Sunday, September 19, 2010

Lost In Space S1 Ep7: My Friend, Mr. Nobody

A typically fine performance from young Angela Cartwright, as Penny Robinson, complete with beautifully captured black and white photography on the set of Lost In Space. The episode delivers one of the most realistic, frightening storms I can recall in science fiction. It is also a true Cartwright-centric highlight on a series that increasingly favors Jonathan Harris into its second and third seasons.
This is a state-of-the-art Lost In Space special bubbler effect.
The continuing adventures of space family Robinson pick up where the last entry left off as Professor John Robinson attempts to save his daughter Penny from an explosion. It's a big boom, but little Penny is just fine. With no harm or foul, her Dad basically gives her the "run along little girl" speech. It's too dangerous for her, but NOT for Will Robinson apparently because he's a boy and this family landed in the predominantly male-centric world of Lost In Space. Penny runs along talking with herself and happens upon a little lake where she sees some water bubbling and hears a voice. "Hey" the voice repeats over and over. She ventures off into a cavern trying to make sense of the deep-throated echo.
Off disappears Penny and off we go with her for Lost In Space, Season One, Episode 7, My Friend, Mr. Nobody. Back at camp Penny returns with news of her newfound, secret friend in the undisclosed cave location. Will makes fun of her as only a brother can. No one listens to poor Penny. Talk about feeling alone and under appreciated. That's emphasized to great extent for the latest installment.
Penny returns to the cavern where she is appreciated by her echoing friend Mr. Nobody. The disembodied voice actually begins talking with her establishing conversation. She is desperate for a friend. She is desperate to speak with someone, anyone. "Come in, stay in" the voice lures Penny.
Maureen Robinson talks with her husband John about Penny's exploits. Maureen makes cherry pie on the computer. Chess continues between Robot and Dr. Zachary Smith. Dr. Smith sees Penny is finding some interesting crystals and begins taking an active interest in Penny's new friend. Smith was always scheming and making efforts to acquire assets that had no value while lost in space. Smith begins his manipulation of Penny to get a shot at those diamonds. Diamonds are apparently more than a little girl's best friend, but an evil, conniving, opportunistic Dr. Smith's best friend too.
Penny appears to be greeted by a palm tree as the planet and its surroundings begin to kind of speak to her. It's an almost magical response to Penny's voice. It's quite fantastical as if to suggest only through the eyes of a child. Smith and Robot are in pursuit to find her whereabouts. Dr. Smith and Robot attempt to move the magic-moving rock that apparently responds to Penny's voice as they are unsuccessful. Robot senses danger.

Deeper inside the cave Penny calls out to Mr. Nobody. Penny touches one of the Styrofoam rocks and it shakes. You have to love those vintage rocks from the 1960s! Still, it could be a cave mushroom if that's possible without sunlight. "I don't know who I am," says the voice to Penny. Penny tells the voice her brother calls him Mr. Nobody, because she can't tell Will he's somebody. They discuss what 'death' is. "When someone can't speak anymore" says Penny. "I remember rocks," declares the voice. Penny plans to read the voice a story about the Ugly Duckling. The voice disappears. In its place comes the voice of Dr. Smith. He supplants the voice of Mr. Nobody with his own crazy antics. Dr. Smith is stuck, but not really. It's hysterical to see his poor bit of physical drama. She tugs on his belt and he is freed from the rock crevice where he called out to Penny. If all it too was a tug of the belt Dr. Smith is more of a girly man than we ever knew. A rock falls into the crevice and Penny is fearful her friend is gone forever.

There are certainly moments that beg the question of creation itself? Dr. Smith plans on blasting for diamonds and informs Don West and John of his plans to drill. Dr. Smith feels he could do it himself, but Don reminds him he is not trusted with explosives or guns. This is certainly reasonable given Smith's status as The Reluctant Stowaway aboard the Jupiter II. Don agrees to accompany him to the site. Dr. Smith colorfully refers to Robot as a "piledriver."
Penny visits her mother. She is fearful Mr. Nobody may get angry when she sees Dr. Smith up to no good. Penny thought her mother believed her about her friend, but she does not, because she is clearly a silly, little girl. Her mother tries to satiate Penny's concern and talks to Penny about her old friend Mr. Noodles that lived inside her teddy bear when she was a child. Because Mrs. Robinson's imaginary friend had a name and his name was not Mr. Nobody, but rather Mr. Noodles. Mrs. Robinson is kind of like 'can't you do better than Mr. Nobody?' Penny calls her mom's story the silliest story ever. Nothing lives inside a teddy bear. In some ways, looking at the larger picture I thought the episode did speak to child psychology and how children often reach out to imaginary friends as a form of social reinforcement. Still, this is Lost In Space. Personally, I never had an imaginary friend as a child. I feel deprived. Isn't that right Charlie? Oh, sorry. He's a secret. This is an absolutely classic moment.

Will is analyzing precious gems and rocks when he is visited by his father. John cannot find the clay explosives, because Don and Smith have them. Will calls girls so "gloopy." Will tells Penny about the diamonds and Penny puts it together. She knows Smith is going over to blast her old friend Mr. Nobody into next week. Of course there is nobody there. Could this all really be in her head?
It's dark now. Smith and Don are drilling. Penny sneaks out of the safe confines of the Jupiter II to go find them. I can't for the life of me figure why anyone might care about diamonds lost in space. I kind of agree with Will on that point. Still, they may have a value for something as a resource.
Penny goes to visit Mr. Nobody while blasting is occurring. Not good. She cries for her friend and pushes the rock open. The magic is gone. She begs for him to speak with her. Nothing. Nobody is now nothing or so it seems at first. Smith adds additional explosives unbeknownst to Don. Don and Smith take cover. The voice begins talking with Penny. The explosion causes a cave in and knocks out Penny. All is quiet as Mr. Nobody returns by Penny's side. "When a person can't talk anymore, when a person can't move anymore, Penny please move, Penny please don't die," speaks the voice. It's a wonderfully touching moment provided by the voice [William Bramley] of Mr. Nobody.
Smith has created a mess. Don and Smith are knocked unconscious. When they inevitably awaken, Don figures it all out when he goes to the explosives pellet bag and finds the bag empty. "Why is it when you come near anything the roof caves in?" frustrates Don. Don returns to the ship.
Underground Mr. Nobody pleads for Penny to wake up. A storm is coming.
"I'm going out to find them Penny...and I'm going to teach them a lesson. You hurt Penny and I will destroy you." Explosions begin. Mr. Nobody is turning out to be quite the somebody in his anger. He is like a male version of Mother Nature. He is Father Nature or some kind of god-like entity. Will starts giving orders to Robot feigning Smith's voice again. "Won't you please give us your analysis my learned friend." "It has anger it will destroy us" declares the Robot. Everyone goes inside the confines of the Jupiter II. Maybe the family should have believed Penny after all. Don is injured. They are all on the ramp of the Jupiter II and all hell is breaking loose. You're screaming at the TV- 'Get the hell inside!'
Smith orders the Robot to fire his electrical charges in all directions. This is indeed an angry god-like Mr. Nobody. Penny awakens and gets back to the ship. Smith tells Robot to halt, cease fire, but he continues. Penny is in danger. Penny pleads with Mr. Nobody not to hurt them and that she loves them like she loves him. He stops his raging storm and says to Penny "I love you too Penny." Penny saves the day. "Where are you Mr. Nobody?" she wonders, but he is gone. Almost as soon as the words of love were spoken, the voice found peace and simply evaporated. This absorbing, strange, little tale of love is pure, thoughtful and intriguing as we reflect the possibilities of existence and the universe if not accented with an overabundance of excitement.

The Robot is in a heap. He is a pile of rubble, circuits and broken parts. A shot of the universe reveals Mr. Nobody was something profound, perhaps God. "Goodbye Penny." "Goodbye Mr. Nobody."
The Robot is fully repaired. This also gives our friends a chance to build him even better. We also get one of THE classic Dr. Smith lines for the very first time. "Oh the pain." Here it is.

A great cliffhanger with evil hands over some crystals concludes the latest entry from Season One of Lost In Space.
The episode isn't quite as successful as it might have seemed on paper, but it is simple with some good ideas. Child actress Angela Cartwright gives a splendid performance and some really sweet, poignant character moments are captured here. There are a few that tug at the old heartstrings. It's those brief moments that make this one really worthwhile and special. I'm probably in the minority nowadays as a fan of this classic series, but I like revisiting it from time to time for those of us out there who appreciate its science fiction simplicity and purity. To Be Continued... Same Time, Same Blog!
My Friend, Mr. Nobody: C+
Director: Paul Stanley
Writer: Jackson Gillis
Writer Footnote: Jackson Gillis [1916-2010]. Writer Gillis worked on The Adventures Of Superman [1953-1960], Columbo, Hawaii Five-O and the original Knight Rider.


le0pard13 said...

I remain a fan of the first (black & white) season of Lost in Space, SFF. Another of your fine examinations, my friend. Keep 'em coming! Thanks.

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Thank you my friend. I agree. This first season offers the strongest science fiction.

crowmagnumman said...

This episode was the last time John Williams composed original music for the show (other than the season 3 theme music), which is a serious bummer. They just kept replaying his music over and over again for the rest of the show.

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Thanks for that additional insight Crowmagnumman! I didn't realize that.

Also, it must be noted that I may not have given this entry strong enough marks for Angela Cartwright's contribution here and the continued excellence of craft assembled by the special effects department on that amazing storm! Simply awesome stuff!


crowmagnumman said...

I actually didn't watch this one until fairly recently, and I thought it was one of the stronger episodes of the first season. But I'm willing to bet that I wouldn't have liked it as much as a kid. Now that I look at it, I'm really glad they gave Angela Cartwright the main focus in some episodes, because she can carry an episode surprisingly well.

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

I am glad as well. Cartwright really shines.

To be honest, and I shouldn't compare, but I've been watching ST:TNG Season One and this episode is far better than just about anything from that first season.

It deserves higher marks.
Regards, SFF

crowmagnumman said...

Are you re-watching TNG? Or for the first time? I think most fans agree that season 1 is pretty lame overall, and thankfully not very indicative of the overall quality of the show.

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Yes, and I'm definitely aware of it of the overall feeling on that first season, but there are those out there who defend it.

I'm just presenting my honest reactions to the season as I view it.

I look forward to the better episodes.

It's one of those things, like many of the later Star Trek series where I saw a good number of the episodes but generally out of order with lots of wholes.

I'm making an effort to watch them all going forward. It will be a daunting task.

crowmagnumman said...

Yeah. That's pretty much how it was for me. Watched a good deal of TNG out of order over the years. So sometime I've been planning on watching them all from start to finish in order.

dmappin said...

C+ ???

This is an A+ story from a great season that devolved into a barely adequate show!

"My Friend Mr. Nobody" is a simple and incredibly effective story!

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...


Thanks for all your additional facts on some of the other posts. Very interesting.

I can't say you're wrong.

In hindsight, and stepping away from it for a bit, this episode, like so many from that first season are particularly memorable.

As examples go, this one is filled with atmosphere and great performances particularly in Angela Cartright.

All I can say, if this makes sense, is that I may have been a little tired at the time. I had watched quite a few of them in a row by this point and was feeling like a break was in order.

If I had taken a step away and gone back to this one a little later I might have been kinder.

This is more likely a B for me. My grade doesn't really reflect how I myself think about this one. It's better than just satisfactory I think. It's a solid and as you said, "simple and effective story." To put it succinctly this way, you're not wrong Mr. Dmappin. Thank you for your input on the entry.