RogerBW's Blog

High Moon 30 November 2014

Some time in the future, two convicts working on the Moon discover something strange: a flower, blooming on the surface. Then things get weird.

Why would I be watching a Syfy Movie of the Week, you might ask? But only if you didn't know me very well. In this case, though, it's because this was made by Bryan Fuller, who's been behind a number of other interesting series. Originally it was going to be a TV series, later it became a miniseries, and finally all the footage that had been shot was made into this. Also, it's an adaptation of John Christopher's juvenile SF novel The Lotus Caves.

Um. Well. A loose one. There is the flower, there are the lunar caves and the suggestion of something strange down there that affects people's minds, but most of the rest is new. The convicts are lost in an explosion; the brother of one of them is an Air Force investigator who comes to the Moon to find out what's been going on. There are competing operations from different countries to mine Helium-3 (and the USA, at least, is so reliant on it that a day's shut-down in production necessitates power rationing). On the other hand, somehow a private company has got control of everyone's oxygen supply.

The assumption is that the Russians are up to something, though as it turns out they aren't. The Indians are definitely up to something that's done them no good, and this brings on one of the more psychedelic moments, since the entrance to the Indian moonbase is done in the classical Mughal style, with spires and turrets. For no apparent reason other than to look good. That's about the level of subtlety you get in this script.

And that's before the giant mechanical dinosaur shows up.

Unfortunately, while the overall designer of the series (Fuller) was clearly on something really very good indeed, the script-writer for this pilot (Jim D. Gray) did rather less of a good job. Nobody comes over as an interesting character, even though one assumes one of the goals of the script would be to get the audience enthused about these people and what happens to them; instead we just spend a tedious age after the initial action sequence getting people's backstories before anything happens again. The uniformly terrible acting doesn't help. How do you make a Russian-speaking bisexual double-agent robot spy boring?

The effects designers either weren't trying or had nothing to work with. There's no attempt at all to emulate lunar gravity, and very generic plasma-cloud animations replace pressure-suit helmets. The moon-buggy designs are impractical but pretty, though one can't help noticing that as they're traversing the rugged lunar landscape they go in dead straight lines without bouncing around on their suspensions.

Best enjoyed with beer and more beer. Though if you have a copy of the Ice Planet film, watch that instead, as it's much more barking.

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