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TV Review: Netflix's Lost in Space

SYNOPSIS: Set 30 years in the future, colonization in space is now a reality, and the Robinson family is among those tested and selected to make a new life for themselves in a better world. But when the new colonists find themselves abruptly torn off course en route to their new home they must forge new alliances and work together to survive in a dangerous alien environment, lightyears from their original destination.

Lost in Space, TV Review, Netflix, Lost in Space TV Review, Science Fiction, Drama, Toby Stephens, Molly Parker, Parker Posey

REVIEW: As each new Netflix original series debuts, the streaming service seems to become more and more ambitious with their storytelling. The scale of offerings like their recent Altered Carbon have entered Netflix into the realm of what HBO and traditional cable networks are capable of putting on the airwaves. The next Netflix series, Lost in Space, has the challenge of not only rebooting a beloved show from the 1960s but also making viewers forget the lackluster feature film from 1998. I am glad to say that this new Lost in Space works very well and looks far superior to either version of the tale that came before it. Updated for modern audiences, this is not your father's (or grandfather's) tale of the Robison family, Dr. Smith, Major West, and cute Robot. This is a darker take on the story of people stranded on a dangerous planet but one that still has every bit of hope and positivity that it's predecessors had.

The new Lost in Space series follows the same general plot as the original series and feature film: a family, all of whom have high intelligence, are selected as part of a mission to venture beyond our solar system to planets orbiting Alpha Centauri. On the way, there is an accident which sends them careening off course and they land on a mysterious planet. In the original series, the family was your prototypical American family with two parents, three kids, and no problems. The series eventually shifted focus from the family as a whole and paid more attention to young Bill Mumy as Will Robinson and his "pet" robot. The show also started to turn more comedic as the bumbling Dr. Smith would have his dastardly plans foiled left and right. On this version of Lost in Space, the writers have shaken things up. Now, the parents are estranged. Toby Stephens (Black Sails, THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH) plays John Robinson as a career soldier and not a scientist which puts him at odds with Molly Parker (House of Cards, Deadwood) whose Maureen Robinson is a brilliant scientist who orchestrated the expedition for the family. Eldest daughter Judy is played by Taylor Russell (Falling Skies). Judy is still an incredibly intelligent girl as she was in the original series and as played by Heather Graham in the film, but they made the character a bit younger here and force her to deal with trauma that occurs in the first episode of the show. The younger children, Penny and Will, are played by Mina Sundwall and Maxwell Jenkins respectively. Judy is jealous of her older sister and Will feels he is not smart enough compared to the rest of the family.

By adding in the dynamic that not everyone gets along, the Robinsons feel more like a real family in an extraordinary situation. Viewers from every type of household will be able to relate to the Robinsons: they fight, they argue, they make-up, and they eventually support each other. Over the five episodes made available for review, each character gets a chance to shine in one way or another. The focus is even amongst every character, but Will and his robot still get a good amount of screen time. The origin of the mechanical character is vital to the plot of the series so I won't spoil it here. The show is also structured in such a way that the first episode drops you right into the action and then gives us how the Robinsons ended up where they are via flashback. It is a bit jarring at first to try and orient yourself in the story, but I found myself quickly liking each character, including the bad guy (or gal, in this case). Parker Posey plays the gender-swapped Dr. Smith whose own flashbacks definitely make her very different from the versions of the villainous character played by Jonathan Harris in the series and Gary Oldman in the film. Dr. Smith is definitely not a character to be underestimated, but not in the mustache-twirling manner we have seen the character use before.

Another change that definitely improves this series over prior versions is the planet the Robinsons land on and who else landed with them. While the character of Don West (here played by Ignacio Serricchio) does get some focus in the early goings, the series has a more of a logical explanation for how they end up in their inhospitable habitat. Luckily, the plot develops in such a way that we get to see a wide array of environments on the planet in a short amount of time but still leaves enough mystery for seasons to come. So much happens over the first five episodes (of a ten episode season), I could not help but plow through each chapter to find out more. In a lot of ways, the series shares a similar structure to ABC's Lost in that we meet characters but do not fully understand their backstories or true motivations. Like that iconic series, we as viewers learn more about these characters than they know about each other which increases the tension when situations call for trust when we know they should not be relying on one another.

Lost in Space, TV Review, Netflix, Lost in Space TV Review, Science Fiction, Drama, Toby Stephens, Molly Parker, Parker Posey

The quality of the production is also top notch. It is clear that there was a great deal of location shooting done which is augmented by special effects that never look cheesy or cheap. In fact, the work done to make the Robinson's journey look tangible is much more convincing that anything seen on CBS' Star Trek: Discovery. There are definitely moments in each episode where logical decisons seem to baffle the characters and end up in cliche situations but that is difficult to avoid when adapting a property like Lost in Space. Behind the scenes, the series was created and written by Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless (POWER RANGERS, GODS OF EGYPT, THE LAST WITCH HUNTER, DRACULA UNTOLD). Based on their resumes, you would likely not have high hopes for this series, but showrunner Zack Estrin (Prison Break) and director Neil Marshall take things up a notch. Marshall, best known for the films THE DESCENT, DOOMSDAY, and the upcoming HELLBOY reboot as well as his work on Game of Thrones, Hannibal, Constantine, and Westworld, treats the introductory episode of Lost in Space like a feature film rather than a television series, further blurring the line between the two formats.

Lost in Space was always regarded as a pulpy and retro property, something the critically maligned 1998 film did little to correct. This new, fresh take on the story of the Space Family Robinson is a daring and prescient take on a future not too far away. Some may feel that some aspects of this mildly dysfunctional family are a little too on the nose, but the cast is all excellent, especially Toby Stephens and Molly Parker. Parker Posey, for a long time an underrated dramatic actress, makes Dr. Smith her own and a character who is not quite a villain but definitely not a hero. This is smart science fiction that doesn't shy away from telling a story that can be enjoyed by all ages. There is action, there is humor, and most importantly there is heart; a show for the whole family and fires on all cylinders even if some moments are a bit cliche. The only danger here is having to wait a year for more episodes once you finish binging this short and sweet ten episode freshman run.

Lost in Space debuts on all 10 episodes of it's first season on Netflix starting April 13th.

Source: JoBlo.com

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