Cue that awesome Lost in Space John Williams theme music! Created by Irwin Allen, who would go on to produce some of the best '70s disaster films, Lost in Space premiered on CBS in 1965. The Swiss Family Robinson story set in space followed the Robinson family, whose spaceship Jupiter 2 is thrown off course on a mission to colonize a planet circling the star Alpha Centauri.
During its short three-season run, the show was well received, but its years in syndication really put it into cult status. Lost in Space was originally intended to be more serious in tone, more like an Outer Limits episode, but with Jonathan Harris' iconic character Dr. Smith, Billy Mumy's Will Robinson, and the Robot emerging as fan favorites, the show switched to being more funny, family friendly and action-packed. And boy, is it quotable ("Danger, Will Robinson!").
The 1998 big-screen adaptation of the series, starring William Hurt, Gary Oldman, and Matt LeBlanc, went darker, forgoing any of the camp and humor from the original series. The film was one of the more highly anticipated releases of that year, due to the rabid fans of the series clamoring for a worthy reboot, but unfortunately, it fell short of expectations. No sequel was greenlit.
In the meantime, take a look at the cast of the 1998 movie and their '60s TV counterparts, and find out where they are now!
Gary Oldman plays Dr. Zachary Smith in the 1998 movie decidedly darker than his TV counterpart (although the character on the TV show was also initially evil... more on that later). In fact, Oldman's Smith is pretty much the villain from the word go. As the ship's medical officer, he is hired to sabotage the Jupiter 2 and reprogram the Robot to kill the Robinsons. However, after he is betrayed by his nefarious employers, he becomes a stowaway on the ship, having to go along with it when it is knocked off course. Then he ends up becoming a spider-human hybrid trying to kill everyone. So, there's that.
Oldman was already a well-known and respected actor by the time he did Lost in Space. He gained his first notice in 1986 when he portrayed punk rocker Sid Vicious in Sid and Nancy, and has since gone on to shine in many films such as The Professional; Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (for which he was nominated for Best Actor); Commissioner Gordon in The Dark Knight series; and as Sirius Black in the Harry Potter franchise. Up next, Oldman may be looking at a second Oscar nomination for his portrayal of Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour, in theaters this November.
As we mentioned, the character was intended to be more villainous. Smith is indeed the one who tries to sabotage the Jupiter 2 by reprogramming the Robot and inadvertently gets stuck on the ship as it takes off. With his extra weight and the robot's interference, the ship is knocked off course and sent aimlessly into space.
After the first half of the first season, however, Smith became less of a villain and more of a comic relief, much to the delight of the viewers. His ineptitude, laziness, greediness and cowardly behavior – and the cause of further delays in the Robinsons' mission back to Earth – just resonated with the fans. His signature catchphrases included, "Oh, the pain, the pain!," "Never fear, Smith is here!" and "Dear Boy." Plus, his chemistry with Bill Mumy's Will and his constant belittlement of the Robot with perfect alliterations (“You blithering, bubble-headed boobie!”) were some of series' best moments.
After its run, Jonathan Harris went on to do voice-over work, but never quite found the same success he had on Lost in Space. He turned down a cameo in the movie, reportedly stating he "never played a bit part," and he wasn't about to start now. Harris died in 2002 of a blood clot to the heart, just three days before his 88th birthday.
Maj. Don West is the Jupiter 2's expert pilot, who is there to help guide the Robinsons in their quest. In the beginning of the movie version, West, played by Matt LeBlanc, pulls a risky stunt that gets him into trouble with his superiors. John Robinson, however, thinks West's bravery and cockiness make him perfect to pilot Jupiter 2 after the original pilot is killed. West is reluctant at first but ends up keeping them – and the ship – intact.
While also taping that little TV show called Friends, LeBlanc signed on to do Lost in Space, and had to fly back and forth between his TV show and the movie. Since Friends, LeBlanc had one failed spinoff series (Joey) and a few appearances in Web Therapy, but has found success once again with the hilarious HBO show Episodes, now heading into its fifth season, along with the new series Man with a Plan on CBS.
Mark Goddard's take on the role is definitely more stalwart, but also has a light touch. His Maj. West is a military pilot, and he takes his job very seriously. He absolutely cannot stand Dr. Smith for always ruining everything, and he definitely has a thing for Judy Robinson (Marta Kristen).
When the show was being developed, it was intended for West and Judy to form a romantic relationship, but after the first few episodes, it was dropped in favor of more family friendly, madcap fare.
Goddard said in 2015 that he was disappointed the show went from a darker, sci-fi feel to a campier one, and he never wanted to talk about the show after its run, as he thought it was a “career buster.” He has since grown to appreciate its cultural impact and how it brings nostalgia for its fans.
After Lost in Space, the now 80-year-old continued to appear in several TV series like Barnaby Jones, Mob Squad, and General Hospital, while also teaching at-risk kids for 20 years. He made a cameo in the 1998 movie and his most recent credit was a guest appearance in Supernatural in 2010.
As portrayed by fresh-faced Billy Mumy, young Will Robinson is a precocious 9-year-old when the series begins, a prodigy with electronics and computer technology. He's the closest one to the Robot, and he also has the most sympathy for Dr. Smith when the rest of his family has had it with the idiot man-child. Kind-hearted and smart, Will wants to prove himself to his father, and is often the moral center of many Lost in Space episodes.
Mumy was already an accomplished child actor with several credits to his name before taking on the role as Will. Along with Lost in Space, Mumy is also most remembered for one of the creepiest Twilight Zone episodes ever, in which he plays Anthony, a 6-year-old boy who only wants people around him to think good thoughts or he'll “wish them into the cornfield.”
The actor continued his career in TV after LIS with guest appearances on several other series, and he found success again in the 1990s with the sci-fi series Babylon 5. Like Jonathan Harris, he also declined to appear in the movie. The actor wanted to play the older version of Will (see Jared Harris below), but the director thought it would be distracting. Mumy is also a very talented well-known musician, songwriter, recording artist, and writer.
In the film version, Jack Johnson's portrayal of the young Will Robinson keeps mostly in line with the show's original character. He's smart as a whip, a genius with technology, and he wants to please his father, who often overlooks his son's accomplishments. So, he bonds with Dr. Smith as a makeshift father figure – until, that is, Smith turns into a murderous spider-like creature.
In the third act of the movie, it is young Will who realizes the planet they crash-landed on is surrounded by time distortions, but his father ignores him. Leaving the ship to investigate, John encounters a future Will Robinson, who thought his father had abandoned him. Will was kept alive by Spider Smith after Smith killed the other Robinsons, so he could help Smith build a time machine in which the villain could go back to Earth and unleash his army of cyber spiders. Did we mention the movie isn't very good?
Johnson had a few credits after the movie, including doing voice work for the ABC animated series Fillmore! in 2000, but ultimately quit the acting biz to study and pursue a career in music.
Jared Harris portrays the older Will Robinson, who ends up saving his family in the film. While John is with his now-grown son in a time bubble, the Jupiter II tries to take off from the planet that is breaking apart but is destroyed by the planet's debris. Realizing his father always loved him and didn't leave them, Will sends John back in time so he can reunite with his living family -- including the young Will -- and save the Jupiter II from destruction.
Veteran character actor Harris didn't really want to pursue acting when he was younger, having grown up around it with his father, the great Richard Harris. But he was finally bitten by the bug in college and eventually performed with the Royal Shakespeare Company. He went on to star in many films, including I Shot Andy Warhol, The Last of the Mohicans, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, and Lincoln.
Harris is now probably more known for his memorable roles on TV, including Fringe, Mad Men and most recently The Expanse over on Syfy.
Maureen Robinson, as portrayed by Mimi Rogers, is on more of an equal footing with her professor husband in the film version. Like the original character, she's a biochemist, but is also able to help figure things out when it all goes wrong. And as you might expect, she's as tough as nails when it comes to protecting her children.
Rogers started her career in TV for the most part, including the short-lived series Paper Dolls, but broke out in the Ridley Scott's 1987 crime thriller Someone to Watch Over Me with Tom Berenger. She also gained some of her best critical acclaim in the 1991 indie film The Rapture, playing an amoral woman who becomes a zealous born-again Christian. After Lost in Space, she's enjoyed a long career in both TV and film, with highlights including The X-Files, Two and a Half Men, and Ash vs. Evil Dead. Most recently, the 61-year-old co-starred in the Amazon series Bosch.
As we mentioned, the character of Dr. Maureen Robinson in the original series is a biochemist, but probably due to the '60s era, June Lockhart plays her mostly as a housewife, tending to the garden, preparing meals, and taking care of the family. She's only referenced once as a doctor. Still, Maureen is a voice of reason, solid as a rock and, like her son, usually defends Dr. Smith and stops the rest from abandoning him. Lucky for him.
As the daughter of character actor Gene Lockhart, June started her career in film, but her big break came on Broadway in the 1947 comedy For Love or Money, which earned her a Tony Award. She also found fame in TV in the popular series Lassie before joining the cast of Lost in Space. Since then, June has pretty much never stopped working, making appearances in countless TV shows like Petticoat Junction and General Hospital. She too made a cameo in the 1998 film. At age 91, she recently co-starred in the 2016 indie film The Remake.
Lacey Chabert's performance as the Robinson middle child, Penny Robinson, does veer from the original TV character a bit, but is more fitting with the times. Chabert's Penny is more of a rebellious teenager and doesn't want to go with her family on the space mission. Her siblings annoy her, particularly her little brother, but once things go awry on the Jupiter II, she jumps in to help her family make it to safety.
Chabert was also a well-established child actor when she joined the cast of Lost in Space, particularly known for her stellar work in the TV series Party of Five. After LIS, Chabert went on to have a hugely successful voice career, working in animated series like The Wild Thornberrys (Eliza Thornberry) and The Spectacular Spider-Man (Gwen Stacy). She also gained big-screen cred for her turn in the 2004 Lindsay Lohan cult comedy Mean Girls. Currently, Chabert is lending her voice for animated series Shimmer and Shine and Justice League Action.
As played by Angela Cartwright, Penny is more innocent in the TV version, starting the series as a 13-year-old who loves animals. She even adopts a chimpanzee-like alien pet with pointy ears that everyone calls “Bloop,” because of the sound it makes, but who Penny calls “Debbie.” As the series progressed, Penny grows into a more mature teenager and even gets a groovy '60s experience in one fun episode.
Like Mumy and Chabert, Cartwright was also an established child actor, having starred in the long-running 1950s-60s TV series Make Room for Daddy with Danny Thomas, as well as the classic musical The Sound of Music, in which she played one of the Von Trapp children. She is the younger sister of Veronica Cartwright, also a child actor in movies like The Birds, but who continued on to star in films like Alien and Witches of Eastwick. Unlike her sister, Angela pretty much gave up acting in the 1970s, only appearing here and there in TV shows – and of course, making a cameo in the Lost in Space movie.
Judy Robinson is the eldest daughter, and unfortunately, has the least to do in her largely scientific family. The original character was described as giving up a career in musical theater to follow her family on their dangerous mission into space. As played by Heather Graham in the film, she does seem to help out a bit more, and her flirtation with Major West is more pronounced.
Graham was another veteran to join the film's cast. She came onto the scene in Gus Van Sant's 1989 gem Drugstore Cowboy and hasn't really stopped since. Some of her career highlights include films such as Boogie Nights, Swingers, The Hangover, and TV series such as Twin Peaks, Scrubs, and Californication. Her most recent credits include new series Flaked and the upcoming Bliss.
Like we said, Judy Robinson doesn't have a lot to do in the original series, and Marta Kristen has since said that she was disappointed the romance between Judy and Don West was never fully explored. As the series progressed, creator Irwin Allen did try to give more to Kristen.
The actress said her favorite episode was “Attack of the Monster Planets,” an episode in which she played her evil twin. “For me that episode embodies my love of acting,” Kristen told PopEntertainmentBlog.com. “The distrust and hidden agenda Judy has on that show — it shows in my eyes. I’ve always studied dance, and there’s quite a beautiful piece of movement in that episode when I’m hypnotized and go into the giant plant. I appreciate it now in retrospect.”
Before Lost in Space, Kristen had appeared on such popular series as Dr. Kildare, Wagon Train, and The Loretta Young Show, along with playing the mermaid Lorelei in the cult classic Beach Blanket Bingo. She has appeared in a few TV shows throughout the years, along with many commercials, and she made a cameo in the 1998 LIS film as well. She also paints and teaches acting.
As Prof. John Robinson, Guy Williams plays the patriarch of the family with a lot of dignity and warmth, an astrophysicist who also specializes in applied planetary geology. He does everything in his power to keep his family safe in such dangerous and unknown circumstances, while trying to find a way home.
Williams' career had been steady leading up to Lost in Space, with many appearances in films and TV to his credit. But his big break came from Walt Disney when he starred in the Zorro TV series for the studio in the late '50s. He also had a recurring role as a Cartwright cousin on Bonanza.
However, after Lost in Space, Williams pretty much retired from acting and moved to Buenos Aires, where he passed away in 1989 of a brain aneurysm. He was 65. Apparently, he was not proud of the show, especially because he was overshadowed by Jonathan Harris as Dr. Smith. In a very candid interview with the Archive of American Television, Harris explained how he felt bad that he and Williams could never be friends. Watch it here; it's pretty fascinating.
Since the movie version of the TV show takes a darker tone, William Hurt was perfect to play the more serious Prof. John Robinson. He leads the 10-year mission with authority, to complete the construction of a hypergate over an inhabitable planet, Alpha-One, allowing the population of Earth to instantly travel to and populate a new home. He's dedicated to the mission but values the lives of his family above all else.
Of course, Hurt was probably the most acclaimed actor to join the cast of the 1998 movie. He had already won a Best Actor Oscar for his amazing turn in 1985's Kiss of a Spider Woman, and he's since been nominated twice more for Children of a Lesser God and Broadcast News (a fourth nomination came in 2006 for Best Supporting Actor for his work in A History of Violence). The now 67-year-old actor has continued a long and illustrious career. His most recent credits include the Amazon series Goliath and the Marvel flick Captain America: Civil War, and he has five upcoming projects in the works.
As we mentioned, we are pretty excited to see what Netflix is going to do with the Lost in Space canon. Are you as well? Let us know in the comments!