Attack of the Monster Reviews
The Derelict

December 20, 2004

Writers: Peter Packer and Shimon Wincelberg
Director: Alex Singer
Production # : 8502
Airdate: 9/22/65


When the Robinson parents are rescued by Major West after their walk in space, the Jupiter 2 and its occupants are swallowed by an enormous derelict spaceship. Dr. Smith starts a war between the Earthlings and the bubble creatures who occupy the mammoth ship but all escape in the nick of time to begin another adventure.

Like its predecessor The Reluctant Stowaway, The Derelict was unique. The first few Lost in Space episodes were adult-oriented sci-fi (something that unfortunately changed quickly). Buck Houghton of Twilight Zone fame was involved in the premiere but exited shortly thereafter. Perhaps his spirit was still in evidence as they filmed this one.

Due in part to the long opening sequence this was the only televised episode that begins with the opening credits. Maureen rescues John when his line snaps and is in turn saved, along with her husband, by Major West. These scenes in space were difficult to film considering the backdrop, sets, lighting and especially the wires needed for the spacewalk. In the "real world" of NASA walking in space was the next big thing in 1965 and Irwin and his talented staff of writers knew it so they made sure at least one Robinson took a walk in each of the first three shows. Guy and June were used for camera close-ups and had to keep their helmet visors shut for realism's sake although these were non-functioning spacesuits with no air supply! These shots could only be filmed for as long as the actors and stunt doubles Chuck Couch and Donna Garrett could hold their breath. Also, the visors fogged up quickly from the inside making the close-up shots even more brief.

John climbs to the 'roof' of the Jupiter 2 to repair the NGS scanner, probably the only time in the series after the unaired pilot that the top of this mockup is ever shown on camera. Once the ship crashed in "Island in the Sky" a large bulky lighting system rested on top of the this the 'grounded' version of the ship where it remained for the rest of the series. Any future scenes on the planet where the bubble is seen are the "other" mockup used without the landing legs extended and surrounded by rubble.

After the title and writing/directing credits are shown an abbreviated version of the tour of the Alpha Control sets is used, the same footage seen in Reluctant Stowaway, this time accompanied by more somber music courtesy of Hans Salter, Herman Stein and Richard La Salle. The human voices in the background are softer as well-these people are on a serious endeavor-trying to save the lost Robinson family much like the dedicated crew of Project Tic-Toc in Allen's next series, introduced a year later to televison audiences , The Time Tunnel.

As the scene returns to the missing Robinsons, director Alex Singer cleverly switches from loving exchanges between Dr. Robinson and his two youngest children to an angry confrontation between Robinson and Smith, who is clutching a fistful of robot components. Robinson confines Smith to his (new) quarters where the good doctor switches to a pair of coveralls, his last distinct uniform in the series. After that it was V-necks and turtlenecks all the way.

The Jupiter's capture by the derelict spaceship is shot using several different models and is a wonder of special effects. No expense was spared in filming this sequence and it shows. The derelict's interior is obviously leftovers from the Jonah and the Whale episode of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, itself using sets borrowed from the film Fantastic Voyage.

Smith is still at his worst in this episode. He tampers with the robot's programming (again), attempts to contact his evil superiors when he hears the Robinsons have spotted another spaceship, goes outside with Don & John to confront the occupants of said ship, and shoots one of the creatures in the process! Will, who though young is still able to spot Dr. Smith's wickedness, is very rude to the older man throughout this show, revealing his undisguised contempt for this adult who he has been taught to respect.

The robot still 'walks' as well as rolls but by the fourth show only rolls. Reportedly poor Bob May's feet were rendered sore and bloody when he had to walk in the suit so the feet were welded together after filming Giants in the Earth.

After being shot by Dr. Smith the alien colonists advance on the Jupiter 2 and if you watch closely you can see one of the technician's sneakers as he pushes a giant bubble creature forward. John uses a lightweight laser rifle to cut his way out of the giant spaceship without the benefit of laser opticals added, and the Robinsons blast off in a blaze of special effects glory and an almost patriotic music score.

The cliffhanger starts a new storyline as the Jupiter 2 approaches an unknown planet. The Mars-like planet in the unaired pilot is replaced by a lunar-looking cratered world. Narrator Dick Tufeld adds an ending narration which was only done twice in the entire series (the other example being in the cliffhanger to the Lost Civilization episode towards the end of season one).

The Derelict is an amazing example of what Lost in Space should have remained, with excellent writing, superb direction, great acting and incredible photography.

What Were the Writers Thinking? Dept:

Comets are NOT, repeat NOT hot! 'Nuff said.

The Derelict ship.
Jupiter II landing.
Smith in his coveralls later in the episode.

Smith at his "battle station" confronts young Will.

Another angle of the "battle station" shot.

A color shot of the full-sized mockup of the Jupiter 2, trapped in the derelict ship.

The Jupiter 2 approaches the new planet in the cliffhanger.

Behind the scenes-Guy or his stunt double Chuck Couch starts to run out of air in the space helmet. Notice the vapor on the helmet visor.

Dr. John Robinson, rifle in hand, ready to defend his family and his spaceship.

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