In the fall of 1965, the "family space adventure" Lost in Space debuted on CBS television.
The storyline concerned the launch of the Jupiter 2 on October 16, 1997. Professor John Robinson, his wife Maureen and their children, Judy, Penny and Will, along with Major Don West (the spaceship's pilot) compromised the world's first "space family," selected to colonize a planet in the Alpha Centauri star system. They would all be frozen in suspended animation for a 98-year journey. Dr. Zachary Smith became trapped on board while sabotaging the Robinsons’ spaceship prior to launch. His dastardly handiwork causes the ship to spiral off course and crash-land on a desert planet.
Another member of the crew was the wonderfully impressive Environmental Control Robot known simply as "Robot". Art Director Robert Kinoshita (the talent behind Robby the Robot from the movie, Forbidden Planet) designed the automaton, finishing the suit to accomodate diminutive character actor Bob May. May spoke the robot's lines on stage, pressing a small telegraph switch inside the left claw in sync with the syllables to activate the neon in the chest plate. He would see out through the slatted collar with the upper half of his face blackened to avoid showing up on camera.
The television voice of Robot was provided by Dick Tufeld, already employed as the show's announcer. During the interview/sound test, producer Irwin Allen explained he wanted a cultured, laid back voice for his robot. After twenty minutes, Allen decided that Tufeld just wasn't what he was looking for. As he turned to leave, Tufeld asked him if could try one more thing. He delivered a series of robotian mechanical lines as he had originally intended, including the now famous "Warning, that does not compute." Allen looked stunned and said, "That's it! What took you so long?"
Dick Tufeld was never on the set for filming of the episodes. During post-production, he would come into the studio and loop the robots voice, using recordings of Bob May's lines delivered on the set played through headphones to synchronize with the original soundtrack. The sound engineers would then work to mix Tufeld's voice into the show. Depending on the number of lines to be recorded (the Robot often having more lines than the principal actors), it could take one and a half to two hours to lay down 60 to 70 lines of dialogue for one episode.
Tufeld reprised his role some 30 years later in 1998 for the motion picture version of Lost In Space.
- from various internet sources
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