LOST IN SPACE made its premiere on September 15, 1965 as a deadly serious science fiction show, filmed in black and white. Thirty months later, the show would end its run as a schizophrenic mix of camp comedy, intermixed with some good science fiction plots, all filmed in living color.
The standard histories of LOST IN SPACE blame the TV show Batman for its descent into campiness; the studio bosses coming up with the syllogism:
1. Batman is a hit.
The above reasoning didn't change just LOST IN SPACE; the producers of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. followed the same specious reasoning.
It isn't really fair to dismiss LOST IN SPACE as merely camp comedy: every episode had something going for it.
One episode that a lot of fans hate was "The Questing Beast," written by Carey Wilber. Yes, the show had a hokey dragon costume, enhanced by June Foray's cartoony voice. But if you dug deeper, you could see what the episode was really about: Losing childhood innocence, keeping one's word, honor, and standing up for what is right. Not a bad mix of messages for a camp TV show!
In fact, watching the old LOST IN SPACE episodes, I often get the desire to go back in time, to do one rewrite before the shows came onto the air, taking out the silly stuff. But, given the above, maybe that rewriting would have damaged the show's appeal.
Too many science fiction fans think that science fiction should be consumed with a scowl on your face (naturally, for years LOST IN SPACE was attacked by SF fans, particularly Star Trek fans), and that's a sad thing.
What's wrong with a little silliness, I say! In the end, what made LOST IN SPACE popular, I think, was its very schizophrenia: each episode, at times, seemed to start from scratch: one week, the show was camp humor, the next, camp humor with profound insights, and after that, serious science fiction/adventure. The main rule was that there were no rules, and that makes the show all the more appealing.
Flint Mitchell is the president of the LOST IN SPACE Fannish AlliaNce (LISFAN). When not preoccupied with LOST IN SPACE, he runs a small mail order business, and writes books.