Welcome to the world of tomorrow! What tomorrow looked like back in 1976!

The Omega 76 is a top of the line space station, inhabited by a small but varied collection of residents each with their own melodramatic issues. Captain Glenn (Patrick Wilson is finely moustached mode) overseas with seeming authority but is crippled with regret and social awkwardness. Jessica (Liv Tyler) takes over the recently vacated post of his second-in-command, something which does not sit well with the Captain. The inhabitants – first weary of Jessica – slowly begin to accept her, despite trust issues with the wives over their husbands apparent interest in her. The film takes place over several months as the lives of all on-board build to the final climax at an on-board cocktail party.

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The first thing immediately noticeable about this Sci-fi, comedy, drama is how good the effects look. Expecting something akin to ‘Dark Star’s low budget aesthetics the sheen of the film is closer to Soderbergh’s ‘Solaris’. Initially the film feels like it is going to be an out-and-out comedy taking the look of old-school 1960/70s sci-fi films in some kind of adventure. What it is in fact is a very visually well observed dramedy where the characters of The Omega 76 start out as exaggerated caricatures but end up as desperate and ultimately sad individuals.

The biggest gag of the film is perhaps it’s set and costume design. The station is all white with brown and orange waves adorning the walls. Everyone wears jumpsuits or bell-bottomed trousers whilst their hair looks like it’s come from ‘American Hustle’s costume department. The boiler room is straight out of ‘Alien’, the greenhouse from ‘Silent Running’ and living quarters somewhere  between Tarkovsky’s ‘Solaris’ and ‘That 70s Show’. Space Station 76 looks fantastic and starts out promisingly too. A frustrated, drugged up housewife talking to a therapist is revealed to be talking at a little robot who acts as the ships councillor but is not bigger than a soda stream should set up the farcical nature of the film. Wilson’s performance too is all Zap Brannigan bloat and incompetence. As the film plays out though it becomes less about the laughs and more about the dramatic implications each person on board has with the other.

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Whilst some of these work to a point. The Captain’s misery over his lost second-in-command is touching and reminiscent of his disheartened turn in ‘Watchmen’. Over the story-lines like Tyler’s love triangle with Matt Bomer’s Ted plays out like a dull melodrama. By the films third act the jokes seem to have gone and all that’s left is a pretty un-engaging soap opera.

Director Jack Plotnick, best known as an actor, clearly knows and loves his sci-fi films and TV lore. It’s a shame that all his love seems to have gone into the look rather than the tone of the film which manages to go all over the place without ever setting down in one place.

 

Space Station 76 is out on DVD 6th October

 

 

By Michael Dickinson

Michael is the VultureHound Film Editor.