You may have noticed that it’s been a bit quiet recently. I can’t speak for the rest of our merry band of skilled wordsmiths but for me the reason is that I am bored to fucking tears by metal at the moment. I get this every year, a little period when I cannot listen to another pitched harmonic or crunchy riff, and long for some gentle melody. Being as this is ostensibly a metal review site however, this leaves me pretty bereft. I have two albums to review for you lovely people and good as they are (well one’s a bit shit actually) I can’t actually bring myself to muster the ability to sit and listen to them repeatedly to gather coherent thoughts about them. I know, it’s a fucking hard life I lead.
So instead, seeing as I know full well that you’re all spotty little urchins and urchinettes who don’t bathe enough and sit shut in either a disgusting and somewhat cheese-scented bedroom in your parent’s house, or a bong-scented bedroom in a dilapidated shared household, I figure sci-fi is a pretty safe bet. Those of you young enough to be in the first category won’t know this from the recent schedules but Britain used to be really good at sci-fi. No, really. And I’m not just talking about Dr. Who. No, if you look back at shows like Hitchhikers, Day of the Triffids, The Quartermass Experiment, A for Andromeda, Red Dwarf, Blakes7 and more. Nowadays we get stuck with the likes of Primeval. Which was just horrible. I watched the first two episodes of it and felt like my eyes were going to be sick onto my face. Most of the Sci-Fi we make these days has one eye decidedly on the ‘family’ market (like that awful one that ITV made last year with the guy from Life on Mars as a vampire hunter, that was fucking horrible too) in the hope that it will deliver the kinds of viewing figures that the good Doctor gets. And the attempts at making more grown up fare has tended towards the dumb like Survivors, which actually managed to make the apocalypse seem like a tedious episode of Holby City, with the exception of Life on Mars, which used the sci-fi set up purely as a vehicle for delivering a period drama and so doesn’t really count in my book.
What I’m getting at is that while the Americans have been making the likes of Battlestar and Lost, we’ve had perpetual jailbait Hannah from S Club 7 running around battling bad CGI dinosaurs.
Which brings us to The Deep, episode 1 of which aired last night. Suffice to say, this is not going to be the herald of a new dawn in British Sci Fi. It is not ground-breaking, smart or (pardon the pun) particularly deep. Basically it’s a mish-mash of a number of different sci-fi classics, mostly The Abyss, Sphere, The Core, The Thing, Star Trek TNG and of course the pinnacle of all sci-fi relating to water, Seaquest DSV. The basic premise is people in trapped boat face unknown fear, etc etc.
The characters are mostly far too pretty and young to pass themselves off as the kind of career scientists to go on this kind of mission, with the exception of gnarled everyman James Nesbitt, who now appears to have forsaken traditional acting in favour of facial tectonics, employing every wizened flap of face skin to convey whatever emotion he’s going through. In this his wife’s dead, and despite having a child to look after he’s going back to the exact same place that killed her. You also have some genuine acting talent in Goran ‘cut and paste surname’ Visnjic, who is so much better than the rest of the cast that at one point he seems to engage in a staring contest with all of them out of sheer desperation. Other than that you have a bunch of pretty people who don’t seem to be able to act at all, but are all very pretty, in a child-like way. One of the girls has eyes big enough for her to be a Disney princess. At least Seaquest DSV had a magic problem solving talking dolphin called Darwin. And the fella from Jaws. Speaking of Dolphins, the beatific cast is headed by Minnie Driver, who looks positively dolphin-esque, and who seems to shout a lot.
Now from my above assessment you might divine that I didn’t really enjoy The Deep, but actually I thought it was rather brilliant. Yes it’s hokey and not particularly well made, but you could say the same of The Thing, and that’s fucking brilliant. I’m not saying this is in the same league, but it was very engaging, moved along at a decent pace and the idiot characters didn’t have long enough to irritate before they were having to deal with terror and craziness. And without giving too much away the programme makers have wisely dispatched the worst of the bunch at the end of this first episode. But overall this falls very easily into being very watchable genre telly, the makers sensibly keeping everything as cheap as possible, resorting to a lot of shaking sets and startled running around rather than (so-far) any rubber monsters or overblown CG, lending it a suitably claustrophobic feel. It’s never going to be a classic in the way that, for instance, Quartermass was (although the creepy tone is there throughout) but for the next five weeks, it should keep you suitably entertained. And if it doesn’t go and get some Seaquest DSV, it was fucking brilliant*
*warning, not actually brilliant in any way shape or form, except for having a magical talking dolphin.