New 'Lost in Space' Series Beats '60s TV Show and '98 Film


'Lost in Space'

Cast: Toby Stephens ("Black Sails," "Die Another Day"), Molly Parker ("House of Cards," "Deadwood"), Parker Posey ("Superman Returns," "The House of Yes"), Taylor Russell ("Falling Skies"), Mina Sundwall ("Maggie's Plan"), Max Jenkins ("Sense8"), Ignacio Serricchio ("Bones")

Airs: The 10-episode first season premieres on Netflix on Friday April 13

The premise: With the colonization of space a necessity, the Robinson family is among a large contingent of humans looking to make a new life for themselves beyond Earth. But when the new colonists are mysteriously thrown off course and stranded in a dangerous environment, the Robinsons are forced to work together and build new alliances on a planet light years from their original destination in order to survive.

"Lost in Space" is a reimagining of the 1960s sci-fi series that ran from 1965 to 1968 and was developed into a feature film starring John Hurt and Gary Oldman in 1998. Zach Estrin ("Prison Break") serves as the series showrunner.

Highs: "Lost in Space" might just be the most ambitious series Netflix has made. Each of the five episodes I watched was on par with a big budget movie, not a science fiction TV program from a streaming service. This is most evident in the stunning visual presentation. Shot primarily in British Columbia, the outdoor scenes are jaw-dropping. Mixed with realistic and functional sets and cleverly blended CGI, the world of "Lost in Space" makes for a fascinating place to visit.

But this series has a lot more than beautiful vistas, cool tech and scenic backdrops. The Robinsons are a diverse and deeply layered group, just like a real family. This is a unit that had to pass rigorous testing and be selected for colonization, so the members are a bit more skilled than most. But every viewer is certain to see at least a bit of their own family dynamic in the Robinsons, which makes them extremely relatable.

Maureen Robinson (Molly Parker) is an engineer with high expectations for her children. She keeps the family together while John (Toby Stephens), a soldier, is away. Their marriage is strained because Maureen and the kids feel John has been an absentee parent and husband. The kids are delightful, which caught me by surprise. Most shows don't know how to handle teenage characters. They're either annoying (AJ Soprano) or useless diversions (Dana Brody), but that's not the case here. Sisters Penny (Mina Sundwall) and Judy (Taylor Russell) add substance, and intelligent and altruistic Will Robinson (Max Jenkins) is the heart of the show.

While the family shines, the true star of "Lost in Space" is Dr. Smith. Played by Parker Posey, viewers will watch the "doctor" lie, cheat, steal and even poison someone to get what she wants. The ultimate survivor, Dr. Smith would be easy to pigeonhole into a run-of-the-mill villain role, but this series is too smart for that. Posey plays her character as charismatic and sympathetic, which makes her incredibly fun to watch.

Lows: If you've never seen the 1960s "Lost in Space" campy TV show or the dreadful 1998 film, you may go into the first couple of episodes a bit confused. Netflix doesn't spend a lot of time on early exposition; it simply drops you into the action. Because of that, the relationships between characters takes some time to grasp.

Grade: Netflix has dominated the streaming service space for years. But with this series, it finally has something that can rival prestige cable giants such as Showtime and HBO. First-rate production values, a stellar cast, and a perfect blend of action and character development make "Lost in Space" a must-watch series.


Gazette media columnist Terry Terrones is a member of the Television Critics Association and the Broadcast Television Journalists Association. You can follow him on Twitter at @terryterrones. ___

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