Director: Ezra Stone
Writer: Peter Packer
Cast: Guy Williams, June Lockhart, Mark Goddard, Marta Kristen, Billy Mumy, Angela Cartwright, Jonathan Harris, and Alan Hewitt
Composer: None (Stock Music)
Air Date: 3/29/1967
Production #: 9528
When John and Maureen depart from the Jupiter 2 to study volcanic activity, alien scientist Lemnoc (Alan Hewitt) kidnaps Judy, Penny, Major West, and Dr. Smith before replacing them with android duplicates. After a great deal of pleading from Will, Lemnoc agrees to release the imprisoned humans under one condition: Will must teach the aforementioned duplicates to emulate the behavior of their flesh-and-blood counterparts.
Similar to “The Dream Monster” from earlier in season two, “The Phantom Family” offers a unique and fascinating twist on the mad scientist trope. Worth praising in particular is the haunting atmosphere of this episode, which will appeal to Lost in Space enthusiasts of a serious temperament.
Upon returning to the Jupiter 2, Will attempts to engage (the clones of) Don, Penny, and Judy in conversation only to be met with blank expressions and dead, cold silence from all three individuals—a surreal and chilling display, especially when complemented with elements of Klaatu’s theme, Bernard Herrmann’s eerie composition from The Day the Earth Stood Still.
By behaving in a clumsy, ridiculous manner, the creations of Lemnoc occasionally hamper the dark and mysterious tone of this episode. For example, the Dr. Smith android repeatedly forgets his name and conducts himself like a buffoon during the training sessions of Will—a campy, juvenile addition to an otherwise thought-provoking story.
Also problematic is the fact that Will, supposedly a highly intelligent young man, fails to uncover the truth about Lemnoc’s duplicates—whom even casual fans could identify as imposters—until the Robot explains everything to him.
By going to extraordinary lengths to rescue his family and friends (including the undeserving Dr. Smith) from Lemnoc, Will demonstrates a noble and self-sacrificing nature—an aspect that will tug the heartstrings of sensitive viewers.
“The Phantom Family” is a spooky, unnerving episode that benefits from a poignant twist in the climactic scene. There are times, however, when the antics of Dr. Smith (in android form) detract from the solemnity of Peter Packer’s narrative.
Overall Quality: 7/10
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