Personal Space is a new sci-fi dramedy web series that follows a group of astronauts aboard a generation ship who have no idea their therapy sessions are being broadcast on Earth as a reality TV show. The series will tackle different themes such as isolation, rivalry and hope in a place like deep space.
The story of Personal Space takes place in an alternate timeline where the American space program has been decades ahead of actual history. Generation ship “Overture“ was launched on a very long journey in 1991 to a distant star. The crew serves in 25 year shifts, with each shift passing the torch to the one after. The audience watches current events aboard the ship unfold in 2016, as the second shift is supposed to take command, while the crew of Overture speak in confidence to the ship’s therapy computer. The key phrase here is “supposed to.“
The ensemble cast is led by Nicki Clyne (Battlestar Galactica) and it features Tahmoh Penikett (Supernatural), Richard Hatch (Battlestar Galactica), Tim Russ (Star Trek: Voyager), Kurt Yaeger (Sons of Anarchy) and Brent Bailey (Emma Approved). The creative team includes Tom R. Pike, Zack Wallnau and Dana Luery Shaw, also known for being the creators of the hit web series Echo Chamber (2011).
Does ‘web series’ and ‘space’ sound strange to you? As a matter of fact, it was a long time until Wallnau hip upon the idea of using the fixed perspective of a therapy computer to be able to afford to tell a sci-fi story on a small budget without it looking too cheap. “I’d been working on vlog-style web content: single-cam, one-shot shows, with the story told through editing (…) I realized we could combine that shooting style with this genre. So I doodled a sketch in a notebook and went about convincing Tom, which took almost a year. We were both busy, and we knew this was a big commitment.”
You don’t have to worry about the accuracy of its science either – Character Gail Gartner is based in part on Pike’s sister, a Kuiper Belt astronomer who studies the Oort Cloud, a distant, as-yet unobserved, set of objects at the furthest reaches of the Solar System. AMI, the ship’s therapy computer, is based on an early therapy chatbot named ELIZA from the 70’s and even Overture’s incredible interstellar drive is based on a proposal from the mid-20th century called an “Orion drive”, where nuclear weapons are detonated behind a ship to propel it forward.
Personal Space is not just about science though, and you don’t need to be a fan of of-sci fi to enjoy the series either. “Though the show can be dark at times, it’s our sincere hope that Personal Space shows what could be done, if we applied humanity’s collective ingenuity to the challenges of space travel”, says Pike. “The biggest hurdles between humanity and a real Overture are political, not scientific.”
Sci-fi is a genre that still has a long way to go when it comes to diversity and plural representation. Personal Space intends to fix some of those issues. For starters, it’s a female-led show, and the majority of the writing room is female as well. “There aren’t enough science fiction shows out that portray women as people who conduct and contribute to our understanding of science the way that Gartner and Li both do”, states Shaw. There’s also very relevant representation for disability. The show features a disabled character, Leonard Freeman, played by Kurt Yaeger, a disabled actor. Pike, who identifies as disabled due to a severe circadian rhythm disorder, states that portraying disability with honesty was a goal of his in creating the character of Freeman: “There have been other portrayals of disabled characters in science fiction, but many stories tend to show characters transcending disability rather than living with it.”
“This all sounds pretty awesome! How can I help?”
The creators have launched a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign available here. By contributing, you can help raise the remaining funds necessary to make the show. The campaign will end on May 25th, so hurry up! If the goal is reached, Personal Space will be distributed by Hulu affiliate ShareTV later this year.
During the course of the crowdfunding campaign, the team will be releasing transmedia, or extended universe, elements for fans and backers to enjoy. The first of these will be Science Marches Han, a mini web series featuring Tyler Ham Pong as Dr. Ian Han, that will release four videos during the campaign. The style is an homage to Bill Nye, Cosmos, and many other kids science shows of yesteryear.
To get a general idea of Personal Space, you can also check out their newly released teaser below: