In the UK: Thursdays, 9.30pm, BBC2. Repeated Wednesdays, BBC2.
The makers of Hyperdrive do not like their show compared to Red Dwarf. Tough, because comparisons are informative in this case. Red Dwarf started out as a show that answered a specific question about sci-fi shows. While all these flashy officers mill around saving the universe, who’s cleaning out the chicken soup dispensers for them and making sure the lavatories work? Where’s the working class gone and what are they doing?
Hyperdrive has a pretty similar premise except shifted from blue collar workers to white collar workers. Imagine a starship run by the sort of people who staff the numerous, not very effective small businesses based in industrial estates off the M4. They need jobs too, don’t they?
That’s Hyperdrive‘s joke: a bunch of not very talented but quite nice people running a starship like an office, from the slightly dodgy overweight manager (Nick Frost) who never really applies himself but tries his best with an equally incompetent staff, through to the constantly irritated IT guy who’s a law to himself.
And if that were that, it would be a pretty dismal show. In fact, it’s only an 80% dismal show thanks to the presence of that shining jewel in the crown of British comedy, Kevin Eldon.
Eldon makes the show. Fast forward through the bits with all the others, because his are the only points worth watching.
Basically, he’s in a completely separate programme from the others. He’s in some old Buck Rogers serial, playing the evil henchman to some nefarious dictator; he’s the mad scientist from The Thing (From Another World), admiring the amoral alien as it tries to destroy everyone. He lights up the screen and conjures the belly laughs sorely missing from the rest of the show.
The problem with Hyperdrive, unlike Red Dwarf, is that the characters aren’t that interesting and the dialogue’s not that good. Occasionally it’ll raise a knowing titter from anyone who’s worked in an office. But not that often. It’s only Eldon’s superbly over-the-top first officer that makes it bearable – although the IT guy has his moments.
Tape it, forward wind past Nick Frost and focus on Eldon and you’ll have an enjoyable 10 minutes to watch each week. Watch it live and you’ll have a tedious half hour that’s only occasionally livened by Kevin Eldon.
Here’s a YouTube clip with a bit of Eldon in action.