When we moved to NZ we didn’t have a TV (apart from a rental during the Commonwealth Games when they were in Christchurch), so I’d often be around at my friends houses watching TV with them. These are three of the shows that I remember from that time, though I kept watching them when we got a television. Two are set in outer space: one on a world just like ours except for one difference; the other set on a different (but often similar) planet every week. The other in different points of Earth’s history. All were created by Irwin Allen (who was also responsible for the Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea series)
Land of the Giants (1968-1970)
The premise for this show was fairly simple. A commercial spaceship carrying passengers crashes on a planet. That planet is just like mid-20th Earth, except that the crew of the spaceship are tiny compared to everything else. While attempting to escape back to their own world, the crew and passengers have to negotiate the (giant) human populace, domestic pets, insects and spiders, and random perils like toadstool dust.
Along the way there are episodes that served as morality plays about current American society. This was also one of the first TV programmes I can remember that had an African-American actor in a significant role (the next being, Elizabeth, in The Tomorrow People).
World’s most unimaginative opening title sequence for Season 1, but great music (John Williams).
Someone must have told them, so Season 2 was visually more interesting.
There were comics, books, View Master discs, and model kits, but you could also get a lunchbox!
Lost in Space (1966-1968)
The classic TV show, Lost in Space, was also on TV at the same time as Land of the Giants. A similar pretext too, with another spaceship lost in the outer reachers of space and on a quest to return to Earth. Here the crew are a family, the Robinsons, in a play on The Swiss Family Robinson novel, with U.S. Space Corps Major Donald West and Dr Zachary Smith (who sabotages the ship before launch but gets trapped on it).
The show was notable for introducing expressions like ‘Danger, Will Robinson!’ to the popular culture lexicon, as well reinforcing the form of the classic space robot which wouldn’t be reimagined until Star Wars. (Billy Mumy played the youngest Robinson, and much later on played Lennier in Babylon 5, featured in an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space 9, and had a cameo in the first episode of the rebooted Lost in Space (2018)).
Each of the three seasons had a different title sequence, running for a total of 83 episodes, and the show was cancelled before they could get home. Here is the Season 3 opening credits:
In 2018, Netflix released a rebooted Lost in Space, which I watched for a bit but then gave up on. I may come back to it, but I didn’t empathise with any of the characters.
The Time Tunnel (1966-1967)
Just one season of this show was made, comprising 30 episodes, about two scientists at a top-secret US military experiment getting trapped in time. Foreshadowing Quantum Leap by just over 20 years, the show’s premise has the two main characters jumping to a new point of history in each episode (typically at the end of the previous episode). All the while, they and the scientists back at the project are trying to get them back home to the right time.
The show was cancelled after one season, with the final episode depositing the characters on the deck of the Titanic, the location of their first time jump, leading to the conclusion they were doomed to be trapped in an eternal time loop. [The final episode also include aliens in the near future so perhaps a good place to stop]
A rebooted series was proposed twice in the 2000s but never got off the ground. However, the pilot episode for the 2002 reboot is available in the Time Tunnel DVD set.