Sure, I’m a bit older than most. I don’t take statements like that as an insult. (Challenge my personal preferences, though, and you’d better watch out!) If my memory serves, the person was simply observing that for my age group the Allen show was a signature space program. I’d seen the show – it was the kind of fodder than aired healthily in syndication (after school and on weekends) – and while I’ll admit to being smitten with a few of its hours (as a youngling) the overall expanse wasn’t that impressive. Coming from the era it does, Lost gets compared to Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek constantly; and despite some minor similarities they’re really two different entities. Lost In Space told its adventures truly in the ‘monster of the week’ formula whereas Star Trek was more of an ‘idea of the moment’ kind of thing, monsters be damned. Yeah, they both had actors in prosthetics. True, it was the mid-to-late 1960’s. Both sent audiences into the wild Final Frontier, but the commonalities really stop there.
Though the franchise wasn’t a personal favorite, I hung out with it whenever I found it on the Tube; and I paid attention to its re-imaginings over the years. The 1998 movie had potential to put the property back on the map. Its talented cast included William Hurt, Mimi Rogers, Gary Oldman, and Heather Graham. Produced by Irwin Allen Productions and New Line Cinema, this version of Space had big money thrown at it with an estimated $80M production budget; and I’ve read that all principal actors were contracted for a three-picture deal. Alas, when it failed to recoup its budget in the U.S. alone, the studio shuttered the prospects for any follow-ups. A few years later (in 2004), Irwin Allen Productions tried again, this time with a telefilm written by Douglas Petrie and directed by the great John Woo; but The Robinsons: Lost In Space lives on in legend (mostly) only as an unaired pilot intending to bring the space family into the modern age. Danger, Will Robinson: getting a hit series is a tricky thing.
I wasn’t a Netflix subscriber back in 2018 when the Allen property was dusted off and given another iteration, but I did pick up Season 01 when it came out on home video. From what I’ve read, this version picks up some of the ideas originally floated in the 2004 pilot, though I’d imagine it suitably fleshed out the material across the 10 episodes. I binged it over a weekend, and – while I wasn’t all that enamored – something sparked my interest enough to give the second season a go late in 2021 (once I finally plunked down some scratch to the streaming giant). To my delight, Season 02 was vastly improved: once the band got back together (there were some conflicts from Season 01 that, to my recollection, frayed the family dynamic), Lost In Space finally seemed like something deserving my attention.
Alas, all good things must end: late in 2021, Netflix released the third and final collection of episodes … and I’m sad to see the family Robinson go. Right when I was starting to love them, the show is bowing out of its original broadcast existence.
If I’ve any gripe about just how, why, and where it all wraps up, then I’d probably point out I was never all that thrilled with the show’s Robot – clearly one of its most inspired creations in the beginning and through the redux – being part of a sentient alien race. While there’s no way to tell this story the way it unfolds without that tie-in, I guess I just kinda/sorta missed that bond between a boy and his machine, even though there’s a connection built between these modern editions. Still, as it turns out, anybody can have this rapport – I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t seen it – and methinks that makes what young Will and his Robot have a little less special than in those old days of the 1960’s. I’m thrilled that the two of them are poised to carry on the Robinson legacy (even though it’s unlikely that we’ll ever see that show come to life), but I’d still argue that what they have is a diversion from what once was … ah, these times … they are a’changin’ …
In retrospect, it’s hard to highlight any individual performances for additional praise as this show always was, always is, and always will be an ensemble piece – it’s derived from Swiss Family Robinson, after all – but I’d be remiss if I didn’t shout some kind words toward a few of its players.
Maxwell Jenkins – as Will Robinson – was a revelation, even all the way back to Season 01. He had that kinda/sorta Spielbergian glow about his potential here, so it was great to watch the actor mature both physically and with more taxing storylines. He grew as the centerpiece to the show, and I’m grateful for that. Ignacio Serricchio – as Don West – gave audiences a somewhat different incarnation, playing the officer as a bit of a noble conman supply specialist, very similar to what John D’Aquino did in the oft-forgotten mid-1990’s SciFi series SeaQuest DSV. Both were men you could trust, but you might question whether or not to turn your back before a handshake to seal the deal! Lastly, Mina Sundwall – as Penny Robinson – was an unexpected delight. As the middle Robinson child, she played it pitch perfect as the ‘lady in waiting,’ always pushing back against feeling left out by mustering up an almost gung-ho sarcasm to give everyone around her pause. The actress made it easy to cheer for her at every opportunity.
Though they may be gone now, the Robinsons will live on so long as streaming’s available … but would it be too much to ask Netflix to give ‘em a big screen follow-up? As a crew, they’ve proven their worth. As a family? They deserve our attention.