First, a declaration of interest. I’m the author of Irwin Allen Television Productions 1964—1970, published ten years ago by McFarland, and several features on Irwin Allen in both mainstream and fannish publications during my magazine career (1983—2007). Some of these are quoted from, and kindly acknowledged, by the author of this exemplary work of research, Marc Cushman.
As with Marc, Lost in Space blew my mind back in ’65. I’ve never forgotten that buzz. Then, a couple of years later, the same producer blew my mind again, with Time Tunnel. Only Batman and The Man from UNCLE achieved the same effect (what a fertile period those years were in TV! I notice other reviewers had the same experience with similar shows of the time).
This volume (apparently the first of two?), is a welcome addition to the growing ranks of books almost apologetically appreciating “the fantasy worlds of Irwin Allen”. I had no idea it was even in the works, so when a colleague in Canada e-mailed me to say that the guy who wrote the three part Star Trek series These Are the Voyages had turned his attention to Irwin Allen, I was intrigued to say the least! I’ve spent the last two days ploughing through it to the detriment of what I should be doing (getting on with my own work!), and I’ve not been disappointed.
There are a number of typos in the text, 99 percent of them relating to peoples’ names (Ford Rainy, Rita Shaw, Barry Slater, and so on), most of them written correctly elsewhere, and a bit of proofreading would have caught ninety percent of them (I know from experience that you can never catch them all!). Some of the quotes and stories will inevitably be familiar to fans (we’d complain if they weren’t there), but there is also much that is new, quite an achievement fifty years on. I won’t give away too much of Marc’s content, but who knew that the set used for the Titanic interiors in the Time Tunnel pilot was the von Trapp’s house from The Sound of Music? There are several interesting revelations of this sort, including a new (as in previously unseen) promo pic that conclusively reveals that one of Dawson Palmer’s credits isn’t him at all!
Much of this new information is now available because Kevin Burns, keeper of the flame, has opened Irwin’s private files to Marc, who approaches the job at hand in the same manner as his Star Trek project. In that, we learned that that both Gene Roddenberry and the NBC of the ‘60s had been, shall we say, economical with the truth about Star Trek’s ratings, to further their various personal agendas. The greatest revelation here is that the biggest hindrance to the quality of Lost in Space was not Irwin, or Fox, or even Batman, but the CBS of the 1960s, whose censorship was far greater than Irwin would have been subject to at ABC (birthplace of The Outer Limits and The Untouchables), where his other shows found a home. When you are selling a sci-fi show about a family in peril in outer space, and the network says don’t put the kids in serious danger, no affection between couples (even hand-holding), and no scary stuff, then a comedic fairytale approach as was ultimately taken becomes less of an option and more of a necessity. We’re lucky it was as good as it was.
Just think—if Lost in Space had been sold to ABC, who wanted it, it would have not only been a stronger show content-wise, but it wouldn’t have had to compete with Batman! While I regard Jonathan Harris’ input as a major plus, it would have been interesting to see where they could have gone in a (slightly) more adventurous and less over-protective environment.
The author and I are about the same age, and while he was a country boy and I was very much a townie, we had pretty much the same experience of 1960s TV (and affection for it) despite being on different continents (McLuhan’s global village again). Throughout the book, we are pretty much on the same page about all things Irwin. We are in complete agreement as regards Charles Bennett and Ib Melchior. Readers will find numerous photographs, some much loved and familiar, some exceptionally rare and unusual, particularly those of a menacing Dr. Smith that the network shied away from. The only area we appear to differ is that I love all three seasons of Lost in Space equally, and watch according to my mood and preference, but I fear Marc is one of those fans less thrilled with the second and third seasons and I trust he won’t be too hard on them in the much anticipated second volume. Spare us the poisonous barbs, Major… I mean Marc!
- Paperback: 696 pages
- Publisher: Jacob Brown Media Group (1 August 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0692750185
- ISBN-13: 978-0692750186
- Product Dimensions: 17.8 x 4.1 x 25.4 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 1.2 Kg
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 103,851 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)