Who remembers watching that wonderful, campy-out-the-wazoo, cheesy-special-effects 1960s series “Lost In Space”? You know, “Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!”
I think I am the only person I know who actually read the comic book titled “Space Family Robinson,” which appeared before the series. They were independently conceived even though there was some attempt to meld the two, but I never got to see how that came out. In an event of soul-shattering horror, my parents had sequestered my comic collection a while before the series premiered, destroying probably my most certain source of future wealth, but no one seemed to object (much) to my following the show. Star Trek, premiering only a few years later, merely cemented the impression in most people’s minds that just about every habitable planet in the galaxy looked a lot like Southern California.
But the best part of all was Dr. Zachary Smith. OK, you get points if you saw the movie, but Gary Oldman cannot touch Jonathan Harris’ flaming, fluttering villain-queen, like Sydney Greenstreet crossed with Lucille Ball. Of course, at that age I had no idea what Harris was burlesquing.
A terrible truth: the man I married, an actor of broadly comic and self-parodying style, looked a hell of a lot like him and sounded like him onstage, and when I first met my late and ex I actually assumed he was gay. (He was minding a bookstore near the gay bars of Dupont Circle; it was a natural error.)
Then there was Billy Mumy, the little freckled Beaver Cleaver of the Robinson family, who grew up to be a Space Boy of another kind.
I used to tell my parents I had a crush on him and that was why I watched the show, because it was easier than listening to harangues about how stupid those space stories were.
You could take away my comics, but I just bought science fiction paperbacks instead. Hell, I teethed on space stories so antique that the pictures of the ships on the covers looked like cigar cases with fins. When I was still young enough to avoid arguments about why I didn’t want to wear stockings, you could get a potboiler like this for a nickel in a secondhand shop.
Despite the cover, the prominent women in the story are neither frightened nor naked; they’re bad-assed characters who, along with families and colleagues, have survived an extraterrestrial contagion that can turn your body to stone but, properly treated, gives you the resilience and strength of ductile steel instead. Even though half the people in the story still smoke in some post-space-travel future, these ladies toss cars around, and like that. How could I not love it?
Social relevance, brilliant special effects and scientific accuracy have done a lot for extraterrestrial stories, but sometimes I miss unrepentant schlock.
Anyone else have favorite space opera moments?