Netflix comedy ‘Space Force’ a simple, silly, hilarious military satire

Berk Oto, Managing Editor

“This is not a joke. His words — boots on the moon by 2024,” the Secretary of Defense, played by Dan Bakkedahl, said to the room full of generals groaning at the announcement of the nation’s newest military branch, Space Force. “Actually, he said boobs on the moon, but we believe that to be a typo,” he quickly added.

If you’re looking for an intellectual and satirical deconstruction of the Trump administration, the new Netflix comedy “Space Force” is not for you. Instead, the show offers the simple and silly yet brilliant and timeless comedy in the style of “The Office” that made Steve Carell famous. 

From the vengeful, irrational and, at times, ridiculous president who announces policy decisions through Twitter, to the charismatic young Latinx congresswoman from New York who is skeptical of excessive military spending, “Space Force” parodies the contemporary political climate without naming names. This gives the show’s writers creative license to poke fun at high-profile figures without embroiling the show in partisan controversy.

Carell’s character, a charming and headstrong four-star general named Mark Naird, reluctantly takes a job as the head of the newest branch of the armed forces and relocates with his family to a remote town in Colorado, where he establishes the headquarters of the United States Space Force. Naird’s main objective throughout the season is to establish a lunar colony on the Moon.

Surrounded by brilliant and quirky scientists like Chief Scientist of the Space Force Dr. Adrian Mallory (John Malkovich), Naird frustratingly but humorously chooses to ignore logical and scientific recommendations made by his team in favor of impulsive and rash decisions. When a Chinese spacecraft disassembles an American satellite, the scientists propose nudging the pieces together using light energy. Naird dismisses the proposition, instead proposing a bomb — citing that the Air Force always used one when they were out of ideas. When it was clear that a bomb wouldn’t work in the vacuum of space, he wasted precious hours trying to control a chimpanzee on a nearby American spacecraft to fix the broken ship. Instead of telling an inspiring story of American ingenuity, the success that Naird finds in his leadership embodies the idiom of “fake it till you make it” with silly proposals that are just so crazy that they sometimes work.

Instead of telling an inspiring story of American ingenuity, the success that Naird finds in his leadership embodies the idiom of “fake it till you make it” with silly proposals that are just so crazy that they sometimes work.”

With other industry titans such as Ben Schwartz, Lisa Kudrow, Jimmy O. Yang, and Fred Willard (who died May 15 after filming was complete), the show’s cast is truly stacked. Some of the biggest draws, yet greatest weaknesses to the show are the actors’ ties to their characters from former shows. While getting one last chance to see Mr. Carell in an eccentric and endearing workplace leadership role is nostalgic, the comparison leaves the viewer disappointed by the numerous differences between Micael Scott and Naird. The same is true for Ben Schwartz’s character, F. Tony Scarapiducci, who seems like a lamer, more toned-down version of Jean-Ralphio Saperstein from “Parks and Recreation,” and Lisa Kudrow’s Maggie Naird, who is a less charming version of Phoebe from “Friends.”

The most jarring aspect of this otherwise farcical show are the many desultory and unresolved sub-plots. While some of them make sense, like Naird’s daughter’s rebellious adventures and the unlikely friendship between Dr. Mallory and General Naird, many others, like Naird’s rivalry with the Air Force and the unknown crime Naird’s wife committed to land in prison, fall flat and slow the progression of the overall plot for the sake of a few gratuitous one-liners. The loose ends are likely to raise suspense for a second season, but the numerous unrelated plots can at times feel overdone and difficult to keep track of.

Regardless, if you’re looking for a fun show guaranteed to make you laugh out loud an astronomical amount of times — or you simply want to see your favorite actors in action — “Space Force” is the show for you.