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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This first aired episode of "Lost in Space" shows the wisdom of 20th
Century Fox's decision to add an antagonist and a robot to its show
based on a sci-fi comic book version of the classic Swiss Family
Robinson novel entitled Space Family Robinson.
The Robinsons are to be the first family to head to a planet orbiting Alpha Centauri in a colonization attempt. Sociologically, in the show's world, the impetus seems to at least partially be concerns over the population explosion. This reflects the actual world, of course, as does the plot development based on other political powers desiring that the United States not succeed in being the first country to send settlers out into space.
Enter the show's villain, Dr. Zachary Smith (Jonathan Harris). We don't know who Smith is working for, but he surreptitiously gets on board the Robinson's ship, Jupiter 2, before take-off and reprograms the ship's robot to sabotage the mission. Karmic retribution enters at warp-speed, however, as Smith ends up stuck on board as the ship leaves for its one-way journey. Smith is the strongest character, aided by Harris' off-kilter, creepy performance. The rest of the cast is good, but they do not get to do much until far into the episode.
Watching this first episode of "Lost in Space" now, you'll be just as entertained by the retrospectively funny vision of future high-tech for 1997. Although some aspects of the show were funny or awkward in 1965, too. It's hardly understandable why the ship would be not adjustable to accommodate an extra 200 pounds, which is a major plot hinge. The director, Anton Leader, seems to forget whether artificial gravity is supposed to be switched on or not at one point, and too many of the suspense scenes are written and directed in a clunky manner.
However, the aim here is to establish the basic, very promising premise of the show and the core characters and their relationships. At that, Leader did a good job, and even despite the awkwardness, the cliffhanger at the end of the episode fulfilled its purpose of making me have to immediately watch episode 2.
Well, I just discovered this site and all the feedback and information I can add. I plan to make plenty of comments, reviews, opinions, quotes and such in the months to come. One quick correction from the credits listed above on this site...Byron Morrow and Hoke Howell do NOT obviously appear anywhere during this episode. Don't know what somebody is thinking. I've seen this error before. Byron Morrow and Hoke Howell were guests far away in a Season Three episode entitled, "Time Merchant", which has absolutely nothing to do with this beauty. "The Reluctant Stowaway" is the best the series had to offer. All of classic B&W Season One is one of the very best years in television history. It's all galactic, out of this world adventure. Nothing in the series, or many other series, can approach this greatness. This is my input #1!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Let me start by saying I loved the serious episodes of "Lost In Space",
and this one ranks high among the serious episodes. In this episode,
Dr. Smith gets trapped aboard the Jupiter 2 while programming the robot
to destroy the spaceship 8 hours after lift-off. He is trapped aboard
because he has to make last-minute adjustments to make sure the robot
will be able to carry out the programmed sabotage.
Let me first talk about what's right with the episode: The special effects and the acting are, in my opinion, first-rate. The story is fast-paced and interesting.
Jonathan Harris is at his evil best as the corrupt Dr. Smith whose job is to sabotage the Jupiter 2 by programming the robot to destroy it 8 hours after lift-off. He was great as a villain, even though in interviews he always said that he hated the villainous Dr. Smith and loved playing the comical Dr. Smith of the later episodes.
Dr. Smith, in my mind, has always been one of the most interesting characters in television. He starts out as an evil saboteur whose plan is to destroy the Jupiter 2 and murder the Robinsons (and Major West). He ends up being a loved coward. Jonathan Harris is responsible to changing Dr.Smith into the loved coward.
All-in-all, a great episode. The biggest problem I have (and it isn't really all that big) revolves around the security, and in particular the one guard we see. The only guard we are shown is a young, seemingly inexperienced soldier on guard duty. In a big no-no, he turns his back on Dr. Smith, thus giving Smith the opportunity to karate-chop him across the neck. It appears as though Smith has murdered the guard, but I will allow that the guard could have been merely knocked unconscious. The guard is disposed of through a waste disposal unit and gets dumped into a trash bin.
Another problem I have with the episode is near the end, when John Robinson's line snaps. There is a debate among the others as to who should go out and rescue him with a rocket gun. Don is going to do it, but John says that Don is the only one who can pilot the ship and therefore he has to stay with the ship. The resulting confusion is slow, awkward, and there's no apparent sense of urgency, even though John is drifting further and further away. For one thing, Don suggests that Dr. Smith suit up and go out there. He's the worst possible choice! Don West has the most training. The rescue wasn't all that much of a risk, and what can John really do about it if Don ignores his request and goes out there anyway? John won't risk Don, but he's more than willing to risk his wife or Judy or maybe Penny and Will! No, that doesn't work for me.
The problems are minor and easily forgiven in this otherwise superb, special-effects laden, wonderful episode that shows what Lost In Space was capable of when it was done well!
In 1997 an American family and a reluctant stowaway become lost in
The start of one of the greatest TV shows ever made. All 83 episodes of Lost In Space are not perfect but nearly every episode has a good moment or two that makes the whole hour worthwhile. Sometimes that good moment is a knockout bit like the teaser of season two's The Forbidden World where the Jupiter 2 crash lands on an alien planet.
If you are a fan of shows like The Outer Limits (1963), Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1964), Batman (1966), The Time Tunnel (1966), Star Trek (1966), QM's The Invaders (1967), Land Of The Giants (1968), Shazam! (1974) and Irwin Allen's Captain Nemo (1978) you will love Lost In Space.
Producer Irwin Allen is very much the star of anything he makes. His control-freak quirks are all over Lost In Space (but less so in season two). I wrote Irwin's IMDb Bio so if you don't know what I mean by Irwin quirks...read his Bio.
The Reluctant Stowaway is one of my two favourite episodes of the series (the other favourite is The Derelict) as it is just totally outstanding from the first frame to the last frame.
A sight and sound wonder with Dick Tufeld narrations and John Williams music providing the sounds. The sights include amazing footage of spaceship Jupiter 2.
We also see Jonathan Harris at his very best as the EVIL Dr Smith.
I am both a sci-fi nutcase and a disaster nutcase, this hour covers both genres...so what more could I want?
I have many more Lost In Space episode reviews on this site.
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