Judge Dennis Prince loves Lost in Space but loathes the seemingly insipid alien plot at Fox Home Video that leaves us tethered to an uncertain release schedule. Oh the pain, the pain.
Last time, as you recall, we watched the unfolding of a colorful and more lighthearted take on the adventures of the Robinson family. Having narrowly escaped the onslaught of space miners, a cosmic tribunal, and even a visit to Hades, our heroes, along with the nefarious Dr. Zachary Smith, must withstand confrontations with space dragons, endure standoffs with intergalactic Vikings, and even survive a fantastic voyage through the insides of their own Robot…
By January, 1967, Lost in Space was well entrenched in its frivolous & fantasy-laden new feel, a definite departure from the first season's decidedly more serious tone. While some fans regarded Season Two's newly-adopted campy disposition as an outright bane to any self-respecting science fiction show (especially when compared to the concurrently-airing Star Trek), the show was still rating high with audiences, especially the youngsters of America's households. For that reason, Will, the Robot, and Dr. Smith continued to dominate the storylines, serving as the stuff of daydreams for little viewers who imagined themselves playing a role in the fantastical adventures that splashed across the TV tube. A definite silliness, however, had grabbed hold of the show's scripts, not to mention blatant budget-consciousness, as the show dared to patronize its audience, often with wild abandon.
Facts of the Case
Having thwarted the affronts of the inhabitants of ghostly planets, an intergalactic ringmaster, an emotionless android, and a girl from the Green Dimension, the Robinsons continue to encounter strange aliens, some friendly, others objectionable. Their home planet is either rife with creatures who have ferreted themselves away, or is a stopping ground for aliens formerly adrift in space. In short order, the Robinsons become entangled with a deranged toymaker, a duplicate-designing monster, Amazon-like space colonists, and even a Scottish "ghostie." They'll also be unceremoniously reunited with the likes of Captain Tucker (Albert Salmi) and Verda (Dee Hartford), the now-humanized android from the intergalactic department store.
As Season Two wore on, the episodes began to betray producer Irwin Allen's boasts that Lost in Space continued to receive top attention and top funding from him and the brass at 20th Century Fox. The fact is, Allen and his technical crew had been spread increasingly thin, juggling this show, the third season of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, and the launch of the short-lived Time Tunnel. Despite his dismissal of assertions that the Space Family Robinson was already in recycle mode, the show clearly was running a bit thin on plotlines, was routinely devoid of logic, and repurposed all manner of alien caves, rock outcroppings, and even the aliens themselves. Somehow, though, the show maintained a strong following in its primetime slot on Wednesday nights—some say it served as the epitome of showman Allen's deft balance between his larger-than-life production concepts and the grounding reality of his financial boundaries.
While the first half of Season Two contained some of the better episodes of the year, this second half delivered some notable achievements:
• Special guest stars included Hans Conried ("The Questing Beast"), Al Lewis ("Rocket to Earth"), John Carradine ("The Galaxy Gift"), and even Mrs. Irwin Allen herself, Sheila Matthews ("The Space Vikings").
• "Trip Through the Robot" was an opportunistic episode that clearly cribbed from Fox's own Fantastic Voyage. It featured some rather decent sets (again, logic notwithstanding).
• "Revolt of the Androids" begat the well-loved and oft-cited line, Crush! Kill! Destroy!
• "The Mechanical Men" featured an army of modified Remco robot toys, a runaway hit with kids of the day and a highly-valued collectible now.
Buoyed by the unfettered zeal of a fan base that shelled out for the first half of Season Two upon its release on September 14, 2004, Fox Home Entertainment continues its razing of the show's rabid followers. Unlike the release of the complete first season in January 2004, Fox decided to break Season Two into a pair of four-disc volumes. Therefore, on this Season Two, Volume 2 collection, you'll find the following fourteen episodes, presented in their original chronological order and each with its original cliffhanger ending:
• "The Questing Beast"
The final episode here utilizes the originally-aired preview clip of Season Three's first episode, "Condemned of Space," jettisoning the cliffhanger-style endings that would thenceforth cease. Incidentally, the original cliffhanger used for "The Galaxy Gift" was the opening earthquake segment from the season's first episode, "Blast Off Into Space" (previously unseen since Season One's final episode, "Follow the Leader") looped back to a cliffhanger from an earlier episode to signal the start of late-season reruns.
In this new four-disc Volume 2 collection, discs one through three contain four episodes each, while the fourth contains only two. Each episode is presented in its original full frame presentation, but some episodes look better than others. Being familiar with the episodes during their syndicated broadcasts as well their inclusion in the Columbia House Home Video Library tapes of 1996, the variation of image quality seems to trace back to original un-restored source elements. While the episodes largely look very clean with plenty of detail and solid color saturation, some are rather grainy to look at (especially "The Mechanical Men"). Again, this appears to be an issue with the source elements—perhaps even the original film stock—and not the transfer (Season 3's typically rough-looking "Space Creature" episode will likely suffer in this manner, too). By and large, the transfers are clean and will surely be pleasing to you. The audio comes by way of a remarkably active Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono mix that blends dialogue, sound effects, and score quite well. The menus are the same static sort that were featured in Volume 1 of this two-part season release.
Fans were left gnashing their teeth and grinding their axes over Fox's reticence to provide bonus features with the Season 2, Vol. 1 set, and their hunger will hardly be satiated this time around: the "big extras" here are some edited radio interviews from 1966 hosted by Hollywood reporter Dick Stroud, which feature comments from June Lockhart, Guy Williams, and Jonathan Harris. Each interview segment runs about five minutes and is accompanied by a still gallery, images that most long-time fans have seen again and again. Lockhart and Williams are edited together into the first interview; the former embodies the motherly warmth and charm we've come to expect, while the latter speaks very judiciously and reservedly (likely beginning to seethe over the fact that Harris, Billy Mumy, and the Robot had surreptitiously stolen the show). Harris is perfectly in control of his interview comments, exercising his trademark flamboyance and discerning diction to perfection. While the material is vintage, surprisingly little is discussed about the show itself, especially during the Lockhart/Williams session. The inclusion of these interviews works to tantalize us (almost mercilessly) over the prospect of more incredible treats to come (the fabled blooper reel shown during cast parties, special effects outtakes formerly available on bootleg videotapes, the actors' own home movies made on the sets, and surely so much, much more).
"How daaaaare you!"
The Rebuttal Witnesses
As Fox alters their release plans for Lost in Space, rumors of controversy have begun to swirl. The studio has announced it will now release an interim boxed set containing both Season One and Season Two. Season Three will also be released in two volumes, the first slated for March 2005 and the second in June 2005. Fans are becoming restless over the lack of meaningful extras (where are the commentaries by the surviving cast and crew members?) and fear Fox will issue a Season One-Two-Three interim box, and later release some sort of "ultimate" collector's edition that will finally contain the bonus features we all anticipate. The cost of this penny-ante approach is likely to be significant for die-hard enthusiasts.
As Season Two wraps up, Lost in Space shows its adaptability to be successfully played for off-the-cuff and over-the-top comedy. Still, with plenty of "safe" intergalactic perils facing our beleaguered space travelers, it proved to be a calculated adjustment that added another dimension to this time-honored cult favorite, resulting in a unique blend of science-fiction and self-deprecating satire. Whatever you call the end result, you simply must call it a success.
Be sure to tune in next year as we delve into the final season of Lost in Space.
The cast and crew of Lost in Space, as well as Irwin Allen, are found not guilty of any wrongdoing. Fox Home Entertainment, however, continues to try the patience of this court with its perceivably dubious intention to string along fans with a self-serving release plan that remains devoid of any significant extra features. Let it be known, Fox, that this court is monitoring your actions very closely; take care in what you do. Court adjourned…for now.
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