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).

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