Robot B-9

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Robot
Lost in Space character
Lost in Space Jonathan Harris & Robot 1967.jpg
The Robot with Jonathan Harris as Dr. Smith
Created by Robert Kinoshita
Portrayed by Bob May
Voiced by Dick Tufeld

The B-9, Class M-3 General Utility Non-Theorizing Environmental Control Robot was a character in the television series Lost in Space. Known and addressed simply as "Robot", his full designation was only occasionally mentioned on the show.[1][2]

History[edit]

Although a machine endowed with superhuman strength and futuristic weaponry, he often displayed human characteristics, such as laughter, sadness, and mockery, as well as singing and playing the guitar. The Robot was performed by Bob May[3] in a prop costume built by Bob Stewart.[2] The voice was primarily dubbed by Dick Tufeld,[4] who was also the series' narrator and Jorge Arvizu for the Spanish dubbing. The Robot was designed by Robert Kinoshita, who also designed Forbidden Planet's Robby the Robot.[5] Robby appears in Lost in Space episode #20 "War of the Robots" and in episode #60 "Condemned of Space". The Robot did not appear in the unaired pilot episode, but was added to the series once it had been greenlit.

Initially, the bellows-covered legs were articulated, and were moved separately by the actor inside. However, the metal edges inside the suit cut actor Bob May's legs, so changes were made. The legs were bolted together, and the robot was pulled along by a wire instead of walking as it had done before. A new lower section was constructed with the legs cut off at the knee. This was filmed either in close-up or behind something to obscure the actor's feet protruding out the bottom; this version of the suit was informally referred to by the cast and crew as "the Bermuda shorts."[6][7]

Features and abilities[edit]

Robot B-9 consisted, from top down, of

  1. A glass bubble sensor unit with moving antennae;
  2. A fluted, translucent ring collar (actually an arrangement of shaped ribs, through which performer Bob May could see);
  3. A cylindrical, rotating trunk section with extending bellows arms that terminated in red mechanical claws. The trunk section had controls, indicators, a removable power pack and a signature chest light that illuminated in synchrony with the Robot's speech (May had a key inside the suit that he would tap in time with his speech to illuminate the light, resulting in some scenes where one of the claws can be seen moving in time with the light);
  4. Bellows legs that were understood to move with some agility but which, due to real-world practical limitations, were rarely seen on camera to move separately; and
  5. Trapezoidal tread-tractor units at the bottom of each leg. These normally paired as a single locomotive device, but they also could function as individual feet. The leg and tractor sections apparently could be readily detached, allowing the Robot to be positioned in the rear of the Chariot ATV, although the actual disconnect operation was depicted only once.

According to the series

  1. The Robot possessed powerful computers that allowed him to make complex calculations and to deduce many facts;
  2. He had a variety of sensors that detected numerous phenomena and dangers;
  3. He was programmed with extensive knowledge on many subjects, including how to operate the Jupiter 2 spaceship;
  4. His construction allowed him to function in extreme environments and in the vacuum of space;
  5. He was extremely strong, giving him utility both in performing difficult labor and in fighting when necessary. Moreover, his claws could fire laser beams and, most frequently, a powerful "electro-force" that was similar to arcing electricity.

In one first season episode, Dr. Smith was seen to remove the robot's programming tapes, which resemble a small reel of magnetic tape, from a hatch below the robot's chest panel.

After Lost In Space[edit]

Two versions of the robot were used during Lost in Space filming – a "hero robot" costume worn by Bob May, and a static, "stunt robot" prop that was used for distant or hazardous shots. Both versions fell into disrepair after the series, but these have since been discovered and restored. The "hero" is privately owned by TV and film producer Kevin Burns, who commissioned a replica in the early 1990s for touring and conventions. The "stunt robot" is in storage at the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame in Seattle, Washington.

Like Robby the Robot, the B-9 Robot prop costume was re-used on at least one other show. On the Saturday morning children's show Mystery Island, it was modified to make the primary character "P.O.P.S." There it had different domes, different color scheme, and an added rectangular skirt of gold-colored tubes, covering the rubber bellows legs and base.

Full-size replicas of the robot are available commercially. Other versions have been built by hobbyists around the world,[8][9] who have built at least 15 detailed full-size replicas of the Robot.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Hamilton, John (September 1, 2006). Science Fiction in the Media (illustrated ed.). Edina, Minnesota, USA: ABDO Publishing. p. 13. ISBN 9781596799943. OCLC 69021016. Retrieved August 17, 2012. 
  2. ^ a b Mumy, Bill; Dutkiewicz, Michal; Zahler, Thomas F.; Allen, Irwin (2005). Lost in Space: Voyage to the Bottom of the Soul. Olathe, Kansas, USA: Bubblehead Publishing. ISBN 9780976543602. OCLC 153921250. Retrieved August 17, 2012. 
  3. ^ staff (June 21, 2007). "June Lockhart To Star At Museum Robofest". Palm Beach Daily News (Palm Beach, Florida, USA: Cox Enterprises). OCLC 55506588. Retrieved August 17, 2012. (subscription required)
  4. ^ Mansour, David (June 1, 2005). From Abba to Zoom: A Pop Culture Encyclopedia of the Late 20th Century. Kansas City, Missouri, USA: Andrews McMeel Publishing. p. 403. ISBN 9780740751189. OCLC 57316726. 
  5. ^ Raucci, Richard (1999). Personal Robotics: Real Robots to Construct, Program, and Explore the World (illustrated ed.). Natick, Massachusetts. USA: A K Peters, Ltd. ISBN 9781568810898. OCLC 491860916. Retrieved August 17, 2012. "... Forbidden Planet (1956), designed by Robert Kinoshita, who would later create the familiar Robot (B-9) for the Lost in Space television series (1965)." 
  6. ^ Newman, Richard (2010). "HighTechScience.org Lost in Space Robot". HighTechScience.org. Richard Newman. Retrieved September 6, 2010. 
  7. ^ ICONS (1998). "B-9 Robot Bob May Interview. An Interview with Robot Actor Bob May.". B9 Robot Builders Club. Space Productions. Retrieved September 6, 2010. 
  8. ^ "B9 Robot Builders Club". B9 Robot Builders Club. B9Creations. 2005. Retrieved September 6, 2010. 
  9. ^ Geranios, Nicholas K. (May 23, 2002). "Robot Hut takes visitors for a trip back in time". The Seattle Times (Seattle, Washington, USA: Frank A. Blethen). ISSN 0745-9696. OCLC 9198928. Retrieved August 17, 2012.