September 14, 2009

“Danger, Will Robinson!”

In addition to being a fan of old TV westerns, like Have Gun – Will Travel, I’m also a fan of vintage science fiction shows. Even the bad ones, if they’re bad enough to be good.

One of my favorite so-bad-it’s-good-bad science fiction series is Lost in Space, which debuted on September 15, 1965.

This campy show popularized several catchphrases – including the series title itself.

Prior to 1965, the phrase “lost in space” had been used occasionally. (I checked in But the series is what made it a common term.

Lost in Space was a variation of the classic Swiss Family Robinson castaway story.

The premise is set up in the debut episode. The Robinson family has volunteered to be first American space pioneers sent via spaceship – from the "desperately overcrowded" Earth of the year 1997 – to establish a colony on a planet orbiting Alpha Centauri.

There’s the father, Professor John Robinson (actor Guy Williams), his wife Maureen (June Lockhart), their curvaceous teenage daughter Judy (Marta Kristen), and their two younger kids, Penny (Angela Cartwright) and Will (Billy Mumy).

The other crew members are spaceship pilot Major Don West (Mark Goddard), who has the hots for Judy, and a Robbie-like robot who is just called The Robot.

The day they are set to leave Earth in their saucer-like ship, its vital controls are sabotaged by the evil (but snarkily funny) scientist, Dr. Zachary Smith (Jonathan Harris). He’s working for some unnamed “foreign power” that wants to beat the USA in the space colonization race.

In the process of doing his dirty work, Smith accidentally traps himself on board when the craft takes off. Then, because of his handiwork, the ship goes into an uncontrolled hyperdrive that sends it into some unknown sector of the universe.

After that, the Robinsons, Major Don, Dr. Smith and the robot have 82 more episodes worth of campy castaway adventures, which typically involved dealing with some hokey-looking aliens on cheesy-looking sets. (You can watch them all on Hulu, if you can take it.)

Throughout the series, the robot regularly used two catchphrases that are still heard today: “Does not compute” and “Danger, Will Robinson!”

Here are some of the other famous quotes and phrases linked to SEPTEMBER 15:

“Keep the home-fires burning.” - Song title and lyric by Ivor Novello, copyrighted on September 15, 1915.

“Live long and prosper.” - Vulcan greeting first heard on the Star Trek episode “Amok Time,” which was first aired on September 15, 1967.

“You're out of order! You're out of order! The whole trial is out of order!” - Al Pacino in the 1979 movie ...And Justice for All, which premiered at the Toronto Film Festival on September 15, 1979.

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