Title: Cruise of the Gods
Creators: Tim Firth, Michael Marshall Smith and Peter Baynham
Seasons: One Special (2002)
Starring: Rob Brydon, Steve Coogan, David Walliams, James Cordon
Ten Word Teaser: Children of Castor star reassesses his life on fan cruise
You Might Like It if You Like... The Big Bang Theory, classic Doctor Who, Blake’s 7, I’m Alan Partridge.
From the title, you may expect that Thor and Loki have decided to take a nice relaxing Caribbean holiday but far from it. In fact this one-off comedy/drama special is more like The Big Bang Theory in its exploration of geek culture than anything else.
Cruise of the Gods looks at it from the other end though and through the eyes of Rob Brydon’s Andy Van Allen, a washed up actor who was the star of 1980s sci-fi show The Children of Castor. The series was about a pop group surviving in a post-apocalyptic Britain and is reminiscent of The Tomorrow People or Survivors with the budget of classic Doctor Who and Blake’s 7. The brief snippets we see (“Save the one-eyed child!”) feel like they were actually produced at the time plus any show that begins with the booming words “Leicester 1982!” has to be worth watching.
Although Andy is our main character we get a number of views on fandom and what the show has meant to various people. Andy is fed up of being only associated with this one series, despite that episode of Casualty he did, and envies former co-star Nick Lee (Steve Coogan) who has made it in America with the sublime drama Sherlock Holmes in Miami. To add to his pain, it was Andy himself stealing his girlfriend that made Nick emigrate. When we do meet Nick he’s overjoyed to wallow in the past and laments the fact that he never gets invited to the fan events. We also meet the man that featured in the opening credits who sees his one line of “I’m changing!” as the highlight of his life, plus Hugh Bispham, the alcoholic creator who shakes the fans’ world with his lax explanations of writing the show and how he thought up the characters' names. As fans we like to think that the creators of our favourite shows are great visionaries with a grand design full of depth and meaning with life lessons woven into the scripts, but that’s not always the case as I have learnt reviewing Doctor Who DVDs for this very website. It’s interesting how many scripts were last minute replacements or went through numerous drafts.
The geeks don’t really fare much better, but despite a stereotypical start it graduates to a more affectionate look. The worst offender is David Walliams as the nerdy cruise organiser but we also get a strangely subdued James Cordon at the beginning of his TV career and a brief early appearance by Russell Brand. The moment when a fan presents Andy with a stack of fan fiction to sign still makes me, as a former writer of it, cringe today. It does show that fans can come in all shapes and sizes and in particular one couple who met through their love of the show. It also poses the dilemma of whether you would sleep with your idol, given the chance.
This is Andy’s story though and he’s marvellously played by Rob Brydon as a petty man who craves another turn in the limelight. When he finally gets his shot and it’s not what he hoped it would be, he’s forced to crawl back to the people who idolise him and finally learns to not only embrace his past but look to the future.
Cruise of the Gods isn’t exactly a laugh-a-minute and is more in the vein of the early 2000s cringe comedy but I would recommend it as a wonderful, humorous and very British look at fandom.
Genre Links: Steve Coogan starred in his own mock horror anthology series in Dr Terrible’s House of Horrible and was the voice of Satan in Neighbors from Hell. He has also cropped up in various movies such as The Indian in the Cupboard, Night at the Museum and the upcoming Despicable Me 2. Rob Brydon appeared in Mirrormask, and Cold Lazarus as well as contributing voices to The Gruffalo, Shaun of the Dead and the Discworld video games of the early 1990s. David Walliams and James Cordon have both appeared in Doctor Who. Philip Jackson was a regular in Robin of Sherwood and also played Discworld’s Commander Vimes in a Radio 4 production of Night Watch.
Trivia: There are plans for a US remake of the film. The current title is The Great Beyond and will be a full cinematic release with Steve Coogan in Rob Brydon’s role.
Availability: Cruise of the Gods is only available on Region 2 DVD. It costs around £5 in the UK and around $17 in the US. It is also available on LOVEFiLM and iTunes.