Lost in Space premieres April 13th on Netflix.
By John Baker
There’s an awful lot going on for the Robinson family as it attempts to escape a rapidly changing climate on earth. The goal is to get to a new world called Alpha Centauri and colonize it to keep the human race alive and well.
Unfortunately, the Robinsons, as well as other potential colonists, find the road to the new world is not a smooth one. It’s those bumps, curves and hills that make up most of the new Netflix show, Lost in Space.
This is no hokey television offering that offers shallow characters and somewhat silly storylines. It certainly is not your father’s version, but a new, bold and mature take on what happens to family and colleagues who end up marooned on a strange planet and hope to balance survival with potential rescue.
Lost in Space is a serial offering, with one episode melding into the next to tell a total story that’s both compelling and entertaining. The Robinsons are the center of the story, as you’d expect, but are far from a perfect family. Dad is a soldier that’s been gone too much; mom is the ultimate coper who has kept family together and isn’t sure where dad fits anymore; the kids are all brilliant and trained for the journey they undertook, but deliver plenty of sibling jealousy, age-appropriate angst and some surprising moments when they rise above their age to do impressive things.
And they all need to as the new world they’ve crash-landed on is as deadly as it is interesting and hospitable initially.
Toby Stephens and Molly Parker are mom and dad Robinson and spend a decent amount of time dancing around their fractured relationship while trying to keep their family safe from threats within and without.
Mina Sundwall (Penny Robinson), Taylor Russell (Judy Robinson), and Max Jenkins (Will Robinson) do yeoman’s work as the children who alternately get into dangerous situations and deliver ideas that produce positive results. Honestly, it gets a little tiring watching another set of young people making dumb decisions for what they think are the right reasons (which makes their decisions even dumber). But there’s enough uniqueness here to keep it fresh. So God bless them.
But the Robinson family is only part of the equation. Parker Posey plays Dr. Smith who is not nearly what she seems. She made the trip by dubious methods and proves to be a nice foil for the plans the Robinsons hope to include.
I won’t call her “evil” in the truest sense of the word, but she’s a survivor who gets by on guile, intuition, a lying nature and the ability to read people and situations that offer opportunity. Posey does a great job of putting you off on one hand, then reeling you back in the next moment with an act that seems counter to her nature. Overall, though, she’s got some issues and they surface regularly. She’s a delight.
I’m old enough to remember the original Lost in Space series, as well as the movie version, neither of which did a lot for me. The Netflix version of “Lost in Space” was a very pleasant surprise and I was hooked about two episodes in. I liked the stories as they developed and the problem solving that went on — as well as some of the foibles and backstory info that trickles out.
The show uses a nice bit of flashback storytelling to give you insight into the characters when they were one earth, what was happening on earth as things started to fall apart, and how they came to be where they are right now.
Often time, flashbacks can become a tiresome storytelling device, but I didn’t find it obnoxious at all in this series. In fact, I found it instructive in deciphering some of the family and castaway dynamics that develop during the opening season.
And don’t worry, the catchphrase “Danger, Will Robinson” is alive and well. Will and his robotic companion meet in a very interesting way and once they forge a bond (thanks to Will’s selfless act), the pair are nearly inseparable. That’s something that bothers dad, but reassures mom, another area the couple struggle to agree upon.
Lost in Space offers sporadic arrivals of new castaways throughout the show and they add some nice dynamics to the proceedings. The more bodies that begin being found, the more stretched the story gets and that leads to plenty of interesting interaction — some good, some not so much. Throughout the season, the Robinsons and their burgeoning group of associates are faced with very real problems that need solving, some of them life-threatening, as they navigate this new world and hope for rescue.
Lost in Space is going to come with a lot of preconceived ideas about what it might be and I’m happy to say that I found it to be far more than I’d imagined. My feeling is that Lost in Space is a worthy sci-fi offering in a genre that is enjoying a nice renaissance on screen and film right now.
I give Lost in Space a B.