WHILE the 76 of the title may be an identifier for the titlular ship, it also plays a dual role in locating this pleasant science fiction smirker in a mid-70s environment, or, at least, how mid-70s cinema and TV saw space stations. We have lots of analogue buttons, clunky thick video tapes sat alongside palm-print recognition and futuristic post-Earth tech.
“Space Station 76” delivers a few “Airplane!“-style gags early on (cigarette lighter on the flight deck’s dashboard) but quickly drifts into an okay relationship drama between the various fucked-up crew members. You can find closet homosexuals, breaking marriages, and infidelities a-plenty on board, all heard by the the robotic shrink who actually provides the best comedic moments of the entire film as the crew members consult him/her/it and receive a torrent of psycho-babble platitudes or valium prescriptions in return.
Anyone expecting gag-a-second laughs won’t find them here. “Space Station 76” is no “Galaxy Quest” but is not an inferior film because of it. A “Space 1999” influenced production design has enough nods to old school SF (“Silent Running“, “2001“) that is cleverly utilised to present an authentic SF experience on a limited budget, referencing the film’s stage origins. It looks really good, a kind of “Boogie Nights” in space without the porn or Scorsese.
Cast-wise, Patrick Wilson continues delivering exceptional performances (qv Fargo, season 2“) and Liv Tyler plays the innocent newcomer well enough, while child actor Kylie Rogers is great as neglected space-born kid Sunshine whose parents are oblivious to her as they seek their own needs.
Not a lot happens in “Space Station 76”, and not a lot needs to happen. It’s a relationship comedy-drama that happens to be set in a SF world based on 1970s entertainment. It won’t bowl you over, but there are enough laughs, sadness and smirks to make this a useful spend of 90 or so minutes of your time.