Lost in Space is a science fiction TV series created and produced by Irwin Allen, filmed by 20th Century Fox Television, and broadcast on CBS. The show ran for three seasons, with 83 episodes airing between September 15, 1965, and March 6, 1968. The first TV season was filmed in black and white, but the remainder were filmed in color. In 1998, a Lost in Space movie, based on the TV series, was released.
Though the TV series concept centered on the Robinson family, many later story lines focused primarily on Dr. Zachary Smith (Jonathan Harris) who is a medical doctor, originally an utterly evil would-be killer who goes through change while providing comic relief to the TV show (and causing most of the episodic conflict). Smith was not in the unaired pilot and neither was the robot. A meteor storm in the unaired pilot put them off course. In the first aired episode, Smith's sabotage and unintended presence put them off course so that they encountered the meteors. In the un-aired version, they were going at such a relatively slow speed that they wondered if they were on Mars. In the pilot, just seconds of hyper-drive and they were lost, unknown light years from Earth.
On October 16, 1997 (thirty years into the future in 1967), the United States is about to launch of one of history's great adventures: man's colonization of deep space. The Jupiter 2 (calledGemini 12 in the pilot episode), a futuristic saucer-shaped spaceship, stands on its launch pad undergoing final preparations. Its mission is to take a single family on a five-and-a-half-year journey (stated as 98 years in the pilot episode) to a planet of the nearby star Alpha Centauri (the pilot episode refers to the planet itself as Alpha Centauri), which space probes reveal possesses ideal conditions for human life.
The Robinson family was selected from among two million volunteers for this mission. The family includes Professor John Robinson (Guy Williams), his wife, Maureen (June Lockhart), their children, Judy (Marta Kristen), Penny (Angela Cartwright), and Will (Billy Mumy). They will be accompanied by their pilot, US Space Corps Major Donald West (Mark Goddard), who is trained to fly the ship. Otherwise, the Robinsons and West will be in freezing tubes for the voyage; with the tubes opening when the spacecraft approached its destination. Unless there was a problem with the ship's navigation or guidance system during the voyage, West would only take the controls during the final approach to and landing on the destination planet while the Robinsons would strap themselves into contour couches on the lower deck for the landing.
Other nations are racing to colonize space and they would stop at nothing, even sabotage, to thwart the US effort. Dr. Zachary Smith (Jonathan Harris), a medical doctor and environmental control expert, is also a foreign secret agent. He reprograms the Jupiter 2's B-9 environmental control robot (voiced by Dick Tufeld) to destroy critical systems on the spaceship eight hours after launch. Smith is trapped aboard at launch and his extra weight throws the Jupiter 2 off course, causing it to encounter a meteor storm. This plus the robot's rampage causes the ship to become lost.
The Robinsons are often placed in danger by Smith, whose self-centered actions and laziness endanger the family. In the second and third seasons, Smith's role assumes a less evil overtone – although he continues to display many character defects. In "The Time Merchant", Smith travels back in time to the day of the Jupiter 2 launch, with hope of changing his fate. He learns that without his weight altering the ship's course, it would be destroyed by an uncharted asteroid. In an act of redemption, Smith elects to re-board the ship, thus saving the Robinsons' lives.
In early 1968, while "Junkyard in Space" was in production, the cast and crew were told the series was picked up for a fourth season and that Allen had ordered new scripts written for the coming season. A few weeks later, however, CBS announced the TV series that were being renewed for the 1968-69 season, and Lost in Space was not on the list. Although CBS programming executives failed to offer any reasons why Lost in Space was cancelled, there are at least five suggested reasons offered by series executives, critics and fans, any one of which could be considered sufficient justification for cancellation given the state of the broadcast network television industry at the time. As of the official final episode, the Robinson family never found their way back to Earth.
The show had sufficient ratings to support a fourth season, but it was expensive. The budget per episode for Season One was $130,980, and for Season Three, $164,788. In that time, the actors' salaries increased; in the case of Harris, Kristen and Cartwright, their salaries nearly doubled. Part of the cost problems may have been the actors themselves: director Richardson saying of Williams' demanding closeups of himself:
The interior of the Jupiter II was the most expensive TV set for its time, about $350,000.(More than the set of the U.S.S. Enterprise a couple of years later.)
According to Mumy and other sources, the show was initially picked up for a fourth season, but with a cut budget. Reportedly, 20th Century Fox was still recovering from the legendary budget overruns of Cleopatra, and thus slashed budgets across the board in its film and TV productons.
Allen claimed the series could not continue with a reduced budget. During a negotiating conference regarding the series direction for the fourth season with CBS chief executive Bill Paley, Allen stormed out (of the meeting) when told that the budget was being cut 15% from Season Three, his action thereby sealing the show's cancellation.
Second TV Series:
In late 2003, a new TV series, with a somewhat changed format, was in development in the U.S. It originally was intended to be closer to the original pilot with no Smith, but including a robot. The pilot (entitled, The Robinsons: Lost in Space) was commissioned by The WB Television Network. It was directed by John Woo and produced by Synthesis Entertainment, Irwin Allen Productions, Twentieth Century Fox Television and Regency Television.
The Jupiter 2 interstellar flying-saucer spacecraft of the original series was changed to a non-saucer planet-landing craft, deployed from a larger inter-stellar mothership.
The pilot featured the characters of John and Maureen, but an elder son, David, was added, as well as Judy, an 'infant' Penny, and ten-year-old Will. There was no Dr. Smith character, but the character of Don West was described as a "dangerous, lone wolf type".
The cast included Brad Johnson as John Robinson, Jayne Brook as Maureen Robinson, Adrianne Palicki as Judy Robinson, Ryan Malgarini as Will Robinson, and Mike Erwin as Don West. It was not among the network's series pick-ups confirmed later that year.
The producers of the new Battlestar Galactica show bought the show's sets. They were redesigned the next year and used for scenes on the Battlestar Pegasus.