Now that the writing has been rolling along for the past few weeks, I’m going to try to get back to doing reviews as well. So, let’s call this “The Return of the Reynolds Review.” I’ve got a movie and a book in store, so stick around, kiddies. Lots of spoilers ahead, so I’mma not even gonna mark those bad boys, but the first paragraph of each will be spoiler free.
Lost in Space (Netflix):
I admit it, I’m old enough to have watched the original series. Well, not in its original broadcast airing, but in syndication in the 70’s. On top of that, I have to admit I watched the really, really BAD late 90’s movie (Matt LeBlanc hanging around with a terrible CGI monkey creature thing was the low light of that production). With a campy original and a wretched reboot, I approached this with some trepidation after reading a few reviews about it. The new series is really better than both of those, but has its flaws, some of which really put me off. I did finish the first season, though, and would probably watch another. It’s ALMOST a great show, to be clear, but mind breakingingly bad plot points ruin that for me.
The Good: the acting is great, and there were numerous characters I really liked. The mother, Maureen, takes a central role in this production, and her character is well realized and apply played by actress Molly Parker (previously of Deadwood fame). The two oldest children, Judy and Penny, are both interesting characters and smart as whips, and I really really LOVED the character of Don. In the original series, Don was the handsome pilot of their spacecraft and a great guy. In the reboot… he was Joey (’nuff said). Now he’s a pilot they pick up, a guy who seems to be all about saving his own ass, but who constantly ends up deciding to put his ass on the line for everyone else, and does so with hysterically funny commentary. I both loved him and hated him. Mostly loved him I admit, I only hated him when he was being obnoxiously self-interested, but he always managed to overcome his worse nature.
Dr. Smith has been gender bent all to hell, and in the best of ways. Parker Posey plays a psychotic woman who steals the identity of the real (now presumably dead) Dr. Smith, and imbues the character with such menace that I absolutely loathed every moment she was on the screen (and I mean that in the best of ways). She’s spectacularly good at playing bad.
Set design is amazing, with vibrant colors instead of the usual washed out “future” palettes we see so often on science fiction TV. CGI is spectacular, creature effects look great, and the new robot – some sort of alien menace that Will Robinson seems to reprogram accidentally to his favor – is pretty cool. Really, it’s a beautiful show, one of the best looking television science fiction series I’ve seen.
The so-so: the overall plot is fine. Nothing great here, not terribly different than the other versions of the show. They are on their way to a colony, and they get “lost in space.” So be it. Side characters are fine, just realized enough to be their own selves while not enough of a person to detract from the main characters. First ten episodes seem to be a series of continual natural disasters after disasters (except for the aforementioned alien robot and his buddies).
The bad: plot is the weak point here, and I mean plot points. There are numerous little moments where I shook my head because the sheer stupidity of what just happened beggared belief. It’s almost as though they decided to add some campy points to tie the series back to the original, so bad were the plot points at times. For example (SPOILERS): Maureen and husband are stranded in a ground vehicle stuck in a tar pit, and of course the vehicle sinks. Her husband plans to sacrifice himself to save her, giving her the only space suit they have and pushing her up and out, but she realizes they can make a “balloon” with the helium on board and it’ll expand to shore so they can crawl through it. Ummm… what? Just… no. That makes no fucking sense. It’s just… wow… yep, that’s stupid. Just stupid.
Will’s relationship with the robot, while definitely interesting, hinges on some random events, and a last minute change of robot attitude at the very end of the first season that doesn’t make much sense. I’m not sure the writers really thought that all out. And all in all, the science is really bad here. Methane for spaceship fuel? Escaping tar pits with helium balloons you can crawl through? A spaceship that blows up but the characters on it survive in orbit and it has enough power they can send morse code messages? Just…. too much bad science, too many unbelievable moments.
OVERALL: On the Reynolds wrap scale of shows, ranking it from 1 (Joey with a CGI monkey) to 10 (Jean Luc Picard at his finest moments), I give it a 6. Just good enough to watch again, but the campy parts spoil the great stuff it contains.
All Systems Red: The Murderbot Diaries (Martha Wells):
I’d heard very good things about this book, and I was not disappointed. It’s quite a short novel (or a novella if you prefer), but the writing is crisp, the tempo up pace, and the voice of the narrator – the murderbot mentioned in the title – is absolutely on point from start to finish.
The Good: see above. In particular, it’s the voice of the narrator that drives this story along. This is the first time I can think of that I’ve encountered a story about a cyborg who suffers from massive introversion and social disfunction. He doesn’t hate people… he loathes being around them, thinks about how uncomfortable they are, which in turn makes him uncomfortable. It’s pretty damned well done actually, and there’s a nice arc and payoff as the story progresses that revolves around his feelings.
The So so: Too fucking short! I wanted more of this book.
The bad: Still too fucking short! Like seriously, Martha, why do you hate me so??????
OVERALL: On the Reynolds Wrap scale from 1 to 10, where 1 is “Why the FUCK did I get stranded on an island with only 50 Shades of Gray to read!”, and 10 is “I laughed, I cried, and no one will ever touch my copy of this book!”, I’m going with an 8. It only loses two points because IT’S TOO DAMN SHORT, MARTHA! MORE! GIVE ME MORE! (seriously, I think this is the first thing I’ve written by her, I’ll have to check out more soon).