I don’t remember exactly when I watched Lost in Space for the first time, but I do recall the following details: it was sometime in the mid-1970s; it was on my grandmother’s Zenith (with the remote control clicker); and my cousins John (older) and Patrick (younger) were with me.
And I’m pretty sure one of us imitated the Robot, and that I got to play Will.
My cousins and I were too young to experience the show, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, during its initial 1965-68 primetime run on CBS. But Lost In Space became a huge part of our lives a decade later, thanks to after-school syndicated reruns that were required viewing in the pre-STAR WARS years. The interstellar mis-adventures of the Robinson family (John, Maureen, Judy, Penny and Will), perma-pissed-off Major Don West, and stowaway saboteur Dr. Zachary Smith inspired us in some delightfully analog play, which usually involved running around, sweating profusely, getting injured and/or crying. (That’s the way we rolled in the ’70s, and we have the scars to prove it.)
We even built a replica of the show’s iconic Robot B-9 using milk cartons from the school cafeteria where my grandmother worked, with buttons drawn in magic marker on paper plates. Try doing that on your iPads, you young whippersnappers! (*shakes cane*)
Lost in Space had everything a kid could want: pulpy adventure; trippy visuals; a killer theme song (actually two of them, both by John Williams); a heroic pre-teen protagonist (11-year-old Billy Mumy as Will); and a pretty girl (Angela Cartwright as Penny, age 13 when the show began) who inspired inexplicable, um, stirrings in certain young viewers (sorry Yvonne Craig and Julie Newmar, but Angela had me first). The show evolved during its three-year primetime run from straight-up adventure (led by former TV Zorro Guy Williams as Dr. John Robinson) in the black-and-white first season to a delightfully absurd sci-fi sitcom in the second and third seasons (in eye-popping color), with Dr. Smith, the Robot, and Will taking the lead. In that sense, the 84 episodes produced by Irwin Allen truly include something for viewers of all ages. There’s even some second-wave feminism, despite the devolution of June Lockhart’s Dr. Maureen Robinson from biochemist to laundry-folding, inter-planetary housewife.
Those Lost in Space reruns primed the sci-fi pump in mid-1970s kids for STAR WARS mania, the Star Trek feature film revival and the genre boom that still reverberates today. And without the Robinson family, I might never have been infected with the old-things-are-better mindset that inspired my lifelong love of classic TV and film. In short, without Lost in Space, I might not have ended up as the proud Old Movie Weirdo I am today.
And soon, a whole new generation of viewers will have the chance to experience the unique joys of go-go dancing space hippies, talking carrot men, and a bloop named Debbie.
At WonderCon in Anaheim today, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment announced the 50th anniversary Lost In Space: Complete Collection Blu-ray set, on sale September 15. The 18-disc set includes new, high definition transfers of all 84 episodes remastered from original elements, along with seven hours of bonus features, including: newly shot interviews; commentary tracks on eight episodes; and a “table read” of a series epilogue written by Bill Mumy, with surviving cast members reprising their characters. There are also “as-aired versions” of six episodes, complete with original commercials and program bumpers.
Update 4/7/15 – No DVD version of this set will be offered.
Fox Connect is offering a special deal on pre-orders from their website. If you register your email address on the site, you get 30 percent off the suggested retail price of $200, with free shipping. Clearly, this a deal only a bubble-headed booby would pass up.
And if you’re thinking, “Why do I need to buy something I can watch on MeTV or Hulu,” WARNING! As much as I’ve enjoyed revisiting the show on their Saturday midnight broadcasts, MeTV airs edited syndicated transfers, often with two or more minutes cut from the show, Hulu inserts commercials, and both are running fuzzy video transfers that are years (if not decades) old. I’m happy the show is still on the air and available via streaming, but neither of these are perfect solutions, particularly for new audiences.
Lost in Space has never looked as good as it will look on Blu-ray, not even in its original broadcast. And going back to original negatives and remastering classic shows in HD is not cheap. If fans don’t support these efforts, studios will stop doing it and we’ll be forced to watch fuzzy old analog transfers for the rest of our lives. And I don’t know about you, but my eyes are not what they used to be.
Update 4/7/15 – Fox officially announced the complete list of special features today.
Lost in Space – Blu-ray Special Features
- New On-Camera Original Cast Interviews Featuring Bill Mumy, Mark Goddard, Angela Cartwright, Marta Kristen, Guy Williams Jr. & Toni Williams
- Original Cast Audio Commentaries (8 episodes)
- No Place to Hide (Un-Aired Pilot/Long Version) w/Bill Mumy, Mark Goddard, Angela Cartwright, Marta Kristen and Mike Clark
- My Friend, Mr. Nobody (S1/E7, Airdate: 10/27/1965) w/Bill Mumy, Mark Goddard, Angela Cartwright, Marta Kristen and Mike Clark
- Attack of the Monster Plants (S1/E14, Airdate: 12/15/1965) w/Bill Mumy, Mark Goddard, Angela Cartwright, Marta Kristen and Mike Clark
- Return From Outer Space (S1/E15, Airdate: 12/29/1965) w/Bill Mumy, Mark Goddard, Angela Cartwright, Marta Kristen, Kevin Burns and Mike Clark
- The Phantom Family (S2/E27, Airdate: 3/29/1967) w/Bill Mumy, Mark Goddard, Angela Cartwright, Marta Kristen and Mike Clark
- The Anti-Matter Man (S3/E15, Airdate: 12/27/1967) w/Bill Mumy, Mark Goddard, Angela Cartwright, Marta Kristen and Mike Clark
- The Promised Planet (S3/E19, Airdate: 1/24/1968) w/Bill Mumy, Mark Goddard, Angela Cartwright, Marta Kristen and Mike Clark
- The Great Vegetable Rebellion (S3/E23, Airdate: 2/28/1968) w/Bill Mumy, Mark Goddard, Angela Cartwright, Marta Kristen and Mike Clark
- “Lost in Space: The Epilogue” – Special Cast Reunion Performance of Bill Mumy’s 1980 Un-Produced Script w/Bill Mumy, Mark Goddard, Marta Kristen, Angela Cartwright, Veronica Cartwright, Guy Williams Jr., Toni Williams, Kevin Burns and Robot B-9
- No Place to Hide – Original Un-Aired Pilot (Version #1/Long Version)
- No Place to Hide – Original Un-Aired Pilot (Version #2/Short Version)
- Guy Williams Screen Test for Lost in Space(1964)
- Bob May’s Home Movies (1965)
- Lost in Space 1965 CBS Advertisers and Affiliates Presentation
- “Seven Wonderful Nights” Lost In Space Excerpt (1965/66 CBS Promo w/Dick Van Dyke)
- CBS Network Season One Television Spots (1965)
- CBS Network Season Two Television Spots (1966)
- CBS Network Preemption Bumpers w/Jonathan Harris and the Robot (Season Two)
- Lost in Space Season Two/ Main Title (with alternate/unused theme music by Warren Barker)
- Lost in Space Special FX Outtakes (1965-68) (w/Lost in Space Rare Music Outtakes)
- Original Dick Strout Fox Promotional Interview with June Lockhart and Guy Williams (1966)
- Original Dick Strout Fox Promotional Interview with Jonathan Harris (1966)
- Lost in Space Animated Special (1973)
- Syndication TV Spots (1970s)
- Syndication TV Spots (1983)
- “Studs in Space” Promo #1 (Radio Promo for STUDS) (“Classic TV”)(1992)
- “Studs in Space” Promo #2 (Radio Promo for STUDS) (“I’m Thinking”)(1992)
- Never-before-released 20th Anniversary Interview with Irwin Allen (1985)
- The Fantasy Worlds of Irwin Allen (1996)
- “Lost in Space Memories” (Program Interstitials for The Fantasy Worlds of Irwin Allen) (1996)
- “Lost in Space Forever” (Segment with Dr. Smith, Robot and Will Robinson Only) (1998)
- “Never Fear, Smith is Here” (Jonathan Harris profiled on A&E Biography – 2002)
- Lost in Space Animated Series Pitch (2005) (by Scott O’Brien)
- “The Ballad of William Robinson” (Music Video by Bill Mumy)
- Jonathan Harris and Al Lewis on MANCOW(Chicago Radio Show)
“As-aired” CBS Versions of Original Episodes (6 episodes w/ commercials)
- The Reluctant Stowaway (S1/E1, Airdate: 9/15/1965)
- The Derelict (S1/E2, Airdate: 9/22/1965)
- The Magic Mirror (S1/E21, Airdate: 2/16/1966)
- Follow the Leader (S1/E29, Airdate: 4/27/1966)
- Blast off into Space (S2/E1, Airdate: 9/14/1966)
- Target Earth (S3/E16, Airdate: 1/3/1968)
- Publicity Stills
- Episode Stills
- Behind-the-Scenes Stills
- Vintage Merchandise
Special thanks to TVShowsonDVD.com which published Fox’s press release. To listen to my chat w/ Angela Cartwright on “Hollywood Time Machine”, click here. It’s safe to say I swooned a bit during the interview.