Dick Tufeld, R.I.P.
Dick Tufeld (Richard Norton Tufeld) best known as the voice of the Robot on LOST IN SPACE, passed away Janauary 22nd. He was 85.
Starting out in radio, Tufeld’s ability to put great enthusiasm and drama into his readings led to the job of announcing and narrating the ABC radio version of the 1950’s science fiction TV series SPACE PATROL. He would also announce many of the live television program’s episodes.
He was the announcer for DISNEY’S WONDERFUL WORLD OF COLOR, and the ZORRO TV series — which starred Guy Williams, later to star in LOST IN SPACE.
He served as narrator of Irwin Allen’s VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA series, and also did the voice of a disembodied alien brain.
He was the narrator (and voice of Mission Control) on LOST IN SPACE, which would also result in his best known acting work, the Robot (sometimes known as the B-9 Environmental Control Robot). He almost didn’t get the part, as Irwin Allen didn’t care for his line readings when Tufeld attempted to conform with what the producer suggested. Deciding to ignore Allen’s instructions, he went with his own instincts — and that landed him the job.
Originally the Robot’s voice was deep and flatly menacing, as the Robot and Dr. Smith (Jonathan Harris) were at first intended as short-term antagonists. Tufeld lightened his tone slightly and added a great deal more expression to his delivery as the Robot became more humanized.
Sarcastic interplay between the equally pompous Smith and his metallic adversary became a highlight of the increasingly tongue-in-cheek show.
(Interestingly, the actor inside the Robot, Bob May, provided the Robot’s derisive laughter, as DickTuefeld didn’t think he did it justice.)
Tuefeled mentioned that the sound mixers never seemed to write down the exact settings used to filter the Robot’s voice, and they would sometimes have to fiddle around for a while to produce the same sound.
Dick Tuefeld also narrated THE TIME TUNNEL for Irwin Allen.
Continuing as a staff announcer for ABC TV, Tufeld would continue to be a producers’ choice for genre productions, doing announcer/narrator work on cartoons such as THE FANTASTIC FOUR (1978), SPIDER-MAN AND HIS AMAZING FRIENDS, and THUNDAR THE BARBARIAN.
In 1998, Dick Tufeld provided the voice of the Robot in the LOST IN SPACE movie reboot, sounding amazingly like he did on the old series, despite the passing of years and vocal cord surgery.