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SYFY WIRE Lost in Space

Danger, Will Robinson! How The 1998 Lost in Space Movie Was Supposed to Launch the Next Star Trek-Style Franchise

Even Gary Oldman turning into a grotesque alien-spider monster wasn't enough to save this adaptation of the '60s-era TV series.

By Josh Weiss
Gary Oldman, William Hurt, Heather Graham and Matt LeBlanc stand with a space machine in Lost In Space (1998)

Throughout the '90s, Hollywood was absolutely obsessed with turning TV shows from the 1960s into feature films.

We're not entirely sure why, but studio executives most likely reasoned they could easily capitalize on the nostalgia of now-grown kids who came of age with such boob tube classics as The Addams Family, Wild Wild WestThe FugitiveThe Beverly HillbilliesMy Favorite Martian, The Flintstones, McHale's NavyMission: Impossible, The Avengers, and, of course, the subject of this particular article: Lost in Space. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn't. Unfortunately, Lost in Space falls into the latter camp.

Lost in Space Movie from 1998 Was Supposed to Have Two Tie-In Series

Airing on SYFY this weekend, the 1998 blockbuster centered around the cosmos-traversing Robinson family (danger! danger!) was New Line Cinema's attempt to launch "a Star Trek-type franchise," according to this Variety article from February 1997.

"There are 70 million baby boomers out there who remember the original Lost in Space because it combines family adventure with sci-fi action,” then-New Line TV president Bob Friedman told the trade magazine. Before the movie even opened, Friedman had grand plans for a pair of small screen titles, one animated and one live-action, that would tie into the big screen translation.

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The Variety report continued: "New Line also is wooing a major advertiser to participate in the movie tie-in and to buy large blocks of time on the animated and live-action series. Friedman said if he doesn’t do a network deal for the animated program, New Line would put it into TV syndication, possibly as early as January, in advance of the theatrical release. If the theatrical is a hit, New Line might wait until the inevitable sequel is released before going into production with the live-action series in network primetime, he said." 

Needles to say, none of that happened.

Written by Akiva Goldsman (scribe of I, Robot and co-creator of Star Trek: Picard) and directed by Stephen Hopkins (known for helming A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child and Predator 2), Lost in Space featured an all-star cast comprised of William Hurt, Heather Graham, Gary Oldman, Lacey Chabert, Mimi Rogers, Jared Harris, and Matt LeBlanc. It opened on April 3, 1998 to overwhelmingly negative reviews, a Golden Raspberry nomination, and tepid box office returns.

By the end of its global run, the film had only grossed $136 million worldwide against a budget of $80 million, most of which probably went to the project's visual effects. Not even Oldman hamming it up as a grotesque alien-spider monster (the actor's performance as Dr. Smith nabbed a nod from the Saturn Awards) was enough to save Friedman's ambitious vision for a new genre franchise. The IP went into hibernation after that, lying dormant until it was revived as a TV show that ran for a total of three seasons a few years ago.

Lost in Space airs on SYFY this Saturday — May 4 — at 12:35 a.m. ET and 10:35 a.m. ET. Click here for more scheduling info!