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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The World’s End (2013)

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Before I get to my review of this film, I’d like to share a little story of persistence paying off for once. The World’s End came to select theaters nearly two months ago, leaving me in an annoying predicament. I live about one hour and a half (minimum) away from a theater that would carry a limited release movie, and with gas prices in late August pretty high, I was dreading the extra trip. A few days before we were planning on driving up to a participating theater, I was involved in a car accident that destroyed my car and mildly injured my arm and ribs; needless to say – we didn’t go. This is also the reason I haven’t blogged on here for a bit, sorry about that to anyone that wondered where I disappeared to.

Pretty soon, I had a new car and was feeling better, just in time to discover that the limited release we were annoyed by, was even more limited and only one theater in the whole city carried it, and it was smack dab in the middle of a high-traffic shopping district that was taken over by a week-long art fair. I made my peace about waiting for the eventual DVD release and let the whole thing slip my mind. That was until I received an email that made my day. You see, I had forgotten the fact that I sent an email to my local theater essentially asking them to attempt to get the movie in a late run,but assumed I’d never hear back. Here is the exchange:

From me:

“A few years back, this theater did not get a movie called ‘Hot Fuzz‘ on release day, but acquired it on a limited basis a few months later. I was wondering if a new movie by the same studio/cast/director ‘The World’s End’ would get the same treatment? I really do not want to drive two hours to see this film, and would prefer supporting you guys. So, I implore you, please get this movie for at least a few days since this is a college town and I think it will do well.”

and here was the response:

“Hi Stephen, The distributor of World’s End, Focus Features released their film very limited. I’m presently trying to secure the film to open in [your town] on October 4. Please keep an eye on our website for showtimes. Thank you for contacting [Carmike Cinemas] “

I have to hand it to Carmike Cinemas, they actually took the time to look into my query, answer me, and I was able to see my movie in my own town. Yeah it was late, but I was there. So anyway, moral of the story is, it never hurts to ask sometimes, and in my case it worked out. Now the question is, did I enjoy the movie?

I’ve been a big fan of pretty much everything that Simon Pegg, Edgar Wright, And Nick Frost have done for quite a while. Ever since I reluctantly rented Shaun of the Dead nearly a decade ago, I’ve been hooked. I think what draws me to their material is that they may look like typical genre films on the surface “oh look it’s ANOTHER zombie film”. But upon further watching, one will notice heart that few comedies have. These aren’t just vague genre parodies like that dead horse that the Wayans Brothers and company keep beating (Scary Movie, Epic Movie, Meet The Spartans etc.) these are deep films that just happen to be funny.

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Fans have dubbed these genre-busting films as the “Blood and Ice cream Trilogy” or “The Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy” either way, these are solid in every way. Shaun of the Dead was their take on the horror genre, and while it dished out the gory zombie action in spades, the film was more about what it means to grow up and be a man. Their spiritual sequel Hot Fuzz followed suit and took the action / buddy-cop film skeleton and placed what was essentially an unconventional love story between two friends into the mix. So what about The World’s End? At first glance it looks like a science fiction film, but is really about the dangers of nostalgia and how one really can’t ever go home again.

The film centers around an estranged group of high-school friends that have slipped out of touch with each other in the twenty years since graduation. Their paths separated after an ill-fated contest called “The Golden Mile” in their old stomping grounds, Newton Haven. The idea was to stop at all twelve pubs on a tourist list and drink at least one pint at each one. Sadly this was not meant to be, and the night went sour. They got into fights, had to escape said fight, and even lost one of their own in the scuffle. Their “leader”, a man named Gary King (Simon Pegg) has decided to get the whole gang back together, but a lot has changed since the early 1990’s. They return to their hometown to find it different, and everyone acting like robots. And as you guessed, that’s because they are robots.

Simon Pegg portrays Gary King, the aforementioned “leader” of the group. He has changed very little since high school, and seems to be at a perpetual state of adolescence. He wears the same clothes, has the same car, and even the same cassette tapes he enjoyed as a youth. This fact saddens everyone else, because it is immediately obvious that he never moved on from his younger days. He’s very untrustworthy, and somewhat careless in personal business and external relationships. This is a nice change of pace for Pegg, as the last two movies showed him as the “straight man” or “hero” and Nick Frost occupying the bumbling friend role.

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In fact, Frost portrays what could be possibly seen as the straight laced man of action in this movie with Andy Knightly. He is the least fond of Gary, now that they are older, because of an “incident” that occurred when they were younger. You do eventually find out why there is tension between the two, but that’s later in the film and has importance to the plot. Andy is fun because he is pretty boring until the villainous robots appear, and a few drinks make him into their “incredible Hulk”.

The cast is rounded out by more “Cornetto Trilogy” mainstays: Paddy Considine plays Steven Prince, someone that could be considered Gary’s Rival from school. They seem to get along fairly well despite this fact. Martin Freeman plays Oliver Chamberlain, the brother of Gary’s high school fling Sam (as played by Rosamund Pike). Finally, Eddie Marsan plays Peter Page, who was fairly meek in his youth and was bullied a lot.

Since this is a science fiction film about invading robots, one would assume that there are some cool special effects involved, and that person is correct. About twenty minutes into the film, Gary gets into an altercation with a young man in a pub restroom resulting in the man’s head popping off and a thick blue liquid spraying everywhere. From this moment on, we are treated to some really brutal and exciting fight scenes. Being a wrestling fan, I was pleasantly surprised to see everyone’s fighting abilities were seemingly based on professional wrestling moves. Gary delivers a killer “Rock Bottom” popularized by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson when he was in WWE. We also saw elbow drops, suplexes and even an “atomic drop”. As you can imagine, an assault such as this will result in limbs being ripped off, chests exploding and even heads being lopped off. It’s okay though, they’re just robots.

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The fun of the cast and the hilarious battles doesn’t get in the way of telling a good story. We seem a few quite dramatic scenes in the film, and especially one featuring Peter Page. At the pub where the robots finally show themselves, Peter runs into an old school bully – one that ruined his life back then. The man seemingly ignores Peter, not recognizing him at all. Peter slips into an abyss of depression since this man did more to hurt him than he can imagine, and yet doesn’t even remember him. There are even more scenes like this peppered throughout the film, that show the actors’ dramatic chops and make this film stand out against other comedies.

Longtime fans of these movies will be pleased to see tons of cameos from people from previous films and TV shows. These cameos aren’t too obtrusive and usually result in someone with a small role like Mark Heap who worked with the guys in Spaced. Other callbacks include references to the “wall gag” that appears in all three films, the Cornetto ice cream reference, and even the classic epilogue that usually only exists on the DVD special features. I did hear people whining that Bill Nighy was not involved, but they need to listen closer. He was the voice of a VERY important character at the end of the film.

I loved The World’s End and am glad I got to see it in theaters after such a long wait. I can’t really say how it ranks with the other two films as I basically like them equally and for entirely different reasons. I am glad to see the characters shifted around from the norms seen in the last few films. Showing that Nick Frost isn’t just a wacky one-trick pony sidekick was awesome, and I’m glad to see him in a more dramatic role. Here’s hoping that this “trilogy” isn’t over and all these guys work together again at some point. Maybe after Ant Man, Edgar Wright will need another excuse to hang out with his buddies and entertain us once again.

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As a bonus here is Gary’s favorite band, Sisters of Mercy, with the song that constantly pops up in the movie. Enjoy!

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