A Special, Underrated Show
Lost in Space, the popular television series which aired between 1965 and 1968, was intended as an outer-space adaption of Swiss Family Robinson. Set in the “distant” future of 1997, Irwin Allen’s show was unfairly viewed as an infantile version of Star Trek. Allen never sought to match the philosophical tone of Gene Roddenberry’s series, however, and both producers considered the comparison unfair. Allen was a storyteller, and the tales sprung from his studio were frequently imaginative and quite good.
Lost in Space starred Guy Williams as John Robinson; June Lockhart was featured as his wife, Maureen; their three children were Judy (Marta Kristen), Penny (Angela Cartwright), and Will (Billy Mumy). They were accompanied on their mission by Major Don West, portrayed by Mark Goddard. After the pilot was filmed, it was decided the show needed a regular antagonist and Jonathan Harris was cast as Dr. Zachary Smith.
Smith was originally written as a villain, but Harris slowly molded him into a lovable troublemaker. Another addition to the cast was an “environmental control” robot. This machine started out as mere equipment but morphed into a member of the family, replete with a personality capable of love and pathos. These two late additions to the cast teamed with Billy Mumy and became the de facto focus of the program, much to the chagrin of Guy Williams and the other actors. This shift in focus recast the series into a fantasy/farce, but one still capable of producing many fine moments.
These were my favorite episodes.
1. The Reluctant Stowaway
This episode describes earth’s dangerous overcrowding and introduces us to the first family to reach out into space in search of habitable worlds. It tours the ship that will transport them to another world while the family sleeps in suspended animation during their five year journey. Dr. Smith attempts to sabotage the mission by reprogramming their robot to destroy the Jupiter II eight hours after launch, but is trapped on board at lift-off. His weight throws the ship off course and into the path of a meteor shower. He awakens the family in time to save the ship from both the meteors and the robot, but the ship is now hopelessly lost in space.
A lot happens for a first episode, and this show was as good as nearly anything the original Star Trek offered. The Jupiter II and the Robot had a sophisticated look and the special effects were good. The ghostly howl of the ship in flight, coupled with the family frozen in their cryogenic tubes, provided a particularly haunting image.
2. The Keeper (Parts I and II)
The Robinson’s face a powerful humanoid called the Keeper, who collects two specimens of each type of creature in the galaxy. He views humans as a primitive species and hopes through trickery to add Will and Penny to his collection. Dr. Smith inadvertently releases the Keeper’s entire collection, and the Keeper demands the children in return for recapturing the dangerous creatures with his cosmic-powered staff. The Robinson family’s compassion and spirit eventually convinces the Keeper that humans would never adjust to captivity, and he departs.
This episode makes use of virtually every monster in the Lost in Space catalog of aliens, and it is a chilling sight watching this collection of creatures leave the Keeper’s ship. This is the only two-part episode throughout the run of the series.
3. Visit to a Hostile Planet
The Jupiter II exceeds the speed of light and propels the Robinsons back to Earth, but to their dismay they have traveled back in time to 1947. The locals consider them aliens and form a posse to capture them. Dr. Smith, delighted to be back on Earth in any time, dons a disguise and aids in imprisoning the Robinson family. The Robinsons only want to leave without incident, and Will finally convinces Smith to let everyone go. Fearing the loneliness he would endure stranded in Earth’s past, Dr. Smith reluctantly abandons his plan to stay and rejoins the family.
The mixture of futuristic and mundane images is captivating, with the Jupiter II sitting in a parking lot and the Robinsons wandering about a saw mill in their flight suits inspecting old cars and trying to use a telephone.
4. Follow the Leader
John Robinson’s body is possessed by a long-dead alien named Kanto. As Robinson, Kanto reveals plans to repair the Jupiter II and leave the planet. He is oblivious to the strain he places them under as he mercilessly pushes for completion of the project. The Robot concludes that Robinson is possessed but the family finds this difficult to accept. Kanto eventually reveals his purpose first to Dr. Smith and then Will, just before intending to kill the boy. Will manages to reach out to his father and John Robinson frees himself from Kanto’s influence.
Guy Williams does a masterful job of portraying an “evil” Professor Robinson, and one feels a true sense of menace as the personality of John/Kanto dominates the rest of the family.
5. Condemned of Space
The Robinsons repair the Jupiter II and return to space, lifting off just before a comet destroys the planet they inhabited. After accidentally losing the Robot in space and dodging a supernova, they rendezvous with an alien space station in hopes of finding equipment to salvage and use in the Jupiter II. As they explore the station they discover it is a prison ship, filled with convicts frozen in suspended animation. Dr. Smith frees one of the prisoners who, upon learning the station’s clock monitoring their time served has malfunctioned, attempts to liberate the other captives and stage a revolt. John Robinson repairs the clock, and the prisoners are freed to pursue new lives as rehabilitated citizens.
This episode includes the second appearance of “Robby the Robot” from the movie “Forbidden Planet”.
6. Flight into the Future
The Jupiter II approaches a bright green world while Will and Dr. Smith check the systems in their space pod. Smith accidentally launches the pod and Will is forced to land on the mysterious planet. The Robinsons swiftly follow in the Jupiter II. After their landing, Will and Smith succumb to fatigue and stop for a nap. When they awaken they find themselves 270 years in the future. There they discover the remains of the Jupiter II, a statue of the Robot, and their own descendents, including a look-alike of Judy. The three learn they have been subjected to illusions created by a mysterious computer designed to frighten away intruders. The Robot blasts the computer with a bolt of electricity, and the danger is ended.
The vision of the rusted, abandoned Jupiter II is an interesting sight, and the costume provided Judy’s “descendent” showcased Marta Kristen’s considerable beauty.
7. Space Creature
The Jupiter II is trapped in the gravitational field of a mysterious planet, its atmosphere a strange mixture of methane and an evil, living organism that feeds on fear. A mist forms over the ship’s viewport and the Robinsons are frozen into immobility. While suspended, a giant claw moves across the viewport, the airlock is opened, and some of the mist enters the ship. As the family goes about their business, they begin to disappear. Maureen first, then Judy, and next Penny all vanish into thin air. At first Dr. Smith is relieved to believe only the women were vanishing, but Major West also disappears and finally all are gone but Will. Dr. Smith inexplicably returns to the ship, but is possessed by the malevolent force attacking the family and menaces Will. Will learns the creature is his own inner, evil instincts and realizes it cannot hurt him. He forces it to flee Dr. Smith’s body and finally tricks the creature into venturing too close to the ship’s power core, where it is destroyed.
This episode had the mood and feel of Agatha Christie’s popular novel, “And Then There Were None”, with the inevitable disappearance of the family.
8. The Anti-Matter Man
The John Robinson and Major West of an alternate universe seek a means to escape into the Robinson’s world. The evil John does exactly that, physically forcing our John Robinson to replace him in the anti-matter realm. Convincing the family he is one of them, he pushes to make repairs on the Jupiter II and blast off. The Robot determines what has happened and joins Will in trying to rescue his father. The alternate John forces Will to aid him, but the real Robinson escapes and catches up with them. A battle ensues, and the evil John falls into a realm between universes.
This episode was similar in tone to “Follow the Leader”, with Guy Williams again portraying an evil John Robinson trying to repair the ship and leave before the truth about him is discovered. An “anti-matter Robot” was an intriguing sight to behold.
9. Collision of Planets
A group of alien “Hell’s Angels” are assigned the task of blowing up the planet Chromo because of its unstable orbit. Unfortunately, the Robinsons land there to make repairs on the Jupiter II. John Robinson and Major West approach the hippie demolition team to explain their predicament, but they are unfazed. If the family is on the planet when it explodes, that’s just too bad. Meanwhile Will, the Robot and Dr. Smith find a case filled with demolition materials and open it. A strange gas seeps out and initially appears to kill Dr. Smith, but instead turns his hair green and gives him superhuman strength. With his newfound power Smith confronts the hippies, but they discover the source of Smith’s strength is his hair and cut it off. John Robinson finds the trio and blasts the hippie’s bikes with his laser pistol. Since the bikers are now trapped also, the Robinsons have time to make repairs and depart.
Dr. Smith is an amusing mixture of Samson and the Hulk in this episode and the bikers are entertaining throughout.
10. Revolt of the Androids
Dr. Smith is searching for rubies when he’s attacked by a furry monster. As he explains his story to Will and the Robot, an immobilized super-android named IDAK (Instant Destroyer and Killer) materializes near them. Will repairs its controls and it attacks, but is easily evaded as the android stumbles over a rock. IDAK explains its purpose is to destroy another android but its powers are malfunctioning. Meanwhile, Judy and Penny find the android Verda (first featured in the episode “The Android Machine”), who is actually IDAK’s target. He confronts Verda but the others convince IDAK she is human. A second, more powerful IDAK is sent to complete the mission, but the first IDAK joins the Robinsons in defending Verda.
IDAK was made to resemble Superman with red and blue tights and an emblem on his chest. The Robot even references Superman as he jokingly states that IDAK (tripping over a rock at the time) won’t leap over any tall buildings in a single bound. This is the only episode from season two to make my favorites list.
Lost in Space didn’t gain a cult following as Star Trek did, but garnered acceptable ratings over its three year run and was actually renewed for a fourth season. It was a fun, enjoyable program in the ‘60s that never got the respect it deserved.
Robert Sacchi on December 22, 2018:
Chris wow, those are great memories. Thank you for sharing.
Chris Oiestad on December 22, 2018:
Great Memories for me! I grew up in Toluca Lake and saw Angela every Monday night at St. Charles CCD classes for 2 years. Always got the inside info on the next episode. Angela opened a retail gift shop on Riverside Drive called "Rubber Boots" Only one family on our block had a Color TV, so all the kids in the neighborhood gathered together every Wednesday night to watch! Billy Mumy played in a band that we used to see at the Troubadour in West Hollywood. Fun times growing up with these guys! Chris
Robert Sacchi on August 03, 2016:
In an interview with Jonathan Harris he explained he found the original Dr. Smith boring and figured the character was so bad he would get killed off before long. That would mean unemployment for him. He figured the only villains that survive are comedic villains so he started to throw in comedy and at one point Irwin Allen told him whatever you are doing do more of it.
Pennfield on August 02, 2016:
a fantastic concept, wonderful actors and arguably the best sfx in tv history. the first season the best. dr. smith, horrible ham, ruined the show...they should have killed him off. the original pilot, parts of which were spliced into early eps, is exciting and fast paced. hopefully the reboot will not have effete sissy smith and will be straight adventure. i have met all the cast except wiliams and hey are all warm and lovely people, esp. angela, mark, marta. harris was a crabby prima donna, so exclude him from the warm comment. when the jupiter 2 first crashed on the first planet, my God, that is some awesome sfx and photography. love lost in space--but wish it would have been more true sci-fi/adventure than camp and monster of the week. I. Allen ruined his own creation.
eddie land on July 21, 2016:
I liked Target Earth. The idea of The Cloned Robinson's and Major West being more Sadistic and military in their directives was cool and against their goodie two shoes nature..
especially when Don and John Fought on the flight deck and Will was roughed up by Magor West
Robert Sacchi on January 17, 2015:
Good choices, thanks for the look back.
Howie Gardner on December 21, 2013:
Collision of Planets? That one, West of Mars, the Vegetable Rebellion, the two about pirates and the other hippie one were an embarrassment to me. I preferred War of the Robots, Hunter's Moon and the second episode of season 2. Best segment of the last one was: Maureen: What would happen if we did change course? John: We'd miss earth entirely. We'd shoot off the other end of the galaxy. We'd be lost in space again. Maureen: Well then that's the way it has to be. We've got to save Dr. Smith.
VATankMan on December 19, 2013:
I have all the episodes on DVD and re watch them often. It suffices to say most of the episodes are gems with just a few so so installments. One of my favorites is The Space Destructors where Dr. Smith finds a machine that replicates himself, then morphs his head on Will's body. Great Stuff! When I was young anytime the Robot went into action I was mesmerized. There is a companion book I've been meaning to pick up about the show.
Frances YOZAWITZ on December 07, 2013:
I Love Lost in Space & Star Trek
Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on September 25, 2013:
I loved the IDAK episode and while it was certainly silly, it was also extremely clever. Shows with that description are rarely given their due, but many are very good. Remember the Batman television series with Adam West and Burt Ward? Even sillier than the silliest of LIS, but still a clever and well produced series.
Thanks for stopping by, Tim.
Timothy Arends from Chicago Region on July 01, 2013:
I just watched the IDAK episode on Hulu. Pretty silly by adult standards but certainly imaginative. To think that I was actually scared by reruns of this series as a young kid!! My favorite was the episode where menacing androids were being manufactured by this weird machine that Dr. Smith and Will stumbled upon.
Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on October 09, 2012:
Jamie, thanks for your gracious comments. I have watched the Lost in Space episodes again on a local channel, and they are still as enjoyable as they always were. There were many fine episodes in this series, and I have only listed a few here. It was a great show that was a brilliant blend of science fiction and fantasy. Thanks again for stopping by, I appreciate it.
Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on August 25, 2012:
James, thanks for reading. Both the episodes you mention were terrific, and demonstrate just how many good moments there were in this under-appreciated series. It was a shame the show ended after only three seasons, and I wonder what it would have been like to give this series an official "ending", as nearly every show is now allowed. Although Guy Williams died relatively young, this show would have been great for a revival episode, exploring what the Robinsons might have done over a ten or fifteen year period. Star Trek, the Brady Bunch and even Gilligan's Island were allowed to come back and connect with a new audience--it is a shame Lost in Space never got the same chance.
Thanks again for your comments, James.
James Caterino on June 26, 2012:
Great list and article. Love "The Anti-matter Man". For me, the absolute best was "My Friend Mister Nobody". Angela Cartwright gives a wonderful performance in this delicate, understated, emotional episode. John Williams impressionistic score is simply beautiful.
Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on February 12, 2011:
Andy, thanks for stopping by. You did indeed watch the pilot episode that was screened by CBS and eventually made into the series. The pilot did not include Dr. Smith or the robot--two characters that ultimately changed the show entirely. When The series went into production, "No Place to Hide" was chopped up and formed the basis of the first five episodes of season one.
Thanks again for reading, and good luck with your paper.
andy on February 11, 2011:
Good article! This is especially helping me as I am writing a paper on this show and how it portrays 1960s visions of the future. One question: I watched the episode called "No Place to Hide." On hulu.com it says that this is the first episode. In your article you say that The Reluctant Stowaway is the first. Is what I watched the pilot episode?
Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on February 08, 2011:
James, thanks for your comments. "My Friend Mister Nobody" was an outstanding episode, and it is a shame there weren't more like it. No menaces to blast with a laser gun, just an odd and unlikely connection between Penny and an alien presence. It was a great show.
James Caterino on February 08, 2011:
Great article. I would add "My Friend Mister Nobody" to that list. A terrific episode and beautifully scored by John Williams.
Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on November 20, 2010:
Mark, thanks for stopping by. The Keeper was one of my favorites, as well. I also loved the cliffhanger endings, and was surprised to learn that the man who gave us the "last week, as you will recall..." dialogue to start each episode was also the voice of the Robot.
Thanks again for reading.
Mark F from Albuquerque, NM on November 20, 2010:
The Keeper was one of my favorite episodes. I always remember Lost In Space ending in a cliffhanger.
Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on October 02, 2010:
Hi, Polly. Will and Dr. Smith. The boy who played Will starred in a television program called "Sunshine" for awhile. It was about a guy in Canada raising his daughter while playing in a band. Billy Mumy (Will) was a member of the band. Later he wrote comic books, including a Lost in Space comic. I'm not sure what happened to him after that, but he was a talented boy.
Thanks for stopping by, I appreciate your comments.
Pollyannalana from US on October 02, 2010:
All I can remember of Lost in Space is the little boy and the old man. He was so cute...the little boy that is...sure wonder where he went.
Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on September 22, 2010:
Artfux, thanks for stopping by. I loved this show as a kid and still believe it was a great show. I'm glad it brought back some fond memories for you. Thanks for reading.
artfux from Novato, CA on September 22, 2010:
Excellent hubs, brings me back to a young age of watching this show, danger danger Mr. Robinson, was my memory.. This hub made me recall more details..
Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on August 02, 2010:
Leslie, thanks for stopping by. I enjoyed the first season most as well, and I also loved the episodes with the Jupiter II in flight. Something about seeing the ship move through space making that eerie wail as it traveled was so compelling.
Thanks again for stopping by, I appreciate your comments.
Leslie Covert Flory on August 02, 2010:
Oops! I wanted to add I loved any episode they were in flight! You have a great synopsis here.
Leslie Covert Flory on August 02, 2010:
I always loved most the Magic Mirror! Plus I love the whole entire 1st Season!! For the colored episodes I like most Phantom Family and The Space Primevals.
Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on July 13, 2010:
GD, thanks for stopping by. I enjoyed the episode where Will and Smith go through the robot to repair it, also. It would be fabulous to meet some of the cast, that had to be enjoyable.
Thanks for stopping by, I appreciate your comments.
Glen Nunes from Cape Cod, USA on July 13, 2010:
One of my favorites is Trip Through The Robot, where the Robot grows and they have to climb inside to repair it. I've met several of the cast members at conventions, they are all lovely people.
Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on July 06, 2010:
Chop, thanks for stopping by. The episodes you mention were great, as well. There were not many episodes I didn't like, in fact. The shows were incredibly imaginative, and even the ones that have been called silly were extremely clever. You're correct, the shows today would struggle to match the creativity of Lost in Space. Thanks again for reading.
chop on July 06, 2010:
How about Hunters Moon with alien Megazor?That was such a good episode.Remember John with the suit that shredded?Remember every weapon he was able to choose had a defect.Also the Space destructors was very good.Smith was building his own army!They just have no imagination today.Awesome stuff!
Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on July 04, 2010:
Theodoros, thanks for writing. I watched the show as a child and would love to have met the cast, as well. It was an under-appreciated television show and I enjoyed it very much. Thanks again for your comments.
THEODOROS SITZIRIS on July 04, 2010:
DEAR. MADAM AND SIR
I AM THEODOROS SITZIRIS. BIG FAN OF LOST IN SPACE.
I LOVE TO MEET THE CAST FROM TV SERIES.
I YOUSER TO WATCHET WHEN I WAS 12 YEARS OLD.
PENNY ROBINSON WILLIAM SMITH DOCTOR SMITH HE USE
TO PLAY ZORRO. HES NOT THERE ANY MORE. EXELLENT ACTOR.
Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on February 14, 2010:
rml, you're right--that was a LIS episode! It was so goofy, it looked like Guy Williams, June Lockhart and the rest had trouble keeping a straight face in their scenes. I don't consider it one of the show's finest moments, I'm afraid.
Thanks for commenting.
rml on February 14, 2010:
Wasn't it Lost in Space that had the alien that looked like a giant carrot or something?
Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on December 21, 2009:
APD, thanks for commenting. The episode where Will returned to Earth was a good one, a nice interplay between his life in a futuristic world and the normal existence other children have. It was well done.
Lost in Space is an under-appreciated show from those days, one of those "guilty pleasures" that folks liked but are reluctant to admit they liked. Not only were Lost in Space and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea great shows, but remember Time Tunnel? That was another Irwin Allen classic and I watched that all the time, also.
Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on December 20, 2009:
Thanks, rml. I appreciate the kind words.
rml on December 20, 2009:
This was fun to read, I watched Lost in Space back when it was on a long time ago.
Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on November 24, 2009:
Kosmo, thanks for the comments. The Clippers analogy might be a little hard on Lost in Space, but I know what you're saying. And, yup, Dr. Smith was a key ingredient to the show's success. The pilot was originally made without him or the Robot, but it was decided the show needed an ongoing adversary and Dr. Smith was born.
Thanks again for the comments.
Kelley Marks from Sacramento, California on November 24, 2009:
The best of "Lost in Space"? Ha! That's like the best of the L.A. Clippers. Actually, I liked the show. The antics of Dr. Smith were good for laughs. I always liked it when the Robot insulted Smith and then laughed. Robots can't laugh!!! Of course, without Dr. Smith, the show wouldn't have made it through one season. If it were on cable these days, I'd probably watch an episode or two. Later!
Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on November 09, 2009:
After we SAW that episode, not SAY it....
Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on November 09, 2009:
Sabreblade, thanks for your comment. And yes, you remembered it correctly--IDAK was the one who chanted "Crush, kill, destroy" all the time. My brother and I used to say that to each other as kids after we say that episode.
sabrebIade from Pennsylvania on November 09, 2009:
Okay...now I wanna go back and watch all the old episodes!
Was IDAK the one that kept saying "Crush, kill, destroy" or something like that?
I vaguely remember that.
Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on November 09, 2009:
Wayne, thanks for the comment. I hoped this post would stir some fond memories for a few folks. I liked it when they left the planet they were on also, not only because the liftoff (and crash landing) scenes were cool, but I thought the Jupiter II flying through space was an impressive sight.
Thanks again for reading.
Wayne Tully from Hull City United Kingdom on November 09, 2009:
This was a classic series that I saw the repeats of as a kid and I like the stories, although some of the alien monsters on wheels made me laugh I liked it when the story seemed to develop when they left the planet they were stuck on....great hubpage here, brought back some sunday afternoons watching this at my dad house!