This article includes SPOILERS for the first season of Netflix’s Lost in Space.
Over a year after the premiere of its Lost in Space reboot, Netflix has announced that the second season of the family-oriented sci-fi show will premiere on December 24th of this year. The big announcement, which took place at the show’s New York Comic Con panel, included the release of a trailer for the season, which teases that the upcoming episodes will deal directly with what happened to the show’s central robot character after the events of its first season. This direction for the show is unsurprising given the various memes and posts that Netflix has shared over the past year joking about the character’s somewhat surprising popularity with fans, but it will be interesting to see how the seemingly innocuous search for this robot will play in to some of the overarching themes and plotlines that began to take shape in the show’s first season.
The first season’s penultimate episode, Resurrection, heavily features a storyline in which Dr. Smith (Parker Posey) and a kidnapped Maureen Robinson (Molly Parker) explore the crash site of a spaceship assumed to belong to the robot and, in doing so, uncover the fact that the robot’s relationship with humans may be more complex than initially thought. A hidden compartment of the ship reveals what Dr. Smith recognizes to be an engine that also existed on The Resolute. A flashback highlights this recognition, revealing a moment in which she overheard a conversation between two men in suits, seconds after the robot crashed the mothership, with one insisting that he knew “they’d” come back for “it,” and the other saying that they’d be dead without it – “it” being the engine in question. Based on this revelation, Maureen comes to the logical conclusion that the part must have been stolen, and goes on to theorize that the publicized narrative that humans had finally mastered the technology necessary to go into space was all a lie concocted to cover up the theft of this alien tech.
The concept of government corruption, or the corruption of more general “higher ups”, playing such a major role in the overarching plot of the series may have come as a surprise for some viewers, especially so late in the season, but hints at the reboot’s dystopian version of future America had been slowly revealed from the series’ beginning, although largely in the form of background noise and one-liners.
While discussing Victor Dhar (Raza Jaffrey), a fellow evacuee of The Resolute and an elected official back on Earth, John (Toby Stephens) and Maureen Robinson are quick to mention that they didn’t vote for him. Don West (Ignacio Serrichio), however, claims that he “didn’t get a vote.” This comment is largely glossed over but, keeping in mind that Don West was only on The Resolute as a member of its staff, it’s very telling of the class disparity taking place on Lost in Space’s future Earth. In fact, the entire Alpha Centauri colonization project hints to a world that favors those with money and access to an education over those without.
A news story featured in the show’s first episode talks of a “sizable, unknown celestial object” headed towards Earth and threatening impact while a story about soldiers clashing with protesters scrolls along the screen’s lower half. The episode’s next flashback confirms that the object, dubbed “The Christmas Star,” did hit, and shows that people are now forced to wear gas masks when going outside. Racks to hang your gas mask at the door of stores appear to be commonplace. With the situation on Earth so dire, one would hope that there would be a push for everyone to evacuate the planet, especially at the discovery of an apparent utopia in space, but instead we are shown that evacuation is only for the elite. One line of Maureen’s suggests that they only recruit people who would have a “purpose” on the new world, people employed in jobs that the heads of the project deem “useful,” and it’s explicitly shown in the show that there is a potential for families to be split up if one or more of them do not pass the written or physical exams required for the journey. With so many restrictions, escape of the dying (and actively dangerous) Earth is heavily implied to be unobtainable by many.
Resurrection is the first episode to really address the so-called “Christmas Star” in the show’s present, with Maureen and Dr. Smith realizing that it would have been the perfect distraction for the Alpha Centauri project’s theft of alien technology. This in world theory implies a sinister relationship between the government or, at the very least, the colonization project and the people of Earth. It begs the question of how much of the “Christmas Star’s” impact was manufactured – a question which will hopefully be explored, if not answered, as we find out more about the robot’s history in the upcoming season.
Among other things, alcohol is said not to be allowed on the new world, which leads to Don West smuggling it in. There is a clear movement by those involved to make sure Alpha Centauri is free of anything they deem “undesirable,” and it’s heavily implied by the restrictions put in place by the colonization project that this includes some human beings.
Although it’s almost certain that the show’s established dystopia and the corruption of the Alpha Centauri project will play a large role in the robot’s backstory, the implications of its social hierarchy could have a significant impact on the course of Dr. Smith’s storyline as well, and may possibly even lead to some version of a redemption for the character in a future season, if not in the eyes of the Robinsons, at least in the eyes of the viewers – a statement which may sound like a shock given the violent backlash some fans had to the character’s often outrageously selfish actions.
Of the show’s main cast, Dr. Smith seems to have been at the biggest disadvantage back on Earth. Although she comes from money, it is made clear from flashbacks in the season one episode Infestation that she was cut off entirely from that money years prior to the series beginning. The only scene we see of her on Earth shows her layered in ragged, clothing, and one of the two tie-in comics released for the series shows her conning her way into a semi-permanent “home” on her friend’s couch. While it’s hard to feel sympathetic for a character who so often undermines our protagonists, it does seem reasonable that a person may resort to illegal or even immoral means in order to survive on an Earth that’s slowly becoming unliveable. Maureen is lucky enough to know someone on the inside of the Alpha Centauri operation who is able to pass Will despite his bad scores on the exam, but for Dr. Smith a ticket on board isn’t quite as easy – and when she does make it to The Resolute with a pass forcibly stolen from her sister, she’s caught almost immediately and told very bluntly that the law enforcement on board can do “whatever the hell they want to [her]” as punishment because they have yet to set up a system of justice in space. As such, the ‘survival over everything’ mentality that she likely employed on a dying Earth became even more relevant in space, as she found herself at odds with a group of people who wanted nothing more than to go back to an establishment that would have her hanged. Keeping the show’s 1960’s predecessor in mind, it’s very unlikely that Dr. Smith will be going anywhere any time soon, so it would certainly make sense for the writers to try to rationalize some of the motives behind her past actions more deliberately in an effort to further develop her character and potentially make her more likable to general audiences.
Marketing and press for Netflix’s Lost in Space has focused almost all of its attention on promoting the show’s emphasis on family and the emotional pull of the upcoming season’s search for the robot. Looking at the bigger picture, however, learning how the version of Earth the series has constructed in its first season has affected its main characters thus far, and how it will continue to affect them while they are lost in space together, will arguably be the more compelling elements of upcoming episodes and will ultimately give the series more staying power.