Space Force: Dreary satire, lifeless script make this mission a non-starter

Created by Greg Daniells and Steve Carell, the Netflix comedy series revolves around the lives of people involved in setting up the ambitious United States Space Forces, the space warfare branch of US armed forces

A still from Space Force, starring Steve Carell as the lead character of General Mark R Naird, the chief of Space Operations. Photo: IMDb

Where should one start after watching the new Netflix original series Space Force? How Steve Carell charged $10 million to play Mark R Naird, the force’s chief of space operations, a character loosely based on US Space Force chief John W Raymond, how the series is actually two years late or if it justifies the genre of comedy.

The entire series is a satire on POTUS (President of the United States)’s plan of starting the United States Space Force (USSF) as a warfare branch of the US Armed Forces. The episodes are peppered with parodies on SpaceX founder Elon Musk, American politician Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the First Lady of The United States (Melania Trump).

Characters reduced to caricatures

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In the first episode, we are introduced to Mark Naird, a four-star general of who is appointed as the first chief of operations of the USSF, initiated to protect the interest of the US and to provide capabilities to the joint forces including the responsibility of developing a professional military force exclusively for space. Naird is strict, headstrong and doesn’t listen to his subordinate scientist Dr Adrian Mallory.

There is a parody on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the 30-year-old representative of New York, played by Ginger Gonzaga. Her character Anabela Ysidro-Campos enquires Naird about the expense of $ 10,000 to transport an orange from Earth to the Space Station. The scenes, meant to crack up the audience, don’t even bring a chuckle on our face.

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The first two episodes have references to a Chinese scientist who works under Dr Mallory in his team. Naird’s ‘Chinese’ jokes on him make them cringe-worthy instead of funny, making one wonder how the series was trending as No.3 in India’s Netflix watch list.

For characters like General Kick Grabaston, a bullish Air Force head who gives Naird a tough time, Fred Willard, who plays Naird’s ailing dad, Naird’s helicopter pilot Captain Angela Ali and our favourite ‘Phoebe’ (Lisa Kudrow) who plays Naird’s wife Maggie, there is just one word – wasted!

Where’s the parody?

The series becomes highly boring after the entry of wealthy investor Edison Jaymes (played by Kaitlin Olson), a parody of Elon Musk. She has stakes in different companies, from one producing rocket fuel to apparel and visits Space Force to introduce a cheap fuel known as Skinny Fuel. While everyone likes her ideas, Dr Mallory is suspicious of their authenticity, especially the one related to the fuel. The dialogues and characterization around this character are excruciatingly boring, shallow, and unfunny.

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At the end of Episode 7, Jaymes and her social media manager Hannah Howard, raise the suspicion of Dr Mallory after the former refuses to reveal the formula for her Skinny Fuel. She instead butters Naird up and convinces him, pretending to be a scientist, but later tries to sell shirts of her own apparel line ‘Shrt’. God help us understand the satire, fun or comedy in these scenes!

Diana Silvers essays the role of Naird’s lonely teenage daughter Erin

, played by Diana Silvers, feels terrible in the lonely, unlively atmosphere of Colorado where her family migrates after Naird’s appointment as chief of USSF. She has trouble finding friends and dates Yuri, a Russian astronaut-soldier in the base. The name Yuri, we believe is a riff of Yuri Gagarin, the first human to circumvent space. Erin and Tabner (a guard of Naird) get closer over an ice-cream spill in a fancy car of Edison, which again is based on Tesla (car) that is admired by Erin.

The scenes are vanilla, stirring no emotions, not even a smile.

Erin and Tabner come up with a handshaking machine that would allow people of the US to shake hands with the Chinese. The series particularly feels disconnected with what happens in 2020, but the handshaking machine reference connects us with what American physician Dr Anthony Fauci suggested early in April — to avoid handshaking and instead to go with an elbow bump.

The series fails abysmally in references and parodies and does nothing to us, but to make us feel bad for Netflix.

Cracking up? Not happening

Jokes like “One small snack for a man, one large soda for mankind” – which comes as a punch line for a food kiosk ‘Meal Armstrong’, said by Erin Naird while introducing herself to Tabner; Mark Naird hugging representative Pitosi and General Grabaston (a pun for ‘grab ass’ we deduce with disgust), the spoof on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez through catcalls, make are brain freezers. The Congressman’s belief about how the earth is flat and expressing belief in God in the court are just age-old fossil jokes.

The last two episodes of the series are just purposeless. Naird finding that the Chinese have already landed on the moon and Dr Mallory telling Naird that the Epsilon-6 has landed in a wrong spot, are predictable. In another scene, Chinese astronaut Dr. Zhang after landing on the moon says Americans used green screens to fake the landing of the US’s moon-landing mission Apollo. Again: not funny, not at all funny!

Tony, a character who represents the Space Force on Twitter comes with a sequence of so-called jokes, which do not make us laugh.

John Malkovich plays the character of Space Force scientist Dr. Adrian Mallory

Simply put, Netflix original Space Force falls flat on its primary purpose – comedy. The characters are loose, shallow. The writing is very weak with the jokes unable to even make the audience giggle. The portrayal of John Malkovich as Dr. Mallory is one thing that keeps our eyes on the screen.

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The characters are loosely interconnected with no proper writing backing them. The jokes written for the series do no justice to jokes but are reduced to mere ‘monologues’.

It is surprising how the series, despite all its elementary flaws is trending as No. 3 on Netflix.

Or is it that people are in utmost grief and boredom due to the lockdown? Hollywood, Tollywood and all the ‘woods’ around the world should step forward in this dire situation. No, we aren’t referring to the COVID-19 situation, but the lack of good comedy. Mediocre comedies getting attention like this is also a great danger to mankind. Do we deserve this?

By the way, we are still clueless about why Naird’s wife Maggie (Lisa Kudrow) is in jail! Who cares? Really, who cares?

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