Director: Charles A. Nichols
Writer: Fred Freiberger
Cast: Jonathan Harris, Sherry Alberoni, Michael Bell, Ralph James, Don Messick, Sidney Miller, and Vincent Van Pratten
Composer: Hoyt Curtin
Air Date: 9/8/1973
Under the command of Craig Robinson (Michael Bell), the space shuttle Jupiter 2 encounters a meteor storm while on a routine mission from Earth to Saturn. Stranded on an uncharted planet, passengers Linc Robinson (Vincent Van Pratten), Deanna Carmichael (Sherry Alberoni), Dr. Zachary Smith (Jonathan Harris), and Robon (Don Messick) find themselves caught in a conflict between Throgs—a peaceful group of frog-like aliens—and Tyranos, an advanced species consisting of electrically charged twin pairs.
In a similar vein as Star Trek: The Animated Series, the animated version of Lost in Space was created with the intent of reviving a classic science fiction show produced during the 1960s. Lost in Space fans may therefore wish to view this standalone pilot; however, a number of unnecessary modifications to the original formula are present.
Reprising his role of Dr. Smith, Jonathan Harris should be commended for providing the animated Lost in Space with an air of much needed familiarity. When spoken by Harris, Dr. Smith’s alliterative insults establish a certain nostalgic connection between the cartoon Lost in Space pilot and the Irwin Allen series that inspired it (observant audiences will of course note that many such barbs, creative though they may be, were in fact lifted from episodes of the original show).
Marred by the crude techniques typical of early 1970s animation, the Lost in Space cartoon lacks the fluidity (i.e. realistic frame transitions) necessary for a captivating space adventure program (in fairness, an identical criticism can be directed at the more successful Star Trek: The Animated Series). Budgetary shortcomings become especially obvious when scrutinizing character proportions; for example, the Robot’s height relative to others would seem to fluctuate considerably from one scene to the next, thus preventing “Robon” from maintaining a towering presence at all times—a stark contrast to his counterpart from the live-action series.
As opposed to Star Trek: The Animated Series, Hanna-Barbera’s Lost in Space production fails to respect the subject matter upon which it was based. Among the most offensive changes made to the source material, the Robinson family unit is downsized to a pair of male siblings lacking any chemistry whatsoever; likewise, Dr. Smith assumes the role of a Jupiter 2 crew member and not that of a clever saboteur (in the original series, Col. Smith’s deliberate tampering with the Robot sets in motion a chain of events that prevent the Robinsons from reaching Alpha Centauri as intended). By disregarding established canon, the animated Lost in Space struggles to embody those elements that were essential to the success of Irwin Allen’s groundbreaking series.
The Lost in Space cartoon employs a variety of new characters and alien worlds that may intrigue science fiction enthusiasts. That being said, one can hardly ignore the glaring flaws in animation which, when accentuated by an utter absence of character development, result in a mediocre final product.
Overall Quality: 5/10
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