Space Precinct: Episode 1 Double Duty
"The name's Brogan, Lieutenant Brogan. For twenty years I was with the NYPD. Now? Well, let's just say I've transferred to another precinct".
I haven't seen this show since it first aired, and finally got round to buying the DVD box set. The first episode starts with Police Officers Brogan, and partner Officer Haldane in their hover police vehicle, when they're routed to a particularly bloody murder of a drug smuggler, but the drug, Black Crystal, which prolongs life, isn't taken, and robbery doesn't seem a motive either. There is one survivor, whom the police take into protective custody. Meanwhile, as a sub-plot, there's a bag lady under the delusion that she is a Queen of a far-off alien species.
The show's impressive production design seems quite derivative, the city at night with its flying cars and ground-level urban decay from Blade Runner, the monster from Alien. The alien cops are very good though, with excellent make-up design, partly animatronic. It's a shame the Space Precinct itself is so mundane.
As with all Gerry Anderson productions, the models are excellent, combined with the digital computer imagery, so it's sad to see the, obligatory for a cop show, (flying) car chase is so clumsy and bad. It really detracts from the show.
As for the actors, they verge from the accomplished (Jerome Willis as the Captain) to the mundane (Brogan's family), but as this is the first show it's understandable that there might be a slight lack of chemistry. Not helped by the two leads being American soap actors. As for the writing, it's a formulaic New York cop drug murder story with the enforcer replaced by a monster, a bit like Kojak in space. The dialogue is a bit bland, though it's also not always well delivered.
It's unsure who the intended audience is, there's a certain uncertainty of tone. The plot and setting is adult policier, the murders and monster is adult horror, but it also has familiar Anderson tropes such as a cute furry alien pet, and a Star Wars type droid called Slomo (honestly!) that's juvenile at best (childish at worst), like his early 60s children shows. On the plus side, Danish born but English trained Simone Bendix, in her first recurring role in a series, and whom I was unfamiliar with when the series first aired, is a most welcome new actress, attractive and sexy without being obvious. We also get the hilarious site of a (badly dubbed in Americanese) young Idris Elba in what must be his earliest screen role as a pizza delivery man.
It's good (no, great!) to see Gerry returning to live action 50 minute dramas. But like earlier shows Captain Scarlet and UFO, this inconsistent tone (kids Sci-Fi, adult cop show?) also confused those who showed it, especially as this was a very expensive show (approx $1.5million per episode). Financiers Sky One showed it in prime time, BBC2 showed it at tea time (6pm), whilst the American syndicated run was often late night around 11pm. None of them showed the episodes in the same order either. All in all, an unsatisfactory start, but will it get any better? Another 23 episodes to find out.