Lost In Space: The Authorized Biography of a Classic Sci-Fi Series, Volume One — a review

The book's cover

The book’s cover

The 1960s is considered by many to be the pinnacle age for American culture, not the least of which was television. With color TVs making their way into homes across the country, TV shows seemingly exploded with vividly imaginative stories, and perhaps no better example of this was Lost In Space, the science fiction saga of a family marooned among the stars. Created by legendary producer Irwin Allen, LIS remains a thoroughly enjoyable excursion that fired up the imagination within young minds like no other show did, starting with its memorable theme, created by a young John (credited then as Johnny) Williams, who would go on to do the music for Star Wars, among many other films.

Jacobs Brown Press has released a fascinating new book that peeks behind the curtain at the creative process behind Lost In Space. Lost In Space: The Authorized Biography of a Classic Sci-Fi Series, Volume One, is an exhaustive look by author Marc Cushman at the creation of the series, as well as its entire first season (which was shot in black and white). Focusing on Irwin Allen, we follow his career while he’s making Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, which was when he initially got the idea for doing an adventure show that was set in space. Originally darker and more somber in tone, the network forced the LIS producers to lighten things up for its kid-friendly time-slot).

Cushman does an extraordinary job at covering not just the creation of the overall series of LIS, showing how the actors were cast, but he also dives into the back story on each and every single episode of the first season as well. Each episode has a synopsis of the story line, as well as a lengthy behind the scenes story of the making of that particular segment.

This attention to detail makes this book a great reference for the first season of Lost In Space (Volume Two will cover the latter two seasons). But even casual fans of Lost In Space will be captivated by the extensive information that’s on display in this hefty volume, which is also loaded with plenty of great rare photos from the series. Whether you’re a rabid Lost In Space fan or enjoy reading about classic TV productions in general, this volume is highly recommended. Bring on volume two. –SF

Doctor Who and the value of collecting what you love

I'm ready for a Doctor Who marathon.

I’m ready for a Doctor Who marathon.

I’ve always collected movies, ever since I discovered VHS tapes (I never had Betamax, which was supposed to be superior). I switched to laser discs, and then to DVDs, many times replacing copies of the same movie in a different format.

But after my father died, I had decided to cut back as much as I could on my entertainment spending. So I cut the cable TV and went with watching Netflix on the Roku on my TV. Netflix is awesome, quickly replacing channels like HBO in my affections. In addition to loads of movies, Netflix contained entire series, including Doctor Who.

Doctor Who had been a favorite series of mine since I first discovered him as a kid back in the 1970s. Tom Baker was my favorite Doctor back then, just as David Tennant is my favorite of the modern day Doctors.

I kept buying Doctor Who seasons on DVD even while I had the whole series to watch on Netflix. I recall feeling silly while doing this; why spend more money on something that I can watch whenever I want? And whenever I watched Doctor Who, I only saw it on Netflix. There were moments where I even stared at my growing DVD collection of Doctor Who and wondered if I should just sell them. Because, after all, the whole series was available on Netflix, right?

Nope. No longer.

On February 1st of 2016, Netflix removed all of Doctor Who from their network. The rights had ran out, and rumors were that the BBC had wanted to start their own streaming channel, with the Doctor Who series being the main attraction. Whatever the excuse, the Good Doctor and his extremely enjoyable adventures through time and space were gone.

But only from Netflix.

Now, when I stare at my ever-growing DVD collection of Doctor Who, it’s with immense relief. I now have all of David Tennant’s run as the Doctor on DVD, and I’m working on completing Matt Smith’s turn, as well. It’s ironic that the very week that Netflix removed Doctor Who, I received the second half of season Nine of Peter Capaldi’s Doctor on DVD in the mail from Barnes & Noble. Due to recent events, the ninth season of DW might never be seen on Netflix, but thanks to DVD, I’m watching it right now (a review is forthcoming).

I still enjoy Netflix; it’s a great way to sample new films and TV shows. But if I truly love something I see, I make sure to get an actual copy of it. Nothing beats physical media. When you buy something on DVD/Blu-Ray, you truly own it. And it won’t abruptly vanish on you whenever some suit in an office somewhere makes a cut and dried business decision. –SF

A Blast From The Past: Space Academy

Lo and behold! It’s Space Academy! This science fiction series first aired on CBS back in the fall of 1977–the year of Star Wars! Actually, science fiction in both TV and movies owed a debt to Star Wars back then for showing that there’s a ready and willing audience for the genre.

Space Academy starred Jonathan Harris, best known as Doctor Smith on Lost in Space, as the leader of a space academy that’s built into an asteroid. Under his command were a group of fresh-faced space cadets who were so hopped up they all looked like they consumed way too much energy drinks.

Despite the fact that the spaceships that ferried our stalwart heroes to and from danger looked a lot like the land rover from Ark II (another super ’70s sci-fi series that I watched religiously as a kid), I thought this was a really cool show! Of course, I was just a kid then, so cut me some slack. 😉

After witnessing the glorious cheesiness in its first episode, I have to say that I still enjoy it now–only for completely different reasons. Space Academy only ran for fifteen episodes before being cancelled, making it just a blip on the pop culture radar. Still, it’s fun in its own way, and it’s worth a look for Lost in Space fans who want to see Harris in something different. I just like watching it again for the flood of nostalgia it provides. 🙂 –SF

Man Of Steel’s Amy Adams on Smallville

I just saw this while surfing the web. Actress Amy Adams, who played Lois Lane in Man Of Steel (and who is a superb actress in other films like Big Eyes and The Master), has appeared on an episode of Smallville, the infamous “no tights, no flights” version of Superman starring Tom Welling.

So now we know that Adams has acted against two versions of Superman.

Battlestar Galactica is back (again)

By your command.

By your command.

Fans of the original Battlestar Galactica series can rejoice! It’s finally being released on Blu-Ray by Universal. There is a deluxe (and expensive) edition that features the original series, Galactica 1980 and the 1979 theatrical movie all in one set.

There is also several hours worth of special features included, some of which have been released on the DVD sets of the original BSG series.

The deluxe version, known as the Definitive Collection, also has everything in widescreen as well as the original fullscreen that it was shown in. But a question I have is this: is the widescreen truly the original widescreen print? Or did they simply reformat the old TV fullscreen print so it would better fit newer, hi-def TVs?

According to the Universal press release, this new release has been remastered especially for Blu-Ray. There were some rumors that the effects have been updated, but this is not the case. The effects shots are the originals produced back in the late 1970s.

In any event, you can pre-order this right now at Amazon: