Lost In Dysfunction.
THE ROBINSONS: LOST IN SPACE is a 2004 remake of the 1965 series LOST IN SPACE, and remains as one unaired pilot episode.
Following the unsuccessful filmic remake of LOST IN SPACE in 1998 (starring William Hurt and Gary Oldman), which was criticized (incorrectly) as being too dark, this television production goes in another direction and soaps it up with whiny performances by an all-unknown cast that brings it crashing to Earth in flames.
Set in 2097, Colonel John Robinson (Brad Johnson) retires from fighting aliens and volunteers his family as colonists onboard a mothership destined for… uh… y’know, I don’t think they ever mention Alpha Centauri (that infamous destination that is always mentioned, never attained by all LOST IN SPACE families); they’re merely traveling off-world to a farming colony.
Robinson’s family, for some reason, has been re-jiggered: there’s doctor wife Maureen (Jayne Brook), Teen Judy (Adrianne Palicki), eldest boy David (Gil McKinney– I know, right? Where did this kid come from?), Genius youngster Will (Ryan Malgarini), and a suckling baby Penny. Writer Douglas Petrie (BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER series) must have had his reasons for the familial changes, but we’ll never know what they were. A decade and a half later, the only familiar face is Palicki, who would go on to kick butt in AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. (I’d recognize that mole in the middle of her brow anywhere.)
There is smooth-shaved pilot Don West (Mike Erwin) whom Judy pines after. And there’s a half-baked cardboard cutout of a Robot that Will creates as a bodyguard for himself, with the unmistakable voice of Dick Tufeld himself, the original Robot voice from 1965! But there is no Dr. Smith to hurl alliterative insults at the cantankerous clod.
Surprisingly, THE ROBINSONS is directed by John Woo. THAT John Woo? Yes, him. Rather than going for the astronaut angle, the filmmakers were aiming for a family dynamic – that’s why the family name is the title – but the production looks and feels like any soap opera, piling on the dysfunction so thick that Dr. Phil called and told them to dial it down to a 6.
Will is a smug little prick who can’t act, telling David about the black hole the mothership is docked near – for no reason other than to serve the plot later: “Y’know, its gravity is so strong it sucks up planets, even light.” Really? In 2004 people need to be told of a black hole’s properties? The dumb screenwriter was going for foreshadowing, because the Robinsons would later use the black hole to flee from aliens. So Will’s exposition/foreshadowing should have been something about entering a black hole and not knowing where you will end up when you exit. That would give the subtitle its heft. Alas, heft abandoned in lieu of soap.
Judy whines she cannot make friends, that she’s leaving Earth, that “It’s not FAIR!” No wonder she opens her legs to any smooth-faced pilot-y thing that comes along. In a savage departure from the innocent 1965 series, on the first night of meeting Don, Judy fucks him, and he pulls away upon discovering her father is the infamous John Robinson, whom Don respects and fears. That doesn’t stop Judy’s throbbing vulva taking up the whole lower third of the screen whenever Don is near.
And Judy’s relationship with elder brother David is also played as if they’re lovers. Either the filmmakers were not aware of the writing and editing creating this perception, or Maury Povich should have them on his show titled, “I Love My Brother – In That Way.”
To create more family soap bubbles, David tells his father, “You know what’s worse than you being gone all the time? You being around.” I’m sorry, I thought this was LOST IN SPACE, not THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS.
Production values inside the ship are uneven – corridors look like legit spaceship interiors (which were sold to BATTLESTAR GALACTICA eventually), while the family’s astronaut uniforms are laughable, looking like wraparound Velcro blankets. The exterior starred sky is like a kid’s drawing. It’s 2004, but I guess good CGI starscapes were still out of this production’s budget.
As they travel on the mothership – and Judy is whining about her living quarters onboard the pod called Jupiter 2 – aliens attack. No motivation or reason.
The aliens have pointy ships with jagged edges, and when they board the mothership, they look like Sleestak from LAND OF THE LOST 1974, and hobble around in a crouched gait wielding guns that were obviously on loan from STAR WARS Stormtroopers, as they never hit anything except corridor walls. There was never any reason to board the mothership anyway, as the alien fighters were busy blasting it to hell. Why send in foot soldiers when the fighters are getting the job done? Oh, so that John Robinson and Don West can get their Shatner on and punch-dance the aliens. Luckily, the Sleestak respond well to Earth-karate.
The family flees in the Jupiter 2 with Don piloting by chance, and they enter the black hole to escape the aliens. Eldest boy David is somehow left onboard the mothership, and though the family clearly see the mothership immolated before their eyes, Robinson tells his family, “We’ve got to believe David is alive” (oh, so he’s a Republican living in a delusional reality!), and we realize that that futile quest was going to be the lame motivation to drive the series, as Robinson talks about “going back to get him.” Unless you mean going back in TIME, you’re pretty much talking bullshit.
No one told them that on the other side of that black hole – was obscurity.