In 1997 the Robinsons, the first "space family" of interplanetary
colonists, blast off in the Jupiter 2 bound for a new
home on Alpha Centauri. However, the mission is sabotaged
by Dr Zachary Smith, an agent of a foreign power, who reprograms
the ship's environmental control robot. When Smith is trapped
aboard the Jupiter 2 just prior to launch, his additional
weight sends the ship hurtling off course...
in Space was never going to go down in history as an example
of high-quality science fiction, with its array of daft-looking
aliens, mom's space gauntlets, space chowder and space cookies,
cosmic storms (whatever they are) and a comet that generates
heat (see The Derelict), but nevertheless it's mostly
original, unaired pilot, No Place to Hide, which is
included on the final disc of this eight-DVD collection, attests
to the vital contributions made by Dr Smith (Jonathan Harris)
and the Robot (an uncredited Bob May). These characters are
absent from the pilot, which takes itself a little too seriously
and is somewhat lacking in terms of character interaction.
Though expensive to produce, No Place to Hide couldn't
pull off the illusion of a giant Cyclops, which ends up looking
not very terrifying at all. The jaunty theme tune composed
by John (then Johnny) Williams is also conspicuously absent,
and instead we have a far moodier piece provided by the legendary
movie musician Bernard Hermann.
its now familiar music in place, together with the devious
Dr Smith and the suspiciously emotional Robot, Lost in
Space is a more easily digestible concoction. Smith's
self-interest, cowardice and avarice are constant springboards
for story development, comic relief, and tension between the
characters. He manages to annoy each of his fellow travellers
to one degree or another, though Major Don West (Mark Goddard)
remains his most overtly hostile opponent.
is not to say that the characters are incapable of dynamic
interaction in the absence of Smith. For instance, tempers
fray during The Hungry Sea, which depicts a bitter
dispute between Professor John Robinson (Guy Williams) and
is the series an entirely light-hearted affair. Dr Smith's
potentially murderous actions in episodes such as the opening
instalment The Reluctant Stowaway, Island in the
Sky and Attack of the Monster Plants are truly
despicable, while some of the alien creatures, most notably
the guardian of the wishing machine in Wish Upon a Star,
are genuinely creepy. Some episodes are quite moving too,
including My Friend, Mr Nobody, in which Penny (Angela
Cartwright) befriends a disembodied life force that learns
to love her back; War of the Robots, in which the Robot
confronts a deadly rival; and the final episode, Follow
the Leader, which is boosted by an excellent performance
by Guy Williams as the alien-possessed Professor Robinson.
highlights of this season include Return from Outer Space,
a refreshing Christmas episode in which Will (Billy Mumy)
is transported to small-town America. The Challenge
is a pre-Star Trek tale of honour and endurance within
a patriarchal culture, guest starring Michael Ansara as an
alien ruler and a young Kurt Russell as his son. His Majesty
Smith contains many classic scenes, with a duplicate of
Dr Smith perplexing the space family by being hardworking
the other hand, the least impressive instalment in this collection
is by far The Space Croppers, which features a party
of hillbillies... and a werewolf that seems like a last-minute
addition to the plot. One of Our Dogs is Missing isn't
much better, featuring a monster that abruptly buggers off
at the end of the show for reasons that aren't fully elaborated,
and a space-travelling dog whose absence from subsequent episodes
is entirely glossed over. The Lost Civilization is
let down by a distinctly Flash Gordon look to its costume
design and especially its moustachioed villain, Major Domo
of the shortcomings of the series, which can actually be rather
fun to watch out for, is its cost-cutting reuse of costumes
and props, which can range from inventive to downright desperate.
The Space Trader is one of the more desperate examples,
making obvious reuse of not only the space capsule from Welcome
Stranger but also the wishing helmet from Wish Upon
a Star. Watch out also for the very familiar creatures
that escape from the zoo in the two-part The Keeper.
These include a man-sized version of the Cyclops from There
Were Giants in the Earth and the alien from Wish Upon
a Star, with added eyes. (The same creatures exit the
Keeper's ship repeatedly, in a failed attempt to swell the
ranks of the escapees.) More creative reuse takes place in
His Majesty Smith, which recycles the impressive alien
spaceship from The Derelict as a smaller piece of technology.
The quality of the presentation is mostly superb, though the
enjoyment of The Oasis and The Keeper - Part 1
is let down by out-of-synch sound, while The Lost Civilization
is marred by some uneven sound mixing.
a point of interest, the print of Follow the Leader
included in this box set is the version whose cliffhanger
ending leads into the first episode of Season Two (the first
one to be made in full colour), rather than the version that
originally led into a rerun of the black and white Attack
of the Monster Plants. Consequently the final few minutes
of this season abruptly burst into brash and vivid colour
- you may wish to turn down the colour on your TV set to lessen
this shock to the senses!
isn't much in the way of special features, but what we do
get is essential viewing. The Smith-less unaired pilot is
a fascinating item. In its desire to impress network executives,
it crams in an array of threats to the survival of the Robinson
family, including a meteorite shower, a crash landing, a giant
Cyclops, freezing temperatures, creepy crumbling ruins and
choppy seas. Most of this material was subsequently incorporated,
not always seamlessly but often ingeniously, into the first
five episodes of the series' broadcast run. The original five-minute
promotional reel is also included.
without extras, there's no shortage of viewing pleasure to
be had with this box set. The running time is longer than
any season of more recent TV series because of the sheer number
of episodes - 29 as opposed to the more common 22 of shows
nowadays - and the duration of each episode - 49 minutes,
which is considerably longer than the mere 42 minutes we so
often have to make do with from programmes these days.
Whether you remember this show from the 1960s or from Channel
4's Sunday morning repeats in the '80s, this is a trip down
memory lane that is well worth taking.
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