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.”

4 comments:

  1. John very accurate thoughts on this episode. I agree, one of my major problems with this series is the lack of continuity. Even though I am a fan of Lost In Space since I first saw it in reruns in the '70s as a young boy, I must agree.

    SGB

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  2. John,

    Shiver me timbers! I'm going to have to be the lone voice in the wilds of Priplanus, and take exception to your critique today.

    This was one of my favorite episodes as a kid, and I've viewed it fondly as an adult. I can see why I enjoyed it so much when I was smaller, but the thing that strikes me as an oldster is that it's just so weird. I'm not going to dispute that this weirdness crosses the line into silly, but it's nowhere near as offensive as some of the second season entries.

    In particular, I love the sense that the designers were given free reign here. Tucker's spaceship, the alien, the "eye probe" that still creeps me out, the "nucleonic planet buster," the creepy sound effects throughout, and most of all, Nick the robotic parrot. I tried to make one out of paper as a boy. I still would love to get my hands on my very own robot parrot.

    However, the thing that stands out most for me is the episode's heart. It works best as a one-off. Will must have been having one of those days when he wanted to leave the planet (maybe he's still fed up over how many times nobody believes his stories in spite of the fact that they're on an alien planet filled with giants, carnivorous plants and wishing machines, for crying out loud). Then Tucker shows up and it's just a little kid having an adventure. I still relate to it on that level.

    There's no greater message here; the episode is supposed to be fun and silly, and I felt (and still feel) sadness when Tucker departs.

    If you really want a textbook example of how to do something wrong, look no further than the sequel to this episode, "Treasure of the Lost Planet." They really missed the mark on that one, and it was written by the same writer as "The Sky Pirate!"

    I think we can all agree that continuity was not a strong suit in any of the Irwin Allen television shows.

    Thanks for hearing me out!

    Steve

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  3. I recently go the chance to chat to Marta Kristen about her time on Lost in Space, you can read it here at www.retroladyland,co.uk

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  4. John,when you were a little boy didn't you dream of being a pirate or a cowboy?
    I can relate to Will,here.
    Of course there are continuity errors here-so what.

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