Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Top Ten Episodes of Lost in Space, Season One


With all twenty-nine first season episodes of Lost in Space now behind me (and season two now looming…), I wanted to post a list of the top ten segments, by my reckoning. 

If you have any interest in revisiting the series on its fiftieth anniversary, but not devoting 29 hours to the enterprise, here’s where you start:





The Lost in Space Top Ten (Season One)


10. “The Keeper” (Part I): In this story, Michael Rennie guest-stars as an emotionless, regal alien bent on taking two Earth specimens back to his home world. Rennie delivers a strong performance, and the story is the template for many, many LIS stories to come.  In this type of tale, aliens arrive, trick the Robinsons, and try to leave the planet with one of the party. (“The Space Trader” is another example of this form, as is “His Majesty Smith.”)



09. “War of the Robots:” Robbie the Robot guest-stars in this episode, which sees B-9 ostracized from the Jupiter 2 settlement, out-moded by a mysterious Robotoid hiding many secrets.  This episode is just a heck of a lot of fun, in part because of the showdown between the two famous machine men.  But also, this is the episode that establishes the Robot as a sensitive and feeling individual, not just a thoughtless machine.



08. “The Challenge:” A very young Kurt Russell guest-stars as a young prince trying to prove his mettle to his father, played by an imposing Michael Ansara.  The story is actually one about fathers and sons, and contrasts the alien father-son relationship with Professor Robinson’s and Will’s.  This is actually the best Will Robinson episode of the first season, in my opinion.



07. “The Reluctant Stowaway.” This is the series premiere, which introduces Earth Control, the Jupiter 2, and all the characters, including the nefarious Dr. Smith.  The episode’s production values are astounding even by today’s standards, and the special effects still hold up well. The episode brilliantly sets up the series premise, and features a lot of tension.  Smith is at his coldest, most evil, in this episode.


06. “The Derelict.” The Jupiter 2, still lost in space (but before reaching Priplanus…) lands aboard a weird alien ship, and encounters creepy non-human aliens.  Naturally, Smith shoots one during first contact, and causes a near-catastrophe.  Like “The Reluctant Stowaway,” this early episode features remarkable special effects and sets, and also boasts a genuinely creepy vibe.  The alien spaceship is a haunted house of the stars, in a way, and I love the non-traditional design of the aliens.  They look like big, mobile, de-formed cells.



05. “Wish Upon a Star.”  Once more, this episode is a kind of template or prototype for many knock-off stories.  But here, a banished Dr. Smith finds an alien artifact that endows him with remarkable powers.  Unfortunately, he goes too far, and the owner -- a fearsome, faceless alien -- comes to retrieve his property. This episode features some genuinely atmospheric, genuinely terrifying moments.  Knock-off episodes include “His Majesty Smith” and “All That Glitters.”



04. “Follow the Leader.” This is another father-son story. Professor Robinson is possessed by a fearsome alien warrior, and in the end, young Will must remind Robinson of the love he feels for his family.  A parable, perhaps, for alcoholism, and its impact on the family unit.  This episode is brutal and direct, and features some moments of adult-interaction that non-fans of the series may find surprising in their intensity.


03. “The Magic Mirror.”  This is a beautiful fantasy story that focuses on Penny, and the notion that childhood must not be eternal, or stagnation sets in.  Inside a weird mirror is an alternate universe, and a Peter Pan figure (Michael Pollard) who will never grow up.  He wants Penny to stay with him in this alternate dimension, but she wisely comes to realize the danger of a life with no change, and no growth.



02. “The Sky is Falling.”  This superb episode is all about fear and ignorance, and the way that fear can make people act rashly towards strangers, or towards perceived enemies.  Here, an alien family lands on Priplanus, but when Will and the alien boy disappear, Smith foments for war.  He manipulates those around him, until hostilities – and casualties – seem imminent.




01.”My Friend, Mr Nobody.” A superb fairy tale about loneliness. Here Penny meets an imaginary friend who isn’t so imaginary, and finds that no one will believe her story of a friendly alien that will talk only to her.

4 comments:

  1. Episodes that show this series should have been more than the camp fest it turned into. These episodes are strong and My Friend, Mr. Nobody is easily the top of the bunch.

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  2. Outstanding list! It will be interesting to see how many from the second and third seasons can crack that list if you do an overall one at the end. Not many I suspect. The second season will be some tough sledding but the show actually gets better in year 3.

    When the show focused on serious storylines, especially concerning childhood and domestic family issues, it was truly great drama. And it was something unique to Lost in Space and what sets it apart from Star Trek, Space 1999, etc. If only the writers had decided to go in that direction more often instead of indulging the buffoonery of Dr, Smith.

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  3. Good choices John.

    SGB

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  4. Great list, John! You really nailed it. My personal list would probably include "The Hungry Sea" and "The Sky Pirate" in place of "War of the Robots" and "The Challenge." But I definitely can't argue with your choices.
    Steve

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