Netflix re-imagines the legendary 60's sci-fi series of the same name.
Rather than deluge you with a rapid-fire reconnaissance flight take on the show, I thought I'd try something a little different and take things episode by episode.
This level of detail will involve heavy spoilers for each episode. [Danger Pun Goes Here].
Both the original show and the remake feature a family of space colonists thrust into danger on the other side of the universe.
And there the similarities end.
We begin the episode with (I kid you not) a game of Go Fish in zero G. The ship is executing an emergency landing, everything is terrifying, and you don't see any of that for the first five minutes of the show. Instead, you see cards flipping through the air and snippy siblings arguing about how she knew he had drawn a nine.
That's right. Action-adventure tale of one family's struggle to survive in the most hostile environment imaginable is ignored in favor of the Thing You Do to Stave Off Total Boredom in an airport terminal waiting area.
Swiss Family Robinson did an opening better.
The action does eventually ramp up, with a series of catastrophes so improbable as to beggar belief.
In this one episode:
- An ASTEROID IMPACTS EARTH, destroying the weather and setting up the need to evacuate to Alpha Centauri as many people as possible.
- ALIENS ATTACK the colony ship Resolute, despite never so much as being seen on 23 consecutive successful trips previous.
- The alien attack ruptures the FTL drive, causing the formation of a WORMHOLE.
- The wormhole JUST HAPPENS to lead to a Goldilocks planet.
- The escaping Jupiter 2 habitat pod (basically the Robinson's space RV) is STRUCK BY DEBRIS during an emergency landing, causing the ship to crash.
- The crash causes a secured supply crate to come loose and CRUSH MAUREEN'S (Mom Robinson's) LEG.
- The crash DAMAGES THE ESCAPE HATCH, so only young Will Robinson can fit through it.
- The ship has landed on a glacier shelf, which BREAKS and sends the ship plummeting into FREEZING WATER.
- It is so BITTERLY COLD that the small, man portable batteries for their gear WILL CEASE TO FUNCTION (despite the humans being fine in less protective gear than one would wear at Antarctica).
- Judy (Oldest Sister Robinson) jumps back into the glacial lake in her space suit to retrieve an industrial battery that can withstand the storm. However, because the HATCH IS DAMAGED, she has to re-enter the ship through the garage with is much further down.
- The lake FREEZES OVER and TRAPS BOTH JUDY AND THE BATTERY IN ICE. Judy has 5 hours of air left. (Ticking clock? Check.)
- Will and his dad, John, leave an unconscious Maureen in the care of Middle Sister Penny and hike over the glacier to a MOUNTAINOUS SEAM OF PURE MAGNESIUM (that JUST HAPPENED to be near by AND just happened to get struck by debris and partially ignite so they could identify it). This will melt the ice over Judy.
- Will falls from a COLLAPSING SHELF inside the Magnesium Mountain (of course he does), survives miraculously uninjured (of course he does), and lands at the foot of the glacier where it is warmer and he can survive alone for a short time (of course he does).
- Mom Maureen wakes up, suffering from COMPARTMENT SYNDROME as a complication from her broken leg. Judy (an 18 year old Doogie Howser, apparently) is the ship medic and talks Penny through the emergency surgery to relieve the crushing pressure.
- John returns with magnesium filings and begins to melt Judy free of the ice, when a FREAK RAIN STORM refills the hole with water which quickly refreezes.
- Will wanders off despite instructions to stay put (of course he does), gets ATTACKED BY THE DAMAGED ALIEN ROBOT who JUST HAPPENED to crash nearby (of course he does), and climbs a tree to escape, only for the top half of the robot to be in that same tree (of course it is), and then the alien forest CATCHES FIRE (of course it does) preventing his retreat.
- Will, in an act of irrational compassion for his robot assailant, saws the limb off with an emergency saw (basically a serrated garrote with handles) that he JUST HAPPENS to have in a pocket (of course he does).
- This causes the Robot to save Will from the flames (of course it does) and return him to his family JUST IN TIME to use its Deus Ex Robotica powers to free Judy and restore access to the ship.
I reiterate: One. Single. Episode.
I'm exhausted just writing it out. This isn't a plot, it's a game of Fiasco.
But we're not finished! Oh no! What episode of tragic circumstances driving a family together to survive would be complete without Maureen Robinson's Moment of Unearned Self-Righteous Snark!
Today's Maureen Moment: A disabled and serially unconscious Maureen is nothing but a burden on her family and still berates John "Action Hero" Robinson for:
- Operating as though his family all passed the same emergency training he did to be cleared for the mission. Which they did.
-Taking Will (the only genius available) with him to identify and instruct in the proper handling of, the magnesium for freeing their daughter from certain death.
-Makes the tough call to go save the child who has less than 2 hours of air remaining rather than letting her die to rescue the kid who's alone, but fine and in radio contact.
Oh, Maureen, you silly minx! Till next time!
Parker Posey is June Harris, a criminal sociopath who steals the identity (and priority access) of the real Dr. Smith (played by Bill Mummy, the original Will Robinson and everyone's second favorite Minbari) in order to escape the damaged ship.
Unlike the bumbling Dr. Smith from the original show, Posey is intelligent, driven, and utterly without remorse. She brings real menace to the show, giving her plot lines teeth.
Molly Parker and Toby Stephens are both veteran television actors and they do a good job as the bickering Maureen and John.
Even the children are decent and mostly endearing.
The original music for the whole series was composed by Christopher Lennertz, who I know mostly from his great work on Mass Effect 2 and 3. It's a big, cinematic score.
Additionally, the CGI is actually pretty good for a television production.
Things do seem to be getting better with successive episodes as I watch, with good characters being introduced and tensions slow building as back story is revealed in flashbacks.
Next Time: A Diamond in the Rough