Crossing the Stream: Part 21 - "Lost in Space" Sn 1, Ep 2

Nutrition tidbit of the day: did you know a whole cucumber has less than 50 calories? Try eating a whole damn cucumber. I tried yesterday, without really realizing it. If I cut a cucumber down into thin coins, put them in a bowl, and then just start eating them like they were potato chips, before I know it, I'm fully satiated (for the moment, at least) and it costs me almost nothing on the diet front. That's fun. I've been looking for ways to either curb my tendency to fall in love with one-at-a-time snacks, like chips or M&Ms, or to trick myself into using that weakness for prolonged gratification to get some flipping vegetables down my gullet.

I'm really disappointed in how quickly I managed to add back a couple of pounds over this last weekend, and how hard it is to get rid of them. It's like, when you get cash money handed to you, it's so much harder to give it back once you start to think of it as yours. My new lower weight was not the final number I'm looking for, but it was my new number, and it was lower than it has been for years, so losing that number because of a long weekend full of questionable eating decisions really sucks. But, ultimately I'm wringing my hands over less than fifty ounces, and come to think of it I'd bet I drank more than fifty ounces worth of liquid in the last few hours. So, maybe chill the hell out, Kyle?

The gym is starting to leave me wrecked for a few hours after I get off the cardio machine. It might go smoother if I add some weightlifting in order to build up those leg muscles a little more, but I'm not there yet. I'm still in the "reduce mass" section of my little personal one-man program. In order to do so, I'm going to have to step up the exercise soon, these lunchtime sessions just aren't enough time. Part of me is even considering getting a small stationary bike to keep at home so I can make sure I get a little more time in. Again, sitting at home just feels as illicit as smoking anymore. It's starting to become another helpful, if admittedly irritating, mantra that I'm using for myself with all the investment of a cult member.

Except in this cult, I can't drink Kool-Aid. What a cheat that is.

"Lost in Space" Season 1, Episode 2 - "Diamonds in the Sky"

The Robinsons have themselves an RV!

The pulpy adventure continues, and now we have a few new additions to the cast in their very own plot. It's even arguably the A-plot of the episode. I was surprised to find out that the roguish mechanic who survives the crash with mysterious Dr. Smith is our new Don West, especially when he isn't referred to by name yet. But so far, he's a welcome addition of comic relief and likely some character conflict down the line. Also, he has a chicken. So...yeah.

Smith and West's escape from their rapidly deteriorating and dangling Jupiter is a well done action beat to start the episode off, but it's still a time-honored action cliche at this point. I'm surprised they didn't play "Head for the back of the ship to keep the weight balanced!" That's as good a running theme throughout "Diamonds in the Sky" as I can find, the show's tendency to use cliches, lazy plot devices, and Robot's 1001 different gadgets as shorthand in order to get past the peril of the moment that much quicker so we can move on to the next one.

Case in point, when Smith and West find a prone Tam, the other mechanic, Smith is quick to chirp "I'm not that kind of doctor!" Yeah, okay. I saw that coming from a few hundred yards away, it was by far the most stock bit of dialogue imaginable. But it is economical writing, and sidesteps any bogus scene later down the line where she might have had to fake her way through a medical procedure or risk being exposed as an impostor. Instead, she has a much more interesting problem once Don, the unconscious survivor, and the chicken catch up with her and confront her about dooming them in the storm.

A similar use of tired formula sees Maureen and John vying for command over their kids and the group's actions. This is pretty boilerplate stuff, with the assumed Team Leader position acting as a metaphor for their fractured marriage and the family's fundamentally skewed dynamics. But it also is an inventive way to assure viewers that Mom isn't necessarily going to demure to Dad's unearned capability and wisdom, so I like that. The jarring use of comedy as they pull Penny in several directions with various maintenance tasks is a slight miscalculation of tone, but I'm not going to refuse levity from a show that seems to teeter on the brink of melodrama with every frame.

And thank goodness, Mina Sundwall, the young actress playing Penny, can handle the comedy pretty well. I do like how the original series' and 1998 film's most irrelevant characters, Penny and Maureen, seem to be the conscious focus of the writers for these opening episodes. Penny's decision to fix and then drive the Chariot makes for a fun B-plot and gives Sundwall something exciting and proactive to do, instead of just sitting tight on the ship waiting for everyone else to finish their adventures. Meanwhile, Molly Parker as Maureen is the only Robinson with an ounce of awe or curiosity regarding the creepy Robot. Now that Maureen is up and mobile, Parker's energy and grace that I loved so much on "Deadwood" is easier to see here as she gets palpably excited about the promise of alien intelligence.

All in all, the family dynamics are coming along nicely. Will's search for a surrogate father in his new metal buddy gives a chance for him to open up about his emotional distance from John, who is also hurt when he eavesdrops on the impromptu game of catch. But fittingly, this new possible connection comes with a price when Will discovers that Robot was the source of the Resolute's evacuation, being sucked through a wormhole, and the resulting marooning on this planet. The "psychic link" between the boy and the giant death machine is pretty dopey storytelling, but again...at least that secret about Robot is going to stay relevant for the most important character. Maureen and John's similar revelation from the alien ship also dovetails nicely with their petty sparring over their children and the mission's command. Meanwhile, Judy is still rattled from her traumatic near-death experience in a frozen pressure suit. That's actually refreshing to see something as harrowing as that actually affect a character afterwards. I'm glad that the show is taking the time to remind audiences that the Robinson kids are still kids, and the situation would probably crack even a professional adult.

Judy's reluctance to leave the ship is also born out of her very rational mindset. She reminds Penny, who thinks a little more emotionally, that their tasks are hardly busy work and that John, Maureen, and Will can handle themselves and don't necessarily need a rescue. Penny ends up being right, but Judy's position isn't wrong. I could watch the two of them all day, as long as they continue to be smart characters with the level of emotional context they keep getting. I almost feel like this show would be better for a teen girl than a 30-year-old man who has prior emotional ties to the IP.

Now that the cast has been assembled, it's time for "Lost in Space" to get down to business and decide what kind of show it will be. Is this going to be a show about interpersonal maneuvering? Smith's double-cross of Don is the kind of backstabbing that needs to increase on the show, if so. It's predictable, but still entertaining to watch, and the promise of more survivors would make that premise stick. Of course, I think I'm having a lot more fun with the PG family adventure stuff. Even if it never rises above the splendidly rendered races away from diamond hailstones and freak forest fires, it's still a pretty engaging romp. We'll see what we get.

Random Notes:

-Don West's first deliberate decision in the show is to steal the boots off his recently deceased friend. Whew, that's certainly a fresh take on the character.

-My good lord, the terrain of this planet is goofy. Fertile plains, volcanic rock, polar ice, redwood forest...all seemingly within the same few hundred miles at most.

-What the hell is with 2018 Netflix and 3D-printed guns? I'm glad the Jupiter 2's computer told John to take up the problem with his district rep, instead of conveniently providing him a weapon.

-Oh, hello Oreo endorsement! You don't look weird and out of place in the middle of this at all, do you? *sigh* Good lord.

Rating: B

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