Robbie the Robot gets a major upgrade in Netflix's take on Lost in Space, seen here with Judy (Taylor Russ), Penny (Mina Sundwall), and Will (Maxwell Jekins).
In 1961, President John F. Kennedy gave Americans a solemn promise: that before the decade was over, the United States would put a man on the moon. The period leading up to those first lunar steps in 1969 was one of excitement and optimism, a feeling best exemplified by two of the most famous science fiction television shows of all time: Star Trek and Lost in Space. While the former has found great success not only in television but also in movies, comic books, and pop culture, the latter has been more hit-and-miss with its revivals and continuations. The latest attempt to reinvigorate the Lost in Space brand, a Netflix reboot that released its second season late last year, affords an enjoyable, if extremely uneven, experience that is nonetheless perfect for quarantine watching.
Netflix, to its credit, pulls out all the stops when telling the Robinsons’ story. The special effects are movie-grade, the music is fantastic (as it should be; the original theme for the third season of the original 1965-1968 series was written by John Williams, and this iteration uses a new version of it for its theme as well), and the actors are more than capable, if not always memorable. By far the most interesting person to watch is Parker Posey as Dr. Smith, here reimagined as a conniving conman (woman?) with a knack for sowing doubt with a tongue as silver as Will Robinson’s hulking robot pal. The robot itself, who is rebooted as an almost silent alien protector, and Will (here played by Maxwell Jenkins), also have a downright adorable relationship that gives the show genuine heart. I had a good time watching everyone in both seasons, in fact, but that does not mean the show is perfect.
One of the biggest problems Lost in Space has is a tendency towards unearned melodrama. While the original series was known for its camp, the Netflix one is full of angst and high stakes that you never quite buy because of the invincible plot armor every important character seems to wear. It’s no spoiler that the kids aren’t going to die anytime soon, for instance, so why should I feel worried if they are menaced by space velociraptors? This is a fine thing to feel when watching something light, but when the main focus of the show is the drama itself, it sometimes comes across as disingenuous.
The other issue I had was mostly a season two problem: clarity. I watched this show with family, and more than once we had to ask each other questions like “Wait, who is this guy again?” and “Why are they doing this?” and, my personal favorite, “Huh?” To say that we did not always know what was going on was a bit of an understatement, and I’m not just talking about the questionable science and unrepentant technobabble that the show throws at you. I’m talking about actual plot points that were poorly explained. Every time this happened I felt less and less invested in the show.
Unclear plot points and melodrama aside, Lost in Space seasons one and two are still fairly enjoyable. Just don’t expect a masterpiece and it will burn some of your hours in quarantine quite nicely.
Lost in Space seasons one and two are now available on Netflix. Season three, which will also be the show’s final season, is currently set to release sometime in 2021.