Lost in Space Episode 23: The Space Trader

General Information

Director: Nathan Juran

Writer: Barney Slater

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

Composer: None (Stock Music)

Air Date: 3/9/1966

Production #: 8523

 

Overview

The Space Trader (Torin Thatcher), an unscrupulous merchant residing on Priplanus, generates a terrible storm to destroy the Robinsons’ hydroponic garden. Unwilling to survive on protein pills alone, Dr. Smith exchanges the Robot for a twelve-daylost-in-space-the-space-trader supply of food—a decision that alienates him from the Robinsons and Major West. Desperate to make amends with Will, Dr. Smith succeeds in retrieving the Robot; but pays a terrible price in doing so.

The first Lost in Space entry to follow a now iconic formula (i.e. Dr. Smith dealing with a crooked, eccentric alien and causing problems for the Robinson family as a result), “The Space Trader” will appeal to those who enjoy this series for its campy, child-friendly episodes. The antics of Dr. Smith and the Space Trader—two flamboyant, cartoonish characters—may nevertheless fail to entertain the majority of science fiction fans.

 

Pros

lost-in-space-the-space-traderDiscovering a container of food in the Jupiter 2, the Robinsons determine the truth about Dr. Smith and his agreement with the Space Trader. Unable to endure the silent treatment from his only friend (i.e. Will), Dr. Smith returns to the Space Trader and purchases the Robot from him—a mildly heartwarming and redemptive gesture from an otherwise vile, despicable person.

 

Cons

Despite establishing a realistic and compelling conflict in the opening sequence, “The Space Trader” fails to sustain an air of credibility for one reason: lost-in-space-the-space-traderwhen confronted with a potentially life-threatening food shortage, the Robinsons and Major West respond with humor, nonchalance, and unfettered optimism. Though a testament to the positive outlook of each character (with the obvious exception of Dr. Smith), the cheerful attitudes outlined above may prevent the audience from accepting, let alone relating to, the dire circumstances that plague the Robinson family as a consequence of the Space Trader’s tampering.

 

Analysis

lost-in-space-the-space-traderEven when tempted by the Space Trader, the Robinsons refuse to barter the Robot for food. Viewers will thus infer that Will and his family value the Robot, once a cold, unfeeling mechanism, as they would a flesh-and-blood crew member—a sentiment that, having been implied for the first time in “War of the Robots,” would define the Robot’s relationship with his human companions for years to come.

 

Concluding Comments

“The Space Trader” is a juvenile, mediocre installment of Lost in Space. Viewers of a sensitive nature may, however, appreciate this episode for emphasizing the Robot’s important place among his “family.”

 

Overall Quality: 5/10

 

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