Friday, May 18, 2018

Lost In Space S1 E9: Resurrection

Robot is back! It's not necessarily a good thing that Robot may be the most interesting character here on Lost In Space.

Musings Of A Sci-Fi Fanatic reaches the penultimate episode of the reimagined Lost In Space series for Netflix.

This writer comes to the series with such strong impressions and preconceived expectations for character personalities because of just how beloved the original was to me. Perhaps it is difficult for me to fully embrace this new modern take.

There are viewers I know familiar with the classic Lost In Space, but that are not avid science fiction fans or obsessive over the original Lost In Space. Some viewed the new series and found it a solid enough ride. They enjoyed it and they looked forward to seeing a second season. At college, my son indicates he has friends who have enjoyed it and that I may be unnecessarily harsh. Forgive me, but I'd like to think I'm just a more discerning viewer when it comes to science fiction and what I'm looking for in Lost In Space.

Without question it will be intriguing enough to see where Season Two takes this family. If there are people who are enjoying this version of Lost In Space all the Jupiter fuel and power to them, but it has been a touch underwhelming.

As it stands this is a series that is missing the mark for me and is missing an opportunity to really land a tried and true fan of Lost In Space and quality science fiction. Maybe I'm just not that audience today.

Nevertheless, we have two hours remaining to make a final assessment. So let us continue with a look at Lost In Space, Season One, Episode 9, Resurrection.

Following the explosive cliffhanger events at the hands of the treacherous Dr. Smith in Trajectory, if that's what we should even call June Harris, what will be the fate of Don West and John Robinson aboard the Jupiter that launched into the stars to reach the Resolute?

Resurrection sees the survivors of the Jupiter crashes searching for an alternative fuel source discovered by young master Will Robinson.

The source can be found in an alien bat cave of equal parts fresh and petrified biofuel. In other words alien bat shit. All the people need to do is remove it from the cavern while the apex predators are asleep. The plot, quite frankly, is all a bit bat shit crazy, but the Robinsons and others are up against time so survivors of all ages will do their best to scrape together shit for fuel and not become future fuel droppings in the process.

The original Lost In Space may have taken some knocks for placing antennae on a llama, coloring bunnies or applying pointed ears on a monkey but at least those ideas materialized as flesh and blood creative concepts that immersed us deeper into its unique world.

There is something inherently uninteresting about the human imagination delivering CGI alien bats in space. CGI space spiders (Stargate Universe) and space bats simply are a creative bore and lazy, but we get them here as the answer to adventure and excitement in space. Nope! Sorry that won't cut the mustard with me. If you have computers to work with could someone get more creative behind the keyboards please?

The entry concludes with the resurrection of Robot miraculously reassembled through the sheer internal intelligence of its alien technology as it miraculously rethreads its existence. We've seen what replicators can do in Stargate SG-1 (1997-2007) and this alien tech is no different. Smith captures Maureen Robinson and drags her to the site of the downed alien craft to reactivate Robot.

Maureen is rescued by daughter Judy. But both are prevented from driving off in the Chariot by the sheer strength of a reinvigorated Robot.

Danger, Dr. Smith the alien Robot implores as it looks over to its new master. The one note Dr. Smith character continues to be less interesting and more a bore played by Parker Posey "without redeeming qualities" and as "one-dimensional" accurately noted by one critic. Perhaps like Jonathan Harris in the original, Posey should work to reinvent the character here a bit for season two.

This writer was struck with questions concerning this new alien technology hypothesis surrounding Robot, an idea which I would concede presents a whole set of potential stories in a new Lost In Space universe, but feels problematic.

Why is this alien intelligence, stolen by scientists and officials and housed aboard the Resolute, so responsive to humanity? Is this one alien machine/life form programmed in some way to heed the call of a given master? Is this alien machine different from others? Has Robot crashed or fallen off a cliff one too many times? Clearly this is a smart alien technology, but yet it responds to a human figure like Robot from the old series. In fact, Robot is so smart it can self-preserve and resurrect so why does it need to respond to anyone? It does present its share of potential issues.

As passable, light entertainment Lost In Space is fair to good (enough) this first season, but there are some issues and the overall presentation delivers mixed feelings about this enterprise.

Between a massive group of survivors celebrating with clapping hands and cueing the occasional cheesy family hug and then moving to something meant to be nefarious, there is just something tonally off with this whole take on The Robinsons.

When I think of Lost In Space too it's meant to be a strange, isolating, but intimate family experience into the unknown. Apart from the original series think about how impressive that episode featuring Katee Sackhoff as Starbuck was in Battlestar Galactica called You Can't Go Home Again (S1, E5). The entire episode was in isolation and alone and that worked the tension beautifully. Lost in Space could do with equal parts wonder and darkness alone in the unknowns of space.

Thus far Lost In Space is apparently what passes for popular science fiction getting its renewal by Netflix while the smart science fiction is severed at the knees (The Expanse) by a channel that allegedly supports actual science fiction.

What will the season finale hold for new and old fans of the franchise alike and where will the season finale take the resurrected franchise. Stay tuned for our final assessment of the newly reimagined Netflix Lost In Space.

Writer: Daniel McLellan/ Kari Drake. Director: Tim Southam.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Lost In Space S1 E8: Trajectory

"You Robinsons are such a little tribe of fixer-uppers." -Dr. Smith-

Lost In Space, Season One, Episode 8, Trajectory is an interesting title choice because I keep asking myself if the series is on the right trajectory. I'm still uncertain.

While I've been committed to seeing the Netflix series through to its end (what self-respecting Lost In Space or science fiction fan wouldn't?), it remains far less compelling than the richly woven series The Expanse (2015-2018?) (now cancelled by SyFy) or the hyper intense engagement of Colony (2016-present) (Season Four still to be determined). And yet, as of this writing, the successful Netflix Lost In Space has been renewed for Season Two. Netflix, please pick up The Expanse!

Trajectory sees the collective Jupiter survivors make plans to reach the Resolute with what little fuel remains.

Maureen Robinson works around the clock ensuring the weight is right for a single pilot to make the trip to the station.

Unfortunately John Robinson has been the test subject and repeated simulations find Maureen declaring him dead at every turn, "You're dead."

The Resolute is aware of the singularity/black hole and is leaving orbit in 24 hours.

The lost survivors have 24 hours to reach the station and escape a planet that is malignant. So time is running out.

Don West comes into play and essentially the Trajectory story is like one long plot thread to reach the ultimate conclusion that Don West is your series' pilot.

In effect, this first season is bringing together characters in a more gradual fashion to inevitably reach the intended end of a family lost in space plus three. The series will consolidate the group that was formally established out of the gate with the classic series. The original series brought the ensemble together beginning with S1, E1, The Reluctant Stowaway (1965).

Despite his devil may care attitude in some ways this West character does have his moments even if he is considerably different from the original series hero. In fact I like all of the characters in fits and starts and at seemingly alternate moments throughout this Lost In Space. While these are good actors, chemistry and writing are still playing a factor for me at this time. I've yet to fall in love with this lot in the way I did with the cast of the classic.

And for all the praise she has received in the spot of the Dr. Smith role, Parker Posey, eight episodes in, is not good enough in what is a major part in the series. This writer has difficulty buying her shtick. It's not a female thing, because, as I've noted, I loved Katee Sackhoff as Starbuck in the reimagined Battlestar Galactica (2003-2009). Posey is just not delivering in the part for me. I'm still waiting for it to click, but I feel like the performance is labored and searching and she is entirely too obvious. That's not to say Jonathan Harris wasn't himself clearly a con because he was. Everyone in the family knew he was a snake, but the chemistry worked between them perhaps coupled with the naiveté of the era. The Robinsons in this new iteration of Lost In Space should be very aware of June Harris/ Dr. Smith as a snake too, but the whole dynamic isn't clicking yet. We'll see where it goes.

With her identity fully revealed by the arrival of Trajectory, there seems to be no logical reason she should be called anything but June Harris going forward so I'm not sure of the need to even mention the name Dr. Smith ever again which seems peculiar. But Lost In Space should have a Dr. Smith, but things are indeed different here. Don West and the Robinsons all know Harris stole the access card off the real Dr. Z. Smith. So it will be interesting to see how her treatment and name is handled going forward, but something feels off about the whole thing for me.

Robot doesn't appear in this episode, but is referred to by West as an alien Robot. The conventional wisdom at the point of Trajectory is that it is definitively an alien intelligence slash Robot. Again, a very different variation on the original series Robot.

Each actor seems entirely capable of filling their respective roles on Lost In Space. Molly Parker (Deadwood) as Maureen Robinson, Toby Stephens (Black Sails, 13 Hours) as John Robinson, Taylor Russell (Falling Skies) as Judy Robinson, Maxwell Jenkins (Sense 8) as Will Robinson, Mina Sundwall as Penny Robinson, Ignacio Serricchio as Don West and Parker Posey as Dr. Smith/ June Harris. These are solid performers.

Mina may be my favorite of the bunch, a real highlight. Like the unfortunate delegation of story time for original Penny actress Angela Cartwright, we'll see if Sundwall gets her chance to shine a bit more in the future a la S1, E1, My Friend, Mr. Nobody (1965) from the original series.

These are all fine actors working on this new series, but collectively with the scripts in hand it's all falling a bit flat. Though I feel that is something that could improve with the right modifications for its now confirmed second season.

The fact is this is a new series attempting to chart its course and its trajectory as a family working together in the hands of a serviceable story. Indubitably the original Robinson clan was remarkably well cast. It was television gold with that group and they simply connected with chemistry to spare. Sadly, that seems to be missing here. The fact there is this LOST-styled ensemble swirling about the family feels more like a distraction to what the trajectory should really be for this series and that may change in the future.

I've said it before, Lost In Space is about the Robinsons and at the moment, while just fair to good in its storytelling, the writing could be better, the chemistry to help sell the show is a little lost and hopefully they can right the trajectory and finish strong with just two episodes remaining until next season.

Rome wasn't built in a day, especially with ten episodes, just ask Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-1994).

Clearly Lost In Space looks terrific, but doesn't always feel like Lost In Space and to some degree that's disappointing.

Writer: Katherine Collins/ Kari Drake. Director: Stephen Surjik (Person Of Interest).