Monday, September 14, 2009

Lost in Spacemen in Black

PROGRAMMING NOTE: Because of extreme demands on my time and sanity, this will probably be the last major post here until early November. The good news is that I'll be finishing up my new book, which I'm growing more and more excited about with every passing day. I won't be at liberty to talk about it until next spring, but suffice it to say, it's something a lot of you out there will definitely grok.

In the meantime, continue watching this space for announcements, links, news and other ephemera...

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... 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.


  1. Fabulous post. That Dr. Smith - the scheming, cowardly stowaway fag - "dark side" anyone? He's always tagging along. I've been checking out some old Lost in Space episodes also, incredibly rich esoteric soup (as you noted with the lettuce/Min and cream pie references). Were these episodes all written by Masons higher than kites?

    Will Smith, that is just brilliant.

    The lonely robot head reminds me of that wacky STNG episode set in early 20th century San Francisco that has Data leaving his head behind, in a cavern, only to be discovered again thousands of years later...

    How many Templar skulls does it take to screw in a Holy Grail lightbulb?

  2. Forbidden Planet is my fave of all time, incest, weird science, and monsters from the Id. Plus the SFX of 50's sci-fi will never be beaten, they are timeless and piss on modern CGI. Give me painted backdrops and crazy locations that were really built and I'm happy.

  3. Let me add this:

    Before his death, Jonathan Harris performed his final NON-screen performance as the preying-mantis in the PIXAR movie A BUGS LIFE.

    THe preying mantis is an icon in the UFO lore, an adjunct to the grays, nordics and reptilians.

    I'll add that his voice was wonderful in this role. He played a sort of gypsy mystic, who was ever the trickster, and used stage tricks to deceive his audience.

    Enjoy your time away from the blog. Sadly, I might not know what to do for the next few months...

    Mike C!

  4. There is another Lost in Space episode where the young (i.e. virgin) Penny is abducted thru a mirror by a lonely Michael J. Pollard.

    He falls in love with her, and traps her in a parallel dimension - basically a black limbo set.

    Michael J. Pollard was the driver in Bonnie & Clyde, and he was the perfect embodiment of the troubled youth of the 60's.

    I remember this episode really freaked me out as a kid.

    Now I gotta find it again.

    Mike C!

  5. Great post, Chris! And I was wondering over the past couple weeks about some of the old sci-fi movies and shows as well. I was a huge Godzilla movie fan as a kid and older!

    Also, I saw the 1953 War of the Worlds movie on Turner Classics a couple of weeks ago and was fascinated with all the oddities in it like the number "17" very prominent on the scientists' yellow/black get away school bus at the end of the movie!

    And as I mentioned once before, I'm still watching I Dream of Jeannie episiodes and the hilarity of the "NASA" astronauts! Like the scene where Major Healy tells Major Nelson that he checks his horoscope daily and really believes in it. Major Nelson insists astrology is bogus and say's, "besides what would a book on astrology be doing at a NASA installation?" Then Major Healy pulls one from the shelf and they immediately check planets in "signs"! I found it hilarious and there is also tons of double entendre in the episodes as well.

    It really makes one wonder how far back in movies and entertainment this infiltration of oddities really goes.

    Thanks, Chris! And all the best on your work on your novel!!

  6. Chris,

    Right now I'm watching the LOST IN SPACE episode titled THE MAGIC MIRROR on Hulu.

    You simply MUST watch this one. Whew! It's a truly creepy nightmare vision.

    With these key points:

    - statues of Egyptian gods
    - Parallel Dimensions
    - Unicorns
    - Shades of Charlie X
    - 60's troubled youth
    - goat heads
    - sexual angst
    - vanity

    it's a weird and scary fairy tale. A retelling of some haunted puberty myth.

  7. Speaking of otherworlds, Chris, Google has an image of crop circles for its main page. The letters are the crops while a UFO hovers above and a tractor creates the 'L.'

    If you read the first article talking about the image I found it very interesting that it stated "Why Google is using the crop circle logo has yet to be explained."

  8. OK this is just too much. This is the second time in like a week that Google has used the UFO meme on its Google logo. First it was abductions and now its crop circles:

  9. Whoa- cheers for that guys. And thanks to everyone as always!

    What's Google up to?

  10. Wow! I'm interested in Freemasonry but I never noticed the allusions in "Wreck of the Robot." As for the double entendre ... up to you. I did notice the similarity between the aliens and the Men in Black of mythology. I think this 'Lost in Space' episode is the most accurate depiction of the MIB on film. 'The X Files' and the motion pictures depict them always depicted them humorously. These aliens appear in an Australian comedy film, 'Mental.' They visit a character in classic UFO adbuction style (i.e., in her bedroom).