Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Lost in Space: A Review

With all of the new science fiction series on the various forms of television, I have found one that is both family-friendly and entertaining.

The Lost in Space concept has appeared in three incarnations.  The original was a series that ran on network television from 1965 to 1968.  My son and I watched it in reruns, but it was basically a children’s show with one-dimensional characters.  The idea was resurrected for a 1998 motion picture that was dark and depressing and not well received.  The latest version on Netflix is a good family series that reflects our times and challenges.

The Robinson family is part of an expedition to settle the Alpha Centauri star system, fleeing an Earth in decline.  Maureen Robinson (an excellent Molly Parker) is an aeronautical engineer and mission commander.  John (a scruffy Toby Stephens), her husband, is a former Navy SEAL and biological father to two of their three children.  Eighteen-year-old Judy (Taylor Russell) is the mission doctor and is Maureen’s biracial daughter from a previous relationship.  Penny (Mina Sundwall) is the audacious, volatile 15-year-old with “spunk.”  Will (Maxwell Jenkins) is the eleven-year-old brother who always seems to be operating a bit outside his comfort zone.

Without giving away too many spoilers, the mission ship is attacked by an alien entity while enroute to their destination and the majority of the colonists find themselves marooned on a beautiful but unstable planet.

As the series develops, we understand that this is not your 1960’s “Leave to Beaver” family.  John, the father, had chosen to distance himself from the rest of the family by seeking out hazardous combat assignments.  Was it from feelings of inadequacy or fear of commitment?  

Maureen is strong, intelligent, and committed.  Her moral failing is in manipulating the system to get Will on the mission.  She can be a bit indulgent with her kids and a bit distant from her husband.

The children are facing the challenges of growing up.  Judy has been given significant adult responsibilities for a teen-ager and experiences a frightening near-death experience which makes her doubt herself.  Penny is the teen-ager going through all the challenges of growing up including taking impetuous risks.  Will has this thing with a robot entity who is sometimes a savior and often a threat.

The snake in the garden is Dr. Smith/June Harris (Parker Posey), a fragile and unstable personality, who is a continuing source of chaos for the family.

There are many levels to the story, but the series presents a number of issues for reflection.  Some are matters that the church should consider.

First, the Robinson family reflects the reality of family life today.   It is a blended family, one member is biracial, there are conflicts between Mom and Dad, and the siblings don’t always get along.  This pretty well describes families in our society.  They struggle to build family stability and coherence, and I must admit that I smiled as I watched the Robinsons overcome challenges both internal and external and grow stronger as a family.

Second, Maureen is a leader. She is strong and determined.  Her husband’s struggle to accept her in that role reflects where many men are today, including male church leaders.  On one occasion I thought, if a woman can lead a mission to Alpha Centauri, surely she can pastor a church!  Women’s gifts of leadership must not be denier.

Third, there are a number of moral questions for both the Robinsons and other colonists.   For example, how far would you go to both keep your family safe and assure family cohesion?  As we look at what is happening with family migration today, these concerns are very relevant.

Fourth, in this manifestation of the series, the Robinsons are not alone. They find themselves living alongside others.  Being in a larger community both enriches and challenges their relationships.  This certainly reflects the fact that we as parents and neighbors must find healthy ways to relate to others in our society.

I would recommend the series for family viewing.  Some of the happenings are a bit far-fetched, but it is science fiction!  There will be a second series, and it appears that the growing ties within the Robinson family will face new stresses.  It should be fun.

No comments: