I must confess I didn’t remember my “Lost in Space” enough to know they had three kids. I thought Taylor Russell was added for the new show. I also don’t think I’ve ever seen the original series, just the movie. But there are three kids.
Besides Russell, who’s the Doogie Howser teen doctor, there’s Mina Sundwall, who’s the annoying middle child, and Maxwell Jenkins, who’s the unspectacular youngest. The episode opens with the family sitting around the proverbial dinner table—albeit on an interstellar spacecraft hurtling to an Offworld colony in another star system—playing Go Fish. We find out Jenkins doesn’t cover his cards, and Sundwall takes advantage. We also find out Russell isn’t happy with dad Toby Stephens. Also, they’re crashing and trying to stay calm as they do it.
The episode has a series of flashbacks filling in the backstory, which has an asteroid hitting Earth and basically making it a shithole in a few years, so all the capable smart people are going to go colonize another planet. Luckily, mom Molly Parker, Russell, and Sundwall are all very, very smart and capable people. Dad Stephens was in the Marines on Earth, and everyone’s mad at him about something, even though the first time we see them in flashback, they’re all pleased with dad. Presumably, being in the Marines means he gets to go Offworld with them.
Jenkins, it turns out, wasn’t good enough to cut it for the mission, and Parker had his record hacked to bring him along. So when he’s feeling inadequate, it’s because he’s actually inadequate. Luckily, he will tame a killer robot before the episode’s over, so he’s a lot more useful.
But since I didn’t remember Russell’s character was a series staple, I thought when they were threatening to kill her terribly, they might do it. What a way to do a tough new “Lost in Space” and immediately kill one of the kids. “Lost in Space”’s future is nice looking (except for the really crappy UX on the computers), but the society is really messed up.
Russell spends most of the episode in a life-threatening situation, with Jenkins also getting into one in the second act. Stephens’s questionable dad skills will be involved with both situations, leading to a lot of drama with Parker. Then we find out she was kind of ready to just divorce him when he decided to tag along on their interstellar relocation.
It helps the cast is mostly likable—well, mainly Parker and Russell are likable, while Jenkins is sympathetic. Sundwall gets the least character and but the most personality. And then Stephens is shifty and questionably competent.
Neil Marshall directs, usually emphasizing character drama and the resulting development (a plus since the special effects are iffy at times); he’s thoughtful about how he puts the children in danger, though the sequence where Jenkins is taming the robot ratchets up the intensity a tad much for the pay-off. The first half of the episode seems more budget conscious (limited sets) before the second half opens things up. It scales nicely.
The last flashback reveal introduces Parker Posey’s “Doctor Smith” (in a way you don’t have to know anything about the series or even the accompanying Bill Mumy cameo) in addition to giving the audience a bunch more information than the characters about the crashed spaceships and the robot. It’s a good hook for next time.