What Would Doctor Who Look Like as a 1970’s/80’s Japanese Action Show?

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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 Five(ish) Doctors Reboot (2013)

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Fans have been speculating for quite awhile about the mysterious “project” that Peter Davison was working on for the 50th anniversary. There were tweets that went out hinting at involvement with the Day of the Doctor, there were odd pictures, and even clandestine meetings between the classic actors making media rounds. That speculation has been silenced today, as fans were treated to a hilarious romp through the lives of four guys that don’t take themselves too seriously.

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The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot follows Peter Davison as he spearheads a campaign for his, and any other classic Doctor Who actors, inclusions into the 50th anniversary special. This is of course Davison, Sylvester McCoy, and Colin Baker playing self absorbed versions of themselves that borderline on being quite pitiful. Peter is jealous of how his younger children don’t seem to respect the fact that he was in the show, and feels that he should be in it to win their affections. Other classic Doctors are just as bad as Davison. McCoy, for instance, constantly drops the fact that he was in the huge budget film The Hobbit, and is even wearing a shirt with “The Hobbit” emblazoned on it. Colin Baker sits around forcing his family to watch old episodes of Doctor Who, not realizing that everyone has grown pretty tired of it. If you are wondering where the other two actors are that the title mentions, they are definitely in there. Doctor number four is a cameo from Paul McGann, who the other three humorously resent for having tons of work all the time, and then there is Tom Baker

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The “Tom Baker” scene was so ridiculous that both my wife and I laughed so hard that we scared our cats. The three actors start arguing who should call Tom for quite a while, only to get his voice message, a quote taken directly from Dimensions in Time from 1994. He, of course, was not able to answer them because they cut to the infamous “recycled from Shada” footage of the boat scene used in the original The Five Doctors. Both things were poking fun at the way Tom used to brush off Doctor Who anniversary stuff in the past, forcing the production teams to be “creative”. There are a lot of good gags in here, but this literally left us in tears.

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The plan that the “three amigos” concoct involves storming the production studio where the special is being filmed in sneaking into camera view. Keep, in mind that this is “Plan C” after bugging Steven Moffat over the phone failed, and picketing the BBC also failed. They eventually hitch a ride with John Barrowman to Cardiff, Wales and try their best to steal the real Tardis from a Doctor Who exhibition, as Peter seems to have forgotten that it was a prop in a fictional show. They eventually settle on merely “borrowing” their old costumes and convince David Tennant to prop the door open for them. Problem is, security is after them, and time is running out. I won’t spoil how they supposedly appear in the special, but it’s pretty great.

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As you can tell, The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot has tons of cameos from Doctor Who alumni both classic and new. There are literally too many to mention, but eagle eyed viewers will notice every era of the show represented, from Carole Ann Ford (Susan) to Mathew Watterhouse (Adric). These cameos aren’t too “in your face”, and many were too esoteric for me to pick out immediately, only a trip to Wikipedia shed light on who some of the people were.

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As you can tell, this was made for the fans of the classic show primarily, and it’s a great spoof of how many fans perceive various Doctor Who actors to be in real life. Unlike some parody material, this was very well made, and most importantly pretty funny. I’d rank it right up with The Curse of Fatal Death, and may even have enjoyed it more. If you’re a classic fan, do yourself a favor and check this out. New fans may scratch their heads with some of the jokes, but there is even stuff in there for them!

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EDIT: I’ve been getting a decent amount of traffic from folks that want to watch this, so here is a link to an official source:

Watch The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot Here

(let me know if the link crashes)

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Doctor Who: The Crooked World

A book by Steve Lyons

From the Back Cover:

The people of the Crooked World lead an idyllic existence.

Take Streaky Bacon, for example. This jovial farmer wants nothing more from life than a huge blunderbuss, with which he can blast away at his crop-stealing nemesis. And then there’s Angel Falls, a racing driver with a string of victories to her name. Sure, her trusted guardian might occasionally put on a mask and menace her for her prize money, but that’s just life, right? And for Jasper the cat, nothing could be more pleasant than a nice, long nap in his kitchen — so long as that darn mouse doesn’t jam his tail into the plug socket again.

But somebody is about to shatter all those lives. Somebody is about to change everything — and it’s possible that no one on the Crooked World will ever be happy again.

The Doctor’s TARDIS is about to arrive. And when it does… That’s all folks!”

When I first got back into Doctor Who, I realized that the place I worked had a very small section of the BBC Eighth Doctor Adventures (EDA) books tucked away deep inside the science fiction area. I honestly wasn’t too impressed with the covers to most of these as they all had some generic clip-art cover vaguely based on a theme in the book. I know they always say “don’t judge a book by its cover”, which is nice and all, but some of the EDAs just looked bland. One had a grungy looking camera in the dirt, one had a rose in another unrelated pile of dirt, and one had a generic nuclear symbol on the front. I’m not sure if the BBC just needed some cheap covers, or if there was some sort of rights issue involved with using an image of Paul McGann, but many of these did not catch my eye. One book, however, did catch my eye based solely on the ridiculous nature of its cover – a cartoon version of the Eighth Doctor placed next to a series of cartoon birds, pigs, and other weird creatures. I had to get it.

To be honest, this book feels very much like a cross-over fan fiction that somebody would toss together in their spare time. Any story that places itself in a world populated with rights free fake versions of famous cartoon characters has to be a joke right? I mean we obviously have analogues to Scooby Doo, Tom and Jerry, and Penelope Pitstop among others. This goes far above your normal “Brain of Morbius is basically Frankenstein” homage to an utter pastiche of the 1960’s cartoon era. They seemed to do this a lot in these books seeing as I remember one that was basically a James Bond story within the same line.

So, I guess you’re assuming that I hated this book – well actually I really liked it, and not just in a guilty pleasure sort of way. Steve Lyons starts out with your typical zany hijinks found in these cartoons, but the mere presence of the Doctor and his companions changes everything. Lyons slowly leaks in details that show the “crooked world” is falling apart. We first see this in the opening moments of the novel. A character named Streaky Bacon (imagine a cross between Elmer Fudd and Porky Pig) is desperately trying to keep a bird called the “Whatchamacalit” from destroying his garden again…like he does every day. The Doctor steps out of the Tardis only to get a chest full of hot buckshot. He crumples over bleeding to death as the cartoon characters do nothing. You see, in their world all one has to do is wait for the ambulance to show up and the victims are immediately, and somewhat magically, cured. This doesn’t happen at all, and it really haunts the pig. He usually gets away with inconsequential violence because nobody actually gets hurt. In a VERY dark turn he tries to punish himself in some way, due to a lack of understanding by the local sheriff, and attempts to commit suicide – only to have the gun do a cartoony backfire and not hurt him.

When I read that passage, my mind basically crapped it’s pants – here I was thinking that this was going to be a funny ”let’s mock old cartoons” affair, and what I got was a disturbing ode to the darker side of the values taught in said cartoons. Pretty soon all characters are guilt ridden wrecks based on their realization that their whole existence is so messed up. Riots are breaking out everywhere, and nobody is safe.

My only problem with the book is what happens at the end. I won’t spoil the ending at all, but I will say that it’s both VERY powerful, and a bit of a cop-out as it comes a bit out of left field. This isn’t helped out at all, by a Doctor that essentially takes a card from Captain Kirk and says “screw the prime directive!” but I guess that’s par for the course for a character such as The Doctor.

I need to finish reading all those bland covered books I bought “back in the day”; but for now I’ll hold onto the fact that The Crooked World is my favorite EDA (so far) despite the fact that I basically bought it because it made me laugh conceptually. What I ended up with was a very dark, and thought-provoking read. I really need to stop this whole book cover judging business!