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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.