Wednesday, January 25, 2012

R.I.P. Dick Tufeld.

It is with the greatest of sadness that we report the death of Dick Tufeld, longtime broadcast announcer… and voice of the Lost in Space Robot, on January 22 at the age of 85!

As with the actor in the Robot costume, Bob May (whose passing you can read about HERE), Dick Tufeld never received a screen credit on LOST IN SPACE (1965-1968), presumably to perpetuate the notion that the Robot was some sort of ACTUAL “mechanical marvel”, but he was well known to – and much beloved by – the show’s fans.

Dick Tufeld brought an amazing degree of characterization to everyone’s favorite “Bubble-headed Booby”. As the show progressed from a world of “basic grey, by-the-numbers science fiction” to one of “explosively colorful and delightful sixties camp” – up to and including visits to surreal western planets complete with bragging gunfighters and life-sized stuffed animal beasts of burden, fourth-dimensional toy workshops, murderous gambling machines, galactic beauty pageants, and space biker gangs – Tufeld brought the Robot from “monotone affirmatives” to singing spirituals like “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” and quoting the poet Robert Burns to laughing, crying, professing undying loyalty, and tossing deserved sarcastic barbs – and becoming of one of the most distinctive and (yes) much-loved TV series personalities of the era.

Marvin Miller may have blazed the trail for talking robots, providing the distinctive voice of Robby the Robot for the influential ‘50s Sci-Fi film “Forbidden Planet”, but Dick Tufeld’s “Lost in Space Robot” (known alternately as “B9” and “M3” – but really just “The Robot”) showed us just how much FUN it could be to have a robot as a friend!

I daresay that even STAR WARS fans have Dick Tufeld (and his LIS co-star Jonathan Harris) to thank for the character of C3P0 – as that later creation seemed a near-perfect melding of Tufeld’s Robot and Harris’ Doctor Smith.

And, needless to say Tufeld’s immortal line “Danger, Will Robinson!” has transcended LOST IN SPACE to become an iconic part of the American English language.

In addition to acting as the Robot’s voice, Tufeld was also the show’s announcer, as seen in (Sound Alert!)  THIS LINK (if it is still operative) – and (Sound Alert!)  HERE he is narrating a promo for VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA. He also delivered the opening narration for the first episode of VOYAGE – and voiced the cosmic brain in that series’ Third Season opener “Monster from the Inferno”. He could also be heard at the opening of every episode of THE TIME TUNNEL – and narrated the “Next Week Previews” for Disney’s ZORRO, which starred LOST IN SPACE actor Guy Williams.

I’ll end with a completely random line of the Robot’s – the final line from “Collision of Planets” (the wonderfully infamous “Space Bikers” episode): There is nothing you can do with a truly dedicated misfit!”
It’s a line I’ve loved for decades, and just one of so many things to thank Dick Tufeld for!


Comicbookrehab said...

The more advanced the technology, the more one looks back at the funky charm of these clunky "suits". We've got Asimo (or Awesomeo) who can outrun these guys, but is he as popular? Maybe if he yelled, "Danger! Danger! I'm running out of control! I'm the future of Skynet!" ;)

Joe Torcivia said...


I don’t even know who “awesomeo” is! But I’m sure “Our Robot” has him / it beat six ways to Space Sunday!

Oh, the pain… I feel like Doctor Smith right now, when he wore the hippie wig and love beads!

Joe (…creaking back and all!)

Comicbookrehab said...

Asimo (sp?) is a robot in Japan that can jog on its own without visible support. It looks like the Spooky Space Kook (from Scooby Doo) in his tween years.

Oh dear...oh dear...oh dear!

Joe Torcivia said...

Really? Wouldn’t it be cool if he did that great “Throat-Bobbing Vocalization” that Don Messick did for the Kooky Space Spook!

That’s something I feel was out of even Dick Tufeld’s range!

Comicbookrehab said...

It would, it would - on "Doctor Who" the Vashta Neruda monster (from "Silence In The Library/Forest of The Dead") has got the suit and the skull effect right. :)

Fun Ideas said...

Since I'm working on a Walt Disney Productions book covering 1966-1985, it's amazing to discover how frequently they used Tufeld to narrate their movie promos during that period. I will miss him, too.