One of TV’s iconic phrases – “Danger, Will Robinson!” – returns as part of a streaming-age makeover in Netflix’s Lost in Space, landing April 13.
Fifty years after the campy, costumed-challenged, Irwin Allen original left the air, a polished, all-ages adventure arrives, tracking the space family Robinson as they battle for survival after their ship, the Jupiter 2, gets shoved off course in the far reaches of the galaxy.
The half-century gap since the original, which was set in a 1997 future that's now in the past, offers advantages over an '80s or '90s reboot, says executive producer Matt Sazama, because “we had a little bit of a blank slate. Most people haven’t necessarily seen the original show.” (Or, we hope, remember the 1998 movie that starred William Hurt and Gary Oldman.)
The futuristic, 10-episode Netflix edition carries the original's basic DNA: Parents Maureen (Molly Parker) and John (Toby Stephens) Robinson, and children Judy (Taylor Russell), Penny (Mina Sundwall) and Will (Maxwell Jenkins), are part of a project to colonize space.
Five other twists in the 2018 edition:
Launch marks escape from Earth. In the original, the Robinsons are the first family in space, accepting the mission as a scientific endeavor. In the Netflix version, an asteroid strike has endangered Earth's atmosphere, so space colonization is a necessity.
In space, an unplanned mishap shoots the Jupiter 2 toward an unknown, beautiful but often unfriendly planet with — what are the odds? — an earthling-friendly atmosphere.
The Robinsons are a modern TV family. Mom Maureen is a rocket scientist and a take-charge family leader. Her marriage to Navy SEAL John has been strained by his absence, and the whole family is trying to make the space reunion work — while escaping the hazards of an alien planet.
Judy, 18, is Maureen's biracial daughter. Judy and half-sister Penny, 15, are capable space travelers with specialized skills, while 11-year-old brother Will, sometimes fearful and tentative, is a work in progress. (The original's Will, Bill Mumy, makes a cameo appearance.)
"Maureen chooses to bring her family into space and feels responsibility for getting them lost" in space, says executive producer Burk Sharpless. "She owns the positives and the negatives of the very buy-in of the Robinson's journey."
Dr. Smith is a woman. The original's saboteur, scenery-chewing Jonathan Harris (“Oh, the pain! The pain!”), is female in the remake. Parker Posey’s version is also scheming and duplicitous, but may be a more serious threat.
“The Jonathan Harris performance was so iconic that it would be almost impossible for another male actor to fill that role without seeming like he was doing a version of that,” Sazama says. “We were fortunate to get the great Parker Posey, who is able to inhabit so many qualities of Dr. Smith. She is funny, mercurial and dangerous.”
Another character from the original, Don West (Ignacio Serricchio), also finds his way to the Robinsons, but he's not part of their original crew, as he was in the '60s series.
This muscular robot is not your father’s metallic Michelin Man. The new model is buff, mysterious and (potentially) trouble, with a glowing face only a bar code could love. And maybe an 11-year-old boy.
“One of the things that brought the writers together was the myth of The Black Stallion, this boy or girl bonding with a wild creature,” Sharpless says.
“But this robot has its own story that is complicated and mysterious. Is it friend or foe? It becomes the story of Season 1,” Sazama says.
Production values are light years ahead. The new Space has a cinematic look, with expansive vistas, a sleek spaceship and sharp CGI, a far cry from the original, whose alien costumes looked like day-after-Halloween remnants from your local party store.
Christopher Lennertz’s lush, orchestral score pays homage to the better of two original themes by Johnny Williams (who, as John Williams, followed up with Star Wars and a few Spielberg scores you might know).
“A lot of our inspiration was from the many Spielberg movies that had these great John Williams themes,” Sazama says.
Those films inspired the producers, who watched them while growing up, Sazama says. “We wanted to create a show that’s family entertainment in the best possible way."