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Will's Guide to the Universe


Lost in Space

Timeless Tales of the Space Family Robinson

March 22, 2012, by Will Hoover

When it debuted in 1965, Lost in Space was legendary TV and film director and producer Irwin Allen's futuristic take on The Swiss Family Robinson.  Interestingly enough however, the now defunct comic book publisher Gold Key had already beaten him to the punch, as the modernized tale of the Space Family Robinson had already first rolled hot off the presses in 1962.

The connection with Allen's trail blazing TV extravaganza was inescapable however, so a deal was arranged between Allen, the show's financier 20th Century Fox, and the good folks at Gold Key, who apparently decided not to sue on the grounds of coypright infringement.  It's hard to imagine that Allen had no prior knowledge of the comic book before going into production on the series, but it has almost always, never the less, been reported as such.

And besides, the "Master of Disaster" (as he is known for his frequent forays into that calamitous movie genre of the 1970s that gave birth to such classics as The Poseidon Adventure (1972) and The Towering Inferno (1974) was already, at the time, well on his way to owning the rights to other Gold Key licenses, such as the Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea TV series and the 1961 movie that preceded it.

As with most, if not all of his attention grabbing projects, Allen made full use of the Swiss Family Robinson plot device that pitted an otherwise mostly ordinary, but certainly intrepid family of adventurous souls against the vast uncharted and often treacherous wilderness.  Lost in Space was intended however, to rock the then budding space age by setting the action and adventure among the stars.

By adding a high tech companion to the family ensemble (the much celebrated B-9, Class M-3 General Utility Non-Theorizing Environmental Control Robot referred to most often, throughout the series continuity simply as "the robot"), the Lost in Space series began to take on a special character all its own.

Robot on the Loose
The Robot goes berserk (under direction from Dr. Smith) in the first episode of the first season
Robot Power!
How do you distinguish your budding space show from the Swiss Family Robinson? ROBOT POWER, baby!

A boy and his Robot

An early black and white pilot was produced in 1965 that featured the Robinson family and their trusty robot setting off on October 16, 1997, from an environmentally exhausted and over-crowded Earth, only to land on the first of a number of other similarly barren planets seen throughout the three year run of the series.

But something, it seemed... was missing.  Whatever could that have been, you ask?  Well, for starters, the B-9 Robot (voiced by Dick Tufeld, who looped dialogue spoken on set by Bob May in a prop costume built by Bob Stewart) and the ever dastardly, yet decidedly comically appealing Jonathan Harris in the role of Dr. Zachary Smith, of course!

The Robinson Family in Hyper Sleep

The dastardly Dr. Smith plots and plans to take over the Jupiter 2 spacecraft

Dr. Smith fires a shot to wake co-pilot Major Don West, in a hasty effort to save himself

Dr. Zachary Smith, "The Reluctant Stowaway" tries to wrest control from Major West

In the beginning, Doctors John & Maureen Robinson had no idea how much trouble Smith would become

Smith remained the villain, but became decidely more sympathetic as the show went on

Though the series was originally intended to focus on the Robinson family and particularly the father and pilot Dr. John Robinson (played by Guy Williams) and his wife Dr. Maureen Robinson (June Lockhart), the show ended up mostly featuring the weekly misadventures of the mischievous Dr. Smith and Will Robinson (Billy Mumy), the boy genius and youngest member of the family who, with his protective robot, was always getting into all sorts of interstellar peril - with Dr. Smith's poor forethought, greed and vanity usually being the main impetus for each and every colorful predicament.

Other members of the Robinson family were often overshadowed by the frequent mischief of Dr. Smith

Always thinking of himself first, Dr. Smith makes his case for Mrs. Robinson to make him some dinner

Will, the Robot and Dr. Smith usually dominated the plot of most episodes with their colorful antics

Will Robinson, Dr. Smith and the Robot prepare for another far out and mostly unbelievable adventure

The lovely Robinson Girls, Penny and Judy

Last, but not least, the cast also included the co-pilot of the family's interstellar "boat," the Jupiter-2, Major Don West (Mark Goddard), the comely eldest Robinson daughter Judy (Marta Kristen) and the equally lovely young Penny Robinson (Angela Cartwright), who was also featured somewhat prominently in a number of episodes, having early on adopted a Chimpanzee-like indigenous alien known as Debbie the Bloop.

Below, clockwise from upper left are third season title credits for:
Dr. John Robinson, Dr. Maureen Robinson, Judy Robinson, Penny Robinson, Penny with Bloop, Dr. Zachary Smith, Will Robinson and Major Don West.

The Class M-3 Model B9, General Utility Non-Theorizing Environmental Control Robot (designed by Robert Kinoshita, who also designed Robby the Robot from Forbidden Planet) is flanked by Penny at left and Will and Judy at right. 

Jupiter 2 and Space Pod digital illustrations by talented Corel Draw artist, Ken Netzel
Lost in Space theme music by John Williams

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