Review: Netflix’s Lost in Space

Remember how much we hated the 90s movie that wasted Gary Oldman, cast Joey from that saccharine Friends show and had a CGI Snarf? After three seasons of listening to Maureen Robinson preface every statement with ‘As a mother and a scientist‘ we can be grateful this show is finally at an end. The final part of Netflix’s latest disappointment makes the 1998 film seem like Citizen Kane.

Unlike the Urwin Allen original, this is a limited series with an obviously high budget and excellent production values. It is technically superior to its namesake in every conceivable way. In all except one: script. The show is a pale comparison to the original and despite all its modern filmmaking virtues, is a hollow shell and an insult to the show’s charming memory. Increased modern production costs mean this is not the story of a family wondering the cosmos aimlessly. Instead, it focuses on a group of colonists that managed to get lost on the way to Alpha Centauri. Wait, what? Where exactly is the star they spend the first season orbiting? This leap of scientific and screenwriting logic is indicative of the problems here.

The story is predicated on the idea that alien robots crash on Earth and in doing so, cause catestrophic environmental damage. Their ship contains an engine that can take its operator anywhere. Evil white men keep the survivng alien robot in bondage and force it to do their bidding. That’s what evil white men do, right? In space, nobody can hear you cackle with ego-maniacal laughter. Ah yes, problem number two: the current year messaging. Down with the patriarchy! It’s all about girl power here.

In Lost in Space we get to see a vision of a matriarchal family unit that feels just a tad oppressive. Because family. Family. Family! FAMILY! Even the monosyllabic robot is saying it verbatim by the end. The world presented to us seems just a little too conformist. All the kids keep asking what would their parents do? What would their parents think of them? It screams honour thy father and mother. You can imagine the parents making the children pack their pledges of sexual abstinence and Maureen Robinson giving them all lectures on how masturbation is self-rape. The show’s vision of these anodyne colonists feels like a gated puritan community engaging in missionary work. You wonder when the witch trials will begin. For all its puritan SJW virtue-signalling, it’s all very heteronormative.

Then there’s feelings. Yes, this is another one of those shows that goes to prove that our humankind is not the rational but the rationalizing animal. It reeks of marriage counselling and troubled teen management programmes. The writers have everyone sit and tell everyone else their feelings as it substitutes for plot and character. Even the villainous evil robot killed its creator species because of feelings. More feelings are displayed here than in an episode of Arrow. The girls all tell each other how great and special and unique they all are constantly. It’s all so positive and affirming.

Then there’s the misandry. The girls all have genius-level IQs. Yet Will doesn’t because he’s a boy. But bless, he tries hard. Don West (Ignacio Serricchio) is a goofy man-child with a pet chicken. Watching this, you quickly realize that these are not characters. They are SJW placeholders. Likewise, the dialogue is equally cringeworthy. Characters go round saying ‘I have to do this!’ and perfectly articulating their motivations as if that’s how people speak. The Robinsons are awfully erudite for children. One of the male characters ‘has to do this’ to the point of his own easily avoidable death, making one of those narratively pointless ultimate sacrifices as the writers had no other use for him. There’s lots of tell. Not enough show.

Judy Robinson (Taylor Russell) out-wooden-blocks Star Trek Discovery’s Michael Burnham and is a fully-formed Mary Sue. She’s effortlessly great at everything. No character. No arcs. No growth. No tension. At one point she drags a heavy alien plot device across a battlefield with ease. We later see two grown adult males barely able to lift it. She expertly scales vertical cliffs while the males slip, break bones and have a good cry about it. She ends up the leader of the lost children’s colony in season three without having seemingly done anything to earn it beyond having accumulated the most woke-points.

In season three we get to meet her real father, whom she immediately outshines. At one point her urges the type of caution that will inevitably lead to their deaths. He ignores her warning and violates the rules. After he saves them all (and her), she admonishes him for taking the course of action that kept them alive. He’s at fault. He was the first man on Mars, the first man to leave the solar system, the one they all leant about in school and yet he’d give it all up for, you guessed it, family. To add further intersectional tropes, he’s also an absent father.

Then there’s the obligatory gender-swopped Dr Smith (Posey Parker), a character so unlikeable you wish someone would just airlock her. In her first season introduction, she kills Billy Mummy. Kills. Billy Mummy! Fuck you, white man! Let old things die. She’s so annoying and so tissue-thin ‘bad’ you wonder why all the characters don’t just tell her to fuck off and ignore her every word and deed. Yet, much like Star Trek Discovery’s Philippa Georgiou, even though she might be a murdering bitch – she contemplates bludgeoning one of the Robinson children to death with a crowbar at one point – even though she’s in prison for violent crime committed against follow colonists, all is forgiven in the end, because girls. Quite why this is so defies narrative logic, even the feelings between the characters are inconsistent. Oh and yes, she’s suddenly an expert pilot in season 3 because the ‘story’ demands it.

The dominant Mary Sue is mother and scientist Maureen Robinson (Molly Parker). We know she’s both as she never shuts up about it and prefaces every point she makes with this description. She’s another strong independent woman who wouldn’t be held down by the patriarchy and who just happens to have married an alpha male soldier. Clearly, she wasn’t that strong an independent woman as she couldn’t fight that Darwinian conditioning.

The biggest crime of the series, apart from wasting the intellectual property itself, is how criminally underused Toby Stephens is. He’s the only name in the cast and wasting him after his magnificent turn in as Captain Flint in Black Sails is utterly criminal. Compare the two characters he plays. Flint is a violent driven man out for revenge against England for the death of his male lover and the ending of his naval career. No pandering, no woke-washing. Yes, he’s ruthless but his character flaws and motivations are clear. He’s complex. Compare Flint to Papa Robinson: a former Navy SEAL, he’s all emotional and doesn’t know enough science to be able to act. Another absent father, of course.

The standout in the cast is Penny (Mina Sundwall). She’s is a charismatic young actress while everyone else is utterly forgettable. But Penny suffers just as much from her Mary Sue nature as the rest. She writes a book that, of course, is a masterpiece. Oh and yes, she assigns a gender identity to an asexual robot and the writers of this polemic conclude the last episode by having her narrate a ‘you go be an independent woman, girlfriend’ speech. Imposing a gender-identity and the malicious use of assumed pronouns seems an act of unwarranted SJW-violence.

Then there are the robots. Yet again, the writers take the icons from the original and wreck them beyond recognition. Here, they make the robot all emotional. Family! Even their backstory is a clichéd rebellion against their creators. The writers have Will spend the third series telling them to break their programming when their rebellion clearly establishes they’ve already done it. Whilst their back-story is totally wasted, the audience can be grateful the writers didn’t turn it into a white-guilt parable about stealing native lands. You know the narrative has problems when the best sequences explaining their history are stolen from Prometheus. At the conclusion of the season, the robot explains the need for peace to the rest of his race by drawing a family on a canyon wall. That’s all it takes to melt the hearts of these mechanical menaces. Why would an interstellar species need complex language and reasoned debate? Because cutesy. The robot’s story arc, the only character to get anything resembling one, is a blatant copy of Guardians of the Galaxy. I am robot!

At one point, the characters en masse decide to burn all evidence linking them to their intended destination, Alpha Centauri, as they want to prevent the robots killing all the colonists there. Given the robots found Earth, were clearly capable of determining the nearest star and had firsthand knowledge of the limits of the human’s technology, their destination would seem easy enough to work out. The robots would seem at least capable of drawing a straight line on a star map.

The only good thing about this show is the rehashed John Williams’ score. Even that fan-service isn’t enough to save this garbage. Makes you wonder why Netflix passed on Star Trek Discovery. They are clearly pushing the same editorial message. Alongside all the forced diversity, woke-splaining and intersectional feminism, you realise the show-runners made the Robinsons ginger as they are the last legitimate white minority nobody cares about. The Robinsons are utterly intolerable and after three seasons, you end up hoping one of them dies horribly or at least gets mangled beyond saving. It was great to see Will get stabbed through the heart but even that gets turned into an obvious metaphor and plot device.

So we have to ask what is truly meant by ‘Lost in Space’? A film industry going into creative free-fall? The death of story? We have the technology to realise anything on screen and what we get is this charmless sterility? This narrative incompetence? This messaging and this platform? Give me Flash Gordon-style spaceships on wires and monkeys wearing alien head pieces. Give me the original Lost in Space or the 1998 film. At least that stuff was entertaining. This messaging has all the permanence of a snowman and the gaps in the narrative are laughably bad. Netflix needs some new blood in its commissioning arm, one that returns to conventional notions of story and character.

Every time one of the cast says ‘family’, it made me glad I never had children and oddly, care less and less for the characters. Why are modern writers so incapable of creating sympathetic characters? The message appeals to no-one. In their attempts to make the Robinsons right-on and virtuous, the programme makers just made them annoying and bland. A show should not leave the viewer asking how this misandry get three seasons. Shouldn’t the season finale leave you wanting more, not feeling relieved you don’t have to sit through more?

1/5. Trash. Netflix’s Lost in Space is ultimately a hollow experience, filled with empty cyphers instead of characters, absurd leaps in narrative logic and spends too much of its time unconvincingly establishing how virtuous and wonderful the Family Robinson are.

Published by Lee Russell Wilkes

Been bouncing around the world for a while taking photos. Like most people, I have gone to ground during the pandemic. Decided it was time to put some of them out in the world.

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