A New Space
Full Disclosure: My knowledge of Lost In Space begins and ends with the 1998 feature film and just a few viewings of classic episodes. Oh, and NO SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW!
Netflix has been winning me over with consistently solid original content such as Bright, Santa Clarita Diet, Stranger Things, and Glow. I also tend to enjoy Netflix films and series that receive a lukewarm reception from the masses like The Cloverfield Paradox and The Babysitter. When I heard that they were producing a re-imagined version of the classic science fiction series Lost In Space, I became very interested.
I wanted to see if the new series would lean heavy on humor as many of the classic episodes did or if it would take a more serious direction. I also wanted to see if the production values and cinematography would be worthy of similar science fiction films and shows, especially those that have been released since 2000. I was also interested to find out how the cast, in particular Parker Posey, would perform in their roles.
I was pleasantly surprised in all of these aspects of the series.
The basic plot of the series is that the Robinsons and other families and individuals are being sent to colonize another world far from Earth after the planet begins to die due to an apparent meteor crash. There have been many successful missions to the new world, but the Resolute, the ship carrying the Robinsons on the twenty-fourth mission to the new world, encounters a deadly enemy that derails the mission and forces most of the survivors to evacuate to a nearby habitable planet via Jupiter shuttles. Once on the planet, the would-be colonists have to devise a plan to get back to the Resolute, which has taken heavy damage but has managed to survive the attack. The series focuses on the Robinson family as they encounter different dangers on the planet and face off against a certain stowaway from another Jupiter vessel.
The show has a very serious tone most of the time. It reminded me a lot of the heavy-handedness of the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica (of which I’ve only seen a few episodes, most of which bored me to death). Unlike BSG, though, Lost In Space managed to keep my attention when there were lulls in action, plot, and character development. Enough humor was laced throughout the series to lighten things up once things start looking bleak, but it didn’t deter from the fact that the Robinsons and everyone else were in dire straits.
The action is fast-paced and there almost always seems to be a new type of danger waiting around the bend. Between action sequences, we are given glimpses into lives of the Robinsons, Dr. Smith, and an engineer named Don West (all of which are from the original series, although the occupations and/or motives of some of the characters have changed). Each episode builds on the prior ones as the colonizers attempt to find fuel, fight off creatures and other dangers of the planet, and race to get back to the Resolute.
As far as the look and sounds of the series go, they are brilliant. It looks as if the production group relied on a blend of practical and digital effects. The Robot, the beloved android in the original series and the suped up version from the film, is given an entirely new look (and backstory, but no spoilers here). His face is made up of tiny projections of light that change shape and color depending on his mood. The Resolute and the Jupiter shuttles look excellent as well, as do their flight sequences both in space and on the planet.
My favorite vehicle is the Chariot, a transport that is stored on all of the Jupiter shuttles. It’s just a really cool vehicle and I love how much it is used on the planet’s surface. Again, it’s a blend of (primarily) practical effects with a little CGI tossed in for good measure, but it looks wonderful and I hope that sooner or later we will get a toy or collector’s version of it.
The series’ score, composed by Christopher Lennertz, is a perfect companion to the cinematography. The music sets the tone throughout each episode, becoming dark and gloomy when there’s danger, and lighter when the tone of the show becomes more hopeful. Lennertz also blended John Williams’ classic theme for the series into his own work, hinting at the original series and injecting a little happy wonder that only John Williams knows how to create in a song.
As far as the cast is concerned, I’ve already picked out my favorites. Mina Sundwall portrays Penny, the middle child of the Robinson clan and the most fun individual on the entire show. Her cocky attitude towards everyone and cheeky one-liners provide plenty of laughs in a series that would otherwise be too serious for someone like myself to enjoy. She, along with Parker Posey, steals the show.
Posey delivers a sinister performance as Dr. Smith. Her story takes quite a different direction than either of the the other Dr. Smiths (Jonathan Harris and Gary Oldman), but it works very well in this series. Smith is very manipulative and as far as villains go, she’s a little off balance. Aren’t the best villains always just a little off balance? Posey takes what could have been a very one dimensional character and adds multiple layers to the doctor that make her very interesting.
The rest of the core cast is solid. Molly Parker (Weirdos, House of Cards) has been a favorite actress of mine ever since I first saw her in the indie necrophilia flick, Kissed. She has appeared in a ton of independent films, but most mainstream audiences will probably recognize her from Deadwood. She portrays Maureen Robinson as a matriarch that is protective to a fault and extremely sure of herself when it comes to science. Some of her decisions prove to be dangerous and she has a very uneasy relationship with her husband, John, portrayed by Toby Stephens (Die Another Day, Black Sails). Stephens gives us a father who has a lot of regrets due to the fact that he has spent a lot of time (much of it intentionally) away from his family. He spends a lot of the season trying to rekindle relationships with all of the members of his family.
The other Robinson children, Will and Judy, are portrayed by Maxwell Jenkins (Sense8) and Taylor Russell (Falling Skies), respectively. While I don’t want to complain about Jenkins because he is so young, I do want to say that his performance as Will is sometimes lacking. I honestly believe that this has more to do with direction than it does the actor, as his performance varies by episode. I thought that the series might center around Judy considering the fact that the first couple of episodes focus on her for a lot of the time, but eventually the script bleeds over to other members of the cast. Russell gives a good amount of depth to a character that could have easily become one dimensional.
Ignacio Serricchio portrays a very different Don West from the ones we are familiar with in the original series and film. Serricchio’s West is a mechanical engineer and a smuggler who initially puts his own profit before the needs of others. Brian Steele provides the voice and body for Robot in the series. While his lines are limited, he does a good job.
It was nice to see a cameo from Selma Blair as Dr. Smith’s sister. She has a small but crucial role in the series and plays it wonderfully. Another familiar face (at least to me) that pops up is Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (The Phantom, Mortal Kombat, Pearl Harbor, Space Rangers) as Hiroki Watanabe, a scientist and friend of Maureen. His role expands across the season. Also of mention is Raza Jaffrey (Code Black) as Victor Dhar, an arrogant politician who causes friction among the colonists.
So should you watch it?
Yes, I absolutely believe that you’ll enjoy this series if you’re a fan of adventure science fiction that doesn’t get bogged down in drama. Lost in Space knows that at its heart it is a series about the ups and downs of family. That family just happens to be on an alien planet with unknown dangers and a villain that can’t be trusted but sometimes proves to be an integral part of the group.
Fans of the classic series might not appreciate the seriousness of the new show, but I do believe that they can grow to love it if they give it a chance. Fans of the 1998 film will probably like the series thanks to it having excellent cinematography and great visuals. Fans of science fiction in general will enjoy the action, drama, and family aspects of the series.
So give Lost In Space a chance. You might end up enjoying it more than a lot of the critics believe that you will.
Thanks for reading. I’ll see you all again soon.