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The Reluctant Stowaway

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"No Place to Hide" | Episodes of Lost in Space | "The Derelict"

On October 16, 1997 the Robinson Family and Major Donald West are about to launch aboard the Jupiter 2 to begin their mission to establish a colony on a planet in the Alpha Centauri star system. Despite high hopes for the mission, it is undertaken in an atmosphere of international tension resulting from the effects of overpopulation and rapidly depleting natural resources all over the planet.

Dr. Smith, the staff physician, boards to the ship to sabotage the mission. He reprograms the Jupiter 2's environmental control robot to destroy critical systems aboard the ship eight hours after launch. Shortly before lift off, Smith realizes that a technicians has removed the Robot's power pack, thereby foiling his sabotage. At the last, he manages to reinstall the power pack unseen, but when he rushes leave the ship, the hatch seals and he is trapped aboard. Because of Smith's additional weight aboard, the Jupiter 2 veers off course into a swarm of meteoroids.

As the meteoroids pummel the ship, a fear-stricken Smith revives Major West from suspended animation. West saves the damaged ship by steering it out of the meteoroid swarm. The Robinsons are revived from suspended animation and John Robinson and Don West attempt to repair their damaged guidance system. This necessitates deactivating the spaceship's artificial gravity. Will and Penny, delighted, do somersaults while weightless. Meanwhile, Dr. Smith floats helplessly on the lower deck, his attempt to deactivate the robot before he is destroyed along with the Robinsons thwarted.

When the artificial gravity is restored, Smith crashes to the floor as the fatal launch plus eight hour mark arrives. Despite Dr. Smith's command to abort, the robot goes on its pre-programmed rampage. It destroys control systems and sends the Jupiter 2 into hyperspace, traveling faster than the speed of light. Don eventually manages to pull out the robot's power pack before it can destroy the cabin pressurization system. The Robinsons stare out the main view port of their spaceship and John realizes that he can't recognize a single constellation. The Jupiter 2 is lost in space.

A spacewalk is needed to repair damaged navigational equipment. Although Don is trained in extra-vehicular activity, as mission commander, John Robinson insists on making the spacewalk himself. He feels that Don, as pilot, is too important to risk. John has some difficulty because of his inexperience, firing a rocket gun which causes him to collide with the Jupiter 2, and he loses his tools. At that point, his tether snaps and he begins to float away.

Some notes on scientific accuracyEdit

There's no denying that the Jupiter 2 looks cool. It was one of the most expensive television props of its time. Nevertheless, it is not a plausible interstellar spaceship according to physics as we currently understand it. The Jupiter is said to be capable of reaching Alpha Centauri in just five and a half years. Alpha Centauri lies at a distance of 4.3 light years from Earth. This means that the ship must be capable of traveling at at least 80% of the velocity of light. In reality, it would need to accelerate for a very long time to build up to such speeds. The acceleration would need to be limited to rates that wouldn't crush the crew. To compensate, its peak velocity would need to be even higher than 80% light speed to read Alpha Centauri in the allotted time. Theoretically, the most efficient of all possible rocket fuels is antimatter. Upon contact with ordinary matter, antimatter and an equal quantity of matter are annihilated into pure energy in accordance with Einstein's famous equation E=mc^2.  Even if powered by matter/antimatter annihilation, a ship capable of traveling near light speed would need to consist mostly of giant tanks full of fuel, just as present day rockets do.  Instead, the interior of the Jupiter 2 consists entirely of living compartments with no apparent room for fuel at all. This is impossible under physics as we know it. We might imagine that the twirling light thing at the base of the Jupiter 2 uses currently unknown physics to do the trick. Instead the narration tells us that the Jupiter is powered by 'great atomic motors'. Unfortunately, even nuclear fusion is much too feeble to accelerate a spaceship to much beyond about 10% of light speed. The year 1997 has come and gone and starships are still a hope of the distant future because of the incredible speeds and energies they would need. After launch, the Jupiter 2 apparently acquires some additional capabilities that are simply inexplicable. When the robot destroys a component of the astrogator, the Jupiter somehow acquires the ability to travel in hyperspace, faster than the speed of light. In one bit of dialog, an Alpha Control official tells the president by phone that the spaceship has "passed the limits of our galaxy". The distance between Earth and Alpha Centauri is trivial by comparison with the vast scale of our home galaxy, the Milky Way. The galaxy is a disk shaped system of several hundred billion stars, surrounded by a sparser, roughtly spherical halo of star clusters. The disk is 100,000 light years in diameter and about 1000 light years in thickness. The sun is near the center of the thickness of the galactic disk, and thus the shortest distance to leave the galactic disk is about 500 light years. If the Jupiter 2 took five and a half years to reach Alpha Centauri, it would take more than 600 years to travel this far. If it did, it would be a long time before anybody in Alpha Control knew about it, because tracking data from the ship, traveling at the speed of light, would take 500 years to reach Earth. Leaving the galactic disk wouldn't really constitute passing beyond the limits of the galaxy, because the halo of star clusters surrounding the disk is 200,000 light years in diameter. Perhaps what the script writer actually meant to say is that the Jupiter had passed beyond the limits of our solar system.

There is another sense in which the writers of this episode have little appreciation of the incredible velocities involved in space travel. When the Jupiter 2 veers off course, it encounters a swarm of meteoroids which are portrayed as giant slow moving boulders pummeling the ship.  In fact, any such encounter would take place at very high relative speeds of many miles per second.  An impact with such a boulder, even at a small fraction of the velocity of light, would surely vaporize the Jupiter 2.  In reality,  most meteoroids are actually closer in size to dust grains than boulders, but would still pose a threat to a spaceship moving at the speeds needed to reach the stars.  

This episode first aired in 1965, the year of the first US spacewalk by Edward White from the Gemini 4 spacecraft. Soviet cosmonaut Alexei Leonov had become the world's first space walker months earlier. Spacewalking was new, glamorous, and dangerous. Thus the appeal of John Robinson's spacewalk, portrayed with special effects that were spectacular for the time. In reality, Robinson's broken tether problem has a fairly simple solution. Space shuttle astronauts are trained to maneuver the shuttle to scoop up a spacewalker cast adrift by such an accident into the shuttle's cargo bay. Thus, Don could simply have maneuvered the Jupiter 2 within John's reach. No rocket gun or spacewalk by Maureen would have been necessary. The International Space Station can't maneuver easily like the Shuttle, so spacewalkers carry a small emergency maneuvering pack for use if their tether breaks. Although real space travel in the early twenty first century doesn't include starships, there are nevertheless some ways in which we have progressed beyond Lost in Space. Spacewalking is now relatively safe and routine. Astronauts have completed thousands of hours outside their craft without a single fatality. Today, a real life John Robinson could have felt confident about Don's safety if he had sent him outside.

Background InformationEdit

  • There are a number of changes from the original pilot, No Place to Hide: (apart from the obvious adding Dr Smith and the Robot and making the spaceship a 2-story 'Jupiter 2') The mission would now take just 5 1/2 years- a marked improvement over the 99 specified in the pilot. Dick Tufield also over dubs a number of lines that were originally said by the announcer (Don Forbes). A number of scenes involving the Robinsons pre-boarding were added, and the Alpha Control facility receives another room- a medical examination center with an odd chair, which Dr Smith uses to examine Will before the voyage. The MPs seen in the original shots now carry the slender sliver laser rifle used throughout series 1 by Alpha Control's guards and the Robinsons. The pilot narration refers to the "Bermuda Tracking Station", where episode 1 refers to the "Lunar Tracking Station."
  • The computers operated by the Alpha Control staff were from the Burroughs Corporation - the "desktop" B-205 and the floor model B-220. The B-205 also appears on the flight control console of the Jupiter 2. The B-220 was the more powerful of these vacuum tube based machines - it could add two numbers in one ten thousandth of a second (0.1 milliseconds) and multiply two numbers in two thousandths of a second (2 millisecond).
  • According to designer Robert Kinoshita, Irwin Allen purchased from various local surplus stores used scientific and technical equipment for their instrument panels which were then used for the Jupiter 2 set. He didn't bother to have their lettering changed - this is because in many cases the printing was too small to be read on screen or any close-up wouldn't last long enough for the audience to see it. However, this still frame shows one panel in detail. The Hot-Wire legend indicates its original function, that of a detector circuit in a gas/liquid chromatograph.
  • In the original pilot the ship doesn't go into hyperdrive and so it's expected that it will continue on its original vector and speed, the latter of which is given as 18,400 mph. At that speed and assuming it's heading away from the Sun and in the ecliptic the first planet it could reach is Mars after about three months, which might be why Priplanus looks suspiciously like Mars. It would take more than 100,000 years to reach Alpha Centauri at this speed, assuming it's heading in the right direction.
  • Contrary to belief, the Robinsons are not lost in space until the Robot causes the ship to enter hyper drive -the meteor shower only knocked the ship off course, but still within range of Alpha Control's sensors (given that they picked up the activation of the Robot as mentioned in 'The Derelict').
  • When Smith reaches inside the gun rack for a laser, we get a rare shot of the compartment.
  • This is the only episode in which the EVA thrusters (similar to the devices then being used by the Gemini spacewalkers for EVA activity) and the Rocket Gun (a standard laser pistol with a spool launcher attached, commonly seen in a publicity shot with Dr Smith) are used.
  • According to the Alpha Control Reference Manual, the guard knocked out by Dr Smith was found dead, not knocked out (as might be thought by what is seen in the episode), of a broken neck- this makes sense given that the guard would have been able to identify Smith after the Jupiter 2 would have been destroyed.
  • The Robinsons and Major West are standing are standing in the suspended animation tubes. Standing requires muscular effort and brain coordination not possible during sleep.
  • This episode's Director, Tony Leader, did not get on well with Jonathan Harris. A verbal fight broke out over Smith's very first scene which has the character appearing out of a flight couch compartment. Owing to his acute claustrophobia, Harris was extremely frightened of such a confinement and refused point blank to shoot the scene, leading to an angry confruntation with Leader. However, Irwin Allen broke up the argument, and after hearing of Harris' fears told Leader to use a stunt double. (from an anecdote by Johnathan Harris in 'The Irwin Allen Scrapbook, volume 2)
  • Johnathan Harris was not particularily enamoured with the original version of Smith as seen here and in the next few episodes, as he found 'snarling evil villians' to be a great bore. Also, there was little doubt Smith would not survive beyond a few episodes. Fourtunately, Harris was gradually able to inject his character with his famous quirks and manner, egged on by Irwin Allen.
  • Smith is very lucky that the fire surpression system doesn't activate when he smashes the radio. A more logical way for it to stop fires would be to simply open the hatch and allow the atmosphere to escape, thus depriving the fires (and him) of the oxygen needed to keep going. 
  • It's also lucky for Smith that the ship has a breathable internal atmopshere since there is no need at all to maintain one  given that the Robinsons are expected to be sealed in suspended animation for the entire duration of the flight.  Filling it with pure nitrogen would be more practical since it's cheap, would prevent fires, and would inhibit bacterial growth.  If one estimates the volume of the Jupiter 2 as about 40,000 cubic feet at 14 p.s.i. pressure, then for a single person there could be about 8 hours of breathable air.
  • Some of the soundtrack from this episode has not survived, only alternate versions and re-recordings of a number of tracks are avaliable, although these are in most cases the same as the original (a major example is in the theme which in TRS plays over the first shots of the Jupiter 2 interior, the original as used here was lost and an alternate version with a more enhanced theremin is the only remainder.)
  • When Smith lowers the unconscious West to the floor, you see Mark Goddard move his left arm to get it out of the way of Jonathan Harris' leg.
  • Dr. Smith removes one of Major West's gloves in the effort to revive him. Moments later West is at the controls of the astrogator, with both gloves on. We never see him put his glove back on.
  • Costume designer and assistant to the producer, Paul Zastupnevich is seen seated with other interpreters at Alpha Control.
  • If Dr Smith didn’t want the Robot to commit the act of sabotage that he had programmed it for, why didn’t he wake it and give it orders not to do the deed after all? Or why didn’t he remove its power pack and keep it in his pocket?
  • Why did Dr Smith wait such a long time to attempt to contact Alpha Control and inform them that he was trapped on board?
  • After 4 or 5 episodes, Smith stops being “Colonel” Smith and is ever afterwards called simply “Doctor” Smith. Why was this so?
  • Notice how the Robot walks. After several episodes, Robot moves smoothly along a “tread section” instead.
  • The 1st season spacesuits are made of heavy, non-pliable fire resistant material, which often results in the actors losing 2-3 pounds during their scenes. The suits are so tight and restrictive that the cast are forced to lie down on special slant boards when resting between shooting.
  • Jonathan Harris’ first scene is not him but his stunt double! Due to his claustrophobia, the actor’s double “Handsome” Harry Carter emerges from the acceleration lounge, and then in the next scene it cuts to Harris’ face.
  • In writer Shimon Wincelberg’s early drafts, Dr Smith is parked in a car outside the Jupiter 2’s invisible force field. Desperately seeking a way aboard the spaceship, he tricks a young woman into picking a flower for him, who walks into the protective shield, instantly incinerating her. Wincelberg also notes that Smith wears a poison tipped ring shaped like a heart, with Mother inscribed on it. Irwin Allen unsurprisingly ordered both scenes deleted from the script.
  • The meteors that batter the Jupiter 2 causing it to veer off course are actually balls of tinfoil.
  • When Dr Smith uses the laser gun to release Don from the freezing tube, the scene pauses briefly before the laser emits the special effect ray of light.
  • In the zero gravity scenes, you can clearly see Will’s guide wires as he floats around the spaceship. Also Judy’s hair can be seen propped up by a visible wire. At some stages both girls’ ponytails bounce up and down, which shouldn’t occur in zero gravity.
  • When the Robot emerges from the glide tube for its maiden mission of mayhem, it utters its famous trademark “Destroy!” The chest light, however, fails to light up when this occurs.
  • As mentioned earlier, in the initial episodes, the Robot’s tank treads are independent, which means Bob May is able to ‘walk” in the Robot suit, instead of gliding smoothly in later instalments. When it is attempting to destroy the spaceship, the treads start to buckle and lose their uniformity as he lumbers toward the controls. So much so, that at one stage the Robot’s “bubble” is leaning forward at a precarious angle. In the next shot, his treads are magically uniform again, but in the next scene, they are so compromised that a triangular hole is appearing at the top section.
  • During John’s spacewalk, he communicates to Don via the transmitter, [didn’t Smith break it earlier?…] In reality, Guy Williams stands off stage and feeds lines to Mark Goddard, then during post production, his lines are mixed to sound as if they are being transmitted from a communication device. However, one line, “I sure can try”, sounds as if the actor is just out of shot inside the spaceship, (which he indeed was…)
  • The metallic suspension system holding up Guy Williams in the space walk scenes are briefly visible. They can be spotted as he attempts to once more climb up the side of the spaceship and also immediately after the guide rope snaps.
  • Maureen attempts to fire John a new space line. How is it possible that the line is bouncing up and down in zero gravity?
  • When Dr Smith runs up to the Robot to order him to cease his destructive ways, it is the actor’s double that is seen in shot instead. Why there was a requirement for the double in this scene is a mystery, as it is certainly not stunt-worthy.
  • When Alpha Control notices that the ship is off course or the flight pattern altered, why is Major West not woken from suspended animation per protocol? Isn't that what the General said when re-introducing Don to the Robinsons ("if something should go wrong with the navigation system")?

Classic LinesEdit

Major Don West (to the Robinson family before lift off): "If you wake up and find me driving, you'll know you're in trouble,"

Robot: "At exactly launch plus eight hours: inertial guidance system - destroy! radio transmitter - destroy! cabin pressure system - destroy!"


Next Episode: The Derelict

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