Ul­timo, we have a se­ri­ous prob­lem

Hy­per­drive 9.30pm, ABC How could the ABC let Ten make off with Torch­wood while swal­low­ing this?

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Tv -

WHEN Sig­mund Freud vis­ited the US for the first and only time in 1909, he told philoso­pher William James the coun­try was ‘‘ a gi­gan­tic mis­take’’. Hy­per­drive could be more ac­cu­rately ti­tled Hyper­drivel, and look­ing at the Amer­i­can- style spe­cial ef­fects for this BBC pro­duc­tion, which must have cost a for­tune, it is also a mis­take of mam­moth pro­por­tions.

The fis­cal dy­nam­ics of television are be­yond the scope of mere re­view­ers. How­ever, I cer­tainly hope the ABC got a good deal on this be­cause it is junk of the first or­der. It should have been stran­gled at birth and would have been had it started life as a univer­sity re­view, which it prob­a­bly did. But per­haps that’s un­fair to univer­sity re­views.

How, you have to won­der, could the ABC let the Ten net­work make off with the en­gag­ing if not com­pletely bril­liant Doc­tor Who spin- off Torch­wood while swal­low­ing this guff whole? Per­haps it’s a legacy thing. The ABC is noth­ing if not con­scious of its past and Hy­per­drive bears a strik­ing re­sem­blance to the might­ily pop­u­lar Red Dwarf, but there is one sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence: it is not re­motely funny.

Imag­ine The Of­fice in space with­out Ricky Ger­vais, with­out jokes and with the dry, hollow ring of a reper­tory fail­ure. Imag­ine spe­cial ef­fects on the scale of, say, the Alien movie fran­chise with­out a plot, char­ac­ters or a de­cent script. Fi­nally, imag­ine gnaw­ingly aw­ful Bri­tish com­edy with­out a sin­gle re­deem­ing char­ac­ter and you have Hy­per­drive.

There’s pur­chase in par­o­dy­ing science fiction. Red Dwarf man­aged it in a bil­ious sort of way and the won­der­ful Galaxy Quest scored a di­rect hit on the self- ref­er­enc­ing ex­cesses of Star Trek.

But Hy­per­drive does not suc­ceed as par­ody or on its own mer­its.

The rous­ing theme tune will sound familiar. Is it some space age in­ter­ga­lac­tic theme, like those by Jerry Gold­smith ( Star Trek) or John Wil­liams ( Star Wars, Harry Pot­ter)?

No, it’s a whis­tled ver­sion of The Colonel Bo­gey March, writ­ten in 1914 by Lieu­tenant F. J. Rick­etts. Bril­liant, and so orig­i­nal. Af­ter all, it was used in Mel Brooks’s 1987 Star Wars spoof Space­balls, and was the theme for The Bridge on the River Kwai and that post- World War II school­yard song, Hitler Had Only One Big Ball.

Try­ing to be more pos­i­tive, Hy­per­drive looks ter­rific and Englishac­cented aliens the Glish do their best to be mu­cousy mu­tants from an­other planet. But their amus­ing hand- lick­ing for­mal­i­ties (‘‘ Be­fore we pro­ceed, may we lick your hands?’’) wear thin when, by the sixth minute in, they have be­come: ‘‘ Also, we must rub our gen­i­tals against your head, com­man­der.’’ Laugh? I didn’t. Not once.

Ian Cuth­bert­son

Hyper­drivel: Hy­per­drive isn’t re­motely funny

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