Giant Cyclops, Tiny Science.
First of all, that title – There Were Giants In The Earth. This ain’t Earth. And that fact alone should make the Space Family Robinson think twice about any interaction they have with the native fauna or flora… it doesn’t, as they go about eating the flora and killing the fauna, even though the movie year is 1997 and they must have seen some of those CROCODILE HUNTER episodes regarding “Conservyshun”… (maybe they couldn’t understand his accent?…)
The last episode ended with the Robot (Bob May) threatening Will (Bill Mumy), a cliffhanger easily resolved when Will speaks “Dr. Smith” to it.
Though Dr. Smith (Jonathan Harris) was still the scheming attempted murderer of the Robinsons in the previous episode, this episode sees a turning point in how the filmmakers want us to perceive him. Oh, his plans are still fatal, yet the filmmakers have slyly skewed Smith to a “kooky troublemaker” now, as evidenced in the scene where he is assigned tasks to help family members and he lies his way out of every duty (thereby shirking responsibilities that are detrimental, if not life-threatening, on a space mission!), yet an obviously comical OBOE THEME accompanies his every move, which lessens the gravity of his intent, urging us to now chuckle at what were once horrific misdeeds.
The Robot becomes more likeable as well, as he acts froozy when Will reconnects his power pack.
Also in this episode (which seems to pour on the characterizations that would last the whole series), Professor Robinson (Guy Williams) becomes Mike Brady and Fred MacMurray and Eddie’s Father all rolled into one, as he gives Will a heart-to-heart about Will’s responsibilities, accompanied by that touching father-son theme.
The family realize that the soil is making their plants grow to enormous size, which is merely a foreshadow of the Cyclops to come. When Prof. Robinson and Don (Mark Goddard) check their weather monitor on a mountaintop, a 50-foot Cyclops throws rocks at them. Footage from unaired Episode 00. Will comes to the rescue with a laser gun, although with the knowledge that this planet’s soil causes gigantism, it seems irresponsible of the men not to have armed themselves against potential enlarged gophers or coyotes.
We witness the 1960’s mentality when Will brazenly kills the Cyclops. When the men took cover from the Cyclops’ rocks, there was not a word said about them being the intruders on this planet, and that they are the invasive species encroaching on the Cyclops’ territory. Yes, humans (and every other animal) fights for its own survival over others, yet humans pride ourselves on being aware of why an animal might attack – and it’s never through malice. Yet this encounter is played like the Cyclops is just madly trying to kill John and Don for no reason, which is why it’s totally justified that Will murder it. Robinsons, YOU are in the wrong — and you killed the CYCLOPS just for defending his home?!
Due to freezing temperatures, the Robinsons decide to abandon the Jupiter 2 and go south in the Chariot… although, if the spaceship has already insulated them against the vacuum of space (i.e., temperatures below any kind of terrestrial weather!), there is no reason they can’t stay in it. Again, they are using a science precept to drive the plot – but it’s completely specious! And if they think it’s fatal to stay in the ship, why do they allow Smith to stay behind?
Before they leave, Penny (Angela Cartwright) has gone missing, which gives John the opportunity to break out his batshit-sexy jet-pack to look for her! (In December of this same year, James Bond would thrust skyward with his own jet-pack in THUNDERBALL.) And there’s that breezy jet-pack theme we’ve grown to associate with Professor Robinson zipping around (in front of a rear projection in closeups, but actually flying through the air in exterior long shots! – or at least suspended by a cable).
When John finds Penny, we once again witness the 1960’s mindset regarding the differing roles of men and women back then: Will is painted as an ambitious young man, trying to prove himself an alpha male in the tribe, and is scolded many times by his father for mishandling his responsibilities; the girls, on the other hand are never given the opportunity for ANY responsibilities, and when Penny disappears like a moron as they are prepping to leave, it is never even considered that John might scold her (because, of course – dumb woman who doesn’t know any better), and she is greeted with joy when John returns with her on his jet-pack. It’s like they’re welcoming a lost pet back home.
It is also amazing to notice with adult eyes how Judy (Marta Kristen) is always gravitating toward Don: staying behind to fall in line with him, cozying up to him while walking, unspoken looks between them… In an interview, Kristen expressed her wishes that she was given more to do as Judy, and that the writers could have explored more of the relationship between Judy and Don. Mark Goddard felt the same way about Don. (And though Goddard maintains both he and Kristen stayed true to their married partners at the time, no one can convince me that a little space-panky wasn’t going on…)
At camp, Will serenades us on guitar with Greensleeves. Really? I woulda thought a tween like him would be more into the current acts of that future time of 1997, like Coolio or Foo Fighters…