Every evening after school I would plant myself in front of the TV to watch what the space family of the Robinsons was up to, and it would never disappoint. The Original Lost in Space series involved great sets, amazing narration that focused on foreboding and new tech in each episode that fired up my imagination.
The best thing about the series was that each episode was a satisfying one-hour-long adventure with laughs, one or more character arcs, and a preview of the next episode. The practical effects were really fun to watch and the plot was not always predictable.
What was the original Lost in Space about?
As the name clearly indicates, the original Lost in Space was about a family of space travelers getting lost in interstellar space. The background to this was the failed Jupiter 1 mission that was successfully sabotaged by a military agent from another country.
Cast and Characters
The Robinsons are basically the Brady-bunch in space, with an emo vibe. The cast and the unique chemistry they shared is what made this campy series so damn interesting to watch as a kid. Here are the recurring characters in the series:
Guy Williams as Professor John Robinson
Mark Goddard as Major Don West
June Lockhart as Maureen Robinson
Marta Kristin as Judy Robinson
Angela Cartwright as Penny Robinson
Bill Mumy as Will Robinson
Jonathan Harris as Dr. Zachary Smith
Dick Tufeld as the voice of Robot B9
John Robinson is the patriarch of the Robinson family and the heart and soul of the Jupiter 2 expedition to outer space. He is usually at the center of most plots or at least receives the most screen time in season 1. He is made to exhibit the conventional characteristics of a good leader - taking care of the people under him, empowering them to make good decisions, and protecting them from harm at his own expense.
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The Robot B9, known and called only as "Robot" is one of the most interesting aspects of the show, at least in the first season. You are curious to see what stuff the robot is capable of doing, like each time the robot displays super strength or cool defense tech.
As the episodes go on the Robot gets less robotic and develops a really entertaining and interesting personality. Certain design aspects of the robot are obviously flawed such as its battery pack which is placed on the outside and is easy to remove by anyone within reach.
Maureen Robinson is the matriarch of the family and is a nurturing and calming influence among the whole group. Judy Robinson is the impulsive daughter who sometimes serves to carry the plot and calm the children during times of crisis. Penny Robinson is similar to Will in that she is still a young kid trying to find her identity in a tough situation.
All three women in this series have very little screentime and mostly serve as a backdrop to the men that spring into action. Among the three, Penny seems to get most of the screen time.
Mark Goddard played the role of Major Don. West is more brawn than brains, yet possesses serious technical know-how and is a great pilot. His last name always made me wonder if he was related to the rocket science pioneer Robert Goddard. Apparently, rumor has it that he is in fact a distant relative of the rocket scientist! Who Knew! (not completely substantiated though).
He is always on the brink of getting into a fight with someone he just met or threatening to beat up Dr. Smith! A good soldier as always, Major West is always loyal to Professor Robinson until he's pushed too far.
Will Robinson is the boy genius of the family and the most kind to the mischief-maker Dr. Smith. The youngest one in the space expedition, Will is rarely taken seriously, yet solves the most problems during the course of the series. Being with Smith also means he has developed a dry wit which at times puts Dr. Smith in his rightful place as the trouble maker. He also shares a strong bond with the Robot B9 who is simply called "Robot."
Dr. Smith is the typical up-to-no-good character you would see in a series such as the Adam West version of Batman. He is greedy, selfish, ungainly, and yet is capable of great personal growth. Without Dr, Smith most episodes would have turned out to be bland and tasteless affairs. With his affectation of a Victorian accent (both on-screen and in real life as well), unpredictable behavior, and infinite quirks and complaints, Dr. Smith was the undoubted comic relief of the show.
Even though the series paints Dr. Smith as a villain type, you see the Robinson family bully someone who is essentially a senior citizen time and again. I seriously felt the family could have eased up on him a bit, following which Smith would have been a better space traveler among them.
What happened at the end of Lost in Space?
The end of this space opera sees the space family still being lost in space! Who would've thunk it? Even though it seems to be a cliché I think it is a great way to end the series - just how it started. My high-school English textbook always had such tales with unresolved endings. In any case, there are only a few directions you can take to end such a series:
Let the series protagonists achieve their desired goal. It would mean the Robinsons making their way to the Alpha Centauri planetary system and setting down roots to start a colony.
Allow the Robinsons to return to Earth where they find a new lease on life.
Keep the "space family" ( as the narrator puts it) lost in space, true to the name of the series.
Go the way of the conventional twist ending. The Robinsons reach either Alpha Centauri or Earth only to uncover greater peril. For example, the Earth they land on is from another reality or timeline ( Re: Planet of the Apes).
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Why did Lost in Space get Cancelled?
I really think there should have been at least a couple more series, but there were only three that were ready for viewership. Reasons for the cancellation of this hugely entertaining series vary from source to source. While the network that created this series, CBS, failed to provide any reasons as to why this wonderful series was canceled.
Popular speculation states that the high costs of the series that included complex sets and actor salaries ended its life prematurely. At the time, the interior of the Jupiter 2 spaceship was the most expensive set for a TV show at the time, coming in at around $350,000.
The Lost in Space Forever DVD states that plummeting ratings and rising costs were the main reasons for the show's cancellation. The show's creator Irwin Allen said that season 3 viewers were mostly children leading to a drop in the audience with purchasing power. Since advertisers prefer selling ads targeted at decision-makers in the house, this meant lower ad revenues.
Another contributing factor was that Guy Williams was resentful about how campy his role got and how Jonathan Harris got more screen time. I personally feel that Dr. Smith's character arc was really entertaining.
Is Lost in Space Netflix worth watching?
Just like other series or movies such as the twilight zone or the Karate Kid, Netflix has breathed new life into this old franchise. Based solely on watching the first couple of episodes in Season 1 on Netflix, yes, the Netflix reboot of the hallowed and mostly forgotten Lost in Space series is worth watching.
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