Lost in Space (streams Netflix from Friday, April 13) starts with a crash landing on a planet that, geez, Louise, looks very much like British Columbia. And indeed it is B.C. that is masquerading as the planet on which the Robinson clan land. They’re battered and scared. And they don’t even know about the pipeline controversy!
Kidding. This series is inexorably free of political or social meaning of any kind. Not a bit of that is there. Lost in Space was, apparently, a beloved 1960s sci-fi show. (I’ve never seen it. We don’t all grow up in the same place at the same time, you know.) And now it’s a fresh-as-a-daisy, family-friendly adventure show. There is no hidden layer of meaning. There is nothing going on except people in jeopardy being saved at the last minute, and folks working at getting along.
As such, it’s rather well done, with a strong cast. The Robinson family is mom Maureen (Molly Parker), a super-smart aerospace engineer; dad John (Toby Stephens) is a gruff military man trying to deal with his feelings and learning to not treat his family as soldiers under his command. We’re briefly given the gist of what happened on Earth; a ruinous calamity has allowed the Robinsons to be part of a gaggle of folks escaping to another planet. This means stress for their kids: Judy (Taylor Russell), who is caring and wants to be a doctor; Penny (Mina Sundwall), who is sarcastic and wisecracking and enterprising; and son Will (Maxwell Jenkins), who is super clever but shy and a bit timid.
So they land in what seems like a frozen planet but, happily, it’s like Earth, with forests and mountain streams and stuff. And they make friends with others who appear to be lost. There’s the pirate-type Don West (Ignacio Serricchio), a mechanical wizard and the shifty Doctor Smith (Parker Posey, who is very good), a very slippery person. And yes, little Will gets his robot friend who wants to protect him.
From the get-go, it’s all action and danger. Talk about cliff-hangers. There’s one about every ten minutes. Crisis after crisis requires ingenuity and derring-do to correct the situation and save somebody or other. And, of course, throughout the dangers and gee-whiz moments, the Robinsons are trying to get along and act as a nice family unit.
There’s no homework assignment involved in watching this yarn. No speeches about the environment. No political subtext. This is most definitely not a darkest-hour-of-humanity narrative. (Look to 20/20 for that stuff.) Some episodes do feel too long at a one-hour length, but it’s heartwarming fun, so brace yourselves for that.
Also airing this weekend
What’s With the Jews? (Sunday, 9 p.m. on CBC’s documentary channel) is described by one of its participants as “dangerous or daring.” Filmmaker John Curtin starts with a list of statistics; 22 per cent of Nobel Prize winners, 33 per cent of Oscar-winning directors and 40 per cent of chess champions have been Jewish. And Jewish people represent just 0.2 per cent of the planet’s population. So Curtin asks a lot of talking heads, “Why?” The answers are multitude.