Saturday, May 5, 2018

Lost In Space S1 E4: The Robinsons Were Here

The fourth entry, Lost In Space, Season One, Episode 4, The Robinsons Were Here, pays tribute straight away to the classic series as the family sets up the popular perimeter fence. You'll recall the perimeter fence was essential to the family's survival in the original series. Where would they be without the perimeter fence?

Out of fuel following the events of Infestation (E3), the family has relocated to a less inhospitable climate on their lost planet en route to Alpha Centauri and taken up residence in a more wooded, Vancouver-like setting. Of course the creative team does its sci-fi best to dress things up with a number of nice, little, alien touches similar to the approach taken in episodes of Farscape (1999-2003).

The Robinsons travel in the all-terrain Chariot to another downed Jupiter (number 11). Maureen and John Robinson make their first contact with Don West here.

Like another LOST (2004-2010) series we're familiar with, there are others who have survived the Jupiter crashes. A Japanese couple indicates there are twelve downed Jupiters but John notes they are not all Jupiters analyzing the Jupiter tech. Additionally, all are all unable to make contact with the space station/ship the Resolute.

In yet another nice homage to the classic series Don West has decided to name his chicken Debbie. Debbie was introduced in Diamonds In The Sky (Episode 2). Fans of the original series will recall Debbie was the name given to one pointy-eared, monkey named Bloop by Penny Robinson.

I could appreciate the intelligence of initially grabbing the chicken because if you're Lost In Space setting up a domesticated home front will require anything you can obtain. A chicken is a good place to start for sustained farming and a new life. Every chicken counts or as West noted in the second episode, leave no chicken behind. The original series saw The Robinsons domesticate all manner of alien animal---never mind Bloop and Penny's alien turtle. Still, given the low maintenance chicken (does it have talons? -Napoleon Dynamite), one has to respect the effort of including an actual chimpanzee in the original series. There's something a bit lazy about a chicken named Debbie. Perhaps a computerized Blawp or Blarp would have pushed this series over the budgeting precipice given the overall strong production values and attention given Robot.

So The Robinsons Were Here slows things down for the right reasons. Some might call it boring. Others might call it soaking in the wonders of space. The episode takes time to appreciate nature's magic on another world as the family takes in the sights and colors of the vast unknown and experiences things never before seen. This is precisely the kind of breathing moment that allows you to appreciate Lost In Space as an exploration into the unknown of the vast universe. These kinds of sequences are the things that worked so beautifully in Stargate Universe (2009-2011) and that worked for a vast number of science fiction series as far back as Space:1999 (1975-1977) and Star Trek (1966-1969). More of this is welcomed.

How about Cult-TV Faces of: The Fallen Tree?

Despite my reservations, Lost In Space here takes time to behold the wonders and for that I applaud the episode.

The show has its flaws and imperfections and open questions of content quality, but once again this Chariot ride continues to keep my attention.

As Will, Penny and Judy, with Robot in tow, venture off across the planet in the episode one can't help but appreciate the young person's adventure tale aspect of this series. It's appeal to the entire family is indeed ever present. After Earth (2013) had a similar appeal with its father/son and family dynamic at the heart of its survival story on an alien world.

Lost In Space, to use the clichéd phrase, does indeed capture the essence or spirit of that original series sometimes in moments like these.

I'm nostalgic, but I like to think open minded enough to see what's on offer here. There are indeed special things happening. For fans of space and science fiction and action adventures with a family full of interesting, three-dimensional characters being developed, how could you not be on board with Lost In Space so far? This writer moves forward with equal amounts caution and optimism.

My only fear would be that it is too wholesome in some ways for this rather jaded world we live. Better put there's a fear this series feels a bit too neutered or mainstream lacking the edge or even science fiction depth and substance to proceed forward successfully. Are the creators shooting for a big viewing tent here sacrificing on quality science fiction? I have to believe Lost In Space can find a large audience with quality writing. There is so much potential to write better and more interesting stories of survival and space exploration for this space family Robinson.

The most troubling scene closes the episode as Dr. Smith spends time attempting to reprogram, via her own uniquely deranged brand of social engineering, Robot. One can only imagine Robot takes in the information, but is it listening to anyone outside of Will Robinson? How intelligent is it? Clearly Robot follows the leads and actions of Will, but will it inevitably forge a bond or connection of sorts with the diabolical Dr. Smith (June Harris) in the manner Robot did in the 1960s series? Robot's AI is learning (artificial intelligence and/or alien intelligence?) and one suspects that day is coming. Time will tell where the series takes this mysterious Robot life form, but the Robinsons are here and they are back and this writer, so far, is hoping they stay if the quality remains and/or improves.

The fourth installment of Lost In Space was directed by Alice Troughton who did a remarkable job with character and mood in Doctor Who episode Midnight and does so again here with The Robinsons Were Here. Troughton's work with the creative team is also a visually stimulating exercise as well.

The story was written by Canadian cartoonist Arn Saba turned transgender Katherine Collins. The entry of Collins as writer is curious not because we have the man behind a cartoon horse turned woman (well maybe the former), but because yes her background is more cartoonist than writer and certainly not science fiction writer. It just seems a curious choice for a science fiction reimagining. Having said that, there are elements of The Robinsons Were Here Collins treats well. Her script submission is indeed solid.

But where have all the true science fiction writers gone for television? I know they were here too once upon a time.

Writer: Katherine Collins.
Director: Alice Troughton.

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