From Lost in Space‘s original incarnation as a classic ’60s television series to its various comic book adaptations to the 1998 film, the galactic reimagining of Swiss Family Robinson has always been a fun-filled romp that focuses more on adventure and intrigue than anything else. But we find a different kind of Lost in Space in the newly released Netflix adaptation: a refreshingly realistic look at family dynamics and the impact of bad parenting through the lens of a prestige sci-fi show.
It’s not surprising that Lost in Space fits so easily into the ever-popular grim and gritty reboot framework as the setup of the original story is actually pretty dark: a family of space colonists gets lost in the depths of space after their ship is sabotaged. The new version builds on this, adding in the implication of a potentially world-ending object heading towards Earth, as well as introducing a conflict that we’ve never seen in previous iterations. In this retelling, the Robinson parents, John and Maureen, are revealed to be separated before they’re accepted into the space program that leads to their life-threatening predicament.
Genre television has long been used as an allegorical way of telling stories, and though the Robinsons are literally lost in space they’re also afloat in their own familial struggles. John is an absent dad obsessed with his career. Although that part of his life is still a mystery, it’s suggested in the infrequent flashbacks that he’s some kind of special-ops soldier, one who’s clearly spent more time away from his family than with them, and whose children have all been damaged by the space he’s left.
In fact, so much of what Lost in Space is exploring in its first episode alone is our parents and the havoc they wreak on us with their choices. Whether it’s John’s absence or Maureen’s…