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 is enslaved by an eccentric time master known as Dr. Chronos (John Crawford). As Professor Robinson and the Robot bargain for Will’s freedom, Dr. Smith travels back in time to October 16, 1997—the date of the Jupiter 2’s departure from Earth—and causes a terrible tragedy in the past.
“Time Merchant” should be commended for revisiting the Lost in Space pilot in a thoughtful manner. Also topnotch are the performances of Guy Williams, Billy Mumy, and Jonathan Harris, who reinforce the urgency felt by all main characters.
“Time Merchant” deserves praise for its swift pacing and high-stakes narrative. Specifically, this episode maintains a clever balance between Dr. Smith’s situation on Earth and the less immediate conflict involving Dr. Chronos and the Robinsons, resulting in a suspenseful and exciting atmosphere from start to finish.
Upon being informed of Dr. Smith’s “prediction” about the Alpha Centauri mission, General Squires (Byron Morrow) fails to respond in a realistic fashion. Notably, Squires never considers whether to abort, let alone delay, the Jupiter 2 launch after learning of Dr. Smith’s elaborate “threats” against the mission—a bizarre oversight from an astute, decorated military man.
This episode may likewise evoke criticism for its continuity flaws, 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 first episode, “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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