Picture format black and white (1965-1966)
Original run September 15, 1965 – March 6, 1968
It is October 16, 1997 and the United States is proceeding towards the launch of one of history's great adventures: man's colonization of deep space. The Jupiter 2 (called Gemini 12 in the pilot episode), a futuristic saucer-shaped spaceship, stands on its launch pad undergoing final preparations. Its mission is to take a single family on a five and a half year journey (stated as 98 years in the pilot episode) to a planet of the nearby star Alpha Centauri (the pilot episode refers to the planet itself as Alpha Centauri), which space probes reveal possesses ideal conditions for human life. The Robinson family was selected from among 2 million volunteers for this mission. The family includes Professor John Robinson (Guy Williams), his wife, Maureen (June Lockhart), their children, Judy (Marta Kristen), Penny (Angela Cartwright), and Will (Billy Mumy). They will be accompanied by their pilot, US Space Corp Major Donald West (Mark Goddard), who is trained to fly the ship in the unlikely event that its sophisticated automatic guidance system malfunctions.
Other nations are racing the United States in the effort to colonize space, and they would stop at nothing, even sabotage, to stop the US effort. Dr. Zachary Smith (Jonathan Harris), a medical doctor and environmental control expert, is actually a foreign secret agent. He reprograms the Jupiter 2's B-9 environmental control robot (voiced by Dick Tufeld) to destroy critical systems on the spaceship eight hours after launch. Smith is trapped aboard at launch and his extra weight throws the Jupiter 2 off course, causing it to encounter a meteor storm. The robot's rampage causes the ship to become lost.
The Robinsons are often placed in danger by Smith, whose self-centered actions and laziness endanger the family. In the second and third seasons, Smith's role assumes a less evil overtone – although he continues to display many character defects. In "The Time Merchant", Smith travels back in time to the day of the Jupiter 2 launch, with hope of changing his fate. He learns that without his weight altering the ship's course, it would be destroyed by an uncharted asteroid. In an act of redemption, Smith elects to re-board the ship, thus saving the Robinsons' lives.
Doctor, John Robinson: (Guy Williams) The expedition commander, a pilot, and the father of the Robinson children. He is an astrophysicist who also specializes in applied planetary geology.
Doctor, Maureen Robinson: (June Lockhart) John's biochemist wife. Her role in the series is often to prepare meals, tend the garden and help with light construction, while adding a voice of compassion. Her status as a doctor is mentioned only in the first episode.
Major, Don West: (Mark Goddard) The military pilot of the Jupiter 2, he is Dr. Smith's handsome long-suffering space partner, intemperate and intolerant adversary. His mutual romantic interest with Judy was not developed beyond the first few episodes. In the un-aired pilot, "Doctor Donald West" was a graduate student astrophysicist and expert in interplanetary geology, rather than a military man.
Judy Robinson: (Marta Kristen) The oldest child, about 19 years old at the outset of the series. She planned a career in musical theater but went with her family instead.
Penny Robinson: (Angela Cartwright) An 11-year-old, she loves animals and classical music. She acquires a chimpanzee-like alien pet that made one sound, "Bloop". While it is sometimes remembered by that name, Penny had named the creature Debbie. Most of Penny's adventures have a fairy-tale quality, underscoring her innocence.
Will Robinson: (Billy Mumy) A 9-year-old child prodigy in electronics. Often, he is a friend to Smith when no one else is. Will is also the member of the family closest to the Robot.
Doctor, Zachary Smith: (Jonathan Harris) A Doctor of intergalactic environmental psychology, expert in Cybernetics and an enemy agent, roles that are rarely mentioned after the initial episodes. In the pilot episode, he is shown in uniform with colonel's eagles but is invariably addressed by his academic, vice military, rank. His attempt to sabotage the mission strands him aboard the Jupiter 2 and results in its becoming lost. By the end of the first season the character becomes permanently established as a foolish, self-serving, impulsive, scheming coward but not at the degree displayed in the latter two seasons. His maudlin ways and clever dialogue add a unique dimension. His best lines are in response to the "straight man" Robot. Despite having a Special Guest Star appearance for every episode, Smith is the pivotal character of the series.
The Robot: The Robot is a Class M-3 Model B9, General Utility Non-Theorizing Environmental Control Robot, which had no given name. Although a machine endowed with superhuman strength and futuristic weaponry, he often displayed human characteristics such as laughter, sadness, and mockery as well as singing and playing the guitar. The Robot was performed by Bob May in a prop costume built by Bob Stewart. The voice was dubbed by Dick Tufeld, who was also the series' narrator. The Robot was designed by Robert Kinoshita, whose other cybernetic claim to fame is as the designer of Forbidden Planet's Robby the Robot. Robby appears in LIS #20 "War of the Robots", and the first episode of season three; "Condemned of Space".
The TV series is an adaptation of the novel The Swiss Family Robinson. The astronaut family of Dr. John Robinson, accompanied by an air force pilot and also a robot, set out from an overpopulated Earth in the spaceship Jupiter 2 to visit a planet circling the star Alpha Centauri with hopes of colonizing it. Their mission in 1997 (the official launch date of the Jupiter 2 was October 16, 1997) is immediately sabotaged by Dr. Zachary Smith, who slips aboard their spaceship and reprograms the robot to destroy the ship and crew. Smith is trapped aboard, saving himself by prematurely reviving the crew from suspended animation. They save the ship, but consequent damage leaves them lost in space. Eventually they crash on an alien world, later identified as Priplanis, where they must survive a host of adventures. Smith (whom Allen originally intended to kill off) remains through the series as a source of comedic cowardice and villainy, exploiting the forgiving (or forgetful) nature of the Robinsons.
At the start of the second season, the repaired Jupiter 2 launches again, but after two episodes the Robinsons crash on another planet and spend the season there. This replicated the feel of the first season, although by this time the focus of the series was more on humor than straight action/adventure.
In the third season, the Robinson Family wasn't restricted to one world. The now mobile Jupiter-2 would travel to other worlds in an attempt to return to Earth or to settle on Alpha Centauri. The Space Pod was added as a means of transportation between the ship and planets. This season had a dramatically different opening credits sequence.
Following the format of Allen's first TV series, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, fantasy-oriented adventure stories were emphasized. The show delivered a visual assault of special effects, explosions, monstrous aliens, spaceships, and exotic sets and costumes drenched in the bright, primary colors that were typical of early color television.