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Lost in Space

Entry updated 16 August 2021. Tagged: Film, TV.

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1. US tv series (1965-1968). An Irwin Allen Production in association with Van Bernard Productions for Twentieth Century Fox Television/CBS. Created by Irwin Allen, also executive producer. Story consultant Anthony Wilson. Writers included Peter Packer, William Welch, Bob and Wanda Duncan, Carey Wilbur, Barney Slater. Directors included Harry Harris, Sutton Roley, Nathan Juran, Don Richardson, Sobey Martin. Cast includes Angela Cartwright, Mark Goddard, Jonathan Harris, Marta Kristen, June Lockhart, Bob May, Billy Mumy, Dick Tufeld (narrator) and Guy Williams. Three seasons, 83 50-minute episodes. First season black and white; colour from second.

Lost in Space was aimed primarily at children. The Robinsons' Spaceship is sabotaged by an enemy agent, causing them to crash-land on a remote planet. The group consists of the family of five Robinsons – the series was originally to be called Space Family Robinson – along with young male co-pilot Major Don West (Goddard) and the whining, scene-stealing saboteur, Dr Zachary Smith, played to comic yet sinister effect by Harris; the Robinsons themselves comprise the parents Dr Maureen Robinson (Lockhart) and Dr John Robinson (Williams), daughters Judy (Kristen) and Penny (Cartwright), and son Will (Mumy), who is the youngest. There is also an unnamed Robot (May; voice dubbed by Tufeld), whose catch-phrases are "That does not compute" and "Danger, Will Robinson!" Though supposedly remote, the planet soon becomes a stopping-off point for practically every space-travelling Alien or Monster in the galaxy, each episode seeing the arrival of some new visitor. After the first season the Robinsons got back into space themselves. As the series progressed, young Will and the ambiguous Dr Smith became the central characters, together with the robot, while the others receded more and more into the background. The stories, at first straight sf, became more and more fantastic. Lost in Space was probably the most enjoyable of Irwin Allen's many excursions into televised sf.

The scenario is very similar to that of the 1963 Comic Space Family Robinson from Gold Key Comics (see Ib Melchior), which soon changed its name to Lost in Space. A novelization is Lost in Space (1967) by Dave Van Arnam and Ron Archer (Ted White). A less than satisfactory animated film version appeared in 1973 (see 2 below). The film Lost in Space (1998), based on the television series, was directed by Stephen Hopkins and novelized by Pat Cadigan as Lost in Space: Promised Land (1999). [JB/PN/DRL]

2. Made-for-tv animated movie (1973). Hanna-Barbera Productions. Directed by Charles A Nichols. Written by Fred Freiberger. Voice cast includes Sherry Alberoni, Michael Bell, Jonathan Harris, Don Messick and Vincent Van Patten. 45 minutes. Colour.

In this offering from The New Saturday Superstar Movie series (the second season of The ABC Saturday Superstar Movie), the main cast was altered and reduced to five, comprising commander Craig Robinson (Bell), younger than John; geologist Deanna Carmichael (Alberoni), who resembles Judy but is smarter; Craig's young brother Linc Robinson (Van Patten) in Will's role; Dr Zachary Smith (Harris), name (and actor) unchanged, here a Professor of Biology from "Earth University"; and the robot, Robon (Messick).

The space shuttle Jupiter 2 gets caught in a meteorite storm during a routine flight to Saturn (see Outer Planets) and finds itself in an unknown star system – Craig conjectures they hit a Space Warp, which Robon declares to be feasible. After crash-landing they are befriended by the Alien Throgs, peaceable frog-like natives, who explain their planet has been invaded and polluted (see Pollution) by the robot-like Tyranos (who had attacked the ship and crew). Deanna deduces that "Instead of a blood stream [the Tyranos] life-force is electricity", and that they travel in pairs because "one [is] a positive, the other a negative." This knowledge enables them to confront the Tyranos and discover they are refugees embittered by having trusted those who stole their planet: they are talked into changing their ways, and peace is made with the Throgs. The Spaceship is repaired and departs.

Intended as a pilot for a tv series that was not commissioned, this film is forgettable: the plot lacking in excitement, the animation lifeless. Unlike the 1998 film, it did understand that Dr Smith's personality is the show's main draw, giving him plenty of screen time – unfortunately his cowardly self-serving oleaginousness loses its charm when cheaply animated. More positively, Deanna has a strong role, whilst the Tyranos aren't just one dimensional villains. [SP]


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