Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

These days, for a retro TV series, there are two common types of film adaptation - a reimagining, or a reunion movie.

Lost In Space wants to have it both ways.

In the reimagination corner, there is a huge amount packed in from the three years of the original's run. This film doesn't just cover the events of the pilot (the first four episodes), but also takes in the characters' getting stranded on a planet for years in seasons one and two, and even fits in the odd individual episode's plot too. (Will's plan to travel back in time and avert their departure from Earth)

Many reimaginings acknowledge their roots by featuring a cameo appearance from one of the original castmembers in a tiny role. Lost In Space squeezes in four, two of which are fairly prominent parts.

Jonathan Harris - the original Dr. Smith - turned down the opportunity to brief his own replacement Gary Oldman, reportedly protesting "I play Smith, or I don't play." Oldman must have breathed a sigh of relief. Had he said yes, then Harris would have completely upstaged his successor right from the film's off, making all of Oldman's scenes look mediocre by comparison.

Now don't get me wrong, Oldman perfectly reproduces Dr. Smith's descent from cold-blooded terrorist to pantomime buffoon (which took about 12 weeks in the TV show), but why have such a great impersonation of Jonathan Harris, when you could so easily have had Jonathan Harris?

Bearing these near-misses in mind, by the time that Oldman is hollering his character's well-worn catchphrases "Never fear - Smith is here!" and "The pain! THE PAIN!", we're onto the scenes featuring an aged Will Robinson, a role that was initially offered to the original child actor Bill Mumy, but who apparently couldn't make the filming dates.

Throw in the retaining of Dick Tufield as the voice of the famous robot, which by this point in the story has been rebuilt to look almost identical to its classic TV counterpart, and there is the sense that we very nearly had a big reunion going on here too.

For all those missed opportunities, the new cast are excellent, particularly Matt LeBlanc as Don West, whose performance is a joy throughout, whether or not it's intentional. Like in his Charlie's Angels movies, he Joeys the whole film, making it hard to shake the impression that this actually is Joey blagging his way through yet another disastrous acting gig. I kept looking to see if he was doing long multiplication in his head.

I could criticise the plot - especially that terrible moment at the end, when John finds a time machine that can take him to any time or place so he chooses a really stupid one - but you know what? That's okay. The characters in the original were always making infuriatingly bone-headed decisions too, so this film is just consistent with that. It may even be deliberate.

Despite all the hype at the time of the film's release, as expected, 1998's Lost In Space movie is now just a footnote in the original's history, waiting to be itself overwritten whenever the series next gets remade.

In fact, four years after this film had bombed, there was an actual reunion movie planned which no doubt would indeed have completely ignored this one. Sadly, then Jonathan Harris passed away, and that was that.

For a TV series that never reached a conclusion, what a shame that the Robinson family and friends all came so close to finally making it home again.

Available here.

Labels: ,

0 comment(s):

Post a Comment

<< Back to Steve's home page

** Click here for preceding post(s) **

** Click here for following post(s) **