Director: Ezra Stone
Writers: Bob Duncan and Wanda Duncan
Cast: Guy Williams, June Lockhart, Mark Goddard, Marta Kristen, Billy Mumy, Angela Cartwright, Jonathan Harris, John Crawford, Byron Morrow, and Hoke Howell
Composer: None (Stock Music)
Air Date: 1/17/1968
Production #: 1518
While experimenting in a cave, Will accidentally disturbs Dr. Chronos (John Crawford)—an eccentric time master. Infuriated, Chronos returns to his workshop with an enslaved Will, prompting Professor Robinson and the Robot to bargain for the boy’s freedom. Hoping to alter history for the better, Dr. Smith seizes the opportunity to travel back in time to October 16, 1997—the date on which the Jupiter 2 departed from Earth. Smith succeeds in preventing his own predicament, but creates a terrible tragedy for the Robinson family in doing so.
“Time Merchant” should be commended for revisiting the Lost in Space pilot (i.e. “The Reluctant Stowaway”) in a relatively serious and thought-provoking manner. Especially worth praising are the performances of Guy Williams, Billy Mumy, and Jonathan Harris, which reinforce the sense of urgency felt by all main characters.
“Time Merchant” benefits (perhaps appropriately) from a swift and captivating approach to pacing. Specifically, Bob and Wanda Duncan’s narrative maintains a balance between Dr. Smith’s situation on Earth and the less immediate conflict involving Dr. Chronos and the Robinsons, thereby resulting in a suspenseful and exciting atmosphere from start to finish—much in contrast to those Lost in Space episodes that employ tedious amounts of filler to compensate for a lack of substance.
Upon being informed of Dr. Smith’s “prediction” concerning eventual mission failure, General Squires (Byron Morrow) responds in a lackadaisical and therefore unrealistic fashion. Notably, Squires fails to delay the Jupiter 2 launch after learning of Zachary’s elaborate “threats” against said mission—a logical inconsistency that detracts from the realism of an already fantastic set of circumstances.
Also problematic are certain continuity flaws (e.g. the Robot’s location immediately prior to liftoff), which, though partially unavoidable, weaken the connection between “Time Merchant” and “The Reluctant Stowaway.”
Operating on the premise that everything happens for a reason, “Time Merchant” teaches a valuable lesson about the dangers of obsessive counterfactual thinking. As evidenced by Dr. Smith’s timeline tampering, for example, dwelling on past mistakes for non-constructive purposes can actually compound rather than alleviate one’s misery—an ironic truth that all viewers would be wise to consider.
Despite retconning many aspects of the episode that inspired it, “Time Merchant” is an entertaining sequel/sidequel to “The Reluctant Stowaway.” Fans of the inaugural Lost in Space season will thus enjoy this offering, which contains a clever tribute to the series premiere.
Overall Quality: 7/10
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