Space Hacks (Radio Play)
- CAST and CREW
- Writer: Stuart Sumner, Ian Simons
- Director: unknown
- Other Crew: Victoria Lloyd (producer), Ben Walker (composer), George Corporal (additional music in episode 8)
- Starring: Dan Mersh (as Charlie Palmer), Tim Key (as Moog Johnson), Prunella Scales (as Mother), and Dan Tetsell (as Korg)
- Genre & Keywords: Science-Fiction Comedy. Surrealism. Odd Couple.
- Format: MP3 files converted from a stream grab from BB7's website
- Length (episode): About half an hour
- Status & Run: Still active, possibly. 2 seasons of 4 episodes each (numbered continuously, epsiode "201" is referred to as "episode 5")
- Availability: No commercial purchase as of yet. Only through BBC7 repeats and archive sites.
My Set Up: Partially through VLC, partially through stream (Realplayer), partially burned to CD and taken on a walk to work.
Most information on this series is either wrong or lacking in completion (So far, only one list has gotten most of the episode titles right). Based on combining and comparing various information, as well as listening to the episodes and doing some of my own research, I have tried to come up with something that is more complete and concrete.
Production and such Notes
Rather than a repeat off of BBC Radio 4 or such, Space Hacks was an original BBC7 series. Series 1 ran in February and March of 2007, and Series 2 ran in February and March of 2008. Seeing as it is May 2009, I am unsure if this means the show is cancelled or just has not came back with a Series 3 yet. The two or three reviews to it that I have read have been overall positive, as well as the handful of fan reactions I have briefly seen.
The Show's Basic Set-up
Charlie and Moog are aboard the Indolent (I think I heard that right), a spaceship belonging to the InterGalactic News Network (IGN). Rather than cruise around space looking for leads, Charlie, who fancies himself a poet and a man of socialist ideals, reasons that in an infinite universe, everything happens somewhere and so just makes up whatever story comes to his mind. He often dresses Moog up in various outfits to fill in photographic evidence. The ship's computer, Mother, spends her time baking for her boys, as well as gently scolding them. Their boss is Korg, a violent alien who would rather make threats of bodily harm rather than do actually managerial work.
Most of the episodes revolve around the two being given an assignment which they manage to screw up, despite violent threats from Korg, while also answering some other mild surreal dilemma (for instance, things are going missing in episode 2, and Charlie's poetry is chewed up in episode 8, as well as hazelnut shells being left around the place). Some of the humor is created from Charlie's lazy but intense delusions of grandeur contrasted with the much more earnest, though much more goofish, Moog; the latter who wants to be trained but whose training is summed up best as "Stand over there and don't touch anything". As is common to much speculative-humor, a fair amount of the jokes also stem from observations about everyday life, as well as poking fun of overused themes of science-fiction. There are ironic references to the standard concepts of space isolation, made ironic by the fact that the ship spends the vast majority of its time disguised as a hedge in Clapham Common. There is, finally, a running gag of Charlie, who is almost never gone from his small spaceship, continuously being surprised by finding out they have various features on-board ("Oh my God, there's a transporter room?!").
Note: I ellipsed the names of the first two episodes because as Tim Key, as Moog, is saying the title, he inserts a slight pause. Everything else I have seen displays them without the ellipse, but I think it is fun to put it in.
- Lost in Space...ship
(guest starring Jot (I think, could have been Jon) Davis as Fluffy) Starting with a false lift-off, in which it is explained that Mother's baking software has overwritten a good bit of her other programming, the show goes into one its big comedic theme (everything happens somewhere). Charlie and Moog are the only two humans employed by IGN and spend their days in an alien spaceship disguised as a hedge. Moog found the spaceship while looking for porn in the hedge, despite the ship increasing hedge defenses ("Foliage at maximum!"). Episode involves the boys rescuing a mangrel cat from a tree, despite its misshapen body and constant hairballs ("It's a feel-good story," explains Mother), and Korg assigns to hunt down a missing ambassador.
- Two Men and a Baby...Alien
(Guest starring Jot Davis (see above note) as Claude. The killer robot and Korg's nephew presumably were extra roles by the principles). Episode starts with Charlie and Moog washing up and discovering everything going missing (a fact that repeats throughout the episode, often with Moog responding "Yes, it's definitely a mystery and there is no way we'll ever work it out and so we shouldn't even try"). The boys are assigned to take care of Korg's nephew ("Besides [Korg], we answer to no one!") and to cover a story about the Earth being up for auction. "A full report or your spleens in a box by tomorrow." Despite babysitting hardly being a job for reporters, Korg explains they are hardly reporters. Episode helps to cement Charlie's sense of grandeur and Mother's more literal role. It also increases the "humorous anthropology meets surrealism" concept of the show, with a Frenchman in a black hole guarding the galaxy's lost-and-found department with a robot with whisks for hands and a giant bundle of socks (which Charlie strangely collects). The universal law of beaurocratic inaction, all that. Confused Yank Alert!: slightly before the 21 minute mark, they mention "There's Lord Lucan" which confused my American head, so I looked it up.
- The Last Postman
(again, guest starring the hopefully named correctly Jot Davis, this time as the Postmaster General) Moog is bored and resists Charlies attempts to entertain. After Charlie is throughly trounced in table football ("Doesn't he realize the decent British thing to do when you win is to climb into a cupboard until everyone has forgotten about it?"), they find out that Mother is acting weird and is getting names and ingredients mixed up. Korg gives them a choice of assignments: a seventh report on slug mating or a first-hand account of being turned inside out. Ants are discovered in the ship and this leads them to finding a secret of cabal of postmen who are holding the ant queen hostage, and how is it that Moog knows of Charlie's dreams (and what's this about photographs). Bodily harm is threatened by the sorting machine (it sorts your bits alphabetically). Cute little jab at The Beatles in this episode (when Moog's recorder fails to lead the ants away, they discuss needing to play more methodical music: "The Beatles!?" exlaims Moog).
- Mutiny on the Spaceship
(guest starring Margaret Caybourn-Smith as Yecch) Actually in space, this time. Moog spots a fish in space ("Anything is possible!") which turns out to be a homing beacon shortly before Mother spots a pirate ship. Evasive manuevers involve turning slightly to the left. They go to switch on the cloaking device but it does not work because Moog is playing Pac-man ("But, Level 7, Charlie!") and, besides, it was set on "Hedge". Korg takes advantage of their situation to assign them a report on the pirates. Charlie is amazed to find the pirate captain appreciates his socialist genius poetry. Moog is chastised because of ordering a mail-order bride. In this episode, Charlie shows strong shades's of Red Dwarf's Rimmer.
- Men in Brown
(guest starring Colin Holt as Captain Grey) The boys have gotten Korg demoted. He is the new restroom janitor on the Indolent. Unfortunately, a by the book (literally) superior replaces him and threatens to whip the boys into shape. What's worse, the demon alien who threatens to cut out your spleen or the middle manager who expects you to actually file a bunch of paperwork? Lot's of poo jokes in this one as Charlie's recent, um, excretions take on a life of their own; first talking to Korg and then later expanding outwards. If you do not think you can take a sweet corn joke (man, the British make those, too?) then you might want to brace for this one. One of the funniest, though.
- The Fairly Good Escape
(guest starring Chris O'Dowd (from The IT Crowd!) as Captain Pendulum, Anna Bengo as Aunty Genocide, and Jeffrey McGibbon as Mr. Chessington) Starting with Charlie and Moog playing a game of marbles, which Moog loses, natch, the boys are sent after a space legend to stop his crime spree. However, everyone who gets close to Captain Pendulum dies. After they contact him, they find the captain, who is over 300 years old, to be young and vibrant, and his crew to be very old. Of course, things are not what they appear. Charlie and Moog are trapped on the captain's ship and while Moog contemplates escape, Charlie finds himself at the captain's right hand side. Jokes include other AIs on the ship (including Aunty Genocide and Eddy Chessington, your Chess Playing Friend) and things being in the last place you look (which Moog always starts with, being Charlie's moustache).
- Empire in the Sun
(guest starring Gus Brown as Ben) Trying to find something for Mother's birthday gift leads them to buy a new and super-powerful vaccuum cleaner, a short lived victory as Korg sends them on a remote-controlled trip through (yes, through) the Sun to test out new an improved heat shields. The last models melted at room temperature. However, the sun is apparently hollow and a race of Bengineers are mucking about. They seem pretty intent on killing Charlie and Moog, but perhaps the two hapless idiots can make their way out of it? Jokes include them putting Mother on deaf-mode to "look at mucky pictures", the need to see what is inside the Forbidden Zone, whether it is less sexist to by a woman a blue, instead of pink, vaccuum cleaner, and the old-school SF standby of naked space chicks (alas, there are none). Mother's role in this one is much closer to literal.
- Back to the Present
(guest starring Colin Holt as Sprout-Bunge and Anna Bengo as Sam (it's short for Samantha!)) Begins with poetry time. Moog is excited about what he bought off the Internet (a time machine!) and Charlie suggests he play dead lions (much like sleeping lions, except it is in the bath with a hair-dryer). Because time travel is faster than light, you have to close your eyes for it to work (closing your eyes also helps you to not notice the time machine is actually a recording of Victorian England sounds). Mother goes on a vacation and the boys seek out the cleverest computer in the universe. "It's a big big big big big computer!" Her plans on dominance are challenged by Charlie's trying to create a robot uprising (trying) after Moog's mind is taken over. Mother better come to the rescue, or the boys are in a lot of trouble.
As a Yank I cannot say I understand the British radioplay scene, but I have found very little information or actual reviews of Space Hacks outside of comments on torrent sites (if you search for the term, probably half of our top ten search returns will be to torrent sites) and minor blurbs that pretty much just name the genre and one or more actors involved. In my search, I found one. It is "Watch out for space hacks" through Bucks Free Press:
Success at the BBC hasn't come easy for Stuart, 32 and Ian, 31, who have been writing comedy sketches since their teens. Stuart said: "It's fantastic because it's been in the pipeline for so long, waiting three years to see if it would get produced." The pair have had mixed success thus far. They've written many sketches for The Milk Run comedy show on BBC Radio 1, but a previous series Pop Tarts about manufactured bands was never commissioned. Ian said: "We started writing stuff for TV and sending it to the BBC but they always wrote back telling us to sod off, so we started writing for radio instead." However times have changed for the better as Space Hacks has been commissioned for a second series next year, even before the first episode has been aired.
In a world with very little press, it is probably no surprise that I could not find many links. I was hoping for a project home page or something similar. What I have found, I put below:
Splendid Belt: Another project by Sumner and Simons. It is identified as "comedy sketches and banter and funny and everything". You can download it podcast style or play it at that website.
Stuart Sumner's page on PFD.
Tim Key's Website. Absolutely nothing on SH but, there you go. Key seems to get the lion's share of press (well, outside of Prunella Scales) when you take in the actually descriptive Tim Key Wikipedia entry and Tim Key United Agents page. He also posts snippets of his poetry to his Twitter feed.
Dan Tetsell's Homepage: The voice of Korg (as well as many other parts in other projects). Not much on Space Hacks itself, but of potential interest in those who want to find out more about him, not to mention it mentions Paperback Hell which seems terribly interesting.
Space Hacks @ Radiolistings: Includes what might be the only accurate information on this show (outside of this page, heh, and the radiolistings gets at least one episode title wrong). Also includes some useful information on initial broadcasts and such, if you are into that sort of thing.
From Blech (worse) to Eh (median) to Great (best)
- Reviewer's Tilt:
- Final Score:
"The hidden is greater than the seen."