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Classy Classic TV Reviews: Lost In Space Season One


Lost In Space
Year: 1965
Network: CBS

Lost In Space: Season One Review

Maureen and John Robinson smooching it up in space
Story:
It’s the future – 1997 – and the five Robinson family members are space pioneers sent by the U.S. to start a colony on a planet in a distant galaxy. Unbeknownst to them or their emergency pilot, young Major West, double agent Dr. Zachary Smith comes onboard and reprograms a robot to terminate the ship midflight. Only Dr. Smith accidentally gets trapped on the ship and is forced to awaken the Robinsons just as the ship becomes “lost in space” and crash-lands on an unknown planet.

Thoughts:
I’ve always loved the ambiance and feel of noir and old sci-fi films. There’s nothing quite like Invasion of the Body-Snatchers, The Forbidden Planet, or The Day the Earth Stood Still. Despite the limited special effects that producers had back in the 1940s-60s, they often made up for it with that gloomy black-and-white cinematography, creepy but fabulous “space” music and just good ole classic adventure.

a very early sci-fi trope of space travel through cryogenic chambers
To me, the first season of Lost In Space embodied all of that. If you noticed the family’s name is Robinson, you’d be correct if you guessed that the story was based upon the original novel Swiss Family Robinsons – just with a space twist. As a lover of the classic 1960s Disney film, I totally see how this film falls into the same sense of strange and fascinating adventure balanced with the human concerns of parents to see their children thrive in a strange, harsh environment.

"delightful, unashamed campiness and glorious sci-fi noir rolled in one"

Man against nature is a popular theme nowadays with disaster flicks like The Day After Tomorrow, 2012, and more. There’s something fascinating about watching man’s fight for survival – especially against something so vast and unpredictable as the weather. Here the Robinsons are facing the unknowns of a strange planet and its elements. As they struggle to find where they are and look for a way back home, they encounter unusual weather patterns, aliens, and more.

Angela Cartwright as Penny
Much of what brings this classic cult show together is the cast. Guy Williams stars as Dr. John Robinson, the strong, intelligent and protective father (and also very cute, hehe). He’s probably most remembered for his awesome role as Zorro in Disney’s classic TV show. June Lockheart (mom in Lassie) plays Dr. Maureen Robinson, a strong, caring woman who supports her family. They have three children – 19-yr old Judy, 13-yr old Penny (played by Angela Cartwright, who was Marta in The Sound of Music) and 9-yr old Will. Major Don West is their captain who was onboard just for emergency precautions and must fight to survive along with them. The evil Dr. Zachary Smith rounds out the human cast, with B9 is the Robot who’s must remembered for crying, “Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!” There’s also the alien-monkey Bloop (called Debbie in the show, lol).

"Dad" John, Will (behind), "Mom" Maureen, Judy and Major West
I’ve always been a sucker for stories of families that are tight-knit. Most films nowadays focus on the dysfunctionality of families and the angst between the different generations (i.e. the parents vs. the children) but back in the day, family was portrayed usually more positively. Yes, it may not be wholly realistic but there’s something nostalgic and fun about the idyllic ambiance back then. However, the show is not without conflict or friction with the family and the captain at odds with the selfish Dr. Zachary Smith. This is why I really enjoy the first season the most as Smith’s character is dubious here – his intentions are more sinister. In the later seasons, Smith’s character evolves more into a childish rogue there mainly for comic relief.

Lost in Space, season 2
Sadly, there was a definite shift in the show’s focus in the second season most notable in the fact that the show became colorized. The use of the bold 1960s color palette distracted from the show making it feel more zany and childlike. Even the show skewed its focus to young Will and Dr. Smith, the episodes focusing on their comic situations, rather than the tense “survival” instinct of the first season.

Judy's costume on the right; Maureen on the left
Did I mention that John Williams scored most of the music?? Now it makes sense why it's so good! Also, I love some of these outfits, especially Judy's knee-length skirt. She looks so cute!

Major West and Judy Robinson
Out of the characters, John Robinson and Major West are my favorites in the show. Both are heroic (and super cute, hehe) and work to take care of the family, but some of my favorite moments are when they didn’t get along and all the angst that brought. Romance wise, this show remained mostly passive. John and Maureen are the perfect power couple – totally supportive, empathetic of one another and their children. Judy and Major West have a romantic relationship, but sadly the show never really pursued it beyond the occasional looks or smiles between them. Nevertheless, I shipped them a lot.

guest star Kurt Russell
Much like the original Star Trek show, this show is filmed with campy sci-fi moments, homemade creature costumes and amusing special effects (obviously pretty good for their time, but hilariously dated now). The show also had a lot of great guest roles including my favorites: a young Kurt Russell (Disney’s The Barefoot Executive, Disney’s The Computer Who Wore Tennis Shoes, Overboard, and soon to be in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2) and Michael Rennie (The Day The Earth Stood Still). Michael brings an engaging performance as the alien “the Keeper” in my favorite episodes The Keeper, part 1 & 2 – a story arc that revolves around a mysterious alien who keeps different species in a menagerie in his spaceship and, of course, he plans to “keep” some of the Robinsons there!

Lost In Space is delightful, unashamed campiness and glorious sci-fi noir rolled in one. Definitely worth the ride!

Lost in Space can be watched on Hulu (for free with commercials).

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