This Lost in Space review contains spoilers.
Lost in Space Season 1 Episode 5
Lost in Space took an interesting approach when it decided to include many other surviving colonists along with the Robinsons, and the results so far are mixed. On the one hand, working on rescue scenarios such as building a light tower to signal for help is more believable with more people, but on the other hand large numbers dilute viewer attention, even with potential romantic entanglements like whatever’s developing between Penny and Vijay. Perhaps it will turn out alright in later episodes, but here the reaction is a trepidatious, “Am I still watching Lost in Space, or is this The 100, Battlestar Galactica, or — god forbid — Earth 2?”
And how long will Dr. Smith be able to maintain her cover anyway? Each time we think she’s going to get caught, she comes up with some barely plausible excuse that deflects suspicion. In some ways, that’s part of the fun of her character, but surely there are limits to the sustainability of this plot device. Even Don, who experienced her betrayal firsthand, seems to begrudgingly accept her explanation that she put the flare gun back in the wrong bag. He’s not happy, mind you, but she still got away with it, even having the guts to say she forgives him for losing her necklace. Having viewers wait for the other shoe to drop is both admirably cruel from a narrative standpoint and frustrating due to its repetitive nature.
What even is her goal with the robot? Turning off the security gate to let the giant lizards in was evil genius for someone who doesn’t want the Resolute to reveal her false identity, but did she know Will would have to let the robot reveal itself and its ties to the massacre on the mother ship? Was it just a ploy to cut off communications and distract the colonists with a bigger problem than her, or does she still imagine a scenario where she controls the robot? And surely the gun is just a Plan B in case things go sideways! Smith’s machinations are deeply interesting despite her self-preservation making her one-note at times.
But Vijay repeats what Smith has already noticed: that the robot’s swirling face denotes intelligent thought, not just blind obedience to Will. Vijay’s flirtatious banter with Penny and his difficult relationship with his father are merely introductory for this character, but his observation about the robot gives hope that he might become instrumental in learning about one of the most interesting characters in Lost in Space: the one who only ever utters three mechanical words.
The fact that John thinks that Will is acting strange because he’s trying to hide that he’s hurt by the robot’s supposedly sudden departure the same way he was hurt by his father not being there is pleasantly complex on a number of levels. First, it plays on Will’s guilt about not telling his father of the robot’s more aggressive origins. Secondly, it reflects John’s sensitivity with Judy’s PTSD even though he’s wrong about the reason for his son’s emotional turmoil. Perhaps the introduction of so many other colonists will help the Robinsons band together as a family now that we’ve been told a number of times about the damage John’s absence has wrought.
Part of that coming together might be in response to Victor’s pushy style of leadership, which is interesting from the standpoint that, in other series like Lost in Space, we normally would have already been introduced to this type of contentious leader, but as a latecomer he rubs viewers the wrong way even more as an interloper on the Robinson’s established dynamic. John’s dismissiveness of Victor’s impromptu meeting about getting more lights for the tower therefore felt justified as did Maureen running off with the Chariot. The colony leader’s treatment of his son certainly doesn’t increase our respect either.
Speaking of Maureen, though, her side mission as well as the accompanying flashbacks were almost as intriguing as the development with the robot. Watching Will fail his test in the hyperbaric chamber was illustrative if not informative, but the promise she made to him as a baby explains a lot about her maternal protectiveness in the present. Meanwhile, the purple fields and the trip into the upper atmosphere drew out the mystery and wonder of her secretive mission, but even for those who know that Hawking radiation surrounds a black hole, there might be some lingering curiosity: is the planet being drawn into the star, or is this related to the wormhole that brought them here — or both? Maureen’s investigation was visually stunning, and its implications were as important to the episode as what was happening back at camp.
Lost in Space has set up a wonderful tension for the second half of season one in this episode. How will the colonists react to seeing the robot which killed so many violently dispatch the giant lizards and then calm at a word from Will? What will happen now that the Resolute failed to notice their light signal? What planetary and celestial dangers will Maureen’s scientific observations bring to light? The pacing of the action and the rate of character development don’t always match speed with each other, but usually one picks up the others’ slack, keeping our interest for the next installment.