Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Lost In Space S1 Ep12: The Raft

A man of action. Guy Williams [1924-1989]. This is a very Zorro-like pose too. The episode launches with the traditional previous episode recap. Robot launches the rocket/ space probe leading to an explosion. Miraculously the space probe explodes and returns in a giant ball of flaming rock. I've never quite gotten my head around that one. I just can't quite understand the logic, but this is Lost In Space. Penny and Will are saved by their father. Despite the descending fireball, they are miraculously unscathed. There is indubitably more fiction than science here dear readers. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- We sail away with Lost In Space, Season One, Episode 12, The Raft. Dr. Smith informs the family he is writing a book regarding the "social psychology of galactic castaways." Don is working on the ship when he discovers some fuel missing. John and Don immediately jump to their own reasonable conclusions accusing Dr. Smith. Don even places his hand on his throat before Will interrupts with the facts. Will admits he used too much of it on his own space probe experiments. The family needs that fuel and until they come up with an alternative they will be "galactic castaways forever." By the way, Smith actually does tell the truth there and gets no apologies from Don for the throat choke. Let this be a lesson with regard to building good will. John and Maureen discuss the four states of matter: gas, solid, liquid and plasma. John has a plan to create a "propellant" implementing his scientific knowledge base. Maureen says she understands and John condescends to his scientist-wife "no you don't." Terrible. Go to the kitchen and bake me a pie woman! John and Don test a plasma test engine. Love those sound effects. They remind me of the earlier sound effects found in Godzilla's battles with Monster Zero from Toho. The experiments are going very well. The kids can't wait to tell Dr. Smith.

John and Maureen look into the night sky with a touch of romance. What's funny is, John imagines if they do get the Jupiter 2 back into space they wouldn't head back to Earth. WHAT!? They've been stranded this long and they don't want to go home? No. He envisions making another effort to find Alpha Centauri. You are a crazy scientist man! He's a true dreamer and man of vision.

Back in Smith's quarters, Dr. Smith is listening to reel to reel tapes of his own voice discussing psychological issues for the book he is penning. Earlier he is writing on paper. Now he has stacks of reel to reel cans. Perhaps he is transferring his writings to audio, otherwise it is a continuity issue. It's actually kind of comical to see Smith listening to himself, agreeing and disagreeing with his own observations as they are played back. He is clearly a trip to some and to others a reason for the show's descension into camp.

"Splendid Zachary." What a card. Smith clearly plans his exit for Earth rather than the family's desired goal of finding Alpha Centauri.

Elsewhere on the Jupiter 2, Judy flirts with Don. How he doesn't get a serious case of blue balls is somewhat inexplicable.

The boys popularized the cotton, plain white Tees.

A family meeting points to the family's destination of Alpha Centauri. Dr. Smith makes it clear he wants to return to Earth. Our fearless astronauts commence testing of the main thrusters of the Jupiter 2. The power gauge [and that's what it's called] marks quite clearly things could go awry if the needle enters the DANGER ZONE! It's clearly marked. Explosions indicate things did not go well. They break out the fire extinguishers.

Smith greets Don with these words: "Your persistence is admirable major, but your competence is non-existent." Nice. "How would you like a punch in the nose?" I like that. Don doesn't mince words. He's a simple man and I don't think it was meant as a question. "I even question your ability to do that." Here's the scene because it's pretty good. Enter the family feud.

Will comes up with a brilliant idea. Leave it to the kids. Don gets a good dig in at Dr. Smith. Although slightly dangerous, denoted by the radioactive symbol, the family decides on using the Reactor Unit Core as a good option. WHAT!? Also, Don is in the radioactive protective gear, whilst John stands right next to him in regular clothes. Don goes into the core, which is clearly radioactive, whilst the door opens to expose everyone in the surrounding area. Anyway he sprays some spray to get rid of the radioactivity. Radioactive repellent? Not to mention, John sticks his head right in there. Wow. Bad science fiction. There are certainly not a good many precautions taken. The family works night and day on the Reactor Unit. Dr. Smith has other plans. Maureen says goodbye to Don and tells him how much they will keep him in their thoughts as he will man the space Raft soon. Dr. Smith schemes by using Robot to assemble information.

Don is in his quarters resting when Judy goes to visit him at his bedside. She is looking mighty fine in her jammies. And my only thought is why on Earth is he not hitting that sweet thing every chance he's not fixing something on the Jupiter 2!? Perhaps because he's a gentleman, but life is hanging in the balance lost in space. This is surely a good reason to get on with it! She brings him a gift. I have a few gift ideas. They look lovingly at each other, but still no use of that damn bed. I mean, how about a kiss for cryin' out loud. Maureen and John are always kissing. Could it be because they're married? Ah, social mores. I suppose it might have resembled the sex on Stargate Universe [2009] otherwise. We've come a long way when it comes to sex on television. Again, this was a family show.

Will goes to the Reactor Unit and finds Smith coming out of the core. Will scolds Smith for going into the core when it is clearly off limits. The Robot is on guard, but clearly not doing a great job. He is holding the rope to keep the Raft anchored. Where is it going without the plasma propulsion engaged? Huh? Well, Smith programs the Robot with the code word "castoff" and inadvertently says the word with Will aboard. Suddenly, the Robot says "you said 'castoff'" and releases the Raft. I guess the helium balloons will lift it skyward and then the plasma propulsion will be engaged. Away they go.

Dr. Smith is not unhappy about the early departure. The plasma propulsion engages and the balloons detach. Don suspects the automatic controller should keep them safe. Will should know what to do as he was involved in every phase of the project. Smith sleeps aboard the Raft on their journey. Will tries contacting Jupiter 2 while Smith sleeps. Smith dubs the boy's call "naughty, naughty." Smith is comical with his eased and relaxed manner concerning their situation. He motions Will to reach for a sandwich. He needs a bite to eat. Scanners indicate something is headed for their Raft. Smith gets worried and relinquishes his role as Captain to First Officer Will Robinson. That is classic. Will looks into the scanner only to witness a line and a red blip. There is absolutely no data to work with. He looks out the Reactor Unit window and notes a planet. Now, there's more visual information than the scanners could offer. Smith believes it is Earth. Will doesn't recognize the stars. Smith sees North America and the Great Lakes. I don't see them, but he sees something apparently. Will fires retro rockets! I don't have any idea what retro rockets would do, but damn retro rockets sounds good! Will utilizes a steering system inside the Reactor Unit. They land.

Smith is overjoyed by the smooth landing. He is ready to open the door, but Will instructs to relax because they don't know if it's Earth yet. Oxygen and Nitrogen levels are fine. The planet is desolate, but he's certain they are in the Dakotas or Wyoming. He tells Will to pack a small lunch. What a bunch of craziness! Dr. Smith is a true loon, a genuine loony toon of mammoth proportions. He is a crazy man. They venture off only to run into a two-headed creature of some alien variety. That's right, you're definitely [still] not in Kansas anymore.

Will notes they don't have any kind of vegetation on Earth like that [pointing to the two-headed creature slash man in a creature costume]. Smith walks over to it and indicates it is nothing more than "a harmless but overgrown specimen of the common or garden variety of skunk cabbage." Classic line alert! I've seen skunk cabbage and it doesn't look like skunk cabbage. I used to run through it in the swamps as a kid. Will has his doubts that the planet they are now on is hardly home. Will worries and hopes Dr. Smith will look after him like his father. Clearly, Will has big expectations. Smith offers to carry him piggy-back. As they walk away the "skunk cabbage" springs to life and follows them complete with grunting monster noises. If it is dangerous why didn't the creature just come to life and eat them when they were standing in front. I guess it's just not very aggressive skunk cabbage. Smith talks of a population explosion and Will jokes it doesn't look like it exploded in their neck of the woods. They reach a dead end. Behind them the deadly vegetation closes off their path leaving them no way out.

Back at the Jupiter 2, the family worries. Every effort is made to reach them. They are receiving a core signal which informs John the Reactor Unit must have landed back on Priplanis. They have to be somewhere on Priplanis. Priplanis is the alleged name of the planet the Robinsons crashed upon, but I've never heard it mentioned throughout the series.

Back on another part of Priplanis, Will and Smith try to come up with a plan. John Robinson makes haste to find Will in the Chariot and Don in his jet pack. The search is on. Robot is once again folded up and along for the ride in the Chariot. John asks Will to answer if he can hear them. How they could hear Will call out to them is another matter.

Will and Smith begin digging a tunnel in the dirt with a bottle opener. What! How about trying your hands. Better yet, that's vegetation damn it- try pushing your way through. Suddenly the monster reveals itself to them. "Still think we're back on Earth?" asks Will. Back at the Jupiter 2, the family attempts triangulation.

Meanwhile, Will would like to talk with the grunting monster to find out what it expects of them. Yes, let's try reasoning with the skunk cabbage. They begin munching on untested grapes. What are they doing eating grapes that could be poisonous? Smith is one of the most selfish bastards in the universe. I think that monster may have more of a conscience. Smith is stuck in the plants. Will tries to radio Jupiter 2 and reaches his father. Apparently they have found the Reactor Unit, but need to know which way they headed. Will tells them there is a funny "bush creature" before they sign off. No, this isn't Australia. Inexplicably Smith gets out of the bush and inexplicably the bush creature suddenly begins attacking them going in for the kill. WHAT! This is a fairly illogical two-headed bush creature. Smith screams like a leettle girl. John arrives and shoots the creature in the back with his laser pistol. Good thing he brought his laser pistol. The creature drops to the ground. I think that may be the first time I've noted this particular pistol weapon. Could this be the official beginning of the monster of the week model?

John begins describing why the Reactor Unit couldn't go far enough. It just didn't have enough power. So no one is going anywhere. Smith says, "oh well gentlemen, back to my book."

Epilogue: The family packs up the Chariot for the men. Smith says he will protect the ladies. The men head off in the super cool Chariot, but where? As Don drives it's amusing to note the scenery scrolling behind them in the Chariot is moving sideways [see above]. Huh? Boy, there sure are a lot of holes in this one. John tells Will to turn on Robot. Robot alerts the men to "Danger!" A meteor storm hits and the men are sitting ducks inside the Chariot as flaming balls of rock rain down upon them. They sure like flaming balls of rock on Lost In Space. Things come almost full circle with the flaming rock in this one. Admittedly, I do love the nostalgic appeal of Lost In Space combined with the vintage film qualities of the series despite the flaws. Each frame is a joy to watch despite the lack of logic and despite my grading of the affair. You just have to be open to the old-fashioned sense of fun and excitement.

To Be Continued... Same Time! Same BLOG!

The Raft: C- Director: Sobey Martin/ Writer: Peter Packer


le0pard13 said...

Fine look at this episode, SFF. And you've got jazzed now with that Zorro remark for your Guy Williams screencap. I watched that Disney show faithfully for its entire run as a kid. I remember there was a later Lost in Space episode with Guy taking up the foil to challenge the installment's villain. IIRC, TV Guide even highlighted it way back then. Thanks for this.

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Hey L13

YEs, Zorro, 78 Episodes,1957-1959. Guy received 2,500 dollars a week.

Love the memories right? Thank you. Cheers, Sff

crowmagnumman said...

I thought the force field was what protected them from the falling fireball. Guess they were inside of it.

I always thought that episode 15 (Return From Outer Space) was the first episode in which someone mentions the planet's name. But apparently that's not true. I'll need to check the part in this episode where they say it. I've also always been confused about the spelling. Is it Preplanus or Priplanus? I've seen it spelled both ways in multiple places, and I've been unable to find confirmation of what the original spelling was. It's something I want to figure out before my dream of doing a remake can be fulfilled. :)

I really have to agree with you about Judy and Don. It's really ridiculous that they never even got to kiss. You know they even started to tone down on the Maureen and John smooching after a bit.

I've always simultaneous loved and hated that line where John says to his wife "no, you don't." John seems to have a pretty solid relationship with Maureen for most of the show. And to us today the line makes him sound like an ass. But I must admit that it is a pretty amusing line for how effectively it transports me to the mentality of the 60s.

The character moments in this episode between Will and Smith are some of the best in the show, and I think go a long way toward redeeming the episode. And that's pretty much the trend for the whole first season. The character interaction never fails to entertain.

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Hello C

Good to hear from you. I love your thoughtful remarks on LIS.

You could be right on that force field.

I'm not sure of the Priplanis spelling. I agree. These aspects of LIS are murky.

I love two of your final points. You really underscore adding to my remark on Judy and Don that these moments were a real sign of the times. This is vintage 60s television. We weren't going to see Judy with the field goal posts in the air like today's graphic use of sexual depictions.

Also, I completely agree about the character interaction. That is the biggest sell to LIS. It's really not fair for me to grade episodes with the same standards one might apply to modern, hardcore science fiction, because it was the 60s and it was a family science fiction drama with heavy character work. If you're a fan of these characters than those interactions tend to wash away any weak material for the sheer pleasure of watching these exchanges. Well put my friend.

Thank you