Lost In Space

No, literally (I hate that as a title of a space article or op-ed). They’re apparently doing a reboot. I thought the show was stupid as a kid, but as my old roommate Alan Katz (and Glenn Reynolds) noted, the first season, which I missed as a kid, was actually quite dark and interesting, before it devolved into camp with the robot flailing its arms around shouting “Danger, Will Robinson.” It could be interesting. But then, I think between acclaim of The Expanse and everything exciting happening in real spaceflight, it could be new golden age for good space-based hard science fiction, in all venues.

30 thoughts on “Lost In Space”

  1. I remember it that way as well. Dr. Smith started as sinister and dangerous (a saboteur working for the Soviets?), then became comic relief. I don’t think that the robot changed as much but I could be wrong.

    I think C-3PO also started as something serious (but not evil!) then devolved to comic relief.

  2. Parker Posey as a gender swapped Dr. Smith? I don’t think Jonathan Harris would consider it a gender swap. That said, I’ve always had a thing for Parker Posey, so I hope it goes well. The trailer almost looks interesting, except for the idea that people boarding an interstellar spacecraft would be wearing really, really heavy space suits. If a spacecraft can take you to the stars in a human lifetime, and protect you against that environment…well, “launch” has to be way, way down there on the risk categories. Just sayin’.

  3. Embarrassing, yes, but I loved it as a kid. Though even I cringed at some episodes.

    Dr. Smith went from sinister to buffoon because Jonathan Harris realized he was to be killed off early in season 1. So he started injecting ‘comic relief’. And what do you know, but Irwin Allen told him to do more of it; evidently it was popular (inject Mencken quote here). Eventually he basically had control over all the scripts, modifying others’ dialogue with his character at will.

    Hey, I salute him for keeping the gig going for 3 years… 😂

  4. Most of the good stuff in the early first season came straight from the pilot episode, which did not even include Dr. Smith and The Robot. This was why there were parallel story lines early on, with Smith and Robot left in the ship while Don and the Robinsons trekked south in the Chariot. It all got spliced together over the first half dozen episodes, to the point that you have to look real carefully to see that Smith and Robot were added later.

    Unfortunately, that was as clever as the series ever got. It quickly deteriorated into formula and the rest of the cast took a back seat to the Smith-Will-Robot triumvirate. The female characters were almost never given anything important to do and the men only seemed to be brought out to do manly men things when required. Stuck on the uninhabited planet – they never got back into space until the second season – that seemed to be as much a crossroads as Gilligan’s Island, all the stories had to come to them, as it were, which made things even more ridiculous.

    How the series made it through three years, I’ll never know. Guess we liked the characters and the comedy, at some level. The series leads even staged a mutiny at the end – over the talking carrot, if I recall correctly – which is why John and Maureen only have cameos in the last episode. The pity is, it all could have been something good, with a little bit of effort.

    Here’s hoping that the producers of this new series come up with something good. But it already looks like an SJW exercise. I mean, why can’t they be going to colonize just to colonize? Why does the world have to be falling apart? Again? Please, at least, let them avoid the many mistakes of the movie version.

      1. If the Starfleet, if not the Federation, were not an SJW utopia when Pike and Kirk were in the captain’s chair, they certainly were by the time Picard took over.

        The mischievous alien being “Q” certainly posed that question to Picard, and I guess the answer is people went into space because they were not “fulfilled” or “challenged”, as in Q’s “It’s a Wonderful Life” timeline, the Picard who didn’t get into bar fights with ugly, nasty aliens ended up as a low-ranking Starfleet drone.

    1. “why can’t they be going to colonize just to colonize? Why does the world have to be falling apart?”

      …Because most folks aren’t willing to take such a terrible risk without a very strong motivation?

  5. I loved Lost in Space when I was a kid. I was a bit younger than Billy Mumy, so of course I identified with Will. Looking back, I agree with the consensus that the first season was good, and then it got silly. But that didn’t bother me much at the time.

    What did bother me was that they were stuck on the same planet week in and week out. The title implied spaceflight and my favorite episodes where when they were taking off in the Jupiter 2, flying in space, and/or crashing on yet another planet. Unfortunately those episodes were few and far between. I was like, “Come on, get that thing fixed and be on your way again!”

    I didn’t watch Star Trek at all during its original run. There was probably some other show I liked that was on at the same time; I don’t remember. But when I did finally see that show later in reruns, I still liked the Jupiter 2 more than the Enterprise. It was more a personal-sized spaceship that I could imagine tooling around the galaxy in, as opposed to an aircraft carrier that required a large crew.

    I used to build plastic models when I was a kid, and I always wanted a Jupiter 2 kit, but never found one. Many years later after I stopped building models, I finally found one and had to buy it. Alas, it remains in its box unassembled.

    1. To be fair, it got pretty silly before the end of the first season. It did start out as a reasonably serious story about people stranded on an alien planet, but that didn’t last long.

    2. In local reruns, I watched an episode of Lost in Space back-to-back with Devil in the Dark of STTOS.

      Wasn’t Nimoy mind melding with the silicone rock creature and grimacing with “The pain, the pain!” as cheesy as Jonathan Harris whining “The pain, the pain!”? Wasn’t the happy ending of Devil in the Dark where Kirk mediated between the rock creature and the miners as silly as any Lost in Space ending? Isn’t the obligatory Kirk ganging up with the bridge crew to joke at Spock’s expense as formulaic as the turning-of-tables on Dr. Smith?

      So why do we suspend belief and take Star Trek seriously, even at its Spock’s Brain campy best, but we groan at Lost in Space?

      1. You are not taking into consideration the common denominator of the day. For LIS you are hoping that while the kids are occupied by the TV when your popin’ fresh dough ad pops up, the Mom peers up from her magazine to see the recipe being featured.

        For STTOS; with that lousy 10/9pm Friday time slot, you’re hoping that your Clearasil and whitening toothpaste ads are reaching those who can’t otherwise get dates…

      2. “So why do we suspend belief and take Star Trek seriously, even at its Spock’s Brain campy best, but we groan at Lost in Space?”

        Well because even though there was “The Devil In The Dark” there was also “City on the Edge of Forever” and though there was “The Squire of Gothos” there was also “Balance of Terror”

        A lot of first series Trek was campy; but occasionally it wasn’t – even in the last season.

        Plus it has to be pointed out that if it’s a choice between the Lost in Space carrot monster or Diana Ewing – Droxine, or between Maureen setting the table for dinner worrying about John Robinson’s whereabouts or…. Mariette Hartley, well, a substantial portion of the audience would plump for Trek. 😉

      3. No, no, no, and no. 🙂

        Devil in the Dark was a very concious effort to turn around the “monster du jour” plot line used so frequently in SF, including the immortal The Thing.

    3. My experience so parallels yours I’m chuckling at it right now. Be a kid with a ray gun? Wow!

      Altho once I saw ST years later in reruns the Jupiter 2 seemed rather irrelevant.

  6. My excuse for liking the original was, I was too young to know any better. I’m still trying to come up with an excuse for not hating the 1998 movie. Maybe because they still used the guy who voiced the robot in the series? I did hate the Gleep or whatever they called it.

    I’m willing to give this reboot a chance; Galactica’s reboot turned out okay, and it took away Starbuck’s and Boomer’s Y chromosomes (not to mention Boomer’s humanity). Gary Oldman did a passable Jonathan Harris voice at times, but a female Smith might work better by putting more distance between the new and the original.

    1. Reasons for not hating the 1998 movie? How about the female cast? Mimi Rogers ably subbed in for Hall of Fame MILF June Lockhart. The sublimely gorgeous Heather Graham did likewise for the va-va-voom Marta Kristen. The cute, adorable and spunky Lacey Chabert, in her figure-hugging armored spacesuit, completed the hat-trick anent Jailbait Hall of Famer Angela Cartwright.

      1. Lacey Chabert was the only thing I remember about the 1998 movie. As I was 40 and she was 15, the less said about that the better.

        Quickly changing the subject, Angela Cartwright has her own website. She still looks quite fetching as a grandmother.

    2. The movie enjoyed a great cast, and the first half was a good set-up, but the script writers seemed to have gotten stuck after that. The second half of the film was a hot mess.

  7. Well a LIS reboot… Hm. As was pointed out the Galactica reboot was a success. And I do remember the first season as being their best (and in B&W). It would be extremely awesome if the reboot pilot was shot in b&w but doubtful…

    There are some social issues now that were not an issue in 1965. Such as who in their right mind would put their family at such risk? The spin being used now is that Earth is dying and its a matter of survival. Will they keep the lottery theme or will the dad be a renegade? Kinda of hard to believe in the renegade scenario unless the technology for spaceflight is ubiquitous, in which case the Robinson story would not be unique but a snippet of an example of flight from the pending apocalypse.

    The other issue with the original concept is the straight out of book of Genesis. How does a family sustain if it’s the only one? Or to put it more crudely, WTF have you done to your kids? No one would question where the grandkids would come from in 1965. In 2018 and #metoo this is an issue. You could get an out if a “return” was implied in the plot. But if a “return” is in the offing why send the kids in the first place?

    Some things I liked about the pilot / first season, where the science advisors were so much better than the screenwriters, was that the ship was largely automated and the crew was to be in suspended animation for most of the journey to Alpha Centari.

    In 2018 if you establish that this is NOT only a single mission but to be part of a base establishment needed for survival, then you don’t get into such thorny issues. By simple application of the group think writing that comes out of television / cable these days,
    the pending dystopian apocalypse is apparently a requirement for space migration to leave the otherwise utopian paradise any “responsible” set of adults would have made Earth by then.

    I agree, if they are smart they will keep the ship in space and not stranded on a previously unknown / uninhabited planet that some how gets more alien visits than Earth.

    Of course the blockbuster reveal in season 2 is that the “wife & kids” are all androids created out of the disturbed mind of Prof. Robinson due to a previously unknown tragedy back on Earth that for political reasons was covered up. The only other real people are the dysfunctional West, the female Dr. Smith and The Robot. But somehow they all have to figure out how to get along as they are all they have… Which sustained the original through 2 follow-on wretched seasons…. 🙂


    1. “The other issue with the original concept is the straight out of book of Genesis. How does a family sustain if it’s the only one? Or to put it more crudely, WTF have you done to your kids? No one would question where the grandkids would come from in 1965.”

      In the pilot (1st episode) of the series the narrator (actually a news anchor person) commented that the Robinson were just the vanguard. He said that it might be as many as 10 million Americans per year or some such would be following the Robinsons if there initial outing on Alpha Centauri worked out. The Earth wasn’t so much “dying” as over crowded; America was in a race with other countries to colonize the nearest habitable planet(s). That was the stated reason for Dr Smith’s sabotage; he was a paid agent of a foreign power out to wreck America’s “first space family”. So if things worked out the Robinson kid would have had plenty of people to date/marry when they grew up.

  8. I watched LIS religiously because it was about Space and astronauts and spaceships and I was (and still am) crazy about that stuff. I was disappointed when I was given the carrot monster but elated when they left the planet on occasion and traveled into space.

    I watched Trek for the same reason. And trek was pretty good a larger percentage of the time than LIS was.

  9. You could get an out if a “return” was implied in the plot. But if a “return” is in the offing why send the kids in the first place?

    Well at the risk of answering my own question, I always liked the science behind LIS (what little there was) sooo if we assume the Jupiter 2 was a relativistic spacecraft (near future, 30 years ahead or slightly more) but not capable of a hyper drive, then the suspended animation, nearly full automation (except apparently for landings) and bringing the family along makes more sense. It solves the McConaughey, er I mean, the twin paradox rather nicely. If a return is planned, Judy, Penny and Will might get the chance to date their friend’s kids when they return to Earth, they’d be about the right age, well for Judy maybe the grandkids.

    It would be great if Hollywood could break out of the mold and realize that if a relativistic drive became available that could make decadal trips to the nearest stars possible and if the first robotic probes sent to the nearest stars discovered Earth like planets nearby, then the pressure to explore and migrate to them would be there dystopia or no… It’s just another manifestation of the the “grass is always greener” principle.

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