If a science fiction adventure wants to be taken seriously, having kids in the lead roles is tricky. Back in 1965, that wasn’t a problem for Lost in Space because it didn’t want to be taken seriously; the original series was famously campy on purpose. But now, the Netflix Lost in Space reboot — debuting next week on Friday — ditches the camp and throws Sixties nostalgia out the airlock. For the most part, this is a survivalist sci-fi show. Oh, and the kids are pretty damn good in it, too. (No spoilers ahead.)
The spacesuits in Lost in Space were built by the same people who made Matt Damon’s spacesuit for The Martian: FBFX studios. And, if you want to get an idea of what this reboot is like, that fact is the show in microcosm. If you knew nothing about the origins of Lost in Space, the new Netflix show would seem more like a 10-episode version of The Martian, only with an outer space family and a lot more twists. In the new Lost in Space, chemistry, thermodynamics, geology, and field medicine are the conflicts that drive the plot.
It would be easy to compare this edgier Lost in Space reboot to Star Trek: Discovery. Both derive from a classic Sixties sci-fi television series, and both have been rebooted before. But, whereas the longevity of Star Trek is explained by its idealism and sprawling world-building, Lost in Space is more about its smallness. In the new series, space doesn’t feel infinite and wonderful. It’s inhospitable and scary. In other words, when the famous robotic catchphrase “Danger, Will Robinson!” is spoken, it equates to actual danger.
Speaking of that robot and references to the original Lost in Space, there is a little of that. Yes, as with the original and the 1998 film, the Robinson family does get um … well … lost in space. And, yes, they do get a robot companion. However, to get into any more details about the hows and whys of them getting lost and the exact nature of the robot would be a huge spoiler. On the nostalgia front, sci-fi legend Bill Mumy (who played young Will Robinson on the original show) also makes an appearance. But again, his role isn’t silly. Which is true of another microcosm of what makes Lost in Space so special and unexpected: Parker Posey as the new scheming Dr. Smith. If you’re expecting the character to be anything like Jonathan Harris or Gary Oldman, you’d be wrong. The casting of Posey is a shining example of what makes this particular reboot dynamic and exciting.
Lost in Space is also twistier than it might seem in the first episode, so much so that you might find yourself wishing all the episodes weren’t made available at once. If Netflix ever gives up on the binge model and starts releasing shows one episode at a time, Lost in Space would have been the perfect test case. It’s bingeable to be sure, but it’s a patient show, too.
With so much going for it, the only real complaint about Lost in Space is that it’s over too fast. By taking its essential premise seriously (what would a family do if they were LOST IN SPACE?), the show feels slightly old-fashioned. But because it’s not winking constantly to reference its own roots, the series also feels refreshingly new. The Robinsons, Dr. Smith, and that damn robot may have returned from the nostalgia vortex, but it feels like we’re meeting them for the first time. - All 10 episodes of Lost in Space hit Netflix on April 13, 2018.