Tuesday, September 29, 2015
Lost in Space 50th Anniversary Blogging: "The Deadly Games of Gamma 6" (November 2, 1966)
In “The Deadly Games of Gamma 6,” a group of warriors attack John Robinson (Guy Williams), but he defeats them in hand-to-hand combat.
A fight promoter, Myko (Mike Kellin), sees his success and wants John to join the Gamma Games, televised throughout the galaxy.
John refuses to fight, noting that primarily, he is a scientist. Will (Bill Mumy) is disappointed in him, in part because if Robinson fights, the family will be allowed to return to Earth.
Smith (Jonathan Harris) seizes the opportunity to get homes, and agrees to fight a diminutive boxer, hoping he will be easy to defeat. Smith gets more than he bargained for, however, when he learns that the boxer can bilocate.
And if Smith loses his contest, the Earth will be destroyed.
Finally, Robinson is convinced to fight, realizing all of the human race is at stake.
“The Deadly Games of Gamma 6” is a not very good remake of a solid first season episode, “The Challenge.”
There, as you may recall, a young alien (played by Kurt Russell) challenged Will in a fight, but the contest ultimately came down to Professor Robinson against the alien’s father, played by Michael Ansara. If the Robinsons won, in that case, however, they would be destroyed to spare the aliens any further embarrassment.
In this case, fighters come to the planet, challenge Robinson to participate, and threaten to destroy Earth if he refuses to fight.
This quasi-remake also lingers on the idea of pride, and the relationships between father-and-son. In “The Challenge,” Will wanted to fight so as to feel worthy of John Robinson’s respect. In “The Deadly Games of Gamma 6” Robinson reflects that “Every son wants to feel his Dad is the greatest,” but still doesn’t want to fight.
So thematically and even in terms of specific situations (alien beings spoiling for a fight), this episode is a retread. But here, I very much enjoy Robinson’s reluctance to fight. He is a family man and a man of science…a man of ideas. He is a role model and a leader, too, and in this case, being a fighter doesn’t really enhance him as a person. He wants to go to Alpha Centauri, anyway, not return home. So he doesn’t feel a sense of duty to fight, even though Smith and Will want him to.
The second season of Lost in Space hasn’t been very good, but I feel it has struck a moderate level of quality with “Space Circus,” “The Prisoners of Space” and “The Android Machine.” Each of those stories had virtues, particularly the latter two.
In fairness, “The Deadly Games of Gamma 6” is probably not far off the same mark. I prefer the stories that focus on the family, and the family relationships, and we get that here, even if we’ve seen it before in “The Challenge.”
Also, I like the final battle featuring Robinson and Myko, a space-age version of Russian Roulette. It relies on wits and courage, rather than just physical strength, and therefore more befits a hero like John Robinson than a wrestling or boxing match.
In this episode, Smith gets in over his head again, but I can’t really complain: that situation has become a primary mover of plots, and it’s useless for me to complain about it at this juncture. I can note that I prefer the first season’s approach to storytelling, in general, but Season Two is, broadly, about Smith getting the Robinsons into dangerous situations that they must then extricate him, and themselves, from.
The biggest concern, as usual, for me in Lost in Space is the idea that the whole universe has this advanced, peaceful civilization -- with miners, circuses, hillbillies, traders, department stores, pirates, policemen and boxers -- and that Earth and the Robinsons can never be a part of it. No one ever reaches out a helping hand.
But as one of the readers here on the blog noted a while back, perhaps there’s a prime directive in reverse working here. Maybe the galaxy isn’t allowed to help, even though it keeps interacting with the Robinsons.
It’s a theory I would support, which helps make the series seem less inane, but there’s no commentary in the episodes that such a prime directive exists.
Next week: “The Thief from Outer Space.”