I spent the last few days plowing through Netflix’s ten episode reboot of Lost In Space. It was a fun romp, though not without some frustrations, and is well worth the time to view.
What I enjoyed
There is a lot to like in this show.
While most of the characters are developed well, and each of the Robinson’s has a story arc 1, three characters really stand out.
Penny Robinson is, by far, my favorite of the Robinson clan. She’s snarky, mischievous, and is comfortable on her own or as part of a group. Her personality provides many of the more comedic moments in this serious plot, so when Penny Robinson appears on screen it’s like a tension relief valve has been opened. I enjoyed just about every moment she was on screen 2.
Don West is the second “break the mold” character. In the original Don was a straight-laced typical male lead, in the reboot he is more cynical and opportunistic. He remains a good man, but he often tries to prove he is not. The Robinsons tend toward being an idyllic nuclear family of over-achievers, and Don acts as a great foil to disrupt their bonds. He is never malicious, and remains always good natured and light-hearted on the surface, he just doesn’t fit. As such, he creates some of the best positive tension in the show.
Dr. Smith is creepy. She’s not the whiny schemer of the original, who was always someone I couldn’t imagine achieving any sort of authority. Nor is she the brutal cynic of the 1998 movie. Instead, she is more Machiavellian in her manipulations and has a genius back story which reveals just how dangerous this character is. I found her scenes difficult to watch, but not because the acting was bad. Parker Posey’s take on the character is disturbing, and that is about as high a compliment I can give.
The show is influenced by the AL era in which it is produced 3. Both the characters and the audience know nothing about the events which left them stranded on the planet when the show begins. Over the course of the ten episodes information is revealed in the form of flashbacks 4 which uncover both plot details and character motivations. Some of these reveals don’t come until the final episode, and work pretty well. I also appreciate the way urgency builds throughout the arc, though perhaps a bit more desperation would have helped speed things along. The combination of tension, driven by urgency, and the perpetual state of unknowing created a vibe which felt a lot like the under-appreciated Earth 2 with the Lost In Space characters shoehorned in. It works.
The sets, equipment, and visual effects are all top notch. I have no idea how they did the Robot! Netflix knocked it out of the park.
What I Didn’t Enjoy As Much
To be honest, there was’t a great deal.
The Character Actions
Everyone on the show is a Type A personality, and so they want to be running around doing things. The personalities fit the situation, so that’s not a complaint. But just about every major decision made in the story ends up backfiring and making things worse 5. After a while it got a bit tedious. In most instances the characters are making the best decisions available with the information they have on hand at the time, but because this is a binge-watch show it ended up becoming rather grating.
The story is very good, but there were a couple of “sudden discoveries” which made me say, “Really?” They don’t ruin the show, but did require me to stretch my suspension of disbelief a bit further than it had already been stretched.
Really, this is LOST: In Space. Watch it.
- Save Judy’s, which gets scuttled by the fourth episode or so. ↩
- Also, she’s the middle child, so I kinda have a natural kinship with the character. ↩
- “After Lost.” I’ve come to the conclusion that there are two eras for semi-creepy episodic dramas, “Before Lost” and “After Lost.” You could make a case for X-Files, but Lost was the show which every Network tried to replicate. ↩
- Oh Lost, how you changed everything. ↩
- Don even points one of these decisions out in the last episode. ↩