SPACE STATION 76
Space Station 76 is construed as a parody of science-fiction tv shows of the 1970s. There are no specific scenes that quote the classics, although you could nominate a bunch of shows like Battlestar Galactica (1978-9) and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (1979). Mostly though, the sets and costume designs have all been modelled on live-action Gerry Anderson tv series such as UFO (1969-72) and Space: 1999 (1975-7). The design does a wonderful job of getting the retro style and costuming of 1970s futurism, while the background is packed with a range of the eras technologies such as vcr players and videotapes, vinyl record players and 3D viewer glasses. There is a wonderfully spacy prog rock soundtrack, featuring in particular tracks from Todd Rundgren. There is even a cameo from the 78-year-old Keir Dullea none other than Dave Bowman from 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), which was the work that defined science-fiction for the era on a videophone conversation as Liv Tylers father.
I sat down to watch Space Station 76 with a great deal of anticipation. What I was really hoping is that it would be for 1970s tv science-fiction the equivalent of what GalaxyQuest (1999) did to mercilessly parody Star Trek (1966-9). Only I ended up being disappointed. Rather than going for knowing fan humour, Jack Plotnick seems to have something in mind more akin to the deadpan blackness of Dark Star (1974), a series of loose interactions and personal dramas depicting the boredom of life aboard a space mission. It is a film where rather than aiming for gags and humour, the comedy all comes obliquely the sort where you are never sure whether you should be laughing or taking it seriously. Perhaps the most obvious the film ever gets is the scenes where Patrick Wilsons commander keeps trying to commit suicide only to be interrupted by the station computer correcting the power surges as he drops a clock in his bath or adjusting for pressure as he tries to gas himself.
The disappointment of Space Station 76 is that, aside from its wonderfully conceived retro setting, it plays out more as an ensemble family gathering comedy the sort of comedy/drama where everybodys secrets come out during tensions and drunken revelations at the Christmas party or some such something akin to films like The Celebration (1998), The Family Stone (2005), August: Osage County (2013) or This is Where I Leave You (2014). The revelations that come out here that Patrick Wilsons commander is gay, that married couple Matt Bomer and Marisa Coughlan dont like each other and have been staying together for the sake of the child, that Liv Tyler cant have children are staggeringly mundane. You could transplant everything that happens here to an everyday contemporary setting. You reach the end of the film wondering, if this was the story that Jack Plotnick and his co-writers wanted to tell, why did they need to create a science-fiction vehicle to do?
The visual effects are clearly on the lesser-budgeted side alas, none of the amazing miniature scenes that Gerry Anderson shows were noted for but are generally serviceable. The shots of the shuttle docking with the station that we see in the opening scenes are exceptional.