Lost in Space is a science fiction TV series created and produced by Irwin Allen, produced by 20th Century Fox Television, and broadcast on CBS. The show ran for three seasons, with 83 episodes airing between September 15, 1965 and March 6, 1968. Lost in Space was the second of Allen's four science fiction television series. The show's first season was in black and white, and the second and third seasons were filmed in colour.
Smith unwittingly becomes trapped on board and is able to avoid being killed along with everyone else only by reviving the crew who had been placed in suspended animation. They manage to stop the robot and save the ship, but damage to the ship's guidance system leaves them lost in space. Eventually they are forced to crash land on an alien world where they must survive a host of weekly adventures. Smith, who was originally intended to be killed off, remains with them throughout the series as a constant source of comedic cowardice and villainy, ever able to exploit the forgiving (or forgetful) nature of the Robinsons.
At the start of the second season, the partially repaired Jupiter 2 launches again, but after two episodes the Robinsons crash land on another planet and spend the season remainder there. In the third season, they are able to travel to several other worlds in their never-resolved attempts to either return to Earth or settle Alpha Centauri, which would turn out to be impossible as it was discovered hostile aliens already had a colony there.
Following the successful format of Irwin Allen's first TV series, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, the emphasis was on creating exciting fantasy-oriented adventure stories. Each week, the show delivered a fast-paced visual assault of special effects, explosions, monstrous aliens, spaceships, and exotic sets and costumes drenched in bright, primary colors.
Unlike the other space TV show of the day, Star Trek, character development, serious issues, dramatic depth, or even maintaining a coherent story were most often secondary concerns, especially after the first season. "Don't get logical with me!" was Allen's frequent retort to writers who objected to changes to their scripts.
Allen had hit upon a winning formula, which he used to create a third fantasy-adventure show, The Time Tunnel (1966-1967), followed by his last and most ambitious series, Land of the Giants (1968-1970), all of which have become cult, if not critical, favorites.
After the Robinsons have been placed in suspended animation for the long journey, but before the launch, foreign agent Dr. Zachary Smith (played by Broadway and prominent character actor Jonathan Harris) sneaks aboard the spacecraft on a sabotage mission. He reprograms the ship's robot to destroy the vehicle shortly after it leaves Earth. However, he becomes trapped on the spaceship during the launch. His extra weight throws the Jupiter 2 off course, causing it to encounter a meteor storm shortly after launch. The robot's subsequent rampage does not destroy the vehicle, but does finish the job of getting the crew completely lost.
Dr. Smith continues to fulfill his role as saboteur and betrayer throughout the episodes, although no one maintains heavy animosity against him except Major Don West. The Robinsons (especially young Will) are often placed in danger by Dr. Smith. In the second and third seasons, Dr Smith's role takes on a far less evil overtone - and he instead takes on a cowardly sort of character who is obsessed with little more than getting back to Earth. Accordingly, his antics are much more comedic than outright evil.
In one episode, "The Time Merchant", Dr. Smith does make it back to Earth when given the opportunity to travel back in time to just before the launch of the Jupiter 2 and change his fate by avoiding being trapped on board. At the last moment he learns that without his additional weight altering the ship's course, the ship would have been destroyed in an asteroid collision. In an act of redemption, Dr. Smith elects to preserve the time line by remaining on board, thus saving the Robinsons' lives.
In addition to the Robot, the primary tools used by the Robinsons in their exploration of strange alien worlds included the twin-decked Jupiter 2 flying saucer spacecraft, a glass-walled tracked exploration vehicle called the "Chariot", and the space "Pod" (a small spacecraft modeled on the Apollo Lunar Module). On occasion, characters (notably John Robinson) used what was then an exciting new invention: the jet pack.
The Jupiter 2 spaceship and its equipment also featured several technological breakthroughs that simplified or did away with mundane tasks. The "washing machine" took seconds and packaged cleaned clothes in plastic bags. The ship had no light bulbs or even compact fluorescent lamps-- in one episode, Maureen says the lights are "transistorized". However, on the other hand, sound and voice recording technologies imply arrested technology -- reel-to-reel tape recorders instead of solid-state digital storage media.
One of the key breakthroughs is suspended animation technology that was employed only in the first and third episodes of the series.
Irwin Allen produced a pilot film for the series, "No Place to Hide". After CBS accepted the series, characters Dr. Smith and the Robot were added. The ship was redesigned with a second deck, and named the Jupiter 2. (It had been the Gemini 12.) For budget considerations, a good part of the pilot episode was reworked into the early series episodes. According to June Lockhart, the show was intended to be called "Space Family Robinson", but Disney wouldn't release the copyright.
The first season was filmed in black-and-white and was more serious in tone than the subsequent two. It chronicled the daily adventures that a pioneer family might well experience if marooned on an alien world. These included dealing with dangerous native plants and animals, and occasionally with off-world visitors.
The second and third seasons were filmed in color (in the first season, only the special effects shots were filmed in color, in anticipation of reusing shots in color seasons). These were more whimsical and fantastic and emphasized humor, including fanciful space cowboys, space hippies, pirates, and a beauty pageant.
The show aired in the same time slot as Batman (TV series), and it has been suggested that the camp tone was adopted in order to compete with Batman. There was a growing emphasis on Dr. Smith, Will and the Robot at the expense of the other characters. Smith's change in character was not appreciated by the other actors. According to Billy Mumy, Mark Goddard and Guy Williams disliked the shift from serious science fiction.
The third season had a slightly more adventure emphasis, but episodes like "The Great Vegetable Rebellion" — with actor Stanley Adams as Tybo, the talking carrot — still demonstrated humorous fantasy.
During the first two seasons, episodes concluded in a "live action freeze" anticipating the following week, with the cliff-hanger, "To be continued next week!". There was usually little ongoing plot continuity between episodes, except in larger goals; for example, to get enough fuel to leave the planet. For the third season, the episode would conclude and then a "teaser" for "next week's exciting adventure!" would show highlights from the next episode just before the closing credits began.
Stylistically, the series was of high quality, featuring what was expected for space travel at the time; eye-catching silver, tapered space-suits, laser guns and a number of spectacular props and sets, including the control cabin of the Jupiter 2.
The final primetime episode to be broadcast nationally across the USA was a cast and crew personal favorite, a repeat from the second season appropriately titled "A Visit to Hades". Starting the next week, CBS replaced the Wednesday night favorite with the fourth season premiere of the wild life adventure series Daktari in September 1968.
The show's fans tend to split into two groups: those who enjoy the more serious episodes of the first season, and those who enjoy the more over-the-top episodes that came later.
The general public now most recognizes Lost In Space via the memorable, oft-repeated lines of the Robot, such as "Warning! Warning!", "That does not compute", and "Danger, Will Robinson!" Although the latter sentence was only spoken once, different variations of it were used. Dr. Smith's frequent put-downs of the Robot are also still popular ("You bubble-headed booby!") as are his trademark lines: "Oh, the pain...the pain!" and "Never fear, Smith is here!"
Jonathan Harris (Dr Smith) and Bob May (the man inside the robot) had started out as friends to begin with - but, by the time the series eventually ended, a bit of a rot had set in - it eventually got to the stage where the older actor would not let the younger actor into his dressing room.
The theme music for the opening and closing credits was written by John Williams, who was listed in the credits as "Johnny Williams."
For season three, the opening theme was revised (again by Williams) to a more exciting and faster tempo score, accompanied by live action shots of the cast, featuring a pumped-up countdown from seven to one to launch each week's episode. Seasons 1 and 2 had animated figures "life-roped" together drifting "hopelessly lost in space" and set to a dizzy and comical score.
Much of the incidental music in the series was written by Williams and other notable film and television composers, including Alexander Courage, who contributed six scores to the series. His most recognizable ("Wild Adventure") included his key theme for "Lorelei" composed for organ, woodwinds, and harp – thus cementing this highly recognizable theme with John Williams' own "Chariot" and main theme for the series.
In the unaired pilot episode, "No Place to Hide," the opening theme music and much of the incidental music was borrowed from the 1951 classic The Day the Earth Stood Still.
A series of soundtrack CDs were released containing only background and incidental music from the original TV series.
In 1962 Gold Key comics (formerly Dell Comics), a division of Western Publishing Company, began publishing a series of comic books under the title, Space Family Robinson. The story was largely inspired by The Swiss Family Robinson but with a space-age twist. The movie and television rights to the comic book were then purchased by noted television writer Hilda Bohem (The Cisco Kid), who created a treatment under the title, Space Family 3000.
In July 1964, notable science fiction writer and filmmaker Ib Melchior began pitching a treatment for a feature film, also under the title Space Family Robinson.
There has been some debate as to whether or not Irwin Allen was aware of the Melchior treatment. It is also unknown whether Allen was aware of the comic book or the Hilda Bohem treatment.
As copyright law only protects the actual expression of a work, and not titles, general ideas or concepts, in 1964 Irwin Allen moved forward with his own take on Space Family Robinson, with characters and situations notably different from either the Bohem or the Melchior treatments (It is interesting to note that none of these versions contained the characters of Dr. Smith or the Robot).
Intended as a follow up to his first successful television venture, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (TV series), Allen quickly sold his concept for a television series to CBS. Concerned about confusion with the Gold Key comic book, CBS requested that Allen come up with a new title. Nevertheless, Hilda Bohem filed a claim against Allen and CBS Television shortly before the series premiered in 1965.
A compromise was struck as part of a legal settlement. In addition to an undisclosed sum of money, Western Publishing would be allowed to change the name of its comic book to Lost in Space.
There were no other legal challenges to the title until 1995, when New Line Cinema announced their intention to turn Lost in Space into a big budget motion picture. New Line had purchased the screen rights from Prelude Pictures (which had acquired the screen rights from the Irwin Allen Estate in 1993). At that time, Ib Melchior contacted Prelude Pictures and insisted that Lost in Space was directly based upon his 1964 treatment. Melchior was aided in his efforts by Ed Shifres, a fan who had written a book entitled Space Family Robinson: The True Story. (Later reprinted with the title, Lost in Space: The True Story). The book attempts to show how Irwin Allen allegedly plagiarized Melchior's concept, with two outlines presented side by side.
To satisfy Melchior, Prelude Pictures hired the 78-year-old filmmaker as a consultant on their feature film adaptation. This accommodation was made without the knowledge or consent of the Irwin Allen Estate or Space Productions, the original copyright holder of Lost in Space. Melchior's contract with Prelude also guaranteed him 2% of the producer's gross receipts, a provision that was later the subject of a suit between Melchior and Mark Koch of Prelude Pictures. Although an Appellate Court ruled partly in Melchior's favor, on November 17th, 2004, the Supreme Court of California denied a petition by Melchior to further review the case.
It is significant that no further claim was made and that Space Productions now strongly contends that Irwin Allen was the sole creator of the TV series called Lost in Space.
Prior to the appearance of the TV series, a comic book named Space Family Robinson was published by Gold Key Comics and written by Gaylord Du Bois. (Du Bois did not create the series, but he became the sole writer of the series once he began chronicling the Robinsons' adventures with Peril on Planet Four in issue #8, and he had already written the Captain Venture second feature beginning with Situation Survival in issue #6). Due to a deal worked out with Gold Key, the title of the comic later incorporated the "Lost in Space" sub-title. The comic book is not a spinoff of the TV series but was in print prior to the conception of the show. Also, there is an unlicensed comic in which Will Robinson meets up with Friday the 13th character Jason Voorhees.
Additional cameo appearances from the original series were considered, but did not make it to the film: Jonathan Harris was offered a cameo appearance (as the Global Sedition businessman who hires, then betrays, Dr. Smith). He turned down the role (which eventually went to Edward Fox), and is even reported to have said "I play Smith or I don't play." Harris appeared on an episode of Late Night with Conan O'Brien mentioning that he was offered a role: "Yes, they offered me a part in the new movie-six lines!" Bill Mumy was offered a key role in the film, that of an aged Will Robinson who appears in the "Spider Smith" sequences, but due to a scheduling conflict, Jared Harris was cast instead. (By coincidence, Harris would marry Fox's daughter Emilia Fox 10 years later, but they were unconnected at the time). Guy Williams, the remaining original cast member, had died some years earlier.
In late 2003, a new TV series, with a somewhat changed format, was in development in the U.S. It was intended to be originally closer to the original pilot with no Dr. Smith, but included a robot. The pilot (entitled, The Robinsons: Lost in Space) was commissioned by the The WB Television Network. It was directed by John Woo and produced by Synthesis Entertainment, Irwin Allen Productions, Twentieth Century Fox Television and Regency Television.
The pilot script featured the characters of John and Maureen, but an elder son, David, was added, as well as Judy, an 'infant' Penny, and ten-year-old Will. There was no Dr. Smith character, but the character of Don West was described as a "dangerous, lone wolf type".
It was not among the network's series pick-ups confirmed later that year.
Starting in 2004, the Lost in Space ships and equipment were built and compiled into highly detailed computer models by a small group of aging fans called Pendercrafts. They built models of the Jupiter 2, Spacepod, Chariot and Jetpack for use by fans in the popular Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004. They also built 3d scenerys transforming some areas of MSFS into a Lost in Space playground for other fans to enjoy free of charge. They have built 3 models of the Jupiter 2, each incarnation more detailed than the last.
With blueprint copies of the actual J-2 provided to them by a fellow fan, the latest model, the Mark Goddard Special edition Jupiter-2, was hailed by thousands of fans as the "ultimate" Jupiter-2 flight experience. Fans can download the models and then fly them on their own computers. The details of the interior match the actual show with authentic sounds modeled into it. Mark Goddard was informed of the model and gave his written consent to use his name and likeness to the project to Pendercrafts co-founder, Rich Taylor. There are also many videos on youtube that Rich made for enjoyment of all LIS fans. Eventually, these models will be refined to enhance the experience in Flight Simulator X.
|DVD Name||Ep #||Release Date||Additional Information|
|Season 1||30||January 13 2004|
|Season 2 Volume 1||16||September 14 2004|
|Season 2 Volume 2||14||November 30 2004|
|Season 3 Volume 1||15||March 1 2005|
|Season 3 Volume 2||9||July 19 2005|
color=red>Generalcolor=red>Utilitycolor=red>Non-color=red>Theorizingcolor=red>Environmentalcolor=red>ROBOT" with the G, U, N, T, E, and all letters in "ROBOT" in red capital letters, while all the other letters were black; some have suggested that this was supposed to convey the acronym "GUNTER".
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