Lost in Space

Rating: ★★

Glossy family space-adventure show, with high production values and a thin science-fiction coating over the more bland family-issues content. My initial reaction to it was an unfavourable comparison to the surprisingly dark 1998 movie of the same name. That was unfair, and the series does do a credible effort of setting out its own vision of its recycled heritage -- the problem is that it's sort of rubbish.

In Season 1, the family are stranded on an unfamiliar planet, and have to overcome various environmental challenges posed by the alien ecosystem. These are sort of fun to watch, as you get a sense of incremental progress in sensible survival objectives (get into the landing-craft, get the craft out of the glacier, find other survivors, signal the ship), frustrated by both unpredicted issues (alien eels like rocket fuel) and internal dissent. I think if the show was just about space colonisation I might like it. The more awkward parts of the show are about the alien robot that Will Robinson discovers, and all the nonsense around that.

Whereas the elements of the show connected to space colonisation seem to be relatively tightly-scripted, with sensible models for how all the alien things work, the parts related to the robot make very little sense. The robot seems to 'imprint' on Will after rebooting, and starts doing what he says (or thinks). It seems to somehow understand English, yet only ever speaks in short cryptic statements, despite often being asked for information. Towards the end of Season 1, Smith (the unconvincing villain), manages to get the robot to imprint on her instead, but in a cheesy moment the power of the robot's love for Will lets it overcome this (and/or its reprogramming by another of its kind) and fight off another robot to save him. Barf.

Season 2 makes all this worse, stepping up the per-episode action and throwing internal consistency to the wind. Will's fondness for the robot has grown into a somewhat creepy obsession, with him talking to its effigy for seven months; the supposed villain does nothing villainous; the family is reunited with a ship which shouldn't even be in this solar system without a proper word of explanation as to how; the survivors spend 7 episodes preparing their ship for departure and then abandon it and their children for no good reason. Seriously. The stolen alien engine somehow can't be used to go to Alpha Centauri in the ship, for fear the robots will follow, but it's fine to use the same engine on a craft full of children to do the exact some journey. For that matter, why did we need so much water, if the FTL transition is instantaneous, and why did it take so long to get between Earth and Alpha Centauri?

There are just too many holes for goodwill to patch over, and it seems like the writers are getting lazier. The occasional good lines (engineers refusing to do the physically impossible, or asking why anyone would build a self-destruct sequence into a colony ship) are outweighed by the overall flimsy plot structure and the growing feeling that the Robinsons are intentionally creating problems to fill up their next episode.