Updated: May 05, 2012
MONSTERS PHOTO GALLERY #08
Back in the early 1960s, before man landed on the moon and Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek changed the face of science-fiction, movie producer Irwin Allen turned to the television airways and launched a family into orbit. Lost In Space was a smash hit, quickly becoming a top-ten show, and lasting for three seasons before eventually succumbing to a combination of campiness and Dr. Smith's repetitive antics. While it was on top though, it produced some of the most memorable storylines in television, and cemented a near legendary status among the children who grew up with it.
In CBS's futuristic retelling of the classic "Swiss Family Robinson," Lost In Space chronicled the intergalactic adventures of a "modern age" Robinson family, lead by parents John and Maurine (played by Zorro's Guy Williams and Lassie's June Lockhart). Together with their children, Judy, Penny, and Will (played by Marta Kristin, Angela Cartwright, and Billy Mumy, respectively), the group, along with pilot Don West (Mark Goddard), was sent by mankind to colonize a planet in Irwin Allen's wide-eyed vision of 1997. Thanks to the efforts of the devious stowaway Dr. Smith (Jonathan Harris), however, the ship veered radically off course and plunged the Jupiter II into the recesses of the uncharted solar system.
Existing in a stirring world filled with laser beams and flying saucers, episodes would find the Lost In Space crew grappling with everything from giant robots to monster plants. While later years would emphasis a more comedic nature, the first season featured more survival-oriented storylines, and more visibly would invoke a more maniacal and blatantly evil version of Dr. Smith. Early episodes would often showcase the doctor's patented schemes to murder the family, and it wasn't until producers realized he wasn't a very likable person that they began to emphasis a noticeably soften version of the character. What resulted was still a self-serving, egotistical Dr. Smith, but one that would develop a certain kinship with Will, who would travel with the doctor on adventures along with the B-9 robot. Together the three would almost cultivate into a show of their own, which would eventually lead towards the end of the series as storylines left the rest of the cast behind and became decisively more ridiculous, occasionally pitting the trio against Vikings and elves.
The first season escaped these later issues, and would produce some of the series' best episodes. "Return From Outer Space" finds Will transported through a portal to a small town in Vermont, where the residents force him into a foster home. "All That Glitters" is a defining moment in the show, in which Dr. Smith inadvertently turns Penny into a statue made of platinum. It's in this episode that the doctor noticeably shifts from his former more devilish persona into a lazier, greedy, and overly-protective character. "Follow the Leader" was the season finale, and found the mind and soul of Professor John Robinson overtaken by an alien spirit. Within the nearly two dozen episodes of the first year, there's a lot to appreciate, and a lot of variation. The high ratings would certainly prove there was enough to stimulate nearly everyone, and the intelligent nature of the episodes would solidity the lasting quality of the series enough that three decades later, we're still talking about it. It's difficult to find a Baby Boomer or Gen-X'er that doesn't hold a near mythical appreciation of the show, and after viewing the episodes in the collection it's not hard to wonder why. This is damn good television, and stuff like this is timeless.
Twentieth-Century Fox presents Lost In Space in its original 1.33:1 fullframe aspect ratio, which isn't a surprise. What is a bit surprising is the incredible preservation of the show. Shown in black and white, the transfer is excellent, with a high level of detail and very few instances of grain or other signs of aging. Gray and black levels are very impressive, and there are no indications of compression artifacts or edge enhancement. This is a fantastic presentation.
On the audio side, Lost In Space is delivered with a Dolby Digital 1.0 mono track, and the results are what one would expect. While clear and undistorted, there is an extremely heavy anchorage to the center channel. Rears speakers are utilized very rarely, mostly during the show's opening musical sequence where some ambiance is present. Considering the age of the series, it's impossible to complain.
Moving on to the extras, while the overall production of the box set is excellent, it's fairly disappointing that no audio commentary tracks are included. I'm not quite sure what the reason for this is, unless the remaining cast is boycotting for financial reasons like the folks from Seinfeld. I see the Lost In Space crew on a fairly regular basis on the convention circuit, where they sign autographs until their hands fall off, so I know they're not exactly too busy to sit down in a recording studio. Here's hoping that we hear from them on a second season release.
That said, the collection does include two supplements. The first is the original, unaired pilot. The basic premise is the same, however the show is marked by the absence of Dr. Smith and the robot. At the time it was filmed, this was one of the most expensive pilots ever produced, so eighty percent of the scenes from it would eventually find a place in subsequent episodes, such as the attack by the giant cyclops in episode four.