Thursday, February 7, 2019

Lost In Space S1 E4: There Were Giants In The Earth

I never noticed those rough spots before."
-Professor John Robinson-

Lost In Space arrived with yet another exciting entry to launch the series in the peculiarly titled Lost In Space, Season One, Episode 4, There Were Giants In The Earth. Given the footprints perhaps There Were Giant Footprints In The Earth would have sounded more sensible, but as it stands, oddly enough, this writer loves that title. There is something about the strange, alien-sounding wording of that title's very existence that seems to work for me as we consider the legacy of this science fiction's classic first season.

The story was written by Carey Wilber. But the story also edited a good deal of footage from No Place To Hide (as written by S. Bar-David a.k.a Shimon Wincelberg), in fact, nearly half of the installment.

The installment was directed by Leo Penn, who also directed on Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea and Star Trek: The Original Series (S1 E5 The Enemy Within).

Apart from the repurposed footage for the episode, it was truly the new character scenes shot by director Leo Penn and written by Carey Wilber that won the day here.

The new character-based story material that was most engaging were scenes featuring Smith deciding to stay back aboard the Jupiter 2 despite the planet's dipping temperatures. This was the writer's plan for excusing the character's absence from the recycled footage. It allowed editors to utilize the footage from No Place To Hide, the pilot, in which the character of Dr. Zachary Smith had yet to be created.

There is also a heated exchange between Smith and Major Don West, now moving closer to the openly belligerent, hostile and distrustful character he would become of Smith. Another scene between Smith and Maureen Robinson underscores the idea that Smith is suspected by the family, within the group, as a genuine interloper with bad intentions that places him squarely outside the family's complete circle of trust.

Finally the writers soften Robot with a lovely exchange between Will Robinson and Robot suggesting greater things to come for the series for fans of the Will/Robot dynamic.

There are some stellar family moments inside the Jupiter 2 around the family dinner area as well. There are scenes featuring the ladies establishing gardening sections. Smith even mixes some pea seeds with the planet's soil. A massive peapod grows overnight mutating with a planetary parasite. These little moments give the family series with a sci-fi edge a genuine, credible, lived-in feel.

There is so much to enjoy regarding the chemistry of the characters and Smith weaseling his way about camp and avoiding work that the episode is a genuine pleasure despite the reutilized footage.

And again the series looks brand new with its Blu-Ray transfer. Case in point, a scene whereby Professor John Robinson activates the force field after disciplining a tearful Will. When they head back into the Jupiter 2 the door shuts behind. When it shuts you can actually see dirt fall off the downed Jupiter 2 when the door closes. I've never noticed that before. But little details like that one have become more evident and clearer to see than ever.

So There Were Giants In The Earth, while certainly a thrilling entertainment for young eyes, was also packed with these wonderfully exciting and emotive human moments between all of the characters building upon those crucial foundations for the series' endurance.

Wilber would write seven (7) episodes for Lost In Space across two seasons beginning with There Were Giants In The Earth. He also wrote the classic Star Trek episode Space Seed (S1, E22) which introduced Khan Noonien Singh that would later become central to the film Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan (1982). For Allen he also returned for three (3) episodes of The Time Tunnel (1966-1967).

Sadly, Penn would not return after his single contribution here running one day behind schedule and over budget. The same would occur for Penn on Star Trek (1966-1969), The Enemy Within, also granting him a sole direction role for Gene Roddenberry's series.

Returning on the composing front though was Herman Stein, following his contributions to The Derelict (S1, E2). His themes were complimented by the No Place To Hide composer Bernard Herrmann whose footage is retained here.

On the whole though, this is another fun, giant entry in the series' first year run.

Writer: Carey Wilber.
Director: Leo Penn.
Advertisements with children in jeopardy for the TV series would cease.
Blu-Ray version
DVD version