Follow the heart-racing, cliff-hanging adventures of John Robinson and his family aboard the Jupiter 2, along with Robot B-9 and the delightfully devious Dr. Zachary Smith. This massive 18-disc set contains all 84 episodes remastered in high definition, and over 6 hours of exciting extras with recently discovered content you won't find anywhere else in the galaxy. It's out-of-this-world fun for everyone!
I make no apologies for it. I'm a huge 'Lost in Space' fan. Before I was old enough to really enjoy the cerebralness of Star Trek, and before Star Wars made it to the big screen, I was glued to my TV every morning and night (it aired twice a day in my market…once at 7am and again at 4pm – perfect for before and after school) watching the adventures of the Robinson family. Still in early grade school, it never seemed cheesy or campy to me…it seemed like a great adventure, and whatever love I hold for science-fiction today (and it's a pretty big love), I owe it in no small measure to Irwin Allen's wonderful creation.
It's been a while since I'd revisited these episodes, so I'd forgotten how earnest and sincere the series was during its first handful of shows. A large part of that is due to the fact that, as many of you know, the characters of Dr. Smith (Jonathan Harris) and the Robot (Bob May, with the voice of Dick Tufeld) were never originally intended to be part of the series. The original, unaired pilot only featured the Robinson family (along with pilot Don West (Mark Goddard)) and footage from that original pilot is used in the first part of the season, which helps establish most of the Robinson family characters – characters that wouldn't get a whole lot of attention or screen time as the show progressed, aside from young Will Robinson (Billy Mumy), once the viewers and the network latched on to the popularity of both Dr. Smith and the Robot.
By the time the show made it to the first half of its first season, the campiness and cartoony storylines were firmly in place. The vast majority of episodes feature Dr. Smith, Will, and the Robot facing some new alien threat, with the cowardly and sometimes underhanded (although never quite as evil as he is in the pilot episode) Smith getting the Robinsons in one degree of trouble or another. Occasionally, the writers would put the focus back on another family member, but for the most part the three seasons of 'Lost in Space' are all about the above trio of characters, which has lent itself to a lot of 'what if' complaining from fans over the years, but probably also was the reason the series managed to achieve three years' worth of episodes before being canceled (Irwin Allen only produced one show that ran longer than 'Lost in Space' did: 'Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea').
Because 'Lost in Space' lends itself to so many similarly themed storylines, this is one of the few shows that doesn't benefit from 'binge' watching, even though every episode ends with a cliffhanger preview of what's to come next. Jonathan Harris' portrayal of Dr. Smith works best in small doses…I'm guessing if you spent a whole afternoon or weekend with this character, you'd want to throw a brick through your TV. Of course, as a kid, I got frustrated with Dr. Smith constantly doing something that prevented the Robinsons from finding their way back home or achieving another goal. As an adult, I can finally sit back and enjoy Harris' over-the-top theatrical performances. Say what you will about how campy the series became, there's little doubt that Harris was the best actor on the show and at times helped elevate the rather standard writing to make episodes better than they should have been.
It's too easy to list some of the worst episodes of 'Lost in Space' (the less said about Season 3's embarrassing 'The Great Vegetable Rebellion', the better), so let me take a moment to highlight the best the series has to offer. First, the pilot 'The Reluctant Stowaway' is simply fantastic, and still holds up quite well 50 years later. Although many don't like it, I'm also a big fan of Season 1's 'Return from Outer Space' in which Will gets the chance to return home in what was the series' first and only attempt at a 'Christmas Special'. You'll find Season 3's 'The Anti-Matter Man' high on the list of most 'Lost in Space' fans' favorite episodes, and it's on mine as well. It's one of the few shows late in the series run that allowed actors Guy Williams and Mark Goddard to get the spotlight, and it's one of the few entries that attempts to do a semi-serious sci-fi story. Finally, I have a soft spot in my heart for Season 3's 'Time Merchant', an episode in which Dr. Smith returns to 1997 just before the launch of the Jupiter 2. He learns that the Robinsons will die unless he's aboard the ship when it takes off and must decide between saving the family or staying on Earth. It's one of the few episodes that allows Jonathan Harris to show Dr. Smith with some true emotions, and I love it for that reason.
As you'll read below in my details about this release, this is a fantastic set. It's rare to see so much attention and love being given to a home video release, particularly to a vintage television series. A large part of that has to do with the fact that FOX didn't actually produce these discs. They were produced by Kevin Burns' Synthesis Entertainment via support and funding by Shelia Matthews Allen and the estate of Irwin Allen (who contributed over $700,000 to get this restoration done). The results are well worth it, as this 'Complete Adventures' set isn't just my favorite Blu-ray I've reviewed all year long, but it's one of the best TV sets I've ever watched. It's a reminder of how great a Blu-ray release can be if the people behind it love what they're producing.
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Lost in Space' blasts off onto Blu-ray in one of the more frustrating package designs we've seen all year long. The worst part of the set is the flimsy and easily damaged (stories of buyers getting crushed boxes in the mail are already rampant online) outer box, which needs to be opened using the flap at the top, lest anyone think this is some kind of slip case. Inside, the Blu-rays themselves are a little better packaged, in three glossy fold-out cardboard holders, which have an odd design in the way they sort of "fan out", so you fold out one side for the first three discs of the season (each season contains six discs – although the sixth disc of the final, shortest season is completely bonus materials) then flip the fold-out over to access the other three discs. The Blu-rays are pretty tightly packed in the fold-out's cardboard sleeves (which are accessed from the sides, not the top) and most will be hard-pressed to remove them without getting fingerprints on their discs. Each one of the season's fold-outs slides inside its own cardboard slipcase, which also isn't very sturdy, but at least it's thicker than the outside box.
In addition to the discs, this set comes with a 32"x21 ½" fold out poster featuring the original blueprints of the Robot. It would be suitable for framing if it hadn't come folded into 18 different squares. Also included is a 7"x5 ½" booklet of the complete script for the first episode, 'The Reluctant Stowaway'. This appears to be a copy of Billy Mumy's original copy, as Will Robinson's dialogue has been marked throughout. Finally, this release includes a collection of eight 7 ½"x5 ½" cards, each showcasing one of the series' main characters. The back of each card contains some 'Lost in Space' trivia.
There are no front-loaded trailers on any of the discs, whose menus are wonderfully designed, with a montage of footage of the respective season mixed with 2.0 Dolby Digital series music and menu selections at the bottom of the screen. Each of the three seasons' menus are different, with Season 1's mixed creatively with John Williams' music, Season 2's having the menu options along the floating tether that you see animated characters on in that season's main theme, and Season 3 – my favorite of the three menus – using the famous 7 to 1 countdown and a design that is reminiscent of that season's opening theme (including the changed music for Season 3). The menu on the Bonus Disc (the sixth disc of Season 3) is the least creative, with simply a cast still and pop-up menu selections.
The Blu-rays in this release are region-free.
Note: If you were lucky enough to preorder one (as of this writing copies could still be found – albeit at the full price listing – at the official FOX Blu-ray retail website), there's also a limited edition version of this set, with the only difference with the standard release being an embossed robot on the outer box cover. I haven't been able to see one of these sets first hand, but I can only assume the outer box is much sturdier than the one on the standard release, and I've heard second-hand that it includes a clear case around the outer box for further protection. Both sets have the same MSRP, so if you can find one of these at the same price as the standard set, there's really no reason to not get the upgrade, however, it's probably not worth forking over additional cash for, given the already pricy listing for this release.
When 'Lost in Space' was remastered for DVD for its 2004–2005 home video release, 1-inch masters were created, which were the basis for this new restoration. New HD versions were created at both the 1.37:1 aspect ratio (opening up a bit from the traditional 1.33:1) and 1.78:1 ratio, but the decision was made only to release the 1.37:1 episodes on this Blu-ray set, although the bonus disc on Season 3 does contain 'Condemned of Space' in 1.78:1, so viewers can have an idea of what the widescreen shows look like. There was also some internal back and forth about what should be left in the episodes and what should be removed as far as bloopers and glitches are concerned. So while some wire use has been digitally excised, other more famous bloopers (such as a moment where you can see Bob May's legs instead of the lower half of the Robot) have been left in, since it was felt these were errors that made the show endearing and that the majority of fans wanted to still see.
Thankfully, colorization of the first black and white season was never even discussed, and the first season looks fantastic here – in many ways even better than the two color seasons, as it doesn't distract the viewer with the sometimes glaringly 1960's-style palette that Seasons 2 and Season 3 contain. While there is still a fleck of dirt here and there that watchful eyes will be able to detect, for the most part all three seasons of the show have been cleaned up, although film grain is still evident and there are no major issues with episodes suffering from excessive DNR use and/or severe edge enhancement.
I'm sure when getting to the color episodes, many will have the same reaction I first did…they look rather 'subdued'. That's due to the fact that many (most?) of us watched those episodes in syndication, where they cranked up the contrast. We even learn in the bonus materials on this set that the 7 to 1 countdown at the beginning of Season 3 episodes was not white, but in fact a pale blue. But don't worry, even with the colors less bright and less overblown, they're finally shown the way they were intended to be, which results in a much more natural look to Season 2 and 3's entries.
Details throughout are solid – maybe not the HD-sharpness of a recent production, but about the best you can expect from an older TV series, and the transfer here not only compares nicely with most I've seen from this era, but it ranks right up there with the best of them. Each episode manages to retain the look of film while still providing the kind of depth one hopes to find in an HD transfer. The only real downside here is that every flaw in the sets and every poorly designed monster costume is even more evident than it's ever been before. Even the less-than-perfectly-tailored costumes of the Robinsons are noticeable in these episodes. But again, that's part of the fun in viewing these shows.
Overall, this is a great looking set and reflects the best presentation of these episodes we'll probably ever see. No serious complaints here – the shows look amazing, particularly the black and white ones, and are a huge step up from the DVD versions.
In order to make the presentation of these episodes as close to their original broadcast versions as possible, a choice was made to provide lossless, but mono, English 1.0 DTS-HD Master Audio for each of the entries across three seasons. Of course, that means the audio here is less than dynamic, but it is surprisingly crisp and clear for what it is, and free from any serious glitches, like muddiness, popping, or cracking.
For those wondering how these episodes would have sounded with a new mix, the Bonus Disc contained with Season 3 contains a widescreen version of 'Condemned of Space' that comes with English 5.1 DTS-HD lossless audio. It sounds great, but there's something about the straightforwardness of mono that seems to fit these shows and, of course, that's the way they were originally intended to be heard.
In addition to the English mono track for each episode, subtitles are available on each entry in English SDH, Spanish, and French.
Season 1 - Disc 6:
Season 2 - Disc 6:
An obvious labor of love, 'Lost in Space: The Complete Adventures' isn't just a great Blu-ray release, it's my favorite home video release of 2015. Each episode looks great in HD, and a real effort has been made to make this set extremely enjoyable for both fans and newcomers alike. The bonus materials are top-notch as well, and they're a huge reason this collection is so much fun. If you can afford the price tag (or can afford to wait for it to drop), this one's more than just highly recommended…it's a must-own.