Irwin Allen's Lost in Space, Volume One: The Authorized Biography of a Classic Sci-Fi Series Kindle Edition
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As with Marc, Lost in Space blew my mind back in ’65. I’ve never forgotten that buzz. Then, a couple of years later, the same producer blew my mind again, with Time Tunnel. Only Batman and The Man from UNCLE achieved the same effect (what a fertile period those years were in TV! I notice other reviewers had the same experience with similar shows of the time).
This volume (apparently the first of two?), is a welcome addition to the growing ranks of books almost apologetically appreciating “the fantasy worlds of Irwin Allen”. I had no idea it was even in the works, so when a colleague in Canada e-mailed me to say that the guy who wrote the three part Star Trek series These Are the Voyages had turned his attention to Irwin Allen, I was intrigued to say the least! I’ve spent the last two days ploughing through it to the detriment of what I should be doing (getting on with my own work!), and I’ve not been disappointed.
There are a number of typos in the text, 99 percent of them relating to peoples’ names (Ford Rainy, Rita Shaw, Barry Slater, and so on), most of them written correctly elsewhere, and a bit of proofreading would have caught ninety percent of them (I know from experience that you can never catch them all!). Some of the quotes and stories will inevitably be familiar to fans (we’d complain if they weren’t there), but there is also much that is new, quite an achievement fifty years on. I won’t give away too much of Marc’s content, but who knew that the set used for the Titanic interiors in the Time Tunnel pilot was the von Trapp’s house from The Sound of Music? There are several interesting revelations of this sort, including a new (as in previously unseen) promo pic that conclusively reveals that one of Dawson Palmer’s credits isn’t him at all!
Much of this new information is now available because Kevin Burns, keeper of the flame, has opened Irwin’s private files to Marc, who approaches the job at hand in the same manner as his Star Trek project. In that, we learned that that both Gene Roddenberry and the NBC of the ‘60s had been, shall we say, economical with the truth about Star Trek’s ratings, to further their various personal agendas. The greatest revelation here is that the biggest hindrance to the quality of Lost in Space was not Irwin, or Fox, or even Batman, but the CBS of the 1960s, whose censorship was far greater than Irwin would have been subject to at ABC (birthplace of The Outer Limits and The Untouchables), where his other shows found a home. When you are selling a sci-fi show about a family in peril in outer space, and the network says don’t put the kids in serious danger, no affection between couples (even hand-holding), and no scary stuff, then a comedic fairytale approach as was ultimately taken becomes less of an option and more of a necessity. We’re lucky it was as good as it was.
Just think—if Lost in Space had been sold to ABC, who wanted it, it would have not only been a stronger show content-wise, but it wouldn’t have had to compete with Batman! While I regard Jonathan Harris’ input as a major plus, it would have been interesting to see where they could have gone in a (slightly) more adventurous and less over-protective environment.
The author and I are about the same age, and while he was a country boy and I was very much a townie, we had pretty much the same experience of 1960s TV (and affection for it) despite being on different continents (McLuhan’s global village again). Throughout the book, we are pretty much on the same page about all things Irwin. We are in complete agreement as regards Charles Bennett and Ib Melchior. Readers will find numerous photographs, some much loved and familiar, some exceptionally rare and unusual, particularly those of a menacing Dr. Smith that the network shied away from. The only area we appear to differ is that I love all three seasons of Lost in Space equally, and watch according to my mood and preference, but I fear Marc is one of those fans less thrilled with the second and third seasons and I trust he won’t be too hard on them in the much anticipated second volume. Spare us the poisonous barbs, Major… I mean Marc!
(1) I wish they included color photos and/or photos on glossy paper. I realize that it would've made the book more expensive, but I imagine in 2017, the audience this book is aimed at is truly diehard fans of the show & would've gladly paid the extra $$!
(2) I'm guessing the publisher's rush to get to press is the reason for the NUMEROUS typos. Some of the more glaring ones include calling the set on Stage 15 both the "von Trapp villa" & the "Von Trump Villa" (page 205). Well-known LA talent agent Rita Vennari is listed as "Rith Vennari" (page 226), "The Space Trader" episode is referred to as "The Space Pirate" (p.566) and Marta Kristen's Season One hairstyle change is attributed to the wrong episode. All three volumes are peppered with these--it's distracting at the very least, and confusing at most.
A great companion to Marc's book is Bill Mumy & Angela Cartwright's Lost (and Found) in Space which DOES have color photos (but none on glossy paper).
Again, these are ALL great books documenting a TV series fans have been dying to know more about for many years. As an aside, L.B. Abbott, the special effects wizard who worked on Irwin Allen's films & TV shows (his interviews are in Cushman's books) wrote a wonderful book about the projects he worked on titled, Special Effects: Wire Tape and Rubber Band Style and it has a multitude of glossy color and B&W stills. It's out-of-print, but a nice addition to this grouping! :)
Disclaimer: I'm personally acquainted with the author. But I *loved* the show growing up. In many ways, the Robinsons were the family I wished I had. John was a stalwart, brave, and always kind father figure; Maureen was lovely, healthy, and unrattled by the alien or unexpected.
I am using the book and the show as an exercise routine - I read the chapter about the episode, then watch it, while pedaling on my stationary bike. It's a win-win.
Also, Mark Goddard as Major Don West, my first childhood crush. Yum!
The author is somewhat non-objective in certain areas, but he's obviously a fan of the show. While the first part of this book was slow, I'm looking forward to the rest of it and volumes 2 and 3