Other Space: The Bisexual Universe of The Future
Imagine a future where high-ranking male officers wear skirts, women occupy the highest leadership roles and Mystery Science Theater 3000 star Joel Hodgson is reunited with the voice of Trace Beaulieu (aka Crow T. Robot). It’s Other Space, an eight-episode series that premiered quietly on Yahoo! Screen back in April. The show was created by Paul Feig, creator of the cult classic Freaks and Geeks and director of Bridesmaids, Spy, and the forthcoming Ghostbusters reboot. Other Space depicts a world where women are dominant, men are submissive, and everyone is pretty much equally silly. It’s also a show where bisexuality is pretty much taken for granted, so much so that it’s never even directly addressed as an issue.
Set in the early part of the 22nd century, in the very first episode we get glimpses of high-ranking male officers wearing skirts next to women who wear pants. Over the course of the season, the show gets progressively queerer, first accidentally (alien mind control makes people do funny things) and later on not so accidentally at all, when it turns out that two same-sex characters have been sleeping together all along.
Despite Feig’s popularity, the show hasn’t gotten a whole lot of attention. To be honest I don’t even know if I’d heard of Yahoo! Screen before, although I realize now that’s the network where Community went to die. But an AV Club article argues that the show’s revolutionary not because it plays up bisexual storylines but because it treats them like no big deal. At one point the fiery Karen Lipinski (Bess Rous) makes fun of the ship’s captain, her brother Stewart (Karan Soni), by referring to an alien as his boyfriend. It initially seems that she’s just belittling him, but Stewart turns the tables by lamenting that he hasn’t had a boyfriend in years.
Queer sci-fi characters have been a contentious issue on TV since at least the time of Star Trek: The Next Generation, when fans begged and pleaded with writers to include queer storylines on the show. It never happened. Over time things have gradually gotten better. In the late nineties a Canadian-German show called Lexx featured, in writer Brandon Nowalk’s words, “a manly man, a horny woman, a dead goth, and a robot head with a man’s voice.” A decade later the Welsh Doctor Who spinoff Torchwood featured a variety of gay and bisexual storylines, primarily around its highly-sexed male protagonist, Captain Jack Harkness. Other shows like Caprica and Stargate Universe feature gay and lesbian characters as well.
Other Space is a goofy comedy that realistically may not make it past one season. Still, it’s an excellent sign that TV has space for bi characters. With huge amounts of young Americans, Britons, and even Israelis refusing to identify as totally straight or totally gay, it only makes sense that they’d like to be represented on TV. Mainstream shows have given bi guys storylines before, so it’s nice that futuristic sci-fi is finally catching up to the present.
Previously published September 5, 2015.