In the 1960s, famed producer Irwin Allen created the original Lost in Space, a sci-fi Swiss Family Robinson (much the same way Star Trek would become a “Wagon Train to the Stars” a year later).
While Star Trek would go on to legendary success by telling great science-fiction stories, Lost in Space would quickly veer off into Batman-style camp. It became so severe that beyond enjoying the nostalgia of Dr. Smith moaning “Oh, the pain!” or the robot exclaiming “Danger, Will Robinson!” the original series is all but unwatchable.
In 1998, an attempt to re-launch the franchise was made with the cinematic version of Lost in Space. The less we speak of that, the better.
Now, 53 years after the Jupiter 2 first launched, we have Netflix’s 10-episode series Lost in Space, and finally…they’ve gotten it right—so right, in fact, that the show has become our latest favorite binge.
How did they do it? Consider these reasons;
The Robinsons. We love this family. The way they’re envisioned, the way they’re written, the way they’re acted—we’d love to be Robinsons ourselves (without battling the space eels or the horrible cave creatures or being stuck on a planet that’s generally trying to kill us at every turn, of course). They’re interesting, they think, they science themselves out of problems, but most of all, they stick together. Even with the estranged parents and the occasional spat between siblings, they have a love for each other and a moral center that just makes us feel good to be around them. And then, of course, there’s…
- Smith. Instead of the comic relief bad guy of the original series, Parker Posey’s Dr. Smith is a genuinely terrifying sociopath who knows exactly how to slither into the Robinson’s lives and wreak havoc on everyone down to the core of their being. In her own way, she’s no less brilliant than the Robinsons, but it’s a twisted brilliance born of pain and anger, and she’s truly as dangerous as the Planet of Death itself.
- Conflict without dystopia. Man, am I sick of dystopian future sci-fi. And sure, I understand that the reason the Robinsons are in space in the first place is that Earth is dying. But the Robinsons (and the rest of the colonists) are the ones striving for a better life and a better future. That in itself is a something of a breath of fresh air.
- Just enough nostalgia. “Danger, Will Robinson” becomes an important catchphrase. Don West is the hunky, reckless pilot who helps save the Robinson’s bacon (as well as Debbie the chicken). Throw in snippets of John Williams’ original theme, and the Netflix series does a great job of harkening back to the original series without bringing us the camp that gave life to the Great Vegetable Rebellion. (Although I could have used one “Oh, the pain!” from Dr. Smith. I don’t think that would have been too much to ask.)
- Hooks! Hooks! Hooks! Try watching just one episode without being hooked and forced to watch the next one. For those of you who haven’t watched the series yet, we won’t give away a single spoiler. Just be forewarned: If you’re going to start watching Lost in Space, clear your schedule: this is one of the most binge-worthy shows we’ve seen in a while.
The show’s producers have already said that they have plans for a second season of Lost in Space, even though Netflix has yet to officially green-light Season Two. Let’s hope they do soon because we’re going to be lost without it!