Director: Don Richardson
Writer: Barney Slater
Cast: Guy Williams, June Lockhart, Mark Goddard, Marta Kristen, Billy Mumy, Angela Cartwright, and Jonathan Harris
Composer: None (Stock Music)
Air Date: 4/27/1966
Production #: 8529
While retrieving a laser pistol in a cave, Professor Robinson is possessed by an alien warrior named Canto. Relying on unconditional love, Will attempts to save his father from the demon that lives inside him—with a touching outcome.
A poignant and phenomenally written episode, “Follow the Leader” deserves praise for its haunting allegory. Also exceptional is the acting of Guy Williams, whose intense and conflicted performance strengthens the credibility of John’s transformation.
Following his encounter with Canto, Professor Robinson behaves in a volatile, unpredictable manner. In one scene, for instance, John invites Dr. Smith to the breakfast table and offers him a plate of food before exploding into a fit of rage—a startling outburst from an otherwise rational human being, which reinforces the chilling realism of Professor Robinson’s personality change.
On a technical note, the cinematography in this episode establishes a bleak, ominous atmosphere that exemplifies the dire nature of the Robinson family’s predicament. Worth commending in particular are the dimly lit cave sequences, which serve as an outward reflection of the sorrow and despair felt by Will, Maureen, Penny, Judy, Major West, and ostensibly Dr. Smith while watching John surrender to the forces of evil.
For including a veiled commentary on the corrupting influence of addiction, “Follow the Leader” earns its reputation as the greatest and most disturbing episode of Lost in Space. Specifically, John first approaches Canto during a moment of weakness, preventing him from resisting the extraordinary mental and physical abilities offered by the malevolent spirit—a convincing portrayal of how temptation can overwhelm even the noblest of men. Upon returning to the Jupiter 2, Professor Robinson—now consumed with the power of Canto—proceeds to abuse his family and friends in a highly uncharacteristic fashion, paralleling real-life fathers who, while under the influence of mind or body altering substances, treat their loved ones with malice and contempt. Though quite unnerving, John’s abrupt change of personality marks a rare example of Lost in Space—a program typically geared toward young children—daring to address a dysfunctional aspect of human society.
“Follow the Leader” is an outstanding, perhaps even flawless, conclusion to the premiere season of Lost in Space. Thus, for those who enjoy observing Robinson family interactions in a science fiction/fantasy setting, this episode should be requisite viewing.
Overall Quality: 10/10
If you enjoyed this post, please enter your email address in the subscription box to stay tuned for more updates.