Season 1, Episode 1
Date of release: April 13, 2018 (Netflix)
A few days before the show’s release, a few reviews came in, which told me that LOST IN SPACE might be a bit too mainstream for the good of Netflix, and which might actually not be a fun show to watch due to the mainstream-ness of it all. I was worried only slightly, especially when one review compared it to TERRA NOVA in space and I really could not like that show and its constant efforts to be a Start Trek type show with dinosaurs at all. But then I remembered that TERRA NOVA was just a silly dumb science-fiction show and that it had a few fun moments here and there, as well as a premise that worked quite well for a show supposed to be for the entire family. So, maybe I’m both worried and excited about LOST IN SPACE? Maybe I’m also having a serious case of the envy as well, when it comes to the show. I actually adore the 1998 movie and not unlike SPEED 2: CRUISE CONTROL or WILD WILD WEST from the year before and after, it happens to be part of my favorite-movie collection, because the trash factor was exactly what I was into back in my childhood days, and the nostalgia factor has rescued all of these movies into my adulthood, during which I can watch these movies and still have fun. I loved LOST IN SPACE so much in fact, I created my own little reboot series, as I was writing an episode guide-kinda description of what was happening in each episode. In hindsight, my version was just another STAR TREK, and I wasn’t even watching STAR TREK back then, but the fact that I wanted a TV show based on a movie I liked, which would then turn into an actual TV show 20 years later gives me the feelings I have right now for the show, and I don’t know how to properly put them down and deal with them.
Maybe I just shouldn’t and instead talk about how kind of great the opening hour actually was. Unlike the 1998 movie, the Robinsons were dropped into danger immediately, and before there was even a sense of character establishment, or knowing ore about the universe the characters found themselves in (not just the literal universe, but also the storytelling universe). Hell, the show starts with the crash on a strange planet, and to make things even more metaphorically literal, the Robinsons and their ship crashed into cold water, which also means the viewers had to figure out on their own what this is all about. They might have been brought to the show via name recognition only, but it is sort of ballsy that the writing only dipped a toe into the cold water and didn’t even care enough to tell you how awesome the ride can be, and what there is to be expected from the show. In a way, establishing a world only through name recognition could actually be a good idea for this very show. This way you get an entire hour (maybe two, if the next episode is similarly void of story and character development as this hour was) to create your own thing and build on that. It sounds weird when I say it this way, but LOST IN SPACE has proven that it can be a good thing when there is barely any story in its opening hour.
Instead, there was quite a lot of terror and tension. Characters are getting thrown on a strange and cold planet. The Jupiter 2 sinks, which means the Robinsons might not even get off this icy rock, and that means the show is not really about being lost in space, but lost in a random universe, on a random planet, with no way off of it (except maybe another crashed Jupiter did not sink into the water and can be fixed and used to get off this planet). Maureen has a broken leg, which gets worse with each minute and eventually has to be cut open. Will gets separated from his father and experiences his own horror show in the middle of a burning forest. Judy gets frozen in ice and only has a few more hours to live, all while being trapped with her own fear and emotions. All this is quite a way to bring your characters straight into peril without introducing them first, and that was a move I have to respect, especially since I saw myself hoping for the characters’ survival already. It was obvious that Will would make the cut and get back to his family, especially after the trailers suggested LOST IN SPACE will be a show with him at the center, but for a few seconds I was wondering if the writers were about to kill off Judy in the first episode, establishing the fact that this planet is hostile and that you can lose your life easily and harshly. Granted, killing off Judy would have been pretty major and absolutely unacceptable (due to her status as a mixed-race character), but when John failed to melt her out of the ice with the help of Magnesium, I seriously wondered if Judy’s time was running out for good. There was tension in the plot and I loved it. There was emotion in the plot (when Penny read Moby Dick to Judy) and I loved it. There was a happy end, which came a little too sudden, and I was rolling my eyes just a slight tad. Not that I was not expecting for the robot to come by and be a deus ex machina (not for the episode itself, but for the rest of the Robinson family), but it managed to thaw the ice within seconds, while John couldn’t melt anything more than the ice around Judy’s hand during the hour he was doing it.
The tension was what kept this episode floating and on top of its game. With all the terror and life-threatening situations going on, there was barely time to breathe for a minute or two and focus on the beauty of the surroundings, and how lovely the visual effects were. At the end of the day, Netflix might have thought of LOST IN SPACE being their potential CGI thunderdome, figuring out if they can put shows onto their service which spit out money and make you think you’re watching the science fiction, non-medieval, non-dragon, PG version of GAME OF THRONES. In fact, if LOST IN SPACE is in fact a success for the service, there is no way for Netflix to be stopped to attempt an actual prestige show with a major budget, where an episode needs a shooting schedule ranging 55 days and the visual effects would need more than six months to pop up the episode and make it look good. Sometimes, all I want is a visually stunning show, and if the characters and story work out for me as well, then everything is perfect, and I am able to forget all the mad and crazy stuff that is happening on our real planet. Sometimes I just want to forget what is happening and feel joy and happiness. LOST IN SPACE could be that show giving me the escapist fun I have been looking for.
Now, there is a question of how the show is going to work in the long run. The flashback scenes felt awfully cut short and randomly placed in time, so I get the feeling there will be more of these, although I wonder what good they will be for (maybe it’s the flashbacks which will serve as character exposition?). The general premise of the show is very reminiscent of THE 100, and there could be a chance that the Robinsons aren’t the only survivors. After all, a bunch of Jupiter ships made it through the crash as well, even though there is a question if they made it through intact, and if there are more survivors, the story on the planet could easily turn into a war between factions for things like power or resources. Not to mention the idea that the planet might actually be inhabited by an evil alien race, waiting for the first strike. Now, THE 100 and a fight against an alien race doesn’t make LOST IN SPACE, but then again, this is the 21st century and everything can happen on your show. I was already impressed enough that the show took a lot of distance from previous works of the title: The Robinsons not being the only ones on the trip, the robot being an unknown factor in all of this, and — thank the heavens — no Major Don West, although I wouldn’t have minded at all for an action hero in this show, just someone to have a loudmouth and to be the comic relief when things go dark. After all, this shouldn’t turn into THE WALKING DEAD. There needs to be a little bit of fun in the story as well. The first episode was there to splash us all with freezing water, and now it’s time to develop the whole thing and make it unique. And not just the next TERRA NOVA in space with THE WALKING DEAD-kinda emotions.
But hey, contrary to what the first reviews were telling me, I’m actually quite surprised about this one. I don’t know if it was the right way to introduce a new show to a wild and hyper audience, but for me, it worked. Not totally and completely, but I was definitely excited. What will make LOST IN SPACE a great show throughout the next few episodes is character establishment. Crossing my fingers for that one…