Rita Scaramizzi posted an excellent blog in June 2014. She discussed the “anti-Johns” appearing in the first season episode “Follow the Leader” and season three’s “The Anti-Matter Man.” Her question asking which episode was the viewers’ more favourite generated a huge number of comments and discussion. “The Anti-Matter Man” also portrays the darker side of Don West (a brilliant performance by Mark Goddard) and a brief meeting between the Robot and his alter-ego.
Dr. Smith also has two anti-characters (in “His Majesty Smith” in season one, and “The Phantom Family,” season two). However, in both episodes Smith’s doppelgãngers are artificial creations rather than living, breathing alternate Dr. Smiths. The character of the android supplied by the Andronican in place of the captive Dr. Smith is portrayed as the diametrical opposite of the true doctor’s; he is loving, kind, thoughtful, and industrious. Most importantly, he is altruistic, willing to sacrifice himself to save the real Smith in a ploy to trick the Andronican at the end of the episode. In “The Phantom Family” the replica of Dr. Smith (and indeed, of the other members of the expedition) are on a mission to learn how to be human and ultimately to replace their originals. Here the replicant Smith parodies the less than virtuous side of the real Dr. Smith as he seeks to imitate him, but in the end, in another altruistic act, sacrifices himself to free the original Smith. Although viewers might not associate altruism with Zachary Smith, there are a couple of hints that he is able to think of others, and even to sacrifice his own well-being for them (see “The Smith Behind the Smith”), so it is not too far-fetched to think that his duplicates are emphatically entirely his opposite.
Similarly, in “Attack of the Monster Plants” (season one) Judy is duplicated by the strange deutronium-eating plants encountered in the episode. In “Target: Earth” (season three), the crew are replaced by duplicates created by Gilt Proto. In neither case, though, are these copies portrayed as being anything other than “fifth-columnists;” in both episodes, their mission is to take over the Jupiter 2; there is little real attempt at subterfuge beyond what is necessary to accomplish that end.
Far more interesting is the anti-Will encountered in “The Space Creature” in season three. In that episode Will faces a creature that claims to be the future Will Robinson, a dark, selfish, even sadistic version of the boy. The creature’s claim that it is indeed a child is chilling, and calls to mind the parallel of Peter Pan, the boy who would not grow up, but in a warped and twisted way—not a pretty picture.
Whether or not what the creature claims is in fact true or merely a game to torment Will, its very character is a sort of anti-Will. Most interestingly, though, it is not that the creature is what Will is not; rather, he is what Will is, if only potentially. Regularly through the series Will manifests all of the negative character traits shown by the creature, but constantly struggles to keep them under control. He is psychologically mature enough to endeavour to master his own baser impulses.
The Lost in Space episodes which explored these anti-characters of the crew of the Jupiter 2 are among the best of the series. They are atmospheric and contain a real element of menace not usually seen in most of the episodes—it is hard to credit any real menace to exploding beach balls (“The Golden Man”) or mutated orange trees (“The Flaming Planet”). One of the key differences is that the episodes featuring anti-characters have a sustained feeling of present menace throughout, not merely scenes of danger interspersed with the rest of the plot. These dark and frightening episodes rank with the series’ initial five episode story arc as truly superior.