This Lost in Space review contains spoilers
Lost in Space Episode 9
Through eight episodes of television, Lost in Space’s charm and joie de vivre has outpaced some of the ridiculousness of its premise.
The introduction of Dr. Smith: Master Mind Manipulator has necessitated the charactes sometimes act far dumber than they really are. Still, the amount of storytelling fun onscreen has often made those mischaracterizations seem like unfortunate, yet tiny blips. Now in season one’s penultimate episode, the inconsistencies, poor logic, and general campiness completely throw of the “fun-to-dumb” ratio and the show follows up its best episode with its worst.
A lot of “Resurrection” resembles the original 1960s Lost in Space in the wrong way. That show was also a lot of fun (I assume, since I’m in fact 11 years old. What’s a telephone booth? Were Green Day and Elvis Presley making music around the same time?) before it succumbed to a terminal case of the campies.
Campiness can be fine and it can work. It just has to feel deliberate. The original Lost inSpace often felt campy because producers were just finding the cheapest monster costumes money can buy and placing them on the 20th Century Fox backlot.
Lost in Space’s 2018 incarnation has obviously reached nowhere near that level of sloppiness. This is still a pretty good-looking show. Some of the compromises to the characters and the leaps in logic required to make “Resurrection” work, however, is quite simply put: campy.
So…no one seems all that concerned that Maureen has been knocked unconcsious and taken captive by a stowaway under the group who has been impersonating a doctor for weeks. The Robinson kids are concerned, of course, little angels that they are. It’s just more than a little weird that none of the adults seem to care that Maureen is missing. And everyone is pretty much onboard with Judy’s plan to find her, which for all intents and purposes just her having a Chariot Google where some of the other Chariots have been and then going to that location by herself.
Granted, the entire colony is facing an existential threat as the Resolute is due to depart in mere hours. One would just think that having the smartest woman on the planet present could help. As it turns out though, the colonists don’t need the smartest woman on the planet because they have Will “The Poopsmith” Robinson. After a room-destroying tantrum, Will discovers that one of the rocks he harvested from the cave isn’t a rock at all. It’s doo-doo, baby.
Will’s discovery is another clever bit of problem-solving for Lost in Space. We’ve never heard of these organic material converters aboard the Jupiters before but fertilizer-based natural fuel makes total sense. The problem is that the trip to the cave to harvest said poopfuel isn’t fundamentally interesting….and yes, more than a little campy.
There is more than enough biomass in the cave to fuel everyone’s Jupiter though everyone has to be perfectly silent when harvesting it as the cave is populated by sharp-eared pterodactyl monsters. Welcome to Lost in Space: A Quiet Place. Or Lost in Place: A Quiet Space, if you prefer.
Visually, neither the pterodactyl monsters or anything else in the cave is all that interesting. And the character moments the set-piece leads to aren’t worth it. We already know Victor is a bit of a dick. We don’t need (admittedly kind of cool-sounding) quotes to prove it.
“History books are filled with stories of heroic men. You know who writes those stories? The survivors,” Victor tells Will about his father’s death, presumably forgetting to add in a “thank you” for saving all their lives.
“Resurrection” also introduces a storytelling device perilously late in the season with the Morse Code-style radio device Will used to use to communicate with his dad when he was overseas. This could have and should have been introduced several episodes ago so that it carried heavier symbolic and emotional weight.
When “John” (or whoever is on the other end of the radio signal) finally messages back it’s entirely anticlimactic. The poopfuel has been harvested and Will has already saved the day. John’s message doesn’t reach Will in an extreme time of need. It’s just an afterthought of good news on top of more good news.
Too much in “Resurrection” is quite simply rushed. At only 40-some minutes it’s the shortest Lost in Space of the season and still struggles to fill out that running time. When the pterodactyl monsters finally, inevitably awake, Penny, Vijay , and Angela are able to avoid them by just kind of shuffling along, quickly, and quietly. Well, Angela does throw a pooprock to distract one of the pterodactyl monsters and for that exhibition of breathtaking courage she is immediately forgiven by the Robinson kids for almost killing their dad.
“Dr. Smith has a way of making people do things they regret, “Will says to Angela.
Does she though? Does she really?
Molly Parker and Parker Posey act their spacebuns off in their scenes together but there just isn’t any solid narrative footing for them to grab onto. Smith has brought Maureen to the alien spaceship the Robot arrived in so she can finally reassemble the friendly machine and save the day. The fact that John and Don (apparently) died in the process was just a regrettable misstep.
Smith is just full of bad villain-isms in her time with Maureen.
“We’re not so different you know,” Smith tells Maureen without providing any compelling evidence. Then later on Smith tells Maureen that her ultimate goal is to stop running.
“Don’t you see Maureen? I’m not the villain of the story. I’m the hero.”
Maureen and Smith’s discoveries at the ship are interesting enough at least. Via flashbacks and some teamwork, the two discover why The Robot’s people sent him. Humanity was not smart enough to achieve intergalactic travel. Instead we just got lucky. An alien ship crash-landed onto Earth and the…government (it’s actually not quite clear who is in charge of this whole Alpha Centauri journey?) “borrowed” the alien technology to make an engine fit for space travel then covered the story up with the “Christmas meteroite.”
On one hand, was anyone really asking how humanity was able to create the Jupiters on Lost in Space? I, for one, had just taken for granted that the technology was possible to achieve in the near sci-fi future. On the other hand, watching Molly Parker solve mysteries is a very fun and worthwhile genre of television. Smith and Maureen briefly uniting to uncover a conspiracy isn’t Lost in Space at its absolute best but it is interesting enough to stick out in an episode that doesn’t seem like it even wants to exist.
Judy arrives shortly after Smith and Maureen’s discovery and rescues her mom with a brilliantly executed chicken ruse. Somehow, in the ultimate logical indignity in an episode full of them, Smith shakes off being sedated within like 4 seconds and has enough time to take control of an inexplicably revived Robot.
This is all particularly frustrating because in the brilliant eighth episode, “Trajectory,” Lost in in Space presented the human response to passing out as a creative and compelling action plot device. Now it’s just an afterthought to get Smith out of the way for a few moments before she ends the episode on top.
Not only that but the revival of The Robot should be a big deal, not something that happens offscreen with no explanation. Earlier in the episode, Maureen theorizes that only Will can control the Robot because he is kind and pure of heart. That would have been fairly corny and campy. But it would have been the good corny and campy. At the very least it would have been better than nothing. And “Resurrection” has plenty of nothing.