Before sitting down and watching all 10 hours of Netflix’s latest reboot, Lost in Space, what little I knew about the series consisted remembering that Joey (Matt Leblanc) from Friends was in a movie remake in the 90’s, and that the series featured a robot that waved its arms around like a loon and said that things were dangerous. I can now attest to the fact that the Lost In Space reboot contains the gosh-darniest, pluckiest group of can-do’s this side of the Jupiter 2, rounded out by a now- morally-ambiguous robot.
In the future Earth is becoming pervasively uninhabitable. Maureen Robinson (Molly Parker) wants her 3 brilliant little scientist children, Will (Maxwell Jenkins), Judy (Taylor Russel) and Penny (Mina Sundwall) to have a better life and so Mrs. Robinson signs them all up for the Alpha Centuri program: an initiative that will see them resettled on a new world millions of light years away. But when the colonists crash land on an alien planet they must work hard and co-operate and ensure their survival.
Unfortunately the premise plays as tired as it sounds: Lost in Space lacks moralistic complexity, compelling writing, or believable characters
Unfortunately the premise plays as tired as it sounds: Lost in Space lacks moralistic complexity, compelling writing, or believable characters. Dr. Smith in particular is so obtuse and lacking in real-world pragmatism that it’s unbelievable that this cartoon character ended up in space. The method she used to board the Resolute would perhaps be applicable to stealing someone’s spot on a Disney Cruise, not an interstellar spacecraft. After a series of horrible incidents including murder, and identity theft, Dr. Smith finds herself residing on the Robinson’s Jupiter after the crash. She pretends to be a psychologist and goes around asking various colonists if they would like to “talk to a professional”. The trouble is that Dr. Smith is so creepy and disingenuous that it’s hard to understand how all these people could take so long to see through her nonsense.
Dr. Smith seems to want to wreck chaos for chaos sake in an environment utterly wracked by chaos. It’s a non-starter.It’s a shame especially considering Parker Posey’s skill as a performer in the past… but I don’t think any actor could make Dr. Smith, as written, work.
When Lost in Space isn’t caught up in the nonsensical quagmire of Dr. Smith’s duplicity Will, Judy, Penny, Maureen and husband John are working through their family crisis’, one real-world catastrophic crisis at a time.
When Lost in Space isn’t caught up in the nonsensical quagmire of Dr. Smith’s duplicity Will, Judy, Penny, Maureen and husband John are working through their family crisis’, one real-world catastrophic crisis at a time. Episode after episode the show looks for ways to trap Maureen and John together so they can figure out what is up with their marriage. Whether they’re trapped under a 30-story satellite dish, or facing certain death in a tar pit, John and Maureen use these “opportunities” to re-solidify their connection. I mean – they have to right? Filing for divorce while lost in space seems impractical at best. Meanwhile Judy (the best 14 year old doctor ever), struggles to get over her trapped-in-ice trauma, and then puts all the colonists in mortal peril. Penny appears to be less “science-y” than the others but but learns how to drive an all-terrain vehicle in 30 seconds, while Will has the Robot.
Hardly an arm-waving harbinger of comical danger, the reboot Robot actually awakens pertinent questions about good, evil, and morality. Can artificial intelligence be evil, or is it only as evil as those who control it? How can we reconcile a being’s past actions adjacent to their current modality? These are questions the show explores and they are the most poignant moments of the series. The show juxtaposes scenes of the chaotic, seemingly all powerful Robot with expressions of gentle sentimentality which seem to call into question what we may believe about ourselves.
Lost in Space has all the pieces of a compelling sci-fi epic but fails to put them together in a meaningful way. In many ways these characters are too perfect and many times their struggles seem like window dressing rather than actual emotional journeys we care about. It overuses its narrative thrust frequently, and throws the audience into catastrophe after catastrophe, interspersed with quiet and obvious conversations of the characters quickly getting their emotional lives in order before gerrymandering themselves out of the tar pit, or ice pit, or gigantic lizard monster attack. Lost in Space is supposed to be exciting but most of the time it’s just exhausting.
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