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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Something To Watch This Weekend: Quatermass Experiment (2005) on Hulu

Something To Watch This Weekend: Quatermass Experiment (2005) on Hulu

Looking for something to watch this weekend? How about the 2005 remake of the classic Nigel Kneale tele-play The Quatermass Experiment! Starring John Flemyng and David Tennant, this is a remake in the truest sense of the word. Using old scripts and LIVE FILMING, they went the extra mile to re-capture the sixty year old magic that basically kicked off UK science fiction as we know it today. Hulu keeps adding more BBC stuff every once in a while, so I’ll keep you posted if more gets added. And don’t be surprised if I do a review of this pretty soon!

 

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Misfits: Season 1 Episode 1

Lately, Hulu has been really cranking out advertisements for a show that I knew only by name and a vague idea of the plot – That show is the UK superhero youth drama Misfits. Being all caught up on many other shows, I figured “what the heck” and queued up the first episode. The story follows a group of young delinquents (party-girl Alisha, Kelly the chav, fallen sports hero Curtis, social outcast Simon, and class clown Nathan) placed into a program to give them a second chance at being on the right side of the law. While doing what basically amounts to community service, a freak storm with baseball sized hail and numerous lightning strikes does something to the group ultimately giving them special powers.

The plot might sound a bit like other shows such as Heroes or Alphas, but the similarities end at the fact that they have powers. While those shows are nice and polished up like shiny apples sitting in a big bowl on a kitchen table, Misfits is more like a browning banana in paper sack that you forgot about. The overall “vibe” to the show reminds me of a cross between the same sort of frank and often dingy realism found in Inbetweeners or Skins and something like Being Human. What I mean by this is that we aren’t getting the Disney Channel idea of how teenagers talk and act, we’re getting messed-up, hormonal, foul-mouthed balls of angst that all have super powers.

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The ways in which the powers are used in the show are pretty cool sometimes. In my favorite scene, everyone is heckling Kelly for her accusations that their case worker has gone nuts and is trying to kill them. It seems that he didn’t fare as well in the whole powers department, and got homicidal rage instead. Nobody believes her until one mistake leaves Kelly’s brains plastered all over the wall. Curtis freaks out and basically rewinds time to just prior to this incident. The other powers we see in play are Alisha’s pheromone charm ability, Simon’s invisibility, and Kelly’s psychic abilities. The only member we don’t see exhibiting ability is Nathan, but I assume this will change in the next episode.

I’m glad that the producers didn’t try to put in things that relied too much on special effects, such as CGI powers, as I bet the budget would not be kind to flashy things like that. This cost-effective measure not only diverts the risk of having questionable CGI stuff (see Hyperdrive), but makes the show grounded and more realistic – a trait that almost every superhero comic and show has longed for.

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I’m glad I checked out this show. I’m very intrigued by where Misfits is going to go, and will be eager to check out some more episodes. I really like the characters (well…..Nathan annoys me so far…) and am looking forward to see how they interact and how they will be forced to work together in some way.