Will Robinson didn’t go short of good male rôle models in his life. He had a close, loving relationship with his father, as can be seen by smiles, heart-to-heart talks, hugs, and paternal pats on the back in numerous episodes. His relationship with Don was quite friendly; they are seen together regularly, and Don ruffles Will’s hair a couple of times. You might say Don is somewhere between a rather older brother or a youngish uncle in Will’s life.
The movement of the series from a serialised Swiss Family Robinson in Outer Space toward a more action-adventure-oriented format was instrumental in providing Will with what we might call objects of hero worship, although in only one case might the object of Will’s devotion be considered a true hero (American astronaut Jimmy Hapgood in “Welcome, Stranger”).
Jimmy Hapgood is the stereotypical image of a cowboy: a loner, brave, self-reliant, and taciturn to a fault. To add to the image, he even sports a Stetson. Instead of a horse he has a spaceship though. What boy doesn’t like cowboys? Given that “Welcome, Stranger” does not focus on Will, we are afforded only a few glimpses of him and Hapgood together. As with any lad of ten or so overwhelmed by the tall, silent stranger in their midst and his impressive mount (or vehicle), Will in short order offers to lend a hand in decontaminating Hapgood’s ship and sets about the job with industry. As in all such relationships, Hapgood returns the favour, so to speak, by promising to relate some of his adventures to Will, but otherwise maintains his emotional distance. He is the object of hero-worship; his office is to receive adoration and, taking occasional notice of his worshipper, to bestow favours. This is best seen in the scene where Hapgood has told John that he cannot take the children with him. When Will pays him a final visit, Hapgood is carving his Kilroy onto a rock with his laser pistol. He never takes his eyes off his work while he talks to Will, although he is still friendly and cordial, though not warm, to the boy.
Will lives out another boyhood fantasy with Alonzo P. Tucker in “The Sky Pirate” (season one) and “Treasure of the Lost Planet” (season two). The hero-worship aspect of their relationship is much more apparent in the earlier episode, Will being a year older and wiser at their second encounter (their first meeting having ended on a decidedly disappointing note for Will). Will is entranced by the scoundrel Tucker’s tall tales of the pirate’s life and eagerly (after easily overcoming one minor reservation) takes the pirate oath, including becoming Tucker’s blood brother. It is a moment of pure pathos at the end of the episode when Tucker bluntly (but not callously) comes clean to Will about his real nature. Will’s reaction is not a melodramatic “exit, crying,” but he does leave with precipitate haste, almost as if he does not want to be seen to exit, crying.
Ali ben Bad in “The Thief from Outer Space” (season two), always struck me as a rather jaded character who really didn’t like children. It is almost as if he has to be won over to accepting Will’s presence before their adventures can begin. After that, Will seems quite gung-ho to join ben Bad (with some reservations, of course; Will is all for rescuing a princess, but less keen on plundering for its own sake). The relationship between the two is almost one of partnership rather than friendship. Malachi Throne portrays ben Bad as mock-seriously setting up terms with his new cohort Will. He gets more from the relationship than Will; here Will presents an antidote to his boredom, jadedness, and failure. Unfortunately, the episode ends with ben Bad making a quick getaway when he sees how his princess has changed over the years, so there is no real resolution, for good or ill, of his relationship with Will.
In season two’s “The Questing Beast,” Will befriends Sir Sagramonte in his quest for his beast, becoming the knight’s page. In his favour, Will throws himself into his new rôle without reserve—when he gives his heart, he does it without holding back. Very quickly, though, Will becomes disillusioned with the fecklessness of Sagramonte caused by the futility of his quest, and Will literally walks away. He does return when the chips are down, however, so while he seems to have outgrown puppyish devotion (his growing maturity acting as a brake on it), he has not reached a stage where he can be casually callous. At the end of the episode, when Sagramonte’s commitment to his quest is rekindled, Will again offers to be his page (which doesn’t really say a lot for Will when you think about it); unfortunately, Sagramonte and his beast teleport from the planet before that is possible.
In the season two episode “Mutiny in Space” Will, Dr. Smith, and the Robot are press-ganged by Admiral Zahrk. What makes this adventure different is that Will does not seem to have any personal emotional investment in the Admiral this time. He is all for having fun and playing sailor, but there is a distinct lack of simpatico between Will and Zahrk.
Season three offers no examples of Will engaging in hero worship. In fact, the Will in season three is more often almost cynical and hard-headed, and less likely to be taken in by the tall stories of others. At times, he can be quite sarcastic in his derision of what he hears. This may be the logical outcome of the growth and development outlined above. In the normal process of emotional maturation, Will has learned to protect himself and his emotions; he is starting to learn how not to let himself be hurt. In other words, Will is becoming more responsible for his own emotional actions and reactions as he grows up.