Lost in Space - The Complete First Season
DVD | Box Set
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Season 1 of the 1965 sci-fi favorite.
Lost in Space began life in 1965 as a science-fiction take on The Swiss Family Robinson. Produced by Irwin Allen, then in the midst of his run of spectacular-but-childish TV sci-fi (before he became the master of big-screen disaster movies), the show featured a family of all-American space colonists cast away on a mysterious planet. Gradually the whole thing devolved into a silly (but sometimes fun) exercise in childish camp. This boxed set includes all 29 black and white episodes from the first season (with a burst of color at the end of the last show--a foretaste of the garish look of the remaining two seasons) along with "No Place to Hide," the expensive pilot show that sold the series but prompted Allen to revamp the whole premise in comic mode when network execs responded best to its unintended humor.
"No Place to Hide" has action scenes that cropped up in the first six regular episodes but is missing several of the show's trademark aspects, most notably that infectious theme from Johnny Williams (later, John Williams of Star Wars fame) and the scheming presence of Dr. Smith (Jonathan Harris) and his alternately menacing and comical robot ("It does not compute"). As the series progresses (or degenerates, depending on your taste), Harris's Smith changes from pantomime villain, a saboteur who is trying to kill the family, into pantomime idiot whose foolishness, cowardice, and avarice are an endless source of plots. It mostly makes do with the regular cast plus an array of shaggy-suited, snarling aliens, but you do get sterling ham from visiting astronauts such as Warren Oates ("Welcome Stranger"), Robby the Robot from Forbidden Planet ("War of the Robots"), and a very young Kurt Russell ("The Challenge"). Stories about surviving on an alien world give way to lifts from fairy tale, myth, and old movies as Smith gets hold of a wishing cap, becomes a giant, is chosen as a sacrificial king, turns the children over to an alien zoo, squeaks in fright as a werewolf approaches, or is cursed with a platinum Midas touch. --Kim Newman
- Unaired pilot: "No Place to Hide"
- CBS Network presentation
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If you are a person who can still stand watching B&W TV or movies (I know that some, unfortunately, won't) you can find the serialized LIS as a bit of a time capsule. Ahead of its time in the 1960s its look to the future and space travel is especially fun now. The series really started off seriously minded, taking the notion of space exploration and future settlement of other planets in our solar system. This surprised us given what we mainly remembered from the show, and it further surprised us to watch the Robinson family take about four episodes before crash landing on a planet only to remain on this extremely hostile planet for the rest of the season! Lastly, it was a surprise to see the treacherous Dr. Smith take quite a while to develop his yellow streak and the Robot, who develops a funny antagonistic persona toward Smith by season's end, hardly ever belt out his electronic catchphrase.
The series, always ending on a cliffhanger, started to wear a little thin with their formula by season's end with Smith always putting his earthen family at risk over his own instincts and base desires. Why in the world they never allowed Captain John Robinson or pilot Major Don West to deck the dude or lock him in the brig (which surely they could have made) is beyond me, other than the writer's using Smith as the cuckoo catalyst for most of the family's woes. But it reminded me of Gilligan from the "Gilligan's Island" television series. Watching it when I was young his goof antics that always screwed up the castaways' hopes of getting rescued never bothered me but as an adult...it bothered me. And the same principle goes along here, but the unwillingness of the Robinson clad to resort to base violence is part of the charm of this series that is family friendly and refreshing. I know that it was a product of the late 1960s but I was shocked when the family prayed to God (several times throughout the series) and firmly drew their morals from a divine notion. It was refreshing to see! I can't remember the last time I saw anything like that recently on TV.
Perhaps it would be worth it to get lost in space again if we could "progress back to the future."
The series is a 1960's space version of the "Swiss Family Robinson" that seeks to colonize another world but finds itself off course and unable to return to Earth. This was an era in which overpopulation was seriously considered as a future certainty and the Robinsons were volunteers to leave Earth to make a life elsewhere. The series tackled some interesting hypotheticals such as a planet with a radically elliptical orbit that alternated between extreme cold and extreme heat. It looked at life evolving very differently on another planet than on Earth as well as encountering intelligent life very different from ourselves. It includes concepts such as hydroponic gardening (something considered the "next wave" by some serious scientists of the day) as well as robotic tools.
The cast is actually quite good with Guy Williams as Professor John Robinson and veteran actress June Lockhart as wife Maureen. Jonathan Harris plays the scheming Dr. Smith while Mark Goddard does a credible job as Major Don West, the Jupiter II's tough guy pilot. The children's roles are reasonably well cast. If one notices, the music was composed by "Johnny Williams" - the same John Williams who later composed music for the Star Wars films, Jaws and many others.
This was really a ground-breaking series in its day and, although subsequent seasons were indeed "campy" and more oriented toward humor and away from science and adventure, this first season was very much in keeping with the times of the space race to the Moon. There's a wonderful sense of innocence and great adventure in this first season that I fondly remember from my childhood. I very much recommend this to audiences young and old with five stars.
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