A television series that began in 1965 and was produced by Irwin Allen
Swiss Family Robinson is the tale of a family shipwrecked upon a South Seas island and how they used their ingenuity to carve out a life for themselves from their primitive surroundings. The story shows the undying spirit of humanity for survival and spotlights the incredible power of human ingenuity when it is put to the test. The story is also a testament of the love of family and the awesome bond that it creates in our lives. People world wide have loved this tale by Johann David Wyss and it has been made into a number of movies and a feature in Disney World. Therefore, when television producer Irwin Allen began planning for a space opera, he did not stray far from the formula that Wyss had created. The result was the television series Lost in Space.
Lost in Space tells the tale of the Robinson family, who have been handpicked to spend nearly a century in space during a trip to Alpha Centarii. The family was to be put into cryogenic sleep and sent into space, which for anyone who has ever been trapped for 3 days in a mini-van with your family, seems like an extremely good idea. The family would then be awakened nearly a century later when they approached Alpha Centarii. The ship that would carry them there was known as the Jupiter 2 and looked exactly like all the flying saucers you have ever seen pictures of.
Needless to say the flight did not take place as planned. The mission doctor, Dr. Zachery Smith, got on board after the family was asleep and became trapped on the ship after it had taken off. A meteor shower soon after launch and his additional mass threw off the delicate coordinates of the ship's navigational computer and sent the ship off into space on a different course, effectively making them "lost in space." The series became the tale of the Robinson's trying to survive and find their way home.
The crew of the Jupiter 2 was:
- Doctor John Robinson (portrayed by Guy Williams) - The brains behind the mission and mission leader, Robinson was the ultimate father figure, both literally and figuratively. Despite being a well-known, well regarded scientist, Robinson as played by Williams was more likely to act with his fists than use his brain. He was portrayed as a typical television loving husband and devoted father. In the big screen adaptation in the late 90's, the role was played by William Hurt.
- Maureen Robinson (portrayed by June Lockhart) - The maternal figure, she spends most of the series scolding children and making dinner, but where most T.V. mothers were doing this on Elm Street, she was doing it on some planet half a galaxy away while being menaced by intergalactic villains. The 90's remake saw Maureen upgraded to a doctor and played by Mimi Rogers.
- Judy Robinson (portrayed by Marta Kristen) - The eldest daughter of the Robinson's and the resident hottie. Her basic duties on the Jupiter 2 seemed to be to flirt with the pilot Don West and comb her hair. She was the perfect damsel in distress and got the chance to play the role on a number of ocassions. As with Maureen, Judy was given a brain in the big screen remake, but they kept the attractive blonde theme going by casting Heather Graham in the role.
- Penny Robinson (portrayed by Angela Cartwright) - The middle child and second daughter to the Robinson's. Penny's role in the family was basically to whine as I remember it. Her only other claim to fame is that she for a time had a chimp with prosthetic ears called the Bloop, because that is the sound it would make. I never remember seeing how they got the creature, but do remember it being on the show for a time. In the 90's remake, Penny's role was played by Lacey Chabert.
- Will Robinson (portrayed by Billy Mumy) - The youngest and clearly brightest of the Robinson children, Will became the lead character in nearly every episode. His interaction with Doctor Smith and the Robot were some of the most pleasant moments of the entire show. He was also clearly who the target audience identified with. Mumy went on to continue being a staple in sci-fi television by playing the role of Lanier in Babylon 5. The part of Will was played by Jack Johnson on the big screen.
- Major Donald West (portrayed by Mark Goddard) - The pilot of the Jupiter 2, West was the resident hot head. Need someone to fly off the handle, make threats, or throw a punch, West was your man. He also spent a good deal of time trying to get into Judy Robinson's spacesuit in a chaste and moral kind of way. He was played by former Friends actor Matt Leblanc in the movie adaptation.
- Dr. Zachary Smith (portrayed by Jonathan Harris) - Evil, conniving, craven, egotistical, and scheming, Doctor Smith was so thoroughly untrustworthy that any thinking group of people would have just killed him outright and been done with it. Instead, The Robinsons took him along and he constantly found ways to get himself into trouble. He had an advesarial relationship with Major West and seemed to exasperate most of the Robinsons. He and Will seemed to have a definite affection for each other, mainly because Will was still naive enough to believe most of his lies. He is also well known for alliterative insults that he cast at the ship's Robot. Harris seemed to relish playing Smith over the top and if there was an Emmy award for scenery chewing Harris would have won it during every season. The 90's remake saw a darker, more sinister bent to the character with the casting of Gary Oldman in the role.
- The Robot (voiced by Dick Tufeld) - Created by effects master Robert Kinoshita who also created Robby the Robot, the Robot was a mechanical marvel with a personality, a philosphical nature, and a heart of gold. Equpped with retractical arms with claws on the end that could fire electricity, the Robot's main mission was to defend the Robinson's from harm. The front of the Robot had a window that would light up as it talked and it would glide along on a treads. It also had the poorest designed power system EVER with a power pack on the hip that could easily be removed by nearly everyone, shutting the Robot down. The Robot had a love-hate relationship with Dr. Smith who often cast insults at it. The character is probably best known for his warning of impending doom "Danger, Will Robinson!" which was generally accompanied by waving of his retractable arms.
The Jupiter 2, being that this was the 1960s was equipped with a number of cool little "space gadgets" which included ray guns, a space pod
that dropped from underneath the ship, and a crawler thing that was the precursor to the SUV
. The ship was powered by fuel that was kept in what seemed to be shampoo bottles painted silver. The search for and/or mining of said fuel became a central theme in many shows as the family sought to return to Earth.
Lost in Space was never a show that could have been taken all that seriously. Most of the episodes involved Dr. Smith getting involved with some type of alien villain, putting the Robinsons (either singlely or collectively) in danger, and then the Robinson's rescuing them. Memorable episodes include having the family threatened by a man dressed as a giant carrot, the Robot growing to enormous size and members of the crew having to go inside of him to fix him, and other such nonsense. The show ran for three seasons, ending in 1968.