Posts Tagged ‘John Collee’

Exhibit B for the ‘Star Cops can be a bit iffy when it comes to national stereotyping’ prosecution is John Collee’s episode In Warm Blood, which was apparently a slightly fraught production behind the scenes: production on the series was, we are given to understand, largely characterised by creator Chris Boucher and producer Evgeny Gridneff not getting on or sharing a vision for the show, with relations reaching something of a nadir around this point. The particular bone of contention was Gridneff’s decision to introduce a new regular character without Boucher’s agreement. One is tempted to side with Boucher, if only because… well, we’ll come to that.

As the episode gets underway, top of the ISPF’s agenda is the return to lunar orbit of a survey ship, the Pluto 5, which has been to the asteroid belt. Now, however, the crew are not responding to communications from Moonbase, and so the ISPF send up a team to investigate. There is a bit of a dark-and-spooky vibe to all of this, leading up to the moment when Theroux spies something through the cockpit window that momentarily gives him the ab-dabs. The crew are all dead, and – more than that – appear to be virtually mummified, or dessicated.

The Pluto 5 is under the purview of Hanimed, a major international pharmaceutical company, and in order to get permission to board the ship, the Star Cops have to accept the presence of a Hanimed employee on the team, a Japanese doctor named Anna Shoun (played by Sayo Inaba – the actress may be Japanese even if the character’s name blatantly isn’t). Anna Shoun keeps bowing to people and talking about her loyalty and gratitude to the company which is as a mother and father to her.

Nathan is all set to join the mission until Krivenko, whose role in these plots is basically to be the mayor of space, make Nathan’s life difficult, and complicate the stories, makes a personal request: a friend of his, a medical researcher named Janssen, is not answering her own radio, and Krivenko wants Nathan to make sure she’s okay, as a personal favour. Reluctantly Nathan agrees.

It turns out that Janssen is also dead, apparently having committed suicide somehow, but the condition of her body – and her orbital module – is eerily similar to that of the Pluto 5: in both cases, death seems to have overtaken the occupants very rapidly, and the internal heating is turned up to 41 degrees – due to a systems failure on the ship, but seemingly intentionally in Janssen’s pod. Nathan digs a little deeper and discovers that Janssen was funded by Hanimed, and that she cut off communications just after the problems with Pluto 5 became apparent…

I am tempted to conclude with ‘could there possibly be a connection?’ but that would be a bit fatuous, wouldn’t it: of course there is. What ensues is another story basically taking a pop at the machinations of the pharmaceutical industry: suffice to say that the sinister and ruthless head of Hanimed, Richard Ho (another fantastically authentic Japanese name, I think you’ll agree) has been treating the crews of the corporation’s space flights as unwitting guinea pigs, carrying out unauthorised human testing on new drugs, which in this case has gone disastrously wrong.

Well, fair enough – it’s another fairly coherent episode, albeit with a couple of questionable plot developments. At one point Nathan decides to try and infiltrate Hanimed HQ in Tokyo (thriftily realised in the usual Star Cops manner), but ends up sending Colin Devis, possibly the least credible covert operative since Ridge in Doomwatch – maybe even worse. (This ties into a comic-relief subplot about Devis trying to pass his medical so he can stay in space.) Devis naturally gets caught so quickly you wonder if this was Nathan’s plan all along. The episode concludes with Nathan confronting Ho in a sauna and basically beating a confession out of him (well, not quite, but there’s a degree of physical coercion involved) – which makes one wonder how Nathan plans to make his charges stick; the ‘confession’ doesn’t seem to be recorded, which may be as well for our hero, considering the methods he employs. As you might begin to expect, the level of intelligence is a bit lower than in the Boucher-written episodes.

That said, I’m not sure this assessment quite does justice to the Japanese elements of the story, which are at least as badly handled as the Italian ones in the previous episode. At least the Italians in that one looked Italian and had Italian names – the employees of the Japanese megacorporation here have names that are either Bavarian or Chinese in origin, and Richard Rees (the actor playing Ho) doesn’t even look especially Japanese – Rees had a decent TV career playing characters from a wide range of ethnicities, including Japanese, Chinese, Tibetan, and so on. The old stereotype of Japanese people being fanatically devoted to their companies is in full effect here, too, although – after a little tough love from Nathan – Anna Shoun eventually decides to do the right thing and expose Hanimed’s activities. (We should probably also touch on the tag-scene gag of this episode, which sees Devis making cod-Japanese sounds before attempting to flying-kick the office furniture, all for comic effect.)

I’m still not sure why the producer thought the series was crying out for the addition of Shoun as a regular character, though, as she’s really not much more than a cardboard cut-out at this point. Presumably it was just a case of providing a bit more gender balance, as the regular cast is very blokey up to this point. Well, fair enough, and full marks to the show for casting someone actually Japanese as their Japanese doctor (with a Bavarian name) – but Sayo Inaba never seems particularly comfortable acting in English, regardless of the slimness of her character. (Four episodes of Star Cops may in fact constitute the bulk of Inaba’s acting career, based on her IMDb entry at least.)

Anyway, six episodes in, Star Cops finally has the complete regular cast that will see it through the rest of its run (another three episodes). I find it really hard to decide if this story is better or worse than the one about the Mafia, but I am sensing a definite drop in the general quality of the episodes when Chris Boucher isn’t writing them. Having done the Italians and Japanese, if memory serves the next episode is the one about Arabs. Seat-belts duly fastened…

Read Full Post »