Lost In Space - Is the Netflix reboot set to erase the memory of the 1998 film?
The space opera sci-fi drought of the noughties is well and truly dead. The last few years have seen a resurgence far beyond what we'd ever expected - not only is Star Trek back on TV, we now have a remake of Irwin Allen's brilliantly camp sixties series Lost In Space - and it's actually pretty decent.
Netflix announced the return of the series last year, and now we've had the chance to watch the first five episodes. It's a very different beast to its ancestor though - while that was a fun, frothy series that built up a cult following; the Netflix treatment is far more somber and gritty.
The series opener quickly sets the tone - before the opening credits even kick in the Jupiter 2 makes an unscheduled crash landing on an alien world thanks to a collision with some mysterious space debris. The ship crash lands on a icy world and eventually sinks through the ice into a watery grave.
Told partly in flashback to the impending disaster that threatens to wipe off life on Earth and then post crash, it's quickly clear this isn't the perfect 'Robinsons' family we previously experienced. John Robinson has served in the forces and spent a long time away from his family - their relationships are strained. His experiences make him a much more focused but damaged family head and his instincts are pushed to the limit during the first episode as he has to made decisions that puts more than one member of his family in danger.
It's a decent set up - it might have been refreshing to have something other than impending extinction to drive humanity to find a new home, but it's all played well here.
One of the biggest twists on the original is the robot - it isn't aboard the Jupiter 2 when it crash lands on the planet, but it isn't long before we're introduced. There are huge questions over the robot's intentions from the moment it meets a lone Will Robinson and it feels like this might be a thread throughout the series. Another cool change is that Dr Smith is this time around female - played here brilliantly by Parker Posey - clearly she has a shady past but we don't even glimpse her until the final moments of the first episode.
Performances are roundly excellent - there's always the risk that we could have had a Wesley Crusher situation here, but Maxwell Jenkins manages to avoid that perfectly and gives an excellent turn as the youngest member of the crew. Toby Stephens brings the perfect level of stoicism in his portrayal of John Robinson and lends a believability to his past.
We love that Judy (Taylor Russell) is a much stronger character this time around and Russell brings a surprising gravitas to the eldest of the Robinson children, she plays well off Mina Sundwall's Penny - they have a great competitive sisterly bond thing going on that really works. Molly Parker is also brilliant as the cool headed scientist-cum-mother, Maureen Robinson.
Bill Mumy, who played Will Robinson in Irwin Allen's show also appears but we'll say very little about his appearance to avoid any spoilers.
Lost In Space
is a slick, gripping series. It may feel a bit too serious at times, but sci-fi fans will enjoy it. Long-term it could be our new Battlestar Galactica in that it's an excellent reinvention of a very well trodden path. It also certainly appears to be leagues ahead of the 1998 film; which favoured (now very dated) effects over story. There is plenty of mystery as to how the Jupiter 2 ended up in the predicament it does here, but also the story progresses at a pace which ensures that there are just as many answers as questions.
Lost in Space arrives on Netflix on 13th April - with all episodes available to watch on that date. We can't wait to see how the rest of the series pans out.