Home > Reviews > LOST IN SPACE – Christopher Lennertz

LOST IN SPACE – Christopher Lennertz

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Considering that American TV appears to be obsessed with nostalgic reboots, it was perhaps only a matter of time before producers began to look back even further than the 1980s for inspiration. Lost in Space was one of several TV series produced by the legendary Irwin Allen which, along with Land of the Giants, The Time Tunnel, and of course Star Trek (which was not produced by Allen), eventually came to be regarded as game-changers for science fiction television storytelling. Unlike anthology series like The Twilight Zone, Lost in Space was a sequential drama that followed the adventures of the Robinson family, who are chosen to lead an exploration to find a new planet for humans to colonize, but who become hopelessly lost in the depths of space when their mission is sabotaged by a sinister stowaway. Originally broadcast in 1965, it started out quite seriously, but gradually became sillier as it went on, concentrating much more on the antics of the stowaway Dr Zachary Smith, played by Jonathan Harris, and his relationship with the family’s youngest child Will Robinson, than the existential drama at the heart of the show. It was cancelled in 1968 after three seasons, and despite an initial attempt to re-boot it in 1998 as a movie starring William Hurt, Gary Oldman, and Matt LeBlanc, it has nevertheless remained something of a quaint relic of the 1960s – until now.

This new version of the show produced by Netflix stars Toby Stephens, Molly Parker, and Parker Posey, and is much updated for the 21st century – gender roles have been reversed, the cast is much more diverse and multi-ethnic, and the focus is much more on drama and sci-fi adventure than the increasingly bizarre adventures the original show suffered through prior to its cancellation. The special effects have been updated significantly too, including the famous Robot, who now utters his iconic line “Danger, Will Robinson” through a synthetic voice emulator rather than by the American-accented Dick Tufeld.

One aspect of the original show that never lost its way, however, was the music. Several of Allen’s shows including Lost in Space had main themes by the then 33-year old jazz composer Johnny Williams, more than a decade before he conquered space via Star Wars, while the episode scores themselves were written by some of the most accomplished TV composers of the era, including Herman Stein, Richard LaSalle, Leith Stevens, Cyril Mockridge, Joseph Mullendore, and Alexander Courage, the latter of which are all also Star Trek alumni. Even the 1998 movie had a tremendous score by Bruce Broughton. As such, it must have been daunting for new composer Christopher Lennertz to step into these shoes – but he surpassed every possible expectation, and has written what I personally feel is the best score of his career to date.

Lennertz is a composer with truly tremendous musical gifts. He was a protégé of Basil Poledouris – something you don’t get to be unless you’re brilliant – and wrote a series of genuinely outstanding video game scores early in his career, like Gun, Warhawk, and several entries in the Medal of Honor series. But then, at some point in the mid-to-late 2000s, he somehow got pigeonholed as a composer for big budget comedies. Many of them were massively successful – Alvin and the Chipmunks, Horrible Bosses, Think Like a Man, Identity Thief, Ride Along – and he was able to create music for parody movies like Meet the Spartans and Vampires Suck that actually surpasses the quality of the music in the movies they were parodying, but in my opinion these movies don’t really lend themselves to the type of score that I feel Lennertz does best: epic orchestral scoring with big themes, big action, and big emotion. Lost in Space gave him the opportunity to recapture the scope and the sense of epic adventure that defined so much of his early work, and as such it’s a timely reminder of the music he is capable of writing when he has a broad canvas to explore.

One of the best things about Lennertz’s work here is how respectful of the show’s musical heritage he has been, and how artfully he has blended that with both his own music, and several subtle head-nods to some of the greatest sci-fi scores of the past thirty years. John Williams actually wrote two themes that were used in different seasons of the show, and Lennertz liberally uses the second – and, in my opinion, better – of the two, in combination with his own new theme for the new adventures. Both themes feature prominently in the “Main Titles,” which first introduces Lennertz’s new theme – bold, militaristic, adventurous, sweeping – before going on to present an epic new version of Williams’s theme at the 0:46 mark. The orchestrations give an indication of exactly what the listener is in for as the score unfolds – a large orchestra with especially prominent brass performances, often augmented by a choir – and the scope is enormous, epic space adventure music on a grand scale. Stylistically one could describe it as David Arnold’s Stargate and Independence Day crossed with things like James Horner’s Battle Beyond the Stars, Star Trek II, or perhaps Aliens – and, believe me, that is absolutely intended to be a compliment.

Many people will gravitate towards the score’s large-scale action music, of which there is a tremendous amount. Lennertz is really in his element here, using the orchestra to its fullest potential, writing action music full of danger, intensity, movement, and brute force power. The string and brass sections dominate, and there is some dense, fiendishly complicated writing going on, which really puts the players through their paces; fans of the video game score for Warhawk and its sequel Starhawk will be especially excited by this aspect of the score. As you would expect a lot of the writing is rhythmic and propulsive, driving the action along, but Lennertz frequently drops thematic nuggets into the mayhem too, which is always a delight. Most notably, Lennertz appears to have used the rhythmic core of Williams’s theme as an action ostinato across several cues, and it’s enormously satisfying when you realize what he’s done and how clever it is.

Several action cues stand out as being especially noteworthy. “Crash Landing’ is an appropriately intense sequence that accompanies the show’s pivotal moment of the family being marooned on an alien world. “To the Chariot” features a percussion sequence of enormous intensity, complete with anvils, as well as a classical, stirring sequence for cellos punctuated by trombones at 2:48, which reminds me of John Williams in Star Wars Prequel mode. “Dump the Fuel” features an especially bold and exciting statement of Williams’s theme during the finale, replete with choir, while “Race the Minefield” includes a passage of especially fanciful string ideas coupled with punchy brass, which reminds me in places of Horner’s Zorro scores. Later, “Here We Go” features some notably powerful writing for trombones, while “Alien Ship” is thrilling, with low brass clusters, throbbing percussion, electronic accents, and choir, which builds to a superb finale.

Of course, Lost in Space was always as much about the relationships between the family members as it was about swashbuckling space adventure, and thankfully Lennertz does not ignore this aspect of the show in his music. There appears to be a Robinson Family Theme running through several cues, as well as a few variations and off-shoots that illustrate different aspects of the familial relationships. For example, “Moby Dick” and “Illumination” are warmer and more lyrical, with appealing strings, light woodwinds, and some Thomas Newman-esque spacey textures in which light metallic percussion textures and subtle synth ideas offset the orchestra. “Flowers/Father and Son” is emotional, but has an underpinning sense of nobility in the brass writing, and as the cue develops a beautiful theme for piano and strings emerges, which has more than a little hint of Alan Silvestri’s score for Contact; this theme returns later in the equally moving “Ultimate Sacrifice”. “Waterfall” sees Lennertz channeling James Horner at his lushest and most romantic, a beautiful, pastoral piece for strings and piano, although the cue’s conclusion is slightly more abstract, even a little apprehensive. Perhaps the best of these cues is “Saying Goodbye,” which is emotionally manipulative in all the best ways, and comes complete with big orchestral crescendos accompanied by cymbal rings. The sweeping statement of the new main theme towards the end comes complete with choir, and is just superb.

One or two other cues present something different – “Smith/The Forest” is moody and mysterious, with piano/synth textures and eerie voices; “Maureen at Work” is elegantly playful, with string runs, chimes, and dance-like rhythms; “Maureen Flies” features unexpected ethereal vocals and bubbly electronics – but perhaps the most impressive sequence of all is the quartet of cues comprising “Will Exploring,” “Will and the Robot,” “Danger Will Robinson,” and “Family Chores Fugue.” In these cues Lennertz shows a level of compositional sophistication and innovation that is quite outstanding, and illustrates the sort of music we could have been hearing from him for years had he been scoring things like this instead of all those terrible comedy sequels.

“Will Exploring” is a constantly shifting set of emotions that perfectly encapsulates the mindset of a young boy as he discovers his new alien home for the first time: there is danger and apprehension, but also curiosity, wonderment, even euphoria. Lennertz uses modern orchestral scoring techniques augmented with subtle synths, and although the thematic quotes are minimal, it is continually tonal and features excellent instrumental combinations that keep the music interesting. The dream-like sequence in the middle of the cue has prominent woodwind textures that capture a sense of awe, while the dissonant light horror sequence towards the end is underpinned with a rampaging percussion rhythm, ensuring the listener knows that danger lurks here too.

Similarly, the 7½-minute “Will and the Robot” is a tonal rollercoaster, beginning with ethereal voices and emotional string writing, moving through a dark and menacing sequence for low brass, and showcasing several stirring passages of bold urgency and high stakes action, before ending with a sense of scope and grandeur through some especially magnificent brass writing. This was apparently Lennertz’s favorite sequence in the show – a scene where Will and the Robot not only meet, but form a true bond in the midst of a harrowing adventure. Lennertz says that the producers “wanted it to play both the wonder of the situation and the danger of the robot,” and that “it was such a treat to write a long cue like the classic sci-fi that I grew up with, where an entire relationship shifts over the course of the piece and Will’s emotion soars on top of the action and danger underneath.”

“Danger Will Robinson” – named for the show’s most iconic line – is similarly expressive, and begins with darkly romantic strings that allow an emotionally-heightened atmosphere to develop. It grows to encompass dramatic timpani rolls, searching brass chords, and a subtle choir, before eventually producing a superb arrangement of Williams’s theme that begins at 2:38, expands to reach epic heights, and ends with a series of Star Wars percussion hits. However, perhaps my favorite cue is “Family Chores Fugue,” which sees Lennertz engaging in some elegant string writing – classical music in space –lithe and nimble, with col legno strings clattering underneath the prancing lead violin line. It’s as brilliant as it is unexpected.

It has been said that we’re in a Golden Age of Television right now, and in terms of the drama, writing, acting, and directing, that’s absolutely true. Shows like Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, Homeland, The Americans, House of Cards, and dozens of others, have broken new ground, attracting big-name stars to the small screen; television is no longer the second-rate cousin of the cinema – it is absolutely its equal. It also seems to be the case that, finally, television music is catching up with its big-screen rival, as Lost in Space is absolutely one of the finest scores – television or otherwise – to come from mainstream Hollywood in quite some time. The fact that Netflix is willing to invest the time, money, and resources into giving their shows scores of this sort of scope is something that should be strongly commended. Similarly, the fact that they gave Christopher Lennertz the freedom to be this creative, this emotional, and this epic, is also worth celebrating. He has written a daring, explosive, thrilling orchestral score that fully acknowledges the show’s heritage, but is modern enough to appeal to today’s audiences.

Buy the Lost in Space soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Main Titles (1:11)
  • Crash Landing (1:12)
  • Will Exploring (5:04)
  • Moby Dick (2:49)
  • Will and the Robot (7:28)
  • Danger Will Robinson (3:32)
  • Family Chores Fugue (4:16)
  • To the Chariot (3:37)
  • Smith/The Forest (3:16)
  • Dump the Fuel (3:11)
  • Flowers/Father and Son (3:32)
  • Waterfall (4:18)
  • Illumination (4:39)
  • Maureen at Work (1:28)
  • Maureen Flies (1:12)
  • Race the Minefield (3:51)
  • Ultimate Sacrifice (3:54)
  • Here We Go (2:49)
  • Saying Goodbye (2:44)
  • Alien Ship (3:34)
  • The Resolute (3:17)
  • End Credits (1:13)

Running Time: 72 minutes 17 seconds

Lakeshore Records (2018)

Music composed and conducted by Christopher Lennertz. Orchestrations by Michael Lloyd, Marcus Sjowall and Sarah Lynch. Original Lost in Space theme by John Williams. Additional music by Alex Bornstein and Chris Forsgren. Recorded and mixed by Stephen McLaughlin. Edited by Joshua Winget. Album produced by Christopher Lennertz and Dara Taylor.

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  1. April 21, 2018 at 12:49 am

    Great review! I can’t wait to see this show and hear the music! I didn’t realize that Lennertz worked with Basil! That makes me all the more excited for this!

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