Peter Packer was the most prolific writer for Lost in Space, contributing 24 scripts to the series and receiving a co-writer’s credit for one more. Packer, along with Barney Slater, contributed well over half of the scripts to Lost in Space during its three seasons.
Packer’s first association with the series was “The Derelict” (season 1, episode 2) which he co-wrote with Shimon Wincelberg . Wincelberg, of course, was the writer of the unaired pilot, “No Place to Hide” together with Irwin Allen. About 80% of the pilot was reused in the initial five episode story arc. When the show was picked up for sydication, different writers were brought in to rework the pilot material into individual episodes.
“The Derelict” is somewhat unique among the original five because is makes the least use of footage from the pilot. It is quite similar in style to two of his other first season scripts, “Welcome Stranger” and “Return from Outer Space.” All three are notably dramatic episodes punctuated by moments of dramatic crisis throughout.
“The Oasis” and “The Raft” later in the first season stand midway between this mainly dramatic type of “hard” storyline and later, more far-fetched stories. This may be due to the newer characterisation of Dr. Smith as less of a menace and more of a fool. “The Oasis” gives a nod to Smith’s earlier misdeeds when Don says he might cheer if Smith were dead, but the episode also includes far more broad comedy (for example, Dr. Smith’s sneeze bowling Maureen over) than earlier episodes. “The Raft” may have been the first intentionally Smith-centric episode and start the line of “Smith gets in trouble, Will tries to help, they get rescued anyway” stories.
“Ghost in Space” and “The Space Croppers” from nearer the end of the first season are further along the line toward the future tenor of the series. Although both contain good, dramatic plots, both also take a step toward a somewhat more ludicrous premise (ghosts being summoned up by Smith’s ouija board in the former, and space hillbillies in the latter). This is not to say that these two stories are poor. “Ghost in Space” has many atmospheric moments to do a great deal to sustain the dramatic tension of the episode, and although Dr. Smith’s firm belief in the reality of the spirit world is ridiculed by other crew members, it is never refuted, with the result that the episode has an almost preternatural eeriness. “The Space Croppers” also manages to sustain a good degree of suspense by moments of actual or implied menace that drive the story along, despite some almost vaudeville-like scenes that seem could only have been played for comedic effect (as when Dr. Smith is trying to make love to Sybilla but Will keeps interrupting them with questions about her ship’s propulsion system).
Packer’s first season scripts are good examples of the series’ original adult-oriented action-adventure premise, but the later ones begin to take up the show’s later direction where the “adult-oriented” element is increasingly reduced.