As a survival adventure story, Netflix’s Lost in Space kept viewers on the edge of their seats for each of its ten episodes, and much credit for the reboot’s success must go to showrunner, Zack Estrin, who spoke to The Hollywood Reporter recently about his stint producing the story of the Robinsons stranded on an alient planet. Although the first season had its ups and downs, the character building, the lingering mysteries, and the fresh take on a familiar tale made this series a hit, and the reasons behind its success bear revisiting.
Here are some of the highlights of what we learned from the Estrin interview.
His gig as showrunner was kid-approved.
Estrin was looking forward to a break from producing shows like The Whispers and Prison Break when he received the script from writer/producers Matt Sazama and Bruce Sharpless. “I had done so many shows in a row, but this script was too good not to develop,” Estrin said. “I have two kids, ages 14 and 11, and they haven’t been able to watch anything I’ve done. When I pitched them this show, they basically signed the contract for me.”
He spoke to actual astronauts for inspiration.
The space travel and colonization technology had to believable, so Estrin went straight to the source. “We told NASA that we didn’t want ideas for things they were hoping to achieve, we wanted to know what they could actually deliver,” he told THR. “In one of our storylines, the Robinson family is able to convert the waste of a creature into usable fuel. That’s something that NASA is working right now.”
There’s a reason why the Robinsons vote democratically.
The original Lost in Space came out in 1965, and the familial roles among the Robinsons were quite different. “The individuals roles within the Robinson family in the original series certainly reflected the views of 1960s society, particularly in regard to women,” Estrin acknowledged. “If you go back, you’ll see that Maureen was the only one doing the cooking and cleaning. We’re in a much different time now, and we wanted our characters to reflect that. Roles for race and gender have certainly evolved, and we’re proud to have a very diverse and independent Robinson family.”
The original John Williams score was honored as closely as possible.
Along with the updated vintage theme song, Lost in Space scoring honored the original composer, the one and only John Williams. “We wanted the show to have a sense of classic summer escapism and adventure, and John’s theme was a big part in achieving that,” Estrin said. “We took that main theme and asked ourselves, ‘How would John Williams score this show today?’ So much of science fiction now is defined by electronic music and synth sounds. We consciously wanted this to be a return to the classic style.”
He acknowledges mistakes were made.
Among the adjustments Estrin had to make were tweaks performed on episode 4, “The Robinsons Were Here.” “We’d wanted to do a sort of Stand By Me episode. We had the kids off together exploring, but there wasn’t a sense of jeopardy or danger,” Estrin admitted. “Our show is a thriller, and while you can have exploration of the characters, it’s better when they’re running from something or trying to overcome a challenge. So we went back in and made a couple adjustments that really brought the episode to life.”
He wanted just the right look for the Robot.
Most Lost in Space viewers would agree that the Robot kind of stole the show this season, so Estrin’s attention to detail on the alien AI were not wasted. “We were very inspired from some of the early Star Wars designs,” Estrin said. “When you look at R2D2, he had a personality, but he didn’t talk. All the droids had their own personality. We wanted our robot to have some of that, but also be mysterious. It conveys its mood through his body movement and the light shifts in its face.”
In the end, Lost in Space was in good hands with Estrin, and hopes are high for a season 2 renewal for the show. If you haven’t had a chance to check the series out on Netflix, we can highly recommend it based on our reviews.