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"Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!"—The Robot
Classic Camp sci-fi series from the Sixties that lasted three seasons. Featured the adventures of the Space Family Robinson, Major West, the Robot and shanghaied saboteur Dr. Smith as they search for Earth, after they become Lost... In Space.
Lost in Space was a rival for Star Trek the Original Series in the realm of serious sci-fi, which might explain the show's turn from serious Speculative Fiction into Fantastic Comedy to keep a share of the viewing audience. Notable for its beautiful music (including two opening themes by Johnny Williams (as John Williams was then known), sets, skin tight ski-spacesuits, aliens, inventive and surreal plots, and highly articulated Robot, itself a "cousin" of Robbie from the film Forbidden Planet (who also guest starred on the show). The original plot had the Robinsons as explorer/settlers, with Dr. Smith as a saboteur paid to program The Robot to kill the Robinsons and ruin their mission. The first episodes were in black and white and involved exploring the planet they crash-landed on. When the show shifted to Camp it involved their conflicts with resident or visiting aliens of all sorts.
May well be one of the classics of sci-fi for no other reason than the scene-chewing Large Ham glory of Jonathan Harris (Dr. Smith) and his pained and witty repartee with the Robot. While its going from serious to camp may well have been a blow to later efforts at serious sci-fi, it was nonetheless a surreal joy to watch. The recent attempts to reboot it as a serious series may be doomed to fail because of this, as it's best remembered as a humorous series.
The series received a film adaptation in 1998. It was a modest box office hit but often dismissed as a "dim-witted shoot-'em-up" by critics. An attempt to create a television remake in 2003-2004 went nowhere.
The ensemble consisted of:
- Prof. John Robinson - Head of the family and mission, The Professor and The Captain. In the comic book he seems to have been a minister as well. In the series played by Guy Williams, in the film by William Hurt. The would-be revival cast Brad Johnson in the role.
- Maureen Robinson - Mother and occasional Only Sane Woman. She was an extremely old-fashioned Housewife, a little lacking in the brains department. (In the pilot, it was mentioned that she had a PhD in biochemestry, something that was never brought up again.) In the series played by June Lockhart, in the film by Mimi Rogers. The would-be revival cast Jayne Brook in the role.
- Major Don West - The Lancer and The Ace pilot. In the series played by Mark Goddard, in the film by Matt LeBlanc. The would-be revival cast Mike Erwin in the role.
- Judy Robinson - Distressed Damsel and perpetual love interest to Major West. She could get annoyingly wangsty in episodes centering on her. In the series played by Marta Kristen, in the film by Heather Graham. The would-be revival cast Adrianne Palicki in the role.
- Will Robinson - Boy Genius, Morality Pet for Dr. Smith and occasionally a Creator's Pet. In the series played by Bill Mumy, in the film by both Jack Johnson and Jared Harris. The would-be revival cast Ryan Malgarini in the role.
- Penny Robinson - Not old enough to be a sex symbol like her sister nor as smart as her younger brother, Penny usually just took up scenery. Friend to All Living Things and, despite being ignored, got a few A Day in the Limelight moments, which often involved wars. In the series played by Angela Cartwright, in the film by Lacey Chabert. The would-be-revival had not included this role. Considered an Ensemble Darkhorse by many.
- Dr. Zachary Smith - Jerkass, clown and Large Ham, ineffectual, cowardly traitor and Too Dumb to Live when it comes to dealing with aliens. Frequently infuriated by The Robot. In the series played by Jonathan Harris, in the film by both Gary Oldman and William Todd Jones. The would-be-revival had not included this role.
- The Robot - Genius Bruiser and Tin Man with a kind heart. Frequent foil to Dr. Smith. In the series, played by Bob May and voiced by Dick Tufeld. Tufeld returned to the role for the film. The would-be-revival had not included this role.
Lost in Space provides examples of:
- Adaptation Distillation: The short-lived comic book written by Bill Mumy, who played Will and later played Lennier on Babylon 5, is remarkably well done.
- Ancient Astronauts: An episode where the cast encounters the Norse gods.
- Animated Adaptation: After the series was canceled, a pilot for a cartoon version was created. The show was completly changed - the family was no longer the Robinsons, the Jupiter2 completly redesigned into a more rocket looking space craft, the Robot given a much more generic robot voice, Dr Smith a member of the crew from the beginning - the only things remaining from the original series being Dr Smith (voiced by Johnathan Harris), the Robot, and the fact that they were ...well.. lost in space.
- Asteroid Thicket: The first episode, "The Reluctant Stowaway"
- Auto Kitchen: The Robinsons eat food provided by one in the episode "Wild Adventure".
- Beard of Evil: The Keeper has a pretty serious one.
- Bigger on the Inside: Between the pilot and the first aired episode, a second deck was added to the Jupiter 2, with no modification of the FX miniature. While clever direction and the ship’s status as a crash-landed derelict hid this through the first season, the more spaceflight oriented episodes of the second and third seasons soon made it obvious that the interiors couldn’t possibly fit inside the exterior. Made worse when a third-season episode gratuitously added yet a third, ridiculously large, “power core” deck, which was then never heard from again.
- Brick Joke: A particularly funny one in "Two Weeks In Space". In the middle of the episode, The Robot hits a shuttlecock impossibly high in the air while being a Badminton coach. At the end of the episode, Dr. Smith is hit by that same shuttlecock.
- Captain's Log: Only when it was serious.
- Catch Phrase: Dr. Smith's "Have no fear, Smith is here!" boast.
- Conflict Ball: John to Will in the movie when being merely neglectful somehow wasn't enough to make him a bad father.
- Cloning Blues: The cast were cloned by exotic means far too many ways to list. Most clones were bad: a few were good.
- Conspicuous CG: Blaarp, the comic relief alien monkey in the movie. While most of the effects hold up fairly well, the CG for Blaarp was terrible even for the time
- Cower Power: Doctor Smith from Lost in Space would cower behind Will Robinson at least once an episode. Sometimes the Robot, for variety.
- Crush! Kill! Destroy!: The Trope Namer. This line is often mis-attributed to The Robot who does use the term "Destroy" several times in the pilot during his rampage. It's Killer Android IDAK Alpha 12 who says this in the episode titled, "Revolt of the Androids." Despite its use in only one episode, it became a more famous line than "Destroy" and was thus attributed to the main character robot.
- Did You See That Too:
- Dude, She's Like, in a Coma: The sleeping princess of the lost civilization.
- Dueling Shows: The great contemporary rival of Star Trek, which CBS passed over for this series.
- Easily-Thwarted Alien Invasion: In "Invaders From The Fifth Dimension" Will Robinson is abducted by a group of aliens who are repulsed by the sight of tears due to being unable to understand emotions, and eventually let him go as a result.
- Explosive Instrumentation: In spades.
- Expy - In the film, Spider Smith is a combination of The Thing and Edgar Bug's true form in Men in Black
- Fake Guest Star: Jonathan Harris, who plays Dr. Smith. He was originally going to be killed off after the first few episodes, but he was such a fun character that they decided to keep him around and left him with the "Guest Starring" billing in the credits.
- Fantastic Voyage Plot: In one of the more clever episodes, Will Robinson and Dr. Smith find a severely malfunctioning robot who has become a giant due to his problem. The two have to physically enter the robot's body to fix him. However, the major complication is that they know that the second they are successful, the robot's body would start shrinking to normal size and they would have only seconds to escape before they are crushed. Naturally, the pair escape just in time before it was too late.
- The Film of the Series: a 1998 movie that attempted to reboot the series as generic science-fiction action.
- Follow the Leader: The character of Gaius Baltar in the "new" Battlestar Galactica is almost indistinguishable from Zachary Smith.
- Food Pills: Protein pills in "The Hungry Sea" and "The Space Trader".
- "Friend or Idol?" Decision: In this case it was a means to return home.
- Friend to All Living Things: Penny in spades. Even towards big, slimy, anti-social Frogmen.
- Frying Pan of Doom: Judy Robinson wields one in "Welcome Stranger", knocking Jimmy Hapgood out during his fight with Don. As a Call Back in the season two episode "A Visit To Hades", she tries this again with a pipe, only this time she hits Don instead of the guy he's scuffling with.
- Genre Blind: Probably as a side effect of its transformation into a disguised Sitcom.
- Genre Savvy: However, they occasionally showed some remarkable flashes of savviness -- such as in the episode where they met the Norse gods, and Dr. Smith employs the Robot's replicator and his wits to manipulate them using a challenge not unlike one from Norse Mythology.
- Get Back to the Future: "Visit To A Hostile Planet".
- Green-Skinned Space Babe: The character originally named Lorelei in "Wild Adventure," then renamed Athena in "The Girl from the Green Dimension."
- Harmless Freezing: The suspended animation "freezing tubes" in several episodes and the movie's first act. Also the prison inmates in the episode "The Condemned Of Space".
- Here We Go Again: The penultimate line in the film. Doesn't quite come to fruition.
- Hypnotize the Princess: Penny in "The Promised Planet".
- Hunting the Most Dangerous Game: "Hunter's Moon"
- Idiot Ball / Idiot Plot: In the movie, John Robinson is going to Alpha Prime to lead the team that will begin contruction of the Hypergate that will connect to Earth, being in stasis for the ten year journey there. In that time, the Earth Gate will be hopefully completed in Earth orbit. Sounds good, except it won't have anything to connect to! Construction at Alpha Prime won't even begin until he arrives and when he does, it should take another ten years to build their Gate! Thus, it will take 20 years until the project is complete, the exact amount of time the planet has left until it dies. Either no-one realises this, or they do and don't point it out, but either way, isn't this plan cutting it pretty close, Doc?
- Jerkass: Dr. Smith, in both show and film.
- Jet Pack: Used a few times. They actually filmed a stunt pilot using a Bell Rocket Belt.
- Just Eat Gilligan: Substitute Dr. Smith for Gilligan
- Lampshade Hanging: At least one example: In the season two opener, "Blastoff Into Space", the fact that the Robinsons seem to have any object no matter how improbable or unlikely with them on the ship is lampshaded when Maureen tells the family to throw overboard any non-essential items. Cut to a ridiculously large pile of stuff like bowling pins, floor lamps, a fishbowl, skis, etc.
- Large Ham: Jonathan Harris's deliciously vile portrayal of Dr. Smith. Gary Oldman, as expected, is quite the ham as Dr. Smith in the movie. Oddly enough, Penny in the movie is a borderline example. While everyone else but Oldman suffers from Dull Surprise, she (particularly in her video diaries) speaks her lines loudly and very fast, all in a very high, excitable voice.
- Latex Space Suit: A staple of the show's costuming, and featured early on the the movie as "cryosuits" for deep sleep. They are, predictably, highly revealing in their tightness (the plastic suits of the movie were literally moulded from the actors, leaving the female characters seem a little exposed in them).
- Left Hanging: Like most high-concept Sit Coms of the era it was canceled without advance warning, with the last episode "in the can" at the time becoming the Last Episode, because that's how the business was done at the time. Bill Mumy later wrote a song about his character as the group's now middle-aged sole survivor still out there with only the Robot for companionship, that qualifies as a semi-Canon Poison Oak Epileptic Tree, and it was a plot point in The Movie.
- The McCoy: The Robot, infrequently Dr. Smith
- Missing Episode: The unaired and originally unsyndicated Dr Smith-less original pilot.
- Monster of the Week: Usually an alien
- Motor Mouth: Penny, in the movie, at least in her video diaries.
- The Movie: See The Film of the Series above.
- Not-So-Imaginary Friend: The first season episode, "My Friend, Mr. Nobody", has Penny befriending a disembodied voice, that everyone assumes is just her new imaginary friend.
- Pet the Dog: Dr. Smith has enough of these moments to keep the others from killing him.
- Plot Hole: In the film, shortly before they leave, Matt Leblanc's character hits on Judy Robinson in front of her father because he doesn't know who she is. Let me repeat that. He's about to a go on a ten year mission with these people, and he doesn't. Even. Know. Their. NAMES. Are you kidding me? NASA doesn't even put together a mission to empty the septic tank on the ISS without having five fully briefed and trained alternates ready to step in if they lose a member of the team, and they're letting this guy take part in a mission to save the human race? What are they sending him along for, ballast?!
- Recycled in Space: The Swiss Family Robinson IN SPAAAAAACE!
- Science Fantasy
- Sequel Hook: In the movie, the crew are forced to use the warp drive without a gate again, sending them to potentially anywhere in the galaxy. The commentary has Akiva Goldsman excitedly talking about his plans for the sequel, which comes off as rather sad now, especially since it sounds like he was saving a lot of his better ideas for it.
- There's also some implication that the star charts from the future-ship they encountered will allow them to warp to the right place, but it's never stated directly.
- Space Pirate: Alonso P. Tucker.
- Star Trek Shake: Accomplished by Irwin Allen hitting a bucket so the cast knew which way to tumble.
- Special Guest: Robby the Robot, from the classic film Forbidden Planet, had a few appearances on the show. However, he was sneaky and conniving if not downright evil, a huge contrast to his film personality.
- The Cast Showoff: Billy Mumy, a talented guitar player and singer, got to perform Green Sleeves in one episode and Sloop John B in another. Also, Guy Williams, who played Zorro, got to show off his fencing skills more than once.
- Time Travel: In "Visit to a Hostile Planet," the characters accidentally wind up in a small Michigan town circa 1947.
- Title Drop: In the film. "There's lots of space out there to get lost in."
- Twenty Minutes Into the Future: In the pilot set in 1997, the space agency director's desk has a rotary phone, with a reel-to reel tape recorder and plenty of blinking lights on the wall behind, and not a PC in sight... but the producers deliberately did NOT make Dr. Smith a Soviet/Communist agent because they actually did guess the Cold War would be over by 1997.
The Sci Fi Channel aired a marathon of LIS episodes (including the unaired pilot) on the exact day in 1997 mentioned in the aired pilot as the day the Jupiter2 was launched.
- 2-D Space: One of the standard-bearers of its era. Verged on 1-D space in an episode where the Jupiter II was set on a course to Earth -- which was too dangerous to use because it passed directly through the sun. Apparently, the sun was too big to steer around.
- Wagon Train to the Stars: In the later seasons.
- Weird Science: Especially in the bizarre alien gadgets and the Monster of the Week.
- What Measure Is a Non-Cute?: The frog creature from "The Golden Man".
- Wizards from Outer Space: And dragons and knights and princesses...
- You Can See That, Right?: Episode "Wild Adventure". When Dr. Smith sees a green alien woman floating around in space outside the Jupiter 2, he asks the Robot "You see her, don't you?"
- You Can't Go Home Again: The series premise.
- Zeerust: Aluminum space suits for everybody!