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It's no secret that we're living in a world full of reboots. The trend of nostalgia is still going strong, and largely dictating how both TV and film projects are chosen and produced. As such, there are plenty of properties returning to the pop culture lexicon, like Netflix's Lost in Space. Based off the characters from the 1965 sitcom of the same name, the streaming service is bringing the Robinsons to a new generation. Rather than a campy sitcom, the new Lost in Space has more in common with the tragic 1998 movie adaptation. It's a comparison that may just plague the new series, and kill it before it can really get its feet on the ground.
The new Lost in Space was created and written by screenwriters Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless, and based off the characters and setting from the 1960's sitcom of the name. Much like the other version of the story, we follow the Robinson family as they attempt a mission that could provide a new home for Earth's population. The planet is truly suffering, so a bevy of ships are being sent out in hopes of colonization. But when disaster hits, the Robinsons are stranded on an unknown planet and must fight for survival. The new show is produced by Legendary Television, with showrunner Zack Estrin guiding the ship.
While the original sitcom's characters weren't exactly dynamic, Netflix's Lost in Space succeeds in making the Robinsons likable. They're flawed and quirky, and can help carry the weight of such an ambitious project. Considering that the actors were likely working with very little aside from green screens, their work should be doubly applauded. Unfortunately, the show often makes the smart characters do dumb things, which can be a bit frustrating.
Aside from the Robinson family, there are a few Lost in Space mainstays that also manage to join the narrative of the series. Most notable is Parker Posey's Dr. Smith, a character whose shadiness permeates with each of her appearances. Posey takes on the role made famous in the original by the great Jonathan Harris, albeit in a unique a unique gender swapped role. Also present is tough guy Don West (Ignacio Serricchio) and, of course, The Robot.
The Robinson Family is made up of the usual suspects, but with some unique twists. Maureen Robinson is played with sincerity and strength by House of Cards alum Molly Parker, while patriarch John is portrayed by Black Sails' Toby Stephens. The parents are typically portrayed as having a strong marriage, but they're a bit more flawed and realistic in Netflix's version. Flashbacks to their time on Earth reveal that they are actually separated, with John's time in the military and Maureen's work creating a barrier between them. This humanizes the Robinson parents, and makes their interactions in the series just a bit more interesting to watch.
The kids are still made up of ambitious Judy (Taylor Russell), sassy technical wiz Penny (Mina Sundwall) and Will (Sense8's Maxwell Jenkins). Will obviously gets more screentime than his sisters due to his relationship with The Robot, but Penny and Judy are played with spirit by their respective actors. The decision to have Judy played by a non-caucasian actor is also a great way to diversify the cast, and give the new Lost in Space a more modern feel than its predecessors.
Rather than a procedural, the new Lost in Space follows the characters over a just a few days, as they attempt to survive the catastrophic wreck of their space station. Uneasy alliances must be made with strangers as well as The Robot, which seems to be far more dangerous than the campy and iconic one from the original. The narrative is serialized, although there are usually a handful of crises in each episode that keeps the Robinsons on the go an in attempt to stay alive.
In many ways, this is actually one of Lost in Space's weakest points. The non-stop action, which can indeed be thrilling, sometimes weighs down the episodes and makes them feel longer than they actually are. This is no doubt Netflix's attempt to create a more cinematic feel for the new series, although the action can sometimes get in the way of character development.
Indeed, the flashbacks can sometimes be Lost in Space's strongest scenes, finally illuminating more about each character's psyche. Because the show jumps right into the action without much set up, exposition could have easily become boring. Instead it peels back the layers of the characters, and allows them all to be more dynamic presences for the audience.
Ultimately Lost In Space isn't exactly reinventing the wheel, or bringing anything life changing to the world of TV production. What the show does bring to the table is a big budget sci-fi adventure that actually has some heart to it. The familial bonds of the starring cast helped me relate to the otherwise bigger than life situations in the new series. With just the right amount of quirk and humor injected into the otherwise high stakes script, you're better off going for the fun ride, rather than expecting anything truly profound to occur in the new Lost in Space.
Lost in Space will arrive April 13, 2018 in its entirety on Netflix. In the meantime, check out our midseason premiere list to plan your next binge watch.