Imagine the scene, it’s Sunday afternoon and I am stretched out on my bean bag with a can of tab clear and a bag of fizzy cola bottles I have been storing in my room all week, my winnings following an epic marble battle at school. My parents are in the garden, doing dull things like mowing the lawn, and my sister is out with her friends. I have that rare thing, the television set all to myself. This is in an era where my parents still rented their set from radio rentals, so I flip the on switch and it makes a pleasing clicking sound and the screen is blank and then glows into life.
I find the channel I am looking for (only 4 to choose from so the search isn’t long), and I am just in time as “LOST IN SPACE” is yelled into the living room. The music (I would later learn the music is by THE John Williams) blares out and I am a happy boy. Land of the Giants is on straight afterwards followed by the second Planet of the Apes movie, the sun is shining outside and I am in sci-fi heaven.
I would like to add a quick caveat here, I do not remember the original run of these shows but they were on as endless re-runs when I was young. Zip forward a couple of decades, plus change, and I was intrigued to read of Netflix plan to re-boot Lost in Space.
The original was a very 1960’s affair, an update on the Swiss Family Robinson with hokey special effects (think the original series of Star Trek times ten) and hammy acting (think William Shatner times, well you get the idea), and I loved it because of these things. There was a big screen adaptation in the days when Matt Le Blanc was still hoping to capitalise on his Friends fame and be a big budget action hero. The film is not terrible but it lacked the charming froth of the TV show. So the new show has the choice of striking a middle ground or based on the trailer going for something in the BSG, Star Trek Discovery vein. Based on the quality of Netflix shows of late I was optimistic that whatever take they go for this might be worth a watch. Being such a big fan of the original show I will be covering each episode on a weekly basis for the next few weeks, and here is what I thought of Episode One.
In a cute nod to its 60’s origins the music that opens the pilot is the Doobie Brothers “Drift Away”, a song with the lyrics “I wanna get lost in your rock and roll.” Well the Robinson’s aren’t lost in rock and roll but they will soon be lost in space.
“Danger Will Robinson”
The other well known phrase associated with this show is of course. “Danger Will Robinson.” And it does appear in this episode and it is an apt phrase for the peril the Robinson’s are immediately thrown into. The show doesn’t bother with lengthy exposition and gets into the action beats pretty quickly as another ship collides with them and they are forced to crash land. The cast seems solid on first viewing, the excellent Toby Stephens brings some Captain Flint style gravitas to the role of John Robinson the father and leader of our stranded heroes. They crash into a seemingly icy planet and their ships sinks beneath an icy glacier.
What exposition the show does give us is done by way of flashback and it is used to show us how the Robinson’s and a lot of other members of the human race ended up in space. John used to be in the military (possibly special ops because his location is always secret) and a meteorite is on collision course for the earth. The Robinson’s are colonists searching for a new home and they are part of a bigger initiative to colonise space so the human race can go on. A bit like Interstellar then (hopefully without the time travel/string theory). Molly Parker is the Robinson’s matriarch and brilliant scientist to boot, she may have also fixed Will’s results to make sure he got a spot on the space programme. It seems that the programme was selective and only the best of the best get a chance to live another life in a galaxy far far away.
The plot of the first episode sees John push Will further than his Mum is happy with and we see the beginnings of some interesting family dynamics, there are tensions and John and Maureen are shown to have been planning a divorce in the flashback scenes. Judy Robinson is rebellious, impetuous and brave. She repeatedly ignores her father’s orders and most of the story in ep 1 revolves around them trying to dig Judy out of the mother of all frozen puddles. They find a solution thanks to the nervous brilliance of Will Robinson.
He’s a robot John but not as we know it
The two other things I wanted from a LIS re-boot is a robot and the theme tune and both are present and correct. The robot is fantastically re-imagined and it may not be completely benign as we see a scene from 12 hours earlier where the same robot (or maybe a member of the same race, as it’s not a robot but some form of alien species?) appears to be shooting up the earth colonists mothership, killing a fair few along the way.
So an action packed and satisfying opening episode. I am hoping we get a dose more lightness along the way as things are pretty bleak so far. There seems the potential for them to explore strange new worlds with awe-struck wonder and there are several plot threads I am looking forward to seeing unfurl. We also have a certain ambiguously evil Doctor to fully meet.
So what did you think? Have you watched all the episodes yet in a frenzied binge or are you taking your time, applying mindfulness techniques to watching Netflix. Either way I would like to hear from you, in the comments below or my new and shiny LIS Forum. My plan is to discuss the plot points and theories of where the show is going in each individual episode, so I won’t be spoiling it for you if you haven’t seen the whole thing. You can watch one episode, come over to the blog and see what I have to say.
See you next week for episode 2.