Netflix’s new reboot of Irwin Allen’s Lost in Space retains the central dynamic of the 1960s original. It centers around the Robinson family – father, mother and three children who have adventures in space after winding up on a far-flung planet when their spaceship is knocked off the route. It introduces us to a newer and better version of the robot who only says, “Danger, Will Robinson” and also to the nefarious Dr Smith, a woman this time, who really isn’t who she says she is.
But set in 2048, the new Lost in Space has tried hard to be cognizant of its futuristic setup. The Robinson family is slightly dysfunctional now, John (Toby Stephens) is an absent father leading a troubled marriage with Maureen Robinson (Molly Parker), also a brilliant scientist. Among their children, Will (Maxwell Jenkins) is still the ultimate saviour, coming up with solutions to fatal problems at the last moment while Penny (Mina Sundwall) and Judy (Taylor Russell) are more confident elder sisters. While all that sounds good to go on paper, all Lost in Space remains in reality is an old-fashioned sci-fi series dressed up for modern times.
I have watched the first few episodes of Lost in Space and I can honestly say that while the show is a visual delight on our screens, it wastes too much time rollicking around the Robinson family drama. Don’t get me wrong, Lost in Space does present some vastly intriguing ideas. The main reason that the Robinsons decide to leave Earth is that thanks to a meteor collision, it has become a less viable place to live long-term. And the way the show deals with the technicalities of the Jupiter and the Resolute are also noteworthy, special mention to the Chariot. The New planet landscape is aesthetically appealing with its variety of geographies around. The robot is also a stark and much-needed departure from the 60s cardboard one, in fact, it resembles the sinewy creature from The Shape of Water. But somehow, Lost in Space is not able to form an organic connection between the family dynamics and the action. It is almost like there are two narratives and the audiences have a tough time keeping up with either one of them.
A sizeable portion of the first episode follows the family trying to save Judy, the eldest of the children, from freezing in the iced water body. But even in between that, one after the other, the Robinsons are flung with calamities, and mostly, it is the youngest prodigy Will who pulls them out of the tricky situations. “I swear to God, every time I come up here, there’s something worse,” says Penny, the middle Robinson child, after stepping outside the family ship and spotting a vicious storm forming in the distance. And we echo the same thoughts, but not in a good way.
Talking about Penny, Sundwall’s performance makes for the few good things in the show. Along with Parker Posey’s Dr Smith. Her sly yet slightly comedic self brings the perfect amount of mystery to her villanious character. Which is probably why the third episode titled ‘Infestation’ seems stronger than the rest for being so singularly focused. Jenkins and Russell are also equally appealing in their performances. Black Mirror’s Molly Parker has a hopeful exuberance around her but she is too caught up in explaining technical engineering terms.
Till now, the show has been able to provide decent entertainment for viewers who have a thing for family dramas. But about the sci-fi, here’s hoping the rest of the episodes do more justice.