highlight of this convention being the Australian premiere viewing
of Lost in Space Forever.
Emmy award-winning entertainer John Larroquette hosts a one hour syndicated TV special called Lost In Space Forever, airing between November 16th and December 13th 1998 across the USA. The special pays tribute and examines the history of Lost In Space, from its Swiss Family Robinson novel conception, through to the LIS pilot, the three seasons of the television series, the comic books, the fan clubs, the motion picture and its possible future.
The special reunites original cast members June Lockhart, Angela Cartwright, Marta Kristen, Mark Goddard and Guy Williams - on film, never publicly shown. A special treat has Jonathan Harris, Bill Mumy and Bob May in costume as Dr. Smith, Will Robinson and the Robinson Robot (voiced by the legendary Dick Tufeld) in a skit recreating their legendary roles.
Painstaking efforts were taken in the special to recreate the series' original sets, using blueprints that had been filed away for over 30 years.
Lost In Space Forever was produced in association with New Line Cinema and Foxstar Productions. Kevin Bums and Sheila Allen, (wife of Lost In Space creator Irwin Allen) served as executive producers with Kevin Bums also serving as director.
As most fans would know, Hollywood producer Kevin Bums is the keeper of the Lost In Space flame. He wanted a big name actor to host the special, his first choice; Jason Alexander (George Costanza in Seinfeld) was busy. Second choice Rick Moranis; (Ghostbusters) was also busy.
The assignment was then accepted by John Larroquette (famous for his portrayal of district attorney Dan Fielding in Nightcourt for which he received four Emmy Awards, (six nominations) on NBC in the 1980's.
John Larroquette commented at a press conference about his enthusiasm towards hosting the special. "I loved Lost In Space because it was a unique combination of adventure and comedy."
Lost In Space Forever includes the most entertaining still photography, TV clips with never-before-seen footage & out-takes. It has many infront and behind scenes of the movie with original and new cast members reflecting on their LIS experiences.
New Line Cinema's input is the result of a 180 degree turnaround in attitude towards the TV series. They believed at the beginning of movie production that a little publicity of the classic series was good but not so much as it would detract from their version.
After the movie release, New Line Cinema was bombarded with criticism and rebuke that perhaps Lost In Space's original look and feel had been forsaken. Further evidence was provided by the sales of the original LIS toy/models outstripping the motion picture versions by 30 to 1.
And so the special was commissioned being a major undertaking, filmed in 35mm for $500,000.00. The 1-hour documentary saw fans waiting with anticipation not seen since the movie premiere. The production was publicised during the filming stages with fans promised content not previous featured in any special before.
This special covered. for the first time, all aspects of the phenomenon that is Lost In Space. A special joy is Guy Williams' long lost original screen test plus. a special new Lost In Space 'episode' is included. But, ...to the surprise of most USA fans, there was no TV premiere promotion.
In many cases, the first time most knew that the special had been aired was via the complaints over Internet forums by those who had managed to catch the last minutes of it on various cable stations.
This prompted many to contact their local cable affiliates and eventually word came of re-screenings. Slowly, lists of stations and times were released. The best list covering possibly every cable station across the U.S. was provided by Bob May (who played the Robot) on his Internet site. Bob literally falls over backwards for the fans.
John Laroquette as host was well received, his delivery is quite dry and measured, treating the reference material in a balanced way. Some U.S. documentaries are marred by over enthusiastic commentaries, however John's is one of the best.
The show was hosted from the bridge of the Jupiter II itself. This was recreated by the shows' producers from scratch under the direction of Ron Hamill. It defies belief. The set is the most accurate ever seen since the original series. Both John and the Robot looked quite at home around it.
beginning narration reads: "From the farthest reaches
of the Galaxy comes Lost In Space Forever!
The show is essentially a 'clips' presentation featuring narration linking archival film & recent interviews with all stars. It is very similar, but more informational than the Lost In Space segment featured in The Fantasy Worlds of Irwin Allen.
Pre-production of the series is covered with the appearance of Guy Williams' screen test. (Shown for the first time) Guy appears relaxed, replying to questions (of an unseen Irwin Allen) in a casual and suave manner. This rare footage not only shows Guy to be a very sophisticated gentleman, but an incredibly handsome man with the most infectious smile.
The special then focuses on all 3 seasons of the series, showing material that spotlights both the good and bad aspects of Lost In Space- The inception, transformation and demise are discussed as well as the incredible props, dazzling special effects and the impressive array of guest stars.
Jonathan Harris discusses the 1970's LIS cartoon in which he voiced the character of Dr Smith. This is rare, but as Jonathan says bares little resemblance to the original series. The comics by Innovation are talked of, fan conventions are discussed and even Australia receives grace with a great clip of Jonathan's 1994 Aussie tour shown!
The movie is then conversed about as is the recent resurgence in LIS merchandise. The material contained in this special could have been the subject of a two-hour documentary. Even then it would be too short.
John Larroquette is then seen handling a LIS prop (Arcon's amulet in The Galaxy Gift) as the Robot warns him not to do so, when, BOOOOOOOM! John disappears and is replaced by Will and Dr. Smith!
This is the creme de la creme. This is the moment that all fans have waited for. Bill Mumy and Jonathan Harris join Bob May (Robot) to recreate their original roles.
There, on the flight deck of the Jupiter II, Will, the Robot and Dr. Smith discover they are still lost in space. For a few minutes you are once again watching the most exciting show on television. Bill and Jonathan are in character; dressed in season three costumes.
The acting is great, it is almost as if they had never been gone from our screens. This segment and all the memories contained within are worth the wait! The banter between characters is just what you would expect - No viewer would be disappointed.
The documentary ends with those fateful words To Be Continued. The end credits are recreated in the same way the TV series finished (yellow italic letters) with the John Williams' LIS theme (recreated by Bill Mumy) playing over.
At present Lost In Space is undergoing a period of re-invention. Producer Kevin Bums has given the fans what has been sadly denied to them for many years. This is superior television - it is how documentaries should be done. It will enhance the mystique of Lost In Space for many years.
Shooting for the last segment took place on Sunday August 30th 1998 and LISA was granted exclusive permission to witness the making of the special.
L.I.S.A. reporter Glenn travelled to the USA to behold the event. Upon seeing the set of the Jupiter II set at the Ben Kitay Studios in Los Angeles, one is left breathless. It was an exact replica of the original Jupiter II bridge. There were more than 100 people working on this operation.
With this huge production crew, the filming schedule began at 7.30am. Mike Clark, a respected joumalist, commented "This is really bizarre, it's almost like being there" Pre-production lighting tests were made the 'seconds' (stand-in actors) made their tests; and before too long John Laroquette was shooting with the Robinson Robot.
Robot: "Testing - testing - one - two - three testing... "
John: "Robot, what are you doing?"
Robot: "I am just testing my audio vis-, ..oh audio-visual," (blowing his line) 'I am just testing my audio relays, " correcting himself 'I do not wish to blow my big scenes by having embarrassing technical difficulties".
John: "Difficulties, difficulties, embarrassing technical difficulties. You're too late for that. You see, you're already on".
Robot: "And I thought intergalactic travel was tough ".
John: "Stay tuned folks
"Cut, Okay, that was a take!" said director Kevin Bums. It was strange listening to the voice of Bob May coming from inside the Robot (Dick Tufeld's voice will be added). Walking behind the set was intriguing; seeing the unglamorous cables, klieg lights and lots of G-clamps holding props together.
For the next scene, Kevin and Bob (Robot) May rehearsed it first with meticulous care. With cameras rolling and a dry banter practised, John spoke of Dr. Smith's addition. The Robot then chastised John for forgetting him. John then asked what happened to his evil twin from The Anti-Matter Man episode; "He appears on cruise ships doing the Macarena. " said the Robot.
Soon, stars Bill Mumy and Jonathan Harris walked on set to rousing applause. Wearing their J2 uniforms, they looked very much the same as they did. The only difference is Bill is now taller than Jonathan - a surreal sight. ...Bill was excited to say the least; seeing Glenn's camera, he said: (in his best Rod Sterling narration) "The date is 30th August 1998, we return to the characters Dr. Zachary Smith and Will Robinson on deck of the Jupiter II... and you are there".
John's last scene has him pressing an amulet that brings Dr Smith and Will Robinson back on the Jupiter II deck. After this take was filmed, John was thanked for his invaluable participation. At 1.00pm a lunch break was called for as John then recorded voice-overs which were completed quickly.
Jonathan, Bill, Robot and John Larroquette also posed for precious photographs. Through the onset of camera flashes, Bill jokes: "This is our album cover, it's not Crosby, Stills and Nash, but an incredible simulation".
After lunch saw Jonathan rehearsing with Bob - wearing just the bottom half of the Robot! (a real sight!) After several run-throughs of dialogue, the cameras were ready to roll again. Kevin called: "This is the one (shot) we've been waiting for, (pause) ... Linda Lovelace is on the set."
Jonathan: (excitingly) "Ohhh!"
Bill: "Where's Edy Williams?" (Edy was the adult 'R! film star who appeared in the LIS episode Two Weeks in Space).
Kevin: 'Billy, Jonathan, remember, ...the ghost of lrwin Allen is watching!"
Jonathan: "Oh God!" (laughter)
Robot: 'I've forgotten my lines" (laughter).
Filming was fascinating and interesting. It took a long period of time between takes to exact lighting and frame just right. During one scene Will Robinson has to quickly plot a course for the Jupiter II to find Earth. ...The magic dialogue went like this;
Bill: "Hang on, Dr Smith! We're getting out of here!" (Explosion! Cut!) - to which Bill adds, "with residuals this time" (laughter)
Bill brought his beautiful wife Eileen and his children Seth and Liliana to the set. Seth was wearing an impressive silver spacesuit. When astronaut Seth walked over to Bill and Jonathan, after a take, Bill called him "Will Robinson - the Next Generation ".
Filming continued smoothly throughout the afternoon, under the directorial guidance of Kevin Bums until an unforeseen accident. During one of the special effect shots, a fire extinguisher was used to create a thrust fog effect. The first type of extinguisher used left residue matter all over the set! Every thing was covered in dust'
Bill immediately escorted Jonathan outside as the dust cloud enveloped the studio. The crew started the mammoth task of cleaning the set. While we were waiting for filming to recommence, Bill assured us; "It's fine. The Jupiter II is always breaking down."
Our stars were aware of LISA's presence and so in-between takes, they recorded narration's for our video camera such as;
Jonathan: "Oh Australia is going to dine out on all this for years to come".
Bill: "Good onyer, Glenn."'
Jonathan: "Good onyer, mate " (in his best Australian accent!)
One could really tell Bill was very much excited about this project by this absolutely remarkable and candid comment: "For those of you who have watched Babylon 5, where I'm out in outer space as Lennier, from the planet Minbar, let me just say HOW MUCH MORE I LIKE THIS BETTER!
Bob May worked extremely hard operating the Robot, his diligence and stamina was outstanding - and Jonathan agreed "There is no-one else for this job, but Bob May". We witnessed close-hand how incredibly hot inside the Robot it was, coupled with an observation of exhaustion - take after take. Although Bob was handed his script hours before shooting, his memory of difficult lines was most impressive.
During a break, Jonathan regaled the crew with his wonderful show business anecdotes. Kevin (needing a break) sat on the floor to listen! One story was about his past wardrobe...
Jonathan: "That me reminds me of my time working for the Schuberts in New York. The Schuberts were so awful to work for. Do you know, ..when you got a job with the Schuberts, they had a big warehouse on 67th Street, you were sent to the warehouse to find a costume that fits. Take it and wear it! No alterations!
Anyway, we always found a costume, we always did Oh, the Schuberts, ..I'll never forget them, there were two of them, we used to call them Mr. S.h. and Mr. I.t. ".
Kevin: "You know, I'm paying for this story!"
Jonathan: "As well you should".
Lost In Space Forever is superior TV with a feel good attitude, worthy of Emmy Awards. After final filming, all of the crew applauded. Jonathan was patted on the back so much, he left with a sore back! Still in make-up & Jupiter II uniform, he drove away in his Cadillac. A child's voice called: "It's the Jupiter III!" as his car disappeared. (Motorists were stunned to see Dr. Smith driving along a Hollywood freeway).
After it was over Mike Clark stepped in front of our video camera and prophetically said;
"Mr. Harris has left the building".