Some 53 years ago a little sci-fi drama called Lost in Space first hit TV screens. The family-orientated series only went on to last three seasons; but that didn’t stop a feature film version, starring Matt LeBlanc and Gary Oldman, hitting the big screens in 1998 to a less than warm reception from critics. Thanks to Netflix, the series makes a return with a new and improved remake that catapults the old dated storyline firmly into the 21st Century for some much-needed relevance and believability.
For those that are way too young to remember the film, let alone the original series, the story is set 30 years in the future and still follows The Robinson family. Colonisation in space is now a reality, and the Robinsons have made the cut to be relocated from Earth to their new home in space. However, when a meteor storm crashes into the mother ship, The Resolute, the Robinsons, amongst many others making the journey to their new home, scramble to their allocated ships to escape. When their ship, Jupiter 2, is then struck they plummet to an uncharted planet where their journey really starts to begin.
The majority of the first episode is spent getting to know who the Robinsons are. They appear to be like any 21st century family with a number of issues, but all highly intelligent. The family consist of parents John (Toby Stephens) and Maureen (Molly Parker) and their three children Judy (Taylor Russell), Penny (Mina Sundwall), and Will (Max Jenkins). The character development is far from mundane, what with the crash landing and the immediate danger the Family have to endure —Judy being stuck in a lake of ice with time running out fast, and Will being left alone in a forest encountering a mysterious robot are just a couple — it still remains to be engulfed in gripping intensity.
As the family have to work together, it becomes awkwardly clear that they have some issues they really need to work through in order to achieve successful results. Thanks to flashback sequences from each individual standpoint, we not only begin to appreciate who each character is but what really happened to them on Earth to establish the broken family unit they have become; All of which stem from an absentee Father who put his Army work ahead of his family. As the series progresses, these flashback sequences are used in the same way to become familiar with other key characters that are introduced.
With episode two the focus slightly turns on other survivors from The Resolute, especially Dr Smith (Parker Posey) who has all the traits of a caricature villain. Her past is most certainly a dubious one and she’s a constant master manipulator when it comes to getting what she wants. What her end game is remains a complete mystery for at least the first five episodes but it’s one of those characters that threaten to become irritatingly annoying. Joining Dr Smith is the cocky, vain yet big-hearted Don West (Ignacio Serricchio), a skilled contractor who never wanted to be on the Resolute in the first place. Seeming like a match made in heaven, the pair becomes inseparable as they search for other survivors until one has an opportunity to deceive the other.
It’s the young cast that really gets to shine and almost become the saviours of the show. Considering they are siblings, the youngest members of the Robinson clan couldn’t be any more different but all seem more logical and on point than their parents. Russell’s Judy has a scientific head on her shoulders; her traumatic ordeal plagues her thoughts but she soldiers on regardless to overcome her emotions. Sundwall’s Penny is more the joker of the pack; a tech expert who constantly takes the initiative. In one scene she jumps into a buggy explorer after assembling the tyres to find her parents when danger lurks on the horizon. Additionally, there is the youngest of the group, Jenkins Will (watch out for the cameo from Bill Mumy who played Will in the original series) who is the most vulnerable of the three. Lacking in confidence in his own abilities he is constantly frightened, but he shows he is the calm practical problem solver needed in the madness.
Each episode comes a new set of and a distinct terrain that changes like the seasons. All of which also come with their own perils that include giant fuel eating eels to monstrous forest beasts. Like most series, the momentum loses its pace once its world is beginning to fall in to place and the concentration begins to wane. Only having seen the first half of the 10 episode season, I’m hoping the second half picks up the thrills set so vividly at its start to cross the finish line with a thrust.
Whilst a lot seems to go down in each episode, the information isn’t hurled in the audience’s direction at the speed of an out of control meteor. Gods of Egypt Creators, Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless unravel the action in bite-sized chunks which leave you chomping at the bit for your next fix. It’s a solid series from Netflix, one which will appeal to any obsessive binge watchers.
Lost in Space premieres on Netflix April 13