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”


  1. Agree, (June Lockhart) Maureen Robinson character was strong and not used enough as leader. I loved her in season one episode "One Of Our Dogs Is Missing" in charge with John, Don and Will away.


  2. John,
    Believe it or not, the mine field was originally supposed to be invisible, as written in the first draft script. Somebody (probably at CBS) must've decided that it wouldn't read onscreen, and the beach balls were a quick substitute. I always thought they should at least have painted them grey to give them a more threatening appearance. They do look pretty ridiculous.
    This episode is regarded as a classic by many fans of Lost In Space. It is a cut above, but doesn't quite hold up to scrutiny. Also, I have a hard time separating Dennis Patrick (Keema) from the slimy Jason McGuire in Dark Shadows. It would've been great to see an actor cast against type, so the reveal of his evil intent came as a total shock instead of "Well, DUH!!"
    June Lockhart never had a Maureen-centric episode to really shine, but I agree with SGB; "Dogs" showcases her talents nicely.
    John, I'm not gonna lie; the next five episodes are gonna be rough. Wouldn't blame you if you lumped 'em all together and got 'em out of the way. At any rate, looking forward to your reviews.

  3. I bet the beach balls were left in their original colors because of the '60s color television promotion with colors all over shows. I agree, the grey paint would have been much better.


    1. SGB,
      I think you're right. That was the trend at the time, wasn't it?
      It was suggested in the book "Inside Star Trek" by Herb Solow and Robert Justman that Star Trek owed its renewal for a second season more to RCA's use of the show in their advertisements for color televisions than from letter-writing campaigns by fans.
      But seeing beach balls kind of shatters the illusion that Judy is in any kind of danger. At least we get to see the crab probe from the first season's "The Sky Is Falling" in color in this episode!

  4. Despite the second season groaning moments of dreadfulness, I always had a fondness for this episode. Mainly because it has a fair amount of Penny. But not quite enough ...

    Yes, I agree, June Lockhart was always rock solid. Such a warm presence. The neighborhood Mom whose house every kid wanted to hang out at.