Season one of Netflix’s Lost in Space, a remake of the sci-fi classic, is now available on DVD. Everyone’s asking the same two questions, the first of which is: how does this reboot stack up against the original series?
Well, in answer to that, I’ve got no idea. I’ve never seen the original, so if you’re after comparisons, look elsewhere (maybe here). This is just a plain review of the new series, judged on its own merits.
Lost in Space follows the adventures of a family of five who are, you guessed it, lost…in space! They’ve set out from a dying earth to begin life anew on an alien planet, but an attack on the colonists’ mothership has sent a number of groups, including the Robinson family, scrambling to smaller crafts to crash land on an inhospitable planet.
And this brings us onto the second burning question: is Lost in Space any good? Well, the series has a lot going for it. It’s well produced, with some cool sets, nifty effects and stunning backgrounds. But I’ve gotta say: I can’t remember ever having seen a TV show with less of a soul.
Everything about this series is done painfully by-the-numbers. I feel like the writers went through a checklist of everything a TV show should have, diligently ticking off each point. “Yep, we’ll have some tension here, a little humour at this point…maybe some character development in this spot here”. But there’s no way around it; Lost in Space is just plain boring. The episodes are about twice as long as they need to be, jamming in far too much tension, backstory and tedious dialogue. Lost in Space just doesn’t know what to do with the time it gives itself. Firefly is a good example of a sci-fi series that filled its hour-long timeslots with no problems, keeping the viewer entertained with a blend of mystery, action, fun characters and writing that was, you know, actually interesting.
Each member of the Robinson family appears to have been chosen from a pool of generic Hollywood characters. There’s Molly, a fairly standard TV mom who just wants what’s best for her kids (and can kick some ass too!). The papa of the family is John, an ex-Navy SEAL (obviously) whose tough guy exterior hides a deep love for his family. Then there’s Penny, the sassy one. “Hold the fort Penny,” says mom, leaving the campsite. “It’s really more of a tent,” quips Penny. Wow. Also there’s Julie who is apparently a qualified doctor despite only being 18, but whatever.
The series antagonist Dr. Smith is sort of interesting; a psychotic impostor who will do whatever she can to advance her own agenda, she has a knack for manipulation. Then there’s the buccaneering Don West, a mechanic/booze smuggler who seems kind of cool and interesting until the moment you realise he’s a discount Han Solo, although he does very occasionally have a funny line.
The acting is pretty solid, as you might expect from a show with this kind of budget, but there were a few things that narked me. Toby Stephens seemed to prepare for the role of John by sandpapering his own throat, and Posey Parker’s performance as Dr. Smith came across as a little overly theatrical at times. But Maxwell Jenkins deserves credit for his performance as Will Robinson, the youngest member of the Robinson family. It’s a key role in this series, but the youngster pulls it off with aplomb. There’s a danger in sending a young boy to make merry with a robot; you might end up with a Jake Lloyd in the Phantom Menace sort of vibe, but Jenkins portrays his character’s emotional development as well as the script allows.
Lost in Space has fallen victim to its own sense of importance. The writers and directors seem to believe they’re making something important here, something that deserves long, dramatic pauses, close ups into the eyes of beautiful actors and a booming orchestral score. But what they’ve ended up with falls so terribly far of the mark. It’s hollow, dull and as bleak and empty as the outer reaches of space.
One thing I should mention though; if you do like Lost in Space (the original or the reboot) then the DVD might be well worth having. Along with the usual deleted scenes, there’s an unaired pilot from the original series, as well as some interesting features including a meeting between the two actors to portray Will Robinson, as well as guided tours of the studio and a look at character redesigns. There’s a lot of cool stuff here, so if you strongly disagree with my opinion (which is fair enough), then maybe you should check this out.
Jonny Keen | [rating=2]
Sci-fi, adventure | Legendary Television | Dir. Stephen Hopkins | Molly Parker, Toby Stephens, Maxwell Jenkins, Taylor Russell, Mina Sundwall, Ignacio Serricchio, Parker Posey