At 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.