Attack of the Monster Reviews

The Lost in Space Pilot
No Place to Hide
By Bruce Fedow September 4, 2005

Writers: Shimon Wincelberg and Irwin Allen
Director: Irwin Allen
Production # : 6023
Airdate: never aired

STORY SYNOPSIS:

The Robinson family and Dr. Don West blastoff from Earth in the year 1997 to colonize the Alpha Centauri star system but instead crash land on an uncharted planet complete with strange animals and dangerous climatic changes. Just as they escape what they believe to be the last of their planetary tribulations a new menace presents itself-malevolent aliens who hide and wait for their chance to attack.

Principal photography for "Space Family Robinson" began late in 1964. Created by Irwin Allen, a radio broadcaster turned movie and television producer, the pilot was shot hot on the heels of Allen's current TV series Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. Between November 17th and December 15th 1964 the title was changed to Lost in Space, probably for a number of reasons that will not be explored here.

The elaborate two-story Alpha Control set (the future of NASA's Mission Control), the alien planet sets, and the amazing interior and exterior Gemini 12 sets were also completed at this time. Designed and created by William Creber the Gemini 12's main reason for existence was to crash the Robinsons on this planet and get the story going. Creber was the creative genius behind many Fox films and television shows such as the original 1968 film Planet of the Apes starring Charlton Heston. The ship created for this production was much different than the version seen in the televised pilot "The Reluctant Stowaway" (referred to after this as RS) as it was only a one-story vehicle with no sleeping quarters (except the freezing tubes), no control panels to send the ship spaceward again once it crashed, larger viewport windows, food storage containers placed where the elevator and two hatches would later be added for RS, a remote-controlled astrogator (here called the ship's "electronic brain") that could ascend into the spaceship's exterior bubble (the reason for said bubble's existence) and a floor several inches higher than in the televised version (the extra floor pieces were removed for RS, allowing the robot to roll more easily). The spacesuits-actually fireproof race car driver's suits-were customized using red pinstripes and the cast squeezed and sweated in these canvas monstrosities that allowed no freedom of lower body movement, uniforms for planetary use were created, and the cameras rolled.

This talented group of actors chosen to star in the pilot were no strangers to network television. Dr. John Robinson, professor of Astro-Physics at the University of Stellar Dynamics was portrayed by the dashing Guy Williams, familiar to his many TV fans as Disney's Zorro and later a Cartwright cousin in the western television series Bonanza for a block of episodes.

According to scriptwriter Shimon Wincelberg's (chauvinistic) history of then-future space travel, the International Space Administration rejected every female candidate who ever applied until 1997 when Dr. Maureen Robinson, distinguished bio-chemist at the New Mexico College of Space Medicine, signed on. Had Dr./Mrs Robinson's character continued in the series with these accreditations she would have predated Lt. Uhura's character in Gene Rodenberry's Star Trek series by a year as a dynamic, qualified and talented female co-star of a sci fi weekly adventure. Sadly, in RS, her Dr. title was dropped in all but one scene left over from the pilot and the revised plot had her fainting as soon as she left her freezing tube. She did rescue her husband in a spectacular spacewalk scene in RS though. Maureen was played by June Lockhart, a Lassie alumnus that Allen had used in his Voyage series in its premiere season. It must be added that Ms. Lockhart did an incredible job as designated "space mother" to the band of travelers throughout the series nonetheless.

The role of daughter Judy Robinson, 19 years old, who postponed all future entries in the field of musical comedy on stage to accompany her family on this epic mission was filled by talented actress Marta Kristen. She had previously appeared in shows like Alfred Hitchcock Presents and films like Savage Sam.

Will Robinson, the Robinsons' nine-year-old son was a graduate of the Camdo Canyon's School of Science. Bill Mumy, a television veteran of literally dozens of shows like Hitchcock and The Twilight Zone was perfectly suited for this part and, it was hoped, would draw the pre-teen viewing audience into the picture.

The last (but certainly not the least) member of the Robinson clan was Penny Robinson, a little genius with an I.Q. of 147 and a passion for zoology. Played admirably by Angela Cartwright, a co-star in the recently-canceled series Make Room For Daddy and blockbuster films like The Sound of Music, Angela rounded out the cast very nicely.

Doctor (changed before the premiere of RS to Major) Donald West was a graduate of the School For Radio Astronomy and had in 1996 rocked the science world with his radical theory of determining other planets' suitability for supporting life via radio waves. Mark Goddard, who had recently completed successful co-starring roles in TV shows like The Detectives and Johnny Ringo was chosen for the role because Irwin and he had the same talent agency, GAC, so he had little choice but to accept the role. Goddard and his agent felt this series had little chance of being picked up anyway, and the pay was good, so Mark signed on for better or worse.

Noticeably absent from the pilot were Dr. Zachary Smith (Jonathan Harris) and the robot (Bob May as the body and Dick Tufeld as the voice). These two characters were last-minute additions between completion of this pilot and the airing of RS. If Wincelberg had not changed Dr. Maureen Robinson's title as well as Dr. West's before RS the audience would have been introduced to two Dr. Robinsons, a Dr. West AND Dr/ Smith! This was a wise move on the part of the writer and producer to avoid confusion.

NEXT MONTH:

The adventure begins!


Starring Guy Williams

June Lockhart

Mark Goddard

Marta Kristen

and Bill Mumy and Angela Cartwright

June Angela and Marta-as well as an ostrich in the bg-get ready to shoot

Irwin Allen directs Williams at the weather station set

The food storage section on the upper deck, never used in a single pilot scene, later replaced by the elevator & 2 hatches. According to original blueprints each canister was to be labeled (WHEAT, RICE, etc) but this was never done.

the interior Gemini 12 had no hatch at the beginning of the pilot

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