Still adrift in the uncharted reaches of the digital galaxy, Judge Dennis Prince desperately seeks signs of intelligent life at the Fox Home Video studios.
It's four more discs and fifteen more episodes featuring America's first family in space. Will they ever find Alpha Centauri, will they ever return home to Earth, or will they remain hopelessly lost in space?
At last, the members of the Robinson Family, America's first intergalactic band of settlers, are ready to resume their search for the elusive Alpha Centauri. Having endured an onslaught of aliens and adversaries on the planet where they've been hopelessly shipwrecked, the insignificant orb is now threatened by an oncoming comet that will reduce the sphere to intergalactic dust. With Professor John Robinson and Major Don West at the controls of the reconditioned Jupiter 2, our space travelers, along with the Robot and the nefarious Dr. Zachary Smith must escape the impending doom, casting themselves once again into the uncertain destiny that awaits them in far reaches of the galaxy.
Facts of the Case
Having narrowly escaped the trickery and treachery of the deceptive Saticons from the previous regular-season episode, "The Galaxy Gift," the Robinsons were greeted with a new peril—a fast-approaching, all-destroying comet. Luckily, the formerly land-bound Jupiter 2 is once again ready for flight. The family hurriedly packs up their equipment and readies for liftoff. Successfully aloft, the ship is unable to break free of the gravitational pull of the unwelcome comet (!). In a final act of heroic desperation, John (Guy Williams) and Don (Mark Goddard) decide to accelerate directly into the path of the comet, hoping to generate enough inertial drive to swing over the top of it.
Lost in Space
After that rousing and thrilling countdown to danger, the Jupiter 2 amazingly eludes the comet and is free to navigate these uncharted reaches of space. Hoping to send a recorded message to some eventual passer by, Dr. Smith (Jonathan Harris) prepares to send his latter-day message in a bottle adrift but mishandles the ship's airlock, hurling the nearby Robot into space and into the path of a nearby supernova. John attempts to rescue the mechanical Man Friday but must abort the attempt else subject the ship and the family to the fate of the oncoming stellar explosion. Both the Jupiter 2 and the Robot miraculously survive close contact with the supernova and find themselves in proximity of a massive space craft, an intergalactic prison ship full of thousands of criminals incarcerated in a frozen existence. But when Dr. Smith thaws the wily prisoner, Fanzig (Marcel Hillaire), it's a revolt of the inmates, they who seek to destroy the ship and, subsequently, the Robinsons too.
As he prepared for a third season of adventures with his popular space family Robinson, creative juggernaut Irwin Allen was certainly gasping for breath. In the previous year, he had helmed the production of three concurrent TV shows: the long-running Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, the second year of Lost in Space, and new yet short-lived Time Tunnel. With the latter adventure of time travel proving to be as unrecoverable as star James Darrin's heartthrob halcyon days, Allen's load would be lightened to focus on his two mainstays. However, rather than pour his energies faithfully back into those shows which had served him so well, he instead turned his attention (and that of his creative workforce) to yet another new series, Land of the Giants. Yet, despite the fact that it might seem the Robinson entourage would be creatively cast aside to find their own way out of the often hackneyed and hokey second season, that which clearly sought to out-do the unbridled camp of Batman, somehow the Robinsons received some development time of their own.
At the outset of the third season's first episode, "Condemned of Space," which initiated a gripping pre-credit sequence in exchange for the previous two seasons' cliffhanger endings, we see immediate changes in that the Robinson clan has been outfitted with striking new uniforms—a combination of pastel velour tunics over turtle-necked dickies (no, they weren't full-length shirts) brought to us by the tirelessly creative and wonderfully talented Paul Zastupnevich. Will (Billy Mumy) now sports a striking purple ensemble while John is clad in a potent puce and Don in fearless forest green. The Robinson women are also dolled up in some distinct new colors and even Dr. Smith gets a new all-black attire (though we'll need to wait until the next episode before we see that). Another immediate change we see is, when readying for liftoff, the entire crew is outfitted in sleek new silver mylar flight suits (thankfully dodging that cumbersomely converted firefighter gear that doubled as futuristic fashion from the previous two seasons). Yes, there are definite changes on hand and they're much welcomed. but wait! Just as the Jupiter 2 hurtles toward the catastrophic comet, the moment of impending disaster as seen from the ship's front view port freezes to unveil the new and decidedly dramatic countdown sequence (from 7 down to one) accompanied by a bold new main title theme thanks to the prolific John Williams; all this in just the first four-and-a-half minutes of the season opener!
Okay. With the dashing new uniforms and uplifting theme music aside, is there enough on the other side of the main title montage to dramatically buoy the Robinson's ongoing adventures? Yes…and no. Clearly, the season opener, "Condemned of Space," is a welcome shift away from the silliness and comic bent of the previous season yet the effects of illogic still afflict our space family's proceedings. Recognizing that this is Lost in Space and not the concurrent and cosmically competitive Star Trek, that which unfailingly boasted itself as the intellectual intelligentsia of intergalactic entertainment (still does), Irwin Allen's little jaunt is meant to be taken lightly and without severe scrutiny—although some argue that any scrutiny from any life form advanced beyond a single-cell structure would be too much scrutiny for the sappy space show to ever endure.
In the season opener, we get a terrific performance from Marcel Hillaire as the criminal Fanzig (Hillaire would return again in the show's final episode as "The Junkman") and get another look at the immediately-recognizable Robby the Robot as the mechanical enforcer aboard the prison ship Vera Castle. After the drama at hand wraps up, we're treated to a "next time on Lost in Space" teaser that effectively replaces the aforementioned cliffhanger ending (more on its presentation in this new boxed set later). With the first season under its belt and change definitely in the air, the next test is whether the stable of usual writers have also been able to break free of their Season Two shackles to deliver some more compelling entertainment. They do…mostly. Most prolific of the bunch is Peter Packer, he who, following the generally worthy "Condemned" script, delivers mightily in the very next episode, "Visit to a Hostile Planet," in which the Robinsons miraculously find their way back to Earth—the real Earth—yet 50 years out of the past and regarded by the locals of Manatu Junction, MI as dangerous aliens ("Voltones—that's what they are, I reckon"). Packer, of course, would ultimately deliver the woefully wretched "The Great Vegetable Rebellion" some 20 episodes later. (In an interview with Jonathan Harris, the actor recalls questioning the writer about this colossal transgression only to receive the pained Packer's reply: "This is pure crap, but I don't have another idea in my head!") Other writers who pitched in to varying degrees of success include Robert Hamner ("Deadliest of the Species"), Jackson Gillis ("A Day at the Zoo"), and one-hit wonder K.C. Alison, responsible for one of the highest points of Season Three, "The Anti-Matter Man."
From a production standpoint, the third season brought a bit of new eye-candy for us to enjoy although the ever-frugal Allen was still busily reusing footage from previous seasons. (In "Kidnapped of Space" John Robinson proclaims, "I've never seen a spaceship that big in my life." Well, sure he has; it's the same craft (and same footage) from the second episode of Season One, "The Derelict." Oh well.) Nonetheless, the space pioneers stumble upon a new bit of hardware in short order: the Space Pod. Having gone inexplicably unused—and unnoticed!—by the Robinsons during the first two seasons, this two-man ancillary craft emerges from the underbelly of the Jupiter 2, its ingress hatch found just to the right-hand side of the ship's elevator (formerly existing as an unmarked door to a storage area). Much like the sudden appearance of the Flying Sub for Captain Crane and Admiral Nelson, the Robinson's Space Pod is a nifty little upright vehicle that allows for reconnaissance activity between the Jupiter 2 and nearby planetoids. The Pod appears for the first time in the third episode, "Kidnapped in Space," but appears to have been intended for grand and deliberate unveiling in the subsequent episode, "Hunter's Moon" (and I'm as yet uncertain if the production timing of these episodes was inverse to their ultimate broadcast airing). Beyond this, however, it's clear that Allen preferred reusing existing effects footage and props, even those he obviously pilfered from the stable of props from Fox's backlot (see the conveyor tunnel from which androids emerge in "Space Destructors" and you'll likely recognize it as a scale miniature of a human blood vessel created for Fantastic Voyage).
Following the two-volume release plan used for Season Two, Fox Home Video presents this edition, Lost in Space—Season Three, Volume One, with the following fifteen episodes presented in chronological broadcast order across four single-sided discs:
• "Condemned of Space"
Certainly the final episode here is a dandy and will set the expectations relatively high for Volume Two (which should start up with the reasonably compelling "Target Earth").
In this latest four-disc collection, discs one through three contain four episodes each, while the fourth contains only three. Each episode is presented in its original full frame presentation yet, sadly, the quality is definitely not what we'd expect at this point. Don't throw away your coveted 1996 Columbia House video library VHS tapes just yet, because the image here is generally softer than it should be and, in some instances, I was able to get a better image from my still-dutiful VCR (and it pains me to say that). The source material, however, might not be identical to that Columbia House used, largely evidenced by the improved appearance of the "Space Creature" episode, that which has historically appeared as a too-soft, too-underexposed presentation; it's better here. Besides the softness and frequent loss of some detail, the colors look pretty good and are generally stable. It's disappointing, really, that Fox isn't taking better care in presenting this long-awaited series's release. The audio is the same Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono mix that you've heard in previous releases. It performs relatively admirably here, probably sounding better than anything that's gone before (but certainly not of "enhanced" quality as we'd expect or hope).
Again, fans are left wresting at their hair and clothing as they see Fox yet again disappoint with menial extra features. Thankfully, we get the teaser segments that originally appeared just prior to the rolling of the end credits. Strangely, Fox decided to yank these from the episodes and include them as mock "extras" on each episode's static navigation screen. To make matters worse, the only additional material we get is what is ballyhooed as "Out-of-this-world bonus 'Lost in Space Memories,'" 20 nostalgic video clips featuring cast member introductions. Crap. These are roughly 20-second segments culled from 1995's "The Fantasy Worlds of Irwin Allen." I don't think even Irwin himself would have been this cheap. This leaves fans of the show to hold final hope for the well-known stable of behind-the-scenes footage, the oft-mentioned blooper reel, the effects outtakes, and the cast and crew home movies and stills to somehow surface with the final installment of this drawn out space voyage. If not, it would seem Fox has no intention to release this material at all or it will proceed to repackage all this in a special edition (read: exorbitantly priced) release.
"Oh the pain, the pain."
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Hey, besides the predilection for Fox faux-pas to abound since the release of the superior Lost in Space—The Complete First Season boxed set, this particular Season Three, Volume 1 collection I reviewed sported a manufacturing misstep: episodes 1-4 were found on Disc Three, while episodes 9-12 were conversely found on Disc One. Oops! I hope that was detected and corrected fast before commercial units were released.
In space, no one can hear you say, "Ah, who gives a sh*t?"
While it still remains illogical, impractical, and often impossible in its narrative assertions, Lost in Space is still highly revered by legions of undaunted enthusiasts. It'll take a few episodes to get over the fanciful and fallacy-fraught goings on, but stick with it and you'll find this family-friendly space adventure still charms and delights fans of all ages.
Be sure to tune in come June as we delve into the final episodes of this final season of Lost in Space.
The cast and crew of Lost in Space, as well as Irwin Allen, is found not guilty of any wrongdoing. Fox Home Entertainment, however, now stands in contempt of this court with its blatant mishandling of this otherwise rich content and the long-chronicled collection of additional material. Fox is now entering a 45-day probation period after which final sentence—and potential penalty—will be passed when this court reconvenes to review the studio's final opportunity to reform itself else pay the consequences.
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