Earlier this week, Netflix dropped the trailer for their highly anticipated new comedy, “Space Force,” starring Steve Carrell and a number of other top tier comedians and actors. The show, brought to us by the same folks that made the American version of “The Office” a rousing success, follows General Mark. R. Naird, played by Carell, as he takes command of the newly established force, just in time for workplace shenanigans to ensue.
As a military and a science fiction nerd, I should be really excited for this show’s premier on May 29, but honestly, after watching this new “Space Force” trailer, I have a few concerns that just may make this show a failure to launch–at least for me.
I’ve covered the Space Force for various news outlets since well before President Donald Trump announced his plans to establish a new branch–since back in the days when it was called the “Space Corps.” At the time, pushing for a space-specific branch wasn’t a partisan issue, but rather a mutually agreed upon concern within members of both the Democratic and Republican parties.
“There is bipartisan acknowledgement that the strategic advantages we derive from our national security space systems are eroding,” Republican, Rep. Mike Rogers of Alabama, and Democrat, Rep. Jim Cooper of Tennessee wrote in a joint statement released in the summer of 2017.
“We are convinced that the Department of Defense is unable to take the measures necessary to address these challenges effectively and decisively, or even recognize the nature and scale of its problems.”
“We must act now to fix national security space and put in place a foundation for defending space as a critical element of national security. Therefore, our Mark will require the creation, under the Secretary of the Air Force, of a new Space Corps, as a separate military service responsible for national security space programs for which the Air Force is today responsible. We view this as a first, but critical step, to fixing the National Security Space enterprise.”
Sounds an awful lot like the Space Force we’d eventually establish, doesn’t it? Back before Trump announced plans to establish a Space Force, members of both parties were able to see eye to eye on the need for a Space Corps. Now, however, America’s polarizing politics have been this new branch seem silly to many, simply because a fair portion of the nation doesn’t like the sitting president.
Now, let me be clear that I’m not suggesting that everyone should like the president–I think even he would be willing to acknowledge that he’s a polarizing figure in American politics. Instead, I’m just pointing out that an endeavor isn’t inherently bad or good based on whether or not you like the guy that kicks it off. Orbital defense is actually something just about everyone in Washington DC is willing to get behind.
The Space Force (branch) has some real detractors with pertinent points worth considering, but none of them are that America can ignore threats in space. Those who opposed the establishment of the new branch were largely in favor or orbital operations, they just thought keeping those ops under the umbrella of the U.S. Air Force (as they have been for years) would be more more cost effective means to the same end.
Former Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, who opposed the establishment of a new Space Force branch but knows well how important orbital security is, explained America’s satellite infrastructure by saying we’d “built a glass house before the invention of stones.” In other words, we began fielding satellites that we’ve come to depend on for everything from navigation to communications long before national opponents had the means to interfere with or destroy them.
Now, nations like Russia and China (both of whom have space-specific military branches already in place) are rapidly developing the capability needed to interfere with American satellites, and as such, America’s ability to effectively wage war.
Which brings me to the looming concern I have about the new Netflix “Space Force” trailer: the premise of the series seems to be that orbital operations are the joke, and the series’ cast of characters are left trying to run a branch that “militarizes space” and wastes money… “four middle schools” worth of wasted money, the trailer jokes, in one failed launch attempt. Again, political satire is totally cool and there doesn’t have to be a consensus about how the government spends our money, but mocking the very premise of a space-specific branch feels a little too much like mocking the men and women who are currently doing that very job in real life.
I was so excited at the prospect of a workplace comedy that revolves around military personnel. Anyone that’s ever spent time in uniform can attest to how ridiculous and comedic some parts of military life can truly be… but I’m not on the market for a heavy handed political message adorned in comedic trappings. Of course, you might think I’m just being overly sensitive, and maybe you’re right–but I’m the sort of Marine that’ll eat a crayon in front of a room full of strangers to land a joke. I’m all for leaning into some friendly ribbing, but not for disrespecting the act of service to one’s country.
If the joke of the series is really to be how dumb it is to spend money on orbital defense, then “Space Force” will almost certainly fail to capture my attention past the first episode. If, however, the show acknowledges that there are real service members seriously dedicating their lives to ensuring America’s continued prosperity through space operations, and instead chooses to poke fun at the silliness of the characters and even the way the military goes about its business, it just may be one great show after all.
I guess we’ll all have to wait until May 29 to know for sure.