Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Lost in Space 50th Anniversary Blogging: "The Toymaker" (January 25, 1967)


In “The Toymaker,” Dr. Smith (Jonathan Harris), Will (Bill Mumy) and The Robot encounter another vending/catalog machine from the Celestial Department Store (see: “The Android Machine.”)

This machine is in disrepair, however, and when Smith fiddles with it -- attempting to get a birthday present for Penny (Angela Cartwright) -- he is transported to the domain of a cosmic toymaker Walter Burke). This personality wants to make Smith a Christmas present for 75 ft. tall children of the Andromeda Galaxy.

Will attempts to get help, but his dad (Guy Williams) and Don (Mark Goddard) are too busy searching for a dangerous new “fissure” on the planet to help.  Will also disappears to the realm of the toymaker, but fortunately his disappearance is witnessed by Penny.

Before long, a Celestial Department Store manager, Zumdish, arrives on the Robinsons’ planet and seeks to destroy the malfunctioning machine…




I can’t argue that “The Toymaker” is a great episode of Lost in Space (1965-1967), or even a particularly good one. It is a marginal improvement over last week’s installment, “The Questing Beast.”

Again, a cast-off or stock prop -- the alien vending machine -- is the center of the narrative, but at least on this occasion, the Robinsons’ recognize the device, and there seems to be some continuity with the earlier story, the aforementioned “The Android Machine.” I still find it baffling, however, that John and the Robinsons don’t ask Zumdish for help getting back to Earth, or even, simply, back to his department store.  Couldn’t they catch a bus from there to a new home?  Or buy a used spaceship from the used spaceship lot next door?

One moment in this episode is even more baffling.  Penny describes for her parents the disappearance of Dr. Smith. Yet, as the opening scene of the episode makes plain…she was not present to witness it.  She goes pn and on here, describing the sounds and sights of an event she never was privy to. This is a sign, I submit, that the creators of the series were literally asleep at the wheel by this juncture. 

With a little tweaking, this episode could have been stronger. For instance, the toy soldier in the Toymaker’s warehouse is creepy as hell, and there’s a tradition of creepy Christmastime stories that the series could have mined.  Instead, the film is never particularly frightening or memorable. 

Still, this story punches a hole in at least one fan theory that has been brought up here on the blog.  I have written before how I find it crazy-making that alien races from a society much like Earth’s never stop to help the stranded Robinsons make their way home, or to a habitable world. Fans have suggested that these advance aliens may have a prime directive-like edict preventing them from helping the primitive Earthlings.

This week, however, we see visual evidence that the Toymaker creates toys for Earth-children.  Smith and will attempt to get home to Earth, but the Toymaker stops them.

This is the final Lost in Space episode I’ll be reviewing for the blog. I began 50th anniversary blogging of the series back in January, and reviewed 47 episodes.  I am planning to launch an e-magazine called “In Review” soon (definitely in 2016) and one issue will be devoted to the entirety of the series, so I will review the remaining 37 or so installments there.

My final thoughts about this Irwin Allen series?  For the most part, the first season is an imaginative, worthwhile endeavor, and a series I recommend watching. Sure, it’s fifty years old, so you have to accept some old fashioned values (and sexism).  But overall the series looks good, and has some amazing installments like “Wish Upon a Star” and “My Friend, Mr. Nobody.” 

However, the second season is worse than I imagined it possibly could be.  I hope the third season is better!

Next week, for 50th anniversary blogging, I take on a new series: Star Trek (1966 – 1969).

4 comments:

  1. John nice review of an episode. In the '70s, when I was a boy, I saw this episode in reruns I cheered on Will and Smith's attempts to open the doorway to Earth complete with a Christmas decorated town street beyond! I was so disappointed when they were hampered. At the very least, the Toymaker's factory was destroyed thus stopping the Robinsons from using that doorway to Earth.

    Also, maybe toys for the Earth-children are an exception from the prime-directive as are all the U.F.O. sightings/abductions on Earth, i.e., maybe the prime-directive only applies to not helping Earthlings out among the galaxies to get back to Earth. Just a thought.

    SGB

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  2. Will miss your amazing Lost in Space reviews but as always look forward for your others!!!

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  3. Thanks for the reviews. Enjoyed them and I know enduring those year two episodes had be excruciating.

    "My Friend Mr. Nobody" is one of my favorite episodes of any series. A example of what might have been had the show been in the hands of producers who were actually interested in making a good science fiction series.

    While season 3 never approaches the heights of year one, it is for the most part a huge improvement over the second season, and includes "The Anti-Matter Man", which I would put in my Lost in Space Top Ten.

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  4. John,
    So sorry to hear that this is your last Lost In Space review for the blog. I'll look forward to "In Review."
    At this point in the series, I can't say that I blame you. Watching these episodes in order is pretty much an endurance test. I couldn't do it when I was burning through the dvd's few years ago.
    The Second Season does have some noteworthy episodes remaining. "The Cave of the Wizards" is spooky and fun. I have a fondness for "Treasure of the Lost Planet." "Trip Through the Robot" is a classic, and "The Mechanical Men" is so goofy, it is borderline surreal.
    The Third Season, as James points out, is much improved. The first six episodes are varying levels of great, and "Space Creature" scared the heck out of me when I first saw it on a cloudy day in Chicago as a kid. "The Time Merchant" is up there among the best.
    I have truly enjoyed sharing thoughts with you about my favorite show. I'll look forward to your reviews of Star Trek, and hope to provide you with as many insights as I can in the comments!
    Steve

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