Tuesday, April 28, 2015
Lost in Space 50th Anniversary Blogging: "The Sky Pirate" (January 26, 1966)
In “The Sky Pirate,” a human space pirate (with a robot parrot on his shoulder, no less), lands on the Robinsons’ planet, Priplanus, and begins to make trouble for the family.
He captures Will (Bill Mumy) and holds him captive until John (Guy Williams) and Don (Mark Goddard) agree to repair his stolen alien ship for him.
Soon, however, Will and the pirate become friends, and the man even has Will take “The Pirate’s Oath.”
As the Robinsons soon learn, the pirate, Alonzo P. Tucker (Albert Salmi), left Earth in 1876 -- when he was abducted by aliens -- and he has been making his way in space ever since. Although Dr. Smith (Jonathan Harris) is deathly afraid of him, Tucker proves his worth by confronting a strange blob creature from another world, and saving the Robinsons from it.
With his ship repaired, Tucker prepares to leave the Robinsons, and a heart-broken Will behind…
One of the absolute weakest entries in the canon thus far, “The Sky Pirate” is an eminently forgettable and disposable installment of Lost in Space.
Nothing about the episode makes much sense, and the emotional connection the writer and director hope to forge between Tucker and Will isn’t expressed well, or in a fashion that gives the last act any emotional heft or importance. There’s sort of a “boy’s adventure” vibe to the enterprise, as Will dreams of being a pirate, but sees his hopes squashed.
For me, this is just too silly to contemplate. A couple of episodes back, “Return from Outer Space” featured Will desperate to get back to his family, even while he was safe on Earth. And in “Invaders from the Fifth Dimension,” he wept about leaving them behind while he navigated an alien ship.
Now he’s just going to up and leave the other Robinsons to travel through space as a pirate? With some guy he just met?
Pretty much all the negative comments people make about Lost in Space are actually true of this episode.
Dr. Smith is a scene-stealing fool (and now he’s afraid of pirates, too?), a visitor comes to the planet but doesn’t help the Robinsons escape their plight (though his ship is big enough, certainly to house Will and Penny…) and all the drama arises when one of the children, in this case Will, is ostensibly endangered. The whole thing is like a catalog of Lost in Space clichés. It’s essentially a weird re-do of (the superior) “Welcome, Stranger.”
I have so many questions about this episode, and I think they are all somewhat indicative of the fact that no one working behind-the-scenes on the series was paying close attention to continuity, at least no on a regular basis.
For example, we learned a few weeks back, in “Return from Outer Space” that the Robinsons are stranded on Priplanus. Here, Will says explicitly that he doesn’t know what planet they are marooned on.
Similarly, Alonzo demands cigars from the Robinsons. Are cigars standard-issue on Earth spaceships in 1997? After all this time on the planet (the year is 1998, according to this episode…) the Robinsons haven’t smoked them?
And why did the aliens abduct Alonzo in the first place? Why hasn’t he attempted to return to Earth?
Why does he take on the dress and appearance of a terrestrial, 19th century pirate?
Why does Tucker believe that John and Don can repair an alien spaceship, considering they have less experience with than he does…and he’s the pilot?
The deeper you dig into “The Sky Pirate,” the more you see it just doesn’t hold together. It’s silly and inconsequential, and adds nothing to the overall mythos of the series.
Still, Alonzo gets at least one thing right. He tells the Robinsons that they should “really do something” about Dr. Smith. Unfortunately, they don’t act on his eminently-reasonable advice.
Next week, a marginally-better segment “Ghost in Space.”