Season 1

Just a couple of introductory comments here. This is now my second time around on the series, and will be filling in on remarks and photogalleries which I omitted the first time around. This is already a nostalgic and bittersweet experience!


The Reluctant Stowaway

What an excellent opening episode! Tension and drama, high adventure in deep space, and a mission on which the fate of the world might quite literally rest. Dr. Smith and the Robot are very chilling villains. There is some discussion on the Yahoo forums from time to time whether Smith actually kills the guard or not.  The answer seems unresolvable, however, his rough handling of the inert figure and the possibly ironic committal of the guard to “Waste Disposal” seem to suggest that he is dead. This is one of the few times we see the Robot actually walking with his lower gear visible. More modern critics have sometimes complained of sexist stereotypes in the series. Two points: first, it was a different era. Deal with it. Second, that’s not an entirely valid criticism anyway. I have commented elsewhere what a wonderfully strong woman Maureen is (something I’ve played up in my own writings), and even in this very first episode, as Smith and West argue about which of them should venture outside to rescue John Robinson, Maureen has already suited up and is heading for the airlock! Maureen Robinson is a wonderful woman any way you look!

Just a few words on the ship and the set. Just marvelous. If you look at the scenes of Alpha Control, then look at contemporaneous film and stills of NASA Mission Control, you can see LIS captured the feel perfectly. Jupiter 2 herself is a very realistic and mentally manageable ship. You can see how big she is, you know just about her whole layout — upper and lower decks, the crew quarters, galley, the Pod bay (later on), and a couple more surprises below decks later on too. It is a human-sized ship. One problem I always had with that oversized ship from “That Other Series” is just that – it is so big you don’t get any real sense of scale with it. Where are the windows you can see a crewman standing behind? How high is that dome up on top of the saucer module? Is that the command bridge, the 30 feet or so across where the most important crew members and captain seem to spend most of their time? Once or twice, in the movies, we got some sense of that as some people spacewalked on the hull, but you still never really get the homey sense of proportion you do aboard Jupiter 2. If you walked in the main hatch of the J2, you would know exactly how to get to the galley, where the laser weapons are stored, even where the fire extinguishers are!  Whereas if you popped aboard that battlewagon, would you be able to get from the shuttle bay to the crew lounge? Just telling the elevator where you want to go is cheating, by the way!  (Did anyone ever see a single fire extinguisher aboard that ship?) By the way, they also had seat belts, something else that booby-prize of a ship lacked. Something else too, I think, is that despite a couple of important novelties, the technology of the J2 is not so far beyond what we find familiar. They have artificial gravity, but they also have radar and radio. Their weapons are lasers, a technology which was real even then. She launches from a pad and has a hatchway you walk in and out of. The elevator is a simple two-level lift. There is a food synthesizer, but they also grow real vegetables and cook on a stove. In other words, there is still more to the J2 which is familiar than not. End of that rant.

The Robot is still very robotic and dangerous, as he will be for quite a few more episodes. I don’t think it is until War Of The Robots that he starts to become a quite different character.  And Dr. Smith is startlingly evil! Startlingly, that is, compared to his later persona. See my separate essay looking at Smith, I won’t get too deep into him here, except to note that here is a man coldly sending men, women, and children off to their deaths which he himself has engineered, and later has a laser pistol pointed at the back of Don’s head!

Although a very serious episode overall, there is still a sense of fun as the kids play in freefall when Don turns off the artificial gravity to repair the guidance system. Some quite commendable special effects with that scene, I might add. And just a hint of the buffoonery to come when Don puts the gravity back on and Smith takes a faceplant onto the lower deck.

So bottom line – just terrific. Well conceived and well done. Definitely one to be proud of.


The Derelict

Just a few thoughts here about The Derelict.

First, Will’s notion to use the fire extinguisher to cool off the hatch and allow it to open is really quite brilliant. Although that’s one reason CO2 is still popular as a firefighting agent, it not only smothers flame but cools to prevent reflash, I’m not sure it’s ever been used exactly that way! I caught one odd detail. Don tells Will to have Smith bring up the “big one from below.”  I wonder if that was to give Smith more to do, because there is a small fire extinguisher mounted righ outside the airlock.

We’ve discussed before just who Smith thinks he’s dealing with, his Aeolus 14 Umbra friends, and after watching this ep again, I think I must withdraw my pet notion that he thinks he is dealing with aliens. Despite his one line that he “saw everything,” he certainly did not: he is below fiddling with the Robot until after the Jupe is inside the other ship, so he has not seen it to compare with known Earth technology, and he is quite condescending to their assertion that the ship is alien. Maureen states they are “almost certain that this ship is not from our home planet,” to which he responds,  “Is that what you think?” And, as someone else observed to me at one time, he is just as clearly horrified to find obviously non-human creatures aboard. As to one of my other objections – I’ll have to go back to the first again to double check – but in this one, their discussions of how far they’ve traveled are again with Smith below decks. He may not realize just how far from Earth they actually are. He still seems convinced that the technology he sees is not beyond Earth’s, and rather takes the pains to point out how much more advanced it is than the Jupe’s, that is, American/Western technology.

“The derelict” itself is really quite a good ship design. From the outside, it does seem clearly alien, with little resemblance to anything a viewer of the time (or even now) would identify as a spaceship. Yet it is not absurd. Knowing first that it is a spaceship, there is a certain sense to the design.

Finally, we do have to excuse the whole “hot comet” bit, as that was consistent with accepted science of the time. Overall, a topnotch offering.


Island In The Sky

Another top-notch episode! Tension, drama, and a thoroughly evil Smith, as he begins plotting the deaths of the others – yet again.  The Chariot is really a terrific piece of equipment! Love it more all the time. You have to wonder exactly how it was stowed, as Don says he has to “assemble” it. The ladies do go to help him with it, but it is clearly something he expects to be able to do himself.  Another interesting detail, just before this – this is him and Maureen discussing rescuing John – Don says “Normally I’d recommend we go through a week of thorough testing before venturing outside,” which suggests this is NOT his first expedition to a new planet. (All at about 24m.)

Once again, one of the few times we see the Robot walking. A detail someone noted elsewhere (may have been on the Facebook LIS page), as you look at the Robot, there is what seems to be a small rectangular slip of paper inside the lower dome, just to the viewer’s left. I’m told that Bob May himself stated that these were cue cards and notes he made for himself, but you have to wonder why they didn’t give him something a little bit better!

Possible Bigfoot sighting? Look at the right edge of the linked photo. Smith is still inside; here are John, Don, and Will walking up the ramp (John has just forbidden him to try repairing the Chariot). Maureen has just announced she and the girls are going to go fix dinner. Who is that on the right edge, then? Appears at about 42:25. It may be Maureen/June, as it’s about her build with the parka on, and after she announces the making of dinner, the three do NOT go up the ramp, but off to the viewer’s right. Guessing she was heading backstage and got caught on a live camera. No offense to Maureen or June, of course, but between the stride and the film quality, it DOES look like the videos you see brought back by Sasquatch hunters!


Here’s a video clip. Watch just above Will’s head as he exits to the right:

And already the seed is planted for what will become one of television’s most unlikely and enduring friendships. At about 40:15, even as he plots the murders of them all, Dr. Smith reflects, “Too bad about young Will, though. The only agreeable companion I’ve found on this ghastly trip.”

Oh, and whatever is on the wall in the galley STILL looks to me like a cake display!

Just a couple of minor quibbles: if Will can pitch his voice to control the Robot, why doesn’t he just order it to respond only to them? When John is in space, and struggling with the sabotaged rockets, his altitude is reported first at 40,000 feet, then 10,000. He is clearly FAR above such heights! John looks like he’s orbiting above space shuttle altitude!  I think someone noted this on one of these boards not long ago, but yes, Don & Maureen first start calling the Bloop a “he,” but as soon as Penny gets it she calls it Debby! (Speaking of another unlikely and enduring friendship!)

All in all, another one we can be proud of.


There Were Giants In The Earth

I’ve mentioned before (frequently!) how often these early episodes in particular draw on folklore and mythology. I picked up an interesting connection of events here, but even I will admit it is tenuous.

Remember, early in this episode we have Smith planting seeds at the base of a tall rock pinnacle, I don’t believe we ever see the actual top of it, and in the morning they have grown to a huge size, evidently climbing up the rock. That very night, we first hear the cry of the Cyclops, after John has sent Will in to bed. Later, when the men encounter the Cyclops, it is high up a hillside – in the sky, you might say. They are saved from the creature by Will, a rather small boy, who saves them by forcing it over the edge of a precipice so it falls to the ground (although not fatally.)

Right. Do I really have to connect the dots now?!? A giant plant which appears overnight . . . a giant in the clouds . . . and a boy who forces it to fall to earth! Not exactly “Jack and the Beanstalk,” but there is certainly a resemblance, intentional or not.

Secondly. After Will destroys the giant peapod, John and Don are examining its remnants in the lab, and under the microscope, John makes a rather lengthy analysis of the cells, which appear to be both animal and vegetable. In fact, a lot of it is rather aimless (plotwise) if all John is talking about is the pod. Now, fast forward a bit to the Chariot, as the crew escape southward, and have killed the Cyclops. Debby is quite agitated by it, and is slapping the windows with her hands, then applauding when she sees the face of it, clearly dead. Remember that the giant is covered partly in hair and partly in the shaggy coconut fiber costume, which looks almost mossy at times. Remember too that John’s earlier dissertation specifies that the microorganism is a parasite which requires another life form to mature – and it has characteristics both animal and vegetable. Is it possible that the Cyclopes are nothing but mutated bloops? Is Debby so agitated because she recognizes that the monster out there is one of her own kind, warped into a distorted zombie-like version of herself?

It is perhaps not a coincidence that the appearances of the pod and of the Cyclops are in such close sequence. It is possible that the same parasites drifted and settled to this area recently, mutating some unfortunate bloops before settling into the sand, waiting for the next seeds to sprout – note that although native vegetation is sparse, none of the existing foliage is so bizarre.

Well. Like I say, I know I’m pulling the line pretty tight here! But it does seem to make sense, and as I noted before, John’s discussion of the cells emphasizes that one point. Right. Jack & the Beanstalk and mutated monster bloops. That’s a good evening’s work! Really though, think about it.


The Hungry Sea

The last of the legendary “First Five,” and another excellent entry in the field.  Just a couple of problematical points, which we’ll look at shortly.

First, some excellent character work between John & Don, a bit of “alpha male” headbutting which resolves with John admitting that even he can make a mistake, and Don acknowledging that right or wrong, John is the boss.

Some interesting insights into Smith, too. After some time rhapsodizing over the imminent deaths of the Robinsons, including fantasizing over the wonderful eulogy he will compose for them, he seems to have something of a change of heart. As the temperature rises, he first tries to call them on the radio to warn them of the danger they are running into, then sends the Robot when the transmission fails. As always, Smith’s motivations are complex and contradictory. True, he does not speak of warning them until he has contemplated life alone with the Robot: handling the chess piece, he asks, “What’s the use? You’d beat me in three moves.” Is he really acting out of pure selfishness, suddenly understanding the hard reality of being alone, and in doubt of his own ability to survive? Or is there a measure of true repentance and care in there, which he is disguising – even to himself – under the cover of his selfishness? I do think that is a possible interpretation, and from a storyteller’s standpoint, I think that lines up better with the conversation he has with Don, who of course accuses him of just that – I’m not sure a writer would do that unless he meant to highlight the obvious conclusion as a mistake.

On the technical side: beautiful! The special effects are quite good, especially the whirlpool (and the whole storm scene: I’ve been at sea in storms and have gotten soaked just like that!), and segues of the Chariot from miniature to full-size footage are seamless and virtually unnoticeable. I started thinking about the odd multipointed sunshade they put up, and realized even that makes some good sense – with those peaks, some part of the canopy will always have at least a little bit of shading and so be more effective than a flat surface. I’m not sure if there would also be a benefit to the fact that heat and light would also be reflected away in random directions rather than straight back up – any sciencey types who could opine on that?

On the stylistic side: just as the miniature/full size Chariot scenes blend seamlessly, so do the original sequences and the added–in Smith & Robot sequences. The only clue we get is the disassembly of the Robot for the ride home (and that we see none of the parts aboard the Chariot), but even that is sensible in context. Just excellent work there.

As I say, just a couple of weak spots. The biggest of course is the science of an orbit which would give those kinds of extremes so quickly – it just couldn’t happen, not with a planet that size and not without a year measured in earth-days. The Chariot’s upper hull is almost all glass – how could they have not seen Don hanging on the outside when they think he’s been swept away in the storm! I suppose it is possible that after we see his hand grasping the upper ladder rung, he does slip further and is hanging on further down, out of sight, and then hauls himself back up. But yeah, that’s a bit of a stretch.  Will & Penny’s odd little exchange as to where they might be is puzzling, and suppose it must be accepted as filler dialog, maybe just a little squib for the kids in the audience. And last of all – last of all. After all this, we witness the absurdity of the Robot strumming a guitar despite the lack of necessary body parts. And by the sound of it, more of a steel guitar than the standard instrument. A woeful harbinger of things to come. I’ll admit though, Smith’s rendition of “No Place Like Home” was spot on.

So bottom line – possibly the best so far. Top-notch storytelling, acting, and effects, an unqualified winner.


Welcome, Stranger

The first of the regular series! Not bad. Maybe a little rough around the edges, like Jimmy Hapgood himself.

Some of the science is a bit weak, as we must expect, particularly John’s dissertation on the strange powers of radio at the beginning and Jimmy’s traveling nova at the end. On the plus side, Travelin’ Man is a good-looking little ship, and appears to be modeled on the then-contemporary Mercury space capsule. The interior looks quite authentic, and the joystick controls may be the same ones which appear later on in the Pod. The spacesuit and helmet seem to be slightly different from the Robinsons’, but also look quite realistic.

Some nice Penny moments in this, mostly looking wistful and big-eyed, but also of course a good dramatic scene as the mutated plant attacks her. Hmm….wonder if this mutant manages to send out a few seeds or spores and is the same thing which shortly replicates Judy?

On the downside – the fight scene seems a bit contrived and unnecessary, and drags on a few rolls too many. Oates’ performance is a bit campy and over-the-top, especially considering how restrained Dr. Smith still is. Speaking of whom: why did the business with removing the Robot’s guidance system get portrayed as surgery rather than simple mechanics? Up until now, and even afterwards, he is treated (physically, at least) as any machine which can be taken apart and reassembled like any other. Was this played just for the humor of it, or are we getting a hint already that this Robot is just a bit too human?

Food for thought now. How old is Jimmy? He says he has been lost in space for 15 years, having launched in 1982. Now, Oates himself was not quite 40 here, but looks a bit older (especially in the closeups). If Hapgood is 40, he would have been 25 when he left Earth. But at the end, he speaks like a rather old man, jaded with life at home, having seen and done everything twice and thinking he’s going to be “put out to pasture” or forced into the monotony of a lunar ferry ship, either way, not being allowed into deep space again. Rather dismal and cynical for someone who couldn’t have been more than 30 when he last saw home! Also, as he burns his “Hapgood was here” into the rock, he states that this is his 91st.  Over 15 years, that makes planetfall once every two months! Just some of those things we have to live with, I suppose.

So altogether: not bad, as I said at first, if you don’t mind those jagged edges. A nice “family” theme, which we see often, naturally, and is what sets it apart from “That Other Show.” And an interesting premise, meeting up with another lost wayfarer.

To end with a bit of vanity, this is one of those episodes which I liked quite a bit, but thought that a different treatment might make it a bit stronger. This is one that I re-wrote as one of my “Lost In Space Adventures,” giving it a somewhat different feel – especially with regard to how and why Hapgood is able to travel like he does! If anyone is interested, you can find the “Adventures” in the files here under “The Written Word.”


My Friend, Mr. Nobody

I’m sure nobody will be surprised to learn that this is one of my favorite episodes. It jockeys neck-in-neck with “The Magic Mirror”, and I would consider it a slightly better episode stylistically, just on the basis that Magic Mirror I think compromised ever so slightly by the costume design of The Beast and that Smith is beginning to be a bit more of a clown than here. However, let me not get ahead of myself.

This is, of course, the first “Penny” episode, but it is notable too for a few other “firsts.” I believe it is the first time we hear the Robot utter his iconic “Danger! Danger!”, towards the beginning, and towards the end, the first time we hear Smith speak his immortal catchphrase, “Oh, the pain.” It is the first time Smith’s greed appears as a plot element, being the effective cause of Mr. Nobody’s climactic attack. I believe it also the first time we see the Robot’s weaponry used, though I think it is mentioned before — I may be wrong, feel free to correct me!In general, I would call this a near-perfect blending of science fiction and fantasy. Penny’s oasis does have a magical feel to it, with the fountain and the big plant which returns her curtsy. And of course, Mr. Nobody himself — an entity of “Pure cosmic force with an antimatter core”, who is, it would seem, an embryonic galaxy.It is also the first episode which examines that mysterious power which may drive the Universe: Love. Penny and Mr. Nobody certainly share a strange kind of love — it is his love for her which drives his vengeance against those he perceives as having hurt her, and it is her explicit statement of love which stops his assault. Is it even their love which sparks his final metamorphosis? It seems to be her attention which sparks his self-awareness and the realization that there are other beings besides himself. Despite his deeply-pitched voice, he is more a child than Penny.I think the “magic spring” is Mr. Nobody’s doing, but I also think now that the curtsying plant is, too. He is only vaguely aware (if at all) of anything outside of himself, and senses Penny’s desire for water, and her own curtsy to the plant, and responds in the only way he can. He can’t speak yet — not until he learns words from her.Artistically,  this is outstanding, especially the final sequences of “Penny’s Run” and what follows. There are the occasional debates these days regarding colorizing B&W episodes — never! Not for this. The photography here is brilliant, and color would ruin it. The night sky, the flashes of Mr. Nobody’s wrathful lightning, the Robot’s laser display, Penny’s black hair flying in the wind — this is what B&W was made for! (This is the only episode I dedicated two galleries to, over at the Fan Club, one just for the Run. I’ve also done an edited video clip of the Run, without the breaks back to the others at the ship.)And Penny herself. Angela’s acting is just delightful and displays a range and depth of emotion & feeling which we seldom see from the rest of the crew. I think we expect good acting from adults, maybe less so from children, so when a young actor or actress can put on such an outstanding performance it is all the more impressive.A couple of final thoughts now. I have a copy of the script of this (autographed by you-know-who!), and there a few interesting differences from the final product. Most noticeably, a scene with Penny, Smith, and the Robot was omitted from the opening sequence (in between Penny’s moping about the adults pushing her aside and her retreat to the oasis), where Smith is lounging with the Robot fanning him; a good part of Mr. Nobody’s dialog is omitted or noted as incoherent wails of grief; Judy has a few more appearances. Last of all, this has probably the shortest and most tightly connected teaser to the next episode: as Smith utters his final growls about the diamonds, the camera pulls back to show that he is being observed by next week’s Invaders From The 5th Dimension. This, in contrast to the more usual sharp break from the conclusion of one episode to the beginning of the next.So bottom line — need I even say it now? Far and away, one of the best. The one that sold me on the series, and on Penny in particular. Just priceless.
Invaders From the Fifth Dimension

Guest-starring Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis. Oops, sorry. Wrong Fifth Dimension, but right era at least!It’s a couple years now since I watched this last, and one of the first things that jumps out at me favorably is the alien ship. It is extraordinarily outlandish! (I know I said much the same recently about The Derelict.) It has almost an organic look to it, especially with that big eye, as if it is the kind of ship which not so much built as grown. Also a plausible explanation (eventually) of how it is bigger inside than out. The already-familiar mostly-unseen minimalist set design of the interior adds to this effect and works well. There is an almost dream-like (or nightmarish) quality to it, restricting one’s field of view to what is immediately nearby, and only suggestive shimmering blackness elsewhere.Already we see some of Irwin’s notorious prop re-use evident. I believe the shape Judy notices on the scanner, which she claims never to have seen before, is the same as Jimmy Hapgood’s ship (although in reversed color); the collar the aliens put on Smith to ensure his cooperation looks quite a bit like the one to appear later in “All That Glitters,” and the metal ball to be used as a homing device turns up with identical function later in “The Keeper.” Quite a bit of the jetpack footage again, although the later scenes, it is actually Don who is flying (John is in the Chariot at the time.)I’ve previously pegged “War of the Robots” as the ep where the Robot starts to develop his familiar and distinctive personality, but even here, his voice and manner are already becoming a bit more human, a bit less robotic (the “scarecrow” scene.) Later on, he makes the pungent observation that “On this planet, we are the aliens.”Smith is certainly still much more the ruthless villain. He is ready to shoot the alien in the back before his laser pistol is spirited away, and he not only promises the aliens a Robinson as brain donor in the heat of panic, but tries tempting Penny as well as Will away to be the offering. A bit of his silliness in the scene where he is “dying” for Will, and pretends his flashlight is a lifesaving “ion generator,” but in fairness, it is Smith hamming it up for Will, not Harris hamming it up for us. Moments later, he is as vile as one could wish, and uttering a cruelly ironic line to Will about having a scheme up his sleeve. He then goes on quite viciously pressing Will on to the scene of sacrifice. Interesting scene with Smith telling him that what appears to be water is a deadly corrosive. Smith at his mind-gaming best!

A possible blooper? I didn’t think so at first. When John & Maureen are first out in the Chariot scouting for Will, John is driving and Maureen is riding shotgun holding the binoculars. When we next see them, they’ve switched positions. So far so good, that’s reasonable. But shortly thereafter, when Maureen has briefly spotted the alien ship, John takes her arm and says, “Let me drive for a while,” suggesting she has been at the wheel for quite a while and that he is fresh. Like I say, maybe.

An intriguing resolution. The one alien insists that Will be released, knowing that he is useless to them and that they are about to be destroyed. Perhaps he finally understands, or has some deep ancestral recollection of the meaning of love? Remember what the Robot says of them early in the episode: that they are “anti-human” from an anti-Earth. Despite an incomprehensible period of divergence from ourselves, maybe they are not as different from us as they seem: even to themselves.

About the only negative I might mention –and I’m reaching for it – perhaps a bit too much stock footage of the jetpack and Chariot. Otherwise, a good, solid offering, foreshadowing a similar episode to come later from “That Other Show,” but with the beating human heart that always set Lost In Space apart from it. Another we can be proud of.


The Oasis

I don’t think I’ll ever call this one of my favorites. It is certainly a compelling premise, and is a natural continuation of what we saw in the earlier episodes of their planet’s dangerously eccentric orbit. The urgency and stress of the drought and water shortage come through clearly, and reflect what I’ve said elsewhere about wishing that the show had been more of a Western/pioneer style, although in space (“Little House on the Milky Way”).  However, it is also the beginning of some of the silliness which comes to characterize the entire series, particularly from Smith and the Robot, as the two of them engage in an operatic shower duet. Smith’s performance as a giant is also rather dualistic: in some scenes he is pleasantly threatening and dangerous, in others, the petulant foot-stomping and seemingly gratuitous sneezing seem out of place. Debby’s transformation is handled somewhat better, although it seems to me she could have been potentially MUCH more frightening than Smith! All things considered, I think we have to give a pass to the question of Smith’s clothes. There is no reasonable way, of course, a toxin acting on his pituitary gland could have made the clothes grow along with him. I suppose the same fabric which went into his bedclothes could have gone into a sort of sarong or mumu for him – but that would have taken up much time to address, not to mention addressing the delicate sensibilities of 1960s television. Likewise, the idea that rain simply neutralized the toxin seems far too simplistic and glib, although I admit I do like the concept that problems of both giantism and drought are solved at the same time with the same solution.

I’ll grant that the various techniques used to portray Smith as a giant were quite good (for the time, of course). When he is talking to Will, it seems he is looking straight out ahead, rather than down, but other than that, it’s quite effective.

There is one bit which I found very appealing, probably because it reinforces one of my own concepts of Dr. Smith (which I put into my own stories): when Maureen announces she will go out to talk to Smith, she says he is a very lonely and frightened man. That, I think, is pretty much key to understanding Zachary Smith at any point in the series. Those are far from his only character flaws, but as I’ve written elsewhere, I think those flaws stem from weakness rather than evil. When he walks off with the last fuel cell, surely he knows they will come looking for it, and him. Is that his real intent – not that they die miserably, as he states on the tape recording, but that they are forced to seek out his company and friendship?

One very nice scene with Penny looking up into the night sky and saying how nice it would be to see rainclouds instead of stars – beautiful eyes!

One thing I’m not sure of – during this drought, what happened to the large pond down by Mr. Nobody’s cave? Did that dry up too? Or just another discontinuity we have to accept? So far, the continuity has been pretty good, and I think it stays so through most of this first season.

So all in all – not bad. I wish it could have stayed a bit more serious, but then, we all know what happens there!


The Sky Is Falling

Something I appreciate about the debate and challenge on these boards is that I am forced to keep thinking about all the little details. Maybe this is something which others have already picked up on as obvious, but I think I just figured out the significance of the title: not just the idea of aliens dropping in from space (rather literally), but if you recall the actual story of Henny Penny, all the commotion and panic in the barnyard was over NOTHING. And that is what we have here, isn’t it? Two families, each alone on a distant world, but thrust into suspicion, mistrust, fear, and near-bloodshed over NOTHING. Nothing except a misunderstanding, anyway. Dr. Smith acts the part of Henny Penny, egging on the rest of the J2 crew into a state of panic, until Will’s absence gives them a hook to hang their fear on.

There is one sequence which is particularly touching, and very nicely done. We see first the Tauron parents over what we assume is their dinner, unable to eat for worry, then the Robinson parents doing exactly the same!

Smith remains delightfully villainous, and delivers a wonderfully ruthless monologue to the Robot: “You’re probably thinking – ‘What kind of man would use a parent’s love for his own preservation?’ And you’re exactly right. MY kind of man.”

John delivers a line which sums up not only the episode, but a good part of human history as well: “The children got along just fine. It was the adults who were at each others’ throats.”

The only line that doesn’t quite ring true is that when John says he’ll bring the Tauron boy back, Don says that the Taurons will think the Robinsons had him all along. Unless he means just in those first few moments, I don’t see why he wouldn’t expect the boy to explain what had happened and so keep the peace.

I’ve remarked that a couple of other later episodes could be seen as reflecting Cold War fears, I think this too can be seen as a general riff on human frailties and mistrust of strangers, whether from a different country or a different neighborhood: the Taurons are really very like the Robinsons.

The wrap-up may be a little pat, and the idea of germs as the “real” enemy is likely borrowed from “War of the Worlds,” but I don’t think this is enough to spoil the show. There IS only so much you can do in 50 minutes. And as others have mentioned, even if John understands about the germ problem, how does he know they are called Taurons? Maybe he managed to get a little bit of telepathy going between them – it seems likely, seeing that he and the Tauron father are virtually identical in spirit, but it would have been nice to squeeze in a line to that effect. Or maybe that was one of those clips that wound up on the floor.

One of you other fine fellows here pointed out that a lot of the “alien” artwork here in the first season looks to be inspired by a well-known sci-fi artist of the day – this was in response to my comments on the 5th dimension ship, and I think “the derelict” as well. I would carry this through with the thought that the crab robot seems to reflect this style as well! All very organic looking, as if the machines were not so much built as grown.

Not a lot of Penny content here, but a couple of very nice scenes with Maureen. It occurs to me that of all the crew, Judy’s outfit is quite odd and out-of-place. That long skirt has got to be about the worst thing possible to be wearing around on an alien planet! It would be getting snagged on everything and seems like it would be very heavy. I’m sure she was glad to be out of it and into slacks.

The bit of Smithiness at the end, with the boomerang ball catching him in the head – for my money, that’s about as far as I think I would have liked to see his clowning. A quick chuckle to wrap up the night, and on we go.

But definitely another winner, a top-notch episode to be proud of.


Wish Upon A Star

First of all, this is pure fairy tale, despite the setting and a few analytical remarks made by the Robot to explain the workings of the Wishing Machine. Penny says as much, when she states that it’s just like Aladdin’s lamp.

Like most fairy tales, and many Lost In Space episodes, there is a rather sharp moral to the story. I’ve noted frequently that a lot of LIS scripts are inspired by some bit of legend, folklore, or fairy tale, but what puzzled me most about this episode is that there doesn’t seem to be any one bit of classic folklore to which this is indebted. The climax of the tale, where all the magically-given gifts suddenly rot or fall to pieces when a certain wish is too much =sounds= familiar, but I have never been able to connect it definitely with any onewell-known folk tale. John specifically makes reference to the goose which laid the golden egg, but as far as I know, that gold remained gold. All of Cinderella’s wonderful gifts changed back after midnight, but that was only bad timing, it was not a penalty for misbehavior. Perhaps Mr. Slater created an entirely new folklore motif here!

The closest I’ve found is a somewhat obscure story from the Brothers Grimm, “The Fisherman’s Wife.” In this, a fisherman catches a magical, wish-granting fish. His wife persuades him, against his better judgment, to ask for always-bigger houses and greater status in the world, culminating in her (yes, HER!) being made Pope — but when she demands to be made God, they find themselves once again in their shabby seaside hut and
back as they were. There’s another occasional theme in folklore where wealth suddenly acquired by either magic or some magical source vanishes or becomes worthless, but there is not always a moralistic lesson to this.

Pardon the somewhat lengthy digression. On to the show itself.

Right away, a somewhat inadvertant laugh, as the opening narration informs us, “Will was unaware that within moments, Dr. Smith’s carelessness would imperil all their lives.” Yeahhhhhh………I think that’s gonna happen a couple more times before the series is done! Although in “The Oasis” Smith runs away in fear and anger over the thought that the crew had tried to poison him, I think this counts as the first time Smith is sent into exile over his recklessness. Here we also see Will’s real fondness for Smith, following him out into the wilderness, and I think Smith is sincere when he tells Will that he’s missed him. But we also see Will’s first disillusionment with Smith, over the tray of pastries. Smith’s dissembling and evasiveness over keeping the machine, and that he hopes “eventually” to bring it to the others ring hollow. Hearing from Will Don’s charge that all he cares about is himself strikes home, and even Will must face the truth. Smith has an extraordinary look flicker across
his face at this charge — is he searching for a response? Or is this strike so cutting that he suffers the pain of sudden self-knowledge? Perhaps he really believed all he told Will: that he was just “testing” the machine and would –someday– bring it to the others. Until that moment, at least.

But when he does — and gets that grateful little look from Will — it is STILL all about him! Yes, he wants to make a new spaceship — so HE can go back to Earth! I suppose it’s a good thing he didn’t think to wish for a Tauron transmat machine, or we would have had a very different story– and series!

The havoc the machine creates (along with everything else) reminds me of a somewhat more recent movie, “The Gods Must Be Crazy.” For those unfamiliar, the basic premise is that an empty Coke bottle falls from an airplane into the middle of a primitive African village. As it fell from the sky, it was obviously a gift from the gods, and they find all sorts of amazing uses for it. But it is the only thing they have ever had which there is only one of. In a very familiar turn, it ends up causing all sorts of friction and the decision is made to take it back to the gods. (All that’s just the opening few minutes!) Note that the solution in both the movie and this ep is the same: to just get rid of the thing. And even though Don does not use the machine himself (not that we see), he too is entangled in its snares by way of Judy’s enchanting new look. Smith, typically, manages to stay outside of the trouble he produces.

One message of this ep remains crystal-clear and even truer for these modern days! Besides the more obvious hard feelings among the crew, the machine presents a more seductive trap. Will: “Why work when the machine can do it for you?” I’ve had discussions on other boards, somewhat heated at times, over the very real notion that children no longer need to be taught proper handwriting, spelling, arithmetic, etc., for that very reason: “Why work when the machine can do it for you?” Or perhaps substitute “app” for “machine”. LIS explores this theme again in “The Questing Beast,” which I think deserves higher regard than it is often accorded.

One might ask how the alien came to collect the machine, but then again, this being LIS, asking such a question is probably fruitless (unlike Will at the end — a very nice touch!) I suggest that the machine had some sort of failsafe device designed to prevent exactly that sort of abuse, which triggered something like the Tauron transmat beam or a dimensional warp. In any case, when Will throws open the door which moments before had been some sort of control room only to find the desolate outdoors — VERY creepy and chilling!

Believe it or not, I’m about to bring something back full circle here. What is it about Smith’s last request that offends the machine, or its makers? I suggest that it is not just that he asked for a servant, or even a slave. I think that it is the implication that he is trying to create a =living being=. Now — remember the fisherman’s wife who wanted to be God? I suggest that hubris is Smith’s real offense here, that he is trying to take upon himself the power and privilege of God, or the gods, if you prefer — that being the original and literal meaning of the word. And just as classical Greek tales ended in the downfall of those guilty of hubris, so does Smith.

John’s homily at the end, that Smith “could have had anything he wanted, but… it wasn’t enough. He wanted more.” conceivably bears out this interpretation: if you accept that “anything he wanted” refers to strictly material possessions. John also tells us that, “The alien meant only good,” leaving no doubt that it was not the machine itself which was bad, but only the way they all abused the gift.

Just a couple more technical observations. Very nice camera effect as Smith carries the machine back to the alien, an unusual (for the time) hand-held wobbliness. The alien himself is effective. The blank knobbled face grows increasingly disturbing, particularly as there is no clue as to his emotions or intentions, and the way he walks with his claw-like hands turned outwards give him quite a ghoulish look.

So, bottom line: quite good and satisfying, in classic LIS style. John’s sermonizing may be a bit heavy-handed, but the points he makes are, I think, quite valid in any time and on any planet.


The Raft

I liked this better than I thought I would. From the first time almost 3 years ago now, I had misremembered a few things, and missed the significance of a couple of others. Although a solid story, I don’t think it will be one of my favorites. The pacing seems off, somehow, and like the raft itself, the story just doesn’t seem to take us anywhere.

Still, there are a number of high points. The first I caught was Smith’s allusion to the Robert Burns poem, “Tae A Louse”: he states that he has the “gift of seeing myself as others see me,” a close paraphrase (in more English English) of “O wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us/To see oursels as ithers see us!”

This ep also features the first — and possibly ONLY time — Smith is wrongfully accused of mischief! He has naturally fallen under suspicion of being responsible for the missing fuel; Will, of course, speaks up and acknowledges his own guilt.

A lot of the science in this is actually quite good. Aside from radioactive decontamination of the reaction chamber with a fogger (as if radioactivity was a germ), there is some reasonably accurate talk of plasma and a plasma engine — both of which are currently favored possible means of space travel. I’m not sure if there is a long history of proposals to use balloons as an
ascent vehicle, but that too is actually also a current idea, primarily, I think, in context of small satellites; see here:

Will Robinson was truly ahead of his time!

Also, though it takes them some time to figure it out, using two receivers to fix the position of a radio source is exactly the correct procedure to do so.

The only real bobble is the whole premise of using this lifeboat as a way back to Earth. Despite Smith’s attempt at rationalization, there is just no way a craft like that could make it to Earth in a lifetime — let alone a naptime! Of course it hasn’t — I think I should say the implausibility is West and the Robinsons thinking it was possible. This also suggests that they have figured out where they are and are no longer “lost” so much as “stranded” in space. Well, we have much deeper implausibilities later on.

One technical oddity, I think: at about 7 minutes, John is fretting over the fuel and Will’s wasting it. His line starting “I’m not blaming him” sounds odd, compared to the rest of what he and Maureen are saying, there’s a flatness to how it sounds. I think it was dubbed in.

The Robot is getting some attitude! Calls Smith a bag of wind. Unless I’ve missed it before, it’s the first time Smith calls the Robot a ninny (just a ninny, none of his more colorful adjectives).

When will hits the retros, the controls look like what appear later in the Pod.

When John shoots the plant monster with his laser, it’s quite different from the big black S1 guns we’re used to seeing. Very sleek, looks metallic.

A taste of what might have been, when Judy says goodbye to Don. Too bad, there was real potential in that relationship.

A very nice scene where Will asks Smith to be a substitute father. Smith appears genuinely touched, and if anything can be taken from this ep, it would be the cementing of this odd relationship. I think Will and Smith really love each other (in a familial way, of course), and even though Will is asking Smith to take care of him here, we know of course that most of the time it is Will who takes care of Smith! Moments after this though, the two are trapped in the Garden of Anti-Eden, and Smith quickly reverts to type.

I think that’s what I mean when I say that I feel this episode really takes us nowhere. Other episodes we meet new characters (a plant monster doesn’t really count), we get some character development or new insight, or the overall story advances some way, whether some new discovery or even some setback. This sort of — just happens.

So bottom line — a tentative thumbs up.


One Of Our Dogs Is Missing

Just some random observations here.

Opening sequences with the meteor shower quite good and dramatic.

A good example of Maureen being a strong leader, and not the stereotyped housewife some have made her out to be. A couple times in this ep she must put up a strong front for John. But what about that hair?!? In the nighttime scene where the 3 ladies are out in their jammies, Maureen’s hair is down past her shoulders! Her daytime hair isn’t put up. it is just short.

The actual monster is quite good — like a demonic bigfoot.

Maybe I was thinking of this when I did my “Golden Man” rewrite; I also had Maureen speak of “the men” being away despite Smith being there! (“I heard that, madam!” he responds.)

Silliness starts when Smith thinks the dog is the alien … but it IS appropriate how the dog snarls at Smith!

Despite Penny’s excitement over having a dog, it’s strange she doesn’t bother to name it. All she ever calls him is “Puppy” of “Fella.”

For real — what kind of dog is that? Got the nasty manner of a chihuahua. Not the right proportions for a corgi. Just a mutt?

One interesting continuity footnote, when Maureen is reading John’s notebook on native life, he theorizes that the giant was some sort of mutant, and an interesting bit of (probably unintentional) foreshadowing: he also says that the mutants may develop by “trying to absorb one of us.” Monster Plant Judy, anyone? Another slight discontinuity — after the dog runs off, Smith is explaining to Judy & Penny how it is really an alien spy, and mentions how it picked up the laser gun, and Penny responds, “He thought it was a stick.” But at the time, the gun’s disappearance is a mystery and we don’t see it explained.

Regarding another question I recall hereabouts, from a couple years ago: both Maureen AND Judy are armed — and dangerous! Not Penny though, although I know in another later episode there is some reference to both of the girls being armed. And speaking of the guns – what IS Smith thinking of when he takes them all apart?! I thought for a moment that maybe he was deliberately leaving them defenseless as a sort of gesture toward the invaders he fears — but both his attitude when Maureen confronts him, and the ominous music accompanying the scene, seem to contradict that notion.

One odd bit, an outside sequence, when the monster is lurking near Penny and the dog is snarling and barking about him as Penny holds him, he turns and seems to snap at her hands! I suppose he’s trying to respond to some training cue and doesn’t like being held on to!

For all the times someone goes missing from the ship, I think this is the only time someone (Don) finds footprints to follow (Judy’s) . . . on a planet 99% sand . . .

Just a few quibbles — is it the meteor storm that stirs up the monster? I think that’s implied but not really stated. And I wonder too — maybe the dog was supposed to be fatally injured fighting the monster — that would explain his disappearance afterward — but such a scene, even the implication, was edited out, just as Plant Judy’s death/disappearance was cut out of the next episode. I’d guess that as pretty unlikely though.

All in all, not bad. I think it was more an excuse to get another cute animal into the show — notice we don’t see Debby in this one? — and maybe a bit of a trial balloon to see if they’d keep him.


Attack of the Monster Plants

Definitely one of the better ones. I think this would have been much better regarded critically had it kept what I understand its original title was: simply, “The Cyclamen.”

From the top, then:

Interesting reaction from Smith at the beginning, as first John, then Don are pulled into quicksand by the vine. He is clearly torn, knowing he should help, but paralyzed by fear. He does the second best thing, crying out for help, which summons Don. Only when Don too is taken by the vine does he try to help — too little too late? And then when the danger to himself becomes too great does he flee. Obvious enough, but what a contrast to the Smith of just a few episodes ago, who ordered the Robot to murder any he came across, and was ready to just abandon any others to death! He does have a better nature — it’s just not very big or strong. He does revert to type then –better nature soundly thrashed– as he saunters into camp and casually asks Will to take a rope down to the drill site. He clearly expects both men to be dead by the time Will arrives — and himself well away from suspicion of dereliction of duty.

Something ambiguous about the plants — at what point does Smith discover that the duplications are no good? He has already made a huge cache of canned goods and shaving kits when he shows the trick off to Will, duplicating the deutronium canister. He makes a point of sending the duplicate back with Will, and is then lavishly careless with the precious real stuff as he pours it into his hand and back into the canister, allowing numerous granules to fall to the ground. He shows no surprise as John discovers the duplicate is little more than a tumbleweed, or hears what is evidently his real plot uncovered — simply that he meant to hold on to the real stuff as insurance. So why so many duplicate canned goods? Did he really do all that before getting hungry and discovering that the duplicates were worthless? It couldn’t have been to set up the gag — he had no idea that Will would happen along with a full canister beforehand. Oh, by the way, here is one joyous place where modern science has finally caught up with Lost In Space’s insight and prescience: yes, you can finally purchase . . . CANNED BACON! Surely this is no less important an advance and gift to Mankind than the alleged development of the modern cell phone from the little “communicators” (aka “walkie talkies”) which featured so prominently in “That Other Series”. Well, I guess the whole mystery is one of things which must just be written off as “That’s how they wrote it.”

Right after that, when Smith approaches John for one last shakedown with his deutronium as leverage, and John promises that they will take him along “if it’s humanly possible”, John grins as he turns away — I’m sure he is just taunting Smith with the whole act, and fully intends to take him along. (As is his performance just after when Smith announces the plants have eaten the fuel.) We can’t expect anything less of Commander Robinson!

An amusing ad lib? Penny, holding Debbie, asks Smith if he will tend her garden if he is left behind: Debbie stretches out a hand and puts in on Smith’s arm. Smith smacks it away indignantly! There’s a similar bit in “Magic Mirror”, and Smith puffs, “Unhand me, madam!” I’m sure West too is enjoying tormenting Smith with the prospect of abandonment, even as Will states he can build a launch capsule for Debbie!

The plants seem to have some kind of psychic power. There is an almost fairy-tale like feel to the scene where Judy watches the one flower unfold, and is drawn in to lie down to sleep in it That whole scene with Judy approaching the blossom, climbing in, and snuggling down is –dare I say it?– vaguely erotic. (I’ll skip discussion of the symbolism of unfolding blossoms!)

This is, needless to say, a tour de force performance for Marta, probably her best role and best performance in the whole series. I can’t help but think she missed her niche and that she would have been much in demand for horror genre shows.

Regarding my comment at the top, had the original title been kept, Maureen’s line to Plant Judy when they are at dinner, offering her cyclamen hearts, and Judy’s brusque refusal, would have been a lot more effective. As it is, the word “cyclamen” is not connected to the plants until afterwards, when they have engulfed the J2.

An interesting detail, is this the only time we see the “neutron gun” which Don tries to cut back the plants with from the Chariot? It resembles the laser but I believe is entirely different. When I had the privilege of speaking with Marta Kristen at the Chicago Hollywood Show 2 years ago, she specifically mentioned that nothing was shown regarding the fate of Plant Judy because they didn’t want to show anything that might disturb younger viewers. It seems to me they might have shown her just going back into one of the blossoms herself, as a fairly peaceful resolution, but then again, ending with real Judy being rescued seems more than adequate.

Food for thought: the British film “Day of the Triffids” (1963) was still fairly new when this episode was made; possible influence? The scene towards the end, with the monster cyclamen engulfing the ship is certainly reminiscent of the Triffids, as is the final scene, cutting through them with the freezing gas (the Triffids’ vulnerability was seawater, and the protagonists in that movie had a similar scene at the end, with firehoses fed from the ocean.) Also, this episode rather foreshadows the notorious Vegetable Rebellion, and suggests a better treatment of the theme.

Finally, this may be one of the last episodes where we see Smith at his evil, devious best: none (or little) of the camping about he later becomes known for. Possibly the only criticism which might be made is that the plants themselves might have been a little better done, but given the sheer volume of them, that was likely prohibitively expensive, even had Irwin Allen not been a notorious cheapskate. Let alone whether technology of the time COULD have done more. (I’m not sure the Triffids themselves were much better — I’ll have to watch that again now!) Finally finally, note that the whole tone of this episode is much darker than what we are used to.

All in all, definitely a winner.


Return From Outer Space

A Happy New Year to all! And wishing everyone a magnificent 2015! To kick off the year, some more of my rambling thoughts on “Return From Outer Space.”

Ah, the good old days of Lost In Space, where there was a sense of continuity and not just random stories! Or was it just a convenient way to indulge Mr. Allen’s urge to re-use props?

In any case, seeing the Tauron transmat device again does give us a comfortable feeling that we are in the same place and witnessing an ongoing adventure. And of course the continuing mission to find fresh deutronium also gives a sense of progress and purpose.

A possible mis-spoken line? When Debby is tinkering with the transmat, Penny says, “Get down there!” Surely it should be “Get down here,” or “Get down from there,”? And speaking of Penny, how is it that neither Will nor the Robot note her absence when returning to the ship? (Smith, we assume, neither notices nor cares, once he has the giant egg!) Seems John or Maureen would have asked after her, after the others had returned. Will DOES ask, after the carbon tetrachloride issue is introduced, but by then it has been quite some time — long enough for Smith to have prepared and eaten his giant omelet.  

One thing that this episode does so very well is to convey the terrible frustration Will suffers trying to get anyone to believe him — his family, the Four Corners boys, the adults on Earth. He displays a number of uncharacteristic outbursts of temper, even to Aunt Clara. I’m sure many of us can remember similar feelings of powerlessness from childhood, and I’m sure this also resonated well with the the show’s young audience at the time. Although this theme repeats a number of times in the series with both Will and Penny, here it really strikes home like a punch in the stomach.

Even though he faces the same from his parents upon his return, Maureen virtually echoing Clara and the other townsfolk, at that point it works almost as comic relief, since we know that a happy resolution is at hand.

Unlike most episodes, this one gives us a pretty definite chronology — Aunt Clara states that the J2 lifted the year before, and from the tree we can assume it is near Christmas — thus setting this in December of 1998 (wow, the FUTURE!) A very minor quibble is that Will and Robot both speak of co-ordinating to “Earth” time, but considering those two, I would have expected them to refer more specifically to Eastern time. Considering that Will really had no idea where he would end up, that may seem unlikely, but he may have been thinking 

that since Alpha Control is located at Cape Kennedy, it is at least appropriate. Greenwich Mean Time would have been more “correct”, I think, as that is the commonly used point of reference in things navigational, but I can see that as making too many complications for the story.

It would have been nice and added a bit more closure if we could know what happened when Alpha Control finally turned up! If there was any doubt, Will’s broken radio was still there as conclusive testimony. Nearly the whole town saw Will go up in the transmat beam, so I don’t think Alpha would have any doubt that Will Robinson had really been there. But what could Will have told Maj. Mason? Not much more than could be concluded, as it is. Alpha now knows that the expedition is alive and well, but lost and stranded. Someone might remember Will had mentioned “Priplanis,” but I doubt that would have any meaning to Alpha. I think in that sense, Will’s primary mission was a success, despite his feeling that he had failed.

I’d still like to know just where Penny was while in the beam at the beginning — when she reappears, it is clear that she’s had no awareness of time passing! Just sort of  . . .  nowhere . . . nowhen . . . ? (cue Twilight Zone theme)

Quite a dramatic moment too, when the Robot turns on Smith and gives him both barrels! That is a Robot on a mission, and he is NOT going to let Smith’s nonsense stop him. I like too how he turns Smith’s brainwashing session back on him: “Dr. Smith is incapable!”

Note that this episode marks the first appearance of the future Mrs. Irwin Allen, as Ruth Templeton — looking rather more svelte than she does later as Brunnhilda!

I’ve read that there were a few alternate endings written for this, but the others included alternate solutions to the carbon tet problem: this would have made Will’s trip pointless, if one accepts the implicit premise that he otherwise failed in contacting Alpha Control for rescue.

So definitely one of the best, and one to trot out for the cynics.


The Keeper

(Parts 1 & 2)

This is often mentioned by fans as a favorite, and little wonder. An amazing guest star, Michael Rennie as the titular Keeper: best known as the alien visitor from The Day The Earth Stood Still. And a plot premise which reaches to the heart of what it means to be human, as the Keeper discovers, to his dismay: “Is this thing you call freedom so precious?”

I’m not sure if this has already been advanced as a theory, but does anyone else think that the ground-level entrance to the Keeper’s ship is simply an elevator up to a higher level? We get no direct visual suggestion of this, but the simple fact that the main deck we see inside is a central area with corridors leading off from it matches with the full picture of the ship we see, and the “ring” deck is quite high up off the ground. Also, there is obviously some vast space below that main deck, where the giant spider is kept. There is clearly no room for that area underneath what we see as the bottom deck/entrance area.

Caught one small blooper! At the beginning, when the Keeper has planted his staff in the ground and it has sprouted, and he makes a comment about forgetting to turn it off, he turns his back to the crew. As he turns, and before the shot cuts to him at the staff, you can see it still in his left hand! I’ll have to get that posted up in the video gallery soon.

I’ve mentioned how often LIS episodes make allusion to various bits of folklore and such: this makes a couple. Most obviously, after Don has broken the Keeper’s staff with Will’s slingshot, John makes the comparison to David and Goliath (although David presumably wielded a sling, not a slingshot.) Before that, when the Keeper calls down cosmic energy to recharge the staff, the scene is strongly reminiscent of Charlton Heston as Moses in The Ten Commandments; the blooming of the staff itself calls to mind the Exodus account of Aaron’s staff blooming into almonds, and also the post – Scriptural account of St. Peter’s staff taking root and flowering on the outskirts of Rome. His mission itself is not unlike another Biblical character’s: he specifically mentions how he is collecting specimens, males and females in pairs. Finally, his use of sound to call creatures –and children! – after him: is he not a Pied Piper as well?

All that, though, is largely incidental to the primary statements that Mankind suffers captivity poorly, and that we can love one another to the point of making the most absurd sacrifices for each other.

You know, every so often you’ll hear the sarcastic remark that if there is other intelligent life in the universe, it will obviously be too intelligent to come here. I think I agree with that, though maybe not in the way it is usually meant. Quite a few aliens tried getting the better of the Robinson crew, and they all learned that Mankind is NOT to be trifled with. I can’t remember if it was John’s line in another episode or maybe another show entirely, but it was to the effect of what the aliens see as our frailties are really what make us so strong.

Yeah. Aliens may be slow learners, but they wise up quick.

Anyway. Great episode. Special effects maybe not that great, but probably as good as can be expected for the era. Hey, anyone else notice that the owl-bat linking Parts 1 & 2 makes no other appearances? Probably the only monster that doesn’t suffer from re-use! Nice use of Smith at the end, and he’s wretchedly evil through most of it. All the cast gets decent screen time. Oh and when Penny “gets the call” and says she wants to go for a walk, doesn’t she get the scariest grin on her face?! So definitely a winner and one we can be proud of.

= = =

The Sky Pirate
Probably the first episode which might be accused of being deliberately campy.*

Guest star Albert Salmi’s performance as Alonzo P. Tucker pushes the boundaries of hamminess, yet has an intriguing soft center. He is rather befuddled by Will’s hero-worship. I still debate the meaning of his farewell confession/rant to Will about being nothing more than a petty thief. Is that the truth? His second season appearance with the rest of the pirate gang seems to belie this conclusion, but it is unfair to this episode to analyze with such foresight. Anyway, I suspect it is truer than otherwise, despite his obviously illicit possession of the forecaster/planet buster.

One detail which I’m unsure is meant as a joke: telling of his capture by aliens, Tucker says his abductors were “Tellurians”, who are a “Fine bunch of people once you get to know them.” “Tellurian” is actually the somewhat obscure but nevertheless correct name for Earth people! From the Greek “Tellus”, our world’s proper name. So a joke, or just a neat-sounding name which scriptwriter Carey Wilber picked up at some point without realizing exactly what it was? Another odd little detail: at the end, when Tucker walks off, he walks right through the middle of the garden!

One slight continuity error — when Will is testing the forecaster and told to think of his family, there is no visible result, only the wall against which the other visions have been projected. But moments later, Maureen says there was “only darkness”, an odd choice of words for what we in the audience saw. I think there was supposed to be an effect there of just a blank, black screen which got omitted. Still, this is tremendously powerful scene for Maureen, and I’ve noted elsewhere how this shows her unstereotypical strength and courage — no screaming, no hand-to-forehead gasps of terror or fainting. Just the understanding that the end is near. Maureen and the girls are sometimes accused of being stereotypical shrinking violets who are likely to jump up on tables shrieking at the sight of a mouse. There is certainly something to the accusation, but we must remember that this show was a product of the times, when some things we now consider stereotypes were just plain facts of life. But Maureen, Judy, and Penny all FAR transcend the stereotype and are very atypical women . . . for ANY era.

Ah, speaking of our favorite spacegirl. Very little screen time for Penny in this one, and no dialog. Boo.

Well, I can’t close this without mentioning one of the best-remembered guest stars of the entire series: the robot parrot! Tucker’s sidekick certainly added a memorable charm to this ep, and their relationship is a kick. The parrot too has much more of a personality than our poor B-9 has at this point.

So bottom line, this one is a lot of fun, and showcases some of what was really good about Lost In Space, the love and the family, and holding together in the face of danger. Definitely top rank!

*That’s a bit of an oxymoron, since campiness implies the intentionality which otherwise yields kitschiness.



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3 responses »

  1. Happy Hoildays. ILove Lost in Space forever.Thank yu, MS.Frances Yozawitz

  2. paupatto says:

    No, the hot comet in ‘The Derelict’ was not consistent with the science of the times. Astronomer Fred Whipple proposed the ‘dirty snowball’ theory of comet nuclei in the 1950’s. I already knew that comets were ‘dirty snowballs’ when I first saw this episode as an eight year old and was annoyed by the hot comet. Irwin Allen needed a science advisor to keep up with the space crazy kids of the 1960’s.

  3. P.H. says:

    The first season of “Lost In Space” was easily the best one. Episodes like “Wish Upon A Star” and “The Challenge” were great stories that were very well done (Kurt Russell should have gotten an Emmy for his performance in the latter one.) “War Of The Robots” scared me very badly the first time I saw it and was quite instrumental in making me write my own (really awful) “stories” at a very young age. John Williams’ music was top notch; he was clearly an excellent composer long before he went on to “Star Wars”. The only thing I would have changed about the first season would be to have it in color like the other two…and maybe get rid of Smith permanently somewhere during it. I respect Jonathan Harris’ work on “Lost In Space” much more now than I did when I first saw him on the show over forty five years ago, but I hated how he changed the overall tone of it once the first season was over.

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