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Updated 7 October 2003

Doubt has occasionally been expressed about the functionality of the chest buttons on the original robot. Some have maintained that these were real, working push button switches, while others have taken the opposite view. I believe that whatever the truth may have been, the buttons on a real robot would be functional rather than merely decorative. Therefore, it is perfectly appropriate to make the chest buttons on any B9 recreation functioning push buttons. They should illuminate when depressed. They should switch off when depressed a second time. It would even be lovely if they operated some part of the robot, such his brain motors or light displays.

In any event, the question about whether the original robot costume had functioning push buttons or just facsimiles can now be firmly answered by the following series of screen grabs taken from the last scene (the cliff-hanger ending) of the second-season episode "Wild Adventure" (episode 31, original air date: 21 September 1966) [This is also the prologue, or first scene of the next episode, "The Ghost Planet" (episode 32, original air date: 28 September 1966)]. In this scene, it can be seen that the buttons themselves are the same colorless buttons of the first season. The light bulbs behind the buttons, however, are have been colored. Screengrabs taken from different scenes from "Wild Adventure" display the following color sequence: yellow-pale green-pale red-pale green-yellow.

Dr. Smith is then seen pressing the top center button. This action has the effect of turning off all the chest lights. This proves that these were functioning switches. If the chest button lights had gone dark as a result of Bob May switching off the electricity inside the robot, as he could do, I think that the lights in the bubble would also have been extinguished. In the third photograph, the three top brain lights as well as the lights at the end of the light rods are still illuminated. Consequently, I think that all doubt has been banished on this question. The original robot, at least in the first season and the first three episodes of the second season, had functioning push button switches. It is perfectly possible, however, that the revised orange-green-red-green-orange chest buttons seen in remainder of the second season and all of the third season were functionless.

The yellow-pale green-pale red-pale green-yellow color scheme of the bulbs behind the chest buttons in the first three episodes of the second season was a temporary interlude between the very pale yellow of the first season and the standardized orange-green-red-green-orange scheme of the colored buttons (rather than light bulbs) that prevailed for the rest of the second season and the entire third season..
First Season Second Season (first three episodes only) Note that the buttons are clear plastic as in the first season and that the color comes from the color of the light bulbs behind the buttons. Second Season, "Wild Adventure." The color of the bulbs is more apparent in this frontal shot. Most of Second Season and all of  Third Season. Note the new bezel and the fact that the buttons are colored plastic.

Interestingly, in the third episode of the second season, "The Ghost Planet" (episode 32, original air date: 28 September 1966), the robot is first seen with the yellow-pale green-pale red-pale green-yellow scheme, but periodically throughout the episode, the new, non-functional buttons with the orange-green-red-green-orange scheme emerges. Amazingly, the yellow-pale green-pale red-pale green-yellow scheme shows up in scenes that come after scenes featuring the orange-green-red-green-orange pattern. In fact, even within a single scene, the color scheme alternates from edit to edit. This betrays the obvious and ubiquitous fact of Hollywood film making: movies and television shows are are rarely filmed sequentially.

This screengrab from "Junkyard in Space" seems to provide strong evidence that the chest buttons in the third season really did protrude beyond the face of the new bezel. Note the strong shadows beneath the buttons.