The last decade of television has been full of reboots of famous shows, either with new casts and re-imagined plotlines or with original casts picking up where the series left off. Broadcast and cable channels, having been around for decades, have most of the property rights to reboot shows, but streaming services aren't totally immune to the phenomenon, especially Netflix, which has brought back the '90s Full House as Fuller House, the '80s series One Day At A Time, and now the 1960s camp classic Lost In Space. But what is Lost In Space about? How close does it hew to the original?
Netflix's new version of Lost In Space is based on the original CBS series that ran from 1965-1968. It was a space-aged take on the 1812 novel The Swiss Family Robinson, which was about a family named Robinson, from Switzerland, that found themselves shipwrecked on an island in the South Pacific. (You may have heard of it — Disney made a hit movie based on the book in 1960.)
In the 1960s Lost In Space version, the family Robinson (father John, wife Maureen, plus kids Judy, Penny, and Will) are once again wrecked, but this time on a distant planet when their ship, the Jupiter II, crashes after their robot is sabotaged on their way to Alpha Centauri in the distant future of 1997.
In Netflix's version, it's once again 30 years in the future (which makes it 2048.) The Robinsons are all still here, though Judy (Taylor Russell from Falling Skies) is now from Maureen's first marriage, making her and Penny (Mina Sundwall from Maggie’s Plan) far closer in age and the five of them a blended family. They're all aboard the Jupiter II, but now their ship is one of hundreds in a mass colonization effort, since Earth is becoming uninhabitable. So, while the first couple of episodes focus down on just the family, plus the pet robot friend that Will (Max Jenkins, from Sens8) makes in the opening episode, unlike the original version, they are not alone.
This is not the first time someone has tried to remake Lost In Space. In 1998, there was a movie starring Matt LeBlanc of Friends fame. Some of the changes that film made to the story have been included in the Netflix update, including the robot's more insect-like design, as well as the family's far more dysfunctional relationships. John (Toby Stephens, Black Sails) and Maureen (Molly Parker, House of Cards), for instance, were on the verge of divorce before she decided to have her family apply for the 24th Colonist's Group. John realized going with them was the only way he got to stay with his kids. The kids are mad at John for leaving the family. Will struggles with feeling like the failure of the family, somehow absolutely sure he's the weakest link, though everyone tells him he didn't fail the application. (Some may not be totally honest.)
Along with the updates come a few other changes. The biggest is the recasting gender flip of the series big bad, Dr. Zachary Smith. The executive producers insisted this was because the original actor, Jonathan Harris, was too iconic a character to try and recreate. Instead, they've cast Parker Posey (from A Mighty Wind) as the new Dr. Smith, who does her utmost in the role, one that's been changed dramatically from the original.
Another big change is the lack of campiness. The original TV show was silly. The robot looked like a cross between a vacuum cleaner, a kitchen appliance, and a dryer hose. This show is not silly. It's expensive. At their panel at AwesomeCon in Washington, D.C. in March 2018, the executive producer compared the show to a "10-hour summer blockbuster" and it certainly looks the part.
Still, at the heart of it, Lost In Space is a story about a family sticking together no matter what and getting through it together. That hasn't changed, and that's a good thing.
All ten episodes of Lost In Space will arrive on Netflix on Friday, April 13, 2018.