Say what you will about internet search engine/web portal of the year (circa 2000) Yahoo! The company is doing its level best to be all things to all people. Earlier this year Yahoo! redoubled its efforts to compete with off-network content providers like Hulu, iTunes and Amazon Prime by releasing a series of weekly shows. The highlight, of course, was the newly relocated sitcom “Community,” followed by the Vegas-based sports dramedy “Sin City Saints.” The newest series to find a home on Yahoo!’s non-TV network is the crudely funny sci-fi jape “Other Space.”
Created by Paul Feig (who came up with the much-loved, short-lived “Freaks and Geeks” as well as the breakout comedy Bridesmaids), “Other Space” is a low-budget laugh at the expense of all our favorite sci-fi tropes. Sci-fi fans (the clearly intended audience for “Other Space”) will instantly recognize (and possibly condemn) the show as an obvious pastiche of series like “Red Dwarf,” “Star Trek: TOS,” “Star Trek: Voyager,” “Lexx” “Hyperdrive” and “Lost in Space.”
The pilot begins by introducing us to the ragtag, C-list crew of a futuristic space vessel working on the Universal Mapping Project. Sent into deep space on a one-year mission, the ship accidentally slips through a tear in the universe and winds up in an entirely different universe. It wouldn’t be the biggest problem for a seasoned group of well-equipped explorers. But this crew is composed mainly of idiots, and their only supplies are a year’s worth of fudge.
Doing his best to keep things together is greenhorn Captain Stewart Lipinski (Karan Soni), the youngest person ever put in charge of a UMP ship. His second in command is his uptight older sister (Bess Rous). There’s Capt. Lipinski’s longtime, unrequited crush serving as the ship’s bubble-headed navigator (Milana Vayntrub—who, like Soni, is best known for appearances in wireless phone commercials). Rounding it out we’ve got the boring pilot (Eugene Cordero), the weird science officer (Neil Casey), the ship’s sexy computer (Conor Leslie), the burned-out engineer (Joel Hodgson) and the wisecracking robot (Trace Beaulieu—who, like Hodgson, comes to us from the classic “Mystery Science Theater 3000”).
Hodgson and Beaulieu are the most recognizable and the most welcome members in the cast. They’re also the best in-joke, playing only slight variations on their characters from “MST3K.” Hodgson nails a lot of the show’s laughs as the radiation-addled ship’s engineer. The sibling rivalry between Stewart and his sister also gives the show a little spark. The rest of the cast try to liven things up with the occasional improv—but there’re a bunch of newcomers, and they don’t have a ton of fresh material to work with.
Despite Feig’s guiding hand, the show doesn’t have a particularly distinctive look, style or storyline, delivering viewers a rather generic “people in space” setup. That’s not too surprising when you’re talking about a parody. By their very nature, parodies end up looking a lot like the stuff they’re making fun of. Still—despite some ribald laughs and a few inspired casting choices—there’s nothing that “Other Space” does that Galaxy Quest didn’t do 16 years ago.