star cops was a 1987 BBC scifi series, set in 2027, about a nascent police force for the space stations, moonbase and mars colony. at the time it got a poor critical reception, and few viewers due to bad scheduling, and was cancelled after nine episodes. these days it's regarded quite highly, on account of the witty scripts and the relative realism of the settings.
however, there is another layer of charm that was not available to viewers in 1987, from our ability to compare the 'star cops' vision of the near future to the real thing. as you might expect, the space technology is well in advance of where we are - it extrapolates the shuttle era very plausibly, but we will not get there by 2027 even if the commercial shuttle market succeeds. on the other hand, the information technology is far behind where we are now, let alone 2027. the hero has a PDA called 'box', with which he converses like siri. it's the size of a brick, and it's the only one, made by his father. nobody knows what it is, because this is a future without mobile phones or small networked computers. in the first minutes of this episode, below, the characters suffer a familiar mobile phone embarrassment - but the device is a new thing they've never seen before. however, the curvaceous space plane they are travelling to the moon on is still beyond our abilities.
'realistic' near-futures without mobile phones now seem very strange - there's kind of a gap where you think "why don't they phone someone?". this absence, coupled with the post-1980s computers and vaguely pomo interiors make 'star cops' look less like a vision of 2027 and more like an alternative 1990s, where moore's law had applied to space technology while information technology plodded along in a linear fashion. it's the past, but not as we knew it, jim.
i came to star cops via moonbase 3, an equally unsuccessful BBC scifi series from 1973. dirty realism and claustrophobia, yes, but it's set in 2003... which makes an interestingly pessimistic comparison with space: 1999, filming at the same time. the sensible scientific BBC view versus the andersons! perversely i find the latter more 'believable' in a way, perhaps because it conforms to my idea of 'the future', perhaps because it does display more realistic levels of technological progress, albeit in different directions to what actually happened.
part of the pleasure of watching these series is that it reveals the science fiction qualities of our real life in 'the future' - because our everyday technology is way in advance of what was expected in 1973 or even 1987. after watching moonbase 3 i could see how miraculous youtube was, and the machine i was watching it on. shame about the space stuff though.