Whew, I made it! I finally finished all three volumes of Marc Cushman’s exhaustive history of Irwin Allen’s Lost in Space TV series. I now realize much of what I have to say about volume three is much the same as what I said about volumes one and two.
This time around, the preliminary material is much shorter than before with little to talk about other than the unhappiness of stars Guy Williams and June Lockhart about their diminished roles in season two of LIS. We get two forwards by former cast members, Mark Goddard (Don West) and Marta Kristen (Judy Robinson). We’re told season three was designed to be less comic and feature more action and, allegedly, more of the cast beyond Jonathan Harris, Bill Mumy and the robot than before. Well, not so much, as it turned out.
Then, as usual, Cushman pushes TMI to its utter extreme. For example, he still lists all the script rewrites including noting what color paper they were written on— blue, red, green, yellow. We see how each broadcast’s ratings fared against its competition, which was still The Virginian on NBC and ABC’s replacement for the Batman, Patty Duke pairing, the short-lived Custer. Then in January 1967, Custer was replaced by the first color season of The Avengers.
Cushman still provides many of the strange memos from the network brass, such as the inexplicable request Angela Cartwright’s long hair be hidden in a short hair wig. He still adds his commentary on each episode, including praising “Space Beauty” for its parodying of beauty pageants and his defense of “The great Vegetable Rebellion,” apparently considered by many to be the series’ lowest point. It could have been even lower had plans to add a purple lama as a permanent cast member been fulfilled.
Without question, it takes a strong reader to plow through the blow-by-blow accounts of all the episode analyses and synopses. It’s really the after-LIS section where we get a really good discussion of what happened after CBS didn’t so much cancel the show as much as let it die. The network wanted a lower budget for a fourth season; Allen wasn’t willing to accept any cuts. He had other irons in the fire.
So, after the obligatory mini-biographies of what happened to the major participants after LIS went off the air, we get a very revealing narrative about Allen’s attempts to bring the franchise to the big screen and see how LIS was kept alive in cast reunions, at cons, in syndication and on cable, on video and DVD, and in comic books. And ultimately, of course, the disappointing New Line 1998 big screen incarnation produced after Allen’s death.
Added content includes an odd recap of the relationship between actor Jonathan Harris and his secretive, reclusive wife Gertrude and an overview of the aborted WB TV remake that would have been targeted to adolescents and focused on a romance between a new Judy Robinson and Major Don West. Finally, Cushman offers a few notes on the 2017 Netflix reboot.
As I said in my reviews of Volumes 1 and 2 of these Authorized Biographies, you gotta be a diehard, serious fan of Lost in Space to want these no-stones-unturned tomes. As these are mainly research books, no library with a decent media section should miss them. TV sci fi fans might also like to have access to these books, especially for the color photo fests each volume includes.
This review first appeared at BookPleasures.com on Fri. Aug. 11 at: