In the sea of original content that is Netflix, it takes a lot to stand out. “Lost in Space” stays firmly above water by delivering an experience that is, at the very least, memorable.
The series, based on the 1965 show of the same name, follows a tried-and-true premise of the genre. In the near future, a meteor of mysterious origin collides with the Earth, leading to evacuation via the spaceship Resolute to the potentially habitable planet Alpha Centauri. Among the refugees is the Robinson family, led by matriarch Maureen (Molly Parker), who struggles to reconcile with her previously estranged husband, John (Toby Stephens).
What should be a straightforward trip goes haywire when an explosive incident causes the Robinsons to abandon ship and land on an unknown planet. Now, Maureen, John and their children Judy (Taylor Russell), Penny (Mina Sundwall) and Will (Maxwell Jenkins) have to learn to survive. However, their struggle gets a bit tougher when Will discovers a robot of alien origin that may or may not have been responsible for their crash. Throw in their discovery of the shady Dr. Smith (Parker Posey), and the Robinsons have their hands full with space shenanigans.
“Lost in Space” signals most of its virtues up front in its excellent pilot. Parker is a fantastic foundation to build this series around, and her portrayal of Maureen is a constant source of warmth and determination that guarantees investment in the Robinsons’ adventures. At the same time, Stephens plays a more flawed father character than we’re used to seeing, while Russell bring respective assuredness and spunk to their roles.
The family unit isn’t complete without Will. Jenkins avoids the precocious child stereotype as much as possible, instead portraying a recognizably flawed and curious young character, and his interactions with the robot frequently make him the heart of the series as a whole.
Fortunately, the visuals match the quality of its central characters, with the show boasting easily the best special effects the franchise has ever seen. Coupled with strong writing that’s focused on getting the Robinsons to “science” their way out of situations, it’s a joy watching them solve problems in the middle of a rich, realistically rendered planet.
The first few episodes are a blast, especially whenever Dr. Smith enters the fray. Posey’s unhinged performance as someone who isn’t quite who they are frequently steals the show. Inevitably, the momentum of the show slows down halfway through the season when the Robinsons encounter another group of crashed colonists led by Victor Dhar (Raza Jaffrey). With their entrance, the show starts to become something else entirely — a series of arguments about how to get back to the Resolute.
While sharp writing ensures things are never quite dull, there’s still a point where the show becomes a bit of a slog. Thankfully, the series picks up in a big way with a final string of episodes that throws a series of interesting plot developments at the viewer. These episodes are masterful in utilizing each character, setting and the basic core appeal of a family unit to their full extent and leading to a cliffhanger that leaves the viewer practically begging for a season 2.
As a remake of a classic series, this show had a lot working against it, but despite a few rough episodes towards the middle, “Lost in Space” comes right out of the gate with an intelligent, family-friendly adventure that’s worth getting lost in.
“Lost in Space”
MPAA Rating: TV-PG