Twist to Netflix reboot of classic series
WHEN news first broke that 'queen of indie' cool, Parker Posey would play Doctor Smith in a Netflix re-imagining of Lost In Space, fans of the sci-fi classic almost immediately embraced the casting call.
Unlike the controversy which surrounded the gender switch made by producers of Doctor Who, Posey had a long pedigree for making the weird seem wonderful.
Or as one website argued: "if anyone can play selfishly evil and funny at the same time, it's Parker Posey."
She nailed just that as Tom Hank's laughably self-absorbed girlfriend, Patricia Eden in romantic comedy smash, You've Got Mail; just as she did in a string of other TV appearances in Portlandia, New Girl, Louie and her first Netflix role, in Mascots.
But so beloved and iconic was Jonathon Harris' camp performance as eccentric Dr Zachary Smith in the 1960s Lost In Space series, the task of recapturing that delicious mix of good and evil brought with it some risk.
Posey tells TV Guide it was a thrilling and nostalgic challenge to accept.
"I was really touched to actually play someone so original as he was," the 49-year- old says, "but also as a kid, I very much related to the show, as like a five or six-year- old."
"[Harris] had a very inventive personality, and he came on the show and kind of stole it from
everyone else … he was such a character. I loved him so much as a kid and particularly the
relationship between Dr Smith and Will [Robinson] … he was a man child. He was always funny. He was kind of evil, but you always liked him, you know. He wasn't really someone you were scared of."
Set 30 years in the future, where colonisation in space is a reality, the Robinsons "find themselves abruptly torn off course en route to their new home" and must navigate the dangers and unfamiliar conditions of a new alien environment.
[How Dr Smith becomes entangled with them on this journey is a plot twist we won't spoil].
This new 'world' was actually the wilds outside Vancouver, making this 10-part season look very different to the original, which was filmed on a dusty sound stage in Hollywood.
Dr Smith's robot companion in the 1960s version (all airconditioning tube arms and plastic barrel body) is also light years away from the sophisticated animatronic Robot of the Netflix production (think District 9 predator meets an LED heater).
Black Sails star Toby Stephens plays father John Robinson, a military veteran; opposite Deadwood's Molly Parker, his aerospace engineer wife Maureen, who signs her family up to the space experiment, while struggling to bridge the distance with her estranged husband.
Their children - Judy (Taylor Russell), Penny (Mina Sundwall) and Will, played by Sense 8's Maxwell Jenkins - have all inherited their parents' smarts and survival skills.
Will and Dr Smith share a unique bond, despite the fact Posey's character is manipulating his family and not what she seems.
Posey celebrates the smart way the young characters are defined and the credit the show gives to its audience, across generations.
"I really love when I see entertainment that treats kids like they know what they're saying and what they're talking about … like they're young adults. I always wondered why those sci-fi shows weren't funnier," she says.
"In the recreation of [Lost In Space] I hope it brings in all those feelings that those good shows that I loved as a kid … cause I loved shows that had kids in them that were feeling something … that were misfits or different."
Posey also hopes viewers see her Smith as "a compassionate villain … and you can understand that she's just had to survive."
"The creators have gone back to Dr Smith as more of a kind of con artist and prisoner, a criminal. She pretends to be a therapist to other people and yet what the audience sees is someone who's really using people to heal herself and to work through her own problems … to manipulate to her own gain and have the power to create a new world for herself."
The strength of the female characters is "empowering," says Parker, who Posey describes as "her nemesis, her shadow," in the new series.
"They are smart and there is never any question that they are competent and strong and as able as any of the men in the show," Parker says.
Parker describes her co-star Posey as "just brilliant" noting her ability to switch from light to dark, from one moment to the next.
"She's so perfect for this role, it couldn't be cast better," Parker says.
"Her comedy chops are so strong. She just kills and then, she can turn on a dime and you really feel for this person."
* Lost In Space streams Friday April 13 on Netflix.