March 2004
© 2004 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu
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Tripping the Rift by SciFi Channel
SciFi Channel Media: ISBN - PubDate: 03/01/04
Review by
Ernest Lilley

IMDB.com listing: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0315081/
Official Website:
http://www.scifi.com/tripping/
The original short: Warning: this should be rated at least R
http://www.pocketmovies.net/detail_99.html

Creators: Chuck Austen,  Chris Moeller   
Head Writers:
Andrew Borakove, Bill Rosenthal
Cast: Stephen Root .... Chode / Maurice LaMarche .... Gus / Gina Gershon .... Six / 'Stuttering' John Melendez .... Bob

The Sci-Fi channels newest series, a CGI space opera with a crew of misfit spacers, including every cliché the creators could think of, out to make a name for themselves, or maybe just a buck…whichever comes first.


"
Tripping the Rift is the continuing comic saga of five misfits who live, work and play on the starship Jupiter 42, which is controlled by a neurotic A.I. known as Spaceship Bob. Bob's neuroses are kept in check by the verbally abusive pilot T'Nuk, and the ship's inner workings are tended by Gus, the depressive robotic chief engineer. No one's really sure what job, if any, is performed by teen slacker Whip, but everyone knows what kinds of jobs sexy android Six specializes in." - Sci-Fi Channel"

The humor ranges from clever and Pythonesque, which is good, to sophomoric and juvenile, which is not so good. Altogether I got the feeling that a bunch of bright, creative people had been left in a room with too much sugar and caffeine and not enough grownups. In the first episode, we briefly meet the crew, which Bob, the ship A.I. characterizes for us as: Bitch, Whore, Slacker, Wimp, and Thief. Bob's one word characterization is "agorophobic", an unhappy characteristic for a starship.

While the first episode spent too much time away from the cast to get too attached to most of the crew, either that's a good thing or we can hope they fix it in further adventures. Chode and Gus buy tickets on a time-flight to the beginning of the universe to settle a debate about the existence of God. They manage to illuminate pretty much every time travel myth (except having sex with one's grandparents, which I don't know how they missed) and actually add a pretty clever twist to it all at the end. In the middle it turns into an examination of a popular concept in SF, that religion is the source of all that's wrong with the world, rather than what's right. The handling of this knotty problem is done fairly well...though its resolution begs the question it starts off to answer. But heck, that's the best you could hope for. Nice of them to ask at least.

The show originally appeared as a animation short in 2000 and was widely distributed on the web. Though you can still find the original short at PocketMovies: Tripping The Rift, the Sci-Fi channel would clearly like to see it disappear, especially as the final product is poorer than the original. In it we met Chode, Six of One, originally voiced by Terry Farrell of "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" (1993), Gus, Bob, and Darth Bobo, the "Dark Clown" nemesis of the ship. Though I'd prefer to see less of Six's anatomy (The short would be at least R rated) the addition of ancillary characters T'Nuk and Whip add nothing to the final show except to make it less fun. Terry Farrell's Six is considerably brighter than the new one played by Gina Gershon. Though it boggles the mind, the original sex-bot character has actually been more bimbo-ized in the new version. Gus on the other hand, has been made more lackey-like, losing some of his arrogance and edge. With the exception of Six's nudity, the short has a lot to recommend it in terms of comedy that assaults genre stereotypes from Star Trek to Star Wars, with a little of everything else thrown in.

What's with my objection to sex? Though Six doesn't actually take her clothes off on the show, they had way too much fun making her breasts bounce up and down, or sway from side to side. Or just sit still. For me, it's distracting, for children it's unconscionable, and it's pretty impressive that it didn't run afoul of whomever objected to Janet Jackson's appearance on the boob tube. Personally, I think that there should be channels for that sort of stuff, but you should know which they are.

But I miss Python, and there is a lot of clever writing in here, though its hard to pick it out from under the crudeness, so I'm inclined to keep watching for a while. At least until somebody puts Quark, Benjamin Lee's spoof of Trek on DVD. Fortunately, when the Sci-Fi channel decides to do something, they tend to stick with it for a while. Maybe even long enough to get it right. 

Tripping the Rift isn't as as funny as it should, but where there's CGI and a budget...there's hope.

© 2004 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu
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