Lost in Space is an American science fiction family franchise centered around a television series filmed by 20th Century Fox Television, broadcast on CBS and created and produced by Irwin Allen, who referred to it as “science-fact science fiction”. The Classic Series, which consisted of 83 episodes across 3 seasons between September 15th, 1965, and March 6th, 1968, chronicled the challenges and adventures of a pioneering family. The Robinsons, who struggle to survive in space after their spaceship, the Jupiter 2, is sabotaged and thrown off course in a loose remake of “The Swiss Family Robinson”. This cult classic, pop culture icon suitable for all ages spawned a variety of spinoffs and continuations, including a comic book series, an animated special, a novel and a feature film, with it' own spinoff novels and comics. A new rebooted version premiered in 2018 on Netflix. However, despite its successors and remakes of varying success, the original version still maintains a large and devoted following of fans.
Though the original television series concept centered on the Robinson family, many later story lines focused primarily on Dr. Zachary Smith, played by Jonathan Harris. Originally written as an utterly evil but extremely competent would-be saboteur, Smith gradually becomes the troublesome, self-centered, incompetent foil who provides the comic relief for the show and causes most of the episodic conflict and misadventures. Smith was not in the unaired pilot [No Place to Hide] and neither was the robot. A meteor storm in the unaired pilot [No Place to Hide] put them off course.
In the AIRED pilot, Smith's sabotage and unintended presence caused them to go off course so that they encountered the meteors. This, plus Smith's reprograming of the Robot to destroy the ship causes them to become lost. In the unaired version, they were going at such a relatively slow speed that they wondered if they were on Mars, while in the first aired episode, after just seconds of hyper-drive, they were lost, unknown light years from Earth. As the series went on, the characters, technology, and situations evolved, attaining a more fantastical quality, for better or worse. Remakes of Lost in Space have attempted to bring the concept back to its serious sci-fi roots, rather than the sillier, colorful fantasies that the original transformed into. But for many, the first incarnation, despite its flaws, remains the most beloved to this day.
The first appearance of a space-faring Robinson family was in a comic book published by Gold Key Comics in December 1962, The Space Family Robinson, who traveled about also lost in space aboard Space Station 1. The television show came three years later, and during its run CBS and 20th Century Fox reached an agreement with Gold Key Comics that allowed the usage of the name 'Robinson' for the show. After that, the television series went ahead with stories separate from the comic book series. The television series is an adaptation of the Johann David Wyss novel The Swiss Family Robinson, though with a very different story. Series creator, Irwin Allen, in fact, originally did not conceive the series as being set in space, but rather simply wanted to a live-action version of The Swiss Family Robinson. As the space program was a big deal in the 1960s, the network asked Irwin Allen to rethink his ideas and make the show about a family of astronauts.
The astronaut family of Dr. John Robinson, (the "first family in space" ) accompanied by United States Space Corps pilot and The Robot, set out from an overpopulated Earth in the spaceship Jupiter 2 to visit a planet circling the star Alpha Centauri with hopes of colonizing it. Their mission in 1997 (the official launch date of the Jupiter 2 was October 16, 1997) is immediately sabotaged by Dr. Zachary Smith—apparently an agent for a foreign government—who slips aboard their spaceship and reprograms the robot to destroy the ship and crew. Smith is trapped aboard, saving himself by prematurely reviving the crew from suspended animation. They save the ship, but consequent damage leaves them lost in space. Eventually, they crash on an alien world, later named by the Robinsons as Priplanus, where they spend the rest of the season and had to survive a host of adventures. After early stories of natural events and the struggle for survival, the series switched tones more than once. Smith functioned throughout the series as a source of comedic cowardice and villainy, exploiting the forgiving nature of the Robinsons. Smith was liked by the trusting Will Robinson, but he was disliked by both the Robot and the equally-suspicious Major Don West.
At the start of the second season, the repaired Jupiter 2 launches again after a series of severe quakes destroy Priplanus, but in the fourth episode, the Robinsons crash on another planet and spend the season there. This replicated the feel of the first season, although by this time the focus of the series was more on humor than straight action/adventure.
In the third season, a format change allowed the Robinson Family to travel to more planets. The Jupiter 2 would travel to other worlds in an attempt to return to Earth or to settle on their original destination, a planet in the Alpha Centauri system. The Space Pod was added as a means of transportation between the ship and planets. This season had a dramatically-different opening credits sequence and new theme music which, like the original, was composed by John Williams.
Following the format of Allen's first television series, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, fantasy-oriented adventure stories were emphasized with little emphasis on science or "hard" science fiction. Despite the 'fantasy' focus, however, the series managed to include quite a bit of serious science fiction, something that is often overlooked by critics who can't get past the inaccurate science and occasionally silly storylines. But at its heart, lost in space was neither sci fi nor fantasy, but a combination of the two. The show delivered a visual assault of special effects, explosions, monstrous aliens, spaceships, and during seasons two and three, exotic sets and costumes drenched in the bright, primary colors that were typical of early color television.
On October 16, 1997, 30 years into the future in 1967, the United States is about to launch of one of history's great adventures: man's colonization of deep space. The Jupiter 2, called Gemini 12 in the pilot episode, a futuristic saucer-shaped spaceship, stands on its launch pad undergoing final preparations. Its mission is to take a single family on a five-and-a-half-year journey—98 years in the pilot episode—to a planet of the nearby star Alpha Centauri. The pilot episode refers to the planet itself as Alpha Centauri, which space probes had revealed to possess ideal conditions for human life. The Robinson family was selected from among two million volunteers for this mission. The family includes Professor John Robinson, played by Guy Williams, his wife, Maureen, played by June Lockhart, their children, Judy (Marta Kristen), Penny (Angela Cartwright), and Will (Billy Mumy). They are accompanied by their pilot, U.S. Space Corps Major Donald West (Mark Goddard), who is trained to fly the ship. Otherwise, the Robinsons and West will be in freezing tubes for the voyage, with the tubes opening when the spacecraft approached its destination. Unless there was a problem with the ship's navigation or guidance system during the voyage, West would only take the controls during the final approach to and landing on the destination planet while the Robinsons would presumably strap themselves into contour couches on the lower deck for the landing.
Other nations were also racing to colonize space, and they would stop at nothing, not even sabotage, to thwart the United States' effort. Dr. Zachary Smith (Jonathan Harris), a psychologist and environmental control expert, is also a foreign secret agent. (Exactly who he is working for is unclear in the original series, though an explanation is provided in the Innovation Comics ) He reprograms the Jupiter 2's B-9 environmental control robot, voiced by Dick Tufeld, to destroy critical systems on the spaceship eight hours after launch. Smith is trapped aboard at launch and his extra weight throws the Jupiter 2 off course, causing it to encounter a meteor storm. This plus the robot's rampage causes the ship to become lost. Following an adventure on an alien spaceship, they crash on a strange planet where they spend the remainder of season one. Early stories featured the family struggling to survive, but soon after most of the Robinson's problems were caused by off-planet visitors and Smith. In the second season the series took on a more fanciful tone, with comedic elements becoming more pronounced. The third season combined both formats, but with a greater emphasis on adventure stories.Each season had a different visual style- including altered costumes and sets. Episodes cover many different genres, and there was little inter episode continuity after the first season- which was somewhat serialized.
The Robinsons were often placed in danger by Smith, whose self-centered actions and laziness endangered the family. In the second and third seasons, Smith's role assumes a less evil undertone—although he continues to display many character defects. In "The Time Merchant", Smith travels back in time to the day of the Jupiter 2 launch, with hope of changing his fate. He learns that without his weight altering the ship's course, it would be destroyed by an uncharted asteroid. In an act of redemption, Smith elects to re-board the ship, thus saving Major West and the Robinsons' lives. Other moral principles were frequently featured. Spinoffs of the series often have very different tones, including the more plot driven novel. The movie explored family dynamics, but was less intellectual than most of the series in its morals beyond the family. All versions of Lost in Space involve a spaceship containing a familythath becomes lost- except for the animated version, which basically removed the family dynamic.
- Dr. John Robinson (Guy Williams): The expedition commander, a pilot, the husband of Maureen Robinson, and the father of the Robinson children. He is an astrophysicist who also specializes in applied planetary geology.
- Dr. Maureen Robinson (June Lockhart): John Robinson's biochemist wife. Her role in the series is often to prepare meals, tend the garden, and help with light construction while adding a voice of compassion. Her status as a doctor is mentioned only in the first episode and in the second season episode "The Astral Traveler".
- Major Don West (Mark Goddard): The military pilot of the Jupiter 2. He is Dr. Smith's intemperate and intolerant adversary. His mutual romantic interest with Judy Robinson was not developed beyond the first few episodes. In the un-aired pilot, "Doctor Donald West" was a graduate student astrophysicist and an expert in interplanetary geology, rather than a military man.
- Judy Robinson (Marta Kristen): The oldest child of the Robinsons. She is about 19 years old at the outset of the series. She planned a career in musical theater but went with her family instead.
- Penny Robinson (Angela Cartwright): The middle child. A 13-year-old in the first season, she loves animals and classical music. Early in the series, she acquires a chimpanzee-like alien pet with pointy ears that made one sound, "Bloop". While it is sometimes remembered by that name, "the Bloop," Penny named the creature Debbie. Most of Penny's adventures have a fairy tale-like quality, underscoring her innocence. She is described in the pilot, "No Place to Hide", as having an IQ of 147 and an interest in zoology.
- Will Robinson (Billy Mumy): The youngest child. A precocious 9-year-old in the first season, he is a child prodigy in electronics and computer technology. Often, he is a friend to Smith when no one else is. Will is also the member of the family closest to the Robot.
- Dr. Zachary Smith (Jonathan Harris): A Doctor of Intergalactic Environmental Psychology, is mentioned in the third season episode, "Kidnapped in Space" as an expert in cybernetics, and an enemy agent (roles that are rarely mentioned after the initial episodes). In the first episode, he is shown in uniform with a colonel's rank and eagle insignia, but is almost invariably addressed by his academic, rather than his military, rank. His attempt to sabotage the mission strands him aboard the Jupiter 2 and results in it becoming lost. By the end of the first season, the character becomes permanently established as a bungling, self-serving, greedy and manipulative coward. These character traits are magnified in subsequent seasons. His haughty bearing and ever-present alliterative repartee were staples of the character. While he and Major West repeatedly clashed over his goldbricking or because of some villainy he had perpetrated, the Robot was usually the preferred victim of his barbed and acerbic wit. Despite Harris being credited as a "Special Guest Star" for every episode, Smith is the pivotal character of the series. Harris was the last actor cast, with the others having been in the pilot episode. He was informed that he would "have to be in last position" in the credits. Harris voiced discomfort at this, and suggested appearing in the last position as "Special Guest Star." After having "screamed and howled," Allen agreed. Harris found his character very boring; encouraged by Allen, the actor "began rewriting his lines and redefining his character" by playing Smith in an attention-getting, flamboyant style. Mumy recalls how, after he had learned his own lines, Harris would ask to rehearse with him using his own dialogue. "He truly, truly single-handedly created the character of Dr. Zachary Smith that we know," said Mumy. "This man we love-to-hate, a sniveling coward who would cower behind the little boy, 'Oh, the pain! Save me, William!' That's all him!"
- The Robot: The Robot is a Class M-3 Model B9, General Utility Non-Theorizing Environmental Control Robot, which had no given name. Although a machine endowed with superhuman strength and futuristic weaponry, he often displayed human characteristics, such as laughter, sadness, and mockery, as well as singing and playing a guitar. The Robot was performed by Bob May in a prop costume built by Bob Stewart. The voice was dubbed by Dick Tufeld, who was also the series' narrator. The Robot was designed by Robert Kinoshita, who was also the designer of the iconic Robby the Robot for Forbidden Planet. Robby appears in LIS #20 "War of the Robots", and the first episode of season three; "Condemned of Space".
See Episode List
Technology and equipment
The crew had a variety of methods of transportation. First, their primary vehicle for space travel was the two-deck, nuclear powered Jupiter 2 flying saucer spacecraft. (In the original un-aired pilot, the ship was named Gemini 12 and consisted of a single deck.) On the lower level were the "atomic motors" (which use "deutronium" for fuel), living quarters, galley, laboratory, and the robot's compartment. On the upper level were the guidance control system and suspended animation "freezing tubes" necessary for non-relativistic interstellar travel. The two levels were connected by an electric glide tube elevator and a fixed ladder. The Jupiter 2 explicitly had artificial gravity. The spacecraft was also intended to serve as home to the Robinsons once it landed on the destination planet orbiting Alpha Centauri.
Second, the Pod, a small spacecraft first shown in the third and final season and modeled on the Apollo Lunar Module, was used to travel from its bay in the Jupiter 2 to destinations either on land or in space. The Pod apparently also had artificial gravity.
Third, the Chariot was an amphibious tracked vehicle the crew used when they were on a planet. Since most body panels were clear, including the roof and its dome-shaped gun hatch, the Chariot had retractable mylar curtains for privacy. Both a roof rack for luggage and roof mounted solar batteries were accessible by exterior fixed ladders on either side of the vehicle. The roof also had a swivel-mounted, interior controllable spotlight near each front corner. The Chariot had six bucket seats (three rows of two seats) for passengers. The interior featured a seismograph, a scanner with infrared capability, a radio transceiver, a public address system, and a rifle rack that held four laser rifles vertically against the inside of the left rear body panel.
Fourth and last, the then exciting new invention called a jet pack was used occasionally by Prof. Robinson or Major West. In the series, this was called the rocket-belt or flying-belt
One of the most vital pieces of equipment was their environmental control robot B-9. The Robot ran air and soil tests, was extremely strong, able to discharge strong electrostatic charges from his claws, could detect threats with his scanner, produce a defensive smoke screen, and detect smells (in "One of Our Dogs is Missing"). He could both speak and understand speech. He could produce exact duplicates of small objects like a pair of gloves. In episode 8 ("Invaders From The Fifth Dimension"), the Robot claims the ability to read human minds by translating emitted thought waves back into words.
For self-defense, the crew of the Jupiter 2—including Will on occasion against his parents' wishes—had an arsenal of laser guns at their disposal, both rifles carried on straps and handguns carried openly in holsters. The first season's personal issue raygun was a film prop modified from a toy semi-automatic pistol made by Remco. Will carried a Swiss Army-style knife (in "The Raft"). The crew also employed a force field around the Jupiter 2 for protection while on alien planets.
For communication, the crew used small transceivers to communicate with each other when away from the ship. On one occasion, Will improvised several rockoons (balloon borne rockets) in an attempt to send an interstellar "message in a bottle" distress signal.
The Jupiter 2 had advanced technology that simplified or did away with mundane tasks. The "automatic laundry" took seconds to clean, iron, fold, and package clothes in clear plastic bags. Similarly the "dishwasher" would clean, wash, and dry dishes in just seconds. The ship had no light bulbs. Maureen said the lights were transistorized, perhaps meaning they were electroluminescent or light -mitting diodes. "Protein pills" (a complete nutritional emergency substitute for whole foods) were featured in "The Hungry Sea" (air date: Oct. 13, 1965) and "The Space Trader" (air date: March 9, 1966). In this, Lost in Space was ahead of NASA and Pillsbury, which later developed Space Food Sticks. Silver reflective space blankets, a then new invention developed by NASA in 1964, were used in "The Hungry Sea" (air date: Oct. 13, 1965) and "Attack of the Monster Plants" (air date: Dec. 15, 1965). The crew's spacesuits were made with aluminum-coated fabric, like NASA's Mercury spacesuits, and had Velcro fasteners which NASA first used during the Apollo program (1961-1972).
On the other hand, sound and voice recording was less advanced, for example, using reel-to-reel tape recorders, and Prof. Robinson often put pen to paper to write journal entries in early episodes.
Allen produced a series pilot, "No Place to Hide." After CBS accepted the series the characters Smith and the Robot were added. The ship was redesigned with a second deck and renamed the Jupiter 2 (it had been the Gemini 12). Because of budgetary constraints, a good part of the pilot episode was reworked into the early episodes in the series. CBS was offered Star Trek shortly after accepting Lost in Space, but it was turned down.
The Lost in Space television series was originally named Space Family Robinson. Allen was apparently unaware of the Gold Key comic of the same name and similar theme. His series was, as was the comic, a space version of Swiss Family Robinson, hence the title similarity. Gold Key Comics had the opportunity to sue Allen's production company and 20th Century Fox for copyright infringement, but as Allen was expected to license the rights for comic book adaptations of his various properties as he already had with the Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea series, they decided to not sue, instead changing the title of the comic to Lost in Space to take advantage of the series' prominence.
The first season emphasized adventure. It chronicled the daily adventures that a pioneer family might well experience if marooned on an alien world. These included dealing with dangerous native plants and animals, and off-world visitors. In the first season, only the special effects shots were filmed in color, in anticipation of reusing shots in color seasons.
As the series progressed, there was a growing emphasis on Smith, Will, and the Robot at the expense of the other characters. Smith's change in character was not appreciated by the other actors. According to Billy Mumy, Mark Goddard and Guy Williams disliked the shift from serious science fiction.
The third season had more adventure with the Jupiter 2 now functional and hopping from planet-to-planet, but episodes like "The Great Vegetable Rebellion"—with actor Stanley Adams as Tybo, the talking carrot—still demonstrated humorous fantasy. Calling it "the most insipid and bizarre episode in television history", Marta Kristen recalls that Goddard complained that "seven years of Stanislavski" method acting had culminated in his talking to a carrot. Other episodes were whimsical and emphasized humor, including space hippies and a beauty pageant.
During the first two seasons, episodes concluded in a "live action freeze" [called a "Cliffhanger"]. anticipating the following week, with the ominous promise: "To Be Continued NEXT WEEK! SAME TIME SAME CHANNEL"
There was little ongoing plot continuity between episodes, except in larger goals; for example, to get enough fuel to leave the planet. For the third season, the episode would conclude, immediately followed with a vocal "teaser" from Dick Tufeld telling viewers to "Stay tuned for scenes from next week's exciting adventure!" which would highlight the next episode, followed by the closing credits.
After cancellation, the show was successful in reruns and in syndication for many years, most recently on FX, Sci-Fi Channel, and ALN. It is currently available on Hulu streaming video, and is seen Saturday nights on Me-TV.
Stylistically, the series was of high quality, featuring what was expected for space travel at the time; eye-catching silver, tapered space-suits, laser guns and spectacular props and sets.
Ratings, Awards (nominations) and popularity
Although it retains a following, the science-fiction community often points to Lost in Space as an example of early television's perceived poor record at producing science-fiction. The series' deliberate fantasy elements, a trademark of Irwin Allen productions, were perhaps overlooked as it drew comparisons to its supposed rival, Star Trek. However, Lost in Space was a mild ratings success, unlike Star Trek, which received very poor ratings during its original network television run. The more "cerebral" Star Trek never averaged higher than 52nd in the ratings during its three seasons, while Lost in Space finished the 1965-1966 season with a ranking of 32nd place, and the 1966-1967 season in 35th place. (Those rankings were reported in the August 1967 issue of Television magazine. The show's ranking for the 1967-1968 season has yet to be confirmed or verified by a reliable source.)
Lost in Space also ranked third as one of the top five favorite new shows for the 1965-1966 season in a viewer TVQ poll (the others were The Big Valley, Get Smart, I Dream of Jeannie and F Troop).
Star Trek creator Gene Roddenbery insisted that the two shows could not be compared. He was more of a philosopher, while understanding that Irwin Allen was a storyteller. When asked about Lost in Space, Roddenberry acknowledged: "That show accomplishes what it sets out to do. Star Trek is not the same thing". Roddenberry pitched Trek to CBS, reportedly spending time explaining why the show would go to Earth-type planets, which would mean you could use conventional (aka cheap) alien costumes and make-up. Of course, CBS listened, took notes, said no thanks to Trek and produced Lost in Space. Today, Star Trek fans often look down on the show- remembering only the silly aspects and not the actual concept. Other sci-fi fans sometimes have similar opinions. However, recently the show has been more accepted in the sci-fi community. In its own relatively large fandom, the show is appreciated immensly. Such phrases as " Danger Will Robinson" are also well known in the general public
Lost in Space received a 1966 Emmy award nomination for 'Cinematography—Special photographic effects,' but did not win, and again in 1968 for 'Achievement in visual arts and make-up," but again did not win. In 2005 LIS was nominated for a Saturn Award 'Best DVD Retro Television Release,' but did not win. In 2008 TVLand nominated and awarded the series for 'Awesomest Robot.'
Lost in Space is remembered, at least, from oft-repeated lines of the Robot, such as "Warning! Warning!", "That does not compute," and "Danger, Will Robinson!" Smith's frequent put-downs of the Robot are also still popular ("You bubble-headed booby!") as are his trademark lines: "Oh, the pain... the pain!" and "Never fear, Smith is here!" One of Jonathan Harris's last roles was providing the voice of the illusionist praying mantis "Manny" in Disney's A Bug's Life, where Harris used "Oh, the pain... the pain!" near the end of the film. Lost in Space was the favorite show of John F. Kennedy, Jr. while growing up in the 1960's.
In early January of 1968, while the final third season episode "Junkyard in Space" was in production, the cast and crew were informally made to believe the series would return for a fourth season. But the shows' ratings, which had already begun sagging during the third season, dipped even lower beginning in January of 1968, and the show was no longer reaching the crucial "average audience share" of 30%. Trade publications and syndicated TV columnists reported the show was at risk of cancellation in late January, and CBS officially announced the cancellation on February 19, 1968. CBS executive Mike Dann later confirmed to TV Guide the reason for the cancellation: he said the show had "run out of ratings steam."
An album cover of Lost in Space: Original Television Soundtrack, Volume 1 CD, with music by John Williams, has been released. The theme music for the opening and closing credits was written by John Williams, the composer behind the Star Wars theme music who was listed in the credits as Johnny Williams.
The original pilot and much of season one reused Bernard Herrmann's eerie score from the classic sci-fi film The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951).
For season three, the opening theme was revised (again by Williams) to a more exciting and faster tempo score, accompanied by live action shots of the cast, featuring a pumped-up countdown from seven to one to launch each week's episode. Seasons one and two had animated figures "life-roped" together drifting "hopelessly lost in space" and set to a dizzy and comical score.
Much of the incidental music in the series was written by Williams (who scored four episodes) and other notable film and television composers including Alexander Courage (composer of the Star Trek theme), who contributed six scores to the series. His most recognizable ("Wild Adventure") included his key theme for "Lorelei" composed for organ, woodwinds, and harp–thus cementing this highly recognizable theme with Williams' own "Chariot" and main theme for the series.
A series of soundtrack CDs were released containing only background and incidental music from the original television series.
In 1962, Gold Key comics (formerly Dell Comics), a division of Western Publishing Company, began publishing a series of comic books under the title Space Family Robinson. The story was largely inspired by The Swiss Family Robinson but with a space-age twist. The movie and television rights to the comic book were then purchased by noted television writer Hilda Bohem (The Cisco Kid) who created a treatment under the title Space Family 3000.
In July 1964, science fiction writer and filmmaker Ib Melchior began pitching a treatment for a feature film, also under the title Space Family Robinson. There is debate as to whether or not Allen was aware of the Melchior treatment. It is also unknown whether Allen was aware of the comic book or the Hilda Bohem treatment.
As copyright law only protects the actual expression of a work, and not titles, general ideas or concepts, in 1964, Allen moved forward with his own take on Space Family Robinson, with characters and situations notably different from either the Bohem or the Melchior treatments. It is interesting to note that none of these versions contained the characters of Smith or the Robot, but then neither did the original Allen pilot.
Intended as a follow up to his first successful television venture, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Allen quickly sold his concept for a television series to CBS. Concerned about confusion with the Gold Key comic book, CBS requested that Allen come up with a new title. Nevertheless, Hilda Bohem filed a claim against Allen and CBS Television shortly before the series premiered in 1965. A compromise was made as part of a legal settlement. In addition to an undisclosed sum of money, Western Publishing would be allowed to change the name of its comic book to Lost in Space.
There were no other legal challenges to the title until 1995, when New Line Cinema announced their intention to turn Lost in Space into a big budget motion picture. New Line had purchased the screen rights from Prelude Pictures (which had acquired the screen rights from the Irwin Allen Estate in 1993). At that time, Melchior contacted Prelude Pictures and insisted that Lost in Space was directly based upon his 1964 treatment. Melchior was aided in his efforts by Ed Shifres, a fan who had written a book entitled Space Family Robinson: The True Story (later reprinted with the title Lost in Space: The True Story). The book attempts to show how Allen allegedly plagiarized Melchior's concept, with two outlines presented side-by-side.
To satisfy Melchior, Prelude Pictures hired the 78-year-old filmmaker as a consultant on their feature film adaptation. This accommodation was made without the knowledge or consent of the Irwin Allen Estate or Space Productions, the original copyright holder of Lost in Space. Melchior's contract with Prelude also guaranteed him 2% of the producer's gross receipts, a provision that was later the subject of a suit between Melchior and Mark Koch of Prelude Pictures. Although an Appellate Court ruled partly in Melchior's favor on November 17, 2004, the Supreme Court of California denied a petition by Melchior to further review the case. It is significant that no further claim was made and that Space Productions now contends that Allen was the sole creator of the television series Lost in Space.
During its three season run, many actors made guest appearances, including familiar actors and/or actors who went on to become well-known. Among those appearing in Lost in Space episodes were Joe E. Tata, Kevin Hagen, Alan Hewitt, Warren Oates, Don Matheson, Kurt Russell, Ford Rainey, Wally Cox, Grant Sullivan, Norman Leavitt, Tommy Farrell, Mercedes McCambridge, Lyle Waggoner, Albert Salmi, Royal Dano, Strother Martin, Michael J. Pollard, Byron Morrow, Arte Johnson, Fritz Feld, John Carradine, Al Lewis, Hans Conried, Dennis Patrick, and Michael Rennie, among many others. Future Hill Street Blues stars, Daniel J. Travanti (billed as "Danny Travanty") and Michael Conrad, made guest appearances in separate episodes. While Mark Goddard was playing Major West, he had a guest appearance as well. Jonathan Harris, although a permanent cast member, was listed in the opening credits as "Special Guest Star" of every episode of Lost in Space.
Despite the fact that it never reached the magic number of 100 episodes desired for daily stripping in syndication, Lost in Space was nonetheless picked up for such syndication in most major U.S. markets. By 1969, the show was declared to be the #1 syndicated program (or close to it) in markets such as Houston, Milwaukee, Miami and even New York City, where it was said that the only competition to Lost in Space was I Love Lucy. But the program didn't have the staying power through the 1970s of its supposed rival, Star Trek. Part of the blame was placed on the first season of Lost in Space being in black-and-white, while a majority of American households now had at least one color television receiver. By 1975, many markets began removing Lost in Space from daily schedules or moving it to less desirable time slots. But the series experienced a revival when Ted Turner acquired it for his growing TBS superstation in 1979. Viewer response was highly positive, and it became a TBS mainstay for the next five years.
Bill Mumy scripted an authorized Lost in Space comic book for Innovation Comics. The company continued the series for some time, at one point focusing on a time many years after the end of series, the children having long since grown up. The theme of an adult Will Robinson was also explored in the film and in the song "Ballad of Will Robinson"—written and recorded by Mumy.
Prior to the appearance of the television series, the comic book Space Family Robinson was published by Gold Key Comics, written by Gaylord Du Bois and illustrated by Dan Spiegle. Du Bois did not create the series, but he became the sole writer of the series once he began chronicling the Robinsons' adventures with "Peril on Planet Four" in issue #8, and he had already written the Captain Venture second feature beginning with "Situation Survival" in issue #6). Due to a deal worked out with Gold Key, the title of the comic later incorporated Lost in Space as asub-title. The comic book is not a spinoff of the television series, but was in print prior to the conception of the show, with different characters and a unique H-shaped spacecraft rather than the saucer -haped Jupiter 2.
There was also an unlicensed comic in which Will Robinson meets up with Friday the 13th character Jason Voorhees. Several Japanese comics were also produced.
In the 1972–1973 television season, ABC produced The ABC Saturday Superstar Movie, a weekly collection of 60-minute animated movies, pilots and specials from various production companies, such as Hanna-Barbera, Filmation, and Rankin-Bass. Hanna-Barbera Productions contributed animated work based on such television characters as Gidget, Yogi Bear, Tabitha, Oliver Twist, Nanny and the Professor, The Banana Splits, and Lost in Space. Dr. Smith (voiced by Jonathan Harris) was the only character from the original program to appear in the special, along with the Robot (who was named Robon and employed in flight control rather than in support activity). The spacecraft was launched vertically by rocket, and Smith was a passenger rather than a saboteur. The pilot for the animated Lost in Space series was not picked up as a series, and only this episode was produced.
Lost In Space Forever
In 1998 a television special called Lost in Space Forever featured Bill Mumy as a grown-up Will and Harris as Smith. Though most of this special is a documentary about the show, the last five minutes is a reunion with Smith, Will and the Robot. This final segment brings the series to a close with the three realizing they are "Lost in Space... forever!"
Lost in Space (film)
After the series was cancelled, numerous attempts were made to create a film version. Bill Mumy pitched the idea of a reunion movie, but Irwin Allen refused to read the script, fearing that Bill might sue him if he ever decided to makea movie concluding the Robinson's adventures. In 2015, Bill's script was rewritten and filmed as a table read with the original cast. A reboot movie was produced in 1998 by New Line Cinema. the Lost in Space feature film followed the original storyline closely, but severely reimagined. Once they become lost, the story veers off in a different direction It starred William Hurt as Prof. John Robinson, Mimi Rogers as Dr. Maureen Robinson, Heather Graham as Dr. Judy Robinson, Lacey Chabert as Penny Robinson, Jack Johnson as Will Robinson, Gary Oldman as Dr. Zachary Smith/Spider Smith, Matt LeBlanc as Major Don West, and Jared Harris as the older Will Robinson.
The film included numerous nods, homages and cameos related to the series, including:
- Dick Tufeld as the Robot's voice;
- Mark Goddard playing the General who gives Major West his orders for the mission;
- June Lockhart playing the principal of Will Robinson's school;
- Angela Cartwright and Marta Kristen appearing as reporters;
- A CG animated alien primate character, in homage to the original Debbie "the Bloop" space-ape pet;
- The film's Jupiter 2 being launched into orbit by a vehicle called the Jupiter 1, which closely mimics the series' spacecraft, complete with rotating propulsion lights;
- Reference being made to the chariot and space pod, both of which are reported wrecked.
Additional cameo appearances from the original series were considered, but did not make it to the film: Harris was offered a cameo appearance as the Global Sedition businessman who hires, then betrays, Smith. He turned down the role, which eventually went to Edward Fox, and is even reported to have said "I play Smith or I don't play." Harris appeared on an episode of Late Night with Conan O'Brien, mentioning that he was offered a role: "Yes, they offered me a part in the new movie—six lines!"
It has been suggested that Bill Mumy was offered a key role in the film, that of an adult Will Robinson who appears in the "Spider Smith" sequences, but due to a scheduling conflict, Jared Harris was cast instead. In the DVD's special features section, the producer comments that Mumy was only briefly considered, but then discarded. Viewers, it was felt, would say, "There's Bill Mumy" and not see the "Will Robinson" character. As Mumy's primary adult role had been as Lennier on the popular Babylon 5 television series, which was still running at the time, this would indeed have been a consideration. Following the movie's release, several spinoff novels and a spinoff comic were created- set in the movie universe. A sequel film was planned, involving the Robinson's reaching their destination-but was latet abandoned
A reunion special was considered after the failure of the 1998 movie- this time featuring the original characters- but all plans were scrapped with the death of Jonathan Harris
In 1967 a novel based on the series with significant changes to the personalities of the characters and a redesign of the Jupiter 2 was published by Pyramid Books. Written by Dave Van Arnam and Ted White (as Ron Archer), the book was three short stories woven together. In one scene, where a character is randomly speaking English to provide data for translation, the book correctly predicted Richard Nixon winning the presidency after Lyndon Johnson (but also predicted a Kennedy winning after Nixon).
Several novels based on the movie adaption were also produced- some of them young adult oriented.
Second television series—The Robinsons: Lost in Space
In late 2003 a new television series with a somewhat changed format was in development in the U.S. It was originally intended to be closer to the original pilot with no Smith, but including a robot. The pilot, entitled, The Robinsons: Lost in Space, was commissioned by the WB Television Network. It was directed by John Woo and produced by Synthesis Entertainment, Irwin Allen Productions, Twentieth Century Fox Television and Regency Television.
The pilot featured the characters of John Robinson and Maureen Robinson, but an elder son, David Robinson, was added, as well as Judy Robinson, an infant Penny Robinson, and ten-year-old Will Robinson. There was no Dr. Smith character, but the character of Don West was described as a "dangerous, lone wolf type". In this version John Robinson is a famous military leader who saved the earth from attacking aliens. Maureen is a medical doctor.
The cast included Brad Johnson as John Robinson, Jayne Brook as Maureen Robinson, Gil McKinney as David Robinson, Adrianne Palicki as Judy Robinson, Ryan Malgarini as Will Robinson, and Mike Erwin as Don West. It was not among the network's series pick-ups confirmed later that year. The producers of the new Battlestar Galactica show bought the show's sets. They were redesigned the next year and used for scenes on the Battlestar Pegasus. This was the last attempt at rebooting Lost in Space until 2014, when a new series was announced.
DVD and Blu Ray releases
20th Century Fox has released the entire series on DVD in Region 1. Several of the releases contain bonus features including interviews, episode promos, video stills and the original un-aired pilot episode. In 2015, a 50th anniversary Blu Ray set was produced, which included, among other things, a resolution to the series featuring the original cast reprising their roles.
- "Bill and Max: Lost and Found in Space" - Lost in Space Netflix Season 1 home video special feature