Written and directed by Monte Light, Random Media’s futuristic thriller-drama Space is set in the year 2050, where the BrightSTAR Corporation has launched the spaceship Udo on a lengthy mission to terraform the dwarf planet Ceres using experimental nanite technology. The Udo is equipped with microphones and multiple cameras to document the long-term psychological effects of deep space on the crew of five.
Dr. Ada Gray (award-winning actress Lara Jean, Paranoia Tapes 5: Rewind) is the specialist in the team — an expert in astrobiology and the creator of the nanite technology. Her fellow shipmates include Commander Phil King (Michael Klug — also a regular Terror Time contributor!), Tom “Tomcat” McMahon (James R. Hilton, Baywatch), sarcastic Payload Specialist Mitch “The Bitch” Poe (Justin Michael Terry, Stargate: Origins), and handsome French pilot Evan Durand (Kurt Quinn, Law & Order True Crime). Ada and Evan are visibly attracted to each other, but Evan is married — which makes their years in deep space quite the emotional pressure cooker. When a horrific accident leaves the crew stranded in separate escape pods with only video communication to link them, tensions begin to overflow. What’s worse, a horrific technological monster of their own creation threatens the crew’s lives.
The stationary cams on the ship are used effectively in a cold open, with Dr. Ada Gray broadcasting and answering “Ask Me Anything” questions live from the control deck, which range from whether the crew wear diapers, or if they actually drink Tang. (Shout-out to the filmmakers for great-looking news graphics, with a real-time news ticker across the bottom of the frame.) Ada’s AMA is intercut with a lengthy flashback to a group retreat for the crew, who are camping at Joshua Tree.
While it makes for a slow-burn opening act, Light’s story puts the focus on establishing the camaraderie the astronauts must build and maintain for the years it takes to reach Ceres. It’s during this retreat that we learn more about these interpersonal relations, which will continue on the mission. Ada’s attraction to Evan is almost instant — not only physically, but to his kind, empathetic nature, which presents a man she doesn’t feel compelled to compete with. Lara Jean portrays Dr. Ada with a guarded toughness, but it’s revealed she has been on prior missions with most of the other men, and she assures Commander Phil they will be fine.
The opening title images and CGI are a treat, and I quite enjoyed them. The majority of the film takes place in the Udo’s main hull interior, with the only camera images and angles coming from the fixed cams on the ship. Space is low-key as thrillers go, set almost entirely in the spaceship; it’s more akin to Claire Denis’s 2018 space drama High Life. There are no space battles or spacewalks; our ideas of what is happening outside the Udo come mainly from the ship’s monitors. The films limitations are felt, but the filmmakers had a budget to build great interiors for the Udo that bring to mind the UK comedy series Red Dwarf.
Klug portrays the amicable Commander Phil as neither a superhero nor a tormented soul, but “a damn fine leader.” Phil is magnanimous, focused and aware of each crew member’s strength’s and weaknesses. Jim Hilton also turns in a standout performance as Tomcat, the oldest member of the crew (clues suggest he’s a Gen X’er or Y’er). His presence is marked by a bluesy melancholia, with zen-like experience and dedication to duty. It was enjoyable watching Tomcat — several decades older than Ada — tutor her on using equipment, being fatherly and helpful without patronizing or mansplaining; we see how Ada can let her guard down with him.
Mitch “The Bitch” is a well-known type of guy, without being a cardboard stereotype: the sarcastic pessimist, often screwing around when it’s time to get to work and being a general naysayer. This is the person we’ve all worked with at some point in our lives: the guy who can screw up something big, but somehow still gets hired again. He even takes over a dual broadcast with Ada, explaining her nanite technology poorly before she can intervene and correct him. Terry’s performance during the Udo‘s catastrophic, tension-filled accident gave me a lot of sympathy for Mitch at those critical moments, despite his previous obnoxiousness.
Without giving away major plot points, the third act of the film is focused on Ada and Evan, who are now able to express their attractions fully — but only verbally, due to their physical separation after the catastrophe. This is clearly Dr. Ada’s story, and Lara Jean portrays her as a tough space traveler struggling with internal conflicts, who demonstrates moral courage and heroism when faced with a no-win scenario.
Fun side note: the executive producers wish to thank Drew Carey and the popular TV game show The Price Is Right, as Space was financed by Monte Light’s winnings from the show.
Space premieres On Demand on multiple digital platforms March 31. Watch the trailer here:
Update: the cast and crew of Space were originally slated to appear for a DVD/Blu-ray signing at the world-famous Dark Delicacies Bookstore on Saturday, March 28th at 4pm… but this event may be postponed due to California’s “Shelter-In-Place” directive in response to the Coronavirus outbreak. But we’ll let you know once we get updated information.