Netflix reboots Lost in Space

First, let me warn you, this contains spoilers.

Second, you need to understand this isn’t your father’s Lost in Space (in my case, I am your father, so this isn’t the LiS I grew up with). I liken this remake to the remake of Battlestar Galactica. The original BG was silly, yet a fun, lighthearted romp through the galaxy trying to find home while attacked by silvery robots with strobing eyes and cool voices. The remake was grittier and darker.

The same with LiS. The original was sometimes a silly, light-hearted, sickly-sweet pull-at-your-heartstrings family melodrama, that was still a fun adventure as they traveled through space trying to find Alpha-Centauri. And this new version is grittier and darker with a dysfunctional family.

Let’s compare the characters.

John Robinson. In the original, he’s Zorro and Father Knows Best rolled into one. He always has a great family speach ready after he just kicked some alien’s ass.

The new John Robinson is a U.S. Marine, but is a little self-absorbed, not very family-oriented, and is essentially a stranger to his wife and kids.

Maureen Robinson. June Lockhart was the all-American mom and essentially played the same apron-wearing, hand-wringing character she did in Lassie, merely swapping a collie for a robot, and spends every episode worrying about what sort of trouble her son and robot were getting into.

The new Mrs. Robonson seems a little angry, a little cold, and very much in charge where her family is concerned (and who can blame her since John seems like a selfish dick). She gets things done even if it means selling government secrets if she thinks it’s what’s best for her family (in this case, having Will’s rejection status to go to the new colony changed).

Judy Robinson. The original Judy was just eye-candy. Her part was to blend into the background, when she wasn’t helping her mom with domestic chores or being the love interest to Don West. Her and her sister Penny were often damsels-in-distress.

The new Judy is from Maureen’s previous marriage and is intelligent, is a doctor, and very self-sufficient and self-assured. When the Jupiter 2 sinks deep into glacial waters, John demands Will to jump in to get a battery pack they need to survive because Will is small-enough to fit in a hatch that was partially jammed open. Will is terrified, so Judy jumps in to both protect Will and to show her step-father up (or to show him she exists). The action almost gets her killed but it shows her head-strong attitude.

Penny Robinson. The original Penny was an annoying, whiny girl whose only purpose seemed to be the target of Will’s brotherly misogyny, “Girls!” She spent most of her time with the women being subservient to the men.

New Penny is a feisty red-head with a wonderfully sarcastic personality. When she gets it into her head that something needs to be done, she does it, consequences be damned. At one point, her parents are off exploring, having given orders to Judy and her to stay put. When she sees an impending storm heading where her parents are, she takes it upon herself to assemble the chariot and rush to their rescue. Easily my most favorite character.

Will Robinson. The original was a precocious child prodigy, and really, just a little too unbelievable for a 9-year-old. He was the focal point of the whole show. He and the robot were the main characters, always getting into some sort of jam because of Will’s curiosity.

New Will so far seems to think before acting, is aware of the dangers, and is a little more hesitant to rush headlong into a situation. He also acts more like his age, being afraid of situations he doesn’t understand or are out of his control. In other words, he’s a little more believable than old Will.

Don West. The original West was hot-tempered, ready to fight, and served no purpose on the flight except as pilot, or co-pilot as John always seemed in charge. He was also the only one on board who never trusted anything Dr. Smith did, unlike the rest of the family who all seemed to have short-term memory.

New West is scoundrel. He’s a mechanic and a petty smuggler. He is very much a narcissist, but despite his bad boy exterior, he is caring. He takes care of a chicken he saved from the crash, and later, despite the danger it puts him into, he carries an unconscious survivor over rough terrain to safety.

Dr. Smith. The original was a saboteur who became trapped on the Jupiter 2. His character slowly transformed from selfish and uncaring, willing to put everyone else’s life at risk just so he could return home into a selfish, uncaring, yet silly characture of himself.

The new Dr. Smith is a criminal on Earth, ineligible to be a member of the colonists heading to Alpha-Centauri and start a new life. Her real name is June Harris. She drugs her own sister and steals her identity to join the colonists. She makes it successfully onboard until her sister’s boy friend discovers who she is, threatens to expose her, and she promptly ejects him into space. In other words, she’s selfish and uncaring, willing to do anything (even commit murder and leave people to die) to achieve her own ends.

The Robot. The original robot, the B-9 Environmental Control robot, was programmed by saboteur Smith to destroy the Jupiter 2. “Crush! Kill! Destroy!” (One wonders why an environmental control robot would have such destructive military-capabilities in the first place). In later episodes, thanks to Will, the robot became sweet and lovable and protective of the family, except when Dr. Smith rewires him.

The new robot. It’s an alien robot, not something provided to the Robinsons for their journey. Will finds it after becoming separated from his father and getting caught in the middle of a forest fire. The robot is broken, torn in half when its own ship crashed, and is dying. Will helps it and in turn, it helps Will, even uttering the famous expression, “Danger. Will Robinson.” The robot then goes on to help Judy from her predicament (she was frozen in ice trying to bring back the battery pack), helps the family get the Jupiter 2 back into working order, and so on.

The premise. The original premise was the Robonsons were going to be the first family to colonize Alpha-Centauri. Why just one family? Who knows, but they were elected, and would spend the entire trip in suspended animation until they reached their destination. Dr. Smith programmed the robot to destroy the ship (never really explained why), but the ship blasts off before he can make his escape. The robot wakes up and starts smashing things, and because Dr. Smith can’t stop it, he wakes everyone up to help him. The robot’s rampage sends them zipping wildly off-course and out of control, unable to correct their course, becoming Lost, in space.

The new premise. Spoilers alert! Instead of just one colonist family, there is a whole colony of people seeking a new life on Alpha-Centauri, but only those who test in as worthy can go, while those left behind get to die from an impending extinction event on Earth. The Robinsons are but one family among many. They get to leave on the 24th colony ship. (The Jupiter crafts are essentially used as transport vessels to the planet’s surface once they reach their destination and also as their homes once there).

John is on another deployment when he gets a call from Maureen wanting him to sign permission slips for the kids to join the colony, without him. John, somehow, ends his deployment early and shows up at home, really pissing Maureen off, who wanted to start a new life without him.

Once in space, the colony mother ship is attacked by aliens, robots like the one Will finds and tames, and the Jupiters are ejected so they can reach safety. In the confusion, June/Dr. Smith escapes detention, meets the real Dr. Smith (played by Bill Mumy), who is wounded and needs help. She pretends to help him, but only steals his coat and I.D. She attempts to get on-board a Jupiter when she meets Don West and his companion. Don naively helps her into the Jupiter, and Smith invites them along realizing she has no training in flying. The escaping Jupiters end up crashing millions of light years from Alpha-Centaur. Now the surviving colonists must find each other to survive because they’re all lost, in space.

We learn much of this through flashbacks as the series progresses. In the first episode we know nothing of what’s going on as we first meet the Robinsons nonchalantly (or so it seems) playing a game of Go Fish.

Then all Hell breaks loose and doesn’t let up as the Robinsons go from one danger to the next, complete with episode ending cliff-hangers, just like the original.

Final Thoughts.

As I said in the beginning, this isn’t your father’s Lost in Space. In many ways, it’s so much better. For one thing, it has stunning special effects and breathtaking landscapes.

Now, I loved the original series. I was eight when the show debuted. There was no other show like it at the time. The ship, flying through space, the laser weapons, aliens (even if somewhat cheesy), and the robot all sparked my imagination unlike anything had up until that time.

I still have a soft spot for that show. And I often get very upset when someone remakes something I used to love as a child and turns it into a complete mockery of the original (intentioned or not) as if they had never watched an episode. I can think of several movies that angered me no end, such as Wild,Wild West, Dark Shadows, and Starsky and Hutch. Those movies were lampoonish and offended me.

This reboot, however, doesn’t do that. It doesn’t seem like a cash grab at the expense of our childhood memories.

In many ways, while it’s a completely new, and updated version, it is also an homage (complete with Easter eggs) to the original. The real name of the Dr. Smith character, for instance, June Harris is a nod to the original Dr. Smith actor, Jonathan Harris. At one point, Don West is wearing a flight jacket with “Goddard” embroidered on it, a nod to the original actor Mark Goddard. Plus, if you listen carefully, you’ll catch some refrains from the original show’s music score, which had been written by the great John Williams.

At first blush, the new LiS might seem dark and cold with unlikable characters but as the series progresses however, they flesh-out, we learn their motivations, and they become more of a real caring family, with heart-warming moments, and we begin to see that this new show also has it’s own charms.

I’m enjoying it and I hope it has a successful run.

-30-

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