In the early days of Nickelodeon they had to import live-action adventure shows for kids. If we had Nick on our cable channel when I was a kid I could have seen The Tomorrow People, which actually got a remake years later when they started a network in the UK. Sadly their original shows were a bit light in this department until they got the Power Rangers series. There were some, but more lighthearted fare or just comedies. Yeah, my timeline is a bit off but unless you count Space Cases they were still using import shows. Note that I’m talking adventure. Animorphs would qualify but Are You Afraid Of The Dark? is more of a kids horror show than a sci-fi adventure. I’m not going to go over the whole list but there were more imports than made for Nickelodeon sci-fi kids adventure.
This week’s Saturday Night Showcase (if it’s still available) I can show you episode one of The Astronauts, though the initial airing included a second episode. The show follows five kids accidentally launched into space and their efforts to survive while awaiting rescue. The show apparently takes place some time in the future, and there’s some other shenanigans I’ll get to in the review. The question is whether kids might enjoy it and if the adults (which I assume is my primary audience) will enjoy watching with their kids…or yourself if you’re like me and can enjoy kids shows if the story’s good. I was expecting a more serious take on the concept for Space Cases but that’s not what we have here. So what DO we have here?
The first episode, “Countdown”, follows five kids: Samy (Miya Cech) is the daughter of the mission captain, Martin (Keith L. Williams) and his younger sister Doria (Kayden Grace Swan) the kids of the senior tech or something, Elliot’s (Bryce Gheisar) father is the man behind the launch, and Will (Ben Daon) is the son of a reporter who doesn’t get along with the man. All of them are smart in their own way so when they get a chance to sneak onboard the ship created to meet up with a distant object that may or may not be an alien craft they take it in hopes of getting a look inside before they launch. And then the ship launches with them inside because something is wrong with the ship’s computer, Matilda (Paige Howard). In the second episode, “Day 1” (which appears to be how the episodes will be named from here out though it will be jumping days–the next episode is “Day 3” and following that “Day 21”) the kids need to decide whether to trust Matilda or the concerned mission command crew who know she’s being hacked and can’t be trusted when there’s a danger to the ship. Now all the kids can do is sit in orbit and wait for a rescue…and it’s a good thing they have a hydroponics lab that hopefully makes food because it’s going to be awhile.
Within these early episodes we get to know the quintet of children. Samy has apparently “played” with the simulator and can operate the ship almost as well as her mom. She also has lesbian parents who were fighting due to the mission and I’m wondering if her motivation isn’t to try to bring them together. She apparently has some reason for doing this. Elliot is the one who talked them into this crazy plan (not intending to go into space and he’s trying to make the best of it) and may end up being the planner while Samy, who knows the ship better, will take her mom’s role. Martin is a math whiz while his sister Doria has thus far only shown that she’s able to get into trouble and get her brother blamed. Will is a sci-fi enthusiast and has some actual astroscience and isn’t one of those stereotypical sci-fi nerds who use fiction to explain real life, at least not thus far. Let’s hope it stays that way. I like Fred in Big Hero 6: The Series but if Will starts quoting Star Trek I’m tapping out.
The preview for the next episode also suggests Matilda may not simply be hacked for fun. Apparently the computer was created by Elliot’s uncle, who will also have a role to play but the hacker is somehow reworking the code in real time and the preview suggests Matilda or the hacker chose them for a reason, identifying all five of them even though Will doesn’t have a parent involved with the project, unless you count the unbiased reporter that keeps attacking the project and its founder. I imagine this will cause some tension between Elliot and Will given the description on the cable guide for “Day 3”. However, I like the interaction between the five children and their parents back on Earth and I’m curious to see how all three connections (the kids to each other, the kids to mission control and their parents, the parents dealing with each other and wanting to get their kids back) evolve as the series go on.
As you can see by the behind the scenes video I opened with the effects are quite good given that this is a cable TV kids show. They don’t show the effects for the ship or the base (which I assume involves computer generated images given the budget and the year this is coming out) but the practical effects for the ship and the props are all well done and do give the sense that they’re in a spaceship planned to go on a long-range mission. I mentioned the near future. Well, all of the ships in the company’s fleet are establishing or resupplying a base on Mars, though I guess they don’t want to get help from anyone else unless Griffin Combs is this universe’s Elon Musk and has nobody else going into space. We know NASA exists and I’d like to think they’d scramble a rescue mission in less time than it will take for a ship from Mars to come to their rescue, but then we’d have a short series, wouldn’t we?
As stated, if it’s still up I’ll post the first episode on Saturday Night Showcase, while new episodes will be airing on Friday in the US (including a new one this Friday). Based on these two episodes it looks like it could be a good series so it’s at least worth looking into.