Lost in Space (Original TV Series)

So for the first time since I was a kid, I started watching this again. I think I was inspired after doing another MST3k marathon (Joel drew inspiration from Will Robinson).

Maybe everyone else here knows this (I didn’t because I started watching when it was in reruns), but it turns out that the second and third seasons were very different from the first largely due to the Batman TV series. So Season 1 started out as a fairly serious sci-fi adventure show with hints of the direction it would eventually take in the form of Dr. Smith’s (Jonathan Harris) hijinks, and starting with Season 2 they started making it campier and shooting not just special effects, but everything in color.

The camp factor irritated some of the cast, but Jonathan Harris began to annoy them even more as he began to take over the show. Originally, he was a last-minute addition and he was totally bored with what he was given. Partway into the first season he began to suggest changes to his character and to the story writing, and was given more and more license to implement these ideas. Eventually, he completely took the show over and by the end, episodes usually focused on him, the Robot and Will Robinson (Billy Mumy).

Other fun facts I didn’t know:

[li]In the first episode, the spacecraft occupied by the Robinsons was called the Gemini 12. Later, it would be referred to as the Jupiter 2.[/li][li]John Williams composed the score in the opening/ending credits (both versions). Not sure about the in-show music. (Probably recycled?) [/li][li]Guy Williams, who played Dr. John Robinson, had made his name in Zorro and Lost in Space was his last acting role before he retired to Argentina. He also played a cop in I Was a Teenage Werewolf, which was featured in an MST3k episode. Apparently after retiring, he talked other Zorro cast members into moving down to Argentina with him, where among other things he formed a traveling circus. [/li][li]Jonathan Harris’ character was a last-minute addition. At the start of the show – particularly in the first few episodes – he played the role strictly as it was scripted, and so very seriously. He carried himself as a very believable enemy spy and not as the bumbling, clownish Dr. Smith we would later come to love. Later, he began improvising and eventually obtained permission to rewrite his character and all related dialog as he saw fit. Fascinating contrast.[/li][li]Irvin Allen was a cheap bastard, and reused props and sets from other things. “Well they had just worked on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, you see…Irwin Allen was not know for spending money, and so he used [monster props and costumes] in Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and in Time Tunnel and in Lost in Space.” – Harris on Conan [/li][li]Bob May (the actor who played the Robot) was a smoker, and during shoots other actors would often look over to see smoke coming out of the Robot. Eventually Irwin Allen began using this for certain special effects. [/li][li]Because the suit tended to cut actor Bob May’s legs, it was later modified. The legs were fused together and a new lower section was created without anything below the knee, leading to a new nick name, “Bermuda shorts”. [/li][li]Billy Mumy had a crush on Angela Cartwright for the first and second season, and made his move in the second or third season. They were an item for a while and at one point were even engaged, but later broke it off.[/li][/ul]


[li]Jonathan Harris as a guest on Conan, in which (among other things) he’s asked to insult Pimpbot 5000[/li][li]Jonathan Harris featured in Biography (I can hear Crow saying that in his Peter Graves voice)[/li][/ul]

Wow, that brings back some memories. Thanks for posting this, barstein. Are the old episodes available for streaming anywhere or would a fella have to track down the DVDs somewhere? I’m really keen to see season one now, because I mainly remember Dr. Smith as a total goofball.

Also, I wonder if Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea holds up at all. I vividly remember being freaking out by an episode where they’re trapped in a bathysphere and a whale attacks them.


For streaming I have to confess that I’m not as Hulu savy as I wish I were, but it looks like all you have to do is go to Hulu and from there it all boils down to what sorts of ads you want to put up with. Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea is also available on Hulu.

I really loved Lost In Space when I was a kid. So much so that I can still recall both of the opening theme songs (I vaguely recall they used the more frenetic/orchestral one for the black & white season, and then switched to the “spacey” one when they switched to color). Sadly, a lot of the episodes (especially in the latter seasons) were pretty horrible. Horrible as in the plots were fairly bog-standard with the trappings of space (hey, it’s a space miner… a space gladiator… a space circus… a space <insert something pedestrian here>). It’s especially weak when you compare them against something like the original Star Trek, which was on at the same time and which had, in general, so much better writing.

However, once you get past the predictable plots, it’s a great cheesy space show.

I loved the other Irwin Allen shows of the era - I saw some Voyage To The Bottom of the Sea but I really ate up Land of the Giants (talk about cheezy!), as terrible as that show was. I missed Time Tunnel when it was originally on, and I’ve never really watched it, though my wife recalls it fondly.

Horrible as in the plots were fairly bog-standard with the trappings of space (hey, it’s a space miner… a space gladiator… a space circus… a space <insert something pedestrian here>). It’s especially weak when you compare them against something like the original Star Trek

Which had space Romans, space gangsters, space hippies, and space Nazis. Fun fact: CBS turned down Trek because they felt that one “adult” SF series was enough.

Anyway, every few years my company hires old TV stars to appear at the home & garden shows that we produce (they sit around and sell their photos/autographs for a few dollars but generally draw a large crowd and attendees seem to love them), and as manager of these shows I get to spend quite a bit of time with them. Ruth Buzzi is one of the sweetest people that ever came down the pike (I helped her “ransom” her stolen pocketbook and took her to breakfast a couple of times), Jon (Timmy from Lassie) Provost and I spend a bit of time talking about how stupid collies are in real life, and Ken (Eddie Haskell) Osmond is the sort of bitter old drunk that only comes from years of being a cop in LA.

Anyway, we just hired Marta Kristen (Judy Robinson) to appear at one of our shows, but it’s a year away. I always had a crush on her, and she’s aged very well. Here she is a couple of years ago at some comic con:

Not bad for an old broad of 70. Now all I have to do is convince my wife not to come to the show.

Probably my number one favorite as a kid.

Highlight of my young life was meeting Jonathan Harris down in St. Thomas, I might still have the autograph somewhere. Also, had one of the show’s asst producer sit next to me on a plane when I was reading a Lost in Space novel.

I didn’t watch this show but I have a Lost in Space themed anecdote.

When I was in college, I had a professor who was just a big dork. He was head of the theater program (and therefore my favorite teacher) and the syllabi for his courses were always filled with Star Wars quotes. He often ended class by encouraging us to “Live long and prosper”. It was awesome.

He always started the first day of classes by going around the room and having everyone introduce themselves. Just normal stuff - where you’re from, what year you are, what clubs you were etc etc. In one of them, a girl introduced herself as Nicole Mumy. He jokingly asked “Oh, related to Billy Mumy, I assume?” She kind of rolled her eyes and said “Yeah, he’s my uncle.”

Well, my professor proceeded to freak the fuck out and spent the next fifteen minutes asking her questions about Lost in Space, most of which she didn’t have the slightest clue on how to answer. Eventually we moved on, but as I was leaving I saw he had cornered her and was peppering her with more questions. When he called on her, he would always call her by her full name and sometimes threw “Niece of Billy Mumy” in there for funsies. She had a good sense of humor about it and it usually cracked up most of the class.

Great professor and a really nice and cool guy.

I regularly record Lost in Space and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. They are on Me-TV here at midnight and 1 AM. Voyage still holds up for me. YMMV of course.

I watched it, but it started to grate on me after a while - pretty much when Dr. Smith, Will, and the Robot took over the show. A little of that went a long way.

I remember on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea that they were able to directly splice in scenes from The Lost World because David Heddison was in both. Did like it when they got Robby from Forbidden Planet as a guest on Lost in Space.

Lost in Space was an afternoon rerun for me as a child, and I loved it. It was good SF – jetpacks, the spaceship getting knocked off course in space, weird aliens and then alien humans running into the crew all the time, and Dr. Smith and the rest. I still remember him stealing a big chunk of a birthday cake for someone else by slicing out a huge piece in the middle of the cake and the pushing the two halves together and smoothing over the icing so his theft would be hard to see. He was fun.

The 60’s and early 70’s had some interesting TV shows. Lost in Space, Batman, Time Tunnel, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Land of the Giants, The Invaders, and others.

I don’t know about other kids, but there was always something murkily fascinating about camp actors to me as a child (maybe it’s a thing for kids generally? cf. “pantomime”) and Harris’ character was just brilliant. It may have ended up being “his” show, but it was none the worse for it.

Also, in an odd way, Lost In Space educated me a bit as to how special fx were done - the “seams” were so obvious in LiS, even to a child, that you could extrapolate that to bigger budget things and see the seams there too.

Williams’ theme tune was electrifying, and it was cool to learn later on that it was the John Williams.

The best bit about LiS though, to me, was the weird atmosphere of this planet being there and these people being stuck, yet all these interesting things coming to them.

It seemed like a wonderfully busy lost planet.

They moved around a lot, looking for a way home. It was a wonderfully busy several dozen planets.

As a follow up, I watched a lot of this show as a kid, but I always preferred the black and white season. It had two advantages over the later ones: the plots were more serious because Smith hadn’t become the focus of the show yet, and bad effects are more noticeable in color.

Incidentally, I’ve always loved Vernor Vinge’s trope of the approaching-the-Singularity “family camping kit” - a cheap, off-the-shelf item that has things like luxury nano-assembled domicile, invulnerable force bubbles, unobtrusive AI-controlled drone cloud with micro-nukes equivalent to all the ordnance of WWII, etc., etc.

Perfect for the wholesome All-American family off exploring the Universe on holiday!

Yeah this show definitely did a 180 in style. Dr. Smith went from sinister to buffoon and the whole show got goofy but in its first season it really showed promise as a serious sci-fi show. I still enjoyed it as a kid, pretty much in the same way one would enjoy Batman or Gilligans Island. It would have been interesting if they had stayed the course they set in the first season.

So I, uh, got the Lost in Space movie from Netflix. That didn’t go very well. What a big messy turgid wreck.

Although it’s really weird to see Lacey Chabert as a little kid.


After Party of Five, I was surprised on how grownup she was in that movie…LOL

The most amazing thing about the movie is Bloop, the CG alien monkey. Look at this thing.

Someone thought this was a good idea. I know it was supposed to be an updated version of Debbie, but come on!

Having never seen Party of Five, I don’t have any frame of reference for Lacey Chabert pre-Mean Girls.

And, yeah, that CG Jar Jar creature was singularly awful. They’d have been better off using the real monkey wearing the alien ears hat.


I remember as a kid eventually seeing the pilot or perhaps it was episode 1 where Smith was very dangerous and mean. It really confused me after watching all the other seasons first.

My favorite alien was the guy who played the huge Carrot like alien!