Monday, May 7, 2018

Lost In Space S1 E5: Transmission

Approval for the new Lost In Space series was largely reported in the positive. The Musings Of A Sci-Fi Fanatic final analysis remains in the making.

Of the few criticisms I've read some complained the Robinsons were too often in peril. That's an odd criticism for a family lost in space. How is this new series different than the original series in that way?

I would submit to you that criticism sounds largely the consequence of binge-watching television today. All of the critiques about the series were out in one weekend thanks to Netflix.

Personally this science fiction fan and fan of the original series took each episode in stride. I would argue the Netflix Lost In Space series benefits appreciably with space between each viewing for what the show is in that respect.

Like most normal human beings on Earth I had an abundance of shit to do over its opening weekend. Thus there were gaps between my viewing and, with that time allowed, the Robinsons didn't seem in any extraordinary kind of peril different or outside of those perils inflicted upon the original Robinson family.

The perils associated with the new series aren't that unique when you consider those associated with other serialized science fiction adventures like say Stargate Universe (2009-2011), LOST (2004-2010) or even the more recent The Expanse (2015-present) or Colony (2016-present). So that seems a rather unfair charge.

What really needs to be examined here is the overall quality of the series, the writing, the performances, the internal logic and depth and how that all resonates with the viewer in the long line of science fiction releases in television against today's expectations.

In fact, as of this writing, Lost In Space was holding steady at about a 69% average on Rotten Tomatoes.

I would suggest that this Lost In Space suffers from a few factors by some estimations. First, unlike The Expanse, Lost In Space isn't an entirely original property and has the weight of history bearing down on its shoulders. It understandably must suffer the weight of comparison and contrast by some, including myself, though Musings Of A Sci-Fi Fanatic is working hard to treat it as a separate entity, which it is, despite the fair comparisons that link the franchise. These shackles never hindered the reimagined Battlestar Galactica (2003-2009) which inevitably soared on its own creative merits.

Second, in a television age that wants pacing at the speed of a flickering light, Lost In Space may not meet the standard. It has its healthy doses of excitement and adventure, but it's not afraid to slow things down and hold the camera on a character moment or two. I couldn't have been more surprised to find this iteration of the series transmit something of reasonable intelligence with a family flavor, fairly strong production values and fair casting based on just five episodes. Admittedly all of this is in fits and starts. Will it become a vital and consistent work of quality remains in question?

One key sticking point for me personally is the need to remind myself this is not my beloved Lost In Space (1965-1968). It arrives today in a very different world and a very different culture from what existed in 1965. Taking those two points it's important for myself to realize this will never be the same as the original series try as it might or might not. They are just very different indeed.

We reach the middle of the series with Lost In Space, Season One, Episode 5, Transmission. So far this writer is enjoying what the series has been transmitting.

As the entry opens The 100 (2014-present) style, it recognizes there are a great many Jupiter survivors, though I can't imagine that aspect will last long as this is about the Robinsons and it's Lost In Space.

It's also clear the Robinsons are a very smart bunch, but that Maureen Robinson is the real high-achieving, high-flyer, sharpest tool in the shed type. And thus far she's also one of your more prickly, modern women, especially toward her husband John Robinson, and certainly not nearly as warm and lovable as June Lockhart in the spousal department. Still, she's clearly no less maternal. And in keeping with the spirit of today's television some revelations are made about Maureen's less than pure means to an end for being on this mission.

Speaking of the characters at this point, they are considerably different than those we grew up with as kids. These are different characters for a different time.

Of all the characters the one that feels most out of place even troubling for me is Don West. In time things may change, but as of this writing the Don West casting and the way the character is played is uncomfortably edgy. I'm not connecting with him in the way I did with the old Major Don West character as portrayed by Mark Goddard. This new version lacks the kind of heroic, courageous heart of the original West and seems to be leaning toward a kind of Han Solo vibe. He's a more reluctant, self-serving hero with an integrity that is often in question. So this Don West (Ignacio Serricchio) is not sitting well. Parker Posey's Dr. Smith is a close second.

As for Robot (referred to in this series often as the Robot), the jury is still out. Robot does not make an appearance in Transmission until the story's finale. When it does I was a little awestruck it arrived miraculously at just the right time to serve the action.

As for Robot itself, it's facial design is intriguing with the alternating red and blue light. It's power and abilities, almost superhero-like, are also interesting. It's humanoid appearance makes for a logically better design for outdoor terrain than Robot's design in the original series. The original Robot depended upon flat surfaces and smooth sands, but this one can climb all manner of rock and mountain and over logs. Robot does take some getting used to, but it's also a multi-dimensional character in the series promising to make for some interesting stories, if the writing is good and if he's a Robot at all.

The jury is still out on this Lost In Space and while another visually striking installment throughout (see images), Transmission is arguably the weakest of the bunch yet.

Director: Deborah Chow (Mr. Robot). Writer Kari Drake.

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