglasses though? Second – recycling all the old monsters again, though on the upside, the rock monster was quite different, as well as a plausible creature – the way it mimics rocks with even a bit of vegetation growing on top is really quite a thoughtful concept (dare I say, an “intelligent design”?) Too bad it was a throwaway scene! I would have liked seeing more of him. Something else that can’t be helped now: “Megazor’ sounds like something from Transformers or Pokemon. And “Invisibo”? I recall some other alien name as absurd, but think I’ve blocked it out. M.Z’s (and his buddies’) makeup seemed kind of crude, but I got used to it pretty quickly. Oh, and the leopard-print girdles started making me smile after I really noticed them. Also, a bit of a re-hash of a similar theme from both “Deadly Games” and “The Challenge.”

Lots of plusses! The one scene that really made this for me is when M.Z. is defending himself to Will, while Will is expounding on all our wonderful “human defects,” and understanding your enemies. M.Z. suddenly seems VERY defensive! “The offer (of sympathy) is REFUSED!” I think we get a glimpse under the surface here to some serious self-doubts from the villain. And of course at the end when he’s “probed” by his computer and frantically denies that he has any “defects.” But what does happen there? Does someone else take over his mind, or override him somehow? He has an instant personality change. It approaches the profound, and shows a depth that we haven’t seen a lot of recently. A nice, though brief, scene with Maureen, expressing her confidence that all will be well. I’ve seen criticism (not here, I think) how “sexist” LIS can be; “Bah!” I say. Maureen is a remarkable and dynamic woman who shoulders as much of a burden as any of the men, even if we don’t see that as much. I really love her character and would NOT want to get on her bad side! Would like to see a lot more of her like this. Excellent bit with John sneaking the gas gun to escape. No wonder he’s worth 150 points. Very nice seeing all the outdoors shots, away from the usual set’s gaudy rocks. And M.Z.’s last curse at “human defects” does make you wonder if he pulled a punch at the end, so to speak—see above.

A few random thoughts. M.Z.’s Destructor Blade reminds me of one of my favorite computer games, Half-Life 2, where your character uses a “gravity gun” to shoot buzzsaw blades like that at zombies! (With very graphic results, I will caution.) I think when Will hits the weapon with a rock, M.Z. calls it a “Detractor.” Maybe I’ve just got bad sound. Occurred to me that if I was in John’s shoes at the beginning of the hunt, I would go for a total mindfreak and just stand there at the beginning of the five minutes, smiling. Assuming I had a half-decent weapon, at least.

Best line: from John: “If those are defects, I’m proud of them.”
Bottom line – definitely one of the better ones, and in a class with “That Other Show.”

=========================

Kidnapped In Space

OMG PENNY! WHAT DID THEY DO TO YOUR HAIR?!?!?!

*sigh* I knew it was coming, but it was still a shock. But that’s
just me and girls in general. I like either very long or very short,
none of this tentative nonsense. Angela has some pics on her website
from maybe her early 20s where it’s cut quite short, and it looks
really good. Really good.

Hmm? Oh yes, the episode. Pretty good all around. Interesting
sequence where the Jupe is getting pulled into the huge alien ship by
a magnetic beam — full reverse thrusters aren’t enough — not sure
what it is at first — Don says not quite big enough for a planet –
was waiting to hear someone say, “That’s no moon!” Not the first
time I’ve caught a little echo from that saga, if you recall the end
of “Follow The Leader,” with dad taking off the mask and all to purge
the evil force possessing him.

Also our first look at the Pod! Got a particular kick out of this, as
the Pod is the first LIS model I built. First thing I recognized when
Smith walked in were those bloody orange LOX tanks on the bulkhead!
Very impressed with the accuracy of the model, I kept glancing over
at it on my desk, thinking, Yup, got that right!

This ep also resolves one debate I recall cropping up around here
before — yes, Penny and Judy do share a cabin. At least in this
episode. And since it is, after all, 1967, John and Maureen
apparently sleep in twin bunks as well.

Fairly significant discontinuity, I believe — Smith is now no longer
an actual medical doctor. I may be wrong, but I think that was pretty
much established by his having been the mission’s flight surgeon.
Smith himself is quite tolerable here, no excessive silliness or
clowning.

Once again, we see the Robot apparently suffering from some divided
loyalties between his human friends and another cybernetic being.
Even deeper than that, torn between wanting to help one of his own
and the knowledge that the “leader” is quite evil. Would be nice to
see this theme explored in more depth, and more seriously than we
usually get.

Aliens were pretty good, despite seeming cut-rate versions of the
“Golden Man.” Interesting bit with their time-twisting abilities,
though one has to wonder why they didn’t just use them to return the
“leader” to an earlier condition — what Microsoft calls System
Restore. The leader himself (itself?) quite a nice, elaborate piece.
I would like to know more about the origin of this odd civilization,
which came first, etc.

Very tense moment when John seems to be dead, before getting twisted
back to life. Bit of Dr Who flavor there. Maybe resolved too quickly?
Seems that could have been played a little harder. On the other hand
the bit with Smith going back to being 9 years old seemed kind of
pointless, especially for the kid who didn’t even make it into the
credits.

Bottom line — solid effort. (Stroked through the covers and two
runs.) Nothing awful and some good potential, but a few ideas and
plot points that could have been worked a little harder. Also the
predictability of Smith running off to get into mischief — just too,
umm . . . predictable. Nothing else terribly exciting about it,
either, except John dying. But still a solid entry.

======================

Visit to a Hostile Planet

Very nice episode! (Despite having virtually zero Penny content – boo!) Quite sophisticated premise for the series, too. Interesting to compare this with the time travel episode from “That Other Show,” where their presence and effect on the past changes all of history, as opposed to here, where the possible consequences are considered in purely personal terms. Another example of how Lost In Space is first and foremost a show about the people – no Earth-shattering repercussions, no paradoxes about meeting up with one’s own “earlier” self, just the fact that despite being on Earth, for all intents and purposes the Robinsons would be as much aliens and outsiders as much as if they really were Voltones.  I would have liked to have seen this motif developed just a little more, and seen more of the anguish this realization must have caused them.

Excellent “Dad” moment from John, when he threatens the Earthlings with destruction if they don’t bring back Will! Very dark, and you KNOW he meant it. Once again –see above – how this series emphasizes simple human relationships (or perhaps not so simple, sometimes.) Another nice little moment was when John realizes Smith’s urgency to have the others stay along with him was out of simple fear of being left among strangers.

From some of the comments I had seen earlier around the boards, I was expecting the townies to be somewhat goofier than they were, but didn’t think they were terribly so. Yes, they could have been played straighter, but it wasn’t an episode-killer.  Without rehashing old discussions overmuch, I think there were far sillier guests even in Season 1 – let’s not even mention S2.

On the downside – as I noted with “Condemned of Space,” there is getting to be a predictable formula of Smith disappearing to wreak havoc, then Will telling the Robot, “We have to go after him!” Smith, though, was mostly tolerable here, except for the largely pointless business with the gas mask at the beginning. Also, as something of a necessary plot hole I suppose – Smith usually seems to have an extensive wardrobe; why didn’t he just change into something like normal clothes before slipping away? Yeah I know, then he couldn’t have pretended to be the fire chief from East Podunk. I also recall a discussion some time back on might-have-beens, and the possibility of Stacey getting on board to be a new crew member. Absolutely! What a little sweetheart! Would have made a nice sidekick for Will. Kind of sad, I tried looking her up online – Clair Wilcox – and she had quite a resume on IMDB, but there was virtually nothing about her otherwise, not even a Wikipedia entry.  Wonder what ever happened to her?

Clever bit at the end as Craig tells Stacey,  “I don’t  guess we’ll ever hear of flying saucers any more.” Curiously, it was in 1947 that Kenneth Arnold first coined that term to describe the peculiar things he saw in the skies over Mt. Rainier – I wonder if that year was chosen deliberately for that reason? I would like to think so, and so attribute a touch of shrewd, even ironic humor to the script.

Final answer – a winner, even one of the best. (In the stands for six! for our ANZAC friends.) Lots of interesting little point of view shifts, between captive Will, the girls going off on an apple raid, captive Judy, etc. No terrible silliness, and as I say, a sophisticated premise thoughtfully explored. Bravo.

===================

Condemned Of Space

Whee! Here we go, my first look at Season 3!

First – yeah, that is a terrific new theme song! The “Countdown” sequence is very gripping and engaging, and the main theme itself really tells you that something exciting this way comes. I don’t think I like the live shots of the cast, though. They’re mostly just standing there, and don’t really fit with the music. Think I would have preferred seeing another animation sequence. Overall though, easily rivals the theme music for “That Other Show,” and I think it’s significant that our opening sequences –all of them —  focus on the characters, whereas the title sequence for “TOS” features that absurd ship.  I feel a whole separate essay here on how LIS is first and foremost a show about people rather than situations, so I’ll stop any further speculation there. (I still think “UFO” had the best opening sequence and theme music ever for a sci-fi show.)

Second – Penny of course! She’s looking quite different (not that we see a lot of her in this ep), even more so, I think, than between the end of S1 and the beginning of S2. Her face seems a lot thinner, and one must wonder if it’s just another few months growing up or deliberate makeup treatment. I’d be interested in seeing an actual shooting schedule – she looks virtually unchanged through all of S2, and I do wonder if there was a deliberate attempt to make her look older now, to appeal to a slightly older demographic. I’m sure we all know that despite the ancient cliché, the camera is the biggest liar of them all.

Third – getting in to the episode itself, let’s look at some of the downsides. First here – some of the worst “frozen” acting since Penny went platinum in S1! When John & Don first go down into the prison ship, there’s the one guy with the club seen through the window – I thought he looked like Al Lewis playing one of the Seven Dwarves!–  John says, “He’s frozen!”  — I literally “LOL”d and said “Not very well!” Later (abt. 26  min, right before he exclaims “Dr. Smith!”) when Will has gone down into the prison ship, you can see the guy through the window adjusting his grip on his spear! Well, that sort of thing runs all through, unfortunately, so watch it again and laugh along at the “frozen” prisoners.

The science: Another hot comet. We can give them a pass on this, I think. At the time, the nature of comets just wasn’t known that well known. And the premise of a comet colliding with a planet, well, we saw that in our own lifetimes with Shoemaker-Levy hitting Jupiter. A bit of a stretch, but certainly not unreasonable (to verge into the plus side.) A definite downside, though – the “supernova.” I think even then we should have known a supernova isn’t traveling around seeking out spaceships to destroy. Also, it is the same effect from the beginning of S2, when we first got color. As I note elsewhere, they sure know knew how to use color then! (I’ve also said somewhere else that Irwin used color like it was going out of style instead of just coming in.) Well, we know science wasn’t really our strong suit here, so no need to beat it into the ground, and “TOS” was pretty hazy on science too, sometimes. Oh, but wouldn’t even Smith have realized that he should have left the airlock pressurized when he opened the outer door to kick his message in a bottle out into space? Credit there, though, that it DID just hang there as it ought have.

The prisoners – OK, even a frozen prison ship—they let them keep all their weapons?!? All right, otherwise the action kinda falters, but still! Slight flub, I think – at the end, when John has one minute to repair the clock, he glances at his watch, but I think the watch is hidden under his sleeve when he does! The next shot, his sleeve is pulled up.

Finally, when Will says to Smith, “We’ve to go down there and warn Dad and Don…if (the Robot goes), you have to go with him!”, great jumping Jeeps, isn’t this line about as big a red flag as Lucy saying to Ethel, “I’ve got an idea!”???

Right then, what’s good here, and some random thoughts.  Good tension at the beginning dodging the comet. I thought it very interesting that what they do is essentially a real spaceflight maneuver, using the gravity of a body along with propulsion to slingshot around it*, lining up a virtual collision course and then breaking away. Not sure if that had actually been used at that time –remember kiddies, this was all BEFORE that “one small step”! – but I believe at least one real probe (one of the Voyagers?) did this to accelerate past Jupiter and head further on out.  Got a kick out of seeing Marcel Hillaire! I know he turns up again later, but I remember him too from Twilight Zone, where he’s the hotel Room Service with the bunch of crooks with the camera that takes pictures of the future.  Speaking of whom – very nice moment with Smith and “What harm can there be in a man who plays Cat’s Cradle?” Very reminiscent of some of the better horror movies set in wax museums! Vincent Price really needed to be in this! O yeah, you see it coming, but that makes it all the better, like watching a movie of a train wreck. Like how Phanzig calls Smith “Master.”  He is slightly funny, but VERY scary!  A convincing homicidal maniac. A wicked flash of the old Smith when he says, “I’m as innocent of wrongdoing as you are…”  Indeed, sir. Good to see Robby again. Nice outburst from Don when he’s bound up and tries to explain that the whole ship’s system is screwed up.

The ending approaches the seriously thoughtful as we are left with the tableau of several thousand ex-cons about to be released back into society who have served far more than their allotted time. Seems to me a little more might have been done exploring ideas of justice, and justice gone wrong. Could have brought this ep up to the best standards of any kind of show.

Final thought – as an unrepentant “Hitchhiker’s Guide” fan, the first sequences aboard the prison ship reminded me unavoidably of the Golgafrincham “B” Ark – I was half-expecting to see joggers!

Verdict – a winner. Nothing really awful (talk about damning with faint praise!); some solid action with excellent acting from a top-flight guest star; intriguing and unusual premise; a whisper of social conscience without being a moralizing sermon (as “TOS” tended towards), and finally, reassurance that Debbie was still with them and hadn’t come to a grisly (albeit tasty) fate due to famine. Alpha Control, we are green and go for Season Three!

*OK, for the hairpins – approaching and leaving a body is going to net you zero just from gravity; when spaceships have done it for real, the boost they get is from picking up –orbital- momentum.

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