Damien Love re­views Lost in Space plus seven-day TV high­lights

Sunday Herald Life - - Contents -

IT’S a Fri­day the 13th week, and for some, there will be bad luck. Take the Robin­son fam­ily – a slightly bro­ken bunch, but still soldiering ahead to­gether, be­cause, al­though frayed, the bonds be­tween them re­main strong. And they’ll need each other, be­cause they’re hav­ing some very bad luck in­deed.

For starters, they’ve been forced to aban­don Earth, and strike out to build a new life on a planet far, far away.

The rea­sons for this will be­come clearer as time goes on, but, suf­fice to say, Earth was look­ing like toast. As if that were not enough, dur­ing the in­ter­stel­lar jour­ney, they’re forced to aban­don the moth­er­ship that was trans­port­ing them and their fel­low colonists to the new promised land, while still sev­eral tril­lion miles short of the in­tended des­ti­na­tion. Suf­fice to say, the moth­er­ship was look­ing like toast. Scrab­bling aboard a fam­ily-sized lifeboat saucer, the Robin­sons crash-land on the near­est planet, where, for a mo­ment, things look up: against heavy odds, the at­mos­phere turns out to be breath­able. Joy at this dis­cov­ery is short­lived, how­ever, be­cause, in rapid suc­ces­sion: they lose their ship; break a leg; re­alise tem­per­a­tures are about to plum­met and kill them all;



see one of their clan be­come trapped in ice; and lose the youngest when he plunges down a crevasse and en­coun­ters a ram­pag­ing gi­ant alien ro­bot packed with handy gizmos, most of which seem de­signed specif­i­cally for killing small hu­manoids. Dan­ger, Will Robin­son, in­deed.

Net­flix’s 10-part Lost In Space, is, of course, a re­make of the 1960s Amer­i­can show beloved by al­most any­one who saw it as a kid back then, or in re­peat across the fol­low­ing decades. Ex­cept…is it? In many ways, the new series feels less a re­turn to that orig­i­nal than a – largely suc­cess­ful – at­tempt to re­boot the 1998 movie re­make that al­most no­body loved at all.

A space age up­date of The Swiss Fam­ily Robin­son, the six­ties series was one of the plas­tic gems from Ir­win Allen, who cre­ated great, daft pop TV shows about small crews in peril in strange en­vi­ron­ments and eye-pop­ping colours: Voy­age To The Bot­tom Of The Sea; The Time Tun­nel; and the mad mas­ter­piece, Land Of The Gi­ants.

Even among these comic-book sagas, Lost In Space, with its help­ful bul­bous ro­bot and un­fea­si­bly snooty vil­lain, Zachary Smith (a per­for­mance for the ages by Jonathan Har­ris) stood out as one for the kids. The blun­der­ing 1998 movie, how­ever, sought slightly harder sci-fi, darker trou­bles, and a more se­ri­ous pre­sen­ta­tion of a fam­ily thrown to­gether un­der stress and at­tacks from me­chan­i­cal spi­ders.

The new series like­wise ditches wide-eyed fun and for sim­i­lar ends, but does a far bet­ter job of knit­ting them to­gether and work­ing as a new take on an old-fash­ioned fam­ily-friendly ad­ven­ture.

At times, it can be a little too square­jawed and emo­tional. As we learn in flash­backs, be­fore blast-off, Mum and Dad (Molly Parker and Toby Stephens) sep­a­rated, an in­ter­est­ing kink to the fam­ily dy­namic, but one that ren­ders the char­ac­ters overly bur­dened. Mean­while, ex­plain­ing how they all tick, and all wound up stranded, the rev­e­la­tory flash­backs come fre­quently, leav­ing it feel­ing less like Lost In Space, and more like Lost, in space.

But the younger Robin­sons – par­tic­u­larly Maxwell Jenk­ins as little Will – are win­ning, the thrills and spills piles up so re­lent­lessly you get swept along, and even though, in my heart, I’ll al­ways pre­fer the clunky 1960s model, the souped-up new ro­bot is pretty im­pres­sive. Mean­while, in the shad­ows, lurks the new Zachary Smith, Parker Posey. Play­ing the de­vi­ous char­ac­ter very straight, but with things be­neath the sur­face, Posey, as al­ways, brings the faint air of be­ing lost in time: a woman made for 1930s clas­sics, mak­ing do with the scripts she finds here. Any series that gives her some­thing to do is do­ing some­thing right.

DE­SPITE claims it brings new lay­ers of deep re­sound­ing dark­ness to Agatha Christie’s story, this adap­ta­tion is pretty much in the tra­di­tional mode of “se­ri­ous” Bri­tish Christie adap­ta­tions – heavy on stars and pe­riod bud­get, but chok­ingly taste­ful be­neath any sur­face nas­ti­ness. If it had gone out at Christ­mas over suc­ces­sive nights, as orig­i­nally planned, it would have made a de­cent panto but, spread over three weeks like this, it gets a wee bit hard to keep car­ing. On the plus side, there are some fine per­for­mances to soak up: Bill Nighy’s im­pec­ca­bly ef­fort­less glide through the cen­tre of it all, and, tonight, some en­thu­si­as­tic malev­o­lence from Matthew Goode as Philip, the sly and bit­ter wheelchair­bound son-in-law of the mur­dered ma­tri­arch, Rachel. As the fam­ily learns beyond doubt that Jack (An­thony Boyle) – the adopted son charged with the killing, who died in jail – was in­no­cent of the crime, ten­sions rise in their iso­lated coun­try house, as the penny drops that the killer may still be among them.

LOOSELY but clev­erly adapted and ex­panded from Lot­tie Mog­gach’s novel by Skins cocre­ator Bryan El­s­ley, the sec­ond episode of this six-part drama builds nicely on the in­trigue and at­mos­phere of last week’s open­ing. We get a deeper glimpse into the life of our ten­ta­tive pro­tag­o­nist, Leila (Tal­lu­lah Had­don), and her re­cent ex­pe­ri­ences car­ing for her late mother. At the same time, we learn more about Tess (Si­mona Brown), the girl she met in the on­line world of Azana as “Ma­nia”, whose chaotic, hard-par­ty­ing front hides a more frag­ile and trou­bled per­son­al­ity. Mean­while, Leila and her on­line al­ter-ego Shad­ow­fax seek to dis­cover more about “Red Pill”, the group oc­cu­py­ing a se­cret, hid­den zone within the vir­tual re­al­ity world. The show does a good job of shift­ing be­tween Leila’s two “re­al­i­ties”: both are spacey and al­most dream­like, yet in very dif­fer­ent ways. And there’s a sin­is­ter qual­ity echo­ing be­tween both, as, in the real world, two older char­ac­ters briefly ap­pear, a psy­chi­a­trist called Beam (Ben Chap­lin), and a for­mer teacher of Leila’s, Mr Adams (Mark Straker).

ONE of the most in­ter­est­ing things about Danny Brock­le­hurst’s sad, grown-up drama has been how messy and un­re­solved he has been happy to leave it in places. Per­haps in­evitably, this fi­nal episode does some tidy­ing up: we learn more about the tan­gled knot of rea­sons that made Marie (Paula Mal­com­son) de­cide to leave her hus­band, Greg (Christo­pher Ec­cle­ston), and the trap she felt she was in. But as the two par­ents en­ter into a court bat­tle for cus­tody of their chil­dren, things be­gin get­ting slot­ted away into eas­ier boxes. Marie seemed a far more com­pli­cated char­ac­ter in pre­vi­ous weeks, when it seemed like she just didn’t re­ally want to have much to do with her kids – but maybe pre­sent­ing a mother like that is still a “taboo” too far. As it is, the end­ing is in­con­se­quen­tial enough to make you won­der what the point of the whole thing was. But maybe that’s just life. It’s care­fully writ­ten by Brock­le­hurst, how­ever, and played su­perbly by the en­tire cast.

THIS fas­ci­nat­ing, back­wards-running series does some­thing quite un­ex­pected tonight. Over the pre­vi­ous six episodes, we have seen An­drew Cu­nanan (an in­cred­i­ble por­trayal by Dar­ren Criss) as a cal­lous, cold-blooded mur­derer, killing his five vic­tims with guns, ham­mers, screw­drivers and what­ever else came to hand. Si­mul­ta­ne­ously, we have seen the se­rial killer as a se­rial fan­ta­sist, a liar, a nar­cis­sist, a cheat and a user. So it’s re­mark­able that, tonight, we catch just a flicker of some­thing else – it’s not that this episode makes Cu­nanan sym­pa­thetic, but it lays out his life in such un­for­giv­ing de­tail it’s hard not to feel a vague pity. It is 1992, and Cu­nanan is at­tempt­ing to find work as a gay es­cort for older men, but, de­spite his des­per­ate at­tempts, the agency has no use for him. And so he goes it alone, charm­ing his way into a re­la­tion­ship with the wealthy Lin­coln As­ton. Si­mul­ta­ne­ously, Cu­nanan be­comes friends with a young ar­chi­tect: his fu­ture vic­tim David Mad­son. Else­where, Versace and Donatella dis­cuss the fu­ture of the com­pany, should he die.

NOTH­ING to do with the long-running Amer­i­can cops and lawyers fran­chise, but a wel­come re­peat for a bril­liantly bleak four-part BBC drama, orig­i­nally broad­cast back in 1978, when it caused a ma­jor stink. Writ­ten by GF New­man (who would later cre­ate Judge John Deed), the series fol­lows an in­ves­ti­ga­tion from the per­spec­tives of the po­lice, the crim­i­nal, the bar­ris­ter and the prison sys­tem. A grim, grimy tale of vi­o­lence and cor­rup­tion, the first episode, de­voted to the de­tec­tive, stars fu­ture EastEn­ders Derek Martin and Peter Dean as the cop and vil­lain, but don’t let that put you off. Ken Camp­bell, who spe­cialised in seedy, amused, ob­nox­ious types, is ex­cel­lent as the crooked, jaded lawyer. The series sparked mas­sive con­tro­versy, draw­ing com­plaints from the po­lice, the prison ser­vice and pro­vok­ing fury in the House – it wasn’t re­peated for three decades. It’s show­ing its age a bit, but re­mains raw enough in places. If some­thing like The Wire had been at­tempted in late 1970s Bri­tain, it might have looked a little like this.

HE’S BACK! It’s been four years since we first met in­spec­tor Paul Ger­ardi (Filip Peeters), the plucky lone wolf Bel­gian cop who’s never con­tent to let things lie, nor afraid to bend rules, go out on his own, and be damned mav­er­ick. The first series of Sala­man­der was never ac­tu­ally very good: beyond the fact that the open­ing rob­bery was later faith­fully adapted by the Hat­ton Gar­dens mob for their real-life heist and … eh … some­thing about Nazis, maybe, no one alive to­day can re­mem­ber any­thing about the plot, or, in­deed, why it was called Sala­man­der. But with Peeters running through it like a cocky 1980s straightto-VHS cop it was win­ningly crazy – just say “the guy with the beard”, and fans know ex­actly what you’re talk­ing about. For this be­lated sec­ond series, Ger­ardi gets in­volved when a po­lit­i­cal refugee is mur­dered in Brus­sels, and be­comes en­tan­gled in an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into a blood di­a­monds net­work whose ten­ta­cles reach from bloody for­eign streets to the high­est ech­e­lons of Bel­gian so­ci­ety.

Tues­day Come Home 9pm, BBC One

Sun­day Ordeal By In­no­cence 9pm, BBC One

Mon­day Kiss Me First 10pm, Chan­nel 4

Wed­nes­day Amer­i­can Crime Story: The As­sas­si­na­tion of Gianni Versace 9pm, BBC Two

Satur­day Sala­man­der 9pm, BBC Four

Thurs­day Law And Or­der (BBC series from 1978) 10pm, BBC Four

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