Lost in Space is a Good Show That Got Lost in Pace

first_img Yeah, I know. The title of this review is very bad. But bad headline puns are, like, 30 percent of the reason I got into this line of work, so now you all have to deal with it. The other big reason: I love TV. I love old TV, new TV and everything in between. Longform, serialized storytelling? I eat that up. Quick hit standalone episodes? Give me all of it. Entire days have flown by with the only indication that time has passed being Netflix asking me if I’m still watching. (Yes, Netflix. The answer is always yes.) So it’s kind of a big deal that Netflix’s reboot of Lost in Space is some of the most aware I’ve been of each episode’s length, and more importantly, how much longer I had left.It’s far from the only show I’ve reviewed where watching it has felt like work. It’s certainly wasn’t the least enjoyable. Nor was it the absolute most I’ve clock-watching I’ve done during each episode. Marvel’s Iron Fist still holds both records. But I’ve never seen a show I liked so much of that’s also been so hard to get through. Lost In Space isn’t the longest show Netflix has ever put out. This first season only about 10 hours long. But you feel each one of those 10 hours. Nothing happens quickly on this show. You’re never so thrilled that you lose track of time. You’re very aware of the passing of each minute. And it’s even worse when the next one queues up, and you see the progress bar reads over an hour.Molly Parker, Toby Stephens (Photo via Netflix)One of the great things about the Netflix model is the amount of freedom it gives creators. They don’t have to keep to a strict 44 minute running time. They can give their story as much or as little time as it needs. This has led to some truly special series that just wouldn’t exist on a traditional television network. It’s also led to shows that don’t know when to stop. Limits are helpful for some people. Yes, the broadcast hard 44-minute run time has led to problems. Shows can often feel overstuffed, unable to give proper weight to moments and storylines that need it. But it can also force showrunners to be efficient. To tell stories that fit neatly into 44 minutes. To get the most out of every scene because they only have so many. Without that, some shows can disappear up their own ass. Giving equal weight to every little scene and detail because, why not? We’ve got time. Every character gets exposition, every aspect of every dilemma is fully discussed before a solution is finally found. The show becomes an overindulgent, bloated slog.AdChoices广告That’s what’s happened with Lost in Space. And it’s a shame, because the show has so much going for it. At its heart, the remake of the classic 1960s sci-fi series is an awe-inspiring family adventure. The choices made in updating the show for modern audiences make sense, and lead to a more interesting dynamic. I really love these characters. The Robinson family is no longer the patriarchal early-1960s ideal. They’re more complicated than that, which is so much more fun to watch. Maureen and John Robinson begin the series estranged. John has been away in the military for years before the ill-fated colony mission, and their marriage has suffered. Maureen, a take-charge engineer in this version, decided she’d had enough when she found out that John requested another deployment rather than return home to his family. Judy Robinson is a prodigy, a young woman who became a medical doctor at age 18. Will Robinson isn’t supposed to be here. He failed his tests, and his mother cheated to get him accepted. Penny is the middle child. That might not sound like she has a ton going on, but the show gets a ton of emotional material out of it. A lot of that comes from how well Mina Sundwall plays the role.Mina Sundwall (Photo via Netflix)The individual family members, and their relationships with each other are part of what keeps you going through this show. The changes in their characters from the original show make them more interesting to watch. They butt heads, they argue, they rib each other, they fight just like any family. Those moments make it more meaningful when they finally come together to solve whatever problem they’ve run into this time. And because each family member is a genius, it’s fun to watch them solve problems with their brains.Though it drags a lot, there’s some truly great science fiction in this show. It draws and extrapolates just enough from actual science to make its situations plausible, but it keeps things accessible so everyone can keep up. It’s hard sci-fi for the whole family, pretty much. And man, are there some jaw-dropping shots in this show. One thing it captures very well is the wonder and awe of space exploration. The planet they land on feels familiar enough that it’s plausible they could survive there. But it has all these alien touches that make it feel unsafe and uncertain. It’s also beautiful. Honestly, the one bright side of the show’s slow pace is it allows you to really take in the gorgeous views on display.Molly Parker, Toby Stephens (Photo via Netflix)The story itself isn’t bad on its own, either. In this version, the Robinsons are one of many families on this space colony mission. The ship is attacked and sent through a mysterious wormhole, and most of the single-family escape ships end up on a harsh, but a survivable planet. There’s a welcome sense of urgency introduced late in the season when Maureen discovers a black hole devouring the planet’s sun. They have to work with the other survivors to escape before that happens. All while Dr. Smith, or rather an ex-con who murdered and forged her way onto the ship and stole the real Dr. Smith’s identity, thwarts every plant to avoid getting caught. It’s a fine story, but it didn’t need to be ten episodes long.After finishing the season, I was left with the feeling that the proper Lost In Space hadn’t really started until the last couple episodes. They aren’t even truly lost until the cliffhanger ending. Like this whole season was one long prequel, and the real show starts in season two if they get one. There’s no reason for this plot to take as long as it did. The very first episode is over an hour long, and mostly revolves around Judy being trapped in ice. In theory, that’s a scary situation that lets us know how dangerous this alien planet is. In practice, it’s a whole lot of standing around and crying while waiting for a solution. That’s pretty much how the whole series goes. We’ll see something cool and amazing, like a giant ship overturning in ice or a weather balloon taking a woman to the stratosphere, and then the show will decide that’s enough excitement for a couple of hours. Always, there’s a delay or a setback that requires a whole bunch of standing around and talking.Taylor Russell (Photo via Netflix)And while most of the updates were smart and even necessary for a serialized TV show in 2018, we didn’t need to go full gritty reboot for Lost In Space. This is a show that takes itself deathly seriously, and it’s a struggle to get through. In any update, you need to lose some of the camp for the show to work in a modern context, but some camp is important. The camp is the only reason most of us remember the show today. I get wanting to tell a serious story of family survival. I get that if you want to make a hard sci-fi show, you need to show the realities of being stranded on an unfamiliar planet. But in losing the camp of the original series, they’ve made it less fun. Moments of wonder and exploration are there, but they’re surrounded by hours of gruff tones and serious prolonged discussions. It’s the most bored I’ve been by a show that I’m pretty sure I ended up liking.Not all the grittier updates were bad. I like the redesign of the robot. It’s alien, powerful and a little bit scary. The whole season, you don’t know what its motivations are. It attacked the colony ship, and until the last episode, you don’t know why. Then Will saves it, and it forms a bond with him, but that bond always feels tenuous. Like the planet the Robinsons find themselves on, it’s nurturing and often life-saving, but it’s also uncertain and dangerous. It’s the most interesting character on the show, and that’s saying something considering it speaks only five words in the entire season.Parker Posey, Brian Steele (Photo via Netflix)Then there’s Parker Posey’s Dr. Smith. Instead of the cartoonish villain of the 1960s show, she’s fleshed out into a more manipulative villain. Unlike the original, you can see why the family would trust her so much. She’s confident, charismatic and tells a real good sob story. Her plan grows more flimsy and convoluted as the story goes on, and the way she gets control of the robot makes zero sense, but Posey’s performance saves the character. She has a chilling villainous sneer when no one’s looking. But the instant someone’s in the room with her; she becomes so believably friendly you almost want to start rooting for her. At one point, she says she’s not a villain. She’s a hero who never got the opportunity to prove it. You get the sense that she really believes that, and at that moment, you want to believe it too. Certainly, there are times where she does lay on the villain dialog a little thick. In those moments, she’s so obviously evil you start to wonder how smart the Robinson’s are really. But that doesn’t take away from a genuinely enjoyable performance.Lost in Space has a lot of really good things going for it, but boy it needed another edit pass. I love the idea of the freedom Netflix’s model gives artists, but in practice, it can lead to stuff like this. A show that’s genuinely good at its core buried underneath hours of self-indulgence and bloat. There’s a lot to like about Lost in Space, and it’s probably better if you take it one episode at a time, rather than binge it. It could be a fun every-couple-days thing for a family of sci-fi nerds to watch together. Taken as a whole, it’s too long, too slow and too self-serious for its own good. And even still, I hope it gets a second season. There’s enough good here that I’m willing to see if they learn their lesson.Let us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey. 8 Nostalgic Board Games Based on Old Sci-Fi FlicksGEEK PICK: GEEKY VINYL SALE Stay on targetlast_img

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