The tricky business of genre splicing has seen countless million dollar productions get it shockingly wrong, one of the biggest box office flops of all time was Eddie Murphy’s ill-fated Adventures of Pluto Nash which still serves as a costly reminder of the dangers of a half baked script and an egocentric Hollywood A-lister with a $100 million to spend.
Despite the wealth of super sized Hollywood blockbusters the kitsch wobbly sets of old school Doctor Who, Buck Rogers, Star Trek and Flash ‘AAAA!! Gordon have a firm place in the hearts of science fiction geek-bots like me and millions the world over. This has in turn caused a sub-genre to emerge over the years that actively pokes fun at the low budget science fiction, to my memory the last time Hollywood achieved this in a meaningful way was Galaxy Quest in 1999.
Although they have less money than their 1960s TV counterparts some of the best sci-fi comedies haven’t been filling cinemas but have been freely (and legally) available online. Space Janitors and Untitled Web Series About A Space Traveler Who Can Also Travel Through Time are glorious finds but I’d like to shine a solar flare on two shows that have boldly gone where few have gone before by creating the ultimate love letters to classic science fiction.
First up is Hank Frisco Galaxy Defender written by Matt Kelley and yes it’s as ridiculously fun as is sounds. Each episode follows a strict formula only too familiar to fans of the genre they’re spoofing, the crew arrive or crash land on an alien planet and Captain Frisco (Scott Cupper) attempts to romance as many attractive aliens as possible. Episode 3 might just be the best of the bunch as they really hit their stride, our heroes land on the planet ‘Sitcom’ and are faced with an onslaught of second rate plots and predictable jokes. Perhaps a little too meta for its own good it’s littered with homages and shows promising signs of what’s to come in their further adventures.
The 3 existing episodes are a tad on the long side at around 15 minutes each and could have benefited from being worked instead into 5 minute instalments to make it a little easier going for the audience. They did release a few minisodes over the course of season 1 so it’s a bit of a shame they didn’t apply this to the series itself. Thankfully Frisco, Lt Bonzo and Archie the Robot are an endearing group of characters and their DIY space odyssey is well worth your time. Season two is in the works but until then you can enjoy their previous adventures, here’s a taste of what to expect with episode 1.
Voyage Trekkers charts the escapades of the charming but meat-headed Captain Sunstrike (Adam Rini) and his impossibly inept crew consisting of Doctor Rena, Commander Powell and Lt. Jayda. As members of the Galactic Union, their mission finds them engaging with new lifeforms but their less than fearless leader is more concerned with self preservation.
Like Hank Frisco this show also parodies the archetype of classic TV serials, although for my money Voyage Trekker is more success in its execution. The episodes are tighter with their 3-4 minute running time, the season finale takes it to warp factor 10 and offers 4 endings for the viewer to chose from which is a delightful throw back to the ‘chose your own adventure’ books those of us of a certain age will remember fondly.
Created by Nathan Blackwell and Craig Michael Curtis this project has very much been a labour of love, on their official website Blackwell writes; “The project was born out of the desire to make something that was good and silly fun. There was no ambitious master plan. It was just supposed to be a single weekend with however many episodes we could finish in that time and that would be it. But because we had such a good time, with people we loved to worked with, the project took off with a life of it’s own.”
David Stipes is the series visual effects producer and does wonders on a shoestring budget, if that name sounds familiar then give yourself a pat on the back he’s worked on science fiction classics like Buck Rodgers, Battlestar Galactica, V and Star Trek: The Next Generation, Voyager, Deep Space Nine and Enterprise.
Season 2 of Voyage Trekkers has been a year in the making to undergo a bit of a make over and starts on May 1st. Based on their first teaser trailer they’ve added some impressive model shots and upped their production values. I’d highly recommend you get up to date with their previous exploits as this is a must see comedy for science fiction fans.
There are few genres where tacky special effects, ham acting and cheesy dialogue are strengths rather than weakness but these are both fine examples of what a good parody should be. The only thing that genuinely disappoints about each show is that more people haven’t discovered them.