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."
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.
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.