"As I always say class, you're out of this world!"
- Ms. Frizzle
"Gets Lost in Space" is the series premiere of the animated children's series The Magic School Bus. It originally aired on PBS on September 11th, 1994.
Ms. Frizzle's class is constructing a model of the solar system. Arnold's cousin, Janet, can't wait to witness one of their "highly unusual" field trips. She is not impressed and immediately begins taunting them in how she and her class are far more superb. Ms. Frizzle enters and greets the class, followed by an announcement on a field trip to the planetarium. Arnold is shocked, as visiting it literally is unusual, as it is so because she is going to take them on a normal field trip.
The class is disappointed after discovering that the planetarium is closed upon arrival. On their way back to school, Janet begins mocking Ms. Frizzle for her poor preparation, saying her teacher would have called ahead. Arnold, enraged by the insults, orders Ms. Frizzle to stop the Magic School Bus and requests an alternative (maybe to a "bigger planetarium") field trip to "prove" to Janet that their field trips are unusual. Upon request, she transforms the Bus into a rocket and blasts off into outer space.
Upon orbit with Earth, the class is immediately in their space suits while floating in a sub-zero gravity environment. Janet is astonished, as she finally realizes that their field trip is somewhat "highly unusual". The Magic School Bus makes an approach to the Sun and lands on Mercury, where they learn is the first planet in the solar system. Ms. Frizzle also explains that due to the proximity between it and the Sun, it lacks an atmosphere; therefore the overall environment is extremely harsh as the days are sizzling hot and the nights are bitterly cold. While the class explores there, Janet is desperate to find a way to prove that she had set foot on there to her classmates. Her data is found after they stumble upon craters and she is able to extract several meteorites to use as evidence.
Upon arrival on Venus, the class discovers that the force of gravity is relatively similar to Earth, in exception to the sulphuric acid (a deadly poison) within its thick clouds, which permanently keep the surface overheated. As the class examine there, Janet busily searches for more rock samples to bring back to Earth in order to convince her classmates, with Arnold reluctantly assisting her.
Ms. Frizzle and her class pass across the orbit of Earth and arrive on Mars. The class learns that it was nicknamed "The Red Planet" due to the high concentration of iron in its soil, thus giving the surface a rusty-red color. Janet begins taking advantage of Arnold, denying him from participating in exploration activities with his classmates and forcing him to help her in her search for more samples instead.
While traveling through the asteroid belt, Janet proudly boasts about how the ice she gathered from the Polar Ice Caps, along with the red dust, is sufficiently enough to convince her classmates. Suddenly, an asteroid collides with the Magic School Bus, knocking out the navigation system. The students fear that they are lost in space.
Ms. Frizzle, Liz, and Janet exit and attempt to repair the crippled device. However, Janet is distracted by a floating asteroid nearby and her effort to obtain the evidence of visiting there almost crushes Ms. Frizzle and Liz as it drops onto the roof of The Magic School Bus. In the incident, they are separated from the class as they drift off into space.
Back on board, Janet nervously reports the situation to the class. They begin to fear for the worst. However, using her radio, Ms. Frizzle is able to send voice messages to the Magic School Bus, assuring her students that she is heading to one of the outer planets. Despite a short relief, they are unable to locate her exact location, as the damaged navigation system is still partially down, revealing data of only visited locations. However, Ms. Frizzle introduces a navigator who "knows the neighborhood". A nervous and reluctant Janet comes to their aid.
As the class approaches Jupiter, the largest planet in the solar system, Ms. Frizzle reports that she is not there. Janet, on the other hand, is more worried about her personal reputation instead of rescuing Ms. Frizzle. She makes an approach for the Great Red Spot, obtains gas samples from it, and throws Ralphie into control of the Magic School Bus, where he is able to pull it out just moments from destruction. Janet is excited about her success, but the others are furious about her reckless action.
As the bus approaches Saturn, Janet attempts to trick the class in order to gather more samples for her visit to there. At this point, they have had enough. Janet attempts to use the fact of Ms. Frizzle being in a cold and dark location as a trick. This fails, as an update from her comes through the radio at this very moment, stating that she and Liz can't wait to show them all the stars they can see. Since stars can't be seen on gas planets, where poor visibility prevents it, they realize that it is impossible for her to be there. Wanda, who is now in control of the bus, orders Arnold to "keep his crazy cousin under control", and prevent any other dangerous acts on their rescue mission for Ms. Frizzle.
While flying past Uranus, Janet, while being restrained by Arnold, tells him, "See Cuz, Uranus doesn't do a thing for me, so you can get off me. Okay?" To which he replies, "Sorry, Janet, but I have to stay on top of the situation." They pass Neptune, and due to not making a stop there, Janet is in a frustrated state, due to Neptune being her favorite planet and painted her favorite color, blue. She desperately wants to be freed from Arnold's custody, eventually getting out of his restraint. Eliminated of other possibilities, the class discovers that the only planet left for Ms. Frizzle to be on is Pluto. Sure enough, the rescue mission is a success, as they land on its cold and dark surface and approach her and Liz, who happily greet them upon their arrival. They exit the Magic School Bus and notice the Sun, which is reduced to a mere speck in the middle of space. Unfortunately, in this overwhelming commotion, they all fail to keep a surveillance on Janet, who is secretly gathering data on Pluto. She, on the other hand, is more satisfied by her personal accomplishments than by the success of the rescue mission, and refuses to go back to Earth after her samples fall from the bus due to the overload. An argument erupts between her and Arnold. In protest against her desire for proof, Arnold, showing what will happen to her if she stays on Pluto, removes his space helmet and is instantly frozen. Janet and the class are shocked, and they immediately carry him into the bus and rush back to Earth, leaving the big pile behind on Pluto.
Back at the school, Arnold is seen with a bad cold. Janet decides that her experiences of the field trip are a lot better than physical proof, and the other students are happy with her new mindset. Then the P.A. comes on, stating that an alien from Pluto has called to complain about a pile of litter that was left behind on his planet. This news turns out to be a prank, as Liz pushes a box aside, revealing that Ralphie is the one doing the talking. Ms. Frizzle states that they are "out of this world!" and they laugh out loud as the episode ends.
- This is the pilot episode where all the major characters are first introduced.
- This episode is loosely based on the 1990 book The Magic School Bus Lost in the Solar System by Joanna Cole and Bruce Degen. There are some differences. While Ms. Frizzle gets lost in both the episode and the book, she's lost in the asteroid belt in the latter. The class ends up going past Pluto before navigating back to find her. In the book, Janet is from another school, but on the episode, she's only in a different class. The Moon is also (briefly) visited in the book, while it is not even seen or mentioned in this episode.
- Pluto was reclassified as a dwarf planet in the solar system by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) on September 16, 2006. However, its status was still a major planet at the time of the production of this episode.
- Additionally, at the time this episode was made, Pluto was closer to the Sun than Neptune.
- The Kuiper Belt is also not mentioned, as by the time this episode was made only two of its objects (other than Pluto) were discovered: 15760 Albion (then called "Smiley") and (181708) 1993 FW (nicknamed "Karla").
- It's unknown if they were originally scheduled to land on every single planet in the solar system but then had to cancel their landings on Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune when they had to find and rescue Ms. Frizzle and Liz after they went missing. But the actual reason why Ms. Frizzle and Liz landed on Pluto after they got separated from the rest of the class is because you can't land on Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune because they're gas giants, have no solid ground, and they are way too dangerous to land on.
- This was the first episode aired, but was probably not the first in chronological order, as Arnold mentions that they went on a field trip inside a rotting log, which happened in "Meets the Rot Squad". He also mentions that they visited the bottom of the ocean, which didn't happen until "Blows Its Top".
- Ralphie was the first character to speak.
- The phrase "Ride 'em, cowbus!" came from the phrase "Ride 'em, cowboy!"
- This episode was the main source for "The Magic School Bus YTP Collab".
- This episode
- The caller in the Producer segment sounds like and turns out to be an alien. After claiming they're "still waiting for someone to get the pile of litter of their planet", it's implied the alien is from Pluto, that Ralphie's prank was more accurate than anyone thought, and that the class' solar system trip had actually happened.
- On both VHS releases and the Warner release of the Space Adventures DVD, the closed captioning reads "Ride 'em, alpha!"
- When Wanda says, "Way to go Janet!" her voice changes to Keesha's.
- The master tape strangely omits the PBS tags at the start and end of the episode.
View the episode's transcript here.