Lost in Space is a show we’ve seen reinvented or rebooted a number of times across different mediums. There have been new TV shows, a blockbuster movie, books and comics all centring on the Robinson families’ misadventures through space. The latest reinvention of the show see’s Netflix reimagine the show with a modern sci-fi feel, that is a little uneven in places but rounds out to be great first season (and clearly one of the best versions of the show).
The central characters of the show are of course the Robinson family, who are a part of a large group leaving Earth to join an already established colony on the planet Alpha Centauri. Differing from past versions where they are more often than not the first explorers to leave, headed out to pave the way for others. Whilst on their way their ship is attacked by an unknown alien species and they are forced to evacuate, shortly after which they are sucked through a wormhole and end up crash landing on an unknown world (trillions of lightyears away from where they are supposed to be).
Soon enough the family have to deal with a number of problems ranging from environmental hazards, alien creatures, crazy human survivors, leadership struggles and of course the regular (albeit significantly heightened) drama that comes with any family outing.
Made up of parents John and Maureen, and kids Judy, Penny, and Will the Robinson family are ‘the’ family, John is an ex navy seal, Maureen is one of the worlds best aerospace engineers, Judy is an 18 year old engineer/doctor, Penny hopes to be a great author and Will is a genius.
Each of the family have their own pretty solid arcs throughout the first season ranging from Will’s struggle with whether or not he deserves to be there, the strained relationship between John and Maureen, or Judy balancing the stress, responsibility, and morality that comes with being the only Doctor the makeshift colony has at only 18 years old. This version of the show gives us a much more real and relatable Robinson family, that is struggle as much with each other almost as much as everything else they have to deal with.
The pacing throughout is done pretty well with only a few beats missed (certain conversations we never see happen come off as a little to far of a leap in certain spots), but mostly the Netflix format allows for some solid world building and storytelling.
A great example of the pacing and how it really takes it’s time when it needs to is the relationship between Maureen and John. Their struggling relationship is handled pretty well over the course of the season, in fact it takes us a little while to learn that they aren’t together and even longer to see why exactly they broke up. This slower approach delivers a much more impactful storyline and makes their reconnecting work that much more, ensuring that it doesn’t feel to forced into the overall narrative.
From the pacing and the supporting characters to the heavy sci-fi plots and of course the Robinson’s themselves all work really well throughout the season with the only real problem being the villainous Dr Smith. Dr Smith is obviously a key part of the Lost in Space story (usually being the reason the family crashes in the first place), but in this adaptation it really feels like she is just there for the sake of it.
Her motivations are confusing, but not in a villainous ‘ooh what is she up to now’ sort of way, and more of a ‘wait… what is she actually doing here?’. Parker Posey plays ‘Smith’ well enough (providing a somewhat interesting take on the part evil genius/part comic relief character we’ve seen in the past) but it never really feels like her as villain is a huge threat or more importantly a wholly necessary one. This reinvented Dr Smith is one of those things that sounds great on paper, but on screen something is missing. Even in the end her scheming doesn’t play out as a slow burn that pays off and she sort of just becomes the villain through a few leaps and bound right at the ned only for to change her motivations yet again and help out the good guys.
That said the ‘Dr Smith’ problem is really my only issue with this latest incarnation of Lost In Space. The pacing is done pretty well and although it isn’t always a jaw dropping cliffhanger that means you have to watch the next episode immediately like we’ve seen with other Netflix show, each episode still definitely leaves you with some questions and wanting more.
The series provides a faithful adaption of the classic source material whilst updating it perfectly for a modern audience. It’s influences are clear throughout as we get a series that feels like a combination of the original series with things like Interstellar, Jurassic Park, and ET, all with just enough emotional family drama and new twists and turns mixed in to tell it’s own story.