Oddly enough, it’s the robot who proves most engaging, and not just because he only has to say “Danger, Will Robinson” — a line written over 50 years ago by Irwin Allen. First off, the robot is designed well. How it comes together makes sense. Both mechanically and aesthetically impressive, the robot is the shining star of the show. (Parker Posey’s Dr. Smith is a close second, but her villainous line readings will either come across as self-aware or on-the-nose. The former would be delightful, but the latter is obnoxious and everyone will react differently.)
But what really makes the robot stand out is its complexity. It’s mysterious, both in its origins, intentions, and inability to over-communicate. It doesn’t talk, so you can see whatever you want in its childlike actions (playing catch, learning Go Fish, following people like a duck). That it’s a reformed killing machine makes it interesting: Where did it come from? Was it really Will (Max Jenkins) that made it change? Why did it do what it did? These questions are addressed throughout the series (especially in Episode 9, “Resurrection”), which makes for a satisfying journey of discovery.
The human characters don’t earn the same mystery. (Which also raises the question: Why didn’t anyone ever give the robot a name?) Learning about mom and dad’s looming separation feels contrived and clichéd — he went back to the army without asking? She didn’t want him home? Well, I wonder if this life-changing experience will bring them closer together? The kids are similarly familiar, even if they’re smarter (and more perceptive) than your average grade schoolers.
Some may forgive such cornball moments because a) it’s a family show, and b) it looks awesome. The special effects are great, and there’s a glossy sheen to everything that conveys how expensive this production must’ve been. The universe seen in “Lost in Space” is vast and impressive in appearance, even if it feels a little conventional and restrained in application.
But that could all change if Netflix docks with Season 2. At the end of the first season, the climactic sequence of events is as predictable as ever: The robot goes back to being good in time to save Will and the family, Dr. Smith’s evil plan is squashed, and the Resolute appears in time to save the family.
And then the season-ending twist kicks in: Before the semi-good folks aboard the Resolute can shoot over and pick up the stranded family, strange robotic noises are heard, a blue electrical current connects to the ship, and a wormhole opens up that sucks the Robinsons into another galaxy. They hover above two giant glowing spheres that Will deduces look a lot like what the robot drew in the sand — “Danger,” he says, and it’s all over.
With a new world full of robots — and proper perspective on a first season that could benefit from considerable fine-tuning — Season 2 holds the potential to become the exciting, surprising, and truly dangerous adventure that’s never fully realized in the initial 10 episodes. “Lost in Space” loves its science, but it hasn’t advanced enough to prove all that memorable in the here and now.
“Lost in Space” Season 1 is streaming now on Netflix.