In a crazy twist of fate, the CBS television network passed on Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek back in 1965, choosing instead to develop a competing sci-fi series by mega-producer Irwin Allen (The Towering Inferno, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea). The show was called Lost in Space, and followed the adventures of the Robinson family on their five year mission to colonize a planet near Alpha Centauri — until an act of sabotage changed everything.
CBS judged Irwin’s concept as more commericial than Roddenberry’s. History says otherwise, but Lost in Space‘s core concept was strong and refused to fade away.
As an aside, an interesting thing happened during the near parallel runs of both Lost in Space and Star Trek. Both series were cancelled after just three seasons and both found new life in syndication. Consequently, a generation (or two) of kids grew up watching Will Robinson and his trusty Robot avoiding danger on dozens of alien planets. The simple idea of a nuclear family struggling to survive in uncharted space was arguably more conducive to young viewers than the more complex social and political drama of Star Trek.
Although Lost in Space‘s concept was solid, its execution was lacking. The first season was shot in black-and-white and focused on serious sci-fi stories, but seasons two and three were shot in color and CBS opted for a campier approach; Adam West’s very silly and very popular Batman series was a phenomenon on ABC during the same period.
And yet, over the decades fans kept Lost in Space alive. In 1998 a movie version debuted starring William Hurt and Gary Oldman (it was not very good). Yet again, Lost in Space refused to go away.
Today, many of Hollywood top creators were those very same kids glued to Lost in Space reruns. Numerous attempts to reboot the show by different creative teams in recent years, but it couldn’t find a home. Eventually, Netflix stepped in and greenlighted a straight-to-series order. Zack Estrin (Prison Break) was brought on as showrunner, and he clearly has an affinity for the material, which he expressed in an interview with EW:
Fans of the original show should know we maintain the core of what was special about that experience of watching that as a child — that here’s this incredible family that’s off on this amazing adventure. For new fans of the show, there’s a certain baggage associated with the title — ‘Oh, that’s that campy show from the ’60s,’ or, ‘That’s that movie from the ’90s that was … what it was.’ We are taking that core of an idea — the Robinson family is striving to hold together and survive in this incredible circumstance — and as much as this show is Lost in Space, it could be a shipwreck on an island.”
Netflix just dropped a trailer for the reboot, and judging by its contents they’re not fooling around. This is a large-scale, serious, and epic take on the original series and it looks tremendous!
Here’s the official synopsis:
The Robinson family, part of a highly trained mission to establish a new colony in space, is unexpectedly pulled off course forcing them to crash land on a lost planet. Danger will find them.”
While Estrin has kept the show’s core concept intact, he’s made numerous changes to the characters and the overall visual style. The Robinson’s equipment, their ship (the Jupiter 2), and the planets they visit are amazing creations. The look of this show holds up against blockbuster sci-fi movies like Alien: Covenant and Interstellar, and even the modern Star Trek films too. Additionally, Lost in Space‘s ‘Robot’ — a beloved character for generations — has been massively upgraded, and now has an alien origin, according to Estrin:
The Robot was one of the hardest pieces of casting to do in the show because it’s such an iconic thing and something you can really get wrong… Whereas the original Robot was exactly what you thought it was, our Robot is a bit of a mystery that unfolds over the course of the season.”
Netflix continues to play in the nostalgia sandbox with yet another throwback TV series. Lost in Space appears to be one of their biggest budget series to-date, and should appeal to Stranger Things, Black Mirror, Altered Carbon, and Marvel audiences. The 10-episode first season drops in just a few weeks, and it sure looks like it could be Netflix’s next big thing!
Lost in Space hits Netflix on April 13, 2018.