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The Writers and Their Scripts: Shimon Wincelberg

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Shimon Wincelberg is unique among the writers of Lost in Space scripts. He was the co-writer with Irwin Allen of the unaired pilot episode “No Place to Hide,” the use of whose footage earned him a total of four more co-writing credits, one for each of episodes two to four of the series’ first season. He is credited as sole writer for episode one, “The Reluctant Stowaway” under the pseudonym S. Bar-David, and episode eight, “Invaders from the Fifth Dimension.

Despite sharing writing credit for most of the early episodes with other writers, the original look and feeling of the series is clearly the creation of Wincelberg and Irwin Allen. Even when the direction of the series began to change in the latter half of the first season, writers who had provided additional material in these earlier stories more often than not produced episodes that fit quite firmly in with the look and feel of the earlier, darker Lost in Space. Examples are William Welch’s “One of Our Dogs Is Missing” and “The Lost Civilization,” and Peter Packer’s “Welcome Stranger” and “Return from Outer Space.”
Invaders from the Fifth Dimension Ship

Wincelberg’s only solo contribution to the series was “Invaders from the Fifth Dimension.” Some regard this as the episode in which the character of Dr. Smith was to have been killed off, forming the end to the story arc of the original five episodes (based on Wincelberg and Irwin’s pilot) or seven episodes (close in look and feel to the original five). It is possible, but I regard it as apocryphal. However, my reasons are purely circumstantial: there is just no evidence, not even rumours. It’s very difficult to imagine a version of “Invaders” with Smith being eliminated in the end, if only because so much of the material in acts two and three would have to have been completely different; otherwise, we would have ended up with a truly irrelevant ending—after two acts of setting Will up to be kidnapped, Smith disappears in the end. That would not have been very satisfactory in the end unless it had been handled very well.

Shimon Wincelberg was a noted science fiction writer; his reputation in the 1960’s was already great. It is interesting to think of where Lost in Space might have gone had he contributed more scripts to the series.

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