Pensamientos Acerca de Televisión
Lost in Space: “The Great Vegetable Rebellion”
Lost in Space
was the first science fiction TV show I ever got obsessed with as a kid and I especially remember being obsessed with the third season of the series. In retrospect, it is hard to see why. Unlike the first season, the third season rarely tried to tell a serious story and at times the writers seemed to be having a contest to see which one of them could come up with the most outlandish story premise.
To be fair, it did have a cool opening theme composed by one Johnny Williams (a pseudonym employed by a composer who would one day be better known to sci-fi buffs under the name of John Williams). But even a cool theme can go so far without some other reason to watch the show associated with it. Thus, Lost in Space
eventually became unwatchable to anyone above the age of fifteen -- and once Star Trek
came along, its popularity among young sci-fi fans got eclipsed altogether. At best, the later seasons of Lost in Space
are comparable to the campy 1960s hit Batman
, which at that time was Lost in Space
's most serious rival for ratings -- and eventually the strongest influence upon the show itself.
Of all the episodes of the infamous third season, "The Great Vegetable Rebellion" was undoubtedly the most memorable. Not that it was a particularly good episode. But it still lingers in the memory despite the viewing of many better TV shows.
The episode begins when Dr. Zachary Smith (played by Jonathan Harris) commandeers a space pod from the Jupiter 2 (the Robinson family's spaceship) to gather flowers on a nearby planet. Said planet turns out to be ruled by plants, the toughest and most aggressive of which is a giant carrot named Tybo (played by Stanley Adams). Tybo threatens to execute Dr. Smith in exchange for the plants Dr. Smith killed when he was picking flowers but Tybo soon changes his mind and comes up with a more humiliating fate.
Meanwhile, the Robinson family -- led by Professor John Robinson (played by former Disney Zorro Guy Williams) and his wife Maureen (played by former Lassie
matriarch June Lockhart) -- choose to land on the planet and go after Dr. Smith, only to find their path hampered by vines that seem to be alive. They also run into a ridiculous lettuce monster and eventually find themselves captured and imprisoned by Tybo. The youngest child -- Will Robinson (played by Billy Mumy) -- manages to escape capture along with the family's pet robot and the two of them eventually discover Dr. Smith in the process of being turned into a celery plant. John Robinson manages to turn the tables on Tybo by sabotaging the pump from which Tybo gets his water supply and pretty soon the Robinsons and Dr. Smith are on their way back to the ship.
As far as writing goes, the script screenwriter Peter Packer wrote for this episode was filled with almost every bad plant joke you could think of. The script seems even worse from an adult perspective because of the obvious hypocrisy of the Robinson family that goes uncommented on. Instead of being fascinated by the idea of a planet where the plants were as intelligent as people, John Robinson -- who, after all, was a scientist -- seemed impatient with the whole concept. Granted, he had other things on his mind at the time but it still seemed odd that neither he nor the more sensitive members of the group didn't even try to use anything more merciful than machetes to make their way through the alien plant life. And while one could hardly expect them to be overjoyed about having been netted and captured by a giant carrot, it still seemed a tad awkward to see John Robinson -- of all people -- lecturing Tybo on the virtues of mercy after choosing to restore to Tybo the very water supply that Robinson had sabotaged in the first place. (And let's not forget about those machetes.)
To be fair, this episode was written before the ecology movement was popular and it became fashionable to care that much about plants unless you were a florist, a farmer or a gardener. Moreover, the show's writers tended to be overly fond of the evil alien trope, usually dismissing the idea that the alien might have a valid point-of-view unless it was needed for a rare plot twist. It would not be until the success of Star Trek
that things would change in this department.
In any event, Stanley Adams still deserves credit for being a good sport just on the basis of his costume alone. And it's nice to see that Johnny -- er -- John Williams' career wasn't permanently marred by association with this show.
Labels: Guy Williams, John Williams, Jonathan Harris, June Lockhart, Pensamientos Acerca de Televisión IX, Perdidos en el Espacio, Series de Televisión de Ciencia Ficción I, Stanley Adams