Possible spoilers ahead!
Netflix’s “Lost in Space” is based on the classic 1960s family sci-fi series created by Irwin Allen. The series saw a family of castaways thrown into deep space along with a manipulative old doctor, a young hot-shot pilot, and an overprotective robot. The premise was the same for a 1998 film version, but the execution was flawed to say the least. The new “Lost In Space” on the other hand, is rather good.
The series premiere and follow-up episodes deliver an exciting, fun, and surprisingly dramatic, re-imagining of the original series. In the new “Lost in Space,” Toby Stephens stars as John Robinson. He’s a Marine and absentee father trying to re-connect with his wife and kids after spending years away from home.
His estranged wife Maureen is played by the always great Molly Parker. Maureen is a genius-level engineer and with John gone most of the time, she became the primary caregiver to their three children: Penny Robinson (Mina Sundwall) is the wild child, Judy (Taylor Russell) is only 18 but already a doctor, and finally there is Will (Maxwell Jenkins), the youngest member of the family, and the center of most of the action.
I wasn’t sure how the whole estranged family angle would work, but I found it to be quite effective and one of the show’s best plotlines. Having a divided family gave the Robinson kids the opportunity to develop rather quickly. By episode two we know plenty about each of the Robinson kids, including their strengths and weaknesses and their individual personalities. We also see how their parents fractured relationship is affectiong each kid.
In this “Lost in Space, the Robinson family find themselves on a distant planet, however, they are not alone. Along for the adventure are, Parker Posey as the new Dr. Smith (with a nice little twist), and Ignacio Serricchio as Don West. Unlike previous versions, this Don West is not a hotshot pilot, but a mechanic with a fondness for smuggling and a chicken named Debbie. Watch the show, I promise the chicken thing will all make sense.
But that’s not everyone stranded on the planet. The new series sees the family as one of many survivors of a colonization effort set for Alpha Centauri. When their space station is attacked, many families escape in their Jupiter lifeboats. Many survive the crash landing, but have no way to contact the space station.
This is a big change from the old tv show and the 1998 movie. I don’t know how long time fans will feel about this, but for me, the change works. It works in large part because it gives the Robinsons other people to interact with. Therefore, new relationships are formed; Doctor Smith can play more mind games; and new adventures are launched.
In the acting department, Toby Stephens is very good as John Robinson. Stephens has really improved as an actor since his dreadful work in “Die Another Day.” His character here is a complex one, but the actor delivers a solid performance as a never-say-die soldier. John is also well aware of his failures as a father, and is trying to make amends.
Meanwhile, Molly Parker’s Maureen is fiercely independent and easily the smartest person in the family. Quite often, we see Maureen working out a problem while at the same team teaching her children how she’s doing something. It becomes clear from early on that the kids have much more in common with her, than with John. However, Maureen is also willing to break the rules, if it can ensure a better future for her children.
I should also mention that Parker and Stephens have great chemistry even when their characters are bickering with one another. But the two were at their best when they find themselves stuck in one of the Chariots.
The same can be said of the Robinson children, especially in later episodes when situations force each of them to carry the weight of an episode. The standouts for me were Penny Robinson (Mina Sundwall), and Judy (Taylor Russell). Will on the other hand, got annoying. However, I don’t blame Maxwell Jenkins for this. I think the blame goes to the script which made Will extremely naive and borderline stupid. But I will say that the character improved in the last couple of episodes.
The cast is solid for the most part, even the other survivors were surprisingly strong in supporting roles. But when it’s all said and done, Parker Posey steals the show in “Lost in Space.” She is awesome as Doctor Smith, and she’s scary too. Posey had this look in her eyes that makes you believe she would kill anyone to achieve her goals.
For the most part, “Lost In Space” impressed me with its unique take on a classic. The character development was strong, as was the world building, not just on the planet, but for the space station too. With this show, Netflix has delivered a fun sci-fi family adventure that had plenty of twists and turns that left me wanting more.
“Lost in Space” score: A-