Monday, April 16, 2018

Getting Found Through Getting Lost... In Space

I probably spent as much time living vicariously on the Jupiter 2, as a child, as was possible. Because even with intergalactic monsters and cosmic storms, there was a comforting expectation that at the end of the show, the family would be intact, Robot, Dr. Smith, and all.

Autographed Cast Photo via Jimmy on Flickr

It's been a fun, and sometimes introspective look back to my childhood to revisit Lost in Space, with the help of Marc Cushman's amazing TV show biographies, one thick, ridiculously detailed volume per show season.

My Goodreads reviews: Lost in Space Volume I/First Season ( 699 pages)
Lost in Space Volume II/Second Season ( 492 pages)
Lost in Space Volume III/Third Season (522 pages)


As I did previously with Marc's Star Trek series, I read the chapter about it, then watched each episode while pedaling my recumbent bike. 83 episodes times 50 minutes pedaling per episode = almost seventy hours biking. Not bad.



Lost in Space was originally broadcast beginning in 1965, through 1968; three seasons in all, and picked up for syndication immediately after it ceased production, beginning in 1969. Keep in mind, space was happening - we were sending astronauts to walk on the moon! But they were adult men. LIS gave me a way to picture myself as a space explorer - and not only as a woman, but as a girl. Kids in space!

From the eyes of a child...

I wanted to look like Penny, and had a major crush on Major West. (The first, if not last Mark I would have a crush on.) I loved both John and Maureen Robinson; they made me feel safe and warm. Dr. Smith was annoying AF, I did not understand why they didn't drop him off at the nearest asteroid. Judy seemed blondeishly nice. I also adored The Robot, and was the proud owner of one or two of the small knock-off Robots Remco sold. Will Robinson, meh. I had nothing against him, but he seemed like a bit of a know-it-all, and why was he getting to do all the fun, exciting things?

From adult eyes...

Now I'm cognizant of the behind-the-scenes issues with the cast, the scripts, the production. I didn't realize that Guy Williams, Professor Robinson, had been Zorro! (Somebody whom, due to the magic of syndication, I would later develop a girlish ladyboner for, based on that show. Apparently I have a thing for the angry young man stereotype.) But in Lost in Space, he portrayed a brave, kind, heroic father. The father I wished I had.

Maureen reminded me much of my own mother: also kind, smart, lovely. Also underappreciated and vastly underused. While some of the characters who rarely got screen time occasionally got an episode with a starring role, like Marta Kristen did in Attack of the Killer Plants, which was brilliant, Maureen was regularly sidelined except when needed, as mothers often are.

I also found, interestingly, that the sizzling chemistry and kisses between John and Maureen in the first few episodes made show creator Irwin Allen uneasy, so PDA's became forbidden. Kids were not supposed to see adults acting attracted to one another, the horror! I believe the married Robinsons might have theoretically shared a cabin, but I don't recall any footage of them in it, or emerging from it together. How you make three children without kissing and chemistry, I know not.

Allen also put the kibosh on exploring the chemistry between Don and Judy. Although there were scenes whether they seemed to have an "understanding," and might have indicated attraction via posture and body language, after the first couple episodes, no mushy stuff allowed!! Monsters and spaceship crashes, yes, kisses, no! The sex negativity of this and other shows of the period really pisses me off, now.

Mark Goddard as Don West... I still have a crush. Although in watching the series over again, good heavens, the poor dude was always getting beat up, knocked unconscious, getting a body part trapped somewhere, not to mention, always crashing the Jupiter 2. He and Guy Williams were terrific in The Anti-Matter Man, and it was amusing to read in the book about Goddard's beard mishap during the filming.

Marta Kristen was much more than just a pretty face, she was a very talented actress, but she was sidelined almost as much as June Lockhart. Angela Cartwright as Penny got a bit more screen time, and I wanted a Bloop as a pet (though reading about that chimp made me very sad, the way she was treated). As an adult, it is easy to see all the ways sexist dynamics narrowed the way little girls could envision themselves, even ones who were theoretically astronauts. Maureen Robinson was supposed to be a biochemist, but did we ever see her biochemisting? Nope, just making dinner and doing the laundry.

Billy, now Bill Mumy. I found him him less of a show-off and more as a brilliant child actor who became a thoughtful, interesting, and very attractive man. (I have since discovered a taste for gingers.)  I really enjoyed episodes like Return From Outer Space and Trip Through the Robot, the many interviews with Mumy sprinkled throughout the books and in some of the bonus features on the DVDs.

Jonathan Harris, the nefarious, cowardly, pompous Dr. Zachary Smith. He, too, was brilliant, if a bit of an asshole. He could have performed his role and left space and advocated for the other actors, been more of a team player, but he chose not to, though he nurtured a super warm relationship with the crew. I can see from an adult storyteller's perspective, how much Harris brought to the table, and how that made the show more conflict-laden (which we want in stories, not so much in real life) and entertaining. I must admit waiting to hear "Oh, the pain, the pain!" and whatever alliterative insult Dr. Smith would spout at The Robot, the poor Bubbleheaded Booby.

The Robot, loyal companion in all circumstances, performed brilliantly by Bob May (body) and Dick Tufeld (voice). I still think of him like a cross between an uncle and older brother, and sooo believable. Who doesn't know how to say, "Danger, danger, Will Robinson!" while waving their arms like The Robot?

Paul Zastupnevich, assistant to Irwin Allen and costume designer. He designed so many costumes and props that would fit right in at a BDSM dungeon, today. Deliberate, or accidental?

Jonathan Harris and guest star Francine York from The Colonists, via Lost in Space wikia
The music:

I had remembered the music having a big impact on me, but I was really struck by it, in my revisiting of it.  The initial theme song and much of the first few episodes were scored by Johnny Williams (later to be John Williams, of Jaws, Close Encounters, Star Wars, and so much more).  There were also snippets borrowed from The Day the Earth Stood Still, and original themes by Alexander Courage (Star Trek,Superman) and others.

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Watching the show, and really listening to it... It would have had a fraction of the impact on me, without the soundtrack. (I think I've mentioned being a groupie at heart.)

There's one sweet, warm theme frequently repeated, which I discovered from the Cushman LIS books, is called "Family." You can hear it, above, at about 19:56.

Other themes weren't identified, but I invite you to listen to how I've labeled some of them, and see if you agree:

0:00 - Original Lost in Space Theme by John(ny) Williams

My labeling:
  0:56 - Tense Times
  1:59 - something chilling from The Day the Earth Stood Still
  3:42 - Noble Exploration
  5:10 - Something Creepy is Around the Corner (this makes my heart beat faster)
  6:22 - The Monster Is Coming. One. Step. At. A. Time. (my heart POUNDS)
  8:45 - Silly Dr. Smith theme (a dark version, sometimes it's lighter)
  9:29 - Look Out For That Rock - The Chariot Charioting
11:22 - Curiosity Killed the Cat
12:08 - Entering Twisted Fairyland (used a lot with Penny stories)
13:09 - Come Into My Lair, Said The Spider
18:48 - Perhaps We've Learned Our Lesson
19:28 - The Robot's March
19:56 - Family, as described above. Tender, wistful, sentimental.
There's so much more. Circusy themes, playful themes, Western themes, more stuff that almost kidnaps you to come back after commercial. As much as the sight of The Robot waving his arms and announcing, "Danger! Danger!" or my happy interest at the sight of Mark Goddard in his silver jumpsuit, this music is my childhood.

Do you have a favorite Los in Space episode, star, or musical theme?
And have you voted in my tiara poll. yet? Only a couple days left.
Your thoughts?