Lost In Space: finally, a TV thriller you can watch with your kids
TV may have come of age in recent years. It may have matured, 'grown up' - and brought with it a lofty onslaught of complex, heavyweight and impressive dramas.
Fantasy, sci-fi and superhero dramas have become as violent, foul-mouthed and sex-packed as gritty crime sagas on the small screen. The divide between shows for kids, and shows parents watch when their kids are safely tucked up in bed, is growing.
But Lost In Space on Netflix is hoping to bridge that gap. And it's a major new thriller for all the family.
A spirited sci-fi adventure
On paper, Lost In Space has all the credentials you'd expect from a high-profile new TV drama.
This new version of the story of an elite family stranded among the stars has a heavyweight cast, and the production values, effects and cinematography aspire to big screen standards.
Several episodes, including the opener, are directed by Neil Marshall - known for films such as The Descent, and his acclaimed work on the Game of Thrones battle episodes 'Blackwater' and 'Watchers On The Wall'.
However, it is also a highly spirited space adventure with plenty of pluck, a loving, loyal family at its centre, and a distinct lack of blood, bad language and nudity.
The temptation must have been strong to go down the 'gritty remake' avenue. But the Robinson clan are not re-imagined as an edgy collection of brooding teenagers, and alcohol-soaked parents battling their demons.
Instead, Lost In Space stays true to the spirit of the original, campy '60s TV show, while thoroughly updating it for the modern age.
Last month, we speculated that Lost In Space looked like a fun sci-fi romp. And it certainly is.
There are scary moments and 'sustained peril', as the notes on film releases sometimes say, with the younger Robinsons plunged into real danger from the start. An early tense scenario even recalls a (gore-free) Marshall sequence from The Descent. Shady Dr Smith, this time a female character played by Parker Posey, also provides an air of potential menace.
But while that much is true, the tone is also the kind of upbeat, resourceful take on survival and threat you'd expect from an '80s Spielberg movie. Characters get into very sticky spots from the off here, but there's always the sense that quick-thinking and teamwork can save the day.
The Robinsons may be lost on an alien world, but it's a much more hopeful place than Altered Carbon's dystopian San Francisco (Photo: Netflix)
Added to that, the precocious Robinson children are more than capable of holding their own. Older siblings Judy and Penny are just as gifted when it comes to science as younger brother Will and mum Maureen (Molly Parker) - and they all have different strengths and weaknesses.
As a dynamic, there's genuine warmth there.
There are some complex elements, explored mainly in flashbacks (the mum and dad had grown apart prior to their mission; Will is battling insecurity and fear), but these aren't too heavy-handed.
As for this Lost In Space's take on the famous robot...well. That would be telling. Let's just say it's one of the best things about the show.
Plenty of oomph
Actor Toby Stephens, who plays gung-ho military dad John, has recently said how happy he is that his own children can finally watch him in something.
Gory pirate saga Black Sails would not have been quite suitable, he wryly noted.
John (Toby Stephens) surveys an alien world with son Will (Photo: Netflix)
Based on its opening hour, Lost In Space has plenty of oomph, some neat visual design, and a sense of family-focused derring-do to rely on - as well as one or two mysteries to solve.
It may not be the most considered or nuanced TV thriller to have emerged in recent times. But it is, at least, a fun one. And something that parents can actually enjoy in tandem with their children.
Lost In Space is released on Netflix this Friday, April 13
• Have your say on the latest TV and film with Screen Babble, our discussion group on Facebook
This article originally appeared on our sister site, iNews.