Lost in Space is a science fiction family adventure show that aired from 1965 to 1968 detailing the adventures of the Robinson family (mom Maureen, dad John, older daughter Judy, younger daughter Penny, young son Will), space pilot Don West, conniving Dr. Smith, and a robot. The series was inspired by The Swiss Family Robinson, and its origins can be traced back to a 1962 comic book series called The Space Family Robinson.
Lost in Space lasted three seasons; the first was in black and white and, by all accounts, is considered the best, as the entire cast received ample coverage. When the show moved to color, focus shifted almost entirely to the misadventures of Will, the robot, and an increasingly over-the-top Dr. Smith. Stories also reportedly suffered, delving more into fantasy and camp (giant carrot aliens, anyone?) instead of actual science fiction – much more geared towards juveniles than Lost in Space’s contemporary, Star Trek.
You may remember the film remake that came out in 1998 starring William Hurt and Joey from Friends. You may also remember hearing about the failed 2003 remake; the sets ended up in the Battlestar Galactica remake. Netflix is currently developing yet another remake for the near future…
But this review is about the first episode, itself is a remake of the first pilot (which didn’t have Dr. Smith and the robot at all).
In the far-off year of 1997, humanity’s been dealing with an overpopulation crisis and lack of resources. Hope lies in Jupiter 2, a spacecraft designed to travel to Alpha Centauri to establish a new colony for humans. The Robinson family has been selected for this incredibly important mission “for its unique balance of scientific achievement, emotional stability, and pioneer resourcefulness.”
Here Comes Dr. Smith
As the Robinsons (all wearing crude silvery jumpsuits) prepare for their mission, Dr. Zachary Smith secretly boards Jupiter 2, following orders from an unseen organization to sabotage the mission. He reprograms the onboard robot to sabotage the ship’s systems exactly eight hours after launch.
Unluckily for Dr. Smith, he gets trapped aboard the ship just as it takes off. His extra mass veers the Jupiter 2 off course into the path of meteoroids.
Problems to Solve
Smith awakens Major West (Jupiter 2’s pilot) and the Robinsons from suspended animation, and they try to repair damage to the ship from meteoroid impacts. In a way-too-long scene, the ship’s artificial gravity is taken offline, and the kids have fun floating around.
Things calm down for a moment before Smith remembers that he programmed the robot to sabotage the ship in eight hours, which is…right about now! He’s unable to stop the robot, and the Jupiter 2 heads off into hyperspace, going faster than light.
The robot is subdued and Jupiter 2 finally stops in an unknown region of space, cut off from all communications from Earth. Lost.
John Robinson puts on a space suit and heads outside to do more repairs on Jupiter 2, but his tether to the ship snaps, and he floats away. His dear wife Maureen gets ready to go out and rescue him.
I heard the first season, especially the first five episodes (the only real serialized portion of the show) were a bit darker than what came later. Even still, this episode felt pretty light and had plenty of silliness, mostly from the kids.
For its time, the production values were pretty good. The set and costume designs were still firmly rooted in the sci-fi aesthetics of the era, with flying saucers, ray guns, and shiny outfits.
It’s still essentially a kids (or family) show. Very light with plenty of comic relief. There’s no moodiness or sobbing as one would expect to find with characters in the position of being lost in space.
Dr. Smith, played by the Jonathan Harris, is the most memorable in this episode (and perhaps the show). We spent the most time with him, so it was pretty much from his point of view. An interesting development, considering he wasn’t even in the show’s first pilot. He’s selfish and self-serving, but his duplicitous nature and the execution of his schemes were fun to watch. One can’t help admiring him.
The rest of the characters didn’t really do much of anything memorable. Don is clearly the archetypal “action guy” of the group, the Robinson kids are kids, and the Robinson adults are science-types.
Out of everyone this episode, the daughters received the least characterization. I can hardly recall them saying more than a line or two! The mom was pretty cool at the end when she volunteered to rescue her husband. I wonder how that’ll go down in the next episode.
The robot was pretty neat-looking and clearly similar to Forbidden Planet’s Robby…which makes sense considering they’re both designed by the same person!
What really got me was the pace. It was so slow, and I felt the characters kept running in circles to solve their problems. The plot of the episode could have easily been told in half the runtime.