Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Even though it ended up a campy mess and was never as good as its contemporary 'Star Trek', there's no denying that 'Lost In Space' entered the national nostalgia zeitgeist. Which is why Zonk-like references to the real world TV show keep showing up within TV shows that should have been sharing the same universe.

Here's a recent example:
At one point in a recent investigation, 'Warehouse 13' agent Pete Latimer waved around his arms and shouted "Warning! Warning! Danger, Will Robinson!"

This is a reference to one of the catch-phrases used by Robot in 'Lost In Space', but in Toobworld it had nothing to do with the real world TV series. Therefore it's not a Zonk. And 'Warehouse 13' hasn't been the only show to make reference to Robot's catch-phrase/warning.

Courtesy of the IMDb, here are a few examples:

"The Big Bang Theory: The Barbarian Sublimation (#2.3)" (2008)
- When awakened, Sheldon calls out, "Danger. Danger."

"Wizards of Waverly Place: Wizards & Vampires vs. Zombies (#2.29)" (2009)
- A Character says 'Danger, Danger Will Robinson'

"How I Met Your Mother: The Rough Patch (#5.7)" (2009)
- Actor in robot costume says lines from the robot in the show ("Danger, Will Robinson!")

"Farscape: Nerve (#1.19)" (2000)
- Crichton whispers "Danger, Will Robinson," the famous Robot quote, before passing out

"CSI: Crime Scene Investigation: Fahrenheit 932 (#1.12)" (2001)
- Sarah Sidle says,"Danger, Will Robinson."

"Gilmore Girls: The Ins and Outs of Inns (#2.8)" (2001)
- Uses the quote "Danger Will Robinson! Danger!"

"Gilmore Girls: A Family Matter (#4.12)" (2004)
- While warning Rory about Jess staying in town for the weekend, Lorelai quotes the show's famous "Danger, Will Robinson" line.

And just like with 'Warehouse 13', none of those references are Zonks.

I've got some splainin to do.....

On October 16th 1997, the Jupiter Two spacecraft blasted off on its top secret mission with the Robinson Family, Major Don West, and Dr. Zachary Smith on board. That's what happened in Toobworld; in the real world we saw the events transpire back in the mid-1960s. Five and a half months later, April, 1998, the movie "Lost In Space" was released in theaters. That happened both in the real world as well as in Toobworld.

This might have meant that the Toobworld version of the movie was rushed into production after the launch and the loss of contact with the Jupiter Two (due to the unexpected presence of Dr. Smith on board.) However, in 1997, C.C. spoke about the TV show being turned into a movie on an episode of 'The Nanny'.

She was right about the movie being made; being in show business, C.C. would have seen the story in the trades. But she was wrong about the source material for the movie. The movie was based on the "real-life" events of the Jupiter Two's launch. Since C.C. mentioned it in February of 1997, the movie was in production before the launch and featured intimate details like what Robot would say to the youngest member of the Robinson family. Therefore, the Toobworld version of the movie could have been a documentary. (The televersion of the "Lost In Space" movie doesn't have to be exactly the same as the one we were able to see.) Only after the space agency lost contact with the Jupiter Two would the script have become more speculative about their fates.

All of those shows listed above were first broadcast after 1998, so they would be references to the theatrically released movie. And even though they weren't using the expression "Danger, Will Robinson!", this same splainin works for the following shows:

"The X-Files: Jump the Shark (#9.15)" (2002)
- Referenced in dialogue.

"Star Trek: The Next Generation: Conundrum (#5.14)" (1992)
- When Commander Will Riker is playing chess, one of his pieces is the Robinson's Robot.

That one was WAY after the events of the Jupiter Two launch, so definitely no Zonk there. His chess piece was merely a tribute to one of the legends in early space travel.

"The West Wing: 20 Hours in America (#4.1)" (2002)
- Josh says "Danger, Will Robinson."

That reference fits all the requirements to be Zonk-free, but ultimately it didn't matter. 'The West Wing' takes place in an alternate TV dimension in which the President was Jed Bartlet and not Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

References to 'Lost In Space' made in sketch comedy shows, like episodes of 'Saturday Night Live' and Gwyneth Paltrow, also don't count. They belong in Skitlandia, another alternate TV dimension. Likewise, the same rule applies to any mentions in animated series; those take place in the Tooniverse. So we can ignore the mentions of 'Lost in Space' that can be found in 'The Magic School Bus', 'The Critic', 'Freakazoid!', 'The Simpsons', 'Tripping The Rift', 'Futurama', and 'Family Guy'.

Episode titles have no bearing on what happens in Toobworld. So "Lost In Spacesuits" ('Laverne & Shirley'), "Lost And Found In Space" ('St. Elsewhere'), and "Lost In Space: Parts 1 & 2" ('Family Matters) are irrelevant.

Reality shows - dreadful, hateful things! - have no true place in Toobworld unless they are integrated into a scripted series - like 'Big Brother' on 'Yes, Dear', or 'American Gladiators' on 'Family Matters'. And even then, those series don't necessarily play out on Toobworld TV screens as they might on the TV screens here in the "Trueniverse".

So we don't have to pay any attention to the following references to 'Lost In Space':

"Dancing with the Stars: Episode #6.4" (2007)
- When Daryl Somers reminds Tim Campbell that in the previous episode the judges wanted him to show some more danger, Tim says "Danger, Will Robinson" in a voice like the robot from this title.

"Just In with Laura Ingraham: Episode dated 18 June 2008" (2008)
- This TV show is referenced by name.

"Hole in the Wall: Actors vs Reality Stars (#1.5)" (2008/II)
- During their opening interview, one of the Reality Stars team members mentions that he feels like he's come off the Lost In Space set.

Let's go back to what C.C. said back in 1997 about the "Lost In The Space" movie - she mistakenly thought it was based on the TV show we watched back in the 1960s. We can't allow that reference to be about the Space Family Robinson or it would become a Zonk. After all, they didn't become a national headline until October of 1997. So apparently there was another TV series with the title 'Lost In Space' but it had a totally different plot.

And with this splainin, we can consider the following references to be de-Zonked:

"Nurses: Catch a Fallen Star (#1.19)" (1992)
- Julie talks about watching "Lost in Space" when she was young.
(Exactly how much talking did she do about it, I wonder?)

"The Nanny: The Strike (#2.13)" (1994)
- Fran mentions the character, Will Robinson
("Don't Panic!" as the 'Hitch-Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy' proclaims on its cover in big friendly letters. Many TV shows share character names. Just a coincidence; Toobworld is a breeding ground for coincidences.)

"Married with Children: The Undergraduate (#9.28)" (1995)
- Kelly: "But as the Chinese philosopher Unconscious once said: It's better to have loved and lost than to have never seen 'Lost in Space' at all."
(Thank the jacklord she's such a blonde!)

There is one TV show set in the main Toobworld of Earth Prime-Time that might give televisiologists an Exedrin Moment - 'Mystery Science Theater 3000'.

Here's a list of their 'Lost In Space' Zonks that might look on the surface to be quite specific to the real world TV series:

"Mystery Science Theater 3000: Catalina Caper (#3.4)" (1990)
- Crow: (as Dr. Smith) Oh, the pain, the pain.

"Mystery Science Theater 3000: Wild Rebels (#3.7)" (1990)
- Crow (as Dr. Smith): "Oh, the pain! The shame!"

"Mystery Science Theater 3000: First Spaceship on Venus (#3.11)" (1990)
- Crow (as Dr. Smith): "Oh, the pain! The pain!"

"Mystery Science Theater 3000: Manhunt in Space (#5.13)" (1992)
- Joel: "Yes, it's Dr. Smith and Mr. Mooney as you've never seen them before!"

"Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Mole People (#9.3)" (1997)
- It's a pride of Dr. Smiths!

"Mystery Science Theater 3000: Invasion of the Neptune Men (#9.19)" (1997)
- Crow: I just know Dr. Smith is going to be in this.

We could argue that the phrase "The pain! The pain!" could have come from any number of other sources, not necessarily from 'Lost In Space'. It could have even come from a Toobworld blipvert shilling for aspirin or some other kind of pain reliever. As for the name of Dr. Smith, that's pretty generic; it could refer to some "real" person in the Toobworld citizenry. (The same holds true for Mr. Mooney.)

It's the following, more specific, references that need attention:

"Mystery Science Theater 3000: Rocketship X-M (#3.1)" (1990)
- Tom Servo quotes the Robot of this show while his voice box was changing.
(I would need more information... information... information before I could come up with a splainin.)

"Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Creeping Terror (#7.6)" (1994)
- Servo: Danger, Will Robinson
(As with the earlier mention of that name, it could be from some other source. That it should be the exact same phrase which those other TV shows quoted is just one more amazing coincidence.)

"Mystery Science Theater 3000: Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (#4.21)" (1991)
- "These are like cheap versions of the 'Lost in Space' sets."
(I think this qualifies as a reference to that earlier show with the same name, but of a different subject matter.)

"Mystery Science Theater 3000: Being from Another Planet (#5.5)" (1992)
- in Bill Mumy sketch
(This could be tricky. I'll need more intel on the topic.)

"Mystery Science Theater 3000: Blood Waters of Dr. Z (#11.5)" (1999)
- Dr. Z says, "The pain!", after which Tom adds, "Jonathan Harris would sue."
(Perhaps in Toobworld, Jonathan Harris was the celebrity spokesman for that fictional pain reliever, an Earth Prime-Time counterpart to Skitlandia's Triopenin.)

Hopefully I've covered all the bases for any general Zonks regarding 'Lost In Space'. Anything that turns out to be more specific in the future just shows that the writer didn't trust the audience to get the joke in the first place.


Brian Leonard said...

Seems like that's everything anyone would want to know on this topic...

Toby O'B said...

I'm fighting the urge to say "Wrong, Buffalo Breath!"