Sunday, April 15, 2018

A Classic Reborn: Lost in Space (2018)

50 years ago, Irwin Allen's galactic reimagining of Swiss Family Robinson, Lost in Space, ended its run on CBS after three seasons. What had been a straight-up sci-fi drama devolved into campy escapism almost overnight in the first season. You'll find none of that in the new version served up by the writers of "Dracula Untold".

Lost in Space has been reimagined for a new audience and began streaming on Netflix on Friday. A lot has changed from the original 1965-8 series to now. To wit:

Judy Robinson, the eldest daughter, is African-American. This is explained, per research sources, as the result of mother Maureen's first marriage. Meaning that current husband John, an ex-Marine, is Maureen's second husband.

Don West, an Army major in the original series, is a smuggler here. Don't ask.

Remember what I said about Dr. Smith being a woman (Parker Posey) this time around? That's really a McGuffin. She's actually a sociopathic thief whose specialty seems to be identity theft. She steals a jacket belonging to a man named Smith, and adopts the guise of Dr. Smith. Her real name, to be revealed as the story goes along, is a homage to two of the original cast. Likewise, another character is similarly christened. A Dr. Zachary Smith does exist on this show, but that's later on down the road.

The Robot isn't the same Robby the Robot knock-off you remember. Instead, it's more of a scary-creepy typical sci-fi 'bot who rarely speaks. As of now.

While the opening theme is new, the producers made sure to use the season 3 score from the original for the closing, although due to time constraints for binge-watchers, only a snippet of the peppy score composed by future Oscar winner John Williams plays as yet another homage to the past.

I realize some critics are having cows over this new version, coming as it does 20 years after the last attempt at a revival, albeit in the form of a feature film that featured Matt LeBlanc (Friends), among others. Since audiences only saw LeBlanc back then as the dimwitted Joey, they may have feared the worst, and bypassed the film, for all we know.

Let's take a look at a trailer.

The robot's design has a familiar look to it, but I seem to recall seeing it in a cartoon someplace. Can't place it right at the moment.

There's room for this series to improve. As the original reflected society and news of its period, so too does this reflect society as we know it today, with the Robinsons as more of a dysfunctional family. As if we needed another one of those.

Rating: B+.

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