Tribute: Lost in Space's Dick Tufeld

Lost in Space Robot | Photo Credits: 20th Century Fox/CBS Television/The Kobal Collection
Lost in Space Robot | Photo Credits: 20th Century Fox/CBS Television/The Kobal Collection

Actor Dick Tufeld, who voiced the Robot on the 1960s sci-fi series Lost In Space, died January 22 at age 85 while watching the NFL playoffs. You may not know his name, but Tufeld created two of TV's most enduring pop culture catch phrases — "Danger, Will Robinson, danger" and "That does not compute." In 2004, TV Guide Magazine caught up with Tufeld, who was still doing voice-over work. He had recently recovered from a paralyzed vocal chord, which kept him from speaking above a whisper until a rare operation returned his familiar voice.

TV Guide Magazine: It's nice to talk to the character that gave so many generations so much pleasure.
Dick Tufeld
: You know there was a guy inside the tin can — Bob May. He had to be there eight hours a day on the set and move the arms and legs and memorize all the lines and speak them. They put me into post-production and I dubbed his voice in.

TV Guide Magazine: Did you know you were creating a legend?
Tufeld: I had worked with Milton Berle, Julie Andrews and on various award shows, so I did not regard the voice of the Robot as very creative, distinguished work. I actually discovered that back in 1978, when I was a guest lecturer at Syracuse University for a class of about 300. The class sat there impassively when the professor said I had done the Grammy Awards, Emmy Awards, commercials, lots of prestigious things. The last thing he mentioned was "And he was the voice of the Robot in Lost in Space." They all stood up and applauded! That was when I became aware that the Robot had some special niche in people's television psyche.

TV Guide Magazine: Lost In Space has been re-running for years.
Tufeld: The show has been in syndication for 35 years, and it's running somewhere in the world as we speak.

TV Guide Magazine: What was your favorite episode?
"Something of the Species.' I fell in love with a lady robot who turned out to be evil and I had to zap her at the end.

TV Guide Magazine: Ah, true love. How did you get the gig?
Tufeld: I was the narrator on the show. The Robot was not in the pilot. When they decided to put him in, my agent told me that Irwin Allen (the show's producer) wanted to hear me do the voice. I walked in and said, "I assume you want a mechanical robot-ian kind of sound." He shook his head, "That's precisely what I don't want." I did it again and again and he finally said, "I'm not hearing what I want, I'll look elsewhere." I said, "May I try one more thing for you?" And in my best mechanical robot-ian kind of sound, I said "That does not compute." He said, "That's what I wanted! What the hell took you so long!" I had to turn my back, because I was hysterical.

TV Guide Magazine: You've done very well by the Robot over the years.
Tufeld: Oh sure. Guys who build robots want me to do the robot voice with personalized lines. There's no question when my time comes — that's what I'll be known for. The voice of the Robot on Lost in Space.

Subscribe to TV Guide Magazine now!