Danger Will Robinson! A new version of the 1960’s science fiction television series “Lost in Space” is currently playing on Netflix, and I couldn’t be happier. The original series ran on CBS from 1965 to 1968 and actually had higher ratings than rival space show “Star Trek” which ran on NBC. Of course we all know despite attracting little attention in its initial run, “Star Trek” moved on to become a pop phenomenon. On the other hand, “Lost in Space” languished in reruns after its network run, and attracted far less attention that Spock and company, but did reappear in comic book form in 1991, and featured stories co-written by the original Will Robinson Bill Mumy. I actually have said comics, and they are excellent. After the comic book ended it run, “Lost in Space” didn’t return in any form until 1998 with the release of a big screen effort featuring William Hurt and Gary Oldman. It was hoped the film would start a franchise, but the tepid box office and less-than-stellar reviews led New Line Cinema to abandon the idea. I will say despite the failed cinematic effort, Gary Oldman was an excellent Dr. Smith.
2004 saw an attempt to revive the series with “The Robinsons” Lost in Space”, which can be viewed on YouTube. I watched the pilot and enjoyed it, and was a bit puzzled why no network picked up the show. Flash forward to 2018, and fans like myself are delighted to see a new version running on Netflix. All the familiar characters are on hand, led by John Robinson (Toby Stephens), Maureen Robinson (Molly Parker), Judy Robinson (Taylor Robinson), Penny Robinson (Mina Sundwall), Will Robinson (Maxwell Jenkins), Don West (Ignacio Serricchio), and Dr. Smith, played by Parker Posey. The switch in sex for the character, ala “Battlestar Galactica’s” Starbuck, was clever, but without giving away a spoiler, is not what it seems. The beloved robot is also on hand, this time appearing very android-like in appearance, but does play homage to the original in a very clever way. The first episode of the series reveals humanity may be on the brink of extinction after a large meteor crashes to Earth. The story is set in the year 2046 and with all the advanced technology leading to a stellar space program, the Resolute is a huge craft holding various Jupiter Pods that are being launched into space to colonize a new world.
The Robinson’s have been picked for the 24th trip of the Resolute, but as with the original series plans go haywire, and the family and other must evacuate the Resolute via their Jupiter pods. The Robinsons are aboard the Jupiter 2, and along with other Jupiter pods, crash land on an unknown, but habitable planet, after being hurled through a rip in space. Once on the planet, the real adventure begins, with the family not only facing internal conflict, but external as well. On the planet, the family crosses paths with West, Dr. Smith, and the robot, none of which were on the Jupiter 2. For a change, the family is not perfect, and John and Maureen have even contemplated divorce, something the couples from the other versions of “Lost in Space” would never dream of. In this version Don West is a roughneck mechanical engineer, who also smuggles luxury goods. How very Han Solo like. Maureen is no mere housewife in this version, as her character is a brave and brilliant aerospace engineer, and I love the change in her character. In the new version, John is a former U.S. Marine pilot, and is father to two of the children, and step-father to the third. While I do love all these updates to the characters, they are still the Robinsons. Unlike a cinematic effort, the show has plenty of time to flesh out the characters, and with top notch special effects, every episode is like a mini movie.
The show also features an updated chariot, so the Robinsons can venture out on their new world via foot and vehicle. There is even a nod to Debbie, the pet of Penny in the original series. Let me just say this Debbie is very different, and does provide some comic relief. The new show still features strange creatures, bizarre landscapes, and all the adventure we expect from “Lost in Space”. The actors are all marvelous, with Posey leading the way as the venomous and scheming Dr. Smith. Aside from my love for the charming original, I really love and am impressed with this version of “Lost in Space.” I hope Netflix takes us on several years of adventures with The Robinsons. After all, there are countless worlds to explore and many aliens to encounter.