LOST SOULS

India Today - - LEISURE - —Ja­son Over­dorf

This is a golden age for tele­vi­sion sci­ence fic­tion, thanks to the pop­u­lar­i­sa­tion of long-run­ning stories and the new eco­nomics that have re­sulted from ca­ble/ stream­ing orig­i­nals. Watch a ‘reg­u­lar’ TV pi­lot from Amer­ica and you can im­me­di­ately see why—ev­ery in­ter­est­ing thing that’s go­ing to hap­pen in the sea­son has to be packed into the first 40 min­utes.

That’s be­cause in ad­ver­tis­ing­sup­ported broad­cast TV, if you don’t win enough eye­balls with your first episode, you’re on track for can­cel­la­tion be­fore your story even gets off the ground. In the new, sub­scrip­tion­based sys­tem, ca­ble and stream­ing chan­nels (HBO, Show­time, Net­flix and Hulu are the big guns) go all-in when they buy a se­ries. And they’re con­tent to grab a niche piece of the mar­ket to build their over­all sub­scriber base. The re­sult: Stranger Things, The Hand­maid’s Tale, The Ex­panse, even the off-kil­ter Into the Bad­lands. What’s dis­turb­ing is that both HBO and Net­flix, ar­guably the big­gest in­no­va­tors, are al­ready ex­per­i­ment­ing with the sort of bland ma­te­rial that orig­i­nates in the mar­ket­ing de­part­ment be­fore it’s farmed out to writ­ers. Close on the heels of HBO’s sen­ten­tious re­boot of West­world, Net­flix pushed out “sum­mer block­buster” style films on the small screen in the form of the ter­ri­ble Will Smith-star­rer Bright, the Sam Wor­thing­ton-star­rer The Ti­tan, and now a slick but soul­less re­boot of Lost in Space—a campy 1960s se­ries that cap­i­talised on the rock­etry craze of the so-called ‘Space Age’.

Like all these re­boots— from TV’s ul­tra-se­ri­ous Bat­tlestar Galac­tica to the big screen’s by-thenum­bers Star Wars: Rogue One—it’s barely watch­able. The idea of see­ing whether or not writ­ers can make some­thing in­ter­est­ing out of a dated, ridicu­lous con­cept is enough to gen­er­ate end­less in­ter­net ar­ti­cles and get peo­ple to check out a few episodes. But try­ing to hang a se­ri­ous show on a ridicu­lous frame is need­lessly dif­fi­cult, forc­ing the cre­ators to bust out the big special ef­fects and bom­bas­tic score. (As in Rogue One, the uber­dra­matic Star Wars-like score here just un­der­lines the fa­mil­iar­ity of the ter­ri­tory we’re tread­ing.) Though cast­ing Parker Posey as the Machi­avel­lian Dr Smith was in­spired, ev­ery mo­ment of Lost in Space looks and feels like a mo­ment we’ve seen done bet­ter be­fore. They even did it bet­ter in the ridicu­lous but charm­ing orig­i­nal se­ries; it’s clear from the iconic ro­bot’s fi­nal line of episode one: “Dan­ger, Will Robin­son!”

COUR­TESY NET­FLIX

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