"Lost in Space" - any love for this old show?

Discussion in 'Science Fiction & Fantasy' started by Cutie McWhiskers, Jan 2, 2019.

  1. Cutie McWhiskers

    Cutie McWhiskers Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Note, minor plot spoilers are going to follow but some are necessary as newbies might be better off seeing classic episodes first then going into chronological order viewing if they like what they see. Premieres only do so much, especially for a 55 year old show that took place in 1997. Seeing them in chronological order just can't apply, too many would give up before getting even close to the good episodes. Which is why I'm not mentioning them straightaway.

    The show's acting was pretty good all around. Even with some of the lamest material - again, the blu-ray commentaries have some absolute gold... I think it's the casting choices that helped this show stand the test of time as the cast do feel like family on screen. I will never understand or underestimate the importance of onscreen chemistry between actors.

    The show is no intellectual masterpiece as it's target audience is of young kids (6 year olds circa the early-1960s) as most sci-fi was seen as kiddie monster fluff and it shows, and the show even proved to me that low budgets sometimes end up doing more harm to the story when you can recognize set props being reused for not the 3rd time by the 30th, even using the filming model of the Jupiter II as a prop in some episodes (never break the rule of misusing something so iconic!), and it preferred aiming itself at young kids and keeping secondary at best whole families or even older children as it's way too saccharine and pedantic over character roles and functions...

    ...which also led to unintentional grim jokes like "old guy takes kid out for walk in strange area"...

    ...And then again, early TOS is definitely not for the kiddies as many of the time heralded Trek as being adult sci-fi.

    Nor did it help when very special episodes with moral themes, like "The Promised Planet" (season 3), are so hamfistedly made that either showing what's wrong and why, or even character motivations (such as the part where the kids whine about not growing old and wanting to shave as why they need normal kids to extract all their blood to create a cure from simply has to be seen to be believed, ditto for the hideous wig Dr Smith gets to wear that's supposed to be a dig at "Star Trek" despite it being the completely wrong style, unless that was the intent)... seriously, watch it then watch it with the commentary track (blu-ray) turned on. And, most importantly, why weren't Penny's go-go dancers male since there were male dancers in the indoctrination scenes and this show was not going to tackle anything outside of "nuclear family" being legitimized... actually, aimed at an older audience and writing tightened, it taking the trope of cult indoctrination with a grizzle twist revelation at the end could have been eminently effective. But it's just another typical episode, adored by fans because it's a (loose) allegory to the hippie movement (mostly in style only, if the episode was lampooning hippies it could have been more structured. It's like the author of the story was channeling his reactions to the counterculture than showing the counter culture and letting the characters do the reflecting. John easily could have done more to convey the desire of the kids to grow up in a way other than the backhanded dialogue of the kid saying "I just want to shave!" - which is far funnier than anything in the infamous carrot episode. )

    Season 3 definitely felt like a step in the right direction, right down to revamped theme tune to revitalize the show, and has aged well because it has enough seriousness despite the camp and there are a number of action-packed episodes that take their proceedings seriously and keep humor well-placed, such as the time travel episode where they end up on 1947 Earth ("Visit to a Hostile Planet", an all-time great and shows it's an evolved humanity from the future being seen as evil monster aliens in a bizarre twist!) or the season opener ("Condemned of Space") - overlook a couple plot issues and it's still surprisingly excellent.

    Collision of Planets being another foray into anti-counterculture shenanigans (bikers, this time) but, like most LiS the commentary and satire are a bit broad and played fast and loose, combined with the threat of annihilation. It's still an entertaining romp, despite occasionally (thought intentionally?) bad sound effects...

    ...and it's also making me wonder if Johnathan Harris didn't turn to camp it up in season 1 if the show would have survived at all - I prefer serious science fiction with rare (if any) moments of humor woven into the story and that's why TOS is so great - it takes its themes seriously, is aimed at older and more intellectually diverse audiences, and knows where to place its humor most of the time - but LiS still has a unique charm that most kid shows don't have, much less remain watchable as an adult regardless if one had seen it as a kid or not.

    The Anti-Matter Man and Time Merchant both being a couple of greats (given the show's production and primary target audience, for 1967 standards). The latter's gold moment is when it's revealed that if Smith wasn't there they all would have died and I recall there was another season 3 story that has Smith's antics being quite the saving grace. Anti-Matter Man still has the typical loose scripting but it focused on the main two baddies. While we see an evil universe Robot, what they didn't do - oddly - is an evil universe Smith. THAT woulds have been platinum.

    The Great Vegetable Rebellion - it's the old trope about plantlife being sentient, and they hold nothing back in the camp department. And the occasional double entendre. It has to be seen to be believed.

    Season 1 has dated the most despite being the most serious. The b&w film helpes cultivate a sense of horror and claustrophobia, but to me season 3 is always going to be the best.

    Season 2 just doesn't hold up because it seemed to be trying to outdo Batman and nothing else, for me anyway. I remember reading some plot synopses, then watching and in sheer disbelief noticed how kiddie and silly it was. Not even in good ways.

    But the show still is fast and loose with details, and it is more for young kids than older ones if not entire families.

    Will Robinson: The Wesley Crusher of the 1960s, but was not a latch key kid like Wesley. And thankfully only Dr Smith was the dingaling, they didn't have to dumb down the entire family in every episode. So there's that silver lining...
     
  2. theenglish

    theenglish Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    You might want to check out the thread on the Netflix series as there is a lot of discussion of the original LiS there.
     
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  3. Serveaux

    Serveaux The Wind Premium Member

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    Love? No.
     
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  4. JD

    JD Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    I watched a few episodes a while back on Me and it was just to campy and cheesy for me.
    I usually like campy, I love Batman '66, but this was just to much even for me.
     
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  5. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Lost in Space is essentially several different shows. The first season starts out as a pretty straightforward family adventure drama which is reasonably entertaining. It gets somewhat lighter and more humor-oriented over the course of the season, but it's still watchable. The second season is when they start trying to copy Batman's camp, and doing it badly -- it's a total mess that I find unbearable. Season 3 is sort of a mix of the two tones, starting out trying to be more of a straight adventure again but degenerating back into camp as it goes.
     
  6. Cyrus

    Cyrus Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Loved the original LiS. Was my favorite show when I was a kid.
     
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  7. Enterprise is Great

    Enterprise is Great Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I never really cared for it. I don't remember why since I haven't seen it for 40+ years.
     
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  8. Ovation

    Ovation Vice Admiral Admiral

    Loved it all as a kid (5-8 years old or so in reruns in early 70s). Haven’t seen it since.
     
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  9. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    My LOST IN SPACE story:

    Years ago I attended a marketing presentation for the 1990s remake (I was sniffing around the the novelization rights at the time). At the beginning of the presentation some guy from New Line Cinema announced that there were three great science fiction franchises: "STAR WARS, STAR TREK . . . and LOST IN SPACE."

    I somehow managed to keep from laughing. :)
     
  10. Forbin

    Forbin Admiral Admiral

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    I said out, dammit!
    Yeah... loved it as a kid, but can't even bear to watch an episode now. But lordy, I still love the ship! And I stand by my opinion that Marta Kristin was one of the most beautiful women of the time. A friend had dinner with her at a con last year, in fact, and she's still a knockout.
     
  11. Galileo7

    Galileo7 Commodore Commodore

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    Yes :adore: , I first saw it as a young boy only in reruns on a local UHF TV station.
    I have always enjoyed the original Lost In Space(1965-1968) for the entertainment that it was.

    • Season one is both black & white and the majority of the episodes are great. :beer:
    • Season two is only for the extreme fans all others should avoid. :guffaw:
    • Season three had episodes that I enjoyed as much as season one, e.g. , "Space Creature" featuring the only episode with a tour of all three decks of the Jupiter 2. :luvlove:
     
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2019
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  12. Psion

    Psion Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    The first handful of original episodes are interesting, but I both love and hate Dr. Smith. Jonathan Harris simultaneously ruined and made the show iconic once he got more privilege from Irwin Allen. The original premise is sound and worth exploring, but Harris steered the show so solidly into camp that it's completely worthless by the end of the first season.

    And yet ... it's Jonathan Freaking Harris. Oh, the pain! This bizarre duality to the show, unlike any other in television history, has kept the show a part of popular culture despite its cheeze. Creative types keep getting drawn to it because it's obvious there's something there in the story. It's a premise that can go anywhere, and remain family-friendly at the same time. Unfortunately, most of the efforts so far have been overcompensating for Harris' Smith when the simple fact is that Harris was on to something: none of Allen's other productions, most of which took themselves seriously, live on like LiS does.

    This is what the Netflix series gets wrong, in my opinion. At the end of the first season, the string of episodes added up to just the plot, with no extra vitality brought in by a talent like Harris. Parker Posey's interpretation is certainly malevolent and fascinating, but she lacks the flippant, alliterative charisma of Harris. Gary Oldman brought menace to the role in ways Harris couldn't dream, yet preserved the calculating charm of the original -- in many ways, the 1997 LiS movie proved superior to what Netflix gave us, except for the abysmal story.
     
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  13. JD

    JD Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    IMO Lost in Space is one of the few cases where the remake (the Netflix series) is actually much, much better than the original.
     
  14. Skipper

    Skipper Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    I repost here from the other thread...

    A little anecdote. The original series of Lost In Space has never been broadcast in Italy, so the people who know this title is usually only thanks to the 1998 film or the Netflix's remake.

    Instead my first approach with it was a bit different. When the Star Trek The Motion Picture arrived in Italy in the 1980 a local comics publishing house translated the comic book adaptation.

    This is the original (technically it was Marvel Comics Super Special #15):
    [​IMG]
    And this is the translated edition:
    [​IMG]

    At the time I was eleven and I was already a Star Trek fan. But we hadn't Fan clubs, magazines or fanzines or internet or whatever so I was desperately hungry for any scrap of information about my beloved show. Fortunately, in the original comic book and in its translation there was an article about the Star Trek phenomenon by Tom Rogers
    [​IMG]
    It was everything I had wished for. I don't know how many times I read and read it again. I probably would have been able to mention paragraphs by heart. But there was a bit that leaved a certain impression on me:

    Star Trek was by no means common TV junk! There was hope for this generation of viewers; the days of Lost In Space and its ilk were, hopefully, finally over.

    Obviously I had never seen this series and it was the first time I heard of it. But from that moment, I knew from the bottom of my eleven years old heart that it was bad, it was trash, and fortunately Star Trek saved us from the "its ilk". And obviously the 1998 film didn't help me to change my mind...

    And while I enjoyed the Netflix remake, I'm always a bit uncomfortable about the original series...
     
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  15. stj

    stj Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Have to agree about the importance of Jonathan Harris' playing Falstaff instead of Iago. I would only add their was real, entirely non-campy warmth with Will (Billy Mumy) and, curiously, the Robot. I don't think any particular episodes or stretch of episodes is very successful, as SF or as camp. Trying to do hour-long comedy is always hard. Affection for the central trio wins Lost in Space my respect for achieving something the new Lost in Space can't do, which is be watchable. Adding grim, solemn and pompous to the mix and confusing the villain with the hero was not even a good idea. Parker Posey doing it effectively makes it worse.
     
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  16. Push The Button

    Push The Button Commodore Commodore

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    Memorable for the Robot and Jonathan Harris’ portrayal of Dr. Smith, both iconic bits of TV history. In general, I never really cared for it, even at 6 or 7 years of age I knew that Star Trek was the superior show in just about every way.
     
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  17. Starscream2112

    Starscream2112 Commander Red Shirt

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  18. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Widescreen???? Why??? There are only two ways to do that -- chop off the top and bottom of the image, or stretch it out so everything is distorted. Either one is vandalism. If a show was made in 4:3 ratio, that's the only way it should be shown.
     
  19. Starscream2112

    Starscream2112 Commander Red Shirt

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    Young people and people who prefer to see shows fill their 16:9 TVs will like this version.
     
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  20. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    But that's stupid. That's like saying people will only like the Mona Lisa if it's chopped up to have the same aspect ratio as Guernica. Different cinematic works are designed to be shown in different aspect ratios, and there is no sane reason to force them into ones they weren't meant to be shown in. This is even worse than the colorization fad of the '80s-'90s, because at least that just put an overlay of color on the original image without removing portions of it or warping its aspect ratio. You could just turn down the color on your TV to a minimum and it would look like it was originally meant to look, with the proper composition. This is a far more drastic corruption of the image.

    I mean, good grief, the whole reason widescreen TVs were introduced in the first damn place was so that people could watch widescreen movies as they were intended to look instead of having to get the sides of the image chopped off to fit a 4:3 ratio. So it's downright insane and self-defeating to go right back to chopping off large pieces of the original image to make them fit a widescreen ratio. It's missing the whole point of the format.