This is my entry for the Favourite TV Show Episode Blogathon. I’ve loved Lost In Space since childhood, so naturally, I chose my favorite episode, All That Glitters (tied with The Reluctant Stowaway), from the show.
As we join our intrepid space pioneers, we learn that the men (sans Smith, of course) are heading off on an expedition in search of water. The women and Smith see the men off and the good doctor mentions that due to the pleasant evening, he thinks he’ll sleep under the stars that night. Maureen advises that he sleep inside the boundaries of the forcefield, to which he replies, “Oh, come, come, madame. What could possibly happen on a quiet, peaceful evening like this?” Answer: A lot, doctor. A lot.
It seems a notorious intergalactic thief, Ohan (Larry Ward), has made it to their planet and is being pursued by doggedly determined Officer Bollix (Werner Klemperer) of the Galaxy Law Enforcement Agency. While Doctor Smith and Penny are picking berries, they come across the exhausted and starving Ohan. Smith tells Penny to run, but when she sees the shape the alien is in, she wants to help. When Ohan grabs her, Smith, true to form, runs away.
Smith makes it back to the Jupiter 2 and informs Maureen and Judy of Penny’s fate. Maureen rightly criticizes Smith for leaving her behind, at which Smith expresses a bit of remorse for having done so. When Maureen tells him to take her and Judy back to Penny, Smith is hesitant to do so until he arms himself. Maureen says there isn’t time and promises that she and Judy will protect him. Smith’s cowardice is on full display in this episode.
The threesome rush off to find Penny only to run across Officer Bollix’s giant furry tracking creatures, who proceed to chase Smith, Maureen, and Judy back to the Jupiter 2. Safe inside the Jupiter 2, Judy and Smith lament Penny’s possible fate, but Penny interrupts their discussion to state that she’s fine. She’s brought Ohan back to the ship, let him shower, given him food, and allowed him to use Smith’s clothes and cabin, to which Smith takes great offense.
Penny tells them all she knows about Ohan. While Smith and the others debate whether or not to make him leave, he appears and states he’ll be leaving of his own accord due to the danger he’s put them in already. He also gives them a demonstration of his thievery, removing Smith’s watch without anyone noticing. He then bids them adieu.
Later, while enjoying a meal together, Officer Bollix appears with his tracking creatures to ask them if they have seen the fugitive. The Robinson women and Smith explain that Ohan had been there but left the previous night. The belligerent Officer Bollix is hesitant to believe them and insists on searching the Jupiter 2.
As Officer Bollix searches the Jupiter 2, he reveals that Ohan’s escape was planned so they could follow him to find something of great value that he stole. Outside the Jupiter 2, Penny reveals to Smith that Ohan gave her something to keep for him, the key to the greatest treasure in the whole galaxy. Of course, that piques Smith’s interest and he schemes to get it for himself. He swears Penny to secrecy so Officer Bollix won’t know.
As soon as Officer Bollix leaves, Smith discovers he can communicate with the key and asks it where the treasure lies. It asks him if he truly wants to know, warning that others have paid a great price for their greed, but Smith persists in asking for directions to the treasure. Penny, despite her misgivings, goes along with Smith on his hunt.
The treasure, it turns out, is a large ring. As Smith is trying to determine how it works, Ohan appears and wants to talk to Penny about the key. He wants it back and asks Smith to get it for him, but Smith makes excuses for not doing so (not wanting to wake Penny up at such a late hour). He then tells Ohan to meet him at the same time the next day.
After his encounter with Ohan, he discovers the ring has a clasp and it fits around the neck. Upon picking up a flower, the flower turns into platinum and Smith now knows the secret of the ring. Yes, this is a modern day King Midas story, cleverly repurposed for this episode. Smith schemes to get Ohan out of the way, so he can have the ring to himself, by conspiring with Officer Bollix to capture the thief.
At breakfast the next day, Smith finds the downside of greed. As he demonstrates the ring’s power to the others, by turning eating utensils into platinum, he soon realizes that it also turns food and drink into platinum. He tries in vain to remove the ring and comes to the realization that he is condemned to a slow death due to starvation and dehydration. He becomes despondent, unable to be near them because of the danger he poses, so he sets up camp outside the ship. When Penny talks to him over the radio, he tells them he is going to leave for their own protection and wander off into the wilderness to die like a wounded animal. Penny begs him not to leave, but his mind is made up.
The next day as Penny and Judy are talking around Smith’s newly minted platinum camp supplies, Officer Bollix returns looking for the ring. He accuses them of keeping the ring for themselves and betraying Ohan. They tell him the truth, that Smith has the ring and left because he poses a danger to them. Officer Bollix doesn’t believe them and arrests them, but Penny runs off to find Doctor Smith.
Penny follows the trail of platinum and finds Smith on a rock, bemoaning his fate. She begs Smith to come tell Officer Bollix the truth so he’ll release Maureen and Judy. Smith warns her to stay away and says there’s nothing he can do. Penny, for a moment, forgets Smith’s affliction and grabs his arm as if to pull him along to Officer Bollix. Smith pushes her away, but it is too late. She instantly turns to platinum. When Smith sees what has happened, he cries “Oh, no. No. Penny, what have I done to you?” and runs off to help the others, like she wanted.
With nothing more left to lose, Smith summons courage that is often very foreign to him and confronts Officer Bollix. He demands that he release the ladies and takes responsibility for taking the ring. When Officer Bollix doesn’t believe him, he threatens to turn him into platinum. Still not believing, Smith has to demonstrate his power in order to convince him. Turning a small rock into platinum does the trick and Officer Bollix and his creatures beat a hasty retreat.
With the threat gone, Smith tells Maureen and Judy to return to the Jupiter 2. Maureen asks him to return with them, but he says he’s going to return to the wilderness, which is a fitting end for someone like him. When Maureen and Judy inquire as to Penny’s whereabouts, Smith tells them “I haven’t the courage to tell you” and runs off.
Then, in one of the most touching scenes of the entire series, Smith returns to platinum Penny. He laments “Oh, Penny. Forgive me for what I’ve done. Forgive me,” and places a kiss on her platinum cheek. Heartbreaking. The voice from the key speaks up again and tells him he’s a foolish man because he had everything necessary for happiness and he gave it all up for a cold, unfeeling metal. Smith begs the voice to spare Penny, that she shouldn’t be made to suffer for his folly. When the voice asks if he’s learned a lesson, Smith admits he has, and the voice offers to make an exception and spare him. He states that he doesn’t care about himself and it’s only Penny he wants saved. A time when Smith puts someone else before himself is a rare time indeed! He begs the voice to make Penny normal, but the voice remains silent. Fearing all is lost, he grows despondent again. But then, he feels a hand on his shoulder and hears Penny’s voice tell him that she’s perfectly fine.
Overjoyed, Smith kisses her cheek and vows to be a changed man. Penny notices that the lights on the ring have turned off. Smith discovers there is again a catch on the back of the ring and removes it. Maureen and Judy catch up to the duo and Penny explains that Doctor Smith has been saved and is turning over a new leaf. Maureen says that’s wonderful, but it will take a lot of effort. Yeah, we all know how that will turn out, don’t we. 😉 And here Smith utters the immortal line “All that glitters is not gold.” He adds, “The same can be said for platinum.”
On the way back to the ship, Smith spies a platinum flower. He picks it and says “Someone might as well have it and it might as well be me.” Yes, a minute later, he’s already failed that whole vow about turning over a new leaf.
Maureen and the other Robinson ladies are center stage in this episode, which is rare through the run of the show. It’s a nice change of pace. The story is simple, devoid of the usual flashy special effects that accompany science fiction, but it doesn’t need them. I do have some nitpicks, however, like the fact that Smith touches a sandwich and shakes hands with Officer Bollix AFTER he puts the ring around his neck and neither turn into platinum. Continuity was not one of the show’s strong points, but in the context of this story, it can be overlooked.
Smith is a very flawed character, plagued by human failings like greed and selfishness. Those flaws get him in plenty of trouble, but rarely do we see such depths of remorse from Smith. He has a soft spot for the children and the Robinson ladies and when his “folly”, as he calls it, imperils one of them, he seems to sincerely regret it. All That Glitters is one of the few episodes that shows that this “villain” does have a heart and a conscience and therefore is not ALL bad.
Sure, Smith will revert to form in the next episode, but for a brief moment, we see the human side of Smith, the light instead of the dark. He is capable of summoning the courage to face the music or doing the right or noble thing. He simply chooses not to most of the time.
This episode highlights the complexities of Doctor Smith. The Robinsons and Major West can be counted to do the right thing all the time. They are the ideal we all wish we could live up to. Smith, however, is closer to who we really are… flawed and struggling to do the right thing, especially if it conflicts with what we desire.
I am a sucker for a good redemption story and this episode definitely qualifies. That’s why it’s my favorite episode.
Watch All That Glitters and other Lost In Space season one episodes online!