Molly Parker and Toby Stephens in are pictured in 'Lost in Space' (2018). Courtesy Netflix

‘Lost in Space’ can’t find itself

Netflix’s re-imagining of the 1965 series of the same name, “Lost in Space” (2018), has all the hallmarks of a Netflix production. The series is based on a cult favorite, the new cast is talented and the premise is interesting. However, there is something about the show that falls flat, and while it is certainly a good show, “Lost in Space” is decidedly not a great show, though it does have its fair share of strong moments.

The first episode, titled “Impact,” introduces viewers to the Robinson family, who are the main characters of the series. (The original show was itself a re-imagining of the 1812 novel, “The Swiss Family Robinson.”After a mysterious object crashes into Earth and threatens the world in the year 2046, humanity decides to build and launch a colonization ship named the Resolute to stave off extinction. The Robinson family is selected as part of the 24th colonization mission, but en route to their destination of Alpha Centauri the convoy is attacked. While the Robinsons are able to make it into their craft, Jupiter 2, they are thrown into a wormhole and crash land on an unknown, but habitable, planet. The family must fight for survival as they try to repair the Jupiter 2, find other survivors and get along with one another.

The story itself is interesting enough, but it doesn’t really do anything to stand out. At this point in time, plenty of other science fiction shows have tackled the idea of space travel, so one would expect a new or at least more nuanced take on the concept of traveling through space, but “Lost in Space” plays it a bit too safe. The dramatic tension is high throughout the episode, but it feels drawn out in many scenes. For example, when the youngest member of the Robinson family, 11-year-old Will (Maxwell Jenkins), is trapped by a forest fire, the scene drags on much longer than needed, and the tension becomes a crutch rather than a strength.

Much like the story itself, episode one features characters that are neither weak nor strong. The acting is solid, with Molly Parker’s performance as Maureen Robinson, the mother of the family, being a cut above the rest. Solid, however, does not equal great. The cast is well-chosen in that their family dynamic is believable, but the characters all fall into certain tropes. Oldest daughter Judy Robinson (Taylor Russell) is the rebellious teenager; father John Robinson (Toby Stephens) is strict but caring; Will is the younger child who connects with a killer robot that is actually caring, and so on. The show feels familiar in an unwelcome way, and the actors themselves don’t deliver a strong enough performance to make up for the tired tropes.

One more positive aspect of the show is the visual effects. The Jupiter 2 is a beautiful-looking spacecraft, and the environment of the alien planet is both stunning and vibrant. The alien robot feels real, and the effects around it are breathtaking and will leave viewers mesmerized. While the visuals are great, the soundtrack, like the rest of the show, is average at best. There is nothing inherently problematic with it, but it is forgettable, and besides punctuating moments of tension, adds nothing of note to the plot.

Of course, as the first episode in the series, there is the chance that the expository opening will lead to better episodes, and the entire series is currently available for streaming on Netflix. However, this reviewer was not impressed enough to continue watching, which speaks to the quality of the show as a whole.

Overall, there is nothing glaringly wrong with “Lost in Space,” but it doesn’t do anything to distinguish itself from other, more celebrated sci-fi shows. It is accessible to audiences of most ages due to the diversity of the cast and the fact that family is at the heart of the series, but the plot is boring and the acting is mediocre. Even the beautiful effects and landscape can’t make up for it. Watch this show if you have nothing better to do, but it simply does not fall into the vein of super-successful Netflix originals.

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