If – like me – you grew up on original sci-fi shows, there’s always a tendency to view reboots with a healthy dose of skepticism. (My last article for Amazing Stories – “If it Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix it” summing things up quite nicely.)
If only modern-day directors would work harder at capturing the spirit of the successful originals, then we wouldn’t be disappointed so often. (Battlestar Galactica proves the point in question – and So Say We All!)
There’s something about those early shows that captured the essence of what good sci-fi was all about. Action, adventure, the sense of stepping into the unknown and facing come-what-may with a square jaw and uncommon bravery.
All too often nowadays, reboots tend to cut the story in favor of an over reliance on “political correctness hidden behind a veneer of scare ‘em to death with a swarm of gross monsters camp fest” mentality.
So, when Netflix announced the new adventures of the Space Family Robinson’s, I was intrigued. Would the new show be like the original series, or the hyped – and something of a disaster – film?
Let’s take a little peek…
Those of you who remember the Space Family Robinson’s will be intrigued to know that the Robinson’s are not the close-knit family of the 1960’s era. John Robinson (Toby Stephens) is an absent father serving in the military who only seems to have bothered returning home for the voyage to Alpha Centauri.
His wife, Maureen Robinson (Molly Parker), is a brilliant scientist and is clearly used to wearing the pants. What’s more, it soon becomes evident she doesn’t like her views being questioned.
Something has obviously ‘happened’ while John was away, as the eldest daughter – Judy (Taylor Russell) – is now a biracial half-sister.
(It is not explained if she is adopted, or the result of an affair)
Young Will Robinson (Maxwell Jenkins) is still a hero – coming up with those last-second solutions to what would inevitably turn out to be a surefire disaster – but he’s only there by default! Mom paid someone off to get him included in the colonization project as he wasn’t bright enough! The boy we see is not the self-assured mini-Einstein of the original series. He’s doubtful, hesitant, and insular. Someone in constant need of reassurance.
His “get up and go”, has got up and gone into his older sisters, Penny (Mina Sundwall) and the aforementioned Judy who are now far more poised than their original counterparts.
Now, I’m all for equality and diversity. Always have been and always will be. I grew up in a multicultural and cosmopolitan city – Birmingham in the UK. I’ve served in the military and law enforcement where it truly brings home to you that it is the individual who counts. The individual who you can rely on, whatever their gender, race, religion, skin tone or sexuality.
However, it’s so obvious the show’s producers have gone out of their way to play the feminist and diversity cards that it somehow puts a spanner in the works. So much so – and this is only my humble opinion of course – that I couldn’t believe we weren’t introduced to an openly gay regular character from the word go!
The dynamic of the Space Family Robinson’s has been changed completely. The only saving grace is that the kids do have chemistry, and their interaction seems to keep things on an even keel, despite further variances to the original concept.
One of the things I used to enjoy most about the original series was seeing what the stowaway – Dr Zachary Smith (formerly played by Jonathan Harris) – would get up to next, and how Will and the Robot would inevitably have to sort him out.
Guess what; Dr Zachary Smith is now “Dr. Smith” (Parker Posey) a character who, far from being a mischievous and somewhat irritating dick, is now a full-on sociopath who would kill you, let you die, stab you in the back (get the idea) as soon as look at you kinda woman whose presence deadens the tone of the whole show.
Thankfully, it’s not all doom and gloom. The show’s creative team — the writers Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless and the showrunner Zack Estrin have expanded on the original concept, for the Robinson’s are no longer alone. They are now part of a larger colonization mission, and a number of other travelers are stranded along with them, giving rise to future conflicts and attractions that have obviously been saved for later episodes.
And just as well. Remember Major Don West? He’s not even on the Jupiter 2, entering the show – along with Dr. Smith – as a wisecracking mercenary-type aboard one of the many other Jupiter space craft that manages to crash-land on the planet.
However, the game changer is the robot, an H.R. Gigeresque semi organic AI beast of a killer, who has taken to protecting Will Robinson like a mother hen. (Oh, the potential there – especially when its story eventually comes out)
So . . . Lost in Space?
Yes, the Robinson’s do get lost. The way they wind up stranded does make much more sense than in previous outings, especially as they are part of a pioneering taskforce setting out to inhabit a brave new world…
Sadly, that’s where it starts to go downhill. The drama behind their predicament turns into something more contemporary: a culturally sensitive, formulaic and increasingly sentimental family drama. And THAT my friends, still requires a lot of tweaks.
Thank goodness for the half decent plot twist in the final episode sets up the second season that is bound to follow.
And will I watch it?
Probably, but only in the hope that the interaction between the Robinson children rubs off on the others, otherwise there’s a danger that this reboot will be truly lost!