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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