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According to Wikipedia, the well-known catchphrase of the Robot in Lost in Space, "Danger, Will Robinson!" is only uttered once in the three seasons of the show. Though the Robot was known to frequently warn of "Danger! Danger!" to no one particular family member.

So I'm wondering, is there any clear source from which its status an an iconic scifi catchphrase originates (e.g., a popular referential usage in another TV series or movie, etc)? I know that the 1998 film adaptation used the phrase prominently in its advertising – and presumably in the film, though I haven't seen it – but I was aware of the phrase before this, despite having not seen the original series either, so I feel there must be an earlier source for its popularity.

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    Probably the same way that "Beam me up, Scotty!" became one, even though it was never said in the show. Apr 15, 2018 at 4:13
  • I first heard it in one episode of The Simpsons (since I've never seen the show), but I think it was popular even before that.
    – Mario
    Apr 15, 2018 at 4:28
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    The phrase appears to have been in common use from the 1960s onwards (while the show was still running); books.google.co.uk/… - It may well be that they included the phrase in the third season specifically to cash-in on the popularity of the phrase (tale wag dog).
    – Valorum
    Apr 15, 2018 at 7:05
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    See also "Play it again, Sam". Apr 8, 2022 at 9:03
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    Talk to me, Goose.
    – Skooba
    Apr 8, 2022 at 13:08

3 Answers 3

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If I say "Danger! Danger!", it is not clear if I am saying it or quoting it. If I say "Danger, Will Robinson!", then unless there is someone named Will Robinson there, I am almost certainly quoting Lost in Space. So when third parties started saying it, they tended to use "Danger, Will Robinson!" rather than the more common "Danger! Danger!" That made the homage clear without having to add a bunch of fluff, like "As they'd say in Lost in Space" with it.

We can see this with other popular sayings. "Beam me up, Scotty" was never said in those words. Going outside SFF, Humphrey Bogart never said "Play it again, Sam" in Casablanca. Sara Palin never said that she could see Russia from her house; that was a Saturday Night Live comedienne imitating Palin. Sally Fields didn't say, "You like me. You really, really like me." At least not for many years (she did eventually make a commercial using that exact wording).

In all these cases, the eventual "quote" was either a more representative or a more succinct version of the original quote. Because the "fake quotes" were easier to say and remember than their more realistic equivalents, they were what stuck.

TL;DR: At least "Danger, Will Robinson!" is an actual quote. It may not be the most common statement in the show material, but it captures the essence perfectly. And when someone says, "Danger, Will Robinson!", we know that it is a Lost in Space homage. It doesn't need separate attribution.

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  • I would bet in the history of the world no one has ever said danger, will robinson without quoting LIS -- i have never said, danger <someone's name> ever, i think and if i did, it would also be because of LIS.
    – releseabe
    Apr 8, 2022 at 7:53
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    "Luke, I am your father" is the other big one where the misquote adds the context.
    – OrangeDog
    Apr 8, 2022 at 9:39
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    Meme theory. Thoughts easier to remember propagate into public consciousness.
    – user15742
    Apr 8, 2022 at 23:53
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The term was actually coined by Mark Twain in the late 1800's concerning a man named Will Forrester. One of the writers for the show Lost in Space was a Mark Twain fanatic and frequently used the phrase "Danger, Will Forrester" around the office whenever their supervisor stepped out of his office. Another writer decided to add it to a script as an inside joke, changing it to "Danger Will Robinson". It was only said in one episode. Further trivia: Will Forrester was a personal assistant to Ulysses S. Grant, one of Twain's closest friends. Grant and Twain enjoyed smoking cigars in Grant's garden, but Grant was actually dying from throat cancer at the time and Grant's wife did not approve of the smoking. Forrester would stand guard at the far end of the garden to warn Grant and Twain of the "danger" whenever Mrs. Grant would step out of the house and head towards the garden.

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    This is a nice answer but do you have any evidence you could edit in to back it up?
    – TheLethalCarrot
    May 8, 2020 at 21:50
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    Hi, welcome to SF&F. This is a very interesting story, (though it could use some references) but it doesn't really answer the question how "Danger, Will Robinson" became such an iconic phrase.
    – DavidW
    May 8, 2020 at 21:51
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On a Saturday Night Live with Craig Ferguson and Robin Williams, the host refers to his then running show on DVD called Weapons of self distruction. On the cover you see Robin Williams with a Danger sticker covering his mounth. When Robin tells a joke about people from the south the host shows his DVD to calm Robin down when he rants about. Robin replies Danger Danger Will Robinson.

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    Your answer could be improved with additional supporting information. Please edit to add further details, such as citations or documentation, so that others can confirm that your answer is correct. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center.
    – fez
    Apr 8, 2022 at 7:53
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    This is far too late (2000s) to be what popularized the quote decades earlier.
    – DavidW
    Apr 8, 2022 at 11:30

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