The Robinsons are back and better than ever.
This is a SPOILER-FREE review of the first season of Lost in Space. All 10 episodes will be available to stream on April 13, on Netflix.
Netflix’s Lost in Space is almost the perfect sci-fi family adventure series. But there’s a villain problem that’s difficult to ignore.
Let’s start with the good stuff. Creators Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless have done a bang-up job of bringing a 50-year-old franchise into the 21st century, by filling their world with vibrant complex characters.
Hands down, the Robinson family is the show’s strongest attribute. If you’re not familiar with the story, here’s the rundown:
After a large mysterious object called the Christmas Star collides with Earth, humanity is forced to look for a new habitable world to call home. When their mothership, The Resolute, runs into a spacetime disruption, all of the Jupiter ships, including the Robinsons’, are forced to evacuate, which results in their ship crash-landing on an uncharted planet.
This is where the Robinsons encounter their greatest enemy…No, not Dr. Smith…We’ll get to her later. Their biggest stumbling block is themselves. Especially when it comes to working together. The writers’ effective use of flashbacks throughout the season offers vital information, which helps the viewer better understand what makes the Robinsons tick.
For instance, John Robinson, played by Black Sails alum Toby Stephens, struggles to be the father his children need him to be in times of crisis. We learn early on that he’s a Marine and rarely sees his children because he’s out on secret missions most of the time. When his son Will (Maxwell Jenkins) can’t find the courage to complete a difficult task, instead of being a comforting parent, John treats Will like a soldier, barking orders and telling him to follow protocol. Stephens deftly portrays John as a man who wants to do the right thing but doesn’t know how. It’s a dilemma that only gets worse once the robot shows up.
That’s right, “danger Will Robinson” is back with a reimagined version of the hulking arm-flapping robot. The robot’s origin story is a bit different and more unique than its predecessors, but we won’t spoil the reasons why. In place of a distant father, Will’s relationship with the Robot becomes pivotal to the entire season, as John both loathes and respects the robot for looking after his son. Something John failed to do back on Earth.
The Robinson women are equally fantastic. Maureen, the mom, is the leader of the group. Even John cowers in her wake. Actress Molly Parker (Deadwood) gives a fierce performance as the Robinson matriarch, who like John, finds it difficult to know when to trust that her kids will make the right decisions.
There’s also Penny (Mina Sundwall), the middle child, and Judy (Taylor Russell), the oldest. Of all the kids, Judy goes through the biggest transformation this season. At 18, she’s already a trained surgeon who carries the weight of the world on her shoulders whenever someone is badly injured. After going through her own traumatic event shortly after their crash, Judy experiences bouts of PTSD that impede her ability to do her job. Russell handles her character’s fragile emotional state well and gets my MVP award for Season 1. Sadly, not every character is as memorable as Judy.
So…Remember that villain problem I mentioned earlier? Let’s talk about Dr. Smith, played by Parker Posey. In a series that has effectively resurfaced as a dynamic 21st-century drama, Posey’s Smith feels like she’s stuck back in 1965. Her version of Smith is always up to no good and it’s hard to understand why the Robinsons keep giving her chances instead of throwing her out of the airlock. Dr. Smith is just so obviously evil, with no complexity to her character. Even when the writers try to develop her backstory, it falls short. None of her motivations, except for survival, make sense. If you took Smith out of the picture, no one would miss her. She is definitely in need of her very own reboot in Season 2.