Friday, March 02, 2018

Personal Space: Featuring Commander Richard Hatch

We were optimistic during the Reagan years—even about space exploration. That is when the Overture generation ship launched. We’re not so optimistic about anything anymore, especially not the space program. These are the reality television years, so it is fitting a reality media company has acquired the mission. They will broadcast crew members sessions with the mandatory therapy computer back to Earth and reveal little snippets to their colleagues to foment dissension in the web series Personal Space (awesome trailer here), which launches today.

As the Overture goes where no man has gone before, most of the crew dozes in suspended animation. They will wake in shifts to manage the mission and perform experiments. However, Robert King, the commander of the first shift, has already extended his waking time well past customary protocol. Frankly, he lacks confidence in Gail Gartner, the commander of the second shift, but he is trying not to say so, in so many words. Meanwhile, the abrasively annoying second shift doctor, Stanley “Blasto” Blaszkiewicz is a perfect match for reality TV, whereas the caustic botanist Deborah Li is decidedly not. They are already clashing.

Personal Space has the distinction of being one of the final projects starring the late Richard Hatch, from both Battlestar Galactica series. He is perfectly cast as Commander King—and also a little poignant in retrospect. He mostly plays the role straight (at least judging from the first five webisodes), whereas the rest of the cast specializes in dysfunctional neuroses and goofball antics. Sean Persaud’s Dr. Blasto is definitely not afraid of a little shtickiness, but the biggest laughs so far come from Vivi Thai as the acerbic-tongued Li.

Even though the generation ship is a staple of science fiction literature, it does not turn up in media that often (there was Passengers, but let’s try to forget that one). In this case, the transitional changing-of-the-guard period is an interesting point pick up the journey. The humor is a little hit or miss, but at four to six minutes a pop (depending on whether there is a “post-episode recap” with the studio hosts on Earth), Personal Space does not ask much in terms of time commitment. For a lot of us, it will be worth checking in with it, just to see new work from Hatch, in a science fiction context. Recommended for fans of BSG and classic sf novels, such as Heinlein’s Orphans of the Sky, Personal Space launches today on Amazon, YouTube, and ShareTV.