Lost in Space
The Complete Second Season

Starring: Guy Williams, Billy Mumy and Jonathan Harris
20th Century Fox
RRP 49.99
Certificate: PG
Available 05 July 2004

When the stability of Priplanus, the planet that has been their home for the last year, is threatened by an unscrupulous prospector, the crew of the
Jupiter 2 must prepare for a hasty blast-off. Free from the planet's gravity at last, will the Robinson clan be able to find their way to Alpha Centauri, or back to Earth, as Dr Smith would prefer, or will they remain lost in space...?

Well, of course it's the latter, otherwise this series wouldn't be called Lost in Space!

Nevertheless, the escape from Priplanus comes as a breath of fresh air at the outset of this season, which was the first to be made in colour. I have a fondness for the space-bound adventures that traditionally kicked off each season of Lost in Space (presumably to justify the show's title and win over new viewers), even though one of them, Wild Adventure, isn't exactly a classic. The Ghost Planet fares rather better, with an apparent voice from Earth proving to be far from friendly, and the Robot (voiced by Bob May) seeming to rebel against his human masters.

However, the fourth episode, Forbidden World, brings the Jupiter 2 crashing back to terra firma for the remainder of the season, as it lands on a nameless planet that looks remarkably similar to the last one they were on!

Few episodes are as simultaneously enjoyable and risible as Forbidden World, which on the one hand boasts some hilarious moments with the cowardly Dr Smith (Jonathan Harris) and a paranoid alien called Tiabo (Wally Cox), while on the other presenting some enormous lapses of logic. Despite the supposedly poisonous atmosphere outside the spaceship, the crew of the Jupiter have no qualms about opening both the inner and outer airlock doors at the same time. Perhaps their force field can keep the gases at bay, but that doesn't explain why Will (Billy Mumy) elects to leave the ship without the protection of any breathing apparatus. Later on the boy takes his life into his own hands again, by failing to remain a safe distance away from the explosive Dr Smith.

Other duffers include Rocket to Earth which, despite the presence of The Munsters' Al Lewis, never really gets going. The rocket doesn't enter into the plot until the last 15 minutes of the show.

Mutiny in Space is similarly mundane, and is one of several episodes that transplants elements from Earth's history into an interplanetary context. Mutiny might be best described as Mutiny on the Bounty in space, while The Thief From Outer Space apes The Arabian Nights, West of Mars harks back to Westerns, The Questing Beast plays on the archetype of the dragon-slaying knight, The Space Vikings deals with - yes, you guessed it - Vikings, and Treasure of the Lost Planet features an old-fashioned search for a pirate's treasure.

The sheer number of these not particularly futuristic storylines does become rather tiresome, though Treasure of the Lost Planet is easily the best of the bunch, aided by the return of Captain A P Tucker (Albert Salmi) from the first season's Space Pirate. West of Mars is also quite enjoyable, due to a dual performance by Jonathan Harris as Dr Smith and his double, a vicious gunslinger called Zeno. This instalment also features some very odd "open-air" (though still studio-bound) sets, which predate the two-dimensional illusory Wild West depicted in the Star Trek episode Spectre of the Gun.

And talking of odd, a Special Award for Weirdness should go to Wreck of the Robot for its sinister hat-wearing, stocking-faced, whispering aliens. They reappear in the season finale, The Galaxy Gift, though it is unclear whether they are supposed to be of the same race of beings (none of the regular characters comment on the resemblance) or whether this is just a case of cost-cutting costume reuse. (The finale also reuses the Keema and frog-alien masks from The Golden Man.) The Astral Traveler is almost as strange, featuring as it does a ghost called Hamish (Sean McClory) and a monster called Angus (Dawson Palmer).

Often touted as a fan favourite, The Golden Man isn't all it's cracked up to be. It gives a decent-sized role to Penny (Angela Cartwright), who befriends a frog-like alien (Ronald Gans), just as she befriended the disembodied creature in the first season's My Friend, Mr Nobody and later assists the dragon Gundemar (voiced by Sue England) in The Questing Beast. However, its moral of not judging people by their looks is very simplistic (Doctor Who's contemporaneous Galaxy 4 has a markedly similar plot) and is undermined by the fact that the evil Keema (Dennis Patrick) proves to be very ugly indeed. (There's a thought: maybe he's called Keema because he resembles curried meat!) The presence of a pathetically unthreatening minefield of beach balls further detracts from this episode.

No, for me the real highlights of this season are the aforementioned The Ghost Planet, as well as The Prisoners of Space, The Android Machine, The Dream Monster, The Cave of the Wizards, Revolt of the Android, Trip Through the Robot, The Phantom Family and The Mechanical Men.

Despite being a clip show, The Prisoners of Space is a refreshingly different episode. The Robinsons face the unusual threat of being put on trial for breaking some galactic laws. The clips in question, all taken from the gripping opening two episodes of the first season, actually make a useful reminder to viewers of the story so far.

The Android Machine introduces us to the android Verda (Dee Hartford) and the Celestial Department Store, elements that would make return appearances in Revolt of the Android and The Toymaker respectively. This episode also boasts some hilarious lines from the Robot, one of which made me laugh out loud!

The Dream Monster succeeds in involving the entire cast, by depriving most of the Jupiter crew of their human qualities. Similarly, The Phantom Family gives several members of the cast the opportunity to play something different, as personnel are replaced by android duplicates. The latter episode also features one of the series' most impressive alien masks: that of Lemnoc (Alan Hewitt, sounding remarkably like Alec Guinness).

The Cave of the Wizards is a moving story of alien possession, which is marred only by Jonathan Harris' habit of pronouncing the alien Dranconian's name as "Draconian". This episode also features some sinister scenes in and around a phoney Jupiter 2.

Trip Through the Robot gives us a Fantastic Voyage-style view of the Robot's inner workings, which include a heart-like pump and a mechanical immune system. The tense final act is only slightly spoiled by some silliness regarding the Robot's return to normal size (as if a tree trunk could impede the progress of shrinking metal).

There's further Robot appeal in The Mechanical Men, in which the bubble-headed booby is asked to lead an army of diminutive robots (actually Lost in Space toys produced by Remco) and undergoes a personality swap with Dr Smith.

But my absolute favourite episode from this season is Revolt of the Android, which sees the return of Verda and introduces a super-android killing machine called IDAK (Don Matheson). As well as undergoing a similarly heart-warming humanisation process to the one that Verda went through in The Android Machine, the character of IDAK also spoofs the appearance and abilities of Superman. How the production team avoided getting sued by DC Comics is beyond me!

The screen time is even less evenly shared among the cast than it was during Season One. Aside from The Deadly Games of Gamma 6, which focuses on John Robinson (Guy Williams), and The Golden Man, which gives a prominent role to Penny, the series is dominated by Dr Smith, Will and the Robot. Marta Kristen as Judy suffers the most, only coming close to any kind of prominent role in A Visit to Hades.

The character who develops the most during this season is undoubtedly the Robot, who proves to be capable of deception in The Ghost Planet and feels jealous of Verda's superior abilities in The Android Machine. Evidently his sense of inferiority drives him to improve himself, since he later demonstrates a degree of telepathy in Wreck of the Robot and is able to detect the true nature of the humanoids (human-like androids) in The Phantom Family.

Despite inequalities between the ensemble cast, this is a fine collection of episodes. And there are so many of them: thirty 49-minute episodes for less than 50 quid!

Barring a few persistent scratches on certain sections of film, each instalment is well presented - and very colourful! Like the original series of Star Trek, Lost in Space treated the advent of colour television like a kid with a new toy, really emphasising those bold, primary colours. In a few instances, perhaps the episodes have been re-mastered too well - for example, you can quite clearly see the wires holding up the spaceship in Forbidden World and an operator's shadow inside the android disposal device in Revolt of the Android.

The special features, such as they are, comprise short radio interviews with Guy Williams, June Lockhart (Maureen Robinson) and Jonathan Harris from 1966, which are accompanied by automatically advancing stills galleries. It's a pity that the stills couldn't have been selected to better accompany the subjects discussed in the interviews. That's it for features, but when you have so many hours' worth of episodes to watch, who needs extras?

Only Season Three left to go now.



Richard McGinlay

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