Recently, my wife and I made time in our TV watching schedule to watch the latest (and joyous) season of Dan Harmon’s COMMUNITY, no longer on NBC but on Yahoo Screen. But I’m not here to talk about Community (it’s great though.)
I’m here to talk about another show on Yahoo Screen. OTHER SPACE.
Basically, the starship UMP Cruiser is venturing forth on a new voyage with a mostly green (and arguably incompetent) crew, when a cosmological event transfers them from our universe to a different universe. Not Outer Space. Other Space.
It’s captained by the likeable (and desperately-wanting-to-be-liked) Stewart Lupinksi (played by the engaging Karan Soni,) who has to deal with various eccentric characters under his command. In some cases, he has no one to blame but himself for whom he’s dealing with.
I could talk more in-depth about the show, but I’d rather just hammer home that Other Space is so charming and fun, I’d prefer that you not dwell so much on my bloviating here and just go watch the show, now.
It’s eight episodes, roughly 30 minutes each, on Yahoo Screen.
Okay, if you’re still with me, I’ll talk about the show a little bit, but I’ll avoid dropping spoilers.
Unfamiliar Space? Familiar Territory
There’s clearly a sense of familiarity about the show. After all, a spaceship off in the dark nowhere is not a unique concept. Danger, danger Will Robinson. Ships often get Lost in Space.
After watching the first episode, I mentioned to my wife that Other Space pleasantly reminded me of another great science fiction comedy, BBC’s Red Dwarf, where a huge mining ship had wandered millions of light-years (and millions of years) into deep space after a ship-wide mishap killed almost all of the crew. Yes, it’s a comedy.
If you have not seen this show, you really, really should.
Red Dwarf also featured an arguably incompetent crew, since the lowest-rated crewman was the only human survivor. He’s accompanied by a holographic representation of the second-lowest-rated crewman, an anthropomorphic evolved cat, a fussy android, and an eccentric computer presence named Holly.
Natasha, the computer persona on Other Space feels inspired by Red Dwarf’s Holly (although it’s certainly not a unique concept, I’m not saying OS is ripping of RD.) In contrast, Natasha (played by Conor Leslie) gets a fair amount of mileage and physical comedy out of her on-screen avatar, more than Holly’s head-avatar could pull off.
But a more apt analogy plot-wise would be to compare Other Space to Star Trek Voyager, the second-to-last televised Trek series (or the last if like me you have opted to completely ignore the existence of Enterprise. Haters to the left, please.)
Like the UMP Cruiser, the USS Voyager was unexpectedly whisked to a remote corner of the cosmos, with a crew striving to figure how to survive in their new environment and seek for a way home.
The major difference between the Other Space and Voyager? Other Space is a comedy. The second major difference? Other Space is really good.
Oh No, this will just be typical Voyager Hate?
Ease up. (Or don’t get excited if you’re hoping I’ll fanboy rage-out. I won’t. Mostly.)
This post is going to be about Other Space, I swear. But recently I’ve had a yen to talk about Voyager, and it seems like an appropriate time.
Recently, a friend of mine emailed me a link to a 2013 article praising Star Trek Voyager as the Trekkiest of Treks, and basically labelled anyone not liking it as misogynistic. I’m super paraphrasing and am probably mischaracterizing. Don’t take my word for it, here’s the article.
I certainly don’t want to speak for anyone other than myself, I can just say that there might be Trek fans who did not like Voyager because of Janeway’s gender or the racial diversity among the crew (the article did imply that fanboys would have to be trained to accept a crew that wasn’t a bunch of white dudes… I feel sorry for those fanboys…)
I don’t have the power to look into people’s hearts, and I’ve already said I can’t speak for anyone other than myself, but my assumption is that the reasons that my friends (or anyone I’ve talked to about the show with similar negative views) weren’t keen on Voyager had very little to do with race or gender. It was because the crew were often idiots.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying the characters were idiots. Most had been extensively trained. They were flying a starship. They were spouting technobabble and seemed to understand what the hell that all meant. That’s cool. We can assume they weren’t literally idiots.
But if the plot required them to blunder about, they would. Repeatedly. Hardcore.
More often than not, it seemed to me that the only reason they weren’t dead dead dead was because they were somehow moving through a subtly benign universe that would mediate the dangers they’d encounter. Like they lived charmed lives and could somehow skate by. (Somehow the universe had become more chest-beatingly bluffy, but not as lethal from the days of Kirk, Spock, and the redshirt-grinding universe.)
Time for some examples. Feel free to skip down if you have no interest, although you might be missing comedy gold. Just sayin’.
Okay, not every episode was a train wreck, but it was hard for me to accept that the crew had any real training or practical experience, beyond the basics of mechanically operating the ship. This included Captain Janeway.
You Never Get a Second Chance to Make a First Impression
Quite often on a random episode of Voyager, we’d get something like this:
Ensign Kim: Whoa, that’s a bigass spaceship coming this way. Should I raise shields?
Captain Janeway: Nonsense. We don’t want to appear aggressive. Mister Paris, drop us out of warp and hail them with our usual pacifistic pledge of non-violence.
Ensign Kim: They’re firing on us? WHY??? Can’t they tell we mean them no harm?
Okay, I know contact with alien species is an exciting thing, and there’s no need to get off on the wrong foot, but the above scene seemed to happen every season. Did the crew never learn that bigass spaceships sometimes are hostile? Like every time? And it’s better to have shields up and risk offending, then have shields down and hope for the best?
There was this wide-eyed optimism that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, but combined with an unchangeable naivete…
Wow, there’s a lot of big eggs on this abandoned spaceship. I think I’ll put my face close to one…
Early on in Voyager’s run, the crew discovered an asteroid that happened to be hollow and happened to mysteriously have an M-type atmosphere inside. (I was okay with the crew assuming that it was a natural phenomenon because M-type atmospheres seemed to be the natural phenomenon everywhere. Kirk and Spock wouldn’t have thought twice about it. Unless it turned out to be artificial, which this wasn’t. Let’s move on.)
Intrigued, the crew beamed over to investigate, and found clusters and clusters of dead bodies, seemingly wrapped in silk. webbing-like threads.
Let me repeat that. Dead Bodies. Wrapped in Silky Threads.
Second-in-Command Chakotay was in charge of the away mission, and this was his assessment:
- It’s probably a burial ground, and therefore a sacred place to some alien race.
- The crew should look around, but since they didn’t know the alien race’s opinion of sensing devices being used in their sacred burial space, he ordered the away team to turn off their tricorders.
As assumptions go, one of them is debatable, and one of them is suicidal. Maybe the hollow asteroid filled with dead bodies was a burial space. Or maybe it was the lair of some gigantic space-spider.
Hey, there’s an easy way to figure that out! By having the tricorders on, checking for movement of inimical and dangerous lifeforms.
As it turned out, it was a graveyard of sorts. It was actually one end of a body disposal set up. When people died on a nearby planet, the body was dropped into a weird portal that went to the asteroid. The people didn’t know where the bodies went to, if I recall correctly. They just felt it was an efficient way to do things. (The silk was some weird biological process. I guess. Aliens.)
But let’s assume that the people on the planet knew the full details, and also as Chakotay assumed, that they had a bug up their butts about sensing devices being used among their dead.
Chakotay: Hey, we’re in your burial space. I assume you don’t want us to use our tricorders around your departed.
Aliens: Why, that’s very thoughtful of you, thank you for checking with us.
Chakotay: But you don’t mind us being here otherwise?
Aliens: Nope. Feel free to have a picnic. Set fire to stuff. Grafitti is totally cool. But no frakking tricorders. That’s totally disrespectful.
Seriously. If an alien race doesn’t want you using x-ray flashlights in their cemetary, they probably don’t want you there in the first place, Chakotay.
Unless they’re giant space spiders.
Apparently the crew skipped that day in Romulan History Class
I’ll wrap the Voyager bashing up in a minute, I promise. But the third time’s the charm.
In maybe the fourth episode of the first season, Voyager discovers a pinhole-sized wormhole. The other end of the wormhole is in Romulan space, where a Romulan scientist is hanging out, investigating the wormhole which is deteriorating, getting smaller and smaller.
The crew realizes that they could modify their transporter to beam themselves onto the Romulan ship. He seems like a nice Romulan, and would be willing to help them.
If they could trust him.
Then they realize that the wormhole, thanks to cool speculative fiction reasons, actually goes back in time, by a few decades. The Romulan is talking to them from this past.
Appropriately enough, this is a deal-breaker.
There’s some debate among the crew as they consider their options, but they eventually conclude that they don’t want to create a paradox by beaming into the past. And Chakotay is particularly afraid that by going into the past, they’ll not end up in the Delta Quadrant and therefore undo all the good things that they’ve done there.
Chakotay… it’s like the fourth episode. Get over yourself. Just what was done that was so awesome? Nothing of note.
So what’s my nit that I’m picking? (Other than Chakotay’s grandiose narcissism?)
They act as if these events would happen when they beam into the past, into Romulan territory:
- The Romulan scientist would take them to the authorities
- The Romulan authorities would take them to the Romulan Neutral Zone and hand them over to the surprised Federation
- All their families will be confused by these strangers showing up claiming to be adult versions of their young or unborn children.
I’m going to tell you what would be much more likely to have happened.
- The Romulan scientist would take them to the authorities.
- A whole lot of torture and advanced interrogation technigues would happen to them, to gather decades of intelligence on future events, future Federation capabilities, anything.
- Eventually, they’ll all be killed. Or get the Tasha Yar treatment and be forced to breed with Romulans to make surprise Romulan hybrid enemies of the Federation. Surprise!
Hey, maybe I’m wrong. But no one on that crew considered that option when debating the consequences of beaming into ye olde Romulanne empire, who were super-xenophonic and well-established as aggressive and militaristic. And not awesome on human rights. Yes, I want to stress human rights.
OKAY, BACK TO OTHER SPACE
Fine. If you’ve not read the above, I was questioning the competence of the crew of the Voyager, or at least their common sense.
How does this relate to Other Space? Other Space is a comedy, and there are reasons that the crew make bad decisions. There are reasons that those clowns are on that ship.
Of the two crews and two ships, the UMP Cruiser is more consistent and believable than whatever the hell was going on with Voyager. When Captain Stewart Lupinski and his rag-tag colleagues succeed, they’ve earned it.
And they’ve earned my respect.
Not that that means much. I mean, I’m just a blogger. But if I somehow ended up on the USS Voyager, I think they’d benefit from some rational thought.
I’d also question why Seven of Nine was dressed like a space-dominatrix.
I can only assume that these conversations happened.
Mister Paris: Seven of Nine, welcome aboard, I’m glad the Doctor got most of the Borg stuff out of you. The captain asked me to provide you with clothing, since you wouldn’t want to be walking around in your Borg outfit and freak out the crew.
Seven of Nine: Very well.
Mister Paris: Here’s an outfit I picked up on Risa*. It’s Star Fleet protocol to outfit civilians in the practical and svelte clothing from Risa.
Seven of Nine: Whatever. It’s kind of tight. And makes it hard to breathe.
Mister Paris: Oh, that helps if the ship depressurizes.
Captain Janeway: Oh My Darwin, Mister Paris! Why is Seven walking around in that?
Mister Paris: That’s what she wanted , captain! And I must say, it’s rather unseemly of you to be slut-shaming her. Can’t she be allowed to express her individuality? You know, like a person and not a Borg-drone?
Captain Janeway: Oh, well, you’re right. I hadn’t thought of that. Thank you Mister Paris, for your enlightened perspective.
Ensign Kim: *whispering* You’re my hero, Tom.
Whoa, I said no more Voyager bashing. I obviously can’t be trusted. In most things.
But trust me when I say that if you like comedy, and also entertaining sci-fi, then you should check out Other Space.
Wow, I didn’t say much about Other Space at all. But it’s best if you just watch it.
Besides Soni’s Stewart Lipinksi and Leslie’s Natasha, the cast includes Milana Vayntrub (you might know her as Lily from the AT&T commercials), Bess Rous, Eugene Cordero, Neil Casey, and to my DELIGHT Joel Hodgson from Mystery Science Theater 3000, and MST3K’s Trace Beaulieu who voices a robot named A.R.T.
Watch the show, and tell me if I’m right or wrong.
You can also tell me if I’m wrong about Voyager. But you’d be wrong.
Maybe I should write a post one day about all the things I really liked about Voyager. Basically it would be about the Emergency Medical Hologram and Tuvok.
* Risa is a “pleasure planet.” Everyone should know that, yo.
Most Images from Yahoo Screen’s Other Space (obviously) with shots from BBC’s Red Dwarf and Paramount’s Star Trek Voyager. Romulan symbol image is from the Star Trek Online.
I make no claims to the artwork, but some claims to the text. So there.
© Patrick Sponaugle 2015 Some Rights Reserved