Review: Lost in Space Learns to Take Itself More Seriously
In the 1960s, Lost in Space did not take itself seriously. The show helped push Star Trek away from deep explorations of human potential toward a “monster of the week” format. Eventually, Star Trek influenced it back as the show moved from planet-bound and trapped to a freewheeling explorer of the galaxy.
With its reboot, Lost in Space now portends serious science fiction. Gone is the simple (though iconic) robot who often shouted “Danger Will Robinson” to help protect his young companion. Robot isn’t a companion now so much as a rescued enemy turned watcher—and robot is much more formidable than his predecessor. The only shared connected between Lost in Space is Robinsons and robots.
A robot has a backstory. Robot becomes integral to the much more complicated story of the Robinson family. The survivalists fleeing earth do so in the new series not because of overpopulation, but because of a catastrophic impact event. The singular family lost among the stars and the crazy aliens and humans encountered along the way lay in shards in the shadow of the 1960s.
Robot is not the only change to the basic family plot. Doctor Smith (Parker Posey) is more a doctored Smith, a hapless con-woman and murderer, not a spy or saboteur. Doctor Smith rather than bumbling and selfish, evolves into a psychopathic and maniacal manipulator—but she remains connected enough to her humanity to play on the sympathies of the characters and the audience.
And Don West (Ignacio Serricchio), a paragon of virtue in the original series, finds his stalwartness transferred to Maureen Robinson (Molly Parker), and some of the original Dr. Smith’s swarthiness sprinkled over his smuggling past.
But even Maureen isn’t without secret transgressions—unethical behavior that haunts even the most seemingly unsullied. The entire show hinges on her end justifying the means.
The new Lost in Space is anything but vaudeville set on a foreign planet. Serious adventure, jeopardy, trama, intrigue, and tension fill the Robinson family’s fictional existence.
And while they are lost, the Robinson’s are not alone—humanity remains near, and when it shows up, it retains, its well, humanness. Like most science fiction, the foibles of humanity find amplification in the future, not rehabilitation. While the general circumstances seem dire in season 1, season 2 reveals that things are not as hopeless as imagined, but also less controllable than desired.
Like most contemporary shows, a singular story arc connects through episodic conflicts and obstacles. The Robinson family demonstrates and builds their relationship on shared struggles and the occasional bubbling up of existing discord and dysfunction. We don’t find a 1960s nuclear family in the new Lost in Space.—we watch a multifaceted contemporary troop diverge and oppose, holding themselves together more by forced circumstance initially, than by choice. A portrayal of family perhaps more inclusive and more representative—and thus more reflective.
The production values, the acting, and the scripts outstrip even the best of the original’s ambitions or execution. Lost in Space turns out to be pretty good science fiction, with plenty for adults and tweens to relate to.
Season 2 kept me much more enthralled than season 1. The adventure was tighter, and the stakes even more personal as people not planets turn out to create the peril.
If you gave up on Lost in Space early, come back. It’s ready for its closeup.
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- Included w/ Netflix