It really is a shame that Other Space is only eight episodes long. Like any sitcom, with each passing episode the actors seem to be more comfortable in their characters. If, say, Milana Vayntrub can do what she’s doing with Tina in episode three, just think what she could do with her in episode 20. A function of that stability of character is the fact that the plot of “The Death Of A.R.T.” sees the gang splitting up to work on two separate goals/plots, rather than all work together for the same one. They don’t all need to be in this together anymore because their characters are becoming more fully-formed, rather than the essential template the actors are originally given to work with. There are a lot of what-ifs that go into shows with such a short run, but with Other Space, the one that plagues me the most is what if the writers could see and adapt to the strength of each actor, as is allowed on a longer run? How much better could the already fantastic Tina be?
The issue with “The Death of A.R.T” is it largely segregates the weaker characters from the stronger ones, exacerbating which work better than others. Stewart, Tina, and Kent are the “fun team,” but they’re also the funny team. Their goal is to create a message to send to the email lifeforms to avoid the attacks that have plagued the crew in the first two episodes. Feeling underestimated by Karen, they set out to prove the second in command wrong. But each has their own idea of what the alien lifeforms should know about them: Stewart wants a message of peace, Kent on of submission, and Tina one of war. Vayntrub knows how to work her body and face to her benefit, especially with her always-present pigtails. Her hairstyle infantilizes her, so she can starkly contrast that with her hawkish behavior (They have a robot!). Vayntrub is beginning to emerge as the cast’s most valuable player with Karan Soni (Stewart) and Neil Casey (Kent) not far behind her.
But Tina and Kent have the benefit of being outsized caricatures, while Stewart is supposed to be a likable everyman screw up. The same cannot be said for Karen and Michael, a.k.a. the Downer Team. They are tasked with fixing part of the ship. Their hopes are dashed when robot A.R.T. is sucked into deep space (“BOOGA BOOGA I’M AN ALIEN!”). Karen is not supposed to be particularly funny. She’s a woman of the straightest variety. While her moments of vulnerability are nice and certainly unexpected from this kind of show, she’s not particularly funny, although, once again, she’s not really supposed to be. The voice of reason, no matter how stern, never really is. But Michael is still not hitting for me. While the other weirdos have established their eccentricities, Michael the sycophant in constant need of approval does not work as well as the child-like pigtailed woman calling for the blood of the aliens.
While Tina’s message to potential alien enemies was wonderful, the highlight of “The Death Of A.R.T.” was Joel Hodgson and Trace Beaulieu, who had been somewhat adrift throughout the first two episodes, coming in as goofy comic relief when needed. But in “The Death Of A.R.T.” they are active participants in the plot, and welcome ones at that. Hodgson may not be the best actor, but he’s so an affable screen presence and it’s comforting to watch him bumble through the episode, especially with A.R.T. by his side. I openly guffawed Zalien brought A.R.T. back from the dead.
While the cast was split into parts, each group came to their own conclusions: They’re kind of terrible at this whole space exploration thing. There are few shows out there where the characters can admit they are subpar when it comes to the one job they are supposed to do. But the inherent positivity shines through when it comes to Stewart’s rousing speech to the crew: “We’re really not that good but, goddamnit, we’re good enough!”
- About those bleeped swears? According to Feig they are intentional. In a tweet he said, “We don’t have to bleep. I just find it funnier. But there’s unbleeped swear words in later episodes. Enjoy!” I think that concept works considerably better in this episode than it did in “Getting To Know You,” where it just felt off.
- “Tina, stop being so white.”
- “If it puckers, lube it.”