“The generation that won WW2 was exposed to so much awful reality that they made mostly good decisions for a long time after. Forget history and you are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past. Forget how bad Polio was, and people stop taking vaccines. Forget how bad World Wars are, and people start puffing out their chest” – General Mark Naird (Steve Carrell)
Netflix is the last place you expect to find a solid critique of US imperialism, but Space Force a sitcom created by US Office and Parks and Rec creator Greg Daniels, and Michael Scott himself Steve Carrell is exactly that.
I started with trepidation as I expected the show itself to have been created as a way of manufacturing consent for the United States’ militarization of outer space, and the show, as a comedy takes a while to get going. The jokes about POTUS’ incessant tweeting and other such material didn’t land with me as they may with the liberals across the pond, neither did the congresswoman “Anabela Ysidro-Campos” (Ginger Gonzaga) who it is implies asks too many questions and cares too much about military spending when her constituents are on food stamps (an obvious stand in for AOC) but the satire improves a lot as the show nears its finale, and the tensions heat up with their lunar rivals from the People’s Republic of China.
Dr Adrian Mallory (John Malkovich) is the voice of reason amongst all this imperial aggression and misuse of space age technology (even being vocal about Nazi rehabilitation in Operation Paperclip several times), and Malkovich’s performance holds the full show together. The ‘A’ story is one of conflict between what exactly space exploration should be for, either imperial glory or for the material benefit of the human race as a whole, is one that will be faced by humanity for the next few centuries.
The ‘B’ story of the family life of a US military general with a wife in prison (who’s actual crime is never actually made clear, as far as I could tell) fails to hit the spot in the same way.
Whether or not this is meant as a critique of US foreign policy and military aggression towards China, or simply an ‘orange man bad’ story in election year is largely irrelevant. It hits home about the dangerous way the US operates on a global, and potentially universal scale. Diana Silvers performance as General Naird’s daughter Erin and Ben Schwartz shines as Naird’s publicist (even if his role is rather similar to his role as Jean Ralphio in Daniels’ other hit Parks and Recreation).
Even with its slow start, this show is a really funny and interesting way to spend a few hours.