The Netflix version of Lost in Space resembles Irwin Allen’s original, 1960s-era Lost in Space in the most basic ways. It centers around the five members of the Robinson family, space colonists who wind up on a far-flung planet after their ship is knocked off course. It features a robot who repeatedly says, “Danger, Will Robinson,” a warning to the youngest member of the Robinson clan. And it introduces us to Dr. Smith, a nefarious individual prone to telling lies and engaging in manipulation for reasons that take their sweet time to become clear.
Even within that basic structure, things have changed. Matriarch Maureen Robinson (Molly Parker of House of Cards) is a rocket scientist and the undeniable leader of the Robinson family. The oldest child, Judy (Taylor Russell) is African-American, and says that John Robinson (Toby Stephens), Maureen’s husband, “came into the picture” after she was born. Dr. Smith, famously played by Jonathan Harris with campiness levels cranked up to 11, is a woman this time, and portrayed with far more understated, sly comedic touches by the great Parker Posey. And the main reason that the Robinsons decide to leave Earth is because, thanks to a meteor collision, it has become a less viable place to live long-term. Despite all these updates, Lost in Space, streaming as of Friday, isn’t striving to resonate on any social, cultural, or political level. It’s mainly an old-fashioned sci-fi adventure story that’s been dressed up for modern times.
As such, this new version, created by Gods of Egypt writers Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless, is good enough to merit a look, especially for those seeking shows to stream with their kids, but not so great that it demands an immediate binge-watch. Actually Lost in Space is probably better when viewed over an extended period of time. Barreling through its ten episodes in a weekend is bound to expose the show’s redundancies, most notably its tendency to fling calamity after calamity at the Robinsons. “I swear to God, every time I come up here, there’s something worse,” says Penny (Mina Sundwall), the middle Robinson child, after stepping outside the family ship, the Jupiter 2, and spotting a vicious storm forming in the distance. Penny, it’s 2018 and a lot of us are tracking presidential developments on Twitter. We feel you.
The first couple of episodes of Lost in Space zero in primarily on the Robinsons, Dr. Smith, and fellow alien-planet crash-lander Don West (Ignacio Serricchio), and are stronger for being more singularly focused. When the series opens, we’re aboard the Jupiter 2, one of multiple Jupiter ships aiming for Alpha Centauri, as the Robinson family passes the time with a game of gravity-free Go Fish. There is an eerie calm in the moment as the family members, including young Will (Sense8’s Max Jenkins), speak to each other…
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