Ok… This new science fiction comedy from the BBC looks great on paper: Written by Kevin Cecil and Andy Riley (both have done Black Books and Big Train, and Andy has done the wonderfully twisted “Book of Bunny Suicides” books.) It stars Nick Frost (Spaced and Shaun of the Dead) and Kevin Eldon (Big Train), and was produced by Jon Plowman (producer of far too many good programs to list – chances are you’ve seen at least one or two.) My point is that there’s all this great talent here, so how could you have such a dismal, boring, stinking turd like Hyperdrive putter onto the airwaves.
Let’s start at a very promising beginning… It’s the year 2151, and we’re onboard the HMS Camden Lock – whose mission is “to protect Britain’s interests in a changing galaxy.” This information is neatly presented in text over a nice scene of some countryside, which is playing on a screen in somebody’s quarters. The scene quickly moves around the ship and out into space, all to the strains of the “Colonel Bogey March” (the series’ theme.) Once the titles subside, we’re treated to our first joke. It’s pretty funny, so I won’t repeat it here – just in case you want to have at least one good laugh when you watch this.
OK. You look at it this far (and we’re only in the first minute here) and you say: “This is not bad. The BBC sure spent some money on this one.” And at this point I’d agree with you. The BBC did spend some money on it. This is the same company who are world famous for (well into the 90s) cardboard sets and bubble-wrap monsters – and great stories to cover up that cheap look. Now we have great special effects, nifty sets, and aliens that don’t look like they’re just wearing a mask – and a story that just lets down.
What is the story, you might ask. Well, again, an interesting premise… It appears that part of “Britain’s interests in a changing galaxy” is bringing to England (Peterborough, to be precise) alien business looking to locate themselves on Earth. This particular mission involved getting the Glish (a species that looks like a malformed, anorexic shar-pei) who’s most important sense is taste – therefore they like to taste others when they greet them – to agree to locate some of their business in England. The Glish go a little too far on their need to taste (alleging that they also taste with their – ahem – genitals) and the captain (Frost) doesn’t take to that. The Glish, upon leaving the Camden Lock leave behind a little pet. A carnivorous pet… This is just the first quarter of the program, and (again) looks good on paper.
Where we really go flat is with the direction – specifically the direction of the actors. John Henderson seems to be letting the actors coast through their parts. There is no passion behind their characters. Even the psychotic York (Eldon) just seems to be uninspired. Everybody seems to be wandering through their roles in a somnambulist state (which would be fine if this were a crew of zombies…) Maybe the senior crew of this ship shouldn’t be inspired – but it’s all just a little too low-key for an engaging television series.
Now I’m willing to give the series a second chance. Maybe everyone was finding their way. On paper (again with this paper thing…) we have some potentially interesting characters. Judging by the BBC’s website, the crew are the rejects of the Space Force. I’m hoping that they explore this a little bit better – and quickly.