‘Lost in Space’: Why Parker Posey’s Dr. Smith is the Show’s Secret Weapon

Chris Tilly
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TV Streaming Netflix Sci-Fi

A big-budget reboot of Lost in Space hit Netflix today. The 10-part series is a very modern spin on the 1960s TV classic, which ran for three seasons and 83 episodes in the mid-1960s. This new version has high production values and explosive action, as we discussed in our spoiler-free review.

But Lost in Space also has a secret weapon in the shape of Dr. Smith, the show is vastly improved whenever Parker Posey’s character is onscreen. Which is also how it was with the original series. So the following is FANDOM’s tribute to Lost in Space‘s most marvellously malevolent character. And your new favourite TV villain.

Just BEWARE OF LOST IN SPACE spoilers ahead, as we’ll be discussing all of Smith’s secrets.

The Original Dr. Smith

Jonathan Harris as Dr. Zachary Smith.

Dr. Zachary Smith was the break-out star of the original Lost in Space. Which is ironic, as the character didn’t even feature in the show’s unaired pilot episode. In it, the Robinson family’s spacecraft is knocked off course by a meteor storm.

Once Lost in Space was commissioned, Smith was added to the cast of characters. An agent working undercover for a shady foreign organisation, Smith slips aboard the Robinson ship, and reprograms their robot to destroy the craft. But he becomes trapped onboard, and his presence sends them off course. Making Dr. Smith the reason they are lost in space.

Though while he’s a pretty sinister presence in the show’s first few episodes, the Smith character changes over time. Becoming less evil, and more selfish, lazy, self-centred and cowardly. He even seems to care about the Robinsons in some episodes.

Smith’s ever-expanding and evolving role in the series was down to the popularity of the character. Which in turn was due to the brilliance of the man playing him, with Jonathan Harris dominating proceedings as the dastardly doctor. His performance combining high camp with dark charisma and a knowing wink to the audience. Though this chat show appearance suggests that he wasn’t doing all that much acting, and that the performance was pretty much him.

Parker Posey’s Dr. Smith

Parker Posey (left) as new Dr. Smith.

Regarding the new Lost in Space, first things first: PARKER POSEY ISN’T PLAYING DR. SMITH! She’s playing someone pretending to be Dr. Smith. A delicious twist for this deeply deceptive character. We discover via the flashbacks peppered throughout the show that she’s a petty criminal and con woman. Who knocks her sister out and steals her identity to join the mission into the unknown.

Once on the space station, she quickly kills someone, then steals the identity of Dr. Smith while a robot is on the rampage. The new I.D. enables ‘Dr. Smith’ to pull the wool over the eyes of the Robinsons when they meet. Even claiming to be a family therapist, enabling her to learn both the family’s secrets, and their weaknesses. While at the same time planting poisonous seeds in their minds to divide and conquer the Robinson clan.

Like the 1960s character, Posey’s Smith is selfish and self-centred. Though she isn’t as prone to mishaps and mistakes. Instead, this iteration is constantly plotting, conniving and scheming, and it’s her cynical actions that keep the show motoring. Frequently placing Robinsons in danger without the family ever realising she is responsible. All of which Smith does while looking fierce in a stylish red jump-suit.

Is Dr. Smith the Hero of Lost in Space?

Dr. Smith is set up as the villain of the piece, screwing over everyone in her way. But ultimately, everything she does comes from a place of self-preservation. And as the show delves into her past via those flashbacks, the audience starts to understand where she is coming from.

Because Smith has clearly had a tough life. The scene with her sister suggesting she’s been treated pretty badly by her family. And just like the Robinsons, simply wants a fresh start. Smith might go about it the wrong way — and murder is a little OTT — but ultimately they share the same goal.

She believes herself to be a good person, at one point claiming: “Whatever you think of me and the things I’ve done, I’m not a monster.” And much like the original Dr. Smith, this version slowly starts to reveal her humanity, so much so that she even seems to care a little about the Robinsons in the final few episodes.

Of course, the character still does some pretty despicable things. But her best line comes late in proceedings when she says, “I’m not the villain of this story, I’m the hero.” And when you see it from her point-of-view, she kind of is.

Chris Tilly
FANDOM Managing Editor in the UK. At this point my life is a combination of 1980s horror movies, Crystal Palace football matches, and episodes of I'm Alan Partridge. The first series. When he was in the travel tavern. Not the one after.
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