"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 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 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 ship, and blasts off into outer space.
Upon orbit with Earth, the class is immediately in 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 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 sulfuric 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 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 bus, knocking out the navigation system. 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 bus. In the incident, they are separated from the class as they drift 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 her students that she safely arrived at an outer planet. 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 and obtains gas samples from it, and throws Ralphie into control of the 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 and Neptune, Janet is in a frustrated state, as she desperately wants to be freed from Arnold's custody in order to obtain evidence of her visit to both planets. 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 are happily greeting them upon their 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, 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 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. However, Janet's personality also goes through a major change, as she realizes that her knowledge and experiences are more precious than physical proof. As the class giggles, the P.A. comes on, stating that aliens from Pluto are complaining about a pile of litter that was left on their planet. This news turns out to be a prank, as Liz pushes a box aside, revealing that Ralphie is behind all of it. Ms. Frizzle states that they are "out of this world!", and they laugh out loud as the episode ends.
Trivia and Goofs
- 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.
- 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 show.
- This was the first aired episode, but was probably not the first to be produced, 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".
- The phrase "Ride 'em, cowbus!" came from the phrase "Ride 'em, cowboy!" On the VHS and DVD, the close captioning reads "Ride 'em, alpha!"