A pretty stellar re-imagining of the classic series
Remakes. The good and the (mostly) bad. For every Sabrina or Battlestar Galactica, there’s a Charlie’s Angels, Knight Rider, MacGyver, Dallas, or 90210. So when Netflix announced it was remaking the chintzy ‘60s series Lost in Space, the odds weren’t in their favor, but the streaming giant defied them all the same, producing a polished piece of entertainment that leans heavily into the science of science fiction. No streaming setup? Well now you can bring the Robinsons home on Blu-ray.
Set thirty years in the future, this epic reimagining of the original family space adventure finds the Robinsons torn off course en route to what they hoped would be a fresh start on a distant space colony. Against all odds, but with endless hope and extensive training, the family bands together to survive on a dangerous alien planet.
The reboot keeps the broad strokes of the original. In the future, pollution, a lack of resources, and the resulting conflict have driven mankind to look beyond Earth to survive, and a fleet of colonists are set to make their way to an identified habitable site in Alpha Centauri. One of the crews is made up of the Robinson family (John, Maureen, Judy, Penny, and Will), and as they prepare to leave, a freak accident occurs where the fleet intersects with a wormhole, destroying many vessels and throwing the rest into a unknown area of space, with the Robinsons forced to crash land on a (barely) hospitable planet. As they try to connect with other survivors of the incident, they encounter problems both technical and local to this new world to overcome.
Where reboots often lean into the gritty, Lost in Space still retains a family feel despite upping the intensity of both its visuals and plot lines. A survivalist action drama that is rooted in exploration and science, in many ways it feels reminiscent of The Martian. The family each with their own skills and knowledge, working together (usually) to overcome each problem that comes their way, and believe me there are a lot of them. The reboot put its own tilt on the original premise, making it altogether more plausible, and offering bigger scope for future storytelling while updating many aspects of the show in important ways. First off, it pushes Maureen (Molly Parker) to the forefront as the leader of this expedition group, with her husband John (Toby Stephens) bringing a more military supporting role. Mission doctor Judy (Taylor Russell) is biracial (from a previous marriage), young Penny (Mina Sundwall) is the mechanic, and Will (Maxwell Jenkins), the youngest of the Robinsons, is a genius level kid who is finding his place within the family unit, the mission, and key to the relationship with the alien robot that becomes a integral part of the show. There is an effort at exploring marital issues and conflict within the family; in all it’s a far more dysfunctional and diverse group, a better reflection of reality that the ‘idealistic’ ‘50s version. More depth comes from flashbacks to their time on Earth, and later adding other surviving colony teams into the mix. We also have two other main characters adding a little grit and intrigue to the mix, making the show not just about family but eventually about a community too. Yes, Dr. Smith is played by a woman this time out, and Parker Posey is perfect in the role, although you do wish she’d been given a little more meat in terms of the script. There’s also a smuggler named Don West (Ignacio Serricchio) who adds much needed texture. The aforementioned robot also adds to the ambiguity, a relic of a past conflict with an alien species, with questions over whether they can trust this seemingly helpful being who can be controlled, but seems to begin to display a level of independence as the show progresses.
Where the show stumbles somewhat is in its need to stack perilous situations on top of each other. It keeps thrusting them into perilous (and often thrilling) situations, stacked one after the other, without taking time to take a breathe and ruminate on events. It’s propulsive fare, but sometimes lacks a little emotional weight as a result. Compounding the problem is that these are situations that happen because of (forced) silly character decisions or the writers just deciding to inject a little excitement. The show is also a little superficial in its handling of the climate change crisis that drove these colonists away from Earth to give humanity a fighting chance at survival, only superficially touching on the societal and economic factors that feed into those that get to go and those left behind. This is important as it’s apparent that it is not just the best and the brightest who get to go on this journey, with the show revealing the flaws inherent not just in the system, but the people who get to go too. In many ways the show does plant seeds to explore these and other ideas, as well as set up some ongoing mysteries. The potential is certainly there to redress these aspects of the show, and also to step up a level from an already impressive debut season.
Alongside Star Trek Discovery, Lost in Space is one of the most stunning TV shows to grace our screens in the past few years. Excellent production design, ships, equipment, all look suitably realistic with a retro edge, and rooted in a practical and logical step forward from current tech. The transfer shows this and special effects off nicely, with impressive detail and vibrant colors that showcase sleek future tech, colorful starscapes, and vibrant planetary vistas, as well as all aspects of quality production design down to props and costumes. The color palette leans towards blueish, but this seems a aesthetic choice rather than down to the transfer. Extra features are:
- Deleted Scenes: Just over 3 minutes worth with no commentary/context provided.
- “No Place to Hide” — Colorized Unaired Pilot Episode from the Original (Blu-ray Exclusive): Colorizing old films/TV shows can often be poorly executed, but this version works pretty well. It’s also great to have the pilot here, so those unfamiliar with the original can contrast the two.
- Bill and Max — Lost and Found in Space: Nice exchange between the two Will Robinson actors.
- Bill Mumy Visits the Jupiter 2: Mumy, who played Will in the original series, acts as a tour guide to set and reminisces. A rather sweet addition.
- Designing the Robot: Only 5 minutes, but interesting all the same. Shame there wasn’t more extra content on this and the production design that went into the rest of the show, as it is very impressive.
- Sizzle Reel: Promo clips.
The Bottom Line
Worried about yet another remake/reboot? There’s no danger of disappointment here. Impressive production design, a great cast, and some solid writing combine to deliver a polished and entertaining piece of sci-fi that is not just family friendly, but hints at some interesting themes and mysteries to explore in later seasons. It’s a show that champions the spirit of scientists and explorers alike, a rare and admirable feat.
Lost in Space Season 1 is available on Blu-ray from June 4th, 2019.