Let go of the past – and your childhood nostalgia.
The Netflix reboot of the TV classic “Lost in Space” is not a remake. Nor does it pick up the story where the original third season ended back in 1968. In fact, you don’t need to have seen an episode of the original to settle in with this reboot.
The good news: that's all OK. Equal parts nifty sci-fi thriller and emotional family drama, this "Lost in Space" is crafted by people with a fondness for the original series who understood how to make it viable for 21st century audience.
The new 10-episode series, premiering April 13 on the streaming service, uses the character names and basic story – a family in space - as an outline and then colors it in with darker tones and topics with reflections of life today.
Gone is the perfect Robinson clan, the lumbering robot and comic relief in the form of the cowardly, insult-spewing Dr. Smith. In their places are a splintered family, a sleek mechanical alien and a female Dr. Smith who I wouldn't laugh at if we were in the same room.
That doesn't mean fans of the original are left behind. You’ll hear the familiar strains of a “Johnny” Williams theme, although the bulk of the music is new. Look for the color orange, the favorite of Irwin Allen. It's throughout the Jupiter 2, on the space suits and used elsewhere as a homage to him. You'll hear many names referencing the original actors and characters. Pay attention - there's a cameo you won't want to miss.
Yes, whenever young Will is in peril, you'll hear "danger, Will Robinson" but it's used sparingly (to better effect) and you are just as likely to hear someone ask "how long do we have?" which always signals impending doom and some smart thinking ahead.
Here's a quick look at the show.
The family: The names are the same, the characters are familiar yet different. John Robinson (Toby Stephens) is a combat veteran who spent years away from home, causing strife in his marriage. Maureen (Molly Parker), is a brilliant aerospace engineer (it’s funny when she refers to herself as “a rocket scientist”) who knows how to do everything. Really – everything. Judy (Taylor Russell) is an annoying smarty pants who argues a lot (as siblings do) with her bookish younger sister Penny (Mina Sundwall) who is every bit the middle child. Will (Maxwell Jenkins) is a sweet boy hampered by insecurities. There’s pain within this family, but they always have each other’s back.
Don West: The charming and funny Don West (Ignacio Serricchio) is an engineer, contractor and smuggler – a likable rogue. Hmm, sounds alot like Han Solo, doesn’t he? When he starts calling Judy “Princess,” thoughts immediately go to Han and Leia – which is a bit creepy. A romance between Don and Judy doesn’t feel because of the noticeable age gap.
Dr. Smith: The biggest change, the best character and performance. We are thrown pieces of a complicated back story, but never enough to form a full picture to know if she’s an compulsive liar, a genius who needs compassion or a psychopath. Parker Posey’s nuanced, multilayered performance plays with the audience as much as the characters. “I’m not the villain of the story, I’m the hero,” she says to get you thinking.
The robot: Just as we have much to learn about Dr. Smith, Don and what happened on the Resolute, the picture of what we'll refer to as "the robot" isn't clear either. When it first appeared on screen it took me a while to realize this was the new "robot." Referred to as a sentient automaton, it has almost human traits including emotions. There are times when it seems like it's Will and his pet - except a really large pet covered in metal. This is a Robot of few words, too. Its communication with Will is telepathic, an interesting twist.
The story: It’s 30 years into the future (2048) and the Robinsons – after vigorous training and testing – are on their way to be part of space colonization, which is now a reality.
The series opens with a tense twist on a seemingly normal family activity. The Robinsons are playing “Go Fish” but their taut bodies are a clue to their anxiousness. In a minute, you’ll see how the Jupiter 2 goes off course. The stressful scene - a mother grasping for her terrified son is quite emotional – doesn’t end when the Jupiter 2 crash lands. Instead it sets up more peril for the family including a situation with one of the kids that is hauntingly original and has given at least one of us a new phobia. (There are moments that are fairly intense for younger viewers to watch, especially in the early episodes.)
The idea of someone being in trouble propels the series forward, as does the introduction of new characters. What keeps it just as interesting are the many questions to be answered. What happened on board the Resolute (“mother ship”) that sent the Robinsons and other families off course from the new colony? What’s the truth behind Dr. Smith? Where is the Robot from? Answers are slowly provided from a series of short, unobtrusive flashbacks that are both satisfying and lead to more questions.
In short: this is a new Jupiter 2. Sit back and enjoy the ride.