Angela Cartwright: Star Lite.
Penny gets her moment in the sun… or at least, on a planet orbiting a different sun, as she is the focus of this drug-induced episode, where she befriends a disembodied voice in a cave, only to have that voice attack her family via an earthquake through a misunderstanding, and for it to then reconcile with Penny and rise up into the sky as a new galaxy…
Told you it was drug-induced.
After being saved from an explosion by dad Professor Robinson, Penny (Angela Cartwright) is feeling neglected by all and sundry (younger brother Will is working with the men, Dr. Smith and Robot are playing chess, mom Maureen and sister Judy are trying out hairstyles – because that’s what girls on a space mission do), so she wanders off and discovers a cave that speaks English in American vernacular (William Bramley as the voice). Its basic speech patterns convey a slow friend trying to fit in – in other words, Penny has discovered a like-minded outcast that she identifies with.
By now, LOST IN SPACE has lost the plot completely. Not only have they been stranded on a studio set for the last four episodes, now it seems like they’ve run out of compelling scientific adventures, opting for magic who cares fuck you – this episode, “My Friend, Mr. Nobody,” is not about space, or exploration, or survival or even aliens. And if we think it might be stretching for a metaphor for Penny’s awakening sexuality (Maureen: “She keeps talking about a cave that’s dark and wet and shiny”), uh, no – it’s about a literal cave, that no one believes is speaking with Penny.
Well, it gives Penny the star light, and adds to Cartwright’s acting EPK.
Will, on the other hand, is written by screenwriter Jackson Gillis like he’d never seen an episode of LOST IN SPACE before, as he makes this boy-genius as snarky and petty as any schoolyard bully, constantly mocking Penny (to drive home her alienation).
Penny brings home diamonds from the cave and Smith immediately wants a piece o’ dat action, tricking Don into blowing up the cave. A quirky relationship develops between Don and Dr. Smith here, as Smith entices Don by appealing to his underdog position on the ship, telling him to secretly take the explosives without Professor Robinson’s knowledge, lying that he had discovered ore deposits beneficial to the ship, for which Don could take the credit and be regarded as a hero. Strangely enough, Don, who doesn’t trust Smith as far as he can throw him, immediately goes for this plan, which backfires immensely. It’s funny to see Don afford Smith a modicum of respect during this sequence, calling him “Doc.”
We brace ourselves for John Robinson’s ultimate rage when it is discovered Smith’s endgame was simply to unearth diamonds, and that Don’s motivation for fame crippled his judgment – but that confrontation never happens, as the mighty explosion knocks Penny out while inside the cave, and the disembodied voice goes forth to wreak revenge on the people responsible for “killing” her. Again, we have no idea the extent of this entity’s powers, or how or why it exists at all. Neither does IT apparently, as it goes through an existential crisis using Penny as shrink: “I don’t know what I am…” which prompts Penny to name it Mr. Nobody.
Still, the voice is powerful enough to create an earthquake, which can only be stopped by the Robot going out and shooting his arc lightning. All these situations exist for no reason and with no connectivity. Nonetheless, it gives Robot a magnificent Hero moment, as Smith commands him, “March my metallic hero! March!” as he fires his crackling claws dramatically into the tempest to – combat the earthquake? create a negative charge against the storm’s positive charge? stop the volcano erupting? seal the ionization cloud? who the fuck knows?…But goddam, he looks badass doing it!
When all the Robinsons are reunited at the ship (through the raging quake, Penny woke up and ran back, Don and Smith stumbled back), the voice is heard by everyone, almost like a voice of God promising Noah a second chance after the Deluge, as it retreats up into the sky to form a galaxy. This process can’t quite be purveyed with the rudimentary efx of the age, so it just comes off as confusing: How can a voice become a galaxy? And how far away is it when it rises up into the sky anyway? Did it start at this point on this planet or a million light years away? You know who can convey this onscreen? Nobody.
Robinson gives that sincere look of his, into the Cosmos, while Don (who should realistically be getting REAMED by Robinson right now for his subterfuge and waste of explosives) gets dat arm around Judy (who looks even hotter with that new hairstyle, if that’s even possible!) and also ponders the mystery of the galaxy forming above them, as Mr. Nobody bids Penny goodbye.
How to even make sense of this episode?! Well, the director is listed as — Paul Stanley! He might be the Connecticut native who directed episodes of THE OUTER LIMITS (1963) and MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE (1966), but I suspect he might be the mighty vocalist and Star-Child from KISS! Who else could turn a voice into a galaxy?!
CLIFFHANGER: gazing down at the Jupiter 2 from above, a clawed hand manipulates controls…