At Long Last UnLost?


Earlier this a.m., courtesy of the MeTV network, this Sci-Fi aficionado found himself savoring some Sixties Era programming, at its finest; namely, Lost In Space; Season 3’s Episode 2, which is titled: Visit to a Hostile Planet.

That decidedly unfriendly planet, in actuality, turns out to be Earth; that unplanned stopover caused by repeated attempts to purge the Jupiter 2, interstellar spaceship’s malfunctioning engines of hazardous, atomic fuel impurities; all of which triggers a beyond the speed of light / hyperdrive generated time warp; which, in turn, sends the Space Family Robinson (plus pilot Major West and pissant Dr. Smith) into a spinning outta control, wild ride.

So, are these seven castaways, in reality, at long last, UnLost? Alas, it’s only upon landing when they, rather abruptly, discover the inconvenient truth that they’ve been hurtled approximately fifty years into Earth’s past.

Well, with the all too predictable exception of the despotic, narcissistic Dr. Zachary Smith, who, on cue, plots to conquer Earth (via the exploitation of space-age technology), the rest of the crew wisely understands the perils of remaining amongst these 1947 Era Michiganders; who do, indeed, deem the Jupiter 2, the very flying saucer that it appears to be and its silvery space-suited occupants to be hostile alien invaders, who (minus Smith) they are not.

So paranoia driven are these armed to the teeth, loaded for bear locals, that with no provocation, at all, they start taking potshots at their “enemies”. Of course, John Robinson, Don West and Robot B9 only escalate the tensions when they’re left little choice but to defend themselves; their space age weapons’ laser beams even starting a short-lived lumberyard fire.

All in all, props to the imaginative nature of this episode’s screenplay writers; namely, Peter Packer and series creator Irwin Allen. They did manage to successfully tap into the 40s and 50s era UFO craze; as well as capture the spirit of Orson Welles’s interpretation of H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds. Kudos, too, to director Sobey Martin for his dramatic flair, keen sensibilities and prolific work (on a multitude of Allen’s soundstages).

The concerted efforts of all the above mentioned LIS personnel, in essence, did briefly rescue Lost In Space, which by the third (and final) season, could’ve been aptly re-titled Lost In Inanity.

LIS’s problems actually began surfacing / snowballing soon after its debut season; starting with whomever Allen had delegated the task of creating frightening, out of this world looks for the extraterrestrial characters. My gawd, I’ve seen far more scarier Halloween masks / costumes than those televised, comical, plastic head coverings. And don’t even get me started on how actor Stanley Adams (portraying character Tybo), got stuffed into that giant carrot costume.

Beyond that, was Allen’s bad decision to let Dr. Smith (actor Jonathan Harris) morph FROM the loathsome evil saboteur / mercenary / villain TO the scared by his own shadow, sniveling, screaming, whining wimp. Also, the storylines dwelt on Smith and Will Robinson (actor Billy Mumy) far too frequently; thereby squandering countless opportunities for character development re the rest of the cast; consequently failing to, more regularly, showcase the talents of the unforgivably underutilized actors Guy Williams, June Lockhart, Mark Goddard, Marta Kristen and Angela Cartwright. And, snubbed, too, were the countless guest star actors who never got to see their names when the show credits rolled on by, at each episode’s end.

And, so long as we’re on the subject of endings…

The End



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To Boldly Go… To Proxima Centauri

Last Wednesday, astronomers announced the existence of a planet closely orbiting the red dwarf star Proxima Centauri. Normally we’d deem that short star to planet distance too close for human comfort but, since the heat output from red dwarfs is much less, this new world, “Proxima b” does reside well within the habitable “Goldilocks” zone.

Even better, educated guessers claim this exoplanet could have terrestrial type surface features… inclusive of liquid water. And, saving the very best for last, this newfound solar system is an astronomical “stones throw”, a “mere” 4.2 light-years (25 trillion miles) away from Earth.

For many of us, who’ve been around long enough, this is a literal fantasy come true.

You see, fifty Septembers ago, CBS launched the weekly Sci-Fi TV series, Lost In Space… the story of the Robinson family (John and Maureen and their teen daughters Judy and Penny and preteen son Will). Maj. West is their pilot… just in case the computerized navigation system crashes.

After these six astronauts are cryogenically frozen into suspended animation, the fully automated, flying saucer shaped Jupiter 2 blasts off… and they embark on their interstellar journey. Their goal is to colonize a planet orbiting Alpha Centauri (which, btw, may or may not be gravitationally bound to Proxima Centauri).

Col./ Dr. Zachary Smith portrays the villainous saboteur who, prelaunch, reprograms the ship’s robot to destroy the spaceship 8 hours into the mission. His bad karma catches up with him when he gets trapped aboard the ship during the final 10 seconds of the countdown. Eventually he has to deal, first hand, with “his” running amok robot. The critically meteor and robot damaged Jupiter 2 then crash lands on an unknown planet… the 7 shipwrecked spacefarers fighting, daily, to stay alive.

The Wednesday evening this Sci-Fi program debuted (09/15/1965), I was 11 years old… a boy totally geeked about the real life NASA space program. However, at that point, not all was going well in my life. I was being relentlessly, verbally and physically assaulted by playground and neighborhood bullies.

To be sure, Lost In Space did afford this long ago, lost in life kid the very escapism he had so desperately needed. Even better, character William Robinson was also an 11 year old. I could readily identify with him because we were both living on hostile planets and constantly facing down monsters… his world and creatures the alien variety… mine terrestrial.

Returning to the here and now…

One component of today’s reality is our compelling thoughts that humankind could someday visit and explore Proxima Centauri’s potentially earth-like planet.

The other component is that terrestrial monsters and bullies (in particular, political sociopaths and narcissists) do continue to exist and they’re rapidly bringing our troubled world to the brink of self-destruction.

All things considered, it would not be too soon for us to start planning some real-time, real-life escapism… to construct an actual, space-worthy Jupiter 2… to select a handful of humans who, as interstellar astronauts, could easily wind up becoming not only colonists of “Proxima b”, but also the soul survivors of planet Earth.