Lost in Space Episode 1: The Reluctant Stowaway

Technical Specs

Director: Tony Leader

Writer: S. Bar-David

Cast: Guy Williams, June Lockhart, Mark Goddard, Marta Kristen, Billy Mumy, Angela Cartwright, and Jonathan Harris

Composer: Johnny Williams

Air Date: 9/15/1965

Production #: 8501

 

Overview

In the midst of a population crisis, the scientifically accomplished Robinson family and their trusty pilot, Major Donald West, embark on a five-and-a-half year space flight to Alpha Centauri, with the ultimate goal of colonizing another planet. Hoping to undermine the Robinsons’ historic mission, a saboteur known as lost-in-space-the-reluctant-stowawayColonel Zachary Smith (Jonathan Harris) sneaks aboard the Jupiter 2 and, acting under orders from a foreign agency, programs the environmental control robot to activate prematurely and destroy critical ship functions. Despite his apparent success, Smith is unable to escape the Jupiter 2 prior to lift-off, thus altering the Robinsons’ flight path with his additional weight.

A remarkable introduction to Lost in Space, “The Reluctant Stowaway” will appeal to fans of classic science fiction and disaster-themed scenarios alike. Especially commendable is Jonathan Harris’ portrayal of the titular stowaway, whose diabolical attributes lend credibility to the fantastic premise on which this episode operates.

 

Pros

lost-in-space-the-reluctant-stowawayBefore entering their freezing tubes, the Robinson family members express a genuine affection for one another that will provide audiences with sufficient reason to immediately empathize with their plight. Complementing the positive qualities exemplified by the Robinsons, Major West presents himself as a confident but always respectful military man whose primary strength stems from his ability to make difficult decisions under pressure, which will no doubt become most useful whenever Professor Robinson and his wife Maureen allow their emotional attachments to interfere with better judgment. In contrast to the moral values embodied by each of the above characters, Colonel Smith comes across as a conniving, unscrupulous man with the combined intelligence and lack of integrity to complete his murderous mission (of course, Lost in Space fans will recognize the stark contrast between Harris’ performance in “The Reluctant Stowaway” lost-in-space-the-reluctant-stowawayand his transformation of Smith into the goofy imbecile of later episodes).

Additionally, director Anton Leader’s swift approach to pacing should result in a truly captivating experience for first-time viewers. Notably, the first act provides a perfect balance of character development and suspense building, while later scenes reward the audience with a number of action-packed disaster sequences that reveal how each member of the Robinson party reacts when faced with certain doom (it should be noted that Jonathan Harris steals the show with his sinister acting; however, this does not prevent the unique personality traits of every individual character from coming to surface).

 

Cons

None.

 

Analysis

lost-in-space-the-reluctant-stowawayGiven the era during which Lost in Space was first conceived, one can draw many obvious parallels between the Aeolus 14 Umbra organization referenced by Zachary Smith and the Soviet Union of real-world infamy. While such a comparison may or may not have been the intention of writer Shimon Wincelberg, the fact that Dr. Smith was never explicitly identified as a Soviet spy prevents this episode from contradicting the 1997 time period in which it takes place.

 

Concluding Comments

By offering a seamless blend of traditional family values and futuristic scenarios, “The Reluctant Stowaway” earns its status as a science fiction masterpiece. Perhaps if later episodes had followed a similar template, Lost in Space could have been regarded as one of the greatest television programs of all time—much in contrast to the camp-infested children’s show that it would later become.

 

Overall Quality: 10/10

 

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6 thoughts on “Lost in Space Episode 1: The Reluctant Stowaway

  1. Did you read the LIS comics published by Innovation in the 90’s? They were excellent. Perhaps the most brilliant move they did was to revisit the Aeolus 14 Umbra organization which ended up being decidedly not of Soviet origin!

  2. Watched this last night.

    Did anyone notice that during the scene when Dr Smith is banging on the freezing tube with Major West inside, that the airlock has only one door closed which is the outside one. The inside one is open. Never saw that in space scenes in any other episode unless Im mistaken,

  3. I completely agree. A really good pilot and a really great show if it stayed on track. I do wonder how the series would have turned out if they had never included Smith as per the original pilot. The only flaw I could really find was the logic of sending just one family rather than a unrelated group of people or couples. I am sure that earth was going to send more later on but surely this was an expensive way of doing it?

    • The unaired pilot, “No Place to Hide,” offers an interesting glimpse at what a Smith-free Lost in Space might have looked like. I suspect that the show would have lacked an excessive camp factor in later episodes, but the human conflict might also have suffered without Smith to stir the pot every so often.