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In the Zone Gets Lost in Space For Lunch

"As I always say, class, you're out-of-this-world!"
Ms. Frizzle

The Magic School Bus Gets Lost in Space is an episode of Scholastic's The Magic School Bus from season 1.

Recap

Main storyline

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 about 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 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 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 to her classmates that she has been there. Her data is found after they stumble upon craters and she is able to extract several meteorites from them 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 sulfuric acid (a deadly poison) within its thick clouds, which permanently keep the surface overheated. As the class explores there, Janet busily searches for more rock samples to bring back in order to convince her classmates she has been there, with Arnold reluctantly assisting her.

Ms. Frizzle and her class pass across Earth's orbit and arrive on Mars. The class learns that it's 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 Mars' Polar Ice Caps, along with the red dust, is sufficiently enough to convince her classmates. Suddenly, an asteroid collides with the bus and knocks out the navigation system. The class fears that they are lost in space.

Ms. Frizzle, Liz, and Janet exit the bus and attempt to repair the crippled navigation system. However, Janet is distracted by an asteroid floating nearby and her effort to obtain it almost crushes Ms. Frizzle and Liz as it drops onto the roof of the 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 bus, assuring them 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, she introduces a navigator who "knows the neighborhood". A nervous and reluctant Janet comes to their aid.

As the class approaches Jupiter, 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, throws Ralphie into control of the bus, and he is able to pull it out just moments from destruction. Janet is excited about her success, but the class is 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. She 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 that, 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 the rescue mission.

While flying past Uranus, Janet is seen not only buckled with a seat belt but with Arnold sitting on her lap too (over Wanda's insistence of "keeping her under control"). She, (while being restrained by Arnold) tells him, "See Cuz? Uranus doesn't really do a thing for me. So please get off of me. Okay?". However, he replies, "Sorry, Janet, but I have to sit on top of the situation." They pass Neptune, and due to not making a stop there, Janet is in a frustrated state, due to it being her favorite planet and 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 arrival. They exit the 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. 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 out of the bus due to them overloading it. An argument erupts between her and Arnold. In an attempt to save her from hoarding the planetary junk, he shows her proof of what happens to her if she stayed on Pluto. He removes his space helmet and his head gets completely frozen. Janet and the rest of the class are shocked, immediately carry him into the bus, and rush back to Earth before he could die, leaving the big pile behind on Pluto.

Back in the classroom, Arnold is seen with a bad cold. The loudspeaker 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.

Producer Says

The male producer receives a phone call from a girl, who compares The Magic School Bus to The Twilight Zone, which "had more science fiction than fact," and notes that it would be impossible to visit all nine planets in one day. The producer argues that had it been for real, it would take many years for a person to finally get to Pluto. The girl also argues that scientists really don't know what Pluto's surface feels like, to which the producer argues that only the astronomers really know what it feels like while everyone else has to take a guess. The girl then adds that Pluto is still remaining inside Neptune's orbit until 1999, when it officially becomes the ninth planet again. When asked how the class could float around in the bus, the producer replies that they were at a weightless environment, thus gaining the ability to float around the planets in outer space. He does, however, admit that the part in which they're able to walk around the bus occasionally was fudged, and the planets were perfectly lined up to keep track of them without anyone missing a single one. After the girl states that an astronaut that visits another planet shouldn't take off his or her space helmet, she demands for someone to get the pile of litter Janet left on her home planet, Pluto, revealing her to be a Plutonian alien.

Trivia

  • This is the pilot episode in which all the major characters are first introduced.The cartoon --Gets Lost in Space-- is loosely the TV series adaptation (TV adaptation) of the book Lost in the Solar System) and there are some differences:
    • While Ms. Frizzle gets lost in both the book and its TV adaptation, she's lost in the asteroid belt in the cartoon.
    • In the book version, the class ends up going past Pluto before navigating back to find her.
    • In the book version, Janet is from another school. But in the TV version, she's only in a different class. The Moon is also (briefly) visited in the book, but in this version, it was not.
  • 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 they landed on Pluto after they got separated from the class is because you can't land on Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, nor Neptune. You can't land on them because they are gas giants (gas planets), have no solid ground, and 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" and "Gets Eaten".
  • Liz was the first to appear onscreen.
  • Keesha's dance training, later mentioned in "Wet All Over", is referenced for the first time in this episode, as she performs an arabesque while on Mercury.
  • This is one of few episodes in which Carlos gets a universally positive reaction to one of his puns or jokes. Everyone laughs at his "meteor-wrongs" pun on Mercury.
  • The caller in the Producer Says segment is an alien from Pluto. When she mention the pile of litter on her planet, it implies that Ralphie's prank was accurate.
    • In the Latin American Spanish dub, El Autobús Mágico, the Plutonian alien is a male. In the original English, she is a female.
  • Ralphie was the first character to speak.
  • Phoebe was the second character to speak.
  • Arnold was the third character to speak.
  • Janet was the fourth character to speak.
  • Tim's voice is noticeably deeper in this episode, due to his voice actor, Max Beckford, going throughout puberty at that time of production.
  • Arnold's head freezes when he removes his helmet. In reality it would actually boil.

In popular culture

Due to this being the first episode of the original series, it is also quite a popular one among fans:

  • The frozen Arnold has become a meme across the MSB franchise's fandom. An example here.
  • This episode was the main source for "The Magic School Bus YTP Collab". In 2020, the video was reuploaded twice in March and October due to the original one being terminated for copyright infringement.
  • Uploads of the original series' theme song on YouTube frequently feature this episode's title card, primarily because it's the first episode.
  • Its popularity resulted in its inclusion in the Greatest Adventures NTSC VHS in 2000. (According to the reverse cover, kids "voted" via the Magic School Bus website on what episodes to include in it.)

Goofs

  • In the closed captions for this episode presented on the NTSC VHS (1995) and Region 1 NTSC DVD (2003), and on various streaming platforms, "Ride 'em cow-bus!" is substituted for "RIDE 'EM, ALPHA!"/"Ride 'em, alpha!"
  • When Wanda says, "Way to go Janet!" Erica Luttrell (Keesha) reads her line.
  • The master tape strangely omits the PBS tags at the start and end of the episode, even though there were special ones made exclusively for it. They're only viewable on modern NTSC VHS tapes and region-1 DVDs that were released from 1995 to 2011.

References to other media

  • The title of this episode is a reference to the Irwin Allen-produced television series Lost in Space.
    • Similar to The Magic School Bus Rides Again, it also got a reboot on Netflix.
  • During the Producer Says segment, the caller compares the series to The Twilight Zone due to there being "more fiction than fact" in the science being presented in this episode.
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