Episode 28

The Mechanical Men

Dr Smith is performing a chemistry experiment with the goal of refining a new fuel formula to power the Jupiter 2. When the experiment results in an explosion, Smith wanders off to console himself after the failure. He beds down for a short doze. When he awakens he is tied down with ropes and surrounded by hundreds of mini robots.

The leader of the ‘mechanical men’ addresses Dr Smith, referring to him as a “cowardly weakling” and a “physical and mental pygmy”. Meanwhile, one by one, the Robinson’s outdoor equipment – including their force filed and a weather station – is sabotaged. When John asks the family’s robot if he knows anything about it, he refuses to answer – saying it is a question of loyalty.

The entire miniaturised mechanical men army arrives at the Robinson’s camp. They insist the family’s robot is their spiritual head and demand his immediate release. John refuses but the mechanical men remind him they have Dr Smith as their hostage.

The robot agrees to give himself over to the mechanical men and travels to their campsite. When he arrives the robot is greeted as a hero and told the miniaturised army has waited many centuries for this moment.

However after a while the mechanical men come to believe that the robot – their newly-appointed ‘supreme and majestic leader’ – is too nice. They are of the view that a true leader must also possess ruthlessness, slyness and powers of manipulation. The mini machines recognise they have an alternative leader in their midst – Dr Smith – who possesses these very qualities in abundance.

They perform an operation of ‘character readjustment’ – infusing Dr Smith’s sly qualities with the robot’s nice ones. After the operation Dr Smith speaks like the robot and moves stiffly like a machine. The robot, in turn, speaks with Dr Smith’s voice.

Taking fully to his new role as the leader of the mechanical men, the ‘Smith character-enhanced’ robot demands the Robinson’s hand over their spaceship so that he and the miniature army can return to their home planet of Industro. Believing they have no other choice, the Robinson’s make plans to pack up their belongings and vacate the Jupiter 2.

Dr Smith, still speaking with the robot’s voice following the ‘operation’, goes to the mechanical men’s camp to convince them to change their minds. Instead they launch a full-force, sneak attack on the Jupiter 2. In the course of the battle, the robot is hit with a lazer beam. This acts to restore the proper personalities of the robot and Dr Smith.

With their leader gone and their plans in ruins, the mechanical men retreat and leave the planet.

Screenwriter Barney Slater (1923 – 1978) wrote a total of 21 episodes of Lost In Space, including this one. The only person to write more was Peter Packer, with 25 episodes. Among a great many film and television writing credits, Slater wrote the story for the 1973 John Wayne movie CAHILL U.S. MARSHALL.

He died tragically from injuries sustained in a hit and run car accident in Los Angeles in 1978.