The television show Lost in Space, airing from 1965-1968, presented the adventures of a family in space in the year 1997. In a set of campy stories, the Robinsons clashed with buffoonish pirates, anthropomorphic vegetables, and prospectors from the Old West. The show didn't take itself too seriously, but was took a lighthearted look at the science fiction genre. Let's take a tour of some facts that you might not know about the show.
1. Lost in Space is an obvious parallel to The Swiss Family Robinson novel and Disney movie. But Irwin Allen was specifically inspired by a comic book series called Space Family Robinson, published by Gold Key from 1962-1984. It had a similar premise to Lost in Space: the Robinsons were space explorers. After 1966, the comic book adopted the same Space Family Robinson -- Lost in Space to get attention from the show's fans. The comic book endured long after the show's cancellation until its publisher folded.
2. Carroll O'Connor, who played Archie Bunker on All in the Family, was initially considered to play the role of Dr. Smith.
4. The pilot episode cost $600,000. At the time, it was the most expensive TV pilot to date, with the exception of Star Trek's $630,000 first pilot episode “The Cage.”
5. Gene Roddenberry approached CBS with Star Trek when Irwin Allen did so with Lost in Space. CBS decided that one science fiction show was enough, and preferred Lost in Space.
6. When aliens on the show were depicted with pointed ears (e.g. “The Haunted Lighthouse”), the molds were borrowed from the makeup artists at Star Trek.
7. Guy Williams (John Robinson) was a prominent actor, thanks to his title role in the TV series Zorro. He was under the impression that, in Lost in Space, he would have the lead role in a serious drama. But as the show progressed, it became increasingly campy and Williams' role a supporting one. Embittered about this development, he never acted after the series was canceled. Williams retired to Argentina, where Zorro was tremendously popular, shortly after Lost in Space ended.
8. The strongly campy nature of the second and third seasons was, by the way, entirely intentional. A year after Lost in Space debuted, the TV series Batman became a spectacular ratings success. Irwin Allen noticed and attributed its ratings to the show's playful tone. He altered Lost in Space accordingly.
9. Child actor Kurt Russell, later famous for films such as Big Trouble in Little China, made one of his first screen appearances in the episode "The Challenge." In this episode, Russell played a young boy from a warrior culture sent to hunt on the planet as a rite of passage.
10. At the beginning of the series, Bill Mumy (Will) was twelve and Angela Cartwright (Penny) was fourteen. Mumy had a crush his television sister from the beginning and made his move two years later. This was the first romantic relationship for either of them and they dated for six years. For a short time, Mumy and Cartwright were engaged, but they eventually broke it off.
11. Years after the show’s cancellation, Mumy wrote a script for a reunion episode. He arranged casting and got the support of 20th Century Fox and CBS. But Irwin Allen, fearing that Mumy would later have a copyright claim on Lost in Space, refused to even look at the script. The reunion never took place.
12. The cast did, however, have a reunion on a 1984 episode of Family Feud in which they squared off against the cast of Hawaiian Eye. Here's a clip. Sources: Peel, John. The Complete Lost in Space Book. Granada Hills, CA: Schuster and Schuster, 1987. Print. Van Hise, James. Lost in Space 25th Anniversary Tribute Book. Las Vegas: Pioneer Books, 1990. Print. Images: CBS, Gold Key Stories, Paramount, Disney, ABC, CBS, and CBS, respectively.