​Syfy's High Moon Makes Sharknado Look Like A Serious Docudrama

Illustration for article titled ​Syfys emHigh Moon/em Makes Sharknado Look Like A Serious Docudrama

So it turns out the operative word in Bryan Fuller's loose adaptation of The Lotus Caves, the TV pilot-turned-TV movie High Moon, is not the word "moon." It's "high," as in "everyone who worked on this show was clearly high."

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High Moon is bonkers, and not necessarily in a good way. Somehow — and for some reason — Bryan Fuller took John Christopher's YA novel The Lotus Caves and turned it into a bizarre scifi/action/spy/political amalgam centered nominally around the discovery of a flower blooming on the moon's surface. Instead of following two boys on a lunar adventure, High Moon ages up the protagonists and pits the America, Russian, Indian and other lunar colonies against each other. Besides the mystery of the flower, the entire Indian delegation seems to be missing, the Russians and Americans are fighting over oxygen and helium mining rights, and there are spies and assassins running around as well. But it's somehow remained a YA version of political space drama, painted solely with broad strokes, without any kind of nuance or complexity.

This keeps the show's abundant weirdness silly rather than genuinely compelling. Sometimes High Moon's goofiness is so ridiculous that it becomes watchable in that "what were these people thinking?" sort of way. I honestly don't think I'm spoiling anything when I tell you that at one point a giant robot dinosaur suddenly appears —on the moon's surface to chase a few main characters, and it's only the fifth most absurd thing that occurs in High Moon's 80 minutes.

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But the sheer insanity of the show would be more charming if it didn't look so phenomenally cheap. High Moon looks terrible compared to other Syfy shows like Defiance or Helix (it actually looks terrible next to Bitten, which only has to pay for mediocre werewolf transformation once in a while). It looks like a Syfy TV movie made back in 2003, or a high-budget CD-rom game from 1999. The sets, the suits, the special effects… I know how insane this sounds, but often Sharknado looked like a more professional production.

Actually, everything is so cheap and kind of terrible I wondered if High Moon was supposed to be a parody of '60s scifi shows, with cardboard computer consoles and people n the surface of the moon who move exactly like they do on earth (High Moon tries to explain this with special "gravity suits," but it's putting a band-aid on a bullet wound). But once in a while a special effect would pop up that the show clearly and likely inappropriately used a significant portion of its budget on, which look all right. And these make all the other terrible effects stand out all the more.

As for the acting and the dialogue, let's just say they match the sets. I'm a huge fan of Bryan Fuller — loved Pushing Daisies, thought a Munsters reboot was terrible until I saw his phenomenal Mockingbird Lane, etc. Fuller only came up with the story for High Moon, but I'm still baffled as to how anything Fuller conceived of ended up like this. There's a scene where somehow an entire conversation devolves into a series of increasingly convoluted breakfast metaphors, and maybe it's supposedly to be hysterically bad, but I don't think it is.

Rest assured, when Syfy passed on a High Moon TV series, we were not deprived of Fuller's next masterpiece. I wouldn't have minded watching it if it had been picked up — seriously, if it could come close to regularly generating that much ridiculousness every episode, I would have watched happily, although probably while drunk. Or high. Believe me, it's the only safe way to take a trip to this particular Moon.

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DISCUSSION

whenwherehau
whenwherehau

High Moon is friggen amazing. I think it's strange to consider the show as taking itself remotely seriously or comparing it to bloody Helix which eventually took itself so seriously to the point of onerous boredom. The show's all about bringing joy and wonder back to sci-fi rather than po-faced, hard-edged Serious Sci-Fi.

What part of lines like "I don't care if he has a little bacon on the side, it doesn't make him Eggs Benedict Arnold" seem like we're meant to take the show as serious? The show stacks terrible metaphor on terrrible metaphor for the sheer fun of it. Pushing Daisies used just as ropey special effects and it's clear that both shows are intentionally leaning into heightened, cartoonish designs. Dana Davis has friggen highlighter hair and at one point is flung down a hallway Benny Hill style on her segway. There is a robotic T-Rex made by the Japanese and an Indian ninja assassin. The show's universe is unabashedly written in highlighters and glowsticks but that because it's scifi there's this expectation that it can't be joyous and ridiculous.

What about the main romances in the show being gay and inter-racial? What about the prominence of Dana Davis and Charity Wakefield's characters in a genre dominated by men? High Moon challenges the idea of masculine, serious science fiction.

The show is a fascinating take on how sci-fi can be done and it demonstrates that Bryan Fuller desperately needs a show that gives him the freedom to do his own thing. Hannibal is great but is curtailed by the need to be a Thomas Harris cover band. High Moon demonstrates that Fuller is perfectly willing to bend and blend genre just as much as he did with the magic-realist-comedy-drama of Wonderfalls or the forensic fairytale of Pushing Daisies.