Although it's set 30 years in the future, Netflix's Lost in Space reboot, which debuted last week, is a very thoughtful and astute take on the modern American nuclear family. Here's what the new Robinsons had to say about their family unit and dynamics - including which members have their own secret handshakes.
The Robinsons don their gear for a mission because they're still lost in space. Image: Netflix
The new Robinson family doesn't share a lot in common with the original Lost in Space series or the 1997 film; instead, it's been updated to reflect modern family dynamics. For example, in this version, parents Maureen (Molly Parker) and John (Toby Stephens) are separated, but John still joins the one-way colony mission because - as Stephens put it during our visit to the set - that's the only way he could stay with his children.
"There's this sort of thing of, 'Oh, why are they together on this thing if they're separated?' It's like, 'If you don't take me with you, I'll never see my family again.' So there's that reason for him being there," Stephens said.
"But they're also co-parents, as many people are these days," Parker added.
Parker and Stephens said they identified with the story, since they're both parents - something echoed by the young actors playing the Robinson kids, who said the relationships with their own siblings helped inform the dynamics between their characters. Of course, they have been changed for this version as well; for instance, Judy Robinson (Taylor Russell) is actually Maureen's kid from a previous marriage. Happily, the show never makes this an issue between Judy and John - according to Russell, John Robinson is her father.
"Seeing their family dynamic and our family dynamic and how modernised our version is," Russell said, "ours still has the love and connection and all the good family values that they do. Just in 2017 - "
"2047," Maxwell Jenkins, who plays her brother Will, corrected, the sort of unsought interruption that should be familiar to anyone with a young sibling.
Judy (Taylor Russell) and Penny (Mira Sundwall) Robinson give one of many "oh damn" faces. Image: Netflix
To say the three Robinson kid actors were close would be an understatement. During the set visit, they wouldn't stop finishing each other's sentences, and kept tossing out jabs and compliments in equal measure. At one point, Jenkins and Mira Sundwall, who plays Penny, showed me their secret handshake, which was quite long... and damn adorable.
"I've learned to love these two - well, not learned, it was like super-easy," Russell said, then immediately amended when the other kids pretended to be insulted. "I was in love with them [when I first met them]. They're incredible, incredible humans."
During the set visit, I got to sit down and watch the family group act out one of the season's most intense scenes, where the Robinsons debate sending John on a dangerous mission. The scene itself was interesting, but the moments in between were even better. The kids seemed to embody their roles between takes: Maxwell was goofing around while practising his lines, Sundwall was chatting up a storm in a pair of oversized glasses, and Russell was sitting, quiet and attentive. And you could see Parker and Stephens occasionally checking on them to make sure they were doing all right. Honestly, they felt like an actual family.
"[My favourite moments are] whenever we get together, the family, or do the big group scenes," Mira said. "It's just ridiculous to be in the room, because the energy is always so good, so positive. The jokes are endless and the laughs are endless. That's when it's the most fun, when we're all together."
Lost in Space is currently playing on Netflix.