I think the most wonderful thing about Netflix is its ability to give passion projects a chance as well as reviving dead network shows. The level of creative control offered is also often unheard of on network television. This makes me hopeful that creatives will be able to push for the same control on network shows and make some needed changes to the industry. But I digress. ‘Final Space’, started life as a short on a Reddit post by independent filmmaker and creator, Olan Rogers. It’s clear from watching the series that Rogers is passionate and devoted to his creation and it’s great to see an idea like this receive mainstream attention with high profile castings, as well as a now confirmed second series.
Fortunately, this passion seeps into the narrative and creates a mostly engaging plot, with fun characters and a unique style and world. The premise is standard fare for an animated series for adults set in space. Although, it’s difficult to tell whether it’s attempting to parody generic sci-fi tropes, or use them as its basis. It could well be both. The plot however, is genuinely intriguing and the linear, serialised narrative style works well and is supported incredibly by the ticking timer of the short pre-credits scenes at the start of each episode; a great touch. The whacky plot is also amplified by some fantastic visuals that would make Christopher Nolan blush. The elements presented have a Lovecraftian inspiration to them and they’re a real highlight of the show.
The characters, however, are a bit more divisive. On an initial viewing, protagonist Gary (voiced by Rogers) comes off as a little too obnoxious and boisterous to be engaging, though he did grow on me as the plot progressed. Stand outs include an unrecognisable David Tennant as the villain, ‘The Lord Commander’ and Fred Armisen as the intentionally irritating robot, ‘KVN.’ Tom Kenny, of ‘Spongebob Squarepants’ fame, also provides a less than subtle, but still hilarious parody of ‘HAL 9000’ as ‘HUE,’ becoming an endearing addition to the cast as the show develops.
The main criticism comes from the comedic elements of this sci-fi/comedy. Many of the jokes unfortunately don’t hit their mark and come off as too adolescent and silly. Much of this is due in part to the attempted humour coming from Gary himself, who unfortunately just isn’t very funny. There are some side characters that provide some genuine laughs, but for the most part, it misses its mark. I also found the soundtrack to be a little generic in places, particularly the title theme. The quieter moments in ambient space, however, did have some gorgeous, quieter music, so we’ll call the soundtrack a mixed bag.
All in all, I enjoyed ‘Final Space.’ It didn’t work for me as a comedy, but the story was compelling enough that the cliff-hanger ending left me wanting more. If the jokes are improved and the characters developed to be less grating in the next series, this could rival shows like ‘Archer’ and ‘Rick and Morty’ as a really great example of genre specific, adult animated programming. As is, it’s a little lacking. But much like the adorable MacGuffin of the show, ‘Mooncake’, there is hidden potential in this small package.