The year 2143. After sky cop Harper (Savannah Steyn) is set up for a crime she had nothing to do with, she is placed on board prisoner transport ship the Hemlock bound for an off-planet prison. On board she is thrown into the melee of a mutiny stirred up by a band of hardened female criminals who threaten to kill her if she doesn’t fly them to safety.
Intergalactic is a TV rarity: expansive, British, women-driven sci-fi. The brainchild of Julie Geary (The Secret Diary Of A Call Girl), the eight-part Sky One show has all the ambition, appetite and desire to entertain of a big Hollywood action flick, but the intent is sabotaged by a lack of fresh ideas, subtlety and budget. It wants to be Firefly. It ends up around Blake’s 7.
The action is set in 2134, where climate change has screwed the planet and the world’s cities, now mostly underwater, are controlled by a pseudo democratic government called the Commonworld. The action gets off to a quick, exciting start as rookie sky cop Ash Harper (Savannah Steyn) chases hacker Verona Flores (Imogen Daines) through ‘New London’ in a ship, finally tracking her down on terra firma. Celebrating her success —100 years from now, it is still super-difficult to get served in a London bar — Ash is arrested for a crime she didn’t commit and sent to a convict transport ship, the Hemlock, on its way to an off-world detention centre.
Of course, Ash, a cop among criminals, has to survive amongst a motley crew of space villains: head gangster Tula Quik (Sharon Duncan-Brewster), who wants to get to the criminal-free world of Arcadia (not to be confused with the Duran Duran spin-off group); her daughter Genevieve (Diany Samba-Bandza), who has learned to weaponise her dreads as whips; Harley Quinn-a-like Candy Skov-King (Eleanor Tomlinson), a druggie with a tongue that splits in two; Ash’s original collar Verona Flores; and Hannibal Lecter-alike Dr Grieves (Natasha O’Keeffe), a witch, political prisoner and enemy of the state who has links to Ash’s past. Of course, it doesn’t take long for this suicide squad to mutiny, and Ash has to pilot them to freedom if she wants to live.
It’s a melange of reheated sci-fi tropes and situations, from a Han Solo-alike Echo Nantu-Rose (Oliver Coopersmith) to very familiar planets (a dust one, a rain one), from //Alien//-styled corridors to a Jabba The Hutt-alike crimelord Zeeda (Lisa Palfrey, who seemingly holds court in a Swindon nightclub. Made with a very British flavour, it’s also a space show where language is stuck in the present(ish!) day — cops are still called “pigs”, “sick” continues to denote excellence — and, perhaps most frightening of all, Phil Collins is still a thing. Back on Earth, there’s a sub-plot involving Parminder Nagra as the head of Galactic Security (and Ash’s mother) dealing with police corruption, the presence of Craig ‘Dot Cottan’ Parkinson making it feel like a futuristic Line Of Duty (in episode one, Nagra also walks through the slowest sliding doors in sci-fi history).
Unlike the doors, Intergalactic all moves along at a fair lick, there are some incidental pleasures — Thomas Turgoose as a hapless space screw who describes an inhospitable planet as “worse than Bolton” — and sometimes the effects come off smartly. But, despite the pleasingly female, diverse skew, it’s hard not to feel like we’ve been here a million times before.
By turns impressive and cheap, Intergalactic throws a lot at the wall but very little sticks. The zippy pace can’t cover up on-the-nose writing, blunt performances and an overwhelming sense of déjà vu.