Lost in Space
Dr. Zachary Smith
Whoever suggested that “in space no one can hear you scream” had obviously never watched or more accurately heard Dr. Zachary Smith shriek in terror at the many alien lifeforms he encountered in sixties’ sci-fi series Lost in Space. Anyone who ever watched this particular show will remember two things: the Robot—apparently a “Class M-3 Model B9, General Utility Non-Theorizing Environmental Control Robot,” and the cowardly, interfering, cunning and comic Dr. Zachary Smith unforgettably played by Jonathan Harris—an actor whose mere appearance on screen could enliven the dullest fair. Though neither of these characters were included in the original unaired pilot, both quickly became central to the show’s success.
Lost in Space (1965-68) followed the (mis)adventures of the “Space Family Robinson,” a clan of astronauts, astrophysicists, biologists and their incredibly smart offspring, whose expedition into space was sabotaged by Dr. Smith, sending them altogether with their rocket (Jupiter Two) into the furthest reaches of the universe.
Jonathan Harris was a damned fine actor who, with his clipped mid-Atlantic accent and refined features, once considered the possibility of becoming another Cary Grant, but sense thankfully prevailed,and Harris knew he was best suited to being a character actor. Harris was originally just a guest star on Lost in Space, but as the series developed, and budgets were cut, he was encouraged to rewrite his dialog (“Never fear, Smith is here!” “Oh the pain, the pain…”) and add mannerisms to his character, as co-star Billy Mumy, who played Smith’s young side-kick the child prodigy William, said in 2002:
“...we’d start working on a scene together, and he’d have a line, and then in the script I’d have my reply, and he’d say, ‘No, no, no, dear boy. No, no, no. Before you say that, The Robot will say this, this, this, this, this, this, and this, and then, you’ll deliver your line.’
“He truly, truly singlehandedly created the character of Dr. Zachary Smith that we know — this man, we love-to-hate, coward who would cower behind the little boy, ‘Oh, the pain! Save me, William!’ That’s all him!”
For those who fondly remember Lost in Space, or just fans of the great Jonathan Harris, this three minutes of Dr. Zachary’s screams are utter bliss.
With thanks to Tim Lucas!