Did we like it?
While it had some endearing qualities, was well-acted and raised a few smiles, the strains of crushing the introduction of about 10 characters as well as the novel notion of the comedy meant that we’re still waiting for the choking smoke of unfamiliarity to clear.
What was good about it?
• Nick Frost was very likeable as the hapless Commander Henderson. Granted he has pick pocketed the ticks and quirks of David Brent as though he was the Artful Dodger himself, but he portrayed Henderson with the right amount of buffoonery and pathos as to make him charmingly incompetent.
• Miranda Hart as Teal who harbours a repressed affection for Henderson, and while it’s not quite Dawn and Tim there are moments when their (non)relationship shows signs that it could endure for a long while yet.
• No laughter track.
• Yes, it was hugely derivative of Red Dwarf but when it became apparent that, through the myriad sci-fi references, Hyperdrive was aiming to be a Spaced in space rather than a highly original comic masterpiece it became less of a load. Hyperdrive has a slobbish protagonist – like Red Dwarf. It also has a sneering counterpoint in York, a robotic companion in Sandstrom, and it’s set in space.
• Other references was Sandstrom’s excitement at the word “futile” (it’s the Borg from Star Trek’s catchphrase), and the more obvious small alien let loose on board the ship to kill the crew, growing rapidly with each nourishing fleshy meal.
• When the Glish kept using the business contract they were about to sign as an excuse to indulge in ever more salacious activities with the reluctant Teal and Henderson. “We’re to rub our genitals against your head. Nothing sexual in this.”
• The contemporary satirical elements of how Britain still likes to think of itself as a grand power in the world but has been hugely superseded by America, and even China. And this observation has been extrapolated to the future, as wherever the crew of the HMS Camden Lock venture to secure new business for Peterborough, they discover they’ve already been gazumped by Americans or Chinese.
• It also pokes fun at how the aloofness and sexual repression of Britons can affect their success in commerce, while exploiting the classic British tradition of the comedy of embarrassment for some of the best moments.
• When Henderson had to agree to the verbal terms and conditions of the laser rifle before he could despatch the marauding alien.
What was bad about it?
• The megalomaniacal maniac First Officer York was just too much of a grotesque. Kevin Eldon’s a decent actor (even if York was too much of a doppelganger of his creepy Simon Quinlank), but the part was overwritten and his scenes seem to disrupt the flow of the script, a huge flaw in the opening episode. He’s also officious and developed an appreciation of the alien that was killing the crew, as if he has been burdened with all the negative mannerisms and those that worked will be retained for future episodes, and those that didn’t will be dropped meaning his nature will warp as flexibly as a soap opera character who is a indolent alcoholic one moment and a pillar of the community the next.
• On very few occasions were we astounded to double-up with laughter, it raised a few smiles but the joke count will have to be raised to Warp Factor Nine to ensure our continued viewing.
Hyperdrive, BBC2, Thursday 12 July 2007
Did we like it?
Despite a cast full of actors who have proven their comic talent elsewhere and sci-fi forever ripe for parody, this simply wasn’t funny.
What was good about it?
* A cause for optimism of future episodes is the quality of the cast such as Nick Frost (even if he does have an acting range only as wide as Kate Moss’s waist) playing his stock likeable but slothful bloke, Miranda Hart and Kevin Eldon. Stephen Mangan had a guest role as Jeremy Mason but was so over the top, if were a coastal wave he could have shook hands with the top of the Eiffel Tower.
* When Vine was, with the help of Jeffers, trying to injure himself so he an excuse to leave the Camden Lock, he chickened out at the last moment. Jeffers ignored him and persisted with his efforts to break his leg, which halted when Vine stabbed him in the face with his badge pin.
* York made a clone of himself from his own scabs and bodily fluids, and that clone then ‘sacrificed’ himself to save the Camden Lock as Mason rammed it with his Green Javelin. At his funeral, Henderson and York had to talk over the clone in order to blast the genetic monstrosity into space, which raised a chuckle.
* Reasonable special effects.
What was bad about it?
* A gaseous, insubstantial plot which concerned the Camden Lock being called up to be part of the Green Javelins (the space version of the Red Arrows), something that enthralled Henderson as it gave him the chance to rehabilitate himself in the eyes of the space marshal. The problem was that Henderson’s drive to re-establish his credentials was utterly implausible given Henderson’s infectious apathy to his career and his egging on of Teal to re-ignite her teenage romance with the Green Javelin’s leader Mason was nothing more than a wearied shrug of the shoulders.
* The sub-plot of York’s clone once more sadly highlighted how inferior Hyperdrive is to Red Dwarf. The first series of Red Dwarf saw Arnold Rimmer create an identical hologram of himself but ultimately neither could bear to live with the other. Hyperdrive lacked this imagination and characterisation; in fact it lacks the imagination to pilfer shamelessly from other sci-fi shows that are often so absurd they seem to be produced solely so that comedies such as Hyperdrive can gloriously mock them.
* Although maybe they shouldn’t bother given the uninspired efforts to spoof the holodeck from Star Trek: The Next Generation when Mason took Teal for a trip in a boat in the English countryside, which was in reality a metal tub set against a clumsy backdrop of a riverbank.
* If the course of ships on the oceans was as predictable and telegraphed as the jokes in Hyperdrive there’d be no need for lighthouses. Reconciled, Mason told Teal that he’d cook the meal he would have cooked her on that night when he dumped her as teenagers. We were just waiting for the simplistic cub scout-style banquet – we weren’t disappointed, it was a giant baked bean on toast.
* The subtitle Moonbase Incident Official Enquiry when it should have been an Inquiry.