You can count the number of science fiction television shows that left a lasting impression on viewers on your fingers. As campy as "Lost in Space" sometimes was, it left an impression that is nearly as strong for many people as the impression that "Star Trek" left. Of course "Star Trek" was a much bolder show, and tried to present some of the infinite possibilities that exist in the universe. "Lost in Space" reached only a brief distance into the future and was the first non-animated television show that focused on a family of space pioneers. There are plot holes galore. Dr. Smith has to be one of the most obnoxious central characters in a television show ever. And yet, I retain my fondness for this show.
There are 29 black and white episodes from the first season in this collection. This collection also has the "unaired" pilot episode, which contains truth and fiction. The pilot episode was originally unaired, but I am sure that I have seen that episode, perhaps on the Science Fiction Channel. Many portions of the pilot episode also found their way into some of weekly episode. This collection also has a promotional film used to sell advertisers on the show.
The series began quite seriously, and remained relatively serious throughout much of the first season, though there were lapses into farce and camp. The series begins on earth with the auspicious purpose of sending the first of many families on a pioneer voyage into space. Dr. Smith, who began the series as a calcuating, cold-blooded individual, sabotages the mission. Unfortunately for bumbling Dr. Smith, he is caught on board the spaceship as it takes off. The ship is damaged by Dr. Smith's sabotage and goes off course, eventually settling on a planet, where it remains for the entire first season.
Some of the episodes held much promise for what the series could have been. "My Friend, Mr. Nobody," with guest William Bramley, explored the origins of possible galactic life and the meaning of intelligence. "The Sky Is Falling" with guests Don Matheson, Francois Ruggieri and Eddie Rosson explored how we might encounter families from other species and wondered whether we might react as intelligent beings or paranoid, prejudiced, suspicious beings.
Guest stars ranged quite far. The iconic Michael Rennie of "The Day the Earth Stood Still" fame appeared in an episode where our possible relationship to others in the universe was explored. A very young Kurt Russell tried to prove his worth against Will Robinson, and John and Will Robinson managed to teach both Kurt and father Michael Ansara something about being a father and son. Character actor Albert Salmi appeared as a pirate in a fun episode. Robbie the Robot guest appeared in one episode. Michael J. Pollard, who would later appear on the television show "Star Trek" (episode titled "Miri"), appeared as a boy in a dimension behind mirrors. Sherry Jackson played a beautiful hick in an episode, and would also appear in "Star Trek" (episode titled "What Are Little Girls Made Of?"). Some of the other numerous guests include Werner Klemperer ("Hogan's Heroes"), Royal Dano, and Kym Karath ("The Sound of Music").
I think it is easy in this age of sophisticated digital effects and a chain of quality and classic science fiction television that extends back to at least the original "Outer Limits" to look down on "Lost in Space" as unworthy of appreciation. However, the series was influential and it was memorable. Had Irwin Allen been allowed to maintain the serious nature of the show, it is possible that "Lost in Space" would have been the landmark television show that "Star Trek" became. I know I watched both, and I know I enjoyed "Star Trek" when it came out the year following the debut of "Lost in Space." I considered myself lucky that two such wonderful shows were on at the same time.
I look back on "Lost in Space" with fondness, and I absolutely enjoyed watching every single episode in this collection. I know I will enjoy the episodes in season 2 and season 3. Perhaps my fondness is all nostalgia. If so, I will revel in my nostalgia and just maybe I will watch all the episodes one more time.
As a side note, after being a little boy and watching "Lost in Space," I admired Will Robinson a lot. I credit Will being a role model for my later years when I studied electronics and physics in college. This show may have been campy, but I am glad that I was encouraged by a show like this one. Perhaps we should all wish for more campy science fiction shows to encourage children to become scientists and engineers.