Sunday, January 29, 2012

RIP Dick Tufeld: Voice of the Lost in Space Robot

One of the most iconic voices from 1960's era television passed away this week. The Flaming Nose mourns Dick Tufeld, who was best known as the voice of the robot in the Irwin Allen series "Lost in Space". He left this earth at the age of 85, and we are all richer by at at least a dozen catch phrases for his work in television.

Lost in Space is one of the most beloved science fiction series ever, particularly for baby boomers who grew up appreciating its absurdist sensibility. Unlike Star Trek, which thanks to Gene Roddenbury had real science as the basis for many stories, Lost in Space was pure fun. It featured alien planets which were chock full of magicians, opera singers, giant talking carrots and sparkling green ladies wearing bowl hats. The first time I realized that the 4th wall was broken on my TV set as a child, was when I could clearly see that the mine field Irwin Allen had created on a God forsaken asteroid was constructed from colored plastic beach balls. Okey dokey, so the production budget was a little light for Lost in Space.

Of all the characters on Lost In Space, the most compassionate, caring and well... human, was the lovely robot. He was brave and sensistive and able to tolerate the most brutal hazing from his nemesis "Dr. Smith", who routinely referred to him as a "bubble headed booby". Thanks to the talent of Mr. Tufeld, we all believed in the robot when he would slump with sorrow or flail his retractable arms and bellow "Danger Will Robinson". Although I could identify best with the Robinson kids Will (Billy Mumy) and Penny (Angela Cartwright), the Robot was always my favorite.

Take a moment to remember a TV show from a kinder, gentler and definitely sillier age. His character may have said "that does not compute", but we all understand that the man who gave voice to the Robot will be missed.


jim said...

That voice still takes me right back to the days my brother & I would build a fort in the Living Room (out of a couple of chairs, some pillows & a few blankets), & watch "Lost in Space".

The Robot was always my favorite.

Peace to you, Dick Tufeld. You will be remembered.

Jane said...

What a wonderful memory, Jim. I grew up watching TV inside of couch caves too. Somehow it all seemed better inside those fortresses, even on an old black and white set!

Lisa said...

Truly one of the most memorable voices from a much-populated TV landscape! Did I ever tell about the time we were doing a "Lost in Space" marathon on KTLA and we went over to 20th Century Fox to look for the robot? It was in storage, painted pink -- we didn't use it after all!

Tufeld's wonderful performance as The Robot brought this charming character to full life; indeed he was the most beloved of the Robinson family, though Dr. Smith was probably the most delightful, and Will the smartest.

What a great series, so wonderful and yet so different from our other cultural highpoint here, "Star Trek". You've got to love them both!

Thanks for a great post, Jane!

Jane said...

I wonder who the heck would have painted the poor robot pink? What a fabulous story...and mystery! That was long before the Susan G. Komen breast cancer stuff, otherwise I would have suggested that someone was trying to get the robot into a walk for the cure? Maybe he was in a gay pride march? Someone should do an investigation!