One of the first iconic stars of sci-fi, Mark Goddard, passed away this week from pulmonary fibrosis. Deadline reports that his wife, Evelyn Pezzulich, shared the news via social media. Goddard, with a career spanning decades, will forever be remembered as Major Don West from the original Lost In Space, a campy sci-fi series that helped pave the way for nearly every sci-fi show that followed.
Mark Goddard, who played Major Don West in the original Lost In Space, has passed away at the age of 87.
Mark Goddard started his career in Westerns, making his debut as Deputy Cully in Johnny Ringo only three weeks after arriving in Hollywood. From there, he then made a series of small, one-of appearances in other Westerns, including The Rifleman, The Rebel, The Virginian, and, as with everyone else in Hollywood, Gunsmoke. Lost In Space was, along with Star Trek, one of the first sci-fi shows to break through to the mainstream, which, at the time, was understandably filled with Westerns.
Originally, Mark Goddard’s role of Major Don West was going to be a featured part of Lost In Space thanks to a romance with Judy Robinson (Marta Kirsten), but as is often the case, the original vision for the series changed. Instead of the romance, the audience responded to Dr. Zachary Smith (Jonathan Harris) and Will Robinson (Bill Mumy), along with the iconic Robot. By the time the second season was halfway done, the romance was on the back burner, and Major West was reduced to reacting to Dr. Smith and Will’s shenanigans.
Decades after Lost In Space made him an icon, Mark Goddard returned to the franchise for the 90s reboot, which featured Friends star Matt LeBlanc as the new Major Don West.
What was once a dramatic re-imagining of Swiss Family Robinson became a comedic take on sci-fi, regarded as the “kid version” of Star Trek. After the series ended, his career continued, eventually winding down in the 80s, leading to Mark Goddard returning to college. After earning a master’s degree in education, he became a special education teacher in Middleboro, Massachusetts.
Decades after Lost In Space, made him an icon, Mark Goddard returned to the franchise for the 90s reboot, which featured Friends star Matt LeBlanc as the new Major Don West. Goddard made a cameo appearance in the film, and he was even going to star in an NBC made-for-TV movie, Lost In Space: The Journey Home, but it never made it to production.
Mark Goddard may have never had the blockbuster career in the movies he wanted, but he managed to share the screen with stars like John Wayne and a stage with Liza Minnelli.
In 2008, Mark Goddard published his memoir, To Space And Back, and was still happy about his time on the series, though he did note his relationship with Guy Williams, who played Dr. John Robinson, patriarch of the stranded family, was sometimes a little strained. The star explained to fans that the relationships were always changing, with different stars fighting over lines and the parents of the two child actors demanding better scripts, but despite all that, he always seemed happy over his time on Lost In Space.
Mark Goddard may have never had the blockbuster career in the movies he wanted, but he managed to share the screen with stars like John Wayne and a stage with Liza Minnelli. What he did achieve was entertaining an entire generation of sci-fi fans and laying the groundwork for other hotshot pilot characters in media.