Having recently posted a list of ten Lost in Space episodes that I consider to be the best, I will now share my thoughts on the worst this show has to offer (these selections were a tad more difficult to compile, mainly due to the overwhelming abundance of trashy productions contained in seasons two and three). Below are my rankings for the episodes that are, in my opinion, the most dreadful of all time.
10) The Thief from Outer Space
I had a hard time choosing between this one and “The Great Vegetable Rebellion,” though I eventually decided that “The Thief from Outer Space” would be more worthy of a spot on this list for a number of reasons. Whereas the former episode can at least be considered bizarre enough to work as an entertaining comedy piece, the latter falls short in this department and therefore fails to qualify as a guilty pleasure (the shenanigans of “Thief” and “Slave”—played by Malachi Throne and Ted Cassidy respectively—can, however, be amusing on occasion).
Especially problematic is that this episode initiated the trend of allowing storybook characters to overshadow the science fiction themed disaster elements that once characterized the journey of a traditional family (the Robinsons) and their struggle to navigate the nether regions of outer space. Even though Lost in Space had already begun to lose some of its appeal upon nearing the end of season one, “The Thief from Outer Space” marks the point at which Irwin Allen’s formerly promising series completed its transition from the above concept to a simple fairy-tale-of-the-week production.
9) The Space Croppers
Only a handful of first season episodes can be considered truly terrible; nevertheless, “The Space Croppers” should be commended for operating on what may very well be the most disjointed narrative in television history. In this case, a kooky family grows a colony of monster plants (haven’t we seen this before?) during their stay on Priplanus. While a premise centering on werewolves, witches, and killer flora contains all the ingredients for a perfect Halloween episode, Peter Packer’s plot strings together too many random concepts to possibly allow for a consistent outcome.
To make matters worse, an already painful viewing experience is made even more excruciating by the languid fashion with which Dr. Smith ingratiates himself to Sybilla, the matriarch of the rival family mentioned earlier. By combining jumbled story elements with uneven pacing, this irritating mess fails to join the ranks of “The Great Vegetable Rebellion,” “The Space Vikings,” and other notoriously campy episodes now treasured by Lost in Space fans.
8) Princess of Space
Unlike the above episode on this list, “Princess of Space” can actually boast of a (somewhat) coherent execution. That being said, the concept of wig-wearing computers plotting to overthrow a band of space travelers dressed like Pirates of the Caribbean extras really pushes the boundaries of acceptable science fiction, even when coupled with surprisingly well-ordered storytelling.
Perhaps most irksome to Penny fans, “Princess of Space” never allows Angela Cartwright to develop her tragically underused character. Rather, the main protagonists must rely upon Will to save them by exposing the computers’ mutinous intentions to Queen Gamma, who admittedly benefits from Shelia Mathews’ graceful and elegant portrayal. Even when resorting to nonsensical storytelling devices, the Lost in Space writers couldn’t help but utilize the formulaic Will, Dr. Smith, and Robot trio to carry the action instead of granting Penny a chance to shine for a change.
7) Castles in Space
Irwin Allen’s bizarre obsession with silver-coated aliens rears its ugly—albeit shiny—head once again, this time while detailing a Mexican bounty hunter’s quest to recover an alien ice princess. As if the illogical premise on which it operates wasn’t bad enough, “Castles in Space” is further marred by a barrage of groan-inducing sequences involving a drunken Robot and what can perhaps be described as the most absurd bullfight ever captured on film.
It should be noted that “Castles in Space” has often been criticized for its offensive depiction of Alberto Monte’s Hispanic character (who also happens to be an alien, ironically). Frankly, an infantile approach to humor should be more offensive to science fiction fans than Packer’s disparaging ethnic stereotypes as detailed in this offering.
6) The Questing Beast
Considered by many fans to be the objectively worst Lost in Space episode, “The Questing Beast” follows the misadventures of a clumsy space knight who, after spending decades hunting down an ostensibly fearsome dragon, discovers that his “beastly foe” is nothing more than a delicate female creature. With costumes resembling those of a typical middle school stage production and slapstick gags frightening enough to make the Three Stooges recoil in horror, this offering would seem to have earned its reputation as the most reviled entry in the entire series.
Though some may argue that “The Questing Beast” deserves a top spot on this list for reasons outlined above, a more generous ranking has been awarded on the basis of two factors. First, for perhaps the only time in Lost in Space history, Will’s transition from childhood to adolescence is examined with the pathos that it deserves (this occurs when the young lad grows disheartened upon learning of Sagramonte’s fabricated conquests and decides to embrace a more mature outlook on life as a result). Second, Dr. Smith is finally shown to have some integrity when he attempts to encourage a demoralized Will and, in a shockingly uncharacteristic display, takes responsibility for a past deception when confronted by Professor Robinson. All that having been said, viewers over the age of five may have a difficult time investing in the surrounding narrative along with any juvenile antics therein.
5) The Girl from the Green Dimension
Despite benefiting from relatively high production values, “The Girl from the Green Dimension” is a decidedly embarrassing effort. Relevant for marking the unwelcome return of Athena, the enchanting green alien woman introduced in “Wild Adventure,” this episode forgoes the formula of its predecessor and fails as a result. Specifically, the comic relief moments in “Wild Adventure” were successful because Athena was employed only in small doses; in contrast, “The Girl from the Green Dimension” spends too much time exploring the shenanigans of Dr. Smith, the eponymous green girl, and her Viking lover to the detriment of a more profound subplot.
On that note, “The Girl from the Green Dimension” provided an excellent vehicle with which to analyze the racial tensions that plagued America during the 1960s time period when Lost in Space was produced. Instead of seizing this opportunity, however, Packer chose to craft a less meaningful comedy piece targeted at the preferences of young children. Certain viewers may be touched by Penny’s decision to accept and love Will unconditionally even after his physical transformation, though a penetrating social commentary would have undoubtedly been preferable to the ludicrous direction taken by this episode.
4) Space Beauty
The Farnum character always seemed like a poor man’s version of the Keeper played by Michael Rennie in season one’s phenomenal two-part episode. That being said, Leonard Stone’s performance in “A Day at the Zoo” was at least tolerable, if not exceptionally entertaining. “Space Beauty,” on the other hand, maintains a consistent emphasis on Farnum’s most obnoxious qualities, and does so while showcasing alien creations of the cringe-inducing variety.
To add insult to injury, Judy’s final opportunity to grow as a character is overshadowed by another one of Dr. Smith’s harebrained schemes. It should be noted that the scheme in question involves a “drag-queen” Robot, which, in addition to being utterly ridiculous, is sure to offend those Lost in Space fans who remember and appreciate the awesome qualities that characterized the Robot prior to his subtle personality transition spanning most of season one.
3) West of Mars
Recycling the doppelgänger premise for the umpteenth time, “West of Mars” has Dr. Smith getting into a mix-up with his gunslinger duplicate, who, despite talking in a monotonous, gravelly voice, manages to fool the Robinsons into believing that he, not Zachary, is the real Smith. Other highlights include a rousing chase sequence involving toy animals, a journey through the cosmos taken in a flying jail cell, and a scene wherein “Zeno” makes a skin-crawling move on Judy.
Though ludicrously silly at times, “West of Mars” remains unfunny, bland, and downright tedious from start to finish. Quite honestly, the Lost in Space writers deserve credit for taking such a zany premise and turning it into something dreadful.
2) Curse of Cousin Smith
Upon arriving on the planet in search of Dr. Smith, second-rate Colonel Sanders impersonator Jeremiah Smith gets into a feud with his Cousin Zachary. After failing to assassinate one another with an explosive pie, Zachary and Jeremiah decide to “resolve” their conflict by enlisting the aid of a diabolical gambling machine.
Closer in spirit to a Tom and Jerry cartoon than a typical Lost in Space installment, “Curse of Cousin Smith” earns a high ranking on this list for obvious reasons. Also worth criticizing is the manner with which this episode treats Professor Robinson, whose role as a dignified father and husband is substituted with that of a moderator forced to settle the differences between two overgrown children. As the ostensible star of Lost in Space, Guy Williams had every right to feel insulted over the outrageous and demeaning situations that frequently faced his character, the worst example of which can be found in “Curse of Cousin Smith.”
1) Mutiny in Space
By combining the aimless storytelling of “The Space Croppers” with the asinine but painfully unamusing direction employed by “West of Mars,” Packer effectively devised the worst Lost in Space episode of all time: “Mutiny in Space.” Rather than follow an orderly chain of events, which, in all fairness, can at least be said of “The Great Vegetable Rebellion,” “Mutiny in Space” highlights the schizophrenic adventures of a demented space captain who for some reason feels compelled to chase a fabricated enemy across the cosmos—all while barking orders at Will, Dr. Smith, and the Robot in the most obnoxious tone that human vocal cords could possibly produce.
All humor aside, “Mutiny in Space” may or may not be objectively more appalling than other “worst” episodes where production values are concerned. The fact remains, however, that with Admiral Zahrk’s insufferable personality existing in conjunction with Packer’s abysmal script, “Mutiny in Space” deserves its ranking among the most terrible Lost in Space episodes ever made.
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