Tuesday, August 6, 2013


"Guide me amulet.  Help me to find truth and justice, which combine together to form the stronger force of TRUSTICE"

With Simon Pegg and Nick Frost's "The World's End" coming out in theaters this weekend, I wanted to take a step back and cover a little known 2006-2007 BBC sci-fi comedy series called "Hyperdrive" that Nick Frost starred in, that was created by Kevin Cecil, Andy Riley, and directed by John Henderson.  Cecil and Riley previously had worked on such series as:  "Black Books", "Little Britain," "Spitting Image," and "The Armstrong & Miller Show."  The show is British sci-fi through and through.

Originally titled, "Full Power," the show takes place in the year 2154 aboard the HMS Camden Lock, a British ship commanded by the ineffectual and immature Commander Henderson (Frost).  However, the original pilot featured a different actor cast as the captain, and featured "Sherlock's" Mark Gatiss in the role of the Mr. York.  (Bonus appearance by "Peep Show's" Robert Mitchell as one of the "The Gap" wearing aliens).  Here is a very rare excerpt from the pilot:


The show had a great number of guest starring roles, but had a very small cast overall.  The very tall actress, Miranda Hart played the role of the Diplomatic officer Chloe Teal, who took the "big girl" jokes such as "Big Truck," and "Womanzilla," in stride.  Teal's crush on commander Henderson is played well throughout the series. run.  

Steven Evans in the role of wiley navigator Vine was well paired with Dan Antopolski's tech officer Jeffers, and brought that old 70's/80's sci-fi feel of two average joe crew members going through the motions and daily routines on the ship.

Although Mark Gatiss would have been equally as good for the role of the borderline sociopath First Officer York, (he was cast in the role in the pilot), Kevin Eldon's York was in part based on the BBC's sci-fi series "Blake's 7" own sociopathic character, Avon (Paul Darrow) that had humorous devious contempt for the commander and the crew.

Hyperdrive was a comedic homage to sci-fi that gave a wink and a nod to many sci-fi staples throughout cinema and television history.  One could see the overall influence of John Carpenter's "Dark Star" as the driving force behind the humor of the series, which can be seen with the Captain Henderson's (Frost) exchanges with the myriad of talking computers on the ship.  This nod, of course, is a nod (in part) to Star Trek's Enterprise D computer, voiced by Majel Barrett, but really has it's roots in "Dark Star's" talking bomb.

Dark Star Talking Bomb

Hyperdrive Alarm Clock

Nods to "Star Trek: The Next Generation," "Babylon 5," "Galaxy Quest," "Lexx," and "Dr. Who" are spread out in the series 12 episode run.  The aliens in Hyperdrive were created to emulate the really weird and strange (and disgusting) aliens from ST:NG, especially the aliens from early in ST:NG run, as seen below.

Hyperdrive Aliens

The aliens almost always have strange, hilarious and weird customs, like the Glish who have to lick the hands of any new people they meet, which they warn "isn't sexual."

The overall look of the ship, the HMS CAMDEN LOCK, looks very similar to the "Babylon 5" ship, even though it supposedly drew it's design from the BT tower in England.

Hyperdrive even satirizes the overt sexual-ness of the 90's Canadian sci-fi series "Lexx," though the ship's "enhanced human" cyborg/pilot Sandstrom, played by Petra Massey.


The show had a lot of very funny bits spread through its short run, such as the "Kill the humans" song that the BBC still has on its Hyperdrive website as an MP3.


If you've never seen the series, the "Traitor" clip below gives a perfect summary of the characters and the overall tone and humor of the show.  In this clip the crew and captain are trying to find out the identity of a traitor on board the ship.  They use a computer program, a sort of poor man's holodeck, to try and glean some info on who might be the traitor.  If you find this clip funny, then you'll enjoy the rest of the series.

But the best thing about Hyperdrive would have to be Waen Sheppard's "Captain Helix" re-occurring "show within a show" throughout the series.  The Captain Helix episodes were a t.v. series from commander Henderson's childhood that he watched in his down time.  The Helix series were an homage to the cheap, no budget sci-fi series of the late 70's, such as Dr. Who. that starred Captain Helix and his sidekick Robot.  The Helix episodes were hilariously used in the conclusion of series two, and were a perfect way to end the series as a whole.


Waen Shepard  also had a musical alter ego named "Gary Le Strange" who did an amazing parody of Gary Numan with his "Is my toaster sentient?" video.

I think one of the reasons Hyperdrive wasn't more successful, despite being very funny, was that for viewers to fully appreciate the show, they really had to have actually lived through the eras of sci-fi that the series lampooned.  But regardless, the show and its humor still stood on it's own and survives as a little known gem.

You can view the entire series on Netflix here: HYPERDRIVE ON NETFLIX (new window)

No comments:

Post a Comment