One Family, Lost in Space

I cannot think of anything worse than the idea of being trapped inside a ship, lost in space. Surrounded by a hostile ‘void’ without oxygen, and your own slowly being used up by breathing and talking. And yet, time after time, movies and television shows take us there, to the edges of the galaxy and beyond, in grand adventures, to encounter alien species. I have met and befriended many people in those far-off places, from the Navi in Avatar to the peaceful inhabitants of various planets explored by the Star Trek Enterprise crew.

Some aliens look like Spock and others look human, and some come as robots or horrific species intent on wiping out humanity. And while many of these shows focus on friendship and teamwork, one stands apart in its focus on family—Lost in Space. An updated version of an old television series, the Netflix-helmed new one casts the Robinson (Crusoe) family into space, as earthlings make efforts to colonize other worlds. After an unknown creature attacks their fleet, the Robinsons get separated from the rest of their group and are forced to survive on their own, on a hostile alien planet with their ship running low on fuel. There, young Will helps a robot reassemble itself out of compassion while stranded inside a warm pocket on the planet’s frozen surface, and… creates a friend and protector.

Each of the family members have distinct personalities—the marine father who was never at home for his wife and kids, their genius-scientist of a mother, the older sister who has devoted her entire life to helping people through her medical training, one redheaded sister who loves to think creatively, and at last, Will… scared little Will, who failed his space exam and doesn’t realize his mother “cheated” to get him on assignment. He feels out of his depth and intimidated by space, so having a robot at his side gives him the confidence to try things for himself. Over the course of two seasons, the Robinsons encounter unknown creatures, risk their lives to save one another, and face off against terrible threats, including one from within… the unscrupulous “Dr. Smith,” a con artist who only looks out for her own best interests. She will lie, cheat, steal, even murder to get what she wants.

I have a long history of despising certain fictional characters who display selfish traits who cause trouble for others, and Smith is close to the top of the list. A natural and manipulative schemer from the first day the Robinsons offer her shelter, she sets her eyes on Will’s robot as the potential answer to all her problems—she wants it. Sees how it protects and helps Will, and how that might be useful for keeping her own self out of jail if anyone finds out the truth about her. So she plants seeds of doubt in the Robinsons’ minds about whether they can trust the robot around their son, hoping to get Will to betray it, so she can reassemble it as her own loyal servant.

With scum to root against like that, who needs more? But every episode has a high-stakes adventure to put us through, from having to transport fuel trucks across a field laden with volcanic water spurts to an episode in which Judy must outrun raptors (yes, dinosaurs in space) to reach her father in time to save his life, at the bottom of a hole. The family may not understand each other all the time, might squabble and crab at each other, but when push comes to shove, they will be there for each other when necessary. And sometimes just for fun.

I love many various sci-fi shows, because they open up space as a place for exploration and adventure and peril, without me leaving my couch. Stargate SG-1 taught me to love its likable band of protagonists, Stargate Atlantis kept me on the edge of its seat in its ongoing battle against a vampire-like, life-sucking race of alien villains, Star Trek made me adore the emotionally stinted Mr. Spock, and Battlestar Galactica hit me hard with one tough question after another, forcing me to grapple with moral conundrums and decisions alongside its ragtag bunch of characters. But Lost in Space has something these other shows do not—an emphasis on how families can learn to love each other despite their differences, and how they should have each other’s backs in a fight. It’s a clean, family-friendly show that is also fun and entertaining and even scary. It’s well worth your time, if you care to spend a few hours with the likable Robinson family.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Charity Bishop devotes her free time to eating chocolate, debating theology with her friends, researching the Tudors and writing novels about them, caring for her beloved cats, running a MBTI typing blog, writing books, blogging, and searching for spiritual truth in all aspects of life.

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