Lost in Space 3

One of my favorite shows as a young boy was Lost in Space. But when I attempted to rewatch it several years ago, I discovered that it hadn’t aged well at all. Except for the earliest episodes, it was basically unwatchable. And after a 1990s failed attempt as a movie reboot, which I enjoyed but have to admit I’m one of the few people who did, I had largely consigned the show and its concept to something that was only going to live on in childhood memories.

When the Netflix show came out a few years ago, I was delighted to discover that it managed to capture the spirit of the original, while mostly avoiding campiness that only a six year old could appreciate. That’s not to say that the new show is perfect, particularly in its relation with scientific facts, but the production values have been excellent, the special effects modern, and the stories compelling.

One of the things the show succeeds at, and some might see this as a mild spoiler although it really shouldn’t be, is to make you repeatedly worry that it’s going to go to a very dark place, while never actually going there. In the end, this is a show about family and kids coming of age under ridiculously trying circumstances.

This final third season is mostly action and adventure. At this point we know all the characters and sources of conflicts. All that’s left now is for everything to play out. As in the previous seasons, there’s a reverence for science, but far from strict adherence to it. And the characters are often in constant danger, with resolutions that don’t bear too much scrutiny. The result is a thrill ride, but one I enjoyed.

It’s a shame that this is the final season. I could have easily watched more of this for years to come. But as shows go, it’s probably one of the most expensive. The child actors are also obviously aging out. And coupled with the increasing tendency of streaming services to end shows after their third or fourth season, it was probably in the cards.

So, if old fashioned space adventure is your cup of tea, and you haven’t already checked this series out, I recommend taking a look.

Have you watched it? If so, what did you think?

30 thoughts on “Lost in Space 3

  1. The original TV series aired over 50 years ago at the height of the Vietnam war when TV was transitioning from black and white to color! I can certainly imagine that it would be totally unwatchable today! One fun fact, the original the character of John Robinson was played by Guy Williams, the same actor who played Zorro in the Disney TV series a few years earlier. I’ve looked at the remake. It’s much better than the hokey original that I remember although the Will Robinson character is quite annoying at times.

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    1. Hmmm. I didn’t know that about Guy Williams. Interesting. And of course the actor that played Will Robinson, Bill Mumy, went on to play a number of roles in other science fiction, most notably Lennier in Babylon 5.

      I should note that the original series isn’t unwatchable due to the limitations of 1960s TV, at least not for me. I watch a lot of old movies and shows and usually don’t have a problem making allowances for what was possible back then. What makes it unwatchable for me, is that the caliber of the stories quickly plummets into a type of silliness that only a very young child could enjoy. (As I did as a very young child.)

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      1. Right you are; the original series is unwatchable now because it was painfully hokey. Fascinating that about the same time the original Star Trek began to air. And that was what I’d call real science fiction writing. Lost in Space, even the remake, is more of an adventure set in space. Actually it’s a adaptation of Swiss Family Robinson which itself was a bad rip off of the classic Robinson Crusoe which was an excellent exploration of the human spirit.

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        1. Definitely the original show was a riff off of the comic book Space Family Robinson, which was itself a riff off of Swiss Family Robinson, which I agree is a family friendly redo of Robinson Crusoe.

          BTW, have you ever seen the movie Robinson Crusoe on Mars? It was actually made a few years before the original Lost in Space series. I saw it again a few years ago and was surprised by how well it held up. Not great science fiction (even allowing for what was known about Mars back then), but still an engaging story.

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          1. I didn’t see the Crusoe on Mars film. I’ll look for it. As a young person I was enthralled with Defoe’s book which I think few have actually read. It is a deeply spiritual journey as well as a great adventure story. I think some would be surprised and even put off by Crusoe’s quite religious internal dialog. In a masterful remake, Cast Away, with a great performance by Tom Hanks, the spirituality is more indirect and almost hidden although there is some obvious spiritual symbolism for those willing to look. The Swiss Family and Lost in Space versions sadly divorce spiritual growth from the story and make it a simplistic adventure story.

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          2. Have to admit I’ve never read the original novel, although I have heard about its religious aspects. I would think it’s a reflection of the times in which it was written. The Mars one, like most of the later adaptations, does focus on some of the psychology, but I don’t recall religion or spirituality ever being mentioned. Although it might have been and, similar to Cast Away, either I didn’t notice or don’t recall it.

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          3. I still consider myself new to your blog. And I don’t have a firm grip on your worldview. But from what I know, I suspect that you may have a more restrictive concept of “spirituality” from what I intend. Quite simply I do not equate spirituality with religion. I was using that term in a broader context. And as a devoted fan of Defoe’s book and Zemeckis’ film adaptation, Cast Away, I feel compelled to offer a bit of gratuitous analysis.

            In a broader spiritual context, the deep struggle of Crusoe and Cast Away’s Chuck Nolan represent a struggle between changing and competing values, something your blog explores regularly. I also think the story touches directly on our modern human condition. Robinson Crusoe was published in the early 1700’s, into a world still rocked by the Protestant Reformation and a nascent capitalism. Crusoe is an ambitious member of the new merchant class. Chuck Nolan is his direct heir, a corporate trouble-shooter obsessed with time management.

            In short their characters are side-tracked and forced to confront the one-dimensional nature of their value systems and grow as humans. I think Zemeckis’ film adaptation makes Defoe’s theme more abstract but easier to understand for contemporary minds. It’s a profound and central aspect of that story, an aspect that was totally “lost” in space! I hope I haven’t strayed too far afield.

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          4. “Spirituality” is one of those words which mean different things to different people. If you’re ever wondering which concept I will think a word refers to, my answer is almost always that it’s a definitional matter, and I generally don’t take a hard line on definitions, except perhaps to insist on acknowledging when there are different meanings out there. It remains surprising to me how often that’s a matter of contention. I covered my views in a post a while back: https://selfawarepatterns.com/2015/05/25/the-utter-relativism-of-definitions/

            In that sense, I probably should have asked you what you meant about Crusoe’s spiritual journey. Although from what I’ve read about the book, the traditional religious sense seemed appropriate. Refreshing my memory with the Wikipedia article, I see it involved him reading the Bible. It sounds like his views shifted dramatically over the years. And the religious context of those views probably represents the religious orientation of most things back in 1719.

            But you meant his transformation in what he values. In that sense, I can see what you mean in the resonance with Cast Away. I do remember Tom Hanks’ character having notably different values at the end of that film. The contemporary film grounds that character arc in a more secular context, which makes sense for (most) modern audiences.

            I wouldn’t say Lost in Space is completely devoid of that kind of thing. But most of it, like most Family Robinson stories, is pedagogical in nature, having the kids learn what they should value while developing confidence in their own abilities. The one character in the new series that could be said to go on a spiritual journey of the type you mean is Dr. Smith. She goes from being someone who only values her own survival, to something more complex and sympathetic as the series progresses.

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          5. One probably should not be critical on “Lost In Space” because it’s not expressing a Crusoe/Cast Away theme. It justifies itself in other ways I think—as both a bit of a “coming of age” and a “family” narrative set within a Crusoe-type adventure. I do think Defoe did a god job with his interesting portrayal of the very huge conflict of values taking place in those early days of the Enlightenment. The heavy-handed internal dialog about religion that he goes through is an obvious reflection of the times. I said Zemeckis’s adaptation was masterful and I truly think so. Although there are Biblical symbols (old Testament and New), they are understated and tasteful. I especially liked the critical point, perhaps the film’s denouement; Chuck Noland’s attempted suicide and his simple explanation of new insight, dare I say epiphany. There was something universal about it. It even appeals to a purely secular view of reality. Thanks for letting be prattle on.

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  2. I watched the first few series and will probably watch the latest. I think I’m probably far too serious for these jokey adventures. It has been of vague interest and enjoyment for me but somehow I have always looked to science fiction to provide me with metaphysical perspective rather than pure adventure. This series does not provoke much thought in me.

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    1. I know what you mean. There are occasionally hints of that in this series, but it never really gets into very challenging questions. It’s just not that type of show. Although I don’t find it as shallow as most of the Marvel or Star Wars material, which is really nothing but thoroughly pasteurized adventure.

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  3. I got through the first season, but that was enough for me. I mainly watched it because I like Parker Posey, but nothing about the show grabbed me, and I’m generally meh about remakes anyway. So much good original SF out there. I just don’t get the need to keep returning to the same well.

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    1. I’m usually pretty suspicious of remakes myself, but I think some can turn out good, so I try to keep an open mind. For me, this is one that did. Not sure why it clicks so well for me, but it does. I do agree there’s a lot of fresh content that could be tapped.

      Rosey’s character is pretty villainous in the first season, but Dr. Smith gradually becomes more sympathetic in the second season, although she felt a bit underutilized in this final season.

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      1. If you recall, in the first episodes of the original, Dr. Smith was a villainous character, but over the arc of the show he changed into a clown and a buffoon. Not due to any real character growth, just what audience testing turned up. (Remember the show was on CBS which was a stogey and “family-oriented” then as it is now.)

        Dune, and then Cowboy Bebop, got me thinking a lot about remakes and reboots. They have a fundamental problem: they’re necessarily in direct reference to some other work; they’re imitations, no matter how good they might be. In art I place a very high value on originality, so remakes start off with a handicap. They are stuck in a Catch 22: sticking to the source is less creative (but more faithful); being original is prone to accusations of going off-book and failure.

        Given all the original material, why even go there? Why recreate a very cheesy 60s sci-fi show at all? I never saw the point, but then I don’t really get nostalgia. My rear view mirror is really tiny.

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        1. On Dr. Smith, I actually saw the later seasons first, with him as comic relief, and recall being surprised by his villainy when I finally saw the earlier episodes. The 1990s movie had him as a villain throughout, but of course they didn’t have a lot of time for a character arc.

          Do you make any distinction between remakes and adaptations? An adaptation seems like it’s really just remaking the story in another medium. In that sense, I don’t think of the new Dune movie as a remake. I’m pretty sure it owes nothing to the 1984 movie. It’s more just a fresh adaptation of the book. It’s unique value-add is a high production adaptation that is faithful to the source material, albeit not excessively so.

          Even Cowboy Bebop, in a sense, is an adaptation, from anime to live action. Granted, the mediums there are much closer, and I think CB is often excessively faithful to the original’s look, that in some cases it might have been better off hewing its own course. In some ways, it reminds me of that 1990s Dick Tracy movie, which was so faithful to the look of the comic strip that it was more a parody than an adaptation.

          Of course, the reason these remakes and adaptations get made is name recognition, marketing. I agree that it’s hard for the derived work to escape the shadow of the original. But it does sometimes happen. I don’t know if you’ve ever read the Godfather novel, but the first two movies are a rare case of the adaptation exceeding the source material. And the Battlestar Galactica remake, despite being flawed in many ways, transcended its original material.

          In the same sense, I think this new Lost in Space, by not being pedantically faithful to the original, by just taking it as an early draft concept to be further developed, does exceed it. Not that there was that much to exceed in the first place, and the result isn’t anything particularly deep, just entertainment, always a very subjective thing.

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          1. I’m currently writing notes for a post about remakes, and I’ll go on at length there, but, absolutely, an adaptation is a type of remake. That translation from one medium to another does allow more creativity than a remake does, so I give adaptations a bit more leeway. But as remakes, they’re still always in direct reference to some source material. (This is why I mentioned “Inspired By” as a more honest and useful billing. A remake is always a cage.)

            I quite agree about the new Dune. Both movies are adaptations of the text. Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049, OTOH, is a remake cinematically, but a sequel or world revisit in terms of storytelling. I also agree Cowboy Bebop is an adaptation. An issue you have with it is how much it tries to be a straight remake. I think that’s exactly what they wanted in their hope to “get it right.” (An issue I have with it is I think live-action adaptations of dramatic animations are almost impossible to pull off. Even comic ones are hard to get right.)

            Likewise agree there are many film adaptations of text that are outstanding. The Shining (1980) is another example. Kubrick and Coppola are master storytellers. Puzo and King ain’t bad, either. Then there is Jackson and The Hobbit. (Weird how he and Lucas both turned out film trilogies that are almost universally beloved followed by film trilogies that nearly as universally disdained.)

            As for remakes of old TV shows, that’s a pretty low bar. 🙂

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  4. We spam watched this series when we found it. Amazon Prime, I think. Anyway I really enjoyed the remake. Indeed a new vision compared to the old.

    I watched all the old Lost in Space shows as a kid. Right up to the point where I just couldn’t watch them anymore. I just hit a roadblock on that show. Couldn’t stand to be in the same room with it. It just irked me lol.

    There was a Lost in Space movie a while back, it was pretty much panned as slop, but I enjoyed it. As they say, there’s no accounting for taste.

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    1. Sounds similar to my experience. In my case, I watched the original on TV back in the early 70s when it was in syndication. Then it disappeared and I didn’t see it for decades. When I finally did (via the old Netflix DVD checkouts I think), my reaction was similar to yours. I actually found the early parts of the first season decent (after normalizing for 1960s limitations), but things started fraying toward the end of that season, and the second and third seasons had become unbearable.

      I enjoyed the movie too, but we’re definitely in the minority. It’s main sin might have been that it was too similar to the original, triggering people’s nostalgia, but still different enough to not be authentic enough. I don’t know. But the new series appears to be getting a much better reception.

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  5. Me and the family really enjoyed the three seasons of this show. It had fun action — and I like how each member of the Robinsons contributed to coming up with solutions to problems through the series. It wasn’t just the mother who would “science this out.”

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    1. Definitely agreed. This version has all the members of the family as technically competent and contributing. The original represented the norms of its time, and that’s one thing we can definitely say has gotten better in the last fifty years.

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  6. You’re not alone. I liked that 90’s movie too. It’s not exactly great cinema, but it was enjoyable enough.

    I haven’t seen the Netflix series yet. Somehow it never crossed my radar until someone showed me the third season trailer. Next time I cycle around to a Netflix subscription, I will definitely check this show out.

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    1. Like that 90s movie, I’d say the Netflix series isn’t sterling science fiction. You won’t come away with any new insights into the human condition, science, or philosophy. But it is adventures in space, with ancient alien ruins, mysterious machinery and installations, harrowing dangers, and people triumphing by working together. Fun entertainment, but definitely not deep.

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