The Monday Meme: Dolls

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It always cracks me up when someone gets all bent out of shape the moment someone slips up and refers to an “action figure” or “collectible figurine” as a “doll”. Then again, nerds and geeks always have something to whine about!

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Hyperdrive (2007) Series 2, Episode 1 – The Green Javelins

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When we last left the crew of the HMS Camden Lock, they were basically removed from duty and about to be tried as traitors after defecting from The British Empire. Henderson was faced with his own “Kobayashi Maru” situation involving an impossibly hard performance review, and let’s just say he didn’t do so well. For better or worse, we never actually see the resolution to that plot, leading me to believe that the writers hated the ending as much as I did. At the start of series two, everything is as back to normal as this ship can be: Henderson is back in charge, albeit not for long if the Space Marshall has anything to do with it.

Series one left a bad taste in my mouth due largely to mediocre scripts and bad special effects. I’m not a big “I hate stuff because the special effects suck” kind of guy usually, but this show over-uses bad CGI that it has no business using so much. I’ve been waiting to see the second series to see what they did to “right the ship”. From the first moments of the very first episode, one can see that everything has a new coat of paint, leading me to assume that this series has quite a bit more money than the previous one. There is a new theme song, new computer-generated affects, and better writing. It seems that the production staff have answered my call.

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Once again the higher-ups have decided to trust Commander Henderson with yet another task that his crew will most likely mess up. It seems that a space acrobatic team called the “Green javelins” (a play on real acrobatic teams like the Blue Angels or Red Arrows) has recently lost a ship, and the HMS Camden Lock is set to take it’s place. This excites Henderson greatly, as he has been frothing at the mouth for a chance to show his boss that he has what it takes to be great.

Teal has a problem with this new assignment, as it forces her to come face-to-face with an old flame named Jeremy Mason, a man that now leads the “Green javelins.” When they were teenagers, both Teal and Mason (played by Stephen Mangan) met at their agnostic church camp and fell in love. It seems he stood her up when they were supposed to meet up, and he has regretted it ever since. 

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When they get together, Mason explains that he lost his faith when he didn’t see her again, and we’re treated to one of the funnier jokes in the episode. They begin to talk at length about their “agnostic faith” that was so intense in their youth. This version of agnosticism is pretty humorous, as it is described in a similar manner to the evangelical Christian church, just more vague. here is an excerpt of a “hymn” we hear them sing in the episode: 

“I have a vague feeling inside of me.

A hazy spirit duality.

It fills me half-way, but not to the top.

Empirical reasoning makes it stop.”

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While this is going on, York decides to create some sort of clone of himself, so that he can do a better job of instilling unrelenting fear in the hearts of anyone that would not take their job very seriously. Problem is that something goes wrong, VERY WRONG, and York’s “son” isn’t exactly the sharpest knife in the drawer. There is a lot of confusion when this second York starts roaming around the ship mumbling to himself and delivering garbled nonsense to passersby. York realizes what he has done, and becomes a Victor Frankenstein of sorts, frantically trying to stop his creation from ruining his name.

I mentioned earlier that the writing got a lot better, and one of the main reasons that I could tell was that these two plots actually came together in some meaningful way, and the clone sub-plot wasn’t just a set up for a cheap gag. At the end of the episode we find the clone, rejected by his “father”, trying to show that he isn’t worthless by sacrificing himself in order to save the rest of the crew.

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This is both touching, and funny, seeing that Kevin Eldon‘s performance as fake-York is so goofy that you can’t help but chuckle. Sadly, there was a vague third plotline involving Sandstrom (the ships pilot computer) being curious about sex, but everything with that character fizzles out, so I hardly notice anymore.

I also mentioned that there was a vast improvement in the special effects department, and it’s not just a small one. I can only assume that they used some sort of miniatures in tandem with their computers because the ships no longer look like smudgy videogame ships from ten years ago. They even pull off some decent close-up shots and other dynamic scenes that are pretty nice. That isn’t to say that I want this to turn into Star Wars and use gratuitous CGI everywhere, but at least the stuff that is used isn’t offensive.

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In closing, this was by far the best produced episode of the show so far. I’m not sure of it’s necessarily my favorite, but it’s heads above the hit or miss nature of series one. If they can keep this up, I think this show could live up to the potential that it had, and stand on it’s own. I’d still like a few characters fleshed out a bit more, and am worried about this new found special effects budget, but all in all I was impressed.

You can watch Hyperdrive on Hulu as part of their recent BBC deal, so if you are looking for something to watch on a rainy day, I’d definitely recommend it.

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A Clip from”Full Force”, a Pilot that Eventually led to Hyperdrive

What you just saw was a pilot for a show called Full Force directed by Armando Iannucci, portions of the cast were scrapped and it was evolved into BBC’s Hyperdrive. While a few of the cast members are the same, such as Miranda Hart as Teal, One will immediately notice that It stars Sanjeev Bhaskar as Henderson and Mark Gatiss as York. I actually like this clip for some reason, it’s like the dialog is more “raw”, and more believable. Being a big fan of his work with Steve Coogan, I would have enjoyed Iannucci as the main director.

Stay tuned this week for a run-through of series two of Hyperdrive, and perhaps a bit of coverage of a comic convention I will be attending!

 

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Hyperdrive (2006) Episode 6 – Assessment

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Here we are at the end of the first series of BBC2’s Hyperdrive AKA BBC’s attempt to re-launch Red Dwarf without actually re-launching Red Dwarf. The show stars Nick Frost, Kevin Eldon, Miranda Hart, Stephen Evans, Dan Antopolski, and Petra Massey as the crew of the HMS Camden Lock. As you know, we have witnessed the misadventures of the crew of the HMS Camden Lock for six episodes now, and those six episodes have been jam packed with enough diplomatic screw-ups that Mitt Romney would blush if he’d witnessed them (BAM! Dated political references are awesome, and oh so topical!).

To keep the British Empire relevant in the space faring age, the UK has tasked the crew of the Camden Lock with a mission to expand Britain’s sphere of influence past the confines of our pesky small planet. In the past five episodes we have seen failed attempts at placing huge chain grocery stores on underdeveloped planets (causing vows of vengeance upon escape), a botched attempt to mediate an asteroid claim between two races, an insane space traveler and her murderous coffee cup, and much much more.

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“Assessment” is yet another such episode, proving that Nick Frost’s Commander Henderson may be just about the most inept space captain there is, and I’m taking into account both Arnold Rimmer and Zapp Brannigan! The plot follows the crew as they are forced to partake in a routine round of psychological tests. These tests include things like word associations, reflex tests, and math problems to prove that the crew has not “gone nutty” in space.

During the tests, the Camden Lock is fired upon, and mistaking it for part of the evaluation, Henderson ignores the attack completely putting everyone in jeopardy. His superiors are not too thrilled at his leadership, and places him in danger of losing his ship, rank, and livelihood. Fearing the impending “category J inspection” that the ship will soon be forced to endure, Henderson basically falls apart and has a nervous break-down.

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We finally get to see what would happen if York was in charge of the ship for a long period of time, and as one would assume, the power immediately does to his head. One of the better bits of dialog involves him broadcasting a rather ominous message to everyone on the ship: “I am the master – you are my tools, I am the Alpha and Omega…”

York places the entire ship under martial law and imposes ridiculous rules that place even more stress on a crew that is pretty stressed out about the inspection. Mr. Jeffers, being his usual self, basically starts an anarchistic uprising against York, bordering on a mutiny, and destabilizes the ship even more than what is normal.

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It is under these conditions that Vine seems to start going completely insane. First, he starts hearing voices over the communication channels proclaiming that he “is the chosen one”. Later, he sees ghostly apparitions of his past and future selves, leading Mr. Vine to totally lose it. Pretty soon he starts buying into the hype, and starts telling people that he is, in fact, the chosen one and that he is above everyone else. Towards the end of the episode, a crystalline ship appears and takes him on board. Sadly, it’s not what he dreams it could be.

This secondary plot involving Vine starts out promising, but fizzles out once it reaches its climax. This is a problem with just about every episode of this show, and it makes me wonder why they did not just concentrate on the main plot since these extra plots usually get no pay-off. In this case the alien race trying to contact Vine turns out to be galactic pranksters that seemingly travel around to take pictures of their victims after they pull their pants down. Another missed opportunity wasted by dumb juvenile humor.

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The actual episode itself ends on a cliffhanger which baffles me because almost none of the main plots get tied up. Had this been a one-series show it would have been basically incomplete – we would have never known if Teal and Henderson finally put an end to their awkward sexual tension, we would have never known much about any of the side characters, and Sandstrom would have gone down as one of the most worthless science fiction characters ever. Thankfully there is a second season, and I truly hope they address some of this.

I’m not slamming Hyperdrive by any means, but I truly want this show to be better than what it is. It has the core of a great comedy show, but it seems like somewhere down the line it was never really polished, and covered in the slimy goo that is the essence of mediocrity. If BBC truly wanted another Red Dwarf, and I do apologize for making that comparison multiple times, they could have boiled it down to its essence and come up with something original based on Red Dwarf’s success. I still have my fingers crossed for series two.

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Hyperdrive (2006) Episode 5 – Clare

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Being a huge fan of Nick Frost and Kevin Eldon, I really like their show Hyperdrive, but sometimes I feel like I want to enjoy it more than I do. I mean, let’s face the facts – Hyperdrive is the “poor man’s Red Dwarf” essentially. It’s pretty funny in parts, but it sometimes seems a tad forced and somewhat generic. I fell of the wagon back in 2011 trying to get through the relatively small amount of episodes, and here we are almost three years later. It was one of the very first things I started reviewing for this blog, but this was the bleak primordial era of 2011 when I wasn’t taking this blog very seriously and the quality of those older reviews shows that. Rather than going back and re-writing those old reviews, I’m just going to pick up where I left off and review Hyperdrive’s penultimate series one offering “Clare”. Hopefully before the year 2045 I’ll have all twelve episodes written up!

For those new to the game, I’d like to quickly sum what the show is all about. The story of Hyperdrive follows a crew of inept space voyagers trying to expand the re-birthed British Empire in the year 2151. The show stars Nick Frost, Kevin Eldon, Miranda Hart, Stephen Evans, Dan Antopolski, and Petra Massey as the crew of the HMS Camden Lock.

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Frost plays pace Commander Michael Henderson, a misguided man who admires the idealism of space travel (ala cheesy science fiction shows), but has no real credentials to back it up. Imagine every bad thing that Star Trek’s Captain James T. Kirk ever did and add a bit of sincere stupidity, and you basically have Henderson in a nutshell. His first officer (Eldon) Eduardo York, is a nice contrast to Henderson in that he seems to secretly want to be an evil galactic overlord like Ming the Merciless, but is held down by federation guidelines and other forms of “red tape”. Add in a slacker technical officer named Jeffers (Antopolski), a quiet navigation officer named Vine (Evans), and the straight man, or lady for that matter, in the whole ordeal Diplomatic Officer Chloe Teal (Hart), and you have Hyperdrive in a nutshell.

The story of “Clare” follows the crew on a routine drug busting mission from their higher ups. As they scan the galaxy for drug smugglers, the HMS Camden Lock encounters the ship of the famous adventuress, Clare Winchester. Clare is traveling solo in a small craft around the clock in a similar vein to all of those people that attempt to circumnavigate the Earth in leaky boats every year. One can immediately see that the stresses and solitude involved with such a trip have got to Ms. Winchester. Concerned for her mental well-being, Henderson decides to put the mission on hold to do a little bonding. Granted, he’s always trying to “get his rocks off” with any female he runs across, so any real concern is quite suspect. Clare has fallen into a dark mass of neuroses and paranoia, capped off by the fact that she is talking to inanimate objects like ‘Mr. Cup’, someone that is coincidentally also a coffee cup.

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The actress that plays Clare, Sally Phillips, does a fine job of acting ten shades of crazy in this episode. Her mannerisms, appearance, and nervous ticks all point to the fact that she has been alone for far too long. Phillips is best known for a handful of film roles like The Bridget Jones films, and a few big network TV shows such as Veep and Miranda. Unless one counts Mr. Cup as a guest character, there really aren’t too many other guest stars to speak of.

One of the constant problems I have with Hyperdrive is the fact that it tries to use way too many “special effects” shots despite the miniscule budget. This makes the show come across as very cheap and somewhat dated in appearance. When the action is confined to small areas, such as Clare’s ship, it looks very good. But the moment you see something in space using CGI effects it looks questionable. I hate to draw the comparison to Red Dwarf, but I commend them for model shots for their new episodes last year, because they look sooooo much better than non-Hollywood computer graphics.

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There were some missed opportunities with the script, especially the side-plot involving Sandstrom catching a virus that made her foul-mouthed and irritable. Not only did the dirty words stop being funny pretty fast (perhaps teenagers would love it), it should have never been a prolonged plot device for the whole episode. There is also a tendency in this show to basically do the same thing with her character each episode making her feel one-dimensional. In an earlier one she eats chocolate and goes crazy, this time it’s the language virus. One hopes the character gets more time to shine.

All in all, this was a decent episode of Hyperdrive, but it was really nothing special. bad CGI was kept to a minimum, and Sally Phillips was entertaining – two things that make this a competent episode. For me, I wish this show would step out of the “Star Trek parody” bubble and show some real character, I’m not expecting much but my fingers are crossed for the season finale.

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TV Review – Hyperdrive Season 1 Episode 4

 

Netflix recently added a bunch of UK TV shows to their streaming service, many of which have not been released in the US by other legitimate means yet.  These include shows like the IT crowd and even Hyperdrive, a show that I am currently reviewing!  Rather than dragging out this worn out DVD-R that I burned a long time ago, I was able to sit in the comfort of my favorite chair and watch this on my TV.

 

"As a Human you wouldn't understand"

 

Playing up the Star Trek parody to new levels, this episode shows the Camden Lock engaged in “would be” negotiations with two warring alien races.  The Space Marshal has come to Henderson to ask him to act as a go-between in negotiations between the Bulaahg and the Lallakiss races.  It seems that both races have staked claim on an asteroid, and neither want to share at all.  The ambassadors from both races arrive including a mixed sex pairing from the Bulaahg camp that immediately proceed to patronize and talk down to Henderson for being less intelligent than they, and a couple of guys from the Lallakiss race that seem to have the “hots” for Vine.

 

Both races

 

Despite the fact that the Space Marshal has basically told Henderson to “keep the two sides talking until the Americans arrive” he takes it upon himself to try to settle the dispute.  Henderson has his eye on a Nobel Peace Prize and decides to strong-arm the whole thing by implying that he will blow the asteroid up if nobody shares it, when both sides think he is bluffing he orders a nuke to blow up the asteroid.  This actually does unite the two races, but not in the way he had intended as they have declared war of Great Britain.

As a fourth episode, this one does the job well and is about as good, if not slightly better than the previous episode.  At this point, the show does seem to have hit its stride, but it still vaguely feels like a “mash up” of both Star Trek and Red Dwarf.  This isn’t bad per se, but it really makes the show falter a bit as it tries to stand on its own.  Some of the jokes in this episode were really nice, including one where both races collaborate on a “theme song” for the impending war.  This song, Kill the Humans, immediately goes into Jeffers’s music rotation – a fact that both angers and annoys Henderson to no end.  This just adds to the fact that Jeffers is about the biggest bastard in any TV show, and he doesn’t care.  In fact he almost exists as some kind of uber-hipster, a person that does EVERYTHING ironically and ruins everything.

 

Henderson simply tries too hard

 

We also see a bit more of the unrequited love storyline between Henderson and Teal pop up as we find Teal ready to share her last minutes on earth embraced with Henderson as he calls her desperately in the night.  Sadly, he just wants her for an officers meeting  and not by his side – a trend that we keep seeing a lot.

This episode does try to have a lot of unnecessary CGI shots, a fact that sort of hurts the episode for me.  Shows used to use models and such if they were on a small budget, but Hyperdrive insists on using cheap CGI and it shows.  These effects aren’t the worst I’ve seen, but it really makes the show a LOT cheaper than it is.  With two more episodes to go, I can’t wait to see what happens next!

 

My rating 3.3 out of 5

TV Review – Hyperdrive Season 1 Episode 3

I guess my annoyances were heard, as we finally get to find out a little bit about the “window dressing” members of the HMS Camden Lock crew.  On one hand we see that this episode essentially revolves around Navigation Officer Vine who spends all of his life savings on a bit of real estate, and by real estate I mean a huge uninhabitable planet made of ice and poisonous gas.  He decides to take Jeffers with him, against Jeffers actual desires.  The rest of the episode is based around Diplomatic Officer Teal using all sorts of methods to “get rid of” the rest of the cast in various ways so that a candlelit supper with the officers turns into a dinner for two with Henderson.

Sandstrom finally gets some character time

“Vineworld” Vine’s ever so catchy name for his new home world is realized pretty well in the great 19470’s Doctor Who tradition of filming in a rock quarry with weird film filters over the lenses.  Much of the comedy comes from Jeffers and his annoyance with vine due to a lack of preparation for the trip.  He decided not to bring food or water, as it would have been too heavy, and forces them to look around for crashed ships to scavenge on.  On the ship we almost get to see the unrequited love of Henderson and Teal pay off….almost.

We also get to see the ship’s navigational “enhanced” a.k.a. android get a little bit of character, something that the character has been lacking from the beginning.  Apparently she was once a human, until she ran into serious money trouble.  She agreed to have her body and mind modified in exchange for the Space Force paying off her student loan, assuming the offer would not be made if the procedure was not safe. Her personality was then overwritten, but we see shards of her true mind begin to appear as she is given a piece of chocolate by Teal.  I still think that this character is a waste of space, and adds nothing to the show, but we’ll see if that changes.

Vine and Jeffers on “Vineworld”

All in all episode three was good, and shows that the sub-par first episode was hopefully a fluke as the writers and actors come into their own here.

My Rating 3.3 out of 5

 

TV Review – Hyperdrive: Season 1 Episode 2

I’ll rate this episode better than the last, but only so much.

The second episode of Hyperdrive shows great improvement over the first, as we see a better presented storyline, some better jokes, and better use of special effects.  The show as a whole seems to be a typical BBC low budget sitcom affair, but as we see our first alien world in this episode it all seems to come together.  The story follows a trip to the planet Queppu for an attempt at diplomatic relations, but as Mike Henderson always seems to guarantee, the trip goes awry.  Against the better judgment of Mike, Jeffers is placed in charge of the ship while the top brass is gone, which spells disaster.

The costumes are very creative, but not as good as some I’ve seen in shows like Farscape or Doctor Who.

I was impressed by the costume designs of the Queppu, as they did not suffer from the typical Star Trek “different foreheads” syndrome.  This race  actually looked like a bizarre pre-industrialized race that happens to wear gaudy latex hats, and pretentious jewelry.  Most of the other costumes in this show are pretty bland, so anything like this stands out a lot.  Mike falls in love with the daughter of the crazed ruler of the planet, much to the chagrin of Teal, who harbors feelings for Mike.  We get to see York at his sleazy finest in this episode, as he attempts to nuke the planet before they even visit, and nearly ends up killing the crew in a knife fight.

Jeffers uses his new found power to get the ship into a drag race, almost destroying the ship in the process.

With all the good of the episode, there is still some bad things going on here that leave it average at best.  The jokes are usually good, but not always consistent, making certain scenes seem dragged out.  There are also a few characters like Vine and the ship’s android computer that really seem to serve no purpose to the story other than exist to be an analogue of a Star trek character.  I’ll rate this episode better than the last, but only so much.

May Rating 3.1 out of 5

 

TV Review: Hyperdrive Season 1 Episode 1

One episode in, and I enjoy Hyperdrive, but hope that the story takes off in future episodes, stay tuned for my opinion on the rest of the show!

I actually downloaded Hyperdrive around the time it originally aired due to a piqued interest in movies and television shows by Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and Edgar Wright.  For some reason that I honestly can’t recall, I never watched it, and it sat on my hard drive collecting digital dust.  Going through my files this week, I stumbled upon it, and decided to finally check it out.

The HMS Camden Lock is basically a ship shaped like London’s BT Tower

Hyperdrive is a science fiction based sitcom, a genre hybrid that I can only think of a handful of instances of.  The story follows a crew of inept space voyagers trying to expand the British Empire in the year 2151.  I was drawn to the show due to Nick Frost’s starring role to be quite honest, but was pleasantly surprised to see a few actors I really like such as Patterson Joseph (Survivors, Mitchell and Webb Look) and Kevin Eldon (Big Train, Hot Fuzz) and even guest appearances by notable actors and acresses including Montserrat Lombard of Ashes to Ashes fame.

Frost plays pace Commander Michael Henderson, a misguided man who admires the idealism of space travel ala cheesy science fiction shows, but has no real credentials to back it up.  Imagine every bad thing that Star Trek’s Captain James T. Kirk ever did and add a bit of sincere stupidity, and you basically have Henderson in a nutshell.  His first officer (Eldon) Eduardo York, is a nice contrast to Henderson in that he seems to secretly want to be an evil galactic overlord like Ming the Merciless, but is held down by federation guidelines and other forms of “red tape”.  Add in a slacker technical officer named Jeffers, a quiet navigations officer named Vine, and the straight man, or lady for that matter, in the whole ordeal Diplomatic Officer Chloe Teal, and you have the principal cast in a nutshell.


(L to R) Teal, Henderson, York

Hyperdrive has its pros and cons that I can even see based solely on this first episode.  The show is a total farce in the style of Star Trek, but that almost leads it to try too hard to be like its “big brother” rather than stand on its own.  While this works most of the time, some of the goofy gags fall flat, and this isn’t helped by a lack of a laugh track.  The jokes are generally pretty funny when they are original, and rely more on gross out humor and dry wit than anything else.  One running gag that I really liked is when Henderson tries to relay his “knowledge” of historical facts to his crewmates, which always come out as a mishandled jumble of nonsense.

One episode in, and I enjoy Hyperdrive, but hope that the story takes off in future episodes, stay tuned for my opinion on the rest of the show!

May rating: 3 out of 5