Written By: Nick Poulimenakos
This early review is spoiler free and is based on the entire ten episode season provided by Netflix.
At the time of its original 1960’s release, Lost in Space was a bold and exciting new adventure for early American television despite falling into obscurity in later years. In an era that popularized the science-fiction genre, Lost in Space gave viewers a realistic look into a unique family dynamic that experienced trials and tribulations that most regular families see themselves, just on a galactic level. 50 years and a critically panned 1998 feature film later, Netflix announced that they were resurrecting Irwin Allen’s legendary series with a modern reimagining of the same concept of a family, lost in space.
The cinematic-esque upgrade employs similar production design to JJ Abrams’ big-budget Star Trek franchise that takes the raw resources from the original show and formulates an episodic, entertaining drama with unexpectedly multidimensional and emotionally driven characters.
Lost in Space chronicles a future where colonization in space is now a reality, and the Robinson family is among those tested and selected to make a new life for themselves in a better world. But when the new colonists find themselves snappishly torn off course en route to their new home they must fashion new alliances and work together to survive in a hazardous alien environment, light-years from their original destination. Stranded along with the Robinsons are two outsiders who find themselves thrown together by circumstance and a mutual knack for deception.
When the show begins, Lost in Space treads on the common television trope of “gritty reboot syndrome.” For a show that was originally cheesy, good-fun, the reimagining immediately strived for a darker interpretation but that perception changes within minutes after the iconic Robinson family discovers the fact that they are able to breathe on this newfound planet. From then on, the show superbly displays a charming, adorable and relatable family that experiences harrowing challenges that seek to test their limits while they work towards surviving and finding a way back to their ship, The Resolute. Each episode utilizes an analogous formula – the Robinsons get in danger, and they have to work together to save each other before it’s too late. These elements forge an entertaining, ten episode saga that is well paced, intense and unpredictable in its execution.
Visually speaking, Lost in Space cements its place as Netflix’s most breathtaking series yet. Evidently, money was spent on giving the show a more realistic, futuristic feel, once again similar to the rebooted Star Trek franchise. The unknown world where the Robinson’s found themselves on is filled with a rich landscape and fully realized plant and wildlife. Whether they are swimming in an arctic pond or driving through a majestic forest, Lost in Space gives viewers a glimpse into a convincing future that seamlessly blends practical effects and mesmerizing CGI.
Where Lost in Space succeeds the most however is with its complex characters. The Robinson clan is a family where each member grapples with various aspects of their life. Maureen and John Robinson, the parents, struggle to deal with their fractured relationship. Adding another layer, Maureen struggles with trying to take command of the mission and keep her family safe while John fights to reconnect with his children after so much time apart. Eldest child Judy suffers from PTSD from a near-death encounter at the start of the show. Middle child Penny attempts to cement her place in the family despite now possessing any distinct qualities like her siblings. Youngest of the household is Will who scraps with feelings of meagreness. It is these faults and flaws that make the Robinson’s stronger as you will find yourself becoming engulfed in their stories and their struggles, which is the result of strong writing on the part of series creators, Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless.
The snarky dysfunction of the family is only enhanced by the superb performances from the main cast and the clear standout of the show is Maxwell Jenkins as Will Robinson. As a character who is constantly unsure about if he actually belongs, Jenkins’ incarnation of Will has you quickly empathizing with him but at the same time, rooting for him to rightfully earn his spot as a member of the Jupiter 2 crew. The relationship created by Will and one of the series’ most iconic character, the robot, is an absolute treat to watch and is driven mostly by the young actor’s terrific performance. Jenkins is left to act with mostly CGI creation but he sells the emotion of discovering his first true friend so well. Toby Stephens stars as John Robinson and, while he may be tough and gruff, he is a loving father and a touching husband who simply wants to put his family back together. Molly Parker as Maureen Robinson is an intelligent, independent and captivating character and the moments where Parker and Stephens play off each other do not disappoint as they have excellent chemistry together. Taylor Russel and Mina Sundwall as Judy and Penny are equally fantastic as the Robinson sisters. The brainy Judy and the hilarious Penny add levity to the dire situations in the show and their evolving relationship is one of the brightest spots for the series. Finally, Ignacio Serricchio plays Don West, a mechanic and smuggler and his portrayal of the character is authentic and hilarious. His arc in particular this season made for a solid sub-plot that allowed the show to hit the brakes for a moment and slow down.
Ask any Lost in Space fan who the most well-known character is and I guarantee most will say Dr. Smith. Yes, the Netflix edition of the show does have its own version of the character, this time played by Parker Posey and the decision to give the character her own paragraph was made because out of every character, she’s the one I am most on the fence about. Posey’s Smith is a multi-faceted former criminal who is obviously not who she says she is. Her motives are constantly shrouded in mystery and, while this works in some circumstances, in others, it falls flat. Posey’s performance is great as she portrays the unstable, motive-shifting villain in an entertaining way but certain decisions the character makes will leave you downright confused. Which is not a knock on Posey but more so on the writing of the character.
In today’s current climate, the argument can be made that Lost in Space is a show that is needed. Instead of going the traditional route of capitalizing on the darker, sci-fi trend that Hollywood is experiencing right now, Lost in Space is a show made for the entire family. It is uplifting, unexpected and bright; even in its darkest moments, the series is able to ground the environment dealing with family oriented character arcs.
Unfortunately the composer for the series has not been announced yet but I can say that the music for the series is incredible. The show retains the original theme composed by John Williams as well as incorporates uplifting, enthralling songs that enhance the action sequences and emotional moments for Lost in Space.
All in all, Lost in Space may not be the best Netflix series produced, but it is certainly one of the most exciting. As a show that could have easily been phoned in to become just another reboot, Netflix’s Lost in Space wonderfully blends the original show’s family dynamic with modern day visuals and action set-pieces. It is a solid beginning for a show with incredible potential and by the time the season ends, your jaw will have dropped from the sheer amount of exciting twists and turns in the finale. It is a refreshing and well-acted entry into Netflix’s growing list of original programming and reminds us that, even in the darkest moments, there is still hope for a brighter tomorrow.
Nick’s Rating – 8.4/10
Lost in Space premieres Friday, April 13, 2018 on Netflix