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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.