Tuesday, December 01, 2015
Lost in Space 50th Anniversary Blogging: "The Golden Man" (December 28, 1966)
In “The Golden Man,” Dr. Smith (Jonathan Harris) and Penny (Angela Cartwright) encounter a landed alien ship and finds it manned by a green being who calls humans “stupid and avaricious.”
They return to camp and warn Mrs. Robinson (June Lockhart) about the visitor since John and Will are away on an expedition.
Before long, a second alien -- a golden man, Keema (Dennis Patrick) -- also appears, and reports that he is at war with the other alien. He claims it is sinister and dangerous and must be destroyed. Dr. Smith agrees with this assessment, but Mrs. Robinson is her judicious self. “There are two sides to every argument,” she notes. Penny agrees, and she attempts to befriend the green, frog-like alien.
As the Robinsons choose sides in this conflict, the danger of a shooting war between alien races looms large.
In some crucial way, one might consider “The Golden Man” Lost in Space’s (1965-1968) version of “Let that Be Your Last Battlefield,’ on Star Trek (1966-1969). Both episodes concern aliens of diametrically opposed viewpoints (as Spock might say), and both stories are didactic in nature.
“Let That Be Your Last Battlefield” exposes the utter idiocy of racism though its use of the two-toned Cheron-ian aliens, and “The Golden Man” warns humans not to judge a book by its cover.
In this case, the beautiful, resplendent Golden man is evil, and the hideous frog creature is not. Smith can’t see through the Golden’s Man’s “beautiful” appearance (and gift-giving) to detect the truth regarding his character. Only a child, the perceptive Penny, can do that.
Accordingly, the best part of the episode involves Penny’s attempt to befriend the frog alien, even though he isn’t a very sociable sort.
The point is that she keeps trying, and is willing to judge the being not on his physical appearance, but on other factors. As humans, we gravitate towards those people, places and thing we find beautiful, ignoring the fact that what is beautiful is not, by definition, good.
On other fronts, “The Golden Man” showcases Lost in Space at its second season worst. Here for instance, Smith and Penny encounter a minefield composed of terrestrial beach balls. I don’t believe any explanation is provided for the fact that the mines resemble beach balls, but it’s an absurd, campy touch.
The shooting war between the aliens, while pitched, is also small-potatoes, visually.
June Lockhart, playing the matriarch of the Earth family, gets out of this episode with her dignity intact. Even in the worst stories, Maureen Robinson is a great character, and someone worth looking up to. She makes a damn fine leader, too.
Next week: “The Girl in the Green Dimension”