We, as a society, need to talk about the Great Vegetable Rebellion. No, your cabbage is not plotting against you. No, the asparagus community is not rising up to destroy your home. I am referring, of course, to the (in)famous episode of Lost in Space, “The Great Vegetable Rebellion.” This episode aired on February 28, 1968 (IMDB), and went down in history of one of the strangest episodes of television ever recorded.
If you’re unfamiliar with the original Lost in Space, here’s a crash course: the show follows the Robinson family who are, predictably, lost in space. Each episode, they face a new challenge or alien threat. Some of my personal favorite episodes include “Return from Outer Space” and “The Space Pirate.” In “The Great Vegetable Rebellion,” the family (plus their dreamy pilot Don West and the eccentric Dr. Smith) land on a mysterious planet and encounter a giant murderous carrot.
It gets weirder.
This giant carrot gets very angry when Dr. Smith picks some flowers. And turns him into a giant stick of celery.
How on earth did this episode come to be? This interview with Jonathan Harris, who played Dr. Smith, gives us some clarity.
“I’ve written myself out. I don’t have another idea in my head.” That was the justification that writer Peter Packer gave for the bizarre, “disastrous,” quality, as Harris described it, of the script. How did this get signed off on, you may ask? Creator Irwin Allen read it and said, “sure, why not.” This is especially fascinating when we take into account that 1968 was the last year of the infamous Hays Code, which set strict guidelines for what could and could not be shown in film and television (Mondello). While it is true that the code primarily targeted scenes of sexuality and the way crime was presented on the screen, it is baffling to see that an episode about talking vegetables was produced by a major studio.
But the story doesn’t end there. The cast, like the rest of the world, had strong opinions on the content of the episode.
Here’s Billy Mummy, who portrayed Will Robinson, on the “ridiculousness” of the episode:
In this interview, Mummy describes the environment on set during this episode, noting that none of the actors were able to take it very seriously. Stars Guy Williams and June Lockhart were barely able to deliver their lines without laughing. I would pay so much money to see the outtakes that Mummy is describing. Notably, Lockhart and Williams were written out of the next two episodes. Whether or not that was due to their actions on set is unknown, but I like the rumor, because it adds to the lore of the episode.
This episode is so famous that even TV Guide named it as one of the top 100 greatest Television Episodes of all time in 1997– #76, in fact (The Associated Press). This is just eight spaces below the 1987 Family Ties episode “My Name is Alex,” which is a powerful, poignant examination of grief. Why is an episode about life-size, talking vegetables held up at the same level as something that powerful?
I don’t know.
But it makes me so happy.
This episode is literally one of the strangest things I have ever seen–and everyone involved knew it would turn out like this! If you’re as invested as I am, now, you need to see this June Lockhart interview about her experience:
This is my favorite piece of television history of all time, and I’m so happy to be sharing it with you. If you’ve got an hour or so on your hands, I highly recommend tracking it down and looking for all of the easter eggs that the cast mentions. It’s absolutely delightful.
“The Great Vegetable Rebellion.” IMDB. Accessed 23 Jan. 2020.
Mondello, Bob. “Remembering Hollywood’s Hays Code, 40 Years On.” NPR. Accessed 23 Jan. 2020.
“TV Guide’s list of top 100 episodes.” The Associated Press. Accessed 23 Jan. 2020.