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In the original Lost in Space pilot (which, by the way, is well worth seeing to show what the show could have been), there is no Robot and Dr. Smith is not present. I've heard and read that the network requested changes, which resulted in the addition of Jonathan Harris as Dr. Smith as well as the Robot.

I know a plot device was used where the Robinson's went on a trip without Dr. Smith or the Robot so producers could use the footage from the original pilot in several episodes.

From what I've heard, the intent was to use Doctor Smith in the beginning as a reason for the Jupiter II to go off course and have to make a forced landing. This was the reason Jonathan Harris was listed as "Special Guest Star" on the credits. The intent was, after several episodes, to write him out of the show. While I've heard less about this, I've heard June Lockhart mention it in interviews, so I think it's valid.

The other part I've heard, and I'm not sure how accurate this is, is that Jonathan Harris intentionally modified his performance to make Dr. Smith less of a threat and more of an endearing goof-up so he would become more popular and it would be harder for the producers to remove him. I understand this played in with the producers' plans to make the show more camp and colorful to compete with Batman on another network.

So instead of Dr. Smith being written out of the script, Jonathan Harris remained for the full run of the show, listed as "Special Guest Star" for the entire time.

While I know most of the above is verified and there are some points I'm not sure of, the one thing I've never heard or found was if there was a plan in place for writing the character out of the show. Did any of the cast or crew ever mention that at any point?

  • Same as with the other question you answered - but considering the time I asked this, I know I was really active on the site at that point. I don't know why I didn't keep up with this. – Tango Jul 2 '16 at 2:29
  • No problem. I try to go back and make sure I pick answers on my questions. If I find an answer that is close, but doesn't cover all I feel it should, I try to leave comments so the poster can improve their answer. If you find more questions where I didn't pick an answer, feel free to point it out. I used to have a good amount of time to spend on the site, but that's no longer the case, so I do miss a lot. – Tango Jul 3 '16 at 14:42
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According to this interview with Jonathan Harris for DVDtalk (audio version here), the decision to award him "Special Guest Star" status had nothing whatsoever to do with any supposed decision to kill of his character and more to do with the fact that he was a last minute addition.

I called Allen and said, "I solved your billing problem." "Eh? What?," said Mr. Charm. I said, "I will accept last position: Special Guest Star Jonathan Harris." Well, the next 20 minutes you would not have believed! "YOU GODDAMN ACTORS YOU CAN'T ACT ANYWAY! NONE OF YOU ARE WORTH A NICKEL AND I'VE GOTTA PAY ALL YOU BASTARDS!!!" And on and on. [Laughter.] I didn't open my mouth! I just sat there and listened. "YOU CAN'T ACT ANY OF YOU. YOU'RE THE WORST OF ALL, YOU CAN'T ACT AT ALL!!!" On and on. I took a deep breath and said, "OK!" and hung up. Amazing! That was the first time that kind of outvie billing occurred. Now, of course, billing is total madness: "With the Special Appearance of ... With the Appearance of ... With a Cameo Appearance of ... " I started that whole crap! [Laughter.]

When he joined the cast, he was offered a one-series contract (along with the rest of the cast) so there's no immediate reason to presume that the studio had any particular desire or plans to remove him. Indeed, contractually it would have made no sense to do so since they'd have had to pay him either way.

He does speak about his decision to make his character more personable (especially by interacting with the robot and hamming up his lines with alliteration) but he clearly indicates that this wasn't about preserving his part but rather he credits it for keeping the series popular.

Irwin wanted me to play a deep-dyed, snarling villain. "Grrrrrrr!" One of those. That worried me. I'd done many villains in my career. Mostly comedic villains, which I loved. They're fun! You can be very bad, but you can then redeem yourself, so that the people love you instead of hate you. Clever, clever! We did about three episodes with me sort of "Grrrrrrr!" and Irwin saying, "Brilliant! Brilliant! You've got a wonderful face!" He was so full of s@#%! [Laughter.] And I knew that. Then I began to think, "I'm justly famous for comedic villains. I really am." Because I developed it, I enjoyed it and I loved it. What to do? I said to myself, "I'm going to sneak in a few bits and see what happens." So I did. Nothing happened! So I snuck in some more bits. My bits. My facial expressions. Nothing happened. I said, "Well, I may be able to swing this!"

One day, I was in my dressing room which I had on the set. I liked it that way, so I could escape when Irwin came down to kill the director. Oh, he was a wicked man! In barges Irwin Allen. He had a habit, when he talked to me, of sticking his finger right under my nose. I couldn't stand it. I knew one day I would bite off that finger! He said, "YOU!," with that finger under my nose. "AND?," I said. "DO MORE!," he said. Well, what then ensued was, for the first time in my vast career, I was allowed to do anything I wanted! To write, rewrite, to develop the relationship with The Robot. I did that! The wonderful alliterations that I dreamed up by the thousand! "YOU BUBBLE-HEADED BOOBY!" [Applause.] "YOU NEANDERTHAL NINNY!!!" [Laughter.] All of that I wrote. Thousands of them. I kept a pad next to me bed and in the middle of the night I'd say, "OH! That's a good one!" [Laughter.] Then use it the next day.

  • That is great stuff. "...when Irwin came down to kill the director." lol – PoloHoleSet Aug 26 '16 at 16:31

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