TV Review: “Lost in Space, Season 1”

b44320549a3f0268ab3ae6a00c144da9abd8a375At my house we keep a lot of viewing options on hand. We’ve got a full cable package, Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon all available at the drop of a hat. Television is one of our main hobbies and my wife is a huge fan of all the television things. Over the years I’ve watched a lot of different shows, but lately I’ve found I have a lot less free time to simply sit and enjoy a good television show. As a result, I’ve taken to only starting new shows that have at least a full season available up front. Long gone are the days when I was patient enough to wait a week between episodes. Now I want it all at once, or if not all at once, at least the ability to start and stop as my schedule allows.

The end result of this realization is that I gravitate heavily towards Netflix or Amazon as my entertainment providers. It might be a network show’s most recent season just being added to the library, or it might be an original. Either one is fine.

Enter the new Lost in Space. I’m well aware that the show existed in the past as a bit of a hokey science fiction entry for family viewing, but I’d never seen an episode. My only exposure to the franchise on the whole is the all-time classic Matt LeBlanc movie endeavor from 1998 (which 16-year-old me thought was fantastic by the way). I think it’s safe to say that Netflix did a better job at reintroducing the franchise to the public.

I’m always down for a quality science fiction show, and Lost in Space delivers on that premise with room to spare. The special effects are top-notch, the casting choices for the Robinson family and Doctor Smith are excellent, and the plot that arcs over the entire first season felt full but not too full. The first season tells an interesting story of a family that’s stranded (with a bunch of other families) on a mysterious planet and they are consumed with a need to find a way off the planet to continue their main mission of reaching Alpha Centauri and the human colony located there.

Throughout the 10 episode season I never felt like a single episode was biding its time, making me wait to see the main plot move forward. Some shows suffer from that a fair amount and it’s always frustrating to sit through episodes where nothing that feels important is happening. Lost in Space does a really good job of keeping every episode relevant to the main plot of trying to escape the planet they are stranded on and still allowing for “B” or “C” plot moments that flesh out characters, add a little humor, or let the viewer take a small breather from the drama.

As I’m sure was the case with the original version of the show, Lost in Space is centralized around Will Robinson and his robot pal. The rest of the family has their own adventures, struggles, and interesting moments, but Will and his robot are the central pillar that they all come back to at some point. In this iteration of the franchise, the robot is revealed to have been part of the reason the Robinson’s and the other families are stranded on the planet they know so little about. Will saves the life of the robot in the aftermath of the event that leads to the Jupiter landers leaving the colony ship and the robot takes a special liking to Will moving forward.

Nobody, not even Will for the most part, understands what the robot is all about. It follows Will around faithfully, protects him when he’s in danger, and even assists Will in doing jobs or other endeavors, but in the first season we get very little real, concrete information about the origin of the robot. Towards the end of the season it’s revealed that the robot and its comrades originally attack the colony ship to retrieve their own technology, but no additional insight is given. Obviously that will be a factor in future seasons. I like the robot, and am excited to see it grow into a more interactive character and part of the cast in the future.

My favorite characters of the show are Judy Robinson, played exquisitely by Taylor Russell and John Robinson played by Toby Stephens. I feel like Judy has the most interesting development of all the characters to date. She starts off the show almost dying while trapped in ice shortly after crash landing, progresses through dealing with the PTSD involved with that, and then has to challenge some of her own preconceived notions about another character she initially finds kind of shady. Taylor Russell does a great job with the role and I hope the writers of the show continue to give her a fair amount of spotlight.

John Robinson strikes me as a character that will see a lot of growth in future seasons. The writers keep him fairly straightforward in the first season. He steps in at a few opportune moments to help out his somewhat estranged children and ex-wife, and has a moment or two of heroic action that shows the viewer there will be more to come.

The rest of the family is good, but not great for me in the first season. Will Robinson is great when dealing with the robot, but when the robot is indisposed or unavailable his character falls short of the rest. Molly Parker’s Maureen Robinson is well acted, but written in too predictable a fashion for me. I was able to figure out what she was about to do every time. The character with the most potential is Penny Robinson, played by Mina Sundwall. Penny has a sassy streak inside of her that comes out to play every couple of episodes, and a wild, adventurous side that seems like it can be a great foil for Judy who is a lot more buttoned up. You see a little bit of this back and forth between the two of them a few times, but I predict it will be a regular thing.

It’s hard for me to find anything lacking about Lost in Space. As a show it took a fairly safe route in the first season with only a few risks and established itself as a high quality science fiction endeavor to compete with the likes of The Expanse and other similar offerings. The real risk its taking is gender-swapping Doctor Smith to be female. Parker Posey does a wonderful job as the enigmatic and deceptive Doctor Smith who spends most of her time playing other characters against each other. It’s clear there will be much more of her to come in the conflict department, but in this first season it’s clear the writers were taking their time to carefully lay the seeds about the character and what she can be in the future.

Anyone looking for a bit of space adventure mixed with a dose of family drama and alien robots should give the new Netflix Lost in Space a try. It’s a solid entry into the genre, has already been picked up for a second season, and should entertain most science fiction fans well enough that they don’t have any real complaints.

 

 

Here’s What I Read in 2017

For the past six years I’ve kept a comprehensive record of everything I read. It includes full-length novels, short stories, and novellas. I track how many pages each one consisted of, which month I finished reading it, and the average length of the novels over the course of the year. There isn’t a specific reason for keeping all of this information beyond my own occasional curiosity. Although, sometimes I find the lists helpful when friends, family, or co-workers ask for recommendations.

This time around I thought that instead of just listing out all 65 books I would break them into three categories. That should break up the list a little bit and give me a chance to provide a little commentary. But first, let’s look at a couple of general statistics from my reading in 2017:

Total Books: 65
Total Novellas: 4
Total Short Stories: 2

Average Book Length: 440 pages
Total Pages: 29,047

All of those numbers are well below my personal bests set in 2014, but I’m much happier with them than the numbers I had in 2015 and 2016 respectively. I like things best when I’m reading more than 50 books a year, but less than the 85-100 I read for several years. 65 books in a year is a pretty nice place to be all things considered.

Books I’d Recommend to Everyone

The books listed in this section are ones I wholeheartedly recommend to anyone who loves science fiction or fantasy novels. I’d also recommend them to anyone who simply loves to read because if you haven’t read genre fiction before you should do yourself the favor of giving it a try, and some of these books would be a great place to start.

  • Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch
  • The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch
  • The Black Prism by Brent Weeks
  • The Blinding Knife by Brent Weeks
  • Sins of Empire by Brian McClellan
  • Black Wolves by Kate Elliott
  • The Stormlight Archive: Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson
  • Artemis by Andy Weir
  • Snapshot by Brandon Sanderson
  • The Dispatcher by John Scalzi
  • The God Engines by John Scalzi

Books I Enjoyed Overall

These books are the ones I read because I like the authors, was continuing a series I had already started, or just enjoyed in general but feel that they might not be quite at the level where I’d recommend them to someone going in blind. They were all well-written, exciting in their own ways, and worthy of a read if you read science fiction and fantasy books all the time anyways. This is where the bulk of the books I read tend to fall.

  • Fallen Empire: End Game by Lindsay Buroker
  • Alcatraz Versus the Librarians: The Dark Talent by Brandon Sanderson
  • The Expanse: Babylon’s Ashes by James S.A. Corey
  • Earthbound by Mark. R. Healy
  • Landfall by Mark. R. Healy
  • Skybreach by Mark. R. Healy
  • Sunspire by Mark. R. Healy
  • Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie
  • Nice Dragons Finish Last by Rachel Aaron
  • One Good Dragon Deserves Another by Rachel Aaron
  • Star Wars: Thrawn by Timothy Zahn
  • The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie
  • Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty
  • Promise of Wrath by Steve McHugh
  • The Darwin Elevator by Jason M. Hough
  • Fields of Fire by Marko Kloos
  • BattleTech Legends: Decision at Thunder Rift by William H. Keith, Jr.
  • Apocalypse Triptych: The End is Nigh by John Joseph Adams
  • BattleTech Legends: Mercenary’s War by William H. Keith, Jr.
  • BattleTech Legends: The Price of Glory by William H. Keith, Jr.
  • The Thousand Names by Django Wexler
  • BattleTech Legends: En Garde by Michael A. Stackpole
  • BattleTech Legends: Riposte by Michael A. Stackpole
  • BattleTech Legends: Coupe by Michael A. Stackpole
  • The Warded Man by Peter V. Brett
  • The Desert Spear by Peter V. Brett
  • BattleTech Legends: Wolves on the Border by Robert N. Charrette
  • BattleTech Legends: Heir to the Dragon by Robert N. Charrette
  • The Daylight War by Peter V. Brett
  • The Skull Throne by Peter V. Brett
  • BattleTech Legends: Lethal Heritage by Michael A. Stackpole
  • BattleTech Legends: Blood Legacy by Michael A. Stackpole
  • BattleTech Legends: Lost Destiny by Michael A. Stackpole
  • The Emperor’s Blades by Brian Staveley
  • The Providence of Fire by Brian Staveley
  • BattleTech Legends: Way of the Clans by Robert Thurston
  • BattleTech Legends: Bloodname by Robert Thurston
  • BattleTech Legends: Falcon Guard by Robert Thurston
  • BattleTech Legends: Wolf Pack by Robert N. Charrette
  • BattleTech Legends: Main Event by James D. Long
  • X-Wing: Rogue Squadron by Michael A. Stackpole
  • X-Wing: Mercy Kill by Michael A. Stackpole
  • Switchback: A Nightshades Novel by Melissa F. Olson
  • Scorched Shadows by Steve McHugh
  • Terradox by Craig A. Falconer
  • The Penitent Damned by Django Wexler
  • The Shadow of Elysium by Django Wexler
  • The Mad Lancers by Brian McClellan

Everything Else

Here I have listed the books that were decent enough, but really didn’t inspire me to continue with the series they were a part of, didn’t “wow” me in any particular fashion, or that felt kind of mediocre overall. None of them were bad books by any stretch, but every year I end up reading a few where at the end I think to myself, “Huh, that’s not quite what I was expecting to get out of that,” or “Meh, that didn’t quite live up to the hype I had going in at the beginning.”

  • The City Stained Red by Sam Sykes
  • SCRUM: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time by Jeff Sutherland
  • The Undead Road by David Powers King
  • Warship by Joshua Dalzelle
  • Archangel Down by C. Gockel
  • The Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb
  • Sol Shall Rise by G.P. Hudson
  • The Nova Chronicles: Survivor by S.J. Bryant
  • The Nova Chronicles: Pilgrim by S.J. Bryant
  • The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi
  • Radical Candor by Kim Scott
  • Pilot X by Tom Merritt

At the start of the year I made a promise to myself that I would not buy any new books until I had read everything already sitting on my Kindle. Over time I had built up a pretty big stockpile of books and I wanted to clear it out. I’m proud to say that I achieved that goal just before the new Stormlight Archive book was released in November. That left me able to buy a few specific books I was eagerly looking forward to as I finished off the year. I’m pretty happy having only a few books on my Kindle at a time now.

Another big change I made towards the end of the year is to slow down my reading a little bit. For a long time I’ve read more for “speed” than to really absorb a book and be able to remember what happened six months later. Starting with Oathbringer in November I’ve been taking my time as I read and I’ve found it much more enjoyable. It took me a full 10 days to read Oathbringer. The last two books in that series I read in less than 48 hours and realized I couldn’t remember anything three weeks later.

Maybe this new approach means I won’t read as many books next year. I used to think that would be a problem. There are just so many books I want to read. But, a friend of mine, Brody, has told me many times this year, “Dude, you’ll never read everything you want to read, so why not enjoy what you do have the time to read?” That has opened up my outlook a fair bit, and he’s right. I won’t get to read everything, and that’s okay.

In 2018 I’d like to do a couple of things with my reading: I’d like to tie off the ending of a few series where I only have one or two books left to read, and I’d like to re-read some of my favorites from years past. Stuff like the original Mistborn trilogy, maybe a bit of the Wheel of Time, or possibly some of the old Star Wars Expanded Universe just for the feeling of nostalgia even though it isn’t canon anymore. As always, I’ll try to find a new author or two I can add to my list of favorites.

Here’s to 2017 and a ton of great reading! Let’s see if 2018 can keep up.