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From Across the Pond: "Hyperdrive" Hilariously Blasts into Outer Space

There are some people who can't get enough of Star Trek in all its many incarnations. I am not one of those people. Sure, I am madly obsessed with Battlestar Galactica (which, BTW, returns to Sci Fi with brand new episodes on Sunday), but the notion of the space opera leaves a lot to be desired for me.

Which means that I came to the BBC comedy Hyperdrive, with no preconceived notions, other than having watched far too many episodes of Red Dwarf in my day. Before going any further, I must say that despite the deep space setting of Hyperdrive (which begins tonight on BBC America), you must put the setting out of your mind completely. Because Hyperdrive is as much like Star Trek or even Red Dwarf as it is The Office.

What's that, you say? How could a space-set comedy series possibly be like The Office? I'm glad you asked.

Hyperdrive is at its heart a hilarious workplace comedy that just so happens to be set in the wildly bureaucratic future of 2151 aboard the HMS Camden Lock, part of a British fleet of space-faring vehicles, all with the express mission of exporting all elements of British society to the far reaches of the galaxy.

But ultimately this set up is just a contrivance for one of the most astute and painfully funny explorations of corporate life... if your office happened to be a space ship and your job consisted of trying to negotiate office space with alien beings while your crew fends off a sadistic killer that grows exponentially in size.

Leading this (not-so) able-bodied crew is none other than Commander Henderson (Nick Frost of Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and Spaced) who leads his crew into drudgery and occasional battle with indigenous alien populations. But usually he's just cleaning up the messes created by his crew, which includes diplomatic officer Chloe Teal (Nighty Night's Miranda Hart), draconian and sociopathic first officer York (Nighty Night's Kevin Eldon), moronic technical officer Jeffers (Dan Antopolski), surly navigator Vine (Stephen Evans), and enhanced human Sandstrom (Petra Massey) who pilots the ship with a series of blips, beeps, and unintelligible murmurings, rather like a Cylon base ship hybrid.

BBC America kindly supplied me with the first two episodes which I raced home to watch the other day (I'm a huge Nick Frost fan) and was instantly captivated. In the first installment ("A Gift from the Glish"), Henderson and Co. attempt to sell business space in Peterborough to an alien race, who not surprisingly aren't all that thrilled with the "buzzing cafe culture and farmers market" and would rather instead humiliate Henderson and Teal by licking their faces and attempting to put their genitals on the crew's heads. In the second episode ("Hello, Queppu"), the HMS Camden Lock makes contact with an isolationist alien race but Teal destroys the flirtation brewing between Henderson and the alien princess when she imbibes too much of the local drink and lands them all in the clink.

It might sound a little too OTT, but it's not. Frost is outstanding as Commander Henderson and he has an able sidekick in Teal; the two might just be the best TV buddy pairing since David Brent first met Gareth Keenan. She manages to both sneer and cheer at the same time and (quelle surprise) I simply cannot get enough of her.

Ultimately, Hyperdrive proves that British comedy continues to mine fresh takes from familiar genres. It might not be as socially relevant as, say The Office managed to be, but it's a hilarious respite from the mindlessness and tedium of the workday. Even if your day didn't involve flesh-eating aliens.

"Hyperdrive" airs Friday evenings at 9 pm ET and 10 pm PT on BBC America.

What's On Tonight

8 pm: Ghost Whisperer (CBS); 1 vs. 100 (NBC); WWE Friday Night SmackDown (CW; 8-10 pm); Grey's Anatomy (ABC); Nanny 911 (FOX); Wicked Wicked Games (MyNet)

9 pm: Close to Home (CBS); Las Vegas (NBC); Brothers & Sisters (ABC); Trading Spouses: Meet Your New Mommy (FOX); Watch Over Me (MyNet)

10 pm: NUMB3RS (CBS); Law & Order (NBC); 20/20 (ABC)

What I'll Be Watching

8 pm: Hardware on BBC America (11 pm ET).

It's the second season of Britcom Hardware, starring Martin Freeman of the original UK version of The Office, taking place at a small (you guessed it!) hardware store. On tonight's episode ("Big Foot"), the guys try to convince boss Rex that he's shrinking while Mike fills in at the cafe, but learns that working with his girlfriend isn't all it's cracked up to be.

8:30 pm: Spaced on BBC America (11:30 pm ET).

It's the second season of one of the wackiest Britcoms ever devised. On tonight's episode ("Change"), Marsha and Amber's latest row leads to Amber moving out and Mike taking the now-empty room, while Tim and Daisy head to the unemployment office.

10 pm: Hyperdrive on BBC America (9 pm ET)

On the premiere episode of this hilarious space station-set workplace comedy, visitors leave behind a vicious parasite that, well, begins to eat the crew while Commander Henderson and Teal try to close a deal with an isolationist alien.

10:40 pm: Feel the Force on BBC America (9:40 pm ET)

It's the US premiere of UK cop spoof Feel the Force. On tonight's episode, Bobbins tries to solve a murder while Frank tries to use the case to land a date. Hmmm, think these two plotlines could somehow come together?


Anonymous said…
This show is hilarious! Kind of like a British "Galaxy Quest." I love the cast.
Anonymous said…
Thanks for the heads up on this show. I had not heard about it before this review but I tuned in and loved it. It was really funny and Nick Frost was great!
Anonymous said…
Absolutely brialliant comedy!
Have to watch the episodes at least 3 times to get all the jokes!

Would love to make a video game
for it!

Jeff Miller, FCDG

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