Lost in Space

Lost in Space

“Danger! Danger Will Robinson!”

After numerous adaptations of The Swiss Family Robinson, a novel penned in 1812 about a family of castaways in the South Pacific, the mythical clan traded their boring island for more otherworldly surroundings. Debuting in 1965, Lost in Space sent the Robinsons higher than any tree house could ever hope to achieve.

Debuting on CBS, Lost in Space was produced by Irwin Allen, the eventual mastermind of such disaster films as Earthquake and The Towering Inferno. He set his family of adventurous astronauts, the Robinsons, along with a robot companion, out on the Jupiter II spacecraft to colonize the distant planet of Alpha Centauri.

Trouble immediately arose in the form of Dr. Zachary Smith, a spy hired by an unfriendly foreign country to sabotage the mission. Unfortunately, Smith wasn’t the most adept espionage agent and managed to get himself stranded along with the rest of the family, which consisted of patriarch John, his wife Maureen, and their three kids, Judy, Penny and Will. Also along for the ride was Jupiter II pilot, Major Don West, for whom eldest daughter Judy had a noticeable crush. Her siblings were far more interested in intellectual pursuits, rather than battling raging hormones – especially young Will, a precocious egghead.

It was a good thing that young will was so smart, because Dr. Smith had no intention of abandoning his sabotaging ways anytime soon. Often, Will was the only one wise enough to figure out the doctor’s ill-conceived plots, such as reprogramming the family robot to kill all “non-essential humans” – in other words, everyone but Dr. Smith.

The robot (one of the most beloved characters on the show) served as loyal protector of the Robinson family and faithful friend of sorts to young Will, less so to the Doctor, who gleefully unleashed a barrage of insults at the technological marvel at each and every opportunity.

In reality though, Dr. Smith was the least of the Robinson family’s worries. There were more than enough strange aliens and life-threatening dangers to keep the Robinson Family plenty busy as they fought to stay alive. Whether running out of food or dealing with a severe global cooling problem, it took every bit of ingenuity to not only try to escape their planet, but merely survive.

Speaking of escaping, the family may have been lost in space, but they didn’t travel it all that much. In the first season, they spent a mere three episodes in space, and the rest on the planet’s surface. The next season started with them finally escaping, only to crash land on another planet for the remainder. In season three, they started hopping around a bit more, perhaps to better compete with another series called Star Trek, but the Robinsons spent far more time grounded than traveling – a surefire way to remain lost.

Irwin Allen quickly had a television hit on his hands, one that went nicely with his other hit series, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (which featured many of the same props as Lost in Space). Allen would add Land of the Giants, The Time Tunnel and a more traditional version of The Swiss Family Robinson (complete with tree house) to his television resume before turning his destructive mind towards the big screen and garnering the well-earned nickname, “The Master of Disaster.”

Just like Star Trek, Lost in Space lasted a mere three seasons, gathering its huge fan base over years of syndication. It’s popularity led to a film adaptation in 1998, which is a bit ironic since the Robinson family supposedly were living in the faraway year of 1997. The film did respectable box office numbers, but not enough to warrant a sequel. A proposed reboot of the series in 2003 also never left the ground.

Meanwhile, the original series still enjoys a loyal fanbase. Not because it was great science fiction by any means, nor for its longevity, but simply for its quirky robot-laden charm as one of television’s early space-based successes. And, perhaps it would have lasted longer if they had built a tree house on one of the planets, but we’ll never know for sure.

If you grew up watching the Robinson family on Lost in Space, we’d love to hear all of your memories of this classic television series in our comments section below.

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