Skip to main content

I don't think there's any such thing as an unpredictable action.

Star Cops
8. Other People’s Secrets

The Star Cops“comedy” episode, although you’d think that being the case they’d have bothered to give Catweazle (Geoffrey Bayldon) an amusing role. I spent the first 20 minutes expecting the worst, with its broad (annoying) shrink out to piss everyone off and some atrocious comedy music from Justin Hayward and Tony Visconti, but it did grow on me, mainly because its custom-fitted to the portly Devis and he’s used rather well.


Mind you, this is the one where he suggests playing “a game of hide the sausage” to Anna, which, even for a show playing up the coarse language, felt a little too uncouth. The writer is John Collee again, and the director the on-the-pedestrian side Christopher Baker. So Moonbase, and its ventilation ducts (not a Vervoid in sight) are never more than obvious sets. That said, the sequences depicting the depressurisation of the base are fairly decent.


The take on psychology and related hang-ups really ensure this one shows its age, even more than casual racial stereotyping in other episodes, though. Dr Angela Parr (Maggie Ollerenshaw) arrives on the Moonbase to psych examine personnel, and Nathan agrees to set an example by volunteering the Star Cops. Inevitably, they’re nonplussed, Kenzy in particular. Parr is conducting a project in Space Psychology, no doubt endorsed by the Terry Nation College of Space Studies, and proceeds to behave more like a nightmare shrink from sitcoms of the period than an example of “realistic” futurism.


Devis: You, er, spotted any loonies yet?

Parr is given to pronouncements such as “I’ll get your people straightened out for you” but, in the rudimentary comedic fashion of undermining the shrink’s penetrating insights, she has an Achilles Heel that is her ex-husband Devis. Despite it being very obvious, Trevor Cooper keeps things amusing, and he and Ollwerenshaw have good easy chemistry; “Ever since I’ve been out here, I’ve been really randy” he confesses to his former wife/brain care specialist. To which she responds, “You were pretty rampant on Earth too, I recall”. Inevitably, they’re trapped in a room together and her defences come down (“I’m not thatscared” she replies, when Colin asks if she wants a cuddle), and they interrupted by David en flagrante as the station returns to normal.


The regular cast are all given their moments, this being a character comedy piece. So Nathan and Pal also get shut in together, with the first clear indications that they may have feelings for each other beneath overt mutual disapproval. She is defensive of shrinks “Because they never know when to stop” and Spring offers up some backstory regarding his father, a computer salesman for Recondite whom he put away when he was a fresh detective on the job. Calder may be the glue holding Star Cops together, but Linda Newton is more than up to matching him in these confessional scenes.


Elsewhere Sayo Inaba continues to be furnished with better lines than she’s able to pull off. The thunderingly ignorant shrink witters on about the Japanese sense of duty, only to be disarmed when Anna mentions Devis’ presence. Collecting herself, she asks Anna where they were; “The disorientating effects of a sudden emotional shock”.


With this as the predominant plotline, the mystery is very much bringing up the rear, and its pretty minor league. It turns out that Ernest Wolfhartt (Bayldon) has been sabotaging systems on the base, a pensionable thrill jockey (“I liked the feeling of things getting out of control”) It’s weak stuff, and he’s shown sympathy by Krivenko, an increasingly irritating presence who I presume we’re supposed to like but continually undermines Nathan at every turn; it doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense that Spring indulges him so much.


The best guest performance here comes from Barry Rutter as Hooper, a temperamental engineer who comes under suspicion (particularly from David, assigned to work with him) but is instrumental in saving the day. A series as reined in by budget constraints as Star Copsreally benefits from the kind of naturalism Rutter brings (he was one of the regular cast in The Goodies’ short-lived Astronauts TV series).


This is one that, on balance, probably had the right director. I’m not sure Harper would have been much cop at the comedy/character moments, although you do miss him when the more dramatic scenes arrive. One thing I’ll grudgingly give the incidental music; while mostly it’s just plain poor or glaringly out of place, I rather like the ambient accompaniment to model sequences; for example. the extended shots of the buggy crossing the lunar surface.


While Other People’s Secrets is very much on the lower end of the Star Cops ladder, it’s not unengaging. But it feels like it’s too much too soon to go for a comedy piece, and it’s frivolity is surely antithetical to the serious intent Boucher had for the project.


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Poor Easy Breezy.

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (2019)
(SPOILERS) My initial reaction to Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood was mild disbelief that Tarantino managed to hoodwink studios into coming begging to make it, so wilfully perverse is it in disregarding any standard expectations of narrative or plotting. Then I remembered that studios, or studios that aren’t Disney, are desperate for product, and more especially, product that might guarantee them a hit. Quentin’s latest appears to be that, but whether it’s a sufficient one to justify the expense of his absurd vanity project remains to be seen.

I just hope my death makes more cents than my life.

Joker (2019)
(SPOILERS) So the murder sprees didn’t happen, and a thousand puff pieces desperate to fan the flames of such events and then told-ya-so have fallen flat on their faces. The biggest takeaway from Joker is not that the movie is an event, when once that seemed plausible but not a given, but that any mainstream press perspective on the picture appears unable to divorce its quality from its alleged or actual politics. Joker may be zeitgeisty, but isn’t another Taxi Driver in terms of cultural import, in the sense that Taxi Driver didn’t have a Taxi Driver in mind when Paul Schrader wrote it. It is, if you like, faux-incendiary, and can only ever play out on that level. It might be more accurately described as a grubbier, grimier (but still polished and glossy) The Talented Ripley, the tale of developing psychopathy, only tailored for a cinemagoing audience with few options left outside of comic book fare.

So you want me to be half-monk, half-hitman.

Casino Royale (2006)
(SPOILERS) Despite the doubts and trepidation from devotees (too blonde, uncouth etc.) that greeted Daniel Craig’s casting as Bond, and the highly cynical and low-inspiration route taken by Eon in looking to Jason Bourne's example to reboot a series that had reached a nadir with Die Another Day, Casino Royale ends up getting an enormous amount right. If anything, its failure is that it doesn’t push far enough, so successful is it in disarming itself of the overblown set pieces and perfunctory plotting that characterise the series (even at its best), elements that would resurge with unabated gusto in subsequent Craig excursions.

For the majority of its first two hours, Casino Royale is top-flight entertainment, with returning director Martin Campbell managing to exceed his excellent work reformatting Bond for the ‘90s. That the weakest sequence (still good, mind) prior to the finale is a traditional “big” (but not too big) action set piece involving an attempt to…

They literally call themselves “Decepticons”. That doesn’t set off any red flags?

Bumblebee  (2018)
(SPOILERS) Bumblebee is by some distance the best Transformers movie, simply by dint of having a smattering of heart (one might argue the first Shia LaBeouf one also does, and it’s certainly significantly better than the others, but it’s still a soulless Michael Bay “machine”). Laika VP and director Travis Knight brings personality to a series that has traditionally consisted of shamelessly selling product, by way of a nostalgia piece that nods to the likes of Herbie (the original), The Iron Giant and even Robocop.

This is one act in a vast cosmic drama. That’s all.

Audrey Rose (1977)
(SPOILERS) Robert Wise was no stranger to high-minded horror fare when he came to Audrey Rose. He was no stranger to adding a distinctly classy flavour to any genre he tackled, in fact, particularly in the tricky terrain of the musical (West Side Story, The Sound of Music) and science fiction (The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Andromeda Strain). He hadn’t had much luck since the latter, however, with neither Two People nor The Hindenburg garnering good notices or box office. In addition to which, Audrey Rose saw him returning to a genre that had been fundamentally impacted by The Exorcist four years before. One might have expected the realist principals he observed with The Andromeda Strain to be applied to this tale of reincarnation, and to an extent they are, certainly in terms of the performances of the adults, but Wise can never quite get past a hacky screenplay that wants to impart all the educational content of a serious study of continued existence in tandem w…

I'm reliable, I'm a very good listener, and I'm extremely funny.

Terminator: Dark Fate (2019)
(SPOILERS) When I wrote my 23 to see in 2019, I speculated that James Cameron might be purposefully giving his hand-me-downs to lesser talents because he hubristically didn’t want anyone making a movie that was within a spit of the proficiency we’ve come to expect from him. Certainly, Robert Rodriguez and Tim Miller are leagues beneath Kathryn Bigelow, Jimbo’s former spouse and director of his Strange Days screenplay. Miller’s no slouch when it comes to action – which is what these movies are all about, let’s face it – but neither is he a craftsman, so all those reviews attesting that Terminator: Dark Fate is the best in the franchise since Terminator 2: Judgment Day may be right, but there’s a considerable gulf between the first sequel (which I’m not that big a fan of) and this retcon sequel to that sequel.

It’s like an angry white man’s basement in here.

Bad Boys for Life (2020)
(SPOILERS) The reviews for Bad Boys for Life have, perhaps surprisingly, skewed positive, given that it seemed exactly the kind of beleaguered sequel to get slaughtered by critics. Particularly so since, while it’s a pleasure to see Will Smith and Martin Lawrence back together as Mike and Marcus, the attempts to validate this third outing as a more mature, reflective take on their buddy cops is somewhat overstated. Indeed, those moments of reflection or taking stock arguably tend to make the movie as a whole that much glibber, swiftly succeeded as they are by lashings of gleeful ultra-violence or humorous shtick. Under Michael Bay, who didn’t know the definition of a lull, these pictures scorned any opportunity to pause long enough to assess the damage, and were healthier, so to speak, for that. Without him, Bad Boys for Life’s beats often skew closer to standard 90s action fare.

Look, the last time I was told the Germans had gone, it didn't end well.

1917 (2019)
(SPOILERS) When I first heard the premise of Sam Mendes’ Oscar-bait World War I movie – co-produced by Amblin Partners, as Spielberg just loves his sentimental war carnage – my first response was that it sounded highly contrived, and that I’d like to know how, precisely, the story Mendes’ granddad told him would bear any relation to the events he’d be depicting. And just why he felt it would be appropriate to honour his relative’s memory via a one-shot gimmick. None of that has gone away on seeing the film. It’s a technical marvel, and Roger Deakins’ cinematography is, as you’d expect, superlative, but that mastery rather underlines that 1917 is all technique, that when it’s over and you get a chance to draw your breath, the experience feels a little hollow, a little cynical and highly calculated, and leaves you wondering what, if anything, Mendes was really trying to achieve, beyond an edge-of-the-seat (near enough) first-person actioner.

They seem to be attracted to your increasing nudeness.

Pokémon Detective Pikachu (2019)
(SPOILERS) I was put in mind of Shazam! watching Pokémon Detective Pikachu, another 2019 tentpole that somewhat underperformed based on expectations. Not particularly due to any plot resemblance, but because both movies fall apart under the weight of an overblown and underwhelming finale. In the case of Shazam! that may be more damaging to its prospective sequels (if they keep the team of super-adult kids), whereas Detective Pikachu will simply have to struggle with a whole heap of unnecessary expositional baggage attempting to imbue the proceedings with emotional resonance.

She writes Twilight fan fiction.

Vampire Academy (2014)
My willingness to give writer Daniel Waters some slack on the grounds of early glories sometimes pays off (Sex and Death 101) and sometimes, as with this messy and indistinct Young Adult adaptation, it doesn’t. If Vampire Academy plods along as a less than innovative smart-mouthed Buffy rip-off that might be because, if you added vampires to Heathers, you would probably get something not so far from the world of Joss Whedon. Unfortunately inspiration is a low ebb throughout, not helped any by tepid direction from Daniel’s sometimes-reliable brother Mark and a couple of hopelessly plankish leads who do their best to dampen down any wit that occasionally attempts to surface.

I can only presume there’s a never-ending pile of Young Adult fiction poised for big screen failure, all of it comprising multi-novel storylines just begging for a moment in the Sun. Every time an adaptation crashes and burns (and the odds are that they will) another one rises, hydra-like, hoping…