The Triumphant Return of Other Space

You know him as the creator of Freaks and Geeks, the director of Bridesmaids, and the guy who helmed the 2016 Ghostbusters reboot. But Paul Feig is most proud of Other Space, a sci-fi comedy show you might have missed the first time around.

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“It was possibly the most frustrating thing I’ve ever been through in my career,” Paul Feig says. “To make something I’m so proud of that was exactly what I wanted it to be that had this amazing cast, and the writing was so good. And then to be so happy with the final product and then nobody sees it.”

Feig isn’t talking about the bizarre internet backlash that greeted the 2016 version of Ghostbusters, but instead, lamenting how a year prior, in 2015, his series Other Space — which originally debuted on the now-defunct Yahoo Stream platform — was shelved with very little fanfare or announcement. If you haven’t heard of Other Space, an 8-episode comedy series, you’re forgiven. At a glance, it feels like a show you know you would instantly love; the aesthetics of ‘70s space opera, but with the jaunty, quirky humor of Community

Perhaps if Other Space had aired right before Doctor Who in 2015, it may have found an audience. And the ensuing years have seen an explosion in sci-fi comedy, from Avenue 5 to Space Force, and the forthcoming Star Trek: Lower Decks, which, coincidentally or not, stars Eugene Cordero, who plays Michael on Other Space. Was Other Space simply a few years ahead of its time?

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“Well, this project has actually existed since 2004,” he explains. “I wanted to do a sci-fi comedy that is kind of a workplace thing and I had a deal for one script at NBC in 2004. I came up with the idea for Other Space. But, at the time NBC told me ‘we’re not really sure what to do with this.” 

Eventually, NBC passed on the project, and Feig considered it dead until Yahoo Stream approached him nine years later. “I told them I had a show that I’ve been dying to make.”

Watching Other Space now there’s no question that had it debuted on Netflix or Hulu that it would have been a hit among geeks of all stripes. The problem with the show wasn’t its quality, but the medium. Yahoo Stream chose to forgo traditional advertisements, meaning most people were totally unaware of it. 

“When the platform fell apart, and all the articles started coming out, that we bankrupted Yahoo Screen, the message going out is ‘oh these shows must have been terrible.’ It got a bad rep and then nobody can see it,” Feig says. “It was really a shame.”

Now, Other Space has been given a second life on the streaming service DUST, which specifically caters to people who care about science fiction. Featuring hundreds of indie sci-fi films (short and long) DUST is the kind of place you can spend weeks on, and find all sorts of gems you had no idea even existed. Other Space hitting DUST, is a little like finding an out-of-print run of comic books at the back of your favorite comic book store. In today’s over-saturated geek media world, sometimes it’s hard to find the cool thing that still feels fully cool. Other Space is that thing.

Part of what makes the show so wonderful for sci-fi fans is its not-so-subtle nods to the aesthetics of what Feig affectionately calls “old sci-fi.” A Trekkie like me might think the uniforms worn by the crew of the Cruiser are an homage to Star Trek: The Motion Picture in 1979, but Feig points out that it’s all about Space:1999 and the ‘70s version of Battlestar Galactica.

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“Those were my shows,” he says fondly. Though he does draw the line at the 1979 Buck Rogers when I suggest it, too. “Well, Buck Rogers to an extent. But, Buck Rogers got kind of stupid. We hated the robot. The great Mel Blanc was doing the voice, and that was great. But what was that, a little dutch boy? It was crazy.”

The line that Feig likes to walk in nearly all of his comedy work is clearly the type of humor that punches-up and not down. In Bridesmaids, the various cliches of what happens at weddings were mocked, but the sympathy still stayed with the characters. This was Feig’s approach with Other Space, too. The show doesn’t mock sci-fi as a genre but instead imagines what “real people” would be like in an extreme sci-fi setting.

“In some sci-fi, everyone goes into cryogenic sleep so they can get to the next cool thing,” Feig explains. “But if you don’t have that, you’re just stuck in a spaceship forever. And you’re just all human beings, what’s going to be the dynamics of that? Who’s gonna fall in love with who? How are you going to pass the time? Who is going to get pissed at who? That stuff is really funny to me.” 

Feig’s commitment to this kind of premise is fairly clear in the final product. As much as Other Space might look like some older sci-fi, it doesn’t really openly mock existing franchises either. It is 100 percent its own universe, specifically when the crew of the Cruiser enters an unknown universe. It’s a comedy series in the style of other science fiction, but it would be wrong to conflate it with a spoof. In fact, the most famous sci-if spoof of all time, Spaceballs, isn’t something Feig is crazy about.

“I know it’s a heresy to say this now, but I wasn’t really a Spaceballs fan,” he explains with a sigh. “It was like ‘Oh, you like Star Wars, let’s make fun of all the things you like about Star Wars.’ I was just like, ‘Let’s make sci-fi funny.’ Let’s have fun with science and the future and the trappings of that. Part of Feig’s larger point, and something you can see really come through in all aspects of Other Space, is that good science fiction can still be really funny. 

Part of his criticism of Spaceballs is that it just mocks a movie that is already pretty damn funny. Is any joke in Spaceballs funnier than when Han Solo says “Boring conversation anyway?”  Feig puts it like this: “When I saw Star Wars on the very first opening weekend in 1977, I love that the movie is a laugh a minute. It got great laughs throughout. It was true to sci-fi but it was funny and it had a funny attitude to it. After that, I think sci-fi went through a dark period where nothing could be funny.”

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When it comes to his allegiance to funny science fiction, Feig wants a second season for Other Space, and he hopes that its new streaming home on DUST will help generate excitement for that possibility. But, if asked, he admits he would certainly do a comedy version of Star Wars, if possible. What would it be like? 

“I’ve always wanted to do something with those side characters,” he says. “Like the little mouse droid, Chewbacca yells at. I want to do a movie about that. Like a weird connective tissue between two of the movies. Like a fun version of Rogue One.”

OTHER SPACE comes to DUST on August 1.