Sep 19, 2017

Lost in Space

I don't remember the first season of Lost in Space (1965-68), when the family of colonists -- waylaid en route to Alpha Centauri was having realistic science fiction adventures.  I only remember the last two seasons, where they were mostly crashed on a studio backlot, wandering around in bright pink and lavender jumpsuits, and encountering:

A lonely boy from the other side of the looking-glass (played by Michael J. Pollard).
An intergalactic zookeeper who wants them as specimens
The contestants in a Miss Galaxy pageant
A giant talking carrot

It wasn't exactly Star Trek -- well, the Star Trek episode with the space hippies was almost as bad -- but it was fun. What kid in the 1960s didn't want to be lost in space with the Robinsons?

Whatever you were interested in, there was someone for you on Lost in Space. Kids liked Billy Mumy, a busy child star with previous roles on The Twilight Zone and Village of the Giants (and later on Bless the Beasts and Children). Not only because he was cute, and knew it, getting teen idol attention at the age of twelve -- but because his character, Will Robinson, was bright and resourceful, a respected crew member, never told "you're just a kid" or "wait here where it's safe."

And Dr. Smith (Jonathan Harris), an accidental stowaway who provided comic relief.  He was a big kid, an unrestrained id, gluttonous, lazy, cowardly,  incompetent -- and flamboyantly feminine.  The unabashed friendship between a young boy and an older man assumed to be gay was quite progressive in an era where gay men were often accused of being pedophiles.      

Adults liked John Robinson, the patriarch of the family (Guy Williams), who also didn't seem much interested in girls.  He had a wife, Maureen (June Lockhart), but they behaved like colleagues, with few moments of tenderness and none of intimacy.  Guy Williams had previously starred in several buddy-bonding projects, including Zorro (1957-59) and Damon and Pythias (1962).

Teens liked Don West (Mark Goddard), the resolute, non-nonsense pilot (previously seen in The Monkey's Uncle with Tommy Kirk).  Since the spaceship was crashed through most of the series, he didn't have a lot to do, and we didn't find out much about him except that he was dreamy, and not interested in girls. In early episodes, he had a romantic involvement with the older Robinson daughter, Judy (Marta Kristen), but soon it was dropped and forgotten about.

Unfortunately, the female crewmembers had even less to do than Don West.  Maureen was a respected biochemist, but she was relegated to cooking and saying "Be careful."  Judy helped her mother cook.  The youngest daughter, Penny (Angela Cartwright, previously of Make Room for Daddy), had a few adventures, mostly involving adopting weird alien animals.

There was a bit of buddy-bonding, as in the episode "The Challenge" (1966), when Kurt Russell guest stars as an alien warrior.  There was an occasional shot of a muscular alien.  But the main draw for gay kids was the boy adventurer and his flamboyant pal.


  1. I remember seeing a tv talk show once with Jonathan Harris. They brought a kid on stage, and he started attacking him.

  2. Any shirtless shots of Mark Goddard?

  3. I had a big crush on Billy Mumy watching reruns of 'Lost in Space' when I was around 9 or 10.. Strangely, I didn't find him particularly "beautiful" at the time, but I think the attraction for me was more his sweet and (as you pointed out) "accepting" personality (my 10 yo mind rationalized: "if he would spend so much of his 'free time' with a huge queen like Doctor Smith, then surely he was at the very LEAST "gay friendly").. His status as a "gay" teen idol was cemented for me when I saw 'Bless the Beasts' a couple of years later. Although his character wasn't the one that was written to be perceived as gay in the film (that would be Darel Glaser as "Goodenow"), the very idea that he would agree to star in a film portraying a character who befriends an overtly effeminate platinum blonde gay boy (which is what I was) only served to make me love Billy even more.

  4. I remember watching this series as a kid, yet never crushing on Billy. But that's exactly what I did with all sorts of boys on TV series' (Johnny Crawford as Mark on The Rifleman, Lance Kerwin on James at 15, Johnny Sheffield as Boy in the Tarzan movies, etc). I think Billy was too young and goofy for me.

    Watching the show as an adult, I spit up a little bit in my mouth. The stories are HORRIBLE at best.

  5. All I can say about Lost In Space is Major West was one very sorry pilot and the Jupiter II must have been made of indestructible metal. Just about every landing without exception "although not all" were crash landings, marooning the Robinsons on some off the beaten path unknown planet til the script writers decided to kick them off it.

  6. I had a huge crush on Billy Mumy too. He was a year or two older than me and brave as all heck. In an early episode when he stood up to the giant, furry cyclops creature, with his little, ray gun, he made me feel safe. I was hiding behind the couch. Will Robinson, my manly hero.

  7. In one episode where John Robinson is tucking Will into bed, you can see his eyes move from Will's face to his crotch. They both have weird smiles on their faces. Much easier to see if you frame-by-frame the episode on the DVD.

  8. That may be an interpretive stretch. I doubt that we can conclude that Guy Williams was attracted to the prepubescent Billy Mumy, and broke character to look at his crotch, in front of the entire crew. More likely he looked down to see if Will was tucked in properly.

  9. I always had (and still have) the biggest crush on Mark Goddard. When I was a kid watching LIS, I thought Major Don West was the sexiest thing on this or any other planet. I'd always hoped for a shirtless scene but the best we ever got was a few episodes where Don West and John Robinson were sweating out the unbearable heat in their tight white T-shirts. Gut Williams had his moments too, often sporting a well hung if not well hidden talent in his space-pants.


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