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MEET RICH WEST

Updated: February 12, 2012

Theirs was a volatile and unrequited love. Him: A true blue, all the way through, Titanium Alloy Cybernetic Hero. Her: An Alien Femme Fatale with a pretty face, aspirations of corporate ramp climbing and the assimilation of human dexterity. She would work for 'Space Control' in another part of the galaxy, and for six long shooting days It was by design that these two would briefly be together. After filming wrapped she would be broken down and her parts distributed to various other props and set dressings. This is their story and how, after some 47 years, they were once more reunited, destined to be together.

In 2003, after an intensively passionate 19 month build, I had finally completed my dream project: The Robot from Lost In Space. It had been a period of delightfully enslaving, obsessively compulsive research, building and detailing. Now completed, I turned my attention to a project that would satisfy yet another, as regarded by some, misguided passion. A project that would reunite The Robot with this long lost friend of our mutual acquaintance.

Back in 1998 while talking with a mutual geek-friend about all things Lost In Space, we both discovered a mutual love and admiration for the evil female Robot that had appeared in the series - and NOT the one that everyone always thinks of. When in nostalgic geek mode, those who fondly remember the series almost always think of the third season episode 'Deadliest of the Species' as The Robot's girlfriend (you know, the evil blue and gold one that The Robot misguidedly falls in love with?). No no, my friend and I both highly regarded the first incarnation of this wonderful design. One that, for some reason, most fans overlook. She was known as Officer 03, and she was the original evil female Robot from the second season episode 'The Ghost Planet'.

My friend had a connection with the 20th Century Fox Archives and had become my LIS drawings drug dealer. He also revealed, to my surprise, that there was a drawing of this marvelous 'Lady Robot' which was folded away into one of the thousands of Fox filing cabinet drawers. Following a minimal amount of pestering, I soon had a copy of her wonderful evilness.

She was drawn up by 20th Century Fox draftsman Wally Graham on June 29th, 1966 and was simply titled: "Automaton". Since she was produced for only one episode, the turnaround time to construct her was fast. A 10 day lead time to draw her up, get approvals and construct her in time to deliver her to the set which would have a 6 day shooting schedule.

The drawing was great news for my construction plans, but quickness of the heart would deceive the eye: The drawing was 90% inaccurate. Due to the tremendous constraints and fast turn around of weekly television production, she was produced more as design intent and very little more. Clearly a lot of in the shop hand waving and improvising had proceeded her final realization to screen. The biggest obstacle for me now, if I was to do this, was finding something, anything, that I could use to scale off of.

There was nothing:

As happenstance would have it, something scaleable turned up in the form of a long lost and previously stolen drawing (from Fox) produced for the series spaceship, the Jupiter-2. This highly accurate, to scale drawing was used to construct the spaceship's NGS (Navigational Guidance System) scanner. A wonderful design that had appeared on the ships outer hull. The scanner was built as a one shot prop for the second episode in the series, 'The Derelict'. Due to its very unusual and space utility design, the prop had been pulled by the series art department for use on the now in development 'Automaton' Robot. Now, after many missing years, the original, highly accurate scale drawing had turned up in a Profiles in History auction. Unfortunately, I almost immediately knew I could never afford it and started wondering if this project really wasn't meant to be after all. Quick thinking, undaunted courage, I came up with a last minute plan. I would let the auction end and then attempt to contact the buyer in the hopes he would be willing to trade a copy of it for some of my drawings. I can tell you I would have traded all of them to get this missing part and information. My clever plan was rewarded and I now had all the necessary dimensions to create the central part of her body that I could now scale from. (I should mention a copy of this drawing is now back in the Fox archives as I immediately had it returned to its rightful home). So accurate was the drawing that some of the plumbing part numbers called out for its construction in 1965 were STILL available in todays market. More importantly, I could now begin construction on what I was now calling 'The Robot's girlfriend'.

So, after a two year build (on and off) she is, in all of her evil glory, now complete. Fully functional and re-united with our friend, The Robot. You should know that it was a far easier task for the talent at Fox Studios to construct this character in their 10 day lead time using predominantly pre-existing parts and pieces, than it was for me who had to fabricate everything from scratch in an effort to mimic the ease of their resourcefulness. But I feel it was worth every effort reuniting a piece of lost history with another piece of outstanding pop culture design.

Now completed, It truly tickles and warms the cockles of my heart to see these two finally together again after so many decades. Let the fireworks begin!

Rich West


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