Instead, the big bad in Lost In Space is a manipulative human calling herself “Dr. Smith.” Parker Posey plays the classic Lost In Space villain, and her performance crackles with the solipsism of a relentless sociopath. But not everyone loves the new Dr. Smith. In fact, Posey’s role (previously portrayed by Jonathan Harris and Gary Oldman in earlier version of the series) is the singularly most divisive part of the new series.
Lost in Space spoilers are below.
In the days after the series premiere, Netflix fans declared “this show would have been so much better without Dr. Smith.” In the narrative of the show, Posey’s “Dr. Smith” is revealed to be a criminal actually named June Harris, a con artist who stole her sister’s identity in an attempt to join the human colony bound for Alpha Centauri aboard the mothership Resolute.
When alien robots attack, she steals the identity of the real Dr. Smith and just keeps on lying from there. In the original show, Dr. Smith is basically scheming to screw over the Robinsons every week.
The character is a lot like the Joker or the Riddler in the campy Sixties Batman series; a one-note baddie for kids. Posey’s new version splits the difference between campy and scary, which is where the fan divide lives. Some say her schemes are too unrealistic. Others say she’s perfect.
When Inverse reached out to one upset fan on Reddit, they explained their dislike of the new Dr. Smith like this: “How the series was written at the moment, there are so many antagonistic features just from the environment itself. Dr. Smith takes all the focus from anything and redirects it towards herself, and since her character is utterly dislikeable in every single way, that just ruins the show.”
Many on Reddit agree and reject the idea that just because the character was based on an impractical villain from an unrealistic show, doesn’t mean Dr. Smith has to behave nonsensically. “Just because it was back then, doesn’t mean it has to be today,” comments redditor FieserMoep. “TV and audiences have developed. The Robinsons aren’t the one-dimensional good guys with perfect morals either, so why keep Smith the anachronistic Sunday morning cartoon?”
But, others charged to defend Posey-Smith’s one-dimensional villainy. When some fans started another thread called “Dr. Smith makes me angry,” redditor Adventure_tom said, “Then Parker Posey is doing her job. That’s exactly how she’s supposed to play the role. That’s what Dr Smith is.”
Outside of the confines of Reddit, one fan group on Facebook, called “Lost in Space: Series Reboot 2018,” is more positive. Here’s one of Posey’s take on Dr. Smith: “She’s just campy enough and just sly enough to be very entertaining,” writes one fan. “She brings this goofy charm to the part. It’s like if she finally got her schemes right she would be dangerous. But she’s awkward and bumbling enough to be endearing. LOL.”
This last observation might be the most interesting. If Dr. Smith was more competent at being evil, and thus more realistic, the character might become too unwieldy. Speaking to the New York Times on Monday, Posey called her take on Smith a “dark Medusa force” of the new series. In Greek mythology, the only way you could safely look at Medusa was by using a mirror. Perhaps, the debate about Dr. Smith is its own kind of mirror for the fandom. What are we looking at when we see this character? An exciting villain we want to root for? Or a character we wish was more realistic at being a bad person? Science fiction escapism might have reached its breaking point in this particular question, and how writers tackle it could impact how future reboots bring back classic baddies.
As for Lost In Space, it seems most fans are OK with one thing about the reboot: most like the robot.
Lost In Space is streaming now on Netflix. Season 2 has yet to be confirmed.