Monday, May 25, 2015

"Lost in Space" - Of Green Girls and a Smitten Smith


The Flaming Nose TV Blog is proud to participate in the Summer of MeTV Classic TV Blogathon.  Be sure to check out the whole line-up at the home of the Classic TV Blog Association!



Her voice is a "mathematical progression" according to the Robot and Dr. Smith is "terribly flattered" by her attentions.  We're talking of course about Athena, the tantalizing extraterrestrial -- or might she be better described as "sextraterrestrial"? -- temptress who is introduced floating outside the Jupiter Two in the second season episode "Wild Adventure" on Irwin Allen's fabulous science fiction adventure series Lost in Space.  September 21, 1966 was the exact date of the pop culture debut of one of the most hilariously haunting characters from that show, a series filled with flamboyantly memorable characters writ large from producer Allen's vivid imagination, a stew where carrot men, space chimps, outer space Don Quixotes and the like merrily co-existed with but one mission -- pure audience entertainment.

From the first moment when our space Lorelei appears to Dr. Smith (as always played to feckless perfection by Jonathan Harris) on the Jupiter 2 viewscreen to the final moment -- at the end of the second episode to feature the very popular Athena character -- when Smith looks into the telescope and receives a farewell kiss from the Green Dimension, this space babe became TV legend.  Played by the alluring, extremely beautiful and undeniably exotic-looking (but Brooklyn-born) actress Vitina Marcus, Athena was unique, unusual, and unlike anything else audiences had ever experienced.  Marcus, a talented dancer as well as actress, had appeared on television and movie screens including a role in Irwin Allen's big screen version of The Lost World.  Allen brought her in to originate the guest role of Athena the Green Girl in "Wild Adventure" -- the character named after Vitina's own young daughter -- and the rest is TV history.  The response was so positive after her first appearance that Allen brought her back in "The Girl from the Green Dimension" later that same season.

Not only was Green Girl Athena mesmerizing for her special-hued looks but also for her captivating, sing-song musical vocal murmurings, especially so in the first episode.  She is nearly wordless in "Wild Adventure" yet manages expertly to get her point across via melodic cooings that not only entice Dr. Smith to near-mutiny but also draw the audience into her alien existence.  Her second appearance in "The Girl from the Green Dimension" puts her mostly on solid ground as she follows Smith and the Jupiter 2 to a planet where they are mining a substance precious to folks of her kind.  Here she communicates in a pidgin English dialect including the portentous phrase "Athena know much...many...everything" and of course the famous words she uses to describe the object of her affection, the unforgettable phrase "Handsome...pretty...handsome Dr. Smith."

It's a great credit to Vitina Marcus' ability and her own personality that Athena is so incredibly likable and a thoroughly charming though totally mysterious female.  Her first episode is rather serious territory -- the Jupiter 2 is thrown off-course and loses a chance to return to Earth because of her interference.  Her targeting of Dr. Smith is brilliant and he's a complete sucker for her hypnotic flattery.  When she reappears in her second episode, it's actually a genuine bedroom farce, with Athena declaring her love for the brave (she thinks) and handsome Smith (she also thinks, though there is some great dialogue when she is ascertaining that he is indeed not "a girl") and setting him up to do battle with an old boyfriend, the green and scary Urso, who has followed her to win her affections back.  Screams, chases, Will gets turned Green and other improbable though entertaining twists abound, and all through it Athena is friendly, delightful, flirtatious and entirely winning.  Were Dr. Smith able to fall for anyone except himself she could have been a lot of fun.

Seeing is believing in Athena's powers of persuasion. as seen here:












And in "The Girl from the Green Dimension" --






















Lost in Space airs on the terrific MeTV channel Saturday nights at midnight after Svengoolie and before airings of Irwin Allen's other classic series Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.  Here's their wonderful promo featuring actor Billy Mumy:




I will take this opportunity to tell my one interesting Lost in Space story.  When I was in Programming for Los Angeles independent channel KTLA back around 1980, I was pushing for adding Lost in Space to our line-up because of its inherent pop culture status -- perhaps not as cemented then as now but I know a legend when I see one -- and we began running it on Saturday and Sunday afternoons to solid ratings.  We had asked our 20th Century Fox sales rep if the Robot were still around and perhaps available for us to use in a promo or for display at the station.  He arranged for my colleague Dave and I to go to the Fox lot and look for it.  We did and were shown to a disassembled Robot in a big box, not only taken apart but also painted pink. Dave remembers that we did display it -- I sort of think we didn't -- but to see our beloved Robot in such a sorry state was a real glimpse into the impermanence of show biz fame!

Again, please visit the Classic TV Blog Association to find out about all the other great posts taking place this week at some terrific sites.  We will also be presenting a look at Bonanza this coming Thursday as part of the Blogathon!  And don't forget to watch MeTV 24 Hours a day during The Summer of MeTV!


10 comments:

Michael's TV Tray said...

When I was a kid, Athena used to scare me, but now I like her. I think Verda is still my favorite though.

Lisa said...

It seems like Athena scared a LOT of people! Perhaps she was TOO eerie in her first episode, eh? But she was pretty darn cute in her 2nd appearance!

Rick29 said...

I don't know...what can you say about a female alien that finds Dr. Smith "pretty"? Although I prefer the earlier LOST IN SPACE episodes (before Dr. Smith and Will took over), this one is pretty amusing. I've always wondered if the part where Will is turned green was a sly reference to the movie THE BOY WITH GREEN HAIR (where Dean Stockwell's hair color makes him an outcast--a stark contrast to how easily the Robinsons accept Will's new color). I adore your pics from this episode! So sad to hear about the robot.

Amanda By Night said...

Your still gallery of Athena is incredible! Thanks for the smiles.

I remember KTLA! Wow. I grew up in California, but was gone by the late 70s. That sounds like an awesome job!

David Hofstede said...

When ranking green women from classic TV sci-fi, I'm afraid my heart first belongs to Yvonne Craig on 'Star Trek' ("Whom the Gods Destroy") Athena was certainly memorable in her own right as well. I'll bet she will look even better on blu-ray when those sets are released!

Lisa said...

Thanks for all the comments! I agree with you, Rick29, the Robinson family was very accepting and that was nice to see. And I also agree, David, that Yvonne Craig in that Trek episode was so pouty and interesting, and of course getting to hang onto Steve Ihnat as Lord Garth was a moment to be savored, though it didn't help her much in the end, did it? :-) Green girls rule!

Joanna said...

Hahahaha! Thanks for the reminder about this traumatizing character! I guess I'm not the only one frightened by her. When I was young, my older sister used to chase me around the house imitating green Athena's "sing-song musical vocal murmurings" as you aptly put it. Great blog post, thanks :D

Daniel B? said...

My dad used to tell me "Danny, watch out for the green gals. They're a little strange." Well, they may be a little strange but they're clearly awesome. I wonder if my wife would mind covering herself in green makeup for the weekend?

Great post! Thank you!

Len Preston said...

Mysterious and beautiful and potentially deadly. This green temptress engaged my prepubescent early sexual interests. As well as the Queen in Queen of Blood and Vina as the Orion slave girl. The alien femme fatale was always very near and dear to my heart

Gilberto said...

One of the best moments of all TV series ever...