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The Writers and Their Scripts: Bob Duncan and Wanda Duncan

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Bob Duncan and Wanda Duncan were the co-writers of five Lost in Space scripts, all but one from season two. Author Jon Abbott characterises their contribution to the series as being among the “sillier” of the scripts, but praises their work on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, another Irwin Allen production.

Without going so far as to say silly, the Duncans’ season two scripts definitely incorporate some more whimsical elements into their plots than the general run of stories that season (which, admittedly, had some pretty silly ones). Despite this, their stories are uniformly well told and were (and are) some of the more popular episodes in the series.

Space Circus

“Space Circus” turns on the premise that Will has a heretofore undiscovered ability to materialise objects from his imagination with the assistance of another character who talks him through it. During the episode he materialises a goblet, a purple frog, a red, wooden ball (he was trying for an apple), and a knife. The backdrop of the episode is a space circus—among the earliest appearances of traditional story lines transferred into outer space, like space cowboys, space zoos, and space beauty contests. 

Revolt of the Androids

“The Android Machine” and “Revolt of the Androids” both feature the character of Verda, a fan favourite, and her story unfolds over the two episodes as she develops more and more human characteristics. “The Android Machine” also introduces the recurring character of Mr. Zumdish, who was so popular that he appeared later in another episode written by the Duncans and we brought back a third time in a script (“Two Weeks in Space”) by another writer.

Toy

“The Toymaker” belongs to the same storyline (more or less) as the two android episodes. Its plot hinges on Will, Dr. Smith, and the Robot being trapped inside one of the catalogue order machines of the Galactic Department Store. In some ways, it is the most whimsical and charming of the Duncans’ scripts.

The Time Merchant

The Duncans’ fifth script for Lost in Space was “The Time Merchant” in season three. It is quite different from their earlier episodes and has a much more dramatic atmosphere than any of them. In it, Will, Dr. Smith and the Robot return to earth before the Jupiter 2 was launched. This episode reveals that despite his original nefarious intentions, Dr. Smith’s presence on board the Jupiter 2 at blast off actually saved them from certain death. Interestingly enough, Smith and Will come very near to reaching earth in the earlier “The Toymaker” as well.

There is no getting around the fact that Bob Duncan and Wanda Duncan’s scripts featured some of the more far-fetched premises for episodes in the series, but they were a good fit for the look and feel of the second season and figure among the most popular episodes in the series.

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