It is a truth universally acknowledged that a franchise in possession of a good premise and reputation must be in want of a reboot. Now, whether it’s because the original is too well loved for a new interpretation to thrive, or because of a lack of relevance in a newer time, most of them miss the mark. This, however, makes it all the more refreshing when one doesn’t just hit it, but arguably gives the original a run for its money.
First off, forget the 1999 Lost in Space. When I saw that I was ten years old, and even I saw through it. At least it wasn’t career suicide for everyone; very little could derail Gary Oldman, while Heather Graham and Matt LeBlanc took a swing and a miss at raising their profiles to bona fide movie stars.
But again, all the better, because the 2018 Lost in Space looks downright astounding by comparison.
The beats from the original are all there; a family traveling through space get lost… in space. There’s a decidedly more modern tone to the Jupiter’s crash, complete with massive fires, grievous wounds, and a fair few bodies strewn across an alien landscape.
The new cast, for the most part, make the roles their own. Toby Stephens and Molly Parker are adequate incarnations of John and Maureen Robinson. Their lack of onscreen chemistry thaws as the series progresses, and as more of their backstory is revealed; there is some serious marital strife going on here, contrasting with the happy nuclear family vibe of its predecessors.
The kids are, well, there. Mina Sundwall’s Penny is as vacant as she is boring, almost entirely serving as a sounding board for her FAR more engaging sister Judy, played by Taylor Russell. And look, I know he’s a kid, and I know I never like kids in shows, but at least Max Jenkins’ Will could be a helluva lot worse.
While the rest are chewing the (frankly gorgeous) scenery, Parker Posey’s Dr. Smith is outstanding. Taking what was at best a camp icon and at worst a dangerous predator, Posey turns the shady Doctor into something all of her own; dark, driven, and Machiavellian to the core. Bring as many apples as you can onto this planet, because you definitely want to keep this doctor away.
But c’mon, there’s only one star of Lost in Space, and that’s the Robot. Robot has also undergone a bit of a makeover, in the same way as a Harley Davidson is a made-over scooter. Sleek, strong, and just a little bit sinister, Robot is less a helpful servant than fiercely protective guard dog. Think of it like this; the Robot likes Will, so do not try to hurt Will, because Robot will mess you up.
And he says the thing, which is all I wanted anyway.
This isn’t the 60’s anymore, and there is some serious tension going on on this planet. Massive storms, fragile ice caves, forest fires, and generally this planet doesn’t want to be your friend. It’s less of a family romp through the cosmos, and more like a struggle to survive in a hostile alien landscape full of secrets and mystery.
Like Lost but, ya know, in space.
Taking cues from more recent, long-form television, we’re drip-fed backstory, motivation, and plot twists. There’s no monster-of-the-week formula here; it’s tense, well scripted drama, and the story itself feels tight and cohesive. I could throw in comparisons to The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, and Stranger Things, but I’d be doing them all a disservice. Lost in Space is very much its own creature with its own tone, and succeeds in differentiating itself from the competition nicely.
Overall, the reboot hits the mark. While some plot points peter out, guests are underutilised, and there are some left turns that just feel off, the whole experience is satisfying, engaging, and dramatic. This is Lost in Space for the post-Trump world, and it comes highly recommended.
Lost in Space launches globally (and ominously) on Friday, April 13, only on Netflix. I only saw the first five episodes, and personally can’t wait to keep watching. Fans of TV both old and new should definitely check it out.
Brian received media screener access to the first five episodes of Lost in Space, courtesy of Netflix.