Balance, Just Balance: Lost in Space (TV Showcase #42)

We just ended one trilogy with the Muppets, and now we’re going to end another trilogy of Showcases: that of shows by Irwin Allen. Allen made four shows, but I have no plans to watch his fourth, so this will be our last look into the mind of a scifi guru. I had been eager to see this show; it’s by far Allen’s most popular, at least today. But this show had many little aspects that I praised it for, too many to count, and I realised that was because they all fit in to one bigger category. So without further ado, let’s hop in the Jupiter Two and have a look at “Lost in Space”.

“Lost in Space” (LIS for short) was created in 1965 and ran for 83 hour-long episodes over three seasons, ending in 1968. The show also spawned a remake movie in 1998 and an unaired pilot for a remake series in 2003. The plot revolved around the Robinson family: John, the father; Maureen, the mother; Judy, the oldest; Penny, the middle child; and Will, the youngest. The family, plus their pilot, Don, were headed to Alpha Centauri to begin a new colony there. However, a foreign agent known as Dr. Smith, in disguise and working for NASA, sabotaged the space ship but didn’t get off in time, causing all seven of them to be lost in space. The cast was joined by their robot, who grew his own personality over time, and together they made the best of a planet they had subsequently crashed on.

This show represents some of Irwin Allen’s finest work, I think, because of how he was able to pull off such a tremendous show. There was almost no stock footage in this one, and I don’t remember any reused monster suits, though there were some from “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea” (the Seaview was even used in an LIS episode, but it was made to look like an alien throne room). And the cast was star-studded, all things considered. Angela Cartwright, who played Penny, had been a von Trapp child in Sound of Music; Billy Mumy, who was Will, had already appeared in “The Twilight Zone” and “Alfred Hitchcock Presents”; Guy Williams, who played John, was TV’s original Zorro on the Disney series of the same name; and June Lockheart, who played Maureen, had just finished being Timmy Martin’s mother on “Lassie”. So how did these cast members of varied experience come together and agree to do a scifi show?

Balance. The show had balance. There was balance in everything. There was balance between action scenes and implied danger. There was balance between parents teaching their kids morals and having fun with them. Balance between Judy and Don’s romance and Don and John’s respect for one another. There was balance between the comedy and the serious, between Dr. Smith’s cowardice and Will’s cleverness, between Don’s hatred of Smith and the family’s love of their neighbour, between monstrous aliens and intelligent ones, balance between serials and one-offers– there was balance in everything. So it was no wonder that the audience was so wide an age range and consisted of so many viewers. The storytelling was equal to the scifi on LIS, and it showed.

So, we leave our pal Irwin Allen on a good note: “Lost in Space” is fantastic (except for “The Great Vegetable Rebellion”; let’s not go there). It had a great balance of everything, and it’s a wonderful demonstration of good storytelling and engaging plots, all at the same time. What do you think?

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