Monday, June 28, 2010

Deadwood S1 Ep2: Deep Water

Deadwood, South Dakota.

This sequence speaks volumes about Deadwood, Season One. There is a general feeling of chaos and disorder concerning life in Deadwood, South Dakota. There is no rule of law and the idea of security is non-existent in what amounts to harsh conditions within this fledgling concept of frontier civilization [of which there is little of]. Can you imagine living like this? In this confrontation, Seth Bullock [Timothy Olyphant], with partner Sol Star [John Hawkes] meet with Al Swearengen [Ian McShane]. As a juxtaposition of law and order, Bullock, a former law man and Montana Marshal, is a symbol of justice and law, while crime and injustice are represented by warlord and criminal overseer Swearengen.

In this sequence, Al Swearengen visits Doc Cochran who is handling whore chores in Deadwood. It's a pretty vile business as the Doc is clearly overworked just keeping up with Swearengen's brothel demands. Next to the always magnificent performance of Ian McShane, Actor Brad Dourif [The Lord Of The Rings, One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest] serves up turn after turn of equally engrossing work. This is a rare moment of challenge for Al Swearengen.

Swearengen really displays the monster within in this very moving, vulnerable sequence. There's something terribly unnerving when a child is involved with any kind of potential danger and menace and McShane nails the moment. It is deeply unsettling.

Robin Weigert as Calamity Jane creates a powerfully sympathetic portrait of the character. Her performance initially comes off a bit over the top and might be seen as such, but Weigert quickly grows on you.

Finally, McShane reconnects with Seth Bullock and Sol Star. The performances of Olyphant and Hawkes are truly wonderful in this series. Once again, these two actors serve up some delicious tension and wonderful drama amidst the splendid cast of Deadwood. I can't say enough about these two fine performers opposite the masterful Ian McShane.

If this isn't some of the most well-crafted and poetic dialogue you've ever heard then you can go blank yourself Cocksucker!

Deep Water: A
Writer: Malcolm MacRury
Director: Davis Guggenheim
Director Footnote: Davis Guggenheim [1963-present]. He has the fine distinction of being married to Elisabeth Shue. He has worked as a producer and director on some terrific series including Milch's NYPD Blue [1993-2005], The Shield [2002-2008], 24 [2001-2010], ER [1994-2009], Alias [2001-2006] and personal guilty pleasure Party Of Five [1994-2000]. He directed four [of twelve] episodes of Deadwood in Season One. He went on to direct the Academy Award-winning An Inconvenient Truth [2006] featuring internet inventor Al Gore. He also directed It Might Get Loud [2009] and Waiting For Superman [2010]. Not surprisingly, he's a huge Obama backer. Nobody's perfect.
This brief mini-review entry is a tribute to my friend J.D. over at Radiator Heaven who was kind enough to nominate me for a Versatile Blogger Award and who has inspired my recent rediscovery of the Western genre. He writes thoughtful and outstanding film analysis regularly. Cheers J.D.!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Star Trek TOS S1 Ep4: The Naked Time

These are two of the indelible images from the classic Star Trek: The Original Series episode, The Naked Time.

"The Naked Time ... was the first very definitive - miniscule, but very definitive - study of the kind of schizophrenia that moved Spock, the nature of the dynamic of the split being, the human versus the alien.  ... a virus that was passed hand to hand, ... brought about a change in the character of the people it infected.  The person's subconscious levels became expressed.  And in Spock's case, he started to have feelings.  The feelings in him started to overwhelm the control, and there was this fight for control of the being.  Would he be an emotional being or a Vulcan?  He had to fight it out with himself.  And that, I think, very clearly and specifically defined, for a long time to come, the nature of the character." -Leonard Nimoy assessing the Spock character and how the inner conflict would be part and parcel of the character throughout Star Trek: The Original Series, a conflict for which all peoples could identify. The World Of Trek, David Gerrold [p.45]-

This shot on the icy terrain is just one of the many lovely new images provided on the Remasters to enhance the classic experience of Star Trek.
Captain's Log. Stardate 1704.2. Kirk indicates the crew of the Enterprise is to pick up a scientific crew on a distant outpost before the ancient planet breaks disintegrates.
The first production note to behold is the classic, terrific, icy set design on the frigid planet and those amazing space suits. The space suit designs rank among the best ever created on sheer originality. Everything on Star Trek TOS appeared so simple [it wasn't] and perfect on this show. Star Trek TOS, Season One, Episode 4, The Naked Time immediately conjures my imagination not to mention nostalgic, fond memories of this series as a whole.
People are frozen stiff across the vacant installation found upon the ice planet. Spock and a colleague are there to investigate. The red shirt officer takes off one of his orange-red space suit gloves. I'm not sure why he does it apart from a nose itch, but it spells certain death. A drop of blood crawls across the frozen table and onto his hand. The officer gives his hand a shake indicating he senses something alien has touched him. Spock reports to Captain James T. Kirk that all station personnel are dead including one man who was showering fully clothed. "It's like nothing we've dealt with before." Of course not, this is only the fourth episode.
Spock and colleague are decontaminated upon arrival back aboard the Enterprise. Smart move with everyone dead on the planet below. They head to sick bay and Spock looks rather bad ass in a black t-shirt. Blood pressure is "practically non-existent" reports a stunned Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy to Spock. Spock's partner is Joe Tormolen. He is clasping his arm. That's never good in Star Trek. If there is physical, self-appendage-grabbing, trouble is soon to follow. The good news, McCoy is back after his absence from Episode 3, Where No Man Has Gone Before. The crew will watch the break up of the planet with close scientific measurement.
Spock calls the circumstances below "quite bizarre." We also get our first appearance of Nurse Christine Chapel played by the late Majel Barrett Roddenberry, wife of Gene Roddenberry. Spock suspects some sort of "space madness." He does allude to the fact space does include "infinite unknowns." Infinite unknowns, without the scientific explanations of Star Trek, would be the driving force behind Space:1999. The Captain wants to analyze the planet's troubles and Chief Engineer Montgomery "Scotty" Scott assures him he can pull away with the ship's engines in a half-second.
Tormolen continues to have problems with his hand. Helmsman Lt. Hikaru Sulu and Lt. Kevin Riley join him for a bite. Tormolen is acting strangely attempting to rip away his own skin. Sulu asks him how he's doing and Tormolen about rips his head off with a verbal lashing. This is a good sequence starring Stewart Moss, Bruce Hyde and the one and only George Takei.

All are uncertain concerning this unknown disease brought aboard the Enterprise. Spock informs the Captain that the dying planet is remarkably similar to that of Earth. Riley and Sulu are on the bridge and are both tainted by whatever it is that touched Joe Tormolen.*
In sick bay, Nurse Chapel assists Bones on Tormolen. Unfortunately, Tormolen is getting weaker. Bones indicates he is dying. Moments later Tormolen does die and Bones is puzzled indicating the young man's wounds were not all that severe.
On the bridge, Riley and Sulu are sweating up a storm and uncharacteristically Sulu gets up to leave and play some hooky. Riley doesn't like it, but he is fading fast too. Elsewhere, Kirk is informed of Tormolen's fate by Bones. Bones doesn't give us the "He's dead Jim" line yet, that news is in fact delivered by Nurse Chapel.
Spock inquires with Riley regarding Sulu's whereabouts, but Riley begins to lose it! He's played brilliantly by Bruce Hyde. It's really hard to believe Hyde was not given a greater part in Star Trek, because he would have been a winner in a recurring role. Spock tells Riley to report to sick bay. He asks Nurse Chapel about Tormolen, but he knows what happened to him. He touches her chin and continues to spread the mysterious illness.
Sulu is running around fencing half-naked. Note the terrific music and theatrical quality to this sequence and you will find there is a quality to this series that was truly remarkable and meticulous for its time.

Lt. Uhura possesses the damn finest legs you ever did see! Holy mackerel!There's a problem pulling away from the gravitational pull of the failing planet below. Before Kirk can look into it Sulu arrives on the bridge and Kirk and Spock are able to subdue him with the trusty ace in the hole, the Vulcan neck pinch. Kirk delivers the classic line, "I'd like you to teach me that sometime." A call to the engine room finds Riley is causing all sorts of problems. He is demanding "double portions of ice cream," while singing some classic Irish numbers like I'll Take You Home Again Kathleen. Kirk can't enter Riley's location, because the doors won't open. Uhura assists. Spock informs the Captain they have twenty minutes before entering the planet's atmosphere and the Enterprise burns up.
The terrific Bruce Hyde as navigator Lt. Kevin Riley.
The Enterprise is spiralling out of control. Scotty has been locked out of the engine room by Riley. Somehow, oddly enough, Lt. Uhura, Spock and Kirk are unaffected by Sulu following the Sulu incident on the bridge. Meanwhile, Riley informs there will be no ice cream for those who interrupted his song. There will also be a dance aboard the Enterprise. All women will wear their hair loosely about their shoulders. Those mini-skirts were hot back in the day too. I'll Take You Home Again Kathleen commences. "Please not again" pleads Kirk. There is much humor in The Naked Time without going over the top. The humor is grounded in mounting tension and desperation.

These panoramic, gorgeous modifications to The Original Series are truly the standard for remastering and not ruining a series. They offer just the right touch.
Sixteen minutes until atmospheric entry. Spock orders one of the crewman to stand aside after blocking Yeoman Janice Rand. No one screws with Spock. He moves to the side immediately until he is out of view. There is a simple sound effect to denote the illness in The Naked Time. It's a bit like the rattle shake of a rattlesnake but it is bloody well effective.
Kirk is losing his patience as his crew drop like flies around him. Somehow Bones is unaffected to date as well and that is probably a very good thing as the ship's caretaker. I think Kirk's annoyance is more a result of Riley's incessant singing than anything else.
Spock arrives in sick bay and approaches Nurse Chapel. Majel was quite an attractive lady in her day. She touches Spock's hand. He leaves, but seems strangely moved by her. She tells him she is in love with him. This is a relatively intimate scene and one of the endless intimate moments that populate the world of Star Trek TOS.

The classic Scotty in the engine room shot.
The illness appears to have an adverse affect on the human component of Spock just as his Vulcan portion struggles. Meanwhile, Scotty is breaking through to the engine room and none too soon. Phasers are set on stun, but Riley admits "No dance tonight." Spock is uncharacteristically becoming a blubbering, emotional mess as he attempts to control his feelings and fight the illness. Scotty goes right to work on saving the Enterprise.

Boy, that's about as lost as you'll ever see Spock emotionally. At the very least, it's one of his worst moments. Engines are off and the Enterprise hull skin is overheating. Scotty now needs thirty minutes. Things are looking dire. "I can't change the laws of physics." Things are desperate.
The normally unemotional Spock tries to pull it together.
Back in sick bay Bones is finding a cure. He has isolated the problem. It's water. It passes through perspiration. It gets into the bloodstream and acts like alcohol. A serum is prepared to regain self-control. Kirk finds Spock. "My mother, I could never tell her I loved her," offers Spock to Kirk with great vulnerability. Kirk smacks Spock to snap him out of his fetal-like emotional state. Spock smacks back. Kirk now has the illness. The two leads are losing it. These two are like the heartbeat of the show. It's interesting when Kirk reaches Spock. Spock responds to the Captain with the word "Jim." The friends have reached one another. Spock has a plan and informs Scotty of it. Kirk and Spock are attempting to overcome the affect of the illness. It is a sobering moment [you could say] as Kirk talks of his love for the Enterprise. "Never lose you, never," as Kirk looks around to his ship. Kirk heads back to the bridge.
There's a rather funny moment as Kirk walks onto the bridge. Bones rips his shirt sleeve and injects him with the serum. Couldn't we have avoided the shirt-ripping? I believe that may have been for the ladies. Spock and Scotty work vigorously on their scientific plan. Kirk and company pull off the impossible [one of many instances to come]. The crew manages a timewarp. They are going backwards in time. The ship slows, reverses and returns them back to normal time, Warp Factor 1. The time warp has placed them back in time 71 hours. The Enterprise now has three days to live over again reports Spock. The Boy Wonder asked if Tormolen was still alive then. I thought that was a great point, but they have only travelled back in time. Unfortunately, they have not brought the dead back to life.
If there was a theme to explore in this installment of Star Trek it had to be the loss of self-control. It was interesting to see the breakdown in the ship's crew without self-control and order. For a show often known for being conclusively hopeful and optimistic for the future, I always enjoyed the undertones of darkness and isolation that permeated the bulk of episodes before ending on those high notes. Star Trek's music is often dark in tone highlighting the very mysterious themes of space. Like Space:1999, there is a certain quiet, spareness about Star Trek that simply could not be covered today in this way today. Television is much more frenetic. Star Trek is too quiet, too thoughtful and too damn perfect for its own science fiction good. It's hard to find fault.
The Naked Time: B+
Writer: John D.F. Black
Director: Marc Daniels
Dead Crewman: 1
Dead Crewman Total To Date: 8
Babe Alert: 1 [Majel Barrett technically doesn't qualify as a recurring cast member, but she's a fine woman]
Babe Alert Total To Date: 5
Fairly simple space gear, but frighteningly effective science fiction.
Special Guest: Bruce Hyde. [1941-present]: American born. Lt. Kevin Riley. Hyde is a professor in communications. He also appears in Star Trek TOS, Season One, Episode 13, The Conscience Of The King.

Special Guest: Stewart Moss. [1937-present]: American born. Joe Tormolen. Moss has appeared in Magnum P.I., The Rockford Files, Hogan's Heroes, Cagney And Lacey and more.

Babe Alert: Majel Barrett. [1932-2008]. Nurse Christine Chapel. Barrett also played the role of Number One in the pilot episode The Cage, later reconfigured for the two-part The Menagerie. Please click here for a full tribute to the late Majel Barrett Roddenberry.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


"Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy."

Oddly enough for some of the crew in Sunshine, there is an uncanny, eerie even unhealthy fascination with the sun. The crew is drawn to it in a mesmerizing, almost Pied Piper-like fashion. Ultimately, the sun is like a drug for some as it drives the fearless and sometimes fearful crew of the Icarus II toward their respective fates.

On Earth, unfortunately, the sun isn't exactly shining down on shoulders in quite the same way it did for the late John Denver and happiness is a little hard to come by as a result. With the planet stuck in a persistent deep chill, Earth and the human population are in need of a little love and warmth from the greatest star in the universe. The crew of the Icarus II is tasked with saving humanity and somehow rising above their own human conditions and natural responses to self-preservation.

I had my reservations about this film for quite some time. With little to no fanfare or discussion of it, I had not heard alot about Danny Boyle's Sunshine [2007]. I had seen 28 Days Later [2002], and liked it, but was never in love with that film, although. I did like it, though I would probably like to watch it again. There was an almost documentary-like, low budget realism about 28 Days Later, which I didn't fully appreciate at the time. Boyle's vision and unique talent was palpable though and he put it all onto film, as he did earlier with the tripped-out Trainspotting [1996].

Being an unabashed fan of robots, monsters and aliens, Sunshine never quite appeal to me, but I never fully understood its premise. I couldn't have been more wrong. Unnecessarily concerned and cautious about the film I nearly robbed myself of the experience. I'm not certain if I've ever misjudged a science fiction film as significantly as I did in the case of Sunshine. I normally have a really good gut for garbage [including ice cream sandwiches and peanut butter cups] and generally a good instinct for the quality films. Let's face it, time is of the essence and we don't exactly have a whole lot of time to spare when it comes to watching films, writing about them and first and foremost being a dad. I need to make clear, sharp, decisive choices and move forward. Sunshine was left in the stardust upon its release by an ill-informed 'me'.

Furthermore, upon Sunshine's release, I had significant reservations regarding the cast specifically Chris Evans. He had not impressed me and was actually a fairly large turn off as actors go for me. His shtick was so deflating. Evans was particularly annoying as the Human Torch in the lackluster and disappointing Fantastic Four [2005]. Evans' presence in the film wasn't cute and he didn't remind me of Johnny Storm. So, this specific gripe saw me pass on Fantastic Four: Rise Of The Silver Surfer [2007]. Even the voluptuous Jessica Alba wasn't enough to pull me back. In the case of Sunshine, wrong again, Evans did everything but grate on my nerves and his role was subdued enough that I actually enjoyed his turn in the film immensely. Cillian Murphy [Capa], Michelle Yeoh, Hiroyuki Sanada [Kaneda], Cliff Curtis [the psych officer with a seriously unhealthy affection for the sun] are all exceptional to round out the young, but engaging eight member cast. The ship's on-board female computer is the 9th player. Do you remember a time when leaders on a mission of this magnitude weren't hot shots and were older than 40?

In 2057, aboard a gigantic vessel, complete with a flower-like sun shield, dubbed the Icarus II [Icarus I disappeared seven years ago in an initial attempt], a crew is launched on a mission to re-ignite our dying sun. With a massive, explosive payload of fissile material ready to go, the Icarus II is on a collission course with the sun to save all life on Earth. As someone who watched Babylon 5, I couldn't help but wonder if there wasn't an homage to Babylon 5's Icarus by Boyle, but I suspect not. In Babylon 5, the Icarus was an ill-fated vessel carrying a scientific expedition to the dangerous planet Z'Ha'Dum. Could the Icarus II, not unlike Babylon 5's Icarus, be offering a substantial allusion to the fate of that character in Greek mythology? Understanding Boyle and the creator of Babylon 5, J. Michael Straczynski, I suspect so. Babylon 5 fans will recall the fate of the Icarus detailed in Babylon 5, Season Two, Episode 16, In The Shadow Of Z'Ha'Dum. Commander John Sheridan's [Bruce Boxleitner] wife, Anna Sheridan, was part of that aforementioned scientific team that ventured off to Z'Ha'Dum awakening the unspeakable evil known as The Shadows. Anna Sheridan was later played in a rousing semi-conclusion to that thread by Melissa Gilbert, Bruce Boxleitner's real life wife, in Babylon 5, Season Three, Episode 22, Z'Ha'Dum. While certainly an interesting science fiction reference to one of the most significant portions of the Babylon 5 series, I do digress. In Sunshine, the Icarus II scientific team certainly has the palm of its hands full with the fates of their families and humanity on a grand scale.

The journey is it for me here. Sunshine is a contemporary nod to classic science fiction like Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey [1968] especially in design and mood, or Alien [1979] in atmosphere or even Event Horizon [1997] in style and philosophy. There's no question about it. It is a visual experience like only a moving medium like film could possibly provide. Filled with human tension, frailty, emotion and conflict, Sunshine transports us and never leaves us behind because of the logical human threads that run through the picture. In other words, there are no monsters other than those within our hearts and minds. Even then, it is not played over the top, the characters are generally working together toward their common goal, but they are compelled to swim against the burning tide of the sun by their very individual natures. The sun may be burning out, but it's still pretty f@*&@ hot out there. The men and women on board are faced with genuine human problems, technical, emotional and otherworldly, on a mission of huge magnitude. They don't need monsters working against them too. Overcoming the obstacles is part of our journey with them and we are right on board the Icarus II relating to the crew, feeling their pain and desperation and struggling right along side them.

We witness a glimpse of the best and worst of humanity. At one of the film's critical turning points, the Icarus II finds an old friend. The question is asked if they should divert from the mission or stay the course. The question of humanity is placed squarely at the fore without appearing too obvious. The age old question poised in science fiction in classics like Star Trek is given another interesting spin. Should the value of a life or a few lives outweigh the value of humanity? Should the one outweigh the many? This question results in a series of consequences and ramifications based upon choices that are made that informs the film going forward. The most fascinating aspect is how the characters respond to the pressures of their fragile situation embracing either the selfish or the selfless. Acts of self-preservation are juxtaposed with moments of courage. Boyle injects his tale with worry, discomfort, anxiety [the crew has been aboard the Icarus II for 16 months] and white knuckle suspense. As the heat rises, the tensions rise and the human race for survival sweats excitement and races until its breathtaking and beautiful end.

As the journey moves along their fates and the success or failure of their mission becomes all the more clear. A monster of sorts is thrown into the mix for good measure. In hindsight, the ambiguous nature of the creature is ultimately less problematic than I originally perceived its existence to be, as it begs cerebral questions of God and existence as the characters are forced to ponder them. I could think of other possibilities that might have offered better options for the film toward its climax, but it was cleverly vague and good and creepy enough to satisfy. In some ways, the questions of a transcendent reality are left to the viewer for interpretation. Boyle paints a vibrant, beautiful picture that leaves one pondering the picture long after its over. In some ways, this feels like the spiritual flip side to Paul Anderson's Event Horizon if that was a trip straight to hell. This was something entirely different and quite rare. While I loved Event Horizon, Sunshine feels more courageous in its intentions and more profoundly artistic in its presentation and execution. Both films offer rides of great intensity, but Event Horizon is more firmly grounded in a mix of grotesque horror and science fiction, a fusion that was entirely successful in my mind. Are the characters fully realized in Sunshine? They are not, though the Deleted Scenes had they been included would have enhanced this aspect of the film. Still, we glean enough about the crew to care about them and their mission.

The production design and visual flair, not to be confused with the solar flares, is another important aspect of the film. From the space suits to the ship and its striking interiors [how a and lighting, like 28 Days Later, it is indeed a detailed and visionary visual trip worth your time and made all the more beautiful on Blu-Ray. The space suits are gold and shiny and while not entirely practical certainly pay homage to the kinds of sci-fi from a bygone era. The greenhouse could be a tribute to Silent Running [1972]. The adventure is grounded in a tradition and pure science fiction ethic, but with the classic Boyle twists and refreshing translations. It is truly stunning and the film is complemented by an appropriately tasty electronic musical score with work by John Murphy. The affect is one reminiscent of the effective us of composition by the likes of Vangelis for Blade Runner [1982]. It is a spare work that accentuates the power of the film in the quiet of space. The film is a tour de force of visual poetry as a result.

If I've ever been wrong on a film, and I really misread this one, Sunshine would be that film. Credit goes to John Kenneth Muir and's reviews for inspiring me to check this picture out. It's been some time since I've read those reviews so that I might write mine uninfluenced by their own details. Going back, and Muir both reference Alien as an influence and the crew chemistry and tight quarters certainly captures that vibe [minus the chest-bursting alien]. The female computer, as Muir, mentions, could easily be an homage to the Nostromo's Mother or 2001: A Space Odyssey's HAL. The film isn't ripping off anything, but rather offers a loving tribute to the best in science fiction within its own context. On its own terms Sunshine is a special picture. As Muir points out, in those films, the computers were "treacherous" and that plays into the unsettling, alien nature of the traveller's sphere of influence within the Icarus II. In the end, like the new android in Aliens [1986], played by Lance Henriksen, as a replacement to the treacherous one found in Alien, the computer here offers a bit of help in a scene that literally takes that device and switches up convention. I love the scene.

Muir references the influence of Joseph Conrad's The Heart Of Darkness, which has certainly influenced film and literature ad nauseum since its publication in 1899 and more officially in 1902. While Sunshine is certainly indirectly riffing on that subject matter, its intentions are more often subtle than severe, although those moments exist too. What are we made of? We're reminded throughout the film to ask ourselves who we are.

I couldn't help but feel like Sunshine was what the creators of Stargate Universe were shooting for with their new series, and perhaps there are elements of this film in that series. Sunshine is a taut, compressed, beautiful picture built upon stunning visuals combined with unique directorial flourishes and camera techniques. Sunshine is a psychological, sobering, and reflective tale. It mesmerizes us with its ability to generate a story on fate and the human condition that is at once hopeful and ironically not-so sunny in equal measure.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Falling In Love With Farscape

I'm sorry to say that I haven't had much time or inspiration to write of late. I must be going through one of those phases we all suffer.

I've spent a bit of time checking out a number of television series I missed along the way. I am here to tell you that I have discovered Farscape for the first time and have fallen madly in love. Each new episode is like a shot of adrenalin to the arm. I simply can't turn my attention away long enough to write.

So there you have it. This is the reason I have been so unproductive. Coffee. Vodka Tonic. Beer. Whatever cold or hot beverage satisfies my need accompanies my daily exploration of this amazing series. I sit in awe of Brian Henson and company and the advenure they have created. I am blown away.

... pass me another piece of blueberry pie. [I made it for Farscape.]

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Lost In Space S1 Ep5: The Hungry Sea

One of the Lost In Space classics featuring a little friend called the Chariot, a.k.a. the Snowcat in space.

"I didn't write the first five or six scripts; I only wrote the pilot script, and then I wrote outlines for the next five or six." -Shimon Wincelberg [from LISFAN #6], The Lost In Space Encyclopedia II, [p.426]-
What an outline The Hungry Sea was by Shimon Wincelberg.  It was a simple, driving, linear, effective narrative tale of adventure for the space family Robinson.  We all have extremely fond memories of a whole host of key episodes from our favorite shows when we were growing up. With those fond memories comes a unique perception of those shows that doesn't necessarily hold up when watching them as adults. Anyway, Lost In Space, Season One, Episode 5, The Hungry Sea is hands down one of a handful of key entries in the Lost In Space run for me. We all have our favorites. This is by far and away the one I remembered vividly for the exciting adventure that befell the Robinson family inside the confines of their embattled Chariot. For me The Hungry Sea = The Chariot. This episode truly highlighted the excitement that befell the Robinson family when journeying in their Chariot. I always remembered this episode for that cool vehicle and it was my first exposure to that cool glass house with tank tracks that hooked me for many years to come. Honestly, I could have watched the Robinsons just trek all over the map in that thing as a kid and been just as happy if the cast never muttered a word of dialogue or happened upon another exciting event. I think the only time I've seen a vehicle awe me in such a way would be in the cheesy cool movie Damnation Alley [1977] starring Jan-Michael Vincent and George Peppard. Anyway I'm hungry so off we go.
Let's face it Lost In Space may seem a wee bit campy by today's standards. It certainly doesn't hold up with the science fiction intelligentsia as it were like Star Trek has managed all these years. But there are clearly different expectations and it was a show created with different expectations by Iriwin Allen separate and apart from those created by Gene Roddenberry. But can we agree that today's standards suck! Because, Lost In Space, Season One in all its black and white glory, is a sight to behold. It captured the series at its most substantial and was certainly assured in its family-driven, science fiction identity. Whether it was the more significantly revered first season or the more colorfully discarded second and third seasons, it was always pure family-geared adventure and on that level it was simple, exciting and inviting each time out. Perhaps, at times, it was a little too simple, but that indefinable something captured by all involved, fronted by a conglomeration of acting talents and scriptwriters established a quality production comfortable in its own skin. Lost In Space has stood the test of time with much love and admiration by the likes of people like myself as a result of that singular focus.
As we head into the fifth installment of Lost In Space via The Hungry Sea we see the creators giving serialized television a run for its money with cliffhangers and continuity as the series has been linked to this point since its debut.
Our fearless family is trapped inside a lost city. Siblings Penny Robinson and Will Robinson are trapped behind a wall. Somehow Major Don West and Judy Robinson manage to get the stone wall to turn and maneuver to the other side to rescue them both. In a real head's up move by the major he turns his back on the shifting wall and it closes locking all four of them inside. Not West's brightest move to date. Professor John Robinson and Maureen Robinson find their loved ones. John starts blasting the wall with his laser-cutting weapon to free them.

The inspiration for the Chariot?
The credits roll with John Williams amazing score. The music signals it's time to be transported to another place in space. My God. I never seem to tire of that theme song. It really is a phenomenal score.
Another Snowcat gem.
So the Robinson family breaks free of the city of death and off they go in the Chariot! I love The Chariot. I suppose in many ways it's not much more than a snow cat with glass encasing, but I still love it. Who wouldn't want one of those Snowcats. Back at the Jupiter II, Dr. Zachary Smith is in typically gleeful form snapping away at Robot. I have friends who love this show right along with me, while there are still others who scoff at the writing. Let's put it this way, sure it has its moments, but it's pure escapist family entertainment, not Farscape. The show was always good for some witty banter and tremendous barbed dialogue. Here's a pretty classic exchange between the good doctor Smith and Robot.

"RRRRapidly." I love how Robot can roll those 'R's. We get a glimpse of Dr. Smith's cowardly underbelly in those final seconds. It's now 51 degrees in the Jupiter II.

125 degrees below outside. Temperatures are dropping rapidly for both Smith and the space family Robinson who are now making their way across the frozen Inland Sea. Don suspects it couldn't be less than 20 feet of thick ice. Nice computations with no scientific evidence from which to draw. Meanwhile back at the Jupiter II Smith uses Robot as his own personal hot coffee maker. Smith suspects the Robinsons have become either human Popsicles or monster meals.
104 degrees below outside. 98 below and rising. Temperatures are quickly taking a turn for the better as it turns out to the benefit of one Dr. Smith. Smith is quickly worming his way out of another potentially doomed jam. The computer readings indicate things are going to heat up substantially very quickly. Smith, with some relish, regards the Robinsons as sure to be vanquished. His character continues its gradual transformation to coward. Not surprising, Smith wouldn't know what to do without the Robinsons.

Another Snowcat beauty.
As the Robinson family rolls along Debbie the Bloop sit in tow happily on Penny's lap as snug as a bug in a rug. Ultimately, it was Debbie who caused a lot of grief back at the lost city despite the family escaping with their lives. Debbie managed to return back to the Chariot just in time for a free ride following her latest adventure. She's a trip! Don and John discuss the readings and the rise in temperature and begin to question their decision to flee the Jupiter II. Don stands by his decision.
They really need to make coffee makers like Robot.
Back at the Jupiter II Smith continues to enjoy his Robot brow beating time. I wish I had a dollar bill for every time Smith threw out a zinger at the Robot. I'd be a rich man. He has the best lines. They are really caustic, sharp and witty. Jonathan Harris came up with much of his own dialogue and Irwin Allen allowed it thanks to the growing popularity of his character.
Robot [warms coffee with several electric zaps].
Smith: "I said warm it up not boil it away." "I'd get more companionship from a cuckoo clock." Boy, he is rough. Robot would essentially become Smith's closest friend as much as that is mechanically possible.
The ground quakes as the temperature rises. Smith just can't stand it and sensing the possibility he might actually be all alone should the Robinsons perish decides he's not so fond of the solo idea. Smith makes the decision to warn the Robinsons in the hopes they might live.
Note plastic figurine family inside The Chariot. They look to be a few family members short.
There's an absolutely brilliant shot of the Chariot rolling along on land and it's close enough to the camera you can see the doll-like figures inside positioned as the Robinsons shaking back and forth from the movement of the craft. It's hysterical. Don comments how the darkness has given way to daylight. John ingeniously observes "it's a strange planet." Yes, you're in outer space and a long, long way from home. As they rove along on their Chariot tracks Smith reaches out to the Robinsons. Smith has done nothing to earn the trust of the Robinsons from the get go given his prior covert status as saboteur. Smith is like the boy who cried wolf at this point and is rarely given the floor due to a lack of credibility. The Robinsons move forward without heeding his warnings. Smith is beginning to plot and scheme as he sees fit to meet his needs and his ends without necessarily destroying the family that remains his final connection to humanity. We all need the human touch right?
Smith: "Lame-brained, misbegotten skeptics, now they'll all die."
59 degrees Fahrenheit outside and rising.
Smith [referring to Robot]: "Stranded on an alien planet, no one with whom to exchange intellectual ideas, no one to talk to except this, this animated weather station."
Pre-green screen.
Smith decides on sending Robot on an 80 mile mission. He must deliver a message to the Robinsons. Oh my God! So the Robot is standing in place while ice scenery scrolls behind him as evidence he is making his way to the Robinsons. It's a classic. I thought the ice was going to melt with the temps rising. Robot, watch out for that melting Inland Sea.
I will quote John Robinson to makes sense of the nonsense. "Very little on this planet makes sense." there you have it. It's dark again. Don and John find burned vegetation. Moments later Robot comes strolling into their makeshift camp and Don grabs his laser pistol and blasts him despite Will's protests and outcry. Wow, all that way and that's the thanks he gets. Geesh. Granted, if I was 80 miles away I'd be a little concerned about seeing the Robot waving his arms about and yelling "matter of life and death" based on his short, erratic track record here on the series.
John and Don have their first verbal beef when John tells Don "you could have waited Don we always had our lasers." Don looks at him with the classic Major West 'hey, thanks a lot for having by back' look. Will correctly surmises Robot was bringing the family a message. Yes, Robot was bringing the family a string of tape filled with orbital data regarding the planet's weather conditions. Here is our first official battle of testosterone-driven fun between titans Don and John.

It's a great exchange and I love the last parting comment from Will as he goes and strolls off. He cracks me up. Well, Don is pretty steamed up and Judy visits Don sort of adding insult to injury by taking her father's side. So we have our first Judy and Don lover's spat here. Talk about feeling all alone in space. Ouch!

There's all kinds of tension with the heat rising here on The Hungry Sea. In preparation for the bake-a-thon the family sets up their aluminum foil-based solar deflectors. Thank God they had those supplies with them. Who knew? It's 108 degrees now and at least their solar deflector-like awning is ready to roll.
Cut to a tender moment between John and Maureen. There isn't a bit of sexual heat between these two actors [remember, it's a family show], but they are sweating up a storm. They do engage in a sweet hug with John rubbing her shoulder. Before you know another tremor greets the family. It is a strange and volatile planet to be sure. Shields are back in place. Geologist John Robinson and pilot Major Don West are at odds and continue to be so. I always liked the strong male personalities as a kid. I always loved both of these guys and sometimes I wasn't sure who I was rooting for. It was like Starsky & Hutch in space for me. They were both tough and I admired both of them at different times equally. What's a young lad to do? The sequences made for some terrific, albeit brief, character development for the two heroes we so admired in the series.
The sun comes along in all its blistering glory as the family takes cover under the shields. Twigs and rocks flame and steam all around them from the scorching heat. Those better be some strong solar deflectors. Later, even the Robinson shields are charred and blackened from the heat. Still, they somehow manage to survive, dehydrated, weary and weakened, but glad to be among the living. It was like Kenny's honey roasters for awhile there. The family prepares to head back to their home away from home, the Jupiter II.
This is another great exchange between pilot Don and geologist John while whippersnapper Will pipes in freely with little respect for his elders. I do think his father tried to give him a cue to hit the road, but Will needs to cool it. Still, his affection for the Robot is growing and it's never more evident than it is here. He declares Don is murdering the Robot as it is disassembled. Now that's a stretch Will. It is a robot after all. Don is clearly more than just a pilot, but pretty good with machinery as well. By the way isn't an "animated hunk of machinery" the same thing as a "robot"? The writers on Lost in Space do their best with the family plan.

The family prepares for the journey home and the hungry Inland Sea. As a kid, this kind of just rocked the house with coolness for me. The modelling shots, while certainly explainable, are classic and outstanding even by today's standards. I'm reminded of similiar model shots used in Gerry Anderson's Thunderbirds and Space:1999. There's nothing better than miniatures. This is beautiful work.

A storm arrives and the Chariot is tossed about to and fro, but does an impressive job of staying the course and absorbing the shock and pummeling of the Inland Sea's raging waves. "We're not getting any power" hollers Don. The Chariot is unresponsive. Yeah John, maybe you should have listened to Don. As a child with a thirst for excitement and adventure this was the scene to end all scenes when Don went topside to reconnect the solar batteries. It's one of those standout scenes that absolutely takes your breath away as a kid. I've never forgotten it and may have re-enacted the sequence in my own backyard a time or two.

"Get me the solar wrench." That is hysterical! The solar wrench! How they filmed that scene to look so beautiful and so awesome is a small miracle I'm sure. Don spots a whirl pool. Not sure how in that crazy mess of a storm he does that, but he does, because he's kinda like Super Don. With the water pouring into the Chariot as Don makes every effort to repair the ship, the craft is whirpooling around like a wad of toilet paper being flushed down the drain. The Chariot is getting knocked around like a rubber ducky in a bathtub full of kids. It's getting the tar kicked right out of it. Eventually Don does get knocked off by a crashing wave, but hangs on for dear life, because, again, he's like Super Don. Don is gone. Now what I'd like to know and I've always wondered this, how on Earth could they not see Don hanging on with all of those glass windows around the Chariot. Hmmm. I mean it's a giant window box with wheels. How come you can't see Don? Judy is upset, but John holds her and yet no one seems phased by the rapid intake of water that is pouring relentlessly into the Chariot creating a potential submersible situation. Somehow the Chariot is knocked free of the whirlpool and Don miraculously crawls back inside the Chariot. With the power restored and the Chariot half full of water the family makes its move toward landfall. God love the Chariot! That thing is unstoppable!
John takes time to write some thoughts in his journal and the family stops and gives thanks in "a weird tropical paradise." Well guys, it's not nearly as weird as that Cyclops or even Debbie the Bloop. This planet is a treasure trove of oddity and has made for an exciting run up to this point. The family gathers for a moment of Christian prayer and thanks for their blessings. I'll tell you, it's rare to see a sincere moment like that in television with characters giving thanks. It almost seems strange watching it now after being so desensitized to the mindless violence or prankster comedy of today's television shows. I also loved when Don waits and pulls Debbie from the Chariot. This is pretty sweet stuff.

Smith sees the family coming over the horizon and cannot believe his eyes- John Robinson is alive. Why? Perhaps because Smith had actually programmed Robot to take care of him specifically. John does the right thing and apologizes to Don for not listening to his solar battery concerns. Don, too, demonstrates himself to be a very standup guy here especially to young Will. Will also makes ammends with Don in his own way. Then there's young precocious Will trying to see if his Dad was wrong behind his back.

As Maureen brings her husband a cup of coffee I couldn't help but wonder how prepared they were for food and drink. Thank god for gardens, although I'm not sure how those things are fairing in the extreme hot and cold temperatures. Just a thought. John's journal says it all, "the supreme question has now become one of whether we can survive."
Because you demanded it. K-TEL presents ROBOT playing the hits.

Robot performs a little Paddy McAloon and some Prefab Sprout or is it Duran Duran's 'Electric Barbarella' or perhaps Styx 'Mr. Roboto'?
With the family finally safe at home I found myself to be bloody exhausted. There's enough adventure here to lay a six year old out cold for a good night's sleep. With the heat rising tensions between everyone were also rising. That nasty old Dr. Smith is finding a way to place a wedge between certain members of Team Robinson.

An electrical storm upon them, John gives everyone a lesson in Electrical Storms 101. The radar picks up a blip and "it's a missile and it's headed straight for us." Good Lord. Just as everyone was about to hit the hay. Is there no rest for this weary band of travellers? The Hungry Sea is loaded with great moments of action and character growth and remains one of my favorite entries of Lost In Space.

TO BE CONTINUED NEXT WEEK ... Same Time, Same Blog!
The Hungry Sea: A
Director: Sobey Martin
Writer: William Welch/ Shimon Wincelberg