The intrepid space family Robinson has escaped the clutches of the Automated Planet only to crash on another unknown world populated by red-headed aliens and bird-like monsters. Are they friend or foe?
The show opens with a newly-created special effects shot of the Jupiter 2 cruising through space in glorious color.
Smith, who had re-programmed the Astrogator only two episodes before now comments that "all the little numbers seem to be in place." How technical, Zachary! He looks out the new rear window on the upper deck (behind the door to the left of the elevator) as do the children just in time to spot what the robot describes as a "hyper-atomic missile" headed directly for the Jupiter 2! In more new footage (used ad nauseum throughout the rest of the series) the ship dodges the missile by curiously swerving towards the rocket.
To escape the deadly projectile Robinson orders Don to head straight for the nearest planet in the hope that the planet's gravitational pull will capture the missile and destroy it, which it does, causing the missile to explode on the planet directly below the Jupiter 2. In a classic blooper scene, the explosion dislodges the power core from the miniature spaceship model and the viewer can see it dangling. In the following scene it is back to normal.
As the ship cruises by the blast site Penny remarks, "I hope nobody lived down there." A little late for anyone to consider that, and it leads to dire consequences later in the episode.
Unfortunately the planet's gravity also ensnares the Jupiter, and, lacking sufficient power to break free, they are headed for another crash landing. Since there is no time to utilize the freezing tubes or even the crash couches the space travelers hit the deck-literally. Footage shot in color for the unaired pilot is re-used and tinted to indicate a night time crash. The dust cloud raised by the crash is missing from this version, perhaps to indicate that this crash wasn't as bad as the last one. Either way, the ship and its occupants are grounded for the rest of the season at a kind of intergalactic Grand Central Station where aliens and monsters that defy description could and would appear in a moment's notice.
Act One opens with all the Robinsons as well as Smith and Don still alive but the ship's interior is a smoking mess. The bubble on the Astrogator has been knocked off and the units on top of the control panels were jarred loose. "We're not gonna be taking any long trips for a while," observes Prof. Robinson. "Or short ones, either," muses Don. The ever-resourceful Mrs. Robinson and her kids volunteer to check out the lower deck for damage.
John and West recommend several hours of testing before anyone leaves the ship, but Smith has no desire to wait that long. While he stares out the viewport attempting to peer through the fog (which never appears again for the rest of the season) we get a good view of the (new) center control panel in pieces thanks to the crash.
As Smith and the robot trade barbs the good doctor realizes that the robot can accomplish what he cannot-a planetary survey. The robot exits the ship and reports that the fog is breathable but there is deadly cosmic dust mixed in the air as well, requiring breathing masks. Abruptly, the mechanical man's transmission ends. Will attempts to contact him again with no success. Under protest Dr. Smith is sent outside to rescue the robot.
Smith shrieks and screams (as is in keeping with his second season character) during his trek outside the safety of the ship. He finally reaches a spot where it's safe to breathe without his mask & oxygen tank, but as he reports this good news he is set upon by a monster! No longer is he the evil gun-wielding villain from the first season and he faints before he ever sees the creature, which is a garishly-repainted costume originally used in the second season Outer Limits episode "The Duplicate Man" and there called a "Megasoid." Many critics refer to this ridiculous reincarnation as a "space chicken" and director Don Richardson didn't help matters any by creating blue-colored golf balls for "space chicken feed."
Will stays up after the rest have gone to bed, hoping to contact the now-missing Smith and the robot. When no messages from the duo are forthcoming Will uses the vector tapes as an 'answering machine,' disobeys his father by sneaking out and searches for the doctor and the mechanical man. Instead he is captured by the aforementioned monster and its master, a strange red-headed alien named Captain Tiabo, Special Intelligence of the Army (played wonderfully by the late Wally Cox) who tells Will there are thousands of soldiers on the planet like him. mobilized and ready to attack the Robinsons!
The boy is re-united with his missing friends and held prisoner in-where else?-a cave. Tiabo carries a modified season one laser rifle (used in episodes like "The Derelict") that was later utilized by the Frog Alien in "The Golden Man" episode. Two more aliens who look suspiciously like Tiabo are seen on the cave viewscreen. Smith spends his time in incarceration drinking an addictive beverage the alien has left on the table. The robot reports the monster sentry has disappeared so the trio make their escape and head back to the campsite. The secret weapon Tiabo had previously mentioned is the drink consumed by Dr. Smith-in reality a deadly liquid explosive! Smith is quarantined from the others due to his unstable condition. The Robinsons have more important problems to worry about-with the force field out of order they are sitting ducks should the aliens attack.
According to Will the solution to Smith's problem is an antidote Tiabo surely must have, so for a second time the boy runs off-to the enemy campsite no less! As Will enters the cave he catches Tiabo in a deception-he is the only one of his race on the planet. It was he who impersonated the other aliens using makeup and costumes. Tiabo is in reality a hermit who left the noise and overcrowding of his home world to live on this one alone. Cox delivers one of the best-written lines in the entire second season: "For over two hundred years, I have lived on this planet. I've been alone and I've been happy. And then you came along, and more will follow, and then there will be big cities and noise and all the things I ran away from!" In a few sentences writer Barney Slater defined Tiabo's motivations perfectly.
A peace treaty of sorts is declared and after giving Will the antidote for the explosives Tiabo decides to move to the other side of the planet. But is Will too late to save his friend Dr. Smith?
As Smith naps back at the Jupiter 2 the robot approaches carrying a detonator and a pair of clips. His plan to save to Robinsons involves blowing Smith up, a clear violation of his Prime directive. Perhaps, as Spock observed in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, "the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few." Will arrives in time with the antidote and the doctor is cured, and after of flurry of alliterations the trio exits the scene. Fade out to rollicking music.
Granted, this episode is not, as Harris once observed, "Shakespeare," but when compared to the later segments this season it is not bad at all despite its silliness. Wally Cox, veteran of such TV series as "Mr. Peepers" and "Hollywood Squares" gives an excellent performance in his limited role.
WHAT WERE THE WRITERS THINKING? DEPT:
At least three times in this episode, after the ship crashes on this fog-enshrouded world both airlock hatches are opened simultaneously...if there was deadly gas outside or venomous monsters they would have easy access to the vehicle!
The robot promises to keep Will out of harm's way after Smith has swallowed the explosive but twice he puts the boy in danger by letting him get within arm's length of the doctor.
According to Joel Eisner's book Lost in Space Forever the space chicken was originally conceived as a "hairy monster," probably the 'bear suit' Allen used and re-used in episodes like "The Keeper" and "The Toymaker."