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Being a hopeless geek, I watch a lot of old sci-fi stuff. Not only out of nostalgia but also keeping my open for little bits of semiotic insanity or hints of high weirdness and parapolitical mayhem. I'm building a little sub-file of obscure anecdotes from UFO history that have worked their way into old sci-fi shows, The Outer Limits being the most remarkable source for that ( I have a new OL mindblower coming up for you, btw).
But I'm also fascinated by how writers used to work around Standards & Practices through the use of double entendre. Which brings me to Lost in Space. It started out as semi-serious sci-fi (with Jonathan Harris playing Dr. Smith as a villain), but got goofy pretty quickly when the producers realized that Jonathan Harris was an absolute master of camp.
The show then became centered on Smith, young Will Robinson and the Robot, himself given to moments of epicene excess. Looking back on this tableau, you can't help but wonder - what the hell were they thinking? No one could pull it off today, no double entendre intended.
But once in a while, Lost in Space dropped some high weirdness on you, as with this episode, 'The Wreck of the Robot'. The story starts with Dr. Smith bowling with his inexplicably pink ball, which unseen aliens replace with a bomb, then again with a solid gold bowling ball. It's so bizarre and incoherent, you can't help but wonder if there's some hidden meaning behind it.
The aliens lure Will, Smith and the Robot into their secret cave hideout, where they turn out to be classic Men in Black (well, almost-they don't have faces). What's more, their black hats are adorned with sun pendants. Hmm, black, sun- yes, I'm thinking Saturn cults and all the rest of that too.
And yeah- I picked up on the Will and Smith thing too. Fascinating.
The story then takes a darker turn when the MIBs break into the Jupiter II and abduct the Robot. They plan to reverse-engineer him to power their solar-themed god-machine that will control all machines on Earth, or some such nonsense. Black Sun vs Jupiter. Interesting as well.
Note the tagline- sound familiar? Golly, all sorts of foreshadowings here.
Their machine sabotages all of the Robinsons' equipment, which leads to this interesting scene; Professor Robinson and Major West sitting on the bridge by candlelight, giving the scene a distinctly ritualistic flavor. And whatnot.
Which brings us to this inexplicable scene- the MIBs summon Robinson and West to their cave and let them take the Robot's head home. I've seen enough of this kind of thing to recognize a whiff of Baptist adoration when I sniff it.
Here- get a closer look at that curtain that MIB is skulking behind. Here we see the classic checkerboard design, adding even more fuel to the Symbolic fire. Are we supposed to believe that MIBs are some kind of alien Freemasons bent on world domination? Kind of question that answers itself, innit?
In fact, the MIBs first contact Robinson when he and West are playing chess. They speak through the Black King, which makes no technical sense, but may not have to. Remember too that caves are an important motif in these traditions, stretching back to Mithras and the Baptist as well. But the King is also distinctly phallic as well, right? Let's go out of order a bit here...
...to one of the most hilarious double entendres I've ever heard in my life.
Doubly so since Mark Goddard, the actor who plays Don, is himself from Boston (as if you couldn't tell from his chowder-thick accent) and never lifted a hand in the kitchen on the show before.
Smith helps himself to Don's Boston cream. Is this some kind of message that Smith and West's constant bickering was the result of sexual tension? Probably not, but there's your cue, Slash/Fiction writers.
Which brings us to... oh, never mind.
Getting a little more esoteric here, we have to remember that lettuce was a prominent phallic symbol in Egypt (for reasons I won't go into here), which only someone who did his homework would associate with the rest of the memes in this episode.
That's Judy, in case you've never seen the show.
Anyway, the Robot then smashes the MIB's contraption, which neither man nor machine was supposed to be able to destroy. That in turn leads to this strange non-sequitur, the Robot seeing himself as "something in between." The Professor nods sagely, even knowingly. Don's just thinking of serving up some more cream pie to Judy. Or whoever.
Quite an fascinating symbolic stew for a mindless TV show, no? Really does make you wonder. I'll definitely be paying closer attention to future episodes.