Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Lost in Space 50th Anniversary Blogging: "Forbidden World" (October 5, 1966)


In “Forbidden World,” the Jupiter 2 flees from the robot planet (first encountered in “The Ghost Planet”), but the robots fire a hyper-atomic missile after the ship. 

The Jupiter 2 narrowly evades destruction, and crashes on another planet.

Although Professor Robinson (Guy Williams) orders that no one leave the ship, Dr. Smith (Jonathan Harris) sends the robot out to test the atmosphere. 

When all contact is lost with the robot, Robinson sends Smith out to find him.

And when Smith is lost, Will (Bill Mumy) realizes he must rescue his friend.  He heads out into the  unknown, and runs across an alien named Captain Tiabo (Wally Cox). Tiabo claims to be a soldier in a vast army, and says that his people will soon test a secret super-weapon on the Jupiter 2

Meanwhile, Dr. Smith dregs a keg of explosive liquid and becomes highly combustible.  Worse, he has the hiccups…






Lost in Space’s second season slide into monumental idiocy continues with “Forbidden World.”

I don’t write those words lightly or casually.  I have been reviewing episodes of the series every week since January, and have, I hope, pinpointed strong episodes…but also the series’ overall strong qualities. 

Yet four episodes in, the second season can be viewed as nothing less than a vast, catastrophic drop in quality and seriousness.  The novelty of seeing the series in color has worn off, and now I miss the moody photography of the first season, which -- at the very least -- hid the seams.

The slide in narrative quality is exemplified by this episode, which after a strong start involves Dr. Smith drinking a liquid that turns him into a walking-talking explosive. 

Also to the bad, we get the worst creature design yet in Lost in Space history: Tiabo’s hairy bird-alien companion.  The monster is silly in appearance, and unlike the monsters of season one and installments such as “Wish Upon a Star,” “The Keeper,” or even “One of Our Dogs is Missing,” couldn’t scare a five year old.



Making matters worse, this is another Smith/Robot/Will story, wherein the Robinson family is sidelined. Again, Smith and the Robot go out to a dangerous location; again Will goes out to rescue them.  It’s all not only horribly familiar at this point, but downright dull.

In "Forbidden World,” we meet a character, Captain Tiabo, who is actually alone on the plane (save for his monstrous companion), but pretending to be part of a huge military force.  The lesson, perhaps, is that it is better to meet people honestly and openly than to try to trick them into thinking you are strong or powerful.  Will sees through Tiabo’s misdirection, and attempts to make friends with him on a human level. 

In a way, “Forbidden World” is not unlike “The Corbomite Maneuver” on Star Trek, but again, that Star Trek story simply handles the story in a much more adult, serious and philosophical manner.  By comparison, Lost in Space just looks silly as hell.

If the episodes don’t pick up in quality soon, I fear the remainder of my Lost in Space 50th anniversary blogging is going to be a long, hard slog.

Next week, the dreadful-sounding “The Space Circus.”

4 comments:

  1. John,
    Mark Goddard's fellow cast members gave his character the nickname "Crash" West, because the show's producers used to use the same stock footage from the pilot of the Jupiter 2 crashing. He joked that they never shot footage of the ship landing on the planet, so the ship would crash land every time (although this changes in Season 3).
    Robert Drasnin's musical score for this episode is probably more memorable than the episode itself. The Robot deciding to detonate Smith is pretty funny, and it's not clear if the Robot was actually going to go through with it or not.
    However, you are right that there is little here to recommend. I seem to be digging for stuff to like. June Lockhart once mentioned that all of the silly stuff was what kept the show on the air, and camp was the order of the day in the mid-60's. I wonder if watching the episodes with your son, and recording his thoughts might help you get through these episodes?
    Once you get past Space Circus, the episode that follows is one of the high points of the season.
    At least I am enjoying your thoughts on these episodes, and slogging along with you.
    Steve

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  2. Boy, if you think this one was bad, wait until you see "The Questing Beast" -- jeezus! Even as a ten year old, when I adored the series, season two was a long, dreary slog. There were a couple of good episodes ("The Prisoners of Space" was probably the highlight), but it doesn't really pick up again until season three.

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  3. Lost In Space is a product of it's time. If the successful "camp" of '60s Batman had not existed, then I think the series would have been serious like Irwin Allen's next series Land Of The Giants (1968-1970) definitely was. Be grateful that Star Trek did not go "camp".

    SGB

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  4. You are a brave man to endure these episodes and should get some kind of iron man reviewer award. Seriously!

    Yeah, I remember "Space Circus" and if I recall correctly it is as bad as it sounds. Later in the second season there is a run of a few decent episodes including a couple of Penny ones, "The Dream Monster" and "The Golden Man". Plus the third season is much better. So if you can just make it through this next rough patch...

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