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Updated: May 08, 2022

Even today, the 1960's television show Lost in Space defies description. Some would call the program "science fiction", others "action adventure" and still others as "children's television". Truth be known, the show probably was all these at one time or another.

Probably the best description one could give is the show represented an amalgamation of two popular television formats popular in the 1960's. Science fiction on television was fairly commonplace as America's space race with the Soviet Union reached a fevered pace. The media gave detailed, almost daily, reports on the United States expensive race to be the first humans to step onto the lunar surface. Because of that, it was only natural to tap into this national frenzy with a slick television series where the audience could travel with those astronauts. To obtain the coveted "family hour", the ephemeral 8PM to 9PM time, one had to appeal to the sensibilities of the 1960's family. With that, all the networks programming reflected family situation comedies, and family centered adventure.

Lost in Space could deliver that with spades by offering family adventure in the reaches of outer space. CBS network executives gave Irwin Allen's Lost in Space a green light after his popular Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea took off in the ratings games in 1964. It became a network "no brainer" to bring the successful producer to CBS. Interestingly, the Lost in Space pilot, a 45 minute "introduction" to the series expressly created for CBS network brass and never meant to be aired publicly, was also the most expensive pilot ever made to that date!

Boasting elaborate model special effects from industry master L.B. Abbott and Robert Kinoshita the same two men who created the "universe" for the cinematic special effects laden movie, Forbidden Planet, it was only natural Lost in Space wowed its network benefactors. The show was immediately given a prime family hour time slot: 7:30PM, Wednesday nights, debuting in the fall of 1965.

The show was "big" in scope and included two full size mockups of the famous Jupiter-2 the family space vehicle, a converted SnowCat for all terrain travel on new worlds referred to in the series as The Chariot, and a wonderfully impressive Environmental Control Robot known simply as "Robot". Our family members would set out each week on adventures in a strange new world.

The series cast included such popular and seasoned television veterans as June Lockhart from the popular Lassie series, Guy Williams, the swash-buckling, swarthy Zorro from the series of the same name, Angela Cartwright who had just finished a long run on the popular Make Room for Daddy, and would later appear with Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music, handsome Mark Goddard a rapidly rising star from the then popular Johnny Bravo, and popular child actor Billy Mumy from many shows, not the least of which, three of the most popular Twilight Zone episodes of all time!

The series had incredible potential and top talent which generated huge publicity prior to its release. Unfortunately after the hugely successful first season the series saw two transformations which would change critics opinions as well as alter its demographics. Seasons two and three would be influenced by series contemporaries Batman and Star Trek.

In the fall of 1966, ABC Television launched a new series in a rather original format. The campy, but smartly written Batman with actors Adam West and Burt Ward was pitted against Lost in Space on Wednesday nights. Irwin Allen, realizing he would have to seriously compete against this shows popular format. Unlike most producers who would simply emphasize the current creative aspects of the present format of action and adventure instead decided to mimic the Batman format. The result was a transformation from a drama to a comedy. That change would increase Lost in Space's popularity in the short term, but it would also turn the critics squarely against the show.

Employing the comedic talents of cast member, Jonathan Harris and Billy Mumy the series moved away from the family centered theme to one of adventure and action similar to Treasure Island's Long John Silver and Jim Hawkins. The series routinely beat out Batman in the 8 to 9PM time slot.

By 1968 another series was turning in okay numbers for network television, NBC's Star Trek. But unlike Lost in Space it never saw the popularity of the former. Irwin Allen stole some of the more interesting Star Trek series particulars and incorporated it into Lost in Space. The Jupiter-2, our "land locked" spaceship was given wings and the Space Family Robinsons would travel from world to world, just like our NBC Star Trek counter parts. Along with this change came an enthusiastically written new John Williams theme and opening credit sequence.

The series also boasted many more stories involving the rest of the cast, satisfying actors who felt "short-changed" contributions from the second season. New hardware like the Space Pod, was added to the series allowing other adventures beyond the confines of our now space worthy mother vessel.

Two of the most popular episodes emerged from the third season re-tooling, The Anti-Matter Man a spooky tale involving an evil John Robinson exchanging places with his "nice" double and "Visit to a Hostile Planet" where our space faring family actually make the trek back to earth. This story was so popular TV Guide did a nice feature spread during this episode's premiere.

The series was still very popular in the spring of 1968, and cast members were confident that a 1968 / 1969 fall season would be in the works. Unfortunately, due to the excessive cost of 20th Century Fox's disastrous movie for a Cleopatra, all television and film divisions of the massive studio were asked to collectively absorb the losses. Lost in Space was no exception and series creator, Irwin Allen, felt his portion of the cuts were unacceptable and refused to produce Lost in Space for the following season. And with that, the show was cancelled not because of bad ratings, but because of lack of proper funding.

The series, however, would not be soon forgotten as television syndication was a popular (and profitable) way to continue the adventures of the Space Family Robinsons. The series would run almost indefinitely throughout the world. Today Lost in Space is aired virtually in every country. In fact, one of the most popular countries is Australia, which boasts a huge fan base, and regular, prime-time treatment, amazingly, 30 years after the show's cancellation.

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