Cast: Steve Carell, John Malkovich, Ben Schwartz, Diana Silvers, Tawny Newsome, Jimmy O. Yang, Don Lake
Genre: Comedy, Hard SF
First Aired: 29/05/2020
Inspired by the terrible idea of the same name, Space Force is the latest in a series of new SF-based comedies hitting our screens. Following the natural end of The Good Place and the tragic axing of Santa Clarita Diet, it is also one of the reasons I intend to keep paying for Netflix. Together with Amazon’s Upload, Space Force proves that America is really knocking it out of the park when it comes to concept comedies.
We begin with General Naird (Steve Carell) finding himself in charge of the newly-formed Space Force, which is a laughing stock to all other branches of the military, as well as most people outside. In the first episode, we then skip ahead six months to the point where Space Force has a base, funding, and an in-house scientist played wonderfully by John Malkovich.
Coming from many of the same minds who made The Office – a show I detest with a passion – I wasn’t expecting much from this show. The early reviews suggested it wasn’t very good either, but I gave it a chance. And boy am I glad I did. This is a show that works as a comedy, and as science fiction, deftly playing both sides of the field without skimping on the other.
As a comedy, Space Force gives us a killer and original concept, even if it is one ripped right from the headlines, and delivers it with a side dish of a stellar cast. Like their rockets, the odd joke doesn’t quite land as firmly as it should, but that’s to be expected in any show. There are clear references to real-world events, but no one is ever mentioned by name. The POTUS who keeps sending texts instead of orders is clearly Donald Trump, but by not using his name, Space Force creates a comedy that transcends the now. It may be a product of its time when looked back on, but it never dates itself. Crucially, the actors are playing it straight. This isn’t a live-audience wait-for-the-laughs comedy. The jokes come thick and fast, all delivered with military bluster. It’s a far cry from a lot of other US comedies, which may be why it works so well.
But more than being another comedy, Space Force is the best kind of science fiction. I, like Malkovich’s Adrian Mallory, am firmly against the militarisation of space. Yet Space Force takes both scientific research and military endeavours seriously, with the respect each is due. Despite it’s origins in a rightly-derided idea, Space Force gives us an optimistic look at the future of humanity in space. Yes, there are going to be problems and conflicts, but at the end of the day, space is a place of wonders. It is somehwere we have to go, where it is a good idea to go, and Space Force conveys this philosophy brilliantly.
There is no word yet on a second series, but I for one desperately hope there is more. The world needs more shows like this.