Thoughts on Lost In Space's Musical Score (Christopher Lennertz, Netflix)
Updated: Jul 16, 2019
[Original publication: April 24, 2018]
It’s official. Netflix has remade the 1960s classic television show Lost In Space, and they’ve done a truly first-class job. The new series retains many of the elements of the original show while also inserting some justified and high-quality modern updates.
One very important element from the original show that this remake retains: its classic musical score. A name you probably recognize, John Williams, composed for the original show as one of his very first gigs. Christopher Lennertz crafted something truly reminiscent of Williams’ work for the Netflix remake. His compositions shift from grand to epic to thrilling to sweet effortlessly. The adventure, hope, mystery, and danger of the show are all personified in and enhanced by Lennertz’s ace musical score.
Lennertz has written scores for gritty video games such as Mass Effect and well-known comedies and television shows such as Ride Along and Supernatural. However, he’s proven with his Lost In Space score that he is remarkably gifted at crafting emotional and action packed music full of huge orchestrations and creative themes. Where other television shows tend to go small and slightly contained, Lennertz’s score for Lost In Space is large and refreshingly cinematic.
The new series’ opening credits sequence is just over a minute long. Netflix attempted to skip over it while I was watching the series but I was compelled every time to keep it from doing so. That’s how good the new variation on the Lost in Space theme is. Where the original show’s theme had more of an eerie tone melded with a bit of 60s rock, the brassy and thick onset of the new show’s theme brings to mind musical cues from the likes of James Horner on the Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Apollo 13 scores.
Lennertz took John Williams’ original themes and weaved them into a thickly orchestrated title sequence that embodies the heroic nature of space travel and the reverence we as humans have towards those endeavors. As historic footage of the first astronauts and rockets montages with shots of space and distant planets, forceful percussion, driving low strings, sweeping high strings, chorus, and woodwinds accompany familiar snippets of the John Williams’ theme and bold musical motifs played by brass instruments. Triumphant trumpets ring out over the clever entrance of the Lost in Space title graphic, and an intrepid french horn motif sounds. A flash of a transition, and episodes begin. The refreshing take on the Lost In Space theme is very good, and very representative of the adventure audiences are in for.
In the action-packed segments of season one, of which there are many, cues such as ‘Crash Landing’, ‘Cheering Up Will’, ‘To The Chariot’, Dump the Fuel’, ‘Maureen at Work’, ‘Race The Minefield’, and ‘Here We Go’ supply some exhilarating accompaniment. Rhythmic strings, jarring brass and percussion, and the interweaving of the Lost in Space theme make for truly engaging and exciting sequences. These cues often act as reflection of the exact pacing of the scenes they are cued with, which makes the scenes capable of completely enthralling viewers in many instances. As characters dodge geysers, shakily land spaceships, and are generally in peril, these “action music” portions of the score are a powerful underscore.
The ‘Great Job’, ‘Moby Dick’, ‘Flowers / Father and Son’, ‘Waterfall’, and ‘Saying Goodbye’ cues employ gentle, thick strings and harp along with brass to accompany the intense beauty of the alien planet the Robinsons are stranded on. Parts of these cues also do well in accompanying the heartwarming and uplifting family moments Lost In Space offers. The brass instruments intermittently state the Lost in Space theme and motifs, serving up unifying musical moments for the series.
‘Will Exploring’ and ‘Smith / The Forest’ present most of the mysterious music the score has to offer. Atonal, borderline ill-sounding strings, minimal, building piano, and subtly wailing woodwinds underscore scenes of forest exploration, isolation, and uncertain moments of character mystery. Dr. Smith’s sinister theme is most prominently heard in these cues on the piano. These tracks provide a very effective underlying tone of mystery when they’re cued.
A good portion of this score is “danger music”. This tense music, filled with pulling, unsure strings, stunning percussion, and relieving brass and chorus by contrast is heard best in the ‘Melting Judy Out’, ‘Maureen Flies’, ‘Disconnecting’, and ‘Backwards’ cues. Individual members of the Robinson family find themselves in crisis, and these cues raise the stress and uncertainty before the strings relinquish their hold and the audience is relieved by triumphant brass and chorus sections. In a series whose crux is often danger, the music in these cues is more than appropriate and impressive.
‘Will and the Robot’ is often cued under scenes involving Will and his best friend in this new world, his robot. The cue seems to tie musically and directly (through the show’s plot) to the ‘Ultimate Sacrifice’ cue. ‘Will and the Robot’ is a slowly-building, swelling, and receding cue that musically represents the mysterious emotions related to this alien robot and its implications on Will. The cue features thick, heroic strings, minimal, tense strings, punching brass, and percussion to accompany the highs and lows of the relationship between Will and the robot. It underscores scenes of danger, rescue, and pensive conversation very well. Through this, it seems to tie to the gripping ‘Ultimate Sacrifice’ cue in which Will must make a difficult decision in relation to his mechanical friend.
The ‘Danger Will Robinson’ cue is perhaps the massively orchestrated and monumental cue of the entire score. It is made up of dominant strings, rousing timpani, and epic, accenting french horn. This cue and portions of it seem to accompany scenes that combine danger and adventure. It sumptuously accompanies the bravery of Will Robinson, his family, and other characters.
‘Family Chores Fugue’ is a creative cue that utilizes an uncommon musical form for strings. To put it simply, the cue has strings each state a short musical theme that is then echoed in other strings, creating a very pleasant cacophony of sound. The track is cued in multiple scenes of the Robinson family doing work or even discussing family matters. It’s a truly unique method of musical description that does not happen often in the modern film and television music world.
My personal favorite cue from this score is ‘Illumination’. It is an absolutely gorgeous cue, filled to the brim with grand, majestic strings, sweeping harp, and glorious french horn. The track begins with a bit of ethereal guitar and piano, and swells into its massive middle section as the Robinson children and Dr. Smith gaze up at a Northern Lights-like phenomenon. A stirring, memorable musical theme is heard in this section, associated with the otherworldly wonder characters are experiencing. The cue unexpectedly ends with a bombastic and startling section of wild brass, strings, and percussion as characters are thrust into danger. This makes the cue one of the overall best of the entire score.
Most cues on the Lost In Space score feature significant and jolting timbre changes in the middle or near the end as plot reveals or intense moments of action occur. ‘Alien Ship’, ‘The Resolute’, and ‘Back To The Ship’ demonstrate the effortless musical character changes Lennertz is able to execute in his compositions.
Every single cue on the soundtrack features prominent thematic and melodic material, which is truly refreshing and notable in today’s age of film and television scoring. Thematic, melodic music is arguably antithetical to the scores for many other Netflix and cable television shows. Christopher Lennertz has composed what I think is the very best score of his career, music that is in the character of what film composers like John Williams and James Horner have written.
Netflix might have another hit on their hands with their remake of Lost In Space, made complete by a true gem of a score from Christopher Lennertz. Marvelous, epic work by a hugely talented composer.