SF Obscure: Hyperdrive & Special Unit 2

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Hyperdrive was a comedy SF series that ran for two seasons on BBC. (2006-2007)  It’s set in the 22nd century and  follows the adventures of a crew on a ship the HMS Camden Lock who are there on behalf of the British government to represent its interests. It stars Nick Frost, known from Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz,  and his many collaborators with his friend Simon Pegg. It also stars Miranda Hart, whom I always enjoy. She’s done a lot of comedy, but is now probably more familiar to overseas audiences as Chummy in Call the Midwife.

As it’s a comedy show, about a crew of misfits. Captain Henderson is an idealist whose ability to lead is not always up to his ideals. Still, he manages to win most cases.  When he’s down he watches a show called Captain Helix which has all the ideals of intergalactic exploration he wishes were true. His First Officer is York (Kevin Eldon) who is always eager for a fight and wants to be an authoritarian leader; Diplomatic Officer Teal (Miranda York) whose not all that great at her job but very eager and has a crush on the captain. Navigator Vine (Stephen Evans) who dreams of the simpler times of the 1990’s. Technical Officer Jeffers (Dan Antopolski) who has little respect for the other officers and makes notes of their mistake. There is also Sandstorm (Petra Massey ) an enhanced human cyborg.

Most of the episodes surround diplomatic mistakes, first contact gone wrong, that kind of thing. It’s supposed to be a comedy show and I enjoyed it, even if the jokes were a bit predictable. It’s good for people who watch a lot of SF and know how to laugh at their enjoyment of it and its clear the writers do have a deep affection for the genre.
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Special Unit 2 was a two season show (2001-2002) on UPN. It follows a Chicago police division charged without the task of solving crimes involving creatures from mythology and folklore, called Links. Special Unit 2 is a more of a light hearted drama than strictly comedy, but its not meant to be a mysterious or dark show. It’s fun and that’s needed.

It follows detectives O’Malley (Michael Landes) and Benson (Alexondra Lee) as they solve crimes. There is also the police captain Page (Richard Gant) and the Link liaison, a gnome named  Carl (Danny Woodburn). (Jonathan Togo of CSI fame is in Season 2; as well as Pauley Perrette of NCIS) The headquarters of Special Unit 2 is located in a building with a laundromat as a facade.

It’s a fun show. I didn’t enjoy it as much as Hyperdrive. For some reason, even though its only 2001, it’s comes across as very dated. I guess the jokes were simply to contemporary and fall flat a bit. Still, it’s fun. I might give it another try.

SF Music: Interstella 5555 & Tron:Legacy

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I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about soundtracks, especially how they set the tone for movies esp. in SF. I recently purchased  The Force Awakens soundtrack and I am continually amazed by John Williams. (Personally I am fond of Rey’s Theme and Jedi Steps)

I love orchestral arrangements but there are other styles of music. I’ve always been fond of Daft Punk’s two contributions to SF soundtrack land. One is  the soundtrack to Tron: Legacy. I am going to admit, I am lukewarm on the film itself. (Ok, I feel asleep) but the soundtrack is amazing.

The other is Interstella 5555 which is actually a movie length anime for a Daft Punk album. It’s supervised by anime legend Leiji Matsumoto at his studio. The duo Daft Punk grew up with his anime and are fans, so it’s a tribute of sort. It also features collaboration with Romanthony a dj/producer/singer who passed away in 2013. The plot of Interstella 5555 concerns a group of musicians who are kidnapped and brainwashed into performing crappy, pop music until they are freed. It’s all done as a series of songs and no dialogue, but the animation is amazing and I enjoy watching.

I’m not a big anime fan nor an expert on Interstella 5555. Any anime I watch tends to be from  20 years ago or earlier for its classic value. There are people out there really devoted to  Interstella 5555.  Like, really, really devoted to the point of long tumblr posts that I can’t even follow. And don’t really want to. I can only take tumblr in small doses.

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If you aren’t familiar with Leiji Matsumoto you should watch some to round out your creative SF viewing palette.My personal favorite has always been Galaxy Express 999 set in a far future in which human souls are transferred to mechanical, immortal bodies of various types -if you can afford it. The rest of the world lives in misery in normal human bodies and it begins with a young man who sees his mother murdered as the desperately try to reach a space train (Galaxy Express 999 ) that can take them to get a free immortal machine body. It’s a multilayered tale and yes, kind of sad in many ways. I have seen episodes in the Japanese language version and the English subtitled version. (I think there is an English dubbed version of the movie, but I’m told it’s not very good. )

Anyone else have a soundtrack they love?

SF Obscure: The Invaders

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The Invaders ran from 1967 to 1968 for two seasons. It focused on the exploits of David Vincent, an architect who discovers a plan by aliens to invade Earth. His fears are confirmed when a colleague/friend is killed and he begins a desperate attempt to convince politicians, scientist, military etc of the truth. The truth is out there. Oh wait, wrong show. 30 years too early.

The planet of origin and the aliens true nature is never fully revealed-the fear lies in the fact that they can pass as human.Vincent  never knows who to fully trust and the aliens  are everywhere; using alien tech and infiltrating towns and military installations. Vincent does score some victories managing to convince the occasional scientist or military leader. But for most episodes he is on his own- tracking down news reports of sightings or odd, paranormal stories (like swarms of locusts suddenly attacking and killing). It’s not a story arc, but a journal  of adventures.

The Invaders was thematically inspired by  Invasion of the Body Snatchers and related genre films(including the Quatermass serials).  If you haven’t seen Invasion of the Body Snatchers you should. There are several versions. There’s the original 1956 version and the 1978 version; both are good. There a 1993 version which is apparently more of a horror film that I haven’t seen. The most recent is a 2007 Nicole Kidman/Daniel Craig version. I  prefer the 1956/1978 versions. The 2007 version amps up the action, special effects, and psuedo-science, but it’s just not as creepy. The power of Invasion of the Body Snatchers is not in the aliens or action; it was the mood of paranoia pushed forward by drama and dialogue. Slick special effects don’t amount to much if the themes are lost. There was also a short run series Invasion (2005-2006) which has a similar Invasion of the Body Snatchers plot. I remember watching it, though I have not seen it since. It is available on DVD.

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Anyway, back to The Invaders…

Many have analyzed this show and similar SF under the prism of Cold War fears of the 1960’s-communist infiltrators lurking everywhere. People fear the unknown; the complexity of the world is often overwhelming. SF stories like these provide an temporary few hours in which we have an ‘ explanation’ for the problems of the world.  Plus a lone wolf character like David Vincent against evil forces appeals to our sense of heroic. Like David Vincent, we are special; we have secrets the rest of the world doesn’t know; we are key players in a larger drama.

So, it’s worth a watch. A few episodes drag a bit-I often wondered if it would have done better as a half hour show, because the full hour is often stretched with lots of walking around and looking pensive with little forward plot movement. It’s still  a good show to watch and round out your classic SF TV viewing.

 

SF Obscure: The wishlist Roundup

A repost from Smart Girls of my must see shortlist.

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Since it’s summer once again, it’s time  to I hunt down the really obscure classics or try to sample B/C list  shows and see how many episodes I can survive. This time around I decided to make a list of those shows which I have not seen, but added to my wishlist. Most are only on limited DVD runs.  Based on cloudy memories jarred by  the vast world of YouTube, I  tracked down a stray episodes, or a set of clips, or an old commercial to remind me of their existence. Here are a select few.

afficheMercy Point
This 1998-1999 show stars Joe Morton as Dr. Maxwell one of a crew of medical personnel on a hospital space station in the 23rd century. The stations treats the medical needs of humans and aliens. And there is also an android nurse. The show only lasted eight episodes, but apparently there was…

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SF Obscure: Space 1999

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250px-Space1999_Year1_TitleSpace 1999 is one of those shows its taken me a while to write about because it’s taken me a a while to go through all the episodes. Don’t get me wrong- I don’t dislike it; as a matter of fact there are many things about it to like. Martin Landau. Maya is Season 2. The music. Lots of guest stars that have been on other series.

I have a great deal of respect for Gerry Anderson’s ground breaking SF work. “Supermarionation” the marionette style that is used in Anderson show is legend. I know people who swear by The Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlett.  I also covered Space Precinct which is, admittedly, campy but had some moments and an interesting concept even if the execution didn’t turn out so well.

But back to Space 1999.

Space 1999 is a British SF show from 1975 set in the high tech…

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SF Obscure: Galactica 1980

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Hi out there Smart Girls Readers!  I was thinking about Battlestar Galactica and the fact that fans are often split between lovers of the original and lovers of the newer version.  For those not familiar with the Battlestar Galactica universe, it concerns the remains of a human population in a fleet under the flagship Galactica fighting for survival against the Cylons. Adama, Boomer, Baltar, Starbuck, Apollo…the names are familiar even as the ethnic backgrounds and genders change. And which model Cylons you like is a matter of preference.

There is one other version that gets overlooked and willfully forgotten- Battlestar Galactica 1980. It ran for  ten episodes.  In this version, the Galactica Fleet has arrived at Earth but  Earth is not technologically advanced enough to take on the Cylons.  Galactica heroes Captain Troy and Lt. Dillon are sent to Earth to assess the situation.  This involves time travel to Nazi…

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SF Obscure: Eerie, Indiana & Pushing Daisies

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This week I discuss shows that stand out for quirkiness. Not always paranormal; sometimes SF. A bit of comedy, a bit of drama, even a dash of terror. There is no clear category for quirky shows (and maybe that’s why they don’t last long) but the short time they run they manage to make an impression.
250px-Eerie_Indiana_DVDEerie, Indiana

This was a short lived 19 episode series that originally ran on NBC 1991-1992 and later in syndication on Fox and the Disney channel. ( as far as I’ve been able to find out)

Eerie, Indiana is primarily the story of Marshall Teller who moves from New Jersey to Eerie, Indiana when his father gets a job with Things, Incorporated, a product testing company. He teams up with a kid named Simon and they both agree that Eerie, Indiana is an extremely odd town despite its normal appearance. Among many adventures, there…

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SF Obscure: Charlie Jade & Re:Genesis

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screenshot-charlie-jade-s01e01-the-big-bang-avi-1Charlie Jade

Charlie Jade ran in 2004/2005 for twenty episodes. (It was broadcast in Canada, Europe, and Asia in 2005, but not broadcast in the US until 2008.)  It is set mainly in Cape Town, South Africa and was a joint Canadian and South African production. Charlie Jade, the title character, is a detective from a dystopian parallel universe (Alphaverse) who come to our universe (Betaverse). In his universe, the world is dominated by a gigantic multinational firm called Vexcor which can use technology to travel to parallel universes and is draining natural resources from those universes to sustain its own. An explosion breaks the link used to travel between universes and Charlie Jade is one among others stuck in the universes.

There is also a Gammaverse, which is rich in natural resources, and have an organized group determined to stop Vexor from exploiting their world. A man known as…

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SF Obscure: THE EVENT

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the_event_tv_show_slice_01THE EVENT was a short run one season show of 22 episodes from 2010-2011. It was a combination of political thriller, action, SF-similar to the vein of the V series. It focusedson a group of aliens whose ship crashed in Alaska at the end of World War II. They look mostly human, though they age much slower, which is why in present day every looks pretty much in their 20’s and 30’s. Most are held hostage; though a few escape and blend into the local population. President Martinez (Blair Underwood) plans to disclose the existence of the aliens to the world and let them live among us but their is a assignation attempt, political machinations, a split among the aliens etc. etc. Main characters include Simon Lee (Ian Anthony Dale) a CIA operative and secret alien; Sophia Maguire (Laura Innes) the leader of the aliens in Alaska; and a romantic…

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SF Obscure: The Dresden Files

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250px-The_Dresden_Files_2007_IntertitleThe Dresden Files was a short run TV series based on the Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher. It ran for one season of twelve episodes in 2007. It follows the adventures of Harry Dresden, a Chicago wizard. Harry’s father was a stage musician and his mother a powerful witch. He was raised by his uncle, Justin Morningway, who used black magic and turn Harry had to use it against him. Harry uses his skills to help the police investigate unusual crimes. He is generally assisted by a police officer name Lt. Murphy who he might have thing for and ‘Bob’ and old spirit encased in a skull-later given a body-who consults magical lore.

Most of the shows involve the use of dark magic, people in trouble, and Harry’s attempts to help them. There are other supernatural characters introduced-vampires and other wizards of a high Council. They are generally episodic…

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