Bill Mumy Interview: Alien Con, Twilight Zone, Lost In Space

There’s no danger for Will Robinson at Alien Con, except maybe the curse of the Mumy.

The 1st Annual Alien Con will materialize in Santa Clara, Calif., on October 28-30 and space cadets from all quadrants will be in attendance. Put together by Cosmic Con and The History Channel, Alien Con brings together science fiction, fact and speculation, featuring guests from both the academic and entertainment worlds, and will even throw in a couple NASA astronauts to talk about other worlds.

Bill Mumy is no stranger to strange worlds. Best known as the youngest member of the planetary pioneering Robinson family on the iconic sixties science fiction series Lost in Space, the world was his playground in one of the most popular and recognizable episodes of The Twilight Zone. His Billy Bayles character always had time to take a “Long Distance Call.”

Mumy was a “House Guest” on Alfred Hitchcock Presents and appeared on almost every television series produced in the sixties. He got to play opposite Steve McQueen as the young Devil’s Island-bound inmate Lariot in the 1973 film Papillon and opposite James Garner in two episodes of The Rockford Files.  He was also Dr. Brainchild on the  1994 episode of Ren & Stimpy, “Blazing Entrails.”

Mumy is also an award-winning musician, composer and songwriter. He’s been through the desert with the band America and two of his songs were recorded by Rosemary Clooney. The multi-instrumentalist recorded and performed in bands and has been consistently releasing solo albums. He deejayed 115 hours of broadcasts of The Real Good Radio Hour with Bill Mumy, now in syndication, which had one show happily entitled Happening Harmonicas. His upcoming Velour album will be coming out November 8 on the Global Recording Artists label.

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Mumy is a prolific and diverse writer. He wrote issues of The Hulk and Spider-Man as well as comics like The Comet Man, The Dreamwalker, Iron Man, She Hulk, and the Lost in Space comic book Wonder Man for Innovation. He wrote the graphic novel, Lost in Space: Voyage to the Bottom of the Soul. Though my favorite of his titles has to be his 2013 comic book Curse of the Mumy.

The upcoming Lost (And Found) in Space, which he wrote with co-star Angela Cartwright, is filled with thousands of never-before-seen photos and never-before-heard behind-the-scene tales from the two iconic space siblings.

Den of Geek got to talk exclusively with Bill Mumy about what can be found in space. Mumy is a writer, musician and an actor obviously dedicated to his craft. He’s played in every genre in over 400 TV and film appearances and at one point he clearly enjoys remembering how he “nailed” a particular character.

Den of Geek: Thank you very much Mr. Mumy, you know you are a TV legend several times over.

Bill Mumy: Indeed I am, dear boy, and don’t you forget it.

My family consisted of generations of Twilight Zone fans. Most people my age would be Lost in Space fans, but my name is Tony and you played Anthony. So, first question, did you know we were all going to have to change our names to Tony after you did that?

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It’s good that you changed your name to Tony, Anthony. It’s real good. I mean, I’ve been so blessed to have been able to play that iconic character. I’m very happy that I got to do three episodes of the original Twilight Zone. We got to do a sequel to that, you know, Cloris Leachman and I with my daughter Liliana when The Twilight Zone was on UPN for one season. That was really a treat. I did a cameo in the Twilight Zone feature too. Yes, my Twilight Zone alumni card is punched and cool.

Were you aware of how advanced and artistic the program was?

Well, it was different than Ozzie and Harriet. It was different than a lot of the other things that I watched and I always thought it was the best anthology television show ever produced. A lot of that credit has to be laid at Rod Serling’s abilities. He was one of a kind and he wrote such great iambic pentameter for his characters. I think you can recognize Rod Serling’s dialogue if you pulled it out of the Twilight Zone. If you had The Simpsons read an unpublished Rod Serling script you’d recognize his flow. He was a really unique man and I’m so sorry we lost him so early.

I don’t think TV has caught up with what Twilight Zone got away with to this day. You’ve watched science fiction and science fact grow and social barriers collapse, the way social issues were tackled on shows like Star Trek and Twilight Zone. Do you think any current shows promise something new for society at large?

There’s Aesop’s Fables and there are only a handful of morality plays to be told. I think we did that on Babylon 5. I think it had a lot of things to say on an interesting canvass. There are a lot of shows that are doing it now, I’m sure. I don’t watch that much TV. The election is crazy enough. That’s all the drama and science fiction I can handle right now.

Yeah, we’ve entered the Twilight Zone.

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I think we’ve been living in the cornfield for a year and a half now.

This is for Alien Con, so, okay, you were Will Robinson, you got to play with Dr. Smith and the robot, you taught alien kids how to play fair and you fell in love with some kind of carrot lady, they must have slipped you the secret, where do they keep all the aliens?

[Laughs] In the Pentagon. Alien Con is going to be great. I’m very much involved in all of that mindset. I’m a consulting producer on Ancient Aliens, the television series that Kevin Burns produces for the History Channel. I find myself subscribing to most of the hypotheticals that tend to point to the fact that our civilization is much, much older than history has taught us until recently. It seems, to me, pretty obvious that more advanced civilizations have been here in the past.

Lost in Space, in 1964 when the pilot was being put together, the Robinsons’ mission was to reach Alpha Centauri. In just the last few months we found that Alpha Centauri is the most likely and reachable goal where we can sustain human life. So it’s interesting how several of the visionaries from decades or even centuries ago were right on the money when it came to speculating about the future.

You’ve written quite a few books and comics, did you use that speculation in your own work?

Oh, absolutely, sure. The first comic book series that I wrote for Marvel Comics back in the late 80s, the ceremonial ship that cruises through the galaxy every 86 years to monitor man’s progress. I have absolutely put that in my work. In the Lost in Space complete series collection that came out almost a year ago now, we got to produce my unpublished script from 1980 that resolved the series. We did a very ambitious table read with the cast, and of course a few other people. It addressed that subject and resolved the series. It got the Robinsons and the craft back to earth.

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I tend to use that in my writing, certainly in the sci fi arena. More so than if I was writing the Hulk or Spiderman, which I’ve done. I don’t get too sci fied out. But if I do Lost in Space or Star Trek, of course I do.

When you go to things like Alien Con, do people come up to you with theories, or found footage, things like that?

Sometimes, I think Alien Con is going to be a successful event because it’s really a melding of entertainment and legitimate science. There are a lot of people coming to this event representing academics as well as representing vintage Sci Fi television and current television. You never know what you’re going to get.

I find the science fiction community, in general, is a very positive group of people. Yes, sometimes they may be a little awkward or not mainstream, although I think over the last decade they’ve had to become more mainstream because of the Marvel films and things like that. But, in general, the sci fi community is very involved in the environment. They are very pro-space program. They want to reach beyond our own horizons. They’re never prejudiced against any race or religion or people like that.

It’s a good group, generally speaking. But there’s always a percentage that take it a little too seriously, perhaps. They buy into Klingon reality a bit more so than it was intended by the creators. I’ve been doing the science fiction conventions and personal appearances since they were formulated, so I’m quite used to some oddities.

Did Will Robinson ever become part of the hundred-thousand-mile club?

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You mean like the mile-high club? Why not? He was a bold and friendly cat. He was an explorer and an adventurer, so I assume he would have gotten the privilege.

You also worked on The Munsters, another iconic show, in “Come Back, Little Googie.” Did you hang with Eddie Munster and was it different than hanging with the adult cast?

I’ve been fortunate enough to work on over 400 television shows when I was young in the sixties. I worked on just about every show you could work on, whether it was western or a comedy or a fantasy or drama. Actually, I was offered the part of Eddie Munster and we decided not to do it and I’m very glad that Butch did it so great. And Butch is a really nice guy. I like Butch Patrick a lot. We’ve stayed friends.

It’s a funny episode. I played Googie and made them think they turned me into a monkey or something. It was fun, three days at Universal. It was “go to the school trailer, come on out, hit your mark, read your lines.” The set was fantastic. I was not the slightest bit sorry that I didn’t sign up to be part of the makeup for that show. Karmically, I ended up playing Lennier on Babylon Five for five years in alien makeup, so it all comes around. The Munsters is great. People really just love that show and I’m happy that I get to be a part of it.

You also played Darrin as a boy on the Bewitched episode “Junior Executive.” Have you had any witchy encounters or supernatural encounters like the alien encounters?

I have had some supernatural and ghostlike encounters, which I do not have time to channel that energy up right now, when I was about 19. But I will say that I did two Bewitcheds and they were some of my favorite experiences. I had a huge crush, a huge crush, on Elizabeth Montgomery. I loved the show. I really enjoyed watching Bewitched as a viewer, so doing two of them was great. And it’s an interesting Trivial Pursuit kind of question to name the three actors who played Darren Stevens, cos I’m one of them.

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To play her husband was really good. I was one of my favorite things to do. You know, I saw that show not too long ago and it’s a little strange to be my age today and talk about something you did when you were eleven or ten. But I thought I really kind of channeled Dick York. I thought I really nailed that gig. I did not cringe at all when I watched that. It made me smile because it was one of my favorite acting gigs.

You wrote some Star Trek books, was there Venus envy between Lost In Space and Star Trek?

Well, not between us in terms of the actual people who were working on both of those productions. I think there was a bit of it, certainly, in the fan community. I lived in the same neighborhood as Shatner. He lived down the block from me. I used to see Leonard Nimoy at the beach and stuff. Of course, the crews at the studios were almost interchangeable over the years, depending on what lot you might be on.

It was always silly to me. Lost in Space was a family show, a pioneer family against the alien environment, and somewhat, of course, campy, fantasy pop art for the short mid-sixties psychedelic period. There are certainly fantasy, campy episodes of Star Trek as well, but Star Trek was more a military show. It was really about a military mission and its military crew.

I always thought it was as different as Wagon Train and Bonanza. I thought it was silly when people have that “my dog is better than your dog” mentality. I enjoyed Star Trek as a kid and I’m sure there were plenty of Trekkies who secretly liked Lost in Space.

HISTORY Channel and Cosmic Con’s the 1st Annual ALIEN CON is happening on October 28-30 in Santa Clara, CA. You can get tickets here.

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