Lost in Space/Early Science Fiction
Lost in Space was a sci-fi television series (1965 – 1968) that spun-off of the adventures of the Space Family Robinson, a comic book published by Gold Key Comics in 1962. Husband and wife scientist team, John and Maureen Robinson, were selected from millions of families and tasked with traveling into the future in a spaceship, the Jupiter 2, to seek out another planet to colonize because Earth was becoming dangerously overpopulated. Also, along for the mission, were their daughters, Judy and Penny, son, Will, U.S. Space Corps pilot, Major Don West, Dr. Zachary Smith and a clunky (state of the art) robot.
The Robinsons and Major West were space pioneers, seeking out a planet suitable to sustain human life; and thus, relieve the massive overcrowding on Earth. Little did they know that Dr. Smith, who was working for a foreign government, boarded the spaceship prior to its launch. He was tasked with reprogramming the ship’s robot and do away with the crew, who were in a state of suspended animation for purposes of the mission. All this in hopes of sabotaging the American mission. Although he successfully reprogrammed the robot, he became trapped and was soon an unwilling space traveler. Due to the extra weight on board, added by Dr. Smith, the ship veered off its intended course and became trapped in a meteor shower and was lost in space! When the Jupiter 2 finally touched down, the mission changed from an exploration to a fight for survival.
The adventures begin as the crew is revived and Dr. Smith is discovered to be aboard the ship. The realization set in that Dr. Smith had sabotaged the mission and that they may never get home. Not only would they not make it home, but the future of mankind was hanging in the balance. To add insult to injury, Dr. Smith was responsible for their hopeless predicament and continues to add to the dilemma by being self-centered and incompetent. Each episode seemed to center around one of his misadventures.
Now knowing what they did about Dr. Smith’s sabotage, the crew did the best they could to get along in hopes of survival. Professor John and Major Don all but despised him, the ladies only tolerated him and Will seemed to be the only one able to get along with him; most likely because they had the same maturity level. Although the robot was not human, it possessed limited, robotic “emotions” and was smart enough to dislike him too! Dr. Smith and the robot had a hate/hate relationship.
Knowing that he was not endeared to Professor John and Major Don, Dr. Smith usually took out his frustrations on the robot. He routinely popped off its control panel, making adjustments which caused the robot to malfunction. At times the robot would alert the crew to dangers by flailing and waving its arms around, announcing, “WARNING, WARNING!” Another catchphrase the robot used was, “That does not compute!” The Dr. usually referred to the robot by some silly names including, “Bubble Headed Booby.”
Initially, Dr. Smith was portrayed to be an evil foe working for another government, which was never named on the show. As the series continued, he was portrayed as less of a spy and more of a cowardly, lazy, sniveling nuisance who was always putting the group in danger. Although he had instigated the primary hiccup causing the spaceship to become lost, he never really showed much interest in helping anyone other than himself. There was one episode where he attempted to travel back in time to change his actions, thereby never causing the problem in the first place. I will note, however, that his purpose was only to change his own fate. Obviously, his endeavor did not go as planned but uncharacteristically, saved all their lives by aborting the mission.
The crew was very resourceful and worked very hard; all but Dr. Smith. They cultivated a hydroponic garden after the robot tested the soil giving its approval. This being part of the mission to determine if humans could inhabit the planet. In addition to the garden, the ship was stocked with protein pills allowing for proper nutrition. They often ventured out to explore their surroundings, on foot and by using an all-terrain vehicle and jet packs. For protection, they had pistols, laser guns, force-fields and space suits. Transmitters were also used to communicate among themselves.
From time to time, the crew experienced natural catastrophes making it necessary for the spaceship to take off again into space. It always landed on another strange planet with challenges of its own. As the plot progressed, the exploration mission took more of a back seat to the antics of Dr. Smith. Many episodes included aliens, monsters and other strange creatures thought to be part of the future and space travel. Penny, the youngest daughter, found and kept a chimp-like creature with pointed ears she named, Debbie. The only sound the strange pet uttered was, “bloop.”
CBS aired the Lost in Space series, which they, ironically, chose to produce, over Star Trek. The destiny of the Robinson family, Major West and Dr. Smith was never known to viewers because the series was unexpectedly cancelled prior to the fourth season. Personally, I always thought that Judy and Major Don would get married and live happily ever after. One thing we know for sure is that a low budget, at times comical rendition of science fiction, won out over Star Trek, the embodiment of sci-fi.
- Dr. John Robinson/Guy Williams
- Dr. Maureen Robinson/June Lockhart
- Major Don West/Mark Goddard
- Judy Robinson/Marta Kristen
- Penny Robinson/Angela Cartwright
- Will Robinson/Billy Mumy
- Dr. Zachary Smith/Jonathan Harris
- Robot (Unnamed) performed by Bob May; voice by Dick Tufeld