Director: Sobey Martin
Writer: Peter Packer
Cast: Guy Williams, June Lockhart, Mark Goddard, Marta Kristen, Billy Mumy, Angela Cartwright, Jonathan Harris, Robert Foulk, Pitt Herbert, Claire Wilcox, Norman Leavitt, and Robert Pine
Composer: Cyril Mockridge
Air Date: 9/13/1967
Production #: 1505
After passing through a time warp, the Jupiter 2 arrives in Manitou Junction, Michigan—the residents of which mistake the Robinson family for Voltones, an alien race featured in a Tales of Tomorrow story. While Will and the Robot remain in custody, Dr. Smith—posing as a fire chief—assumes control of the town and prepares to alter history for his own benefit.
By combining small-town tropes with a science fiction premise, “Visit to a Hostile Planet” earns its reputation as a classic installment of Lost in Space. Especially worth praising is the humor showcased in this entry, which, as opposed to the excessive camp of many prior episodes, never undermines the serious predicament involving each main character.
Instead of receiving the welcome party that would be expected following a two-year absence from Earth, John and the others locate not a single person, military or civilian, in the vicinity of their ship. Further unsettling, Maureen and the girls survey the immediate area only to find that all nearby offices and buildings have been strangely abandoned—a discovery that, when coupled with the actors’ expressions of dismay, works to plant an ominous suggestion in the viewer’s mind (i.e., that the Robinsons might not even be on Earth; but rather in the midst of an elaborate and malevolent alien ruse, similar to that of the Saticons in season two’s “The Galaxy Gift”).
In later scenes, Cragmire (Robert Faulk) and his brigade of bumbling townsfolk allow Dr. Smith, a moronic goofball with no redeeming qualities, to crown himself leader of Manitou Junction, relying upon his wisdom to resolve the “alien invasion” crisis—a hilarious, if unrealistic, plot development which indicates that the Lost in Space creative team could, on occasion, create comic relief scenarios without resorting to childish antics.
Though presented with the opportunity to become a rich and powerful ruler in the year 1947, Professor Robinson chooses to leave the past behind for fear of contaminating the timeline. Reminiscent of the Prime Directive from Star Trek, John’s personal non-interference policy serves as a commentary, albeit a subtle one, on the merits of allowing civilizations to develop without petty or needless intervention from foreign powers.
A delightful homage to the small-town sitcoms of the 1960s (e.g., Green Acres and The Andy Griffith Show), “Visit to a Hostile Planet” should be requisite viewing for classic television buffs. Also clever is the implied predestination paradox in this episode, which offers a unique and memorable twist on the UFO legends of decades past.
Overall Quality: 10/10
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