The Plotline That Needn’t Be.
I don’t think the writers know how spaceships work: that they insulate the people inside from extremes of cold and heat. Writers Shimon Wincelberg and William Welch want to get the Space Family Robinson into a situation not unlike the Swiss Family Robinson: out on the open sea in a raging tempest… So begins the most specious science episode to date, as the plot involves the planet becoming too cold to survive, thus forcing the Family to abandon their Jupiter 2 spaceship and venture “south” in their Chariot.
Uh, but if the Jupiter can withstand the full vacuum of SPACE (which is about 2.7 Kelvin, aka minus 455-degrees Fahrenheit), it can withstand a planet’s puny pajama playtime. Oh, Professor Robinson, you’re the scientist – how you let us all down!
Leaving Dr. Smith and Robot on the spaceship (wait – they presume the cold is fatal enough to abandon ship, yet they seriously let Smith stay?), the Family embark on their journey, passing the body of the dead Cyclops from last episode, seen from inside the Chariot’s windows. No regrets, no introspection… [This projector screen footage is from the unaired pilot Episode 00.]
They come upon a frozen sea and Maureen asks, “Will it hold us?” Why the concern, because later we would see the Chariot can be driven like a boat upon the waves.
Alone on the spaceship, Smith starts flinging his renowned saucy sobriquets at Robot. (This is the episode where those insults take on the mantle of gags instead of menace.) Robot discovers that the planet’s extreme elliptical orbit will actually drive it too close to its sun, thus making it too hot to survive. Smith sends Robot after the Chariot to warn the Family. I guess radio contact was too convenient. (How he actually catches up with the Chariot using his two-mile-an-hour treads is another discussion!) Camped family sees Robot approaching (he is still a menacing presence, Dr. Smith’s gargoyle) and Don lasers him, which actually stops him dead. His bellybutton ticker tape printout is still readable, and Professor Robinson scans the data, which results in a massive blowup between he and Don, who believes that Robot and Smith are trying to trick them. Don leaves the argument with egg on his face; he is, after all, not the Commander of the mission; when Judy tries to console him, Don blows up at her also! (Closest they’ll ever get to a lover’s tiff!)
So instead of heading back to the safety that the SPACESHIP will provide, the Family builds a sunshield camp; in the heat, the women getting down to their petticoats! Bonus for 1960’s teen boys!
The sun burns the land as it goes overhead, while the family cower under sunshields. After the sun passes, Prof. Robinson reaches into the Chariot for a flagon of water… Now stay with me on this: the water is not boiled away, which means that INSIDE THE CHARIOT was cooler than outside – Why didn’t they get INSIDE instead of cowering outside like dogs under flea-blankets? Oh, Professor Robinson, how you let us down!
So with nowhere for the story to go (in logic or plot), the Family pack up to head back to the Jupiter 2. Again – this whole episode – UTTERLY UNNECESSARY because they have a SPACESHIP that they didn’t need to leave, for either reason – hot OR cold!
Don dismantles Robot, on the pretense that he’s “packing it away” on the Chariot – but it’s because we are about to see footage from Episode 00 where the Robot was not in the Chariot with the family. (In later episodes, Robot is clearly seen sitting in the back of the chariot, obviously just using the upper half of his body, his legs not seen below the Chariot window-line).
Into the maelstrom (footage from Ep 00)… toy Chariot tossed about on big bathtub waves… And that stupid ape is with them, sitting quietly amongst the jostling and the rear projection of the stormy sea (high on the best tranquilizers available in 1965!). Don goes out to fix the exterior-science-mcguffin and is thrown overboard! Judy loses her shit!!! Moments later, Don taps at the window, and Judy’s vulva leaps to open it!
After they make land, they still include the Ep 00 scene where the Robinsons kneel and “give thanks” to… uh, whatever… Haven’t these scientists realized that the existence of even one extraterrestrial planet with life on it negates the existence of a christian god? (Omitted from this Ep 00 scene is the shot of two aliens gazing at the Family from the bushes.)
Back on the Jupiter that night, Robot plays guitar, strumming the chords to Home Sweet Home, with Smith singing tuneless thematic grist: “Be it ever so humble / There’s no place like home…” But how did the Robot make those chords with his claws? I guess the writers don’t know how guitars work either.
CLIFFHANGER: Radar shows a missile heading toward the Jupiter!…