"Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!"
— The Robot
sci-fi series from the Sixties that lasted three seasons. Featured the adventures of the Space Family Robinson, Major West, the Robot and shanghaied saboteur Dr. Smith as they search for Earth, after they become Lost... In Space.Lost in Space
was a rival for Star Trek: The Original Series
in the realm of serious sci-fi, which might explain the show's turn from serious Speculative Fiction
into Fantastic Comedy
to keep a share of the viewing audience. Notable for its beautiful music (including two
opening themes by Johnny Williams (as John Williams
was then known), sets, skin tight ski-spacesuits
, aliens, inventive and surreal plots, and highly articulated Robot, itself a "cousin" of Robbie from the film Forbidden Planet
(who also guest starred on the show). The original plot had the Robinsons as explorer/settlers, with Dr. Smith as a saboteur paid to program The Robot to kill the Robinsons and ruin their mission. The first episodes were in black and white and involved exploring the planet they crash-landed on. When the show shifted to camp
it involved their conflicts with resident or visiting aliens of all sorts.
One of a family of shows created by Irwin Allen
, along with Land of the Giants
, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea
, and The Time Tunnel
May well be one of the classics of sci-fi for no other reason than the scene-chewing Large Ham
glory of Jonathan Harris (Dr. Smith) and his pained and witty repartee with the Robot. While its going from serious to camp may well have been a blow to later efforts at serious sci-fi, it was nonetheless a surreal joy to watch. The recent attempts to reboot it as a serious series may be doomed to fail because of this, as it's best remembered as a humorous series.
The series received a film adaptation in 1998. It was a modest box office hitnote
but often dismissed as a "dim-witted shoot-'em-up" by critics. An attempt to create a television remake in 2003-2004 went nowhere.Not to be confused with
some sort of strange sci-fi cast-away show; that would be LOST In Space!
The ensemble consisted of:
- Prof. John Robinson - Head of the family and mission, The Professor and The Captain. In the comic book he seems to have been a minister as well (said to be based on material in the original series writers' guide that never made it into the finished show). In the series played by Guy Williams, in the film by William Hurt. The would-be revival cast Brad Johnson in the role.
- Maureen Robinson - Mother and occasional Only Sane Woman. She was an extremely old-fashioned House Wife, a little lacking in the brains department. (In the pilot, it was mentioned that she had a PhD in biochemistry, something that was never brought up again.) In the series played by June Lockhart, in the film by Mimi Rogers. The would-be revival cast Jayne Brook in the role. In the film, June Lockhart had a brief cameo as the school principal.
- Major Don West - The Lancer and The Ace pilot. In the series played by Mark Goddard, in the film by Matt LeBlanc. The would-be revival cast Mike Erwin in the role. In the film, Mark Goddard plays the part of the general who gives Major West the order to be the pilot for the Jupiter II.
- Judy Robinson - Distressed Damsel and perpetual love interest to Major West. She could get annoyingly wangsty in episodes centering on her. In the series played by Marta Kristen, in the film by Heather Graham. The would-be revival cast Adrianne Palicki in the role. In the film, Marta was one of the reporters at the pre-launch press briefing.
- Penny Robinson - Not old enough to be a sex symbol like her sister nor as smart as her younger brother, Penny usually just took up scenery. Friend to All Living Things and, despite being ignored, got a few A Day in the Limelight moments, which often involved wars. In the series played by Angela Cartwright, in the film by Lacey Chabert. The would-be-revival had not included this role. Considered an Ensemble Darkhorse by many. In the film, Angela was also one of the reporters at the pre-launch press briefing.
- Will Robinson - Boy Genius, Morality Pet for Dr. Smith and occasionally a Creator's Pet. In the series played by Bill Mumy, in the film by both Jack Johnson and Jared Harris. The would-be revival cast Ryan Malgarini in the role.
- Dr. Zachary Smith - Jerkass, clown and Large Ham, ineffectual, cowardly traitor and Too Dumb to Live when it comes to dealing with aliens. Frequently infuriated by The Robot. In the series played by Jonathan Harris, in the film by both Gary Oldman and William Todd Jones. The would-be-revival had not included this role.
- The Robot - Genius Bruiser and Tin Man with a kind heart. Frequent foil to Dr. Smith. In the series, played by Bob May and voiced by Dick Tufeld. Tufeld returned to the role for the film. The would-be-revival had not included this role.
- Adaptation Distillation: The short-lived comic book written by Bill Mumy is remarkably well done. It assumes that the transition to Camp reflects the embellishments young Penny used when recording the crew's adventures in her diary, and that the tone of their adventures actually stayed much truer to the tone of the early episodes. It's set several years after the last episode, with Will in his teens and Penny now a blossoming young woman. The Robot is scaled back to his original portrayal of being mostly nonsentient, but is slowly developing self-awareness as more and more alien components have been added to him over the years. All the characters' personalities are explored in depth, and the art is wonderful. One jarring element, however, is the shamelessly cheesecake style that grown-up Penny is drawn in (well, it was the Nineties, after all).
- A Day in the Limelight: Jackson Gillis would often give it to Penny.
- Aliens Are Bastards: In fairness, the crew did meet a fair number of sympathetic aliens (although misunderstandings usually led to conflict anyway), but these seem far outnumbered by the number of utterly unhelpful obnoxious jerks running around outer space. To an extent, this was unavoidable; after all, if the family could befriend some competent high tech aliens, they could probably get home.
- Ancient Astronauts: An episode where the cast encounters the Norse gods.
- Animated Adaptation: After the series was canceled, a pilot for a cartoon version was created. The show was completely changed - the family was no longer the Robinsons, the Jupiter2 completely redesigned into a more rocket looking space craft, the Robot given a much more generic robot voice, Dr Smith a member of the crew from the beginning - the only things remaining from the original series being Dr Smith (voiced by Jonathan Harris), the Robot, and the fact that they were ...well.. lost in space.
- Asteroid Thicket: The first episode, "The Reluctant Stowaway"
- Auto Kitchen: The Robinsons eat food provided by one in the episode "Wild Adventure".
- Beard of Evil: The Keeper has a pretty serious one.
- Bigger on the Inside: Between the pilot and the first aired episode, a second deck was added to the Jupiter 2, with no modification of the FX miniature. While clever direction and the ship’s status as a crash-landed derelict hid this through the first season, the more spaceflight oriented episodes of the second and third seasons soon made it obvious that the interiors couldn’t possibly fit inside the exterior. Made worse when a third-season episode, "Space Creature," gratuitously added yet a third, ridiculously large, “power core” deck, which was then never heard from again.
- Blood Oath: "The Space Pirate". The title character makes Will Smith take the Pirate's Oath, which involves pricking a finger on each of their hands, putting their bloody fingers together and Will repeating the Oath after the pirate.
- Brick Joke: A particularly funny one in "Two Weeks In Space". In the middle of the episode, The Robot hits a shuttlecock impossibly high in the air while being a Badminton coach. At the end of the episode, Dr. Smith is hit by that same shuttlecock.
- Captain's Log: Only when it was serious.
- The Cast Show Off: Billy Mumy, a talented guitar player and singer, got to perform "Green Sleeves" in one episode and "Sloop John B" in another. Also, Guy Williams, who played Zorro, got to show off his fencing skills more than once.
- Catch Phrase: Dr. Smith's "Have no fear, Smith is here!" boast. Also his "The pain, oh, the pain." And the Robot's "Danger, Will Robinson, Danger!" The film works in all of them.
- Cloning Blues: The cast were cloned by exotic means far too many ways to list. Most clones were bad: a few were good.
- Comic Book Adaptation: A strange circumstance occurred in the 1960s. At the time the series began, Gold Key Comics, which usually published adaptations of virtually every sci-fi TV series on the air, already had an unrelated comic book series about a family named Robinson who were lost in space. Titled Space Family Robinson, the comic continued concurrently with the TV series, with Gold Key retitling the magazine Space Family Robinson - Lost in Space on Space Station One. Otherwise the comic had no connection to the TV series, and in fact continued to be published well into the 1970s. It wasn't until the early 1990s when Innovation Comics published its Ms. Fanservice-heavy Lost in Space (see under "Adaptation Distillation") that a proper comic based on the TV series arrived.
- Cower Power: Doctor Smith would cower behind Will Robinson at least Once an Episode. Sometimes the Robot, for variety.
- Crush. Kill. Destroy!: The Trope Namer. This line is often wrongly attributed to The Robot, who does use the term "Destroy" several times in the pilot during his rampage. It's Killer Android IDAK Alpha 12 who says this in the episode titled "Revolt of the Androids." Despite its use in only one episode, it became a more famous line than "Destroy" and was thus attributed to the main character robot.
- Did You See That Too?:
- Dude, She's Like, in a Coma!: The sleeping princess of the lost civilization.
- Easily Thwarted Alien Invasion: In "Invaders From The Fifth Dimension" Will Robinson is abducted by a group of aliens who are repulsed by the sight of tears due to being unable to understand emotions, and eventually let him go as a result.
- Emergent Human: Verda the android in "The Android Machine" and "Revolt Of the Androids."
- The Robinsons' own Robot also probably counts, since he goes from clearly nonsentient in the beginning to being a charming, fully fleshed-out character by the end.
- Explosive Instrumentation: In spades.
- Fake Guest Star: Jonathan Harris, who plays Dr. Smith. He was originally going to be killed off after the first few episodes, but he was such a fun character that they decided to keep him around and left him with the "Guest Starring" billing in the credits.
- "Fantastic Voyage" Plot: In one of the more clever episodes, Will Robinson and Dr. Smith find a severely malfunctioning robot who has become a giant due to his problem. The two have to physically enter the robot's body to fix him. However, the major complication is that they know that the second they are successful, the robot's body would start shrinking to normal size and they would have only seconds to escape before they are crushed. Naturally, the pair escape just in time before it was too late.
- Five-Episode Pilot: This was actually not the intention; there was the original unaired pilot. However, after adding the characters of Dr. Smith and the robot, it was necessary to shoehorn the two characters in. This resulted in splitting various scenes, as well as adding various scenes, to make five episodes.
- Flowery Insults: Dr. Smith often heaped these upon the Robot.
- Follow the Leader: The character of Gaius Baltar in the "new" Battlestar Galactica is almost indistinguishable from Zachary Smith.
- Food Pills: Protein pills in "The Hungry Sea" and "The Space Trader".
- Framed Face Opening: Used in the third season.
- Friend or Idol Decision: In this case it was a means to return home.
- Friend to All Living Things: Penny in spades. Even towards big, slimy, anti-social Frogmen.
- Frying Pan of Doom: Judy Robinson wields one in "Welcome Stranger", knocking Jimmy Hapgood out during his fight with Don. As a Call Back in the season two episode "A Visit To Hades", she tries this again with a pipe, only this time she hits Don instead of the guy he's scuffling with.
- Genre Blind: Probably as a side effect of its transformation into a disguised Sitcom.
- Genre Savvy: However, they occasionally showed some remarkable flashes of savviness — such as in the episode where they met the Norse gods, and Dr. Smith employs the Robot's replicator and his wits to manipulate them using a challenge not unlike one from Norse Mythology.
- Get Back to the Future: "Visit To A Hostile Planet".
- Green-Skinned Space Babe: The character originally named Lorelei in "Wild Adventure," then renamed Athena in "The Girl from the Green Dimension."
- Harmless Freezing: The suspended animation "freezing tubes" in several episodes and the movie's first act. Also the prison inmates in the episode "The Condemned Of Space".
- Hate Sink: Dr. Smith
- Human Aliens: With oddly colored skin or hair, or just odd costumes.
- Hunting the Most Dangerous Game: "Hunter's Moon"
- Hypnotize the Princess: Penny in "The Promised Planet".
- Jerkass: Dr. Smith, in both show and film.
- Jet Pack: Used a few times. They actually filmed a stunt pilot using a Bell Rocket Belt.
- Just Eat Gilligan: Substitute Dr. Smith for Gilligan
- Lampshade Hanging: At least one example: In the season two opener, "Blastoff Into Space", the fact that the Robinsons seem to have any object no matter how improbable or unlikely with them on the ship is lampshaded when Maureen tells the family to throw overboard any non-essential items. Cut to a ridiculously large pile of stuff like bowling pins, floor lamps, a fishbowl, skis, etc.
- Large Ham: Jonathan Harris's deliciously vile portrayal of Dr. Smith. Gary Oldman, as expected, is quite the ham as Dr. Smith in the movie. Oddly enough, Penny in the movie is a borderline example. While everyone else but Oldman suffers from Dull Surprise, she (particularly in her video diaries) speaks her lines loudly and very fast, all in a very high, excitable voice.
- A lot of the guest stars in the original show, especially Fritz Feld as Zumdish (who appeared in 3 episodes), Leonard Stone as Farnum (who appeared in 2), as well as the one-time appearance by Al Lewis (aka. Grandpa Munster).
- And Stanley "Cyrano Jones" Adams as "Tybo" the evil carrot in "The Great Vegetable Rebellion"
- Latex Space Suit: A staple of the show's costuming, and featured early on the the movie as "cryosuits" for deep sleep. They are, predictably, highly revealing in their tightness (the plastic suits of the movie were literally moulded from the actors, leaving the female characters seeming a little exposed in them).
- Left Hanging: Like most high-concept Sit Coms of the era it was canceled without advance warning, with the last episode "in the can" at the time becoming the Last Episode, because that's how the business was done at the time. Bill Mumy later wrote a song about his character as the group's now middle-aged sole survivor still out there with only the Robot for companionship, that qualifies as a semi-Canon Poison Oak Epileptic Tree, and it was a plot point in The Movie.
- Lighter and Softer: Dr. Smith in the main series is this compared to his portrayal in the pilot. Jonathan Harris deliberately lightened the character because the Robinsons would never have allowed the flat-out villainous Smith to stay anywhere near them.
- Matter Replicator: The thought machine from "When You Wish Upon A Star."
- The McCoy: The Robot, infrequently Dr. Smith
- Mechanistic Alien Culture: An episode featured a mechanized society of humanoid cyborgs whose leader was a computer. They kidnapped Dr. Smith to repair the computer. They also had clock-like mechanisms on their chests which they could use to turn back or alter the flow of time.
- Monster of the Week: Usually an alien
- Not-So-Imaginary Friend: The first season episode, "My Friend, Mr. Nobody", has Penny befriending a disembodied voice, that everyone assumes is just her new imaginary friend.
- Pet the Dog: Dr. Smith has enough of these moments to keep the others from killing him.
- Pirate Parrot: "The Space Pirate". The title character (named Alonzo P. Tucker) has a robot parrot (with psionic powers, yet) on his shoulder.
- Plunger Detonator: In "Mutiny in Space", Dr. Smith uses one to set off the explosive chemicals in his rain-making machine.
- Prison Ship: The ship with criminals kept in computer-controlled Harmless Freezing cryogenic suspension.
- Raygun Gothic: Every single spaceship, prop, set, and costume.
- Recycled In Space: The Swiss Family Robinson IN SPAAAAAACE!
- Replaced the Theme Tune: After the sprightly John Williams one used in the first two seasons, the great man returned to write a different theme for the third and final season (which ironically is the better-known one of the two).
- Reunion Show: One was planned for 2001, that would have followed the Jupiter II crew finally returning to Earth but it was cancelled after the death of Johnathan Harris.
- Science Fantasy
- Shoo the Dog: "The Space Pirate". At the end of the episode Will wants to go with the title character and be a pirate, but the pirate insults him and refuses because he doesn't want to take Will away from his family.
- The series episode "The Space Pirate". The title character was a clear reference to Long John Silver in Treasure Island, specifically his becoming Will Smith's friend and the parrot that sat on his shoulder.
- Sleeper Starship: The Robinsons were supposed to make the trip in "freezing tubes."
- Space Clothes: On both the main cast and the alien guests.
- Space Pirate: Alonso P. Tucker.
- Star Trek Shake: Accomplished by Irwin Allen hitting a bucket so the cast knew which way to tumble.
- Special Guest: Robby the Robot, from the classic film Forbidden Planet, had a few appearances on the show. However, he was sneaky and conniving if not downright evil, a huge contrast to his film personality.
- Take That: In the episode "The Thief From Outer Space", the titular villain is looking for his genie girlfriend who is trapped inside of a tiny bottle. At the end of the episode, he finally encounters her and rubs the bottle...to reveal that she is vastly overweight due to eating so much marzipan and yet still wears the pink harem outfit. The entire cast is horrified and the Sultan traps her once again in the bottle, begging the family not to let her out. The episode ends with her trying to convince The Robot to rub the bottle, who is not fooled. This all makes sense when you realize that I Dream of Jeannie aired at the same timeslot as Lost In Space.
- Technology Marches On: In-universe for the film. Major West gets a computer from Earth working on a ship from the future, and is amazed at how fast it is.
- Time Travel: In "Visit to a Hostile Planet," the characters accidentally wind up in a small Michigan town circa 1947.
- Twenty Minutes into the Future: In the pilot set in 1997, the space agency director's desk has a rotary phone, with a reel-to reel tape recorder and plenty of blinking lights on the wall behind, and not a PC in sight... but the producers deliberately did NOT make Dr. Smith a Soviet/Communist agent because they actually did guess the Cold War would be over by 1997.
The Sci Fi Channel aired a marathon of LIS episodes (including the unaired pilot) on the exact day in 1997 mentioned in the aired pilot as the day the Jupiter2 was launched.
- 2-D Space: One of the standard-bearers of its era. Verged on 1-D space in an episode where the Jupiter II was set on a course to Earth — which was too dangerous to use because it passed directly through the sun. Apparently, the sun was too big to steer around.
- Wagon Train to the Stars: In the later seasons.
- Two of Your Earth Minutes: "Hunter's Moon". An alien tries to force Professor Robinson to be the target of a hunt that will last sixty Earth minutes.
- Weird Science: Especially in the bizarre alien gadgets and the Monster of the Week.
- What Measure Is a Non-Cute?: The frog creature from "The Golden Man".
- Wizards from Outer Space: And dragons and knights and princesses...
- You Can See That, Right?: Episode "Wild Adventure". When Dr. Smith sees a green alien woman floating around in space outside the Jupiter 2, he asks the Robot "You see her, don't you?"
- You Can't Go Home Again: The series premise.
- Zeerust: Aluminum space suits for everybody! (Even if they look surprisingly like the Mercury/Gemini space suits from the mid-60s)