This was a classic we used to watch afternoons in Cleveland on Channel 43. Lost In Space featured the adventures of the Robinson family, who are sent into space but sent off course because they have a saboteur trapped aboard the Jupiter 2. Dr. Zachary Smith is one of the best known good/bad guys in science fiction, a comic predecessor to Gaius Baltar from the rebooted Battlestar Galactica. The family consisted of Dr. John Robinson, his wife Maureen, daughters Judy and Penny, and son Will. John, played by former Zorro Guy Williams, was the level-headed center of the crew. Maureen (June Lockhart) was one of the more unusual TV moms, every bit Carol Brady or Marian Cunningham, only Carol and Mrs. C did not have to deal with aliens, monsters, or a smart alek robot. Judy (Marta Kristen) was the beauty queen, often paired off with pilot Don West (Mark Goddard, whose job included crashing the Jupiter 2 weekly) while Penny (Angela Cartwright, whose sister Veronica would join the ill-fated crew of the Nostromo in Alien) was the hormonally beset teenager. Then there’s Will (Bill Mumy), the boy genius who had a rather disturbing friendship with Dr. Smith.
It’s Smith, along with the sonorous-voiced Robot, who made the show. The Robot, at first a coldly mechanical machine that spouted information, developed a sense of humor, became Will’s best friend, and often played Laurel to Smith’s Hardy. Smith, played by Jonathan Harris, began as a rather dark character. However, as time went on, it became clear that they’d have to kill him off if they didn’t change him. So Harris began playing him as an effeminate schemer, not nearly as competent as he was in the pilot and first few episodes. Often, his schemes would bring the Robinson’s into conflict with various aliens. Just as often, the Robot would save his fat from the fryer. The Robot would become, ironically, the one character who could voice what the audience was thinking.
Below, Harris talks about Smith vs. the Robot between a series of clips.