In the future the Robinson family is part of the twenty-fourth colonial fleet, on their way to Alpha Centauri to make a new life for themselves. But disaster strikes the mother ship, the Resolute, and the Robinsons find themselves at the other end of the universe on a mysterious planet, light years from their original destination.
Also stranded on this mystery plant are the deceptive and dangerous Dr. Smith and the ships mechanic she saved during the chaos, Don West. The Robinsons set out to find other survivors and hope to find a way to get back to the Resolute so they may continue their voyage to their new home.
(This review is based on the first five episodes in the ten-episode season of Lost in Space. Lost in Space airs globally on Netflix on April 13th)
Lost in Space aims to be a return to the good old family space adventure and largely succeeds at that offering some thrills and steering away from the narrative black holes other reboots have found themselves in by trying to be gritty and dark.
The new incarnation of Lost in Space expands the Robinson family dynamic to something more current and relatable to about half the World’s population (averaging the highs and the lows). It puts Maureen Robinson as the head of the family, as John decided some time early on that he needed more space (pun not intended). So her leadership is already in place. It is unquestionable. It is unimpeachable. So when she decides that she wants to go to the new colony then the Robinsons are packing up and heading out on the next ship to Alpha Centauri. It is terrific to see that all the Robinson women are tough. They are not super women, they have their flaws and personal hurdles, but they jump right in whenever the situation calls upon it. When the ship is in immediate danger when it crashes on the mysterious planet it is Judy who jumps into the freezing water ahead of Will. When her family is stuck out in unknown territory and a terrible storm is bearing down on them it is Penny who jumps in the buggy and heads out to pick them up. When Maureen gets back on her feet after the crash she always leads the family. Even Doctor Smith in her own devious ways with her connivings and manipulations, is no dummy either.
Is it family friendly? Some scenes may upset younger viewers. In the freedom of the new media platform there is a swear word now and then. Nothing they would not have heard on the playground. There are only a couple moments with explosions and futuristic violence that may excite little ones. Where cable television and new media have scarcely batted an eye, more like reveling in the freedom of their platforms in the past, at including proper swearing, nudity and graphic violence Lost in Space is a show the whole family should be able to watch together without incident.
The elephant in the room, or, on the mysterious planet, is Robot. A key change from the predecessors is that Will finds Robot among the wreckage of an alien ship on the planet the colonists crash on. I am not willing to admit that it is a bit of a let down, but Robot does not do a whole lot during the first four episodes. If you are like me and you are a fan of how productions make their props and costumes when you look at Robot close enough you can see how production designer Ross Dempster and his team have constructed a suit that an actor puts on. I appreciate practical work as much as the next person but it is a bit clunky. It largely spends a lot of time following Will, standing by. When called into action, which is not often, the computer effects team take over.
Whether Robot will take on more of a personality remains to be scene in the latter half of this first season. During the first half it will say the infamous line that we all wanted to hear. It also stays by Will’s side; they share a connection and it becomes sort of a surrogate parent to Will. However, the Robinsons wanted to keep Robot a secret from the rest of the surviving colonists until the time was right. But dramatic license dictates that you can never wait that long and Robot will reveal itself in explosive fashion at the midway point of the season. What this revelation does for the second half of the season I am eager to see. What does it mean for the Robinsons? What does it mean for the makeshift colony when everyone finds out the truth about Robot?
There is a awe factor in the show as the Robinsons discover more about their planet. A lot of this inspired awe is in the alien territory. While not overwhelming and completely alien, the showrunners know when just to show cool bits throughout the show. Whether there is a wow factor is purely subjective. Episode five signals a swing though once Robot is revealed to the rest of the colonists on the planet. And we have not found out what Maureen has discovered about the planet everyone crashed on which should inject a sense of urgency in everyone to get back up to the Resolute and go about their way to the new colony.
Half way through the first season Lost in Space mostly impresses with its strong and equal female characters. The sense of mystery surrounding Robot’s origins, his connection to Will, now serve as motivation for this reviewer to tune in to the remaining episodes. Especially now that his presence has been revealed to the surviving colonists on the planet surface. Doctor Smith is only beginning to turn the screws in her deception, but enough of her back story was given to show that her intentions are for nothing but in service of self preservation and protecting her secrets.
Production values are top shelf, though used sparingly once on planet to only lightly season this alien planet. The exciting and action centered scenes are very good, specifically in the first two episodes directed by executive producer Neil Marshall who is no stranger to big budget spectacle for the small screen. Again, with a rising sense of urgency with Robot’s reveal and Maureen’s discovery about the planet shaping the colonists’ efforts to get back up to the Resolute, the pace and the action should pick up in the back five episodes of season one.