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By CBS Television (eBay itemphoto frontphoto back) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
By CBS Television (eBay itemphoto frontphoto back) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

11 Far Out Facts About Lost in Space

By CBS Television (eBay itemphoto frontphoto back) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
By CBS Television (eBay itemphoto frontphoto back) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The seminal sci-fi series Lost In Space, which aired between 1965 and 1968, was a cultural touchstone for children of the ’60s and ’70s. The series started with a serious premise: The Robinson family—father John, mother Maureen, daughters Judy and Penny, and son Will—along with Major Don West and their talking Robot, set out on a five-and-a-half year space flight to a planet near Alpha Centauri to seek out the possibility of human colonization there as Earth had become overpopulated and was being stripped of its resources. But when the nefarious Dr. Zachary Smith, who became an accidental stowaway, sabotaged their trip for an unnamed organization, they were set adrift in the cosmos, unsure of where they were or how to get back home.

As the show progressed, particularly when it made the jump to color in its second season, episodes became more camp. Despite the outlandishness of some plots, the show endeared itself to millions of people for its portrayal of strong family bonds in the face of adversity and the witty banter between Dr. Smith and the Robot. In honor of Lost In Space’s 50th anniversary and its recent Blu-ray upgrade (and with rumors swirling about a possible reboot), we’re digging into the history of the iconic series.

1. THE ORIGINAL UNAIRED PILOT SET A DARKER TONE. IT ALSO COST $600,000.

The original pilot “No Place To Hide”—which cost $600,000, or $4.5 million in today's dollars—was a more straight up sci-fi tale that did not include either Dr. Smith or the Robot in the cast. The Space Family Robinson saga—inspired by a comic book with that title from Gold Key Comics that began in 1962—started with their 1997 mission going awry thanks to a meteor shower, and the Jupiter 2 crash landing on a seemingly barren planet with harsh weather conditions and inhabited by dangerous cyclops giants. It was pretty impressive for the day and hinted at a more intense show than the one that ultimately aired. We still love the series, but this episode—unseen until early last decade—promised many more dramatic possibilities.

2. THE JUPITER 2 COST MORE THAN THE ENTERPRISE.

The cost of the Robinson family's Jupiter 2 spacecraft was $350,000 ($2.6 million today), more than the Enterprise on Star Trek, which began airing when Lost In Space started its second season. Of course, a major difference is that the Jupiter 2 was a smaller ship, so we saw every chamber in it, whereas the Enterprise was a larger wessel (as Pavel Chekov would say) with many unseen nooks and crannies. It was all about scale.

3. LOST IN SPACE AND STAR TREK WERE COMPETITORS FOR TWO SEASONS.

For the 1966-1967 and 1967-1968 television seasons, the two shows were primetime competitors. Lost In Space had an audience that skewed younger. Even though Star Trek has become an iconic franchise famed across the globe, spawning five live action shows and a dozen movies, the original series was not a major success and struggled during its three seasons on the air, although by the early '70s it had gained momentum in syndication. By contrast, Lost In Space—which had a 1973 animated series and a 2003 live action revival both killed off (although the former had its lone pilot air as part of The ABC Saturday Superstar Movie series)—allegedly ranked higher throughout its three-year run. Ultimately neither show broke the top 30 shows overall for any year that they aired.

4. JONATHAN HARRIS WAS THE MAIN PERSON RESPONSIBLE FOR CAMPING UP DR. SMITH (YOU BUBBLE-HEADED BOOBY).

Partway through the first season, the producers were allegedly feeling lukewarm toward Dr. Smith’s antagonistic role and gave Harris license to play with his character. The actor then proceeded to gradually ramp up the camp and improvised many of his numerous insults directed at the Robot. As goofy as many of their exchanges were, Dr. Smith and the Robot’s Laurel and Hardy routine became a crowd pleaser.

5. BILL MUMY LATER BECAME INVOLVED WITH THE STAR TREK FRANCHISE.

Despite being on a competing show, Mumy (who played young Will Robinson) always liked Star Trek and even lived down the street from William Shatner when both shows were on the air. Three decades later, in 1998, Mumy got the chance to play a human character on an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Back in 1990, he co-wrote three Star Trek comic book issues published by DC Comics. Mumy’s sci-fi affiliations do not end there: He played Lennier for all five seasons of Babylon 5 in the 1990s. The Twilight Zone fans also know him as the child with godlike powers who terrorizes his family in the 1961 episode "It's A Good Life." He appeared in the 1983 movie's recreation of that episode as well.

6. THE ROBOT AND ROBBY THE ROBOT ARE RELATED.

If you noticed any similarities between the Robot on Lost In Space and Robby the Robot from the 1956 sci-fi classic Forbidden Planet, then you probably will not be surprised to learn that they were both designed by Robert Kinoshita. Indeed, Robby the Robot made a guest turn on the Lost In Space episodes "War of the Robots" (1966, as the Robotoid) and "Condemned of Space" (1967, as a robot prison guard). Kinoshita passed away last year at the age of 100. Evidently he was as durable as his creations.

7. GUY WILLIAMS RETIRED FROM ACTING AFTER LOST IN SPACE.

The man who was famed for playing Zorro on TV between 1957 and 1961 and Dr. John Robinson from 1965 to 1968 decided to retire from the spotlight at the young age of 44 following the cancellation of Lost In Space. He later moved to Argentina, where he was reportedly beloved and where he lived until his death in 1989.

8. JOHN WILLIAMS COMPOSED THE MAIN THEME. TWICE.

While he only contributed music to four of the series’ 83 episodes, famed movie composer John Williams (credited as Johnny Williams) did create the theme that was popular for the first two seasons, then created a more vibrant fanfare for the third and final season as the show focused on more outlandish scenarios. Interestingly, the unaired original pilot reused Bernard Herrmann’s music from the 1951 sci-fi classic The Day The Earth Stood Still, and nine episodes of the show reused Herrmann scores. La La Land Records recently issued a 12-CD set of music from the entire series. Part of the show’s charm did lay in its exciting, original soundtrack work, which featured many memorable themes from a variety of composers (some taken from other sources).

9. THE SHOW'S CREATOR IRWIN ALLEN WAS NOT A POSITIVE INFLUENCE ON SET.

According to some cast members, Allen took things a little too seriously, and did not endear himself to people on the production. He had a reputation for being difficult to work with, even if many of his film and TV endeavors were highly successful.

10. THE TEPID MOVIE REMAKE ENDED TITANIC’S #1 STREAK AT THE BOX OFFICE.

The critically panned 1998 movie remake, which was rightly derided for being too dark and lacking the warmth of the original, distinguished itself in two ways: It ended Titanic’s 15-week streak as the #1 movie in America. (Ultimately we know which film people remember best.) It also received a Golden Raspberry nomination for Worst Remake or Sequel.

11. JUNE LOCKHART WAS RECENTLY HONORED BY NASA.

In the unaired Lost In Space pilot, we were told that Maureen Robinson had a PhD in biochemistry. When the pilot we all know aired, she was essentially the mother figure/supportive housewife for the show. Had her scientific knowledge been played up more, she could have figured more strongly into some of the plots. But nearly five decades later, in 2013, her alter ego, actress June Lockhart, became the third celebrity and only the first actress to receive NASA's Exceptional Public Achievement Award for "inspiring the public on space exploration." She called it "the highest honor of my life.” Perhaps the producers should have stuck with their original trajectory for Maureen.

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Flurry Road: 5 Tips for Safe Driving on Winter Roads
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For drivers in the Upper Midwest, traveling during the winter can range from slightly unsettling to deadly. Between 2011 and 2015, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Auto Insurance Center, an average of 800 fatalities occurred annually as a result of weather-related accidents. Icy roads, poor visibility, and other factors can make cold-weather commuting a dicey proposition.

While we can’t control the weather (yet), we can increase our odds of navigating slush-filled roadways successfully. Mental Floss spoke with American Automobile Association (AAA) driving education expert William Van Tassel, Ph.D., for some key tips on how to get your winter driving in gear.

1. GATHER SUPPLIES.

Before you even start your car up for a trip through inclement weather, Van Tassel recommends you pack a worst-case scenario trunk full of supplies. “In case of emergency, you want things on board like water, a blanket, a flashlight, gloves, and kitty litter,” he says. (That last one is for traction in case you get stuck in a snowbank.) You should also have road flares, a shovel, an ice scraper, and a fully-charged cell phone to call for assistance if needed.

2. SLOW DOWN.

Posted speed limit signs assume you’re driving on clear and clean roadways. If snow or ice has accumulated, you need to adjust your speed accordingly. “In slick conditions, tires lose a lot of traction,” Van Tassel says. “You should be cutting your speed down by half or more.” Unfortunately, a lot of people learn this the hard way. “After a snowstorm, we’ll see more crashes on day one than days two or three.”

Van Tassel also cautions to avoid becoming overconfident on snow tires. While they provide better traction in bad weather, it’s not license to speed up.

3. MAINTAIN A SAFE DISTANCE FROM OTHER CARS.

You should be doing this regardless, but bad weather makes it even more crucial. Keep your vehicle at a safe distance from cars behind, in front, and off to the sides, as well as away from pedestrians or cyclists. If you need to brake suddenly, you need time—and space—to avoid a collision. “You really want more space in front,” Van Tassel says. Try to stay between seven and 10 seconds behind the vehicle ahead. That means seeing a landmark and then counting down until you pass the same marker. If you’re only a few seconds behind, you’re too close.

4. DON’T STEER INTO SKIDS.

“That was an old rule of thumb,” Van Tassel says. “The problem is, by the time I remember to steer into a skid, I’m already in a ditch.” If you feel your vehicle sliding, it’s better to steer in the direction you want to go. “You’ll drive where you look, so don’t look at a telephone pole.”

To help maintain control of the car, you want to focus on doing one thing at a time. “If you’re going through a turn, brake, finish braking, then turn. Don’t brake and turn at the same time.”

5. KEEP YOUR HEADLIGHTS ON.

Yep, even in broad daylight. Bad weather limits visibility, and headlights allow both you and your fellow drivers to orient a vehicle. “You’re twice as visible to other drivers that way,” Van Tassel says. “When people can see you, they can avoid you.”

Van Tassel also recommends that drivers avoid relying on fancy car technology to keep them safe. While blind spot monitoring and lane changing sensors are useful, they’re not there so you can zone out. “The tech is there to back you up if you need it. Drive the car, but don’t rely on those things,” he says.

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25 Polite Compliments You Can Pay a Coworker
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January 24 is National Compliment Day, and a great way to celebrate is by making a concerted effort to praise the people you work with. Be sure to consider when an appropriate time and place for a compliment would be (for instance, shy people would rather be commended on their stellar presentation in private rather than in front of a crowd), but know that whether a coworker is a longtime friend or more of an acquaintance, lauding their work performance and letting them know you appreciate their skills could really make their day.

1. "YOU HAVE A GREAT SENSE OF HUMOR."

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Every office has one person who knows how to ease tensions at work by cracking a quick joke or sharing a funny link. If this person's sense of humor makes your job a little more enjoyable, make sure to let them know.

2. "NICE JOB ON THAT PRESENTATION."

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Public speaking is intimidating, especially to someone who's new to their job and not used to giving presentations. Notice your coworker is nervous before a big meeting? Seek them out afterwards. Letting them know you enjoyed and learned from what they said will hopefully make them feel more confident next time.

3. "YOU ALWAYS KNOW WHEN TO LEND A HAND."

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You probably know someone who's always willing to help out with a project when you need it most, and odds are they rarely receive the recognition they deserve. Next time a coworker offers some relief when you're feeling overwhelmed, don't let it go unnoticed. Set aside time to tell them you see the great work they're doing and you appreciate it.

4. "YOU'RE A SAVVY PROBLEM-SOLVER."

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Being able to see problems differently is a valuable skill in the workplace. It can open up a team to new ideas and save precious time and resources. Sometimes you may be the person to spot the way out of a problem, and other times it's a coworker who points out the solution that was right in front of your face. If you're grateful for their point of view, they deserve to hear it.

5. "YOU'RE A GREAT COMMUNICATOR."

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Without communication, collaborating with the people in your workplace would be impossible. A great communicator knows how to understand other people's perspectives, explain their own, and make sure they're never keeping anyone in the dark. They're also not above receiving a compliment every now and then.

6. "I LOVE YOUR ENTHUSIASM."

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For some people, getting up and going to work each day is easy: They're personally invested in the company they work for and enjoy helping it succeed. Maybe you're not there yet, but you might see this level of passion and enthusiasm in at least one person you work with. Don't let that inspiring attitude go unrecognized.

7. "I APPRECIATE YOUR TRUST."

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Effective management is just as much about offering guidance and support as knowing when to back off. Sometimes leaving employees room to breathe is the best thing managers can do to encourage growth and creativity. It's also a thankless move that often goes unrewarded. Expressing your appreciation to your manager can make a big difference in their day.

8. "WHAT A FUN PARTY (LUNCH/HAPPY HOUR/ETC.)."

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People take certain work events for granted without stopping to consider the employees who make them possible. Birthday cakes don't magically appear and after-work happy hours don't plan themselves. Behind every fun break you get from your day-to-day duties, there's a coworker who took the initiative to make it happen, and they would like to hear that you enjoyed the fruits of their labor.

9. "YOU'VE GOT A KILLER WORK ETHIC."

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We all wish we could be the employee who blows through projects without breaking a sweat. If you're not that person, the least you can do is pay the tireless person in your workplace a compliment—especially after a big project that had them tackling most of the work.

10. "YOUR POSITIVE ATTITUDE IS INFECTIOUS."

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Just like one pessimistic employee can bring down the whole office, a positive person can have the opposite effect. It's hard to feel grumpy about starting a new week when the colleague sitting next to you does everything with a smile on their face.

11. "YOU ASK GREAT QUESTIONS."

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Asking about something you're not familiar with at work can be intimidating, whether it's about a new policy or procedure or perhaps about the ins and outs of a department you don't usually work with. But asking for help or clarification is also the only way to learn and grow. Complimenting a coworker who asks a lot of questions lets them know that not only is that OK, it's valued.

12. "I LOVE YOUR IDEAS."

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When someone introduces a great idea at work, people often respond in one of two ways: They get upset that they didn't think of it themselves, or they admire the person for their brilliance. If you want to strengthen work relationships and feel better in the long run, we suggest expressing the latter.

13. "YOU'RE GREAT AT TAKING INITIATIVE."

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Employees who take initiative help businesses run smoothly. Managers don't have to worry about babysitting them, and their coworkers never end up picking up their slack. Next time you go into work, find the person you know who always takes initiative and compliment them for their efforts.

14. "YOU'RE VERY CREATIVE."

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Even if your job isn't particularly inspiring, you may have coworkers who find everyday opportunities to be creative. Their creativity might shine through in the form of a sharply designed flyer, a well-written memo, or an innovative solution to the problem at hand. Sometimes people who don't work in a traditionally artistic field are rarely complimented for their creativity—you can change that.

15. "I APPRECIATE YOU TAKING RESPONSIBILITY."

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Do you know someone at work who's taken responsibility—whether for a botched performance, a failed pitch, or a missed deadline—even when they could have gotten away with keeping quiet? That's not easy to do. Recognize their actions, and they may be inclined to do it more often.

16. "YOU'RE SO FLEXIBLE."

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Sure, you can promise your coworker this is the absolute last time you'll ask them to push a meeting back a couple of days or move up a deadline by a week. Or, you can compliment them on being so flexible and thank them for working around the changes so efficiently.

17. "I LOVE YOUR CONFIDENCE."

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Confidence in the workplace is hard to ignore. It radiates from everything a person does, and when you're working on a project with such a person, it can make you feel more confident as well. Let this employee know that you appreciate their poise and self-assuredness.

18. "I APPRECIATE HOW TECH-SAVVY YOU ARE."

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Who do you turn to when your screen freezes, or when the long email you spent the last 15 minutes crafting suddenly disappears? Likely, instead of running to I.T. every time, you ask a nearby coworker who always seems to have the answers. Even if they don't share their know-how for the praise, they deserve a compliment and gratitude.

19. "YOU'RE A GREAT BAKER."

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People who bake for their coworkers are a special breed. By sharing what they made with the office, it means that they not only took the time to cook with you in mind, but also that they're sharing a bit of their personal likes or hobbies with you. What better time to compliment the chef than when they bring platter of fresh cookies to the morning meeting?

20. "I ADMIRE YOUR LEADERSHIP."

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A good leader is many things, including fair, compassionate, and hard-working. But whatever qualities your manager exhibits that make you appreciate working for him or her, find a chance to let them know you commend their leadership, and that you're a better employee because of it.

21. "YOU HAVE A MIND FOR DETAIL."

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Details make a big difference at work, whether you're writing a big report or a thank you email. Sometimes the details that make the biggest impact on a project are hard to notice on their own. See if you can spot the smart, subtle details the next time you're evaluating your coworker's work, and tell them if you're impressed by what you find.

22. "YOU'RE ON MY WAVELENGTH."

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It may not always top lists of most valuable skills to take into the workplace, but empathy can do wonders for office culture. When team members practice empathy and really make an effort to understand the people they work with, they make everyone's job easier. This is one skill that definitely deserves recognition.

23. "THANKS FOR BEING SO RELIABLE."

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No matter what you do for work, it's impossible to do your job entirely on your own. Reliable coworkers you can depend on for support, guidance, and inspiration are a priceless resource. If they make the effort to show up and work hard consistently, the least you can do is show them you appreciate it.

24. "YOU'RE A REAL TEAM PLAYER."

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In order to succeed as a team, your colleagues need to have the right attitude. Maybe there's one person on your team who sets a good example for the rest of you: They know exactly when to step back and listen to other people's ideas and when to come forward with their own. Sometimes being a good team player means swallowing your pride to do what's best for the group, and that's behavior worth celebrating.

25. "YOU GIVE GREAT ADVICE."

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At some point in your career, you've likely relied on a more experienced coworker for advice. Without mentors, many of the world's most successful people wouldn't be where they are today. Never be ashamed to ask for guidance, and once you receive it, make sure to show your gratitude.

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