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 GNPD 8044

Artwork copyright (c) 1996 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation; review copyright (c) 2004 James Southall


LOST IN SPACE volume one

Surprisingly disappointing early tv music from Williams


In days gone by, the world's favourite film composer, John Williams, wasn't the world's favourite film composer at all.  While contemporaries like Elmer Bernstein, Jerry Goldsmith, John Barry and co were scoring big movies, winning Oscars and so on, Williams was working on a string of dreadful lightweight comedies (generally writing dreadful lightweight scores) and in television, particularly for various Irwin Allen series.  Best remembered (both the music and the show) is Lost in Space, about the adventures of a spacefaring family, the Robinsons.  

Common practice at the time, many episodes were scored with "tracked" music from other sources - the pilot episode used Bernard Herrmann's scores for various Fox films - but some were properly scored with original music, which itself then became "library" music for the remainder of the series.  Williams scored four early episodes, three of which are represented on this album.  This music is often represented as being some sort of preview of Star Wars, but in truth the Johnny Williams of 1965 is extremely different from the John Williams of 1977.  The main theme is far less famous than the one Williams himself wrote for the third season, but remains the best thing about this music by a country mile.  It's silly, but fun, and certainly suggests an entertaining hour may be on its way.

Unfortunately, the tone of the underscore for the first episode, "The Reluctant Stowaway", is largely bleak, dark, Herrmannesque suspense music.  Sadly, it's dreary and really not particularly interesting.  Put it against, say, the music from the original series of Star Trek and there's simply no comparison.  There are just little moments of class, but these are generally only a few bars long, and stuck in the middle of tracks which last eight or nine minutes.  The one exception is the silly "The Weightless Waltz", but even this is somewhat disposable.  Fortunately, the scores for the other two episodes featured on the album, "Island in the Sky" and "The Hungry Sea", are far stronger.  The action music is rather melodramatic, but even so there are some exciting moments, with Williams offering tantalising glimpses of the strong writing for brass with which he would later become so associated.  The only disappointment is the lack of any real thematic development - this is pure incidental underscore.

I guess this must go down as a disappointment - the thought of finally getting John Williams's earliest music in the science fiction genre was one to savour, but the truth is that he was still very much finding his feet as a composer.  The half of the album taken up by the first episode's score is dull and, while the second half is incomparably better, there is still not all that much that sets the music apart from that being written by tv music journeymen of the day.  Certainly interesting from an historical perspective, but not all that interesting from a musical one.

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  1. Main Title (:58)

The Reluctant Stowaway

  1. Smith's Evening / Judo Chop / On the Pad / Countdown (8:55)
  2. Escape Velocity / Robot Control / Meteor Storm / Defrosting (7:59)
  3. The Weightless Waltz (2:32)
  4. The Monster Rebels / A Walk in Space / Finale (7:53)

Island in the Sky

  1. Suiting Up / Stranglehold / The Landing / Search for John (12:21)
  2. Tractor Play-On / Electric Sagebrush / Will is Threatened (2:33)

The Hungry Sea

  1. The Earthquake (2:44)
  2. Chariot Titles / Farenheit A Go-Go / The Chariot Continues / Sunstorm (3:43)
  3. Morning After / The Inland Sea / Land Ho / Strange Visitor (7:55)
  1. End Title (:50)