BY ERIN CARBERRY ’19
Released on April 13, Netflix’s “Lost in Space” is a reimagining of the 1960s sci-fi classic television show of the same name. When the project was first announced, audiences had their reservations: some feared another gritty sci-fi reboot while others had flashbacks to the series’ last attempt at a reboot, the universally panned 1998 film. Like its predecessors, the Netflix series follows the Robinson family as they board the spaceship Resolute and crash land on an alien planet en route to the colony Alpha Centauri. However, this series makes some changes that breathe new life into the original tale, with a talented cast and steady plot. Overall, hesitant audiences have nothing to fear: the series has heart, wit and cleverness in equal measure.
The first impression of each character immediately defines their archetypes: John Robinson (Toby Stephens, “Black Sails”) is the gruff military father, Maureen (Molly Parker, “Trigger”) is the book-smart mother, Judy (Taylor Russell, “Falling Skies”) is the overachieving eldest child, Penny (Mina Sundwell, “Maggie’s Plan”) is the snarky middle child and Will (Maxwell Jenkins, “Sense8”) is the sensitive, youngest child. It becomes clear from the first episode that each character is much more than they seem. Each of them wrestles with their own demons, from Judy’s onscreen battle with PTSD to John and Maureen’s fractured relationship, but the family remains united by their loyalty to one another.
Shows that rely on young actors can struggle immediately if those characters are poorly written or amateurly acted. “Lost in Space” is not afflicted with this problem, as each of its relatively unknown young actors bring subtlety and poise to their roles, refusing to be pigeonholed. Alongside the Robinson family stars the enigmatic identity thief Dr. Smith (Parker Posey, “Hell on Heels”), the unpredictable and charming Don (Ignacio Serricchio, “Bones”) and a killer robot turned-young boy’s guardian (Brian Steele, “Terminator Salvation”).
Presenting a series of problems for the Robinsons and their fellow castaways, the plot moves along smoothly, inviting audiences to be sucked into the beautiful and dangerous world as it gracefully links the chapters of its winding story. The subplot between Will and the robot is particularly well-executed: there are moments of both heartwarming delight and aching sadness as their friendship develops and is then harshly tested. As the truths about the robot’s origins are revealed, it comes to serve as a harrowing reminder of human nature — second chances and the capacity to forgive. Through this subplot and others, the series uses sparing and well-placed flashbacks to delve deeper into the mysteries of its unfolding narrative. Scenes of the Robinsons and Dr. Smith before they traveled on the Resolute provide insight into the character’s psyches, the family’s complicated dynamic and the plot’s bigger picture.
Combining the wit of nostalgic early 2000s sci-fi with the impactful storytelling of a more modern series, “Lost in Space” is much more than it appears to be. It stands on its own while simultaneously complimenting its original predecessor, with a multifaceted plot and variety of sympathetic characters. The series is full of heart, despair, triumph and action — accessible and enjoyable to sci-fi fanatics and casual viewers alike.