So, as usual in the "From the Writer's Studio" feature of the Gauntlet, let's take a look at the original series and compare what innovative and / or predictable or political changes the new series has made to that original template.
According to the rather concise Wikipedia page on the subject: "Lost in Space is an American science fiction television series created and produced by Irwin Allen. The series follows the adventures of a pioneering family of space colonists who struggle to survive in a strange and often hostile universe after their ship is sabotaged and thrown off course. The show ran for three seasons, with 83 episodes airing between 1965 and 1968. The first season was filmed in black and white, with the second and third seasons filmed in color."
The premise of the original series (as well as the content of the much later unveiled and never aired original pilot episode) actually leaned fairly to the dark side for a piece of its sort at the time. This sinister quality was reflected mostly in the first season (and parts of the second), where the on-board antagonist, narcissistic psychologist Dr. Zachary Smith launched into recurring forays of oblique sabotage that was insidious, unforgivable, and malevolent. Yet, the Robinson's always found it in their collective hearts to not leave him behind.
Admittedly, in league with external villains (often played by guest stars) this worked fairly well in the non-episodic "monster of the week" format of mid-late 1960's prime time television, but we can only assume that network executives wanted "more lovable" characters, and so, Dr. Smith quickly became a caricature of himself, and was morphed, (with amazing verve by veteran character actor Jonathan Harris I might add) into a conniving, mischievous coward, whose antics became almost comical in both their tactics and their predictability. Regardless, without the proactive schemes of the Dr. Smith character, almost none of the action within the original series would have moved forward.
We had the father turned able Captain, Dr. John Robinson, who led the way. The supportive wife, Dr. Maureen Robinson, who served as the conscience of the crew. Their beautiful and compliant older daughter, Judy Robinson, who filled the post as the erstwhile and ever unrequited love interest of the otherwise secondary male protagonist, Major West. And lastly, we had the dual child prodigies, Penny and Will Robinson, who invariably presented the clever solution out of whatever quandary the crew had encountered earlier in the episode, and of course, in the nick of time.
Bouncing endlessly from earth-like planet to earth-like planet, the Robinson family and their "guests" always sought to get back home, only to somehow miscalculate their trajectory, encounter strange phenomena, and of course, stumble into a new adventure.
As an over-arching critique I am, in general, mostly adverse to reboots, and I tend to view them as a sad manifestation of the entertainment industry's failure to explore news artists and to produce new and innovative franchises, in league with their penchant to capitalize on "safe" pre-existing market bases.
Saying that, I absolutely and totally adored Ron Moore's Battle-Star Galactica 2004 Redux, which I still regard not only as a great update of a beloved classic series, but as a truly complex, wonderful and ground-breaking stand alone science fiction series.
Now, I'll be the first to admit that my reticence and perennial dislike of reboots may be personally motivated - a pet peeve of a screen-writer who has designed several series that I perceive could be very successful both artistically and financially, but are as yet still un-produced. But, suffice it to say, my vexation is still probably best encapsulated in the oft overheard complaint, "Hey, can't those guys in Hollywood ever come up with new stuff?"
Well, while there may not be that many totally ground-breaking ideas in the new Lost in Space, created by Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless, of "Dracula Untold" fame, I have to say that it does bring some nice new touches to the table.
First and foremost, the relationship between John and Maureen Robinson is much more strained, and one might argue, much more realistic, and is reflective of real world issues. This is very contemporary and serves as an obvious counter to the asexual patriarch-matriarch paradigm of the original. These nuances of rejection, abandonment, past joy, career priorities, and the simmering power dynamics of their relationship is subtly underwritten in dialogue between the characters, and is remarkably voiced by talented actors Toby Stephens and Molly Parker.
In essence this is destroying a series of gender stereotypes, while promoting another gender stereotype, an almost ancient one, for better or worse. But as I said, it's not without its realism.
Regardless, achieving this sort of balance is not an easy road to hoe, and I suspect that there may be some confused blow-back on the social justice media front.
Then again, when isn't there?
The two girls, Judy and Penny, unlike in the original series and in the feature film (which is best left for a whole other analysis), are much closer in age and are much more overtly competitive with one another. Also, John is presented as Judy's Step-Father, which aside from the realism of a less than archetypal family structure, is a minor element that may be presented as a component in the sister's dynamic later, but hopefully not, as a race card would be a low hanging fruit, and would be a "low context" issue, which is why the subject was delicately broached by out-family group character Don West. They are played respectively by Taylor Russell and Mina Sundwall, who are both really excellent young actors.
Also, the re-working of the original John Williams theme is pretty cool.
Four out of Five Gauntlet's up!