Review–Transolar Galactica

Transolar Galactica (2011)

Genre: Comedy Webseries

Directed by: Adam Harum

Written by: Clancy BundyAdam HarumIsaac Joslin

Stars: Isaac JoslinJade WarpenburgAdam C. BoydClancy Bundy

Transolar Galactica is a trollish send up of every tried and true scifi cliché and topos. It is the unholy love child of the original Star Trek, J.J. Abrams’s Star Trek, and Galaxy Quest.  If William Shatner, Chris Pine, and Tim Allen fist-fucked each other in the deepest dungeon of a Klingon prison world this is what you would get, in all of its egregiously solar-flared glory. The J.J. Abrams-esque solar flares were so severe I thought I had suddenly developed glaucoma. A brilliant gag. Literally.

The Captain, Trigger, is an evil, retarded James T. Kirk. Now sure, Kirk was banging anything with green skin and a miniskirt, but at least he cared about the safety of his crew. Trigger makes decisions based entirely on the infantile whims of his ego. Then people die. Just who dies is patently hilarious. South Park has nothing on this. (You killed… everyone!) Isaac Joslin, who plays Trigger, somehow manages to cram both a Napoleon and an Ahab complex under the same adult-book-store-owner-looking hairdo. He does a great job of bringing out the  silly.

The butt of all this ridiculousness is the pilot, Yasaki, played by Jade Warpenburg. Yasaki is a poor man’s John Cho, although the delivery is more wooden, if that’s possible. But even though Jade has trouble spitting out some of the lines, his dead pan, understated, profanity-ridden delivery is fitting. He’s the straight man to all of this nonsense, riding herd unsuccessfully over the tardis. Wait, I mean ‘tards.’ I had a Freudian Dr. Who moment there.

You won’t believe the shit this Asian has to put up with. Ceaseless ignorance and bullying from his crew mates, no-win situations, and a passive-aggressive ship’s robot who could be Siri’s cunty, homicidal sister.

In the first episode Trigger tells Yasaki to set course to “the second star to the right, and straight on till morning.”

“You know I can’t set a course to a metaphorical location, right?” Yasaki answers. No, Trigger does NOT know that, and he bullies Yasaki into following his orders precisely. Every episode is the Kobayashi Maru for Yasaki. In the midst of a firefight, Yasaki is seen wielding a sword. “Why do I have a fucking sword? I wanted a goddamn gun. Why do we even have a Japanese katana on board?”

The jokes and gags are an endless, hilarious, dead-on skewering of scifi cultural topoi. Much of the timing is tight and snappy, but some is a bit drowsy. We already got the joke, but the action on the screen moves at snail’s pace, or stops entirely, waiting for us to ‘get it.’ I almost expected an actor  to spike the camera and wink in one scene. I’m not talking about the deliberate use of an uncomfortable silence–Transolar does that to good effect–I’m talking about condescending editing and pacing. The audience picks things up much more quickly that we think sometimes. Fortunately there were not many of those moments.

One of my favorite gags in the series involves the chief security officer, Reginald Murdock, played by Clancy Bundy. This motherfucker does no less than ten barbaric, one-dimensional, racist accents in the series. Clancy pulls it off with aplomb by going way over the top and embracing the ridiculousness.  Toward the end of the series it becomes a running gag, and when he gets two words into an Asian accent, all Yasaki can say is, “Aww, hell no…”

Transolar Galactica has a  saturated, green-screen look that is a consistent and intentional artistic choice. The effects–especially the guns–are fun and stimulating, and the J.J. Abrams solar flares are hilarious. This is premium indie scifi post production. A ton of work went into editing and effects. But it is still a green-screen world. Is that a bad thing? Some people say so, and I personally am not a big fan of the green-screen ‘look.’ Even so, for Transolar this  is a very valid artistic choice that I feel works well.

If I have a complaint about Transolar, it is that it is very formulaic: Captain makes rash decision based entirely on ego, people die. In a way, this could create a very easy entry into the story world: a consumer can watch any one of the episodes and enjoy it independently of the other pieces. I personally enjoyed every episode and viewed them as fast as they could load; I even watched some out of order. But by the fourth episode I was like, “I know how this is going to turn out.” Transolar could have gotten by with about three less episodes and been a better product. If they come out with more content in the same formula, I may not watch all of the episodes, no matter how funny they are. Ok, I probably would watch all of them.

But I think for the Transolar story world to have legs there would have to be more of an overarching plot and storyline, or at least a change up in the formula. Actually, I think the Transolar webseries would be ideal as part of a larger, transmedia product (Transolar people: talk to me–I know people…). You could have a film with a more substantial plot and story line, a video game, a card game, etc., and this webseries could provide vignettes that give you a another entry into the story world. Time will tell if the Transolar story formula is a hit with fans.

Transolar Galactica is a good example of where filmmaking is going. We no longer have a middle ground: a film is either a blockbuster with a bloated budget, or it has no budget. So independent media productions are going to be getting smaller and smaller, maybe just five or six people, at the most. Also, the technical proficiency of the independent media producers is increasing exponentially. This has resulted in what has been called “the indie curse”: high technical proficiency to the exclusion of all else. “Story? Who needs it? I have After Effects. Actors? Fuck ‘em. I will play the lead.”

Actually, Jade Warpenburg, who plays Yasaki, is the cinematographer as well. Is that even logistically possible? Anyway, giving someone (or yourself) a lead role because they are the cinematographer (or producer, etc.) is a horrible reason to cast someone. Especially when we are talking about one of only two lead roles in a series. That actor better be a ringer. There’s a ton of badass actors out there who are just dying to have any gig, even an unpaid one. Give them the role. Even though I personally like Jade as Yasaki, I do realize that an experienced actor could have done much more with the role.

Transolar defeats the indie curse for the most part. They have hilarious, clever writing, and some good acting to go along with their technical chops. Some portions of Transolar would score a solid four and a half out of five on the douchebag rating scale. Other portions, not so much. Sure some of the acting sucked, and I felt it could have a better overall story arc, but who cares? It’s funny. If we take the median score of the content presented, Trasnsolar gets a very respectable three and a half. I still feel however, that the Transolar Galactica story needs to be a transmedia experience.

“Transmedia Galactica”. Seriously, talk to me.


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