It is the far future and mankind has reached the stars, branching out to colonise the void and its various planets. On Space Station 76, a new arrival docks in the shuttlecraft, Jessica (Liv Tyler), who is to take the position of First Lieutenant there under Captain Glenn (Patrick Wilson), and she wishes to do her very best. The last ship she was on had the reputation as one of the finest, and she felt a part of that achievement so has a selection of suggestions to make as to how to bring this station up to that level, but Glenn has problems with his new second-in-command not only trying to impose improvements, but also being a woman. The crew number twenty-six now, but are finding no solace in their own company out in the isolation of space...
This was one of a number of twenty-first century movies to look to the relatively recent past, further in some cases, for its inspiration and its whole appearance. Lower-budgeted than many, it was drawn from co-writer and director Jack Plotnick's stage play which had run for a few months in Los Angeles and picked up a cult following; not wishing to let that go, he and his team adapted it into a movie script that was redolent of the seventies and its notions of what the future would be like. Imagine science fiction in the immediate shadow of Stanley Kubrick's epic 2001: A Space Odyssey and trying to cope with all the self-actualisation the media was telling them they should prioritise and you had an idea of what was on offer.
Of course, as much as the film said something about 1976 just before Star Wars arrived and ensured the genre was as much about action as it was about thought, it also had observations on what the now as seen by the then would have been like. By the point this had been released, all the anxieties of the decade forty years or so past were magnified as we still had not worked out our place in the universe, with so many differing opinions pulling mankind in various directions, and even then we were looking back to the past for answers that the characters here did only inasmuch as they behaved as if it were still the seventies, with surroundings looking as if Space: 1999 had become a reality yet scored to a soundtrack of Todd Rundgren. The entire production design was very savvy in that respect.
We followed a bunch of residents of the station for whom the incredible advances in technology had merely served to exacerbate their insecurities and flaws, with Captain Glenn still guiltily suffering the effects of driving away his secret gay lover down to Sunshine (Kylie Rogers), the little girl who has no friends of her own age and is stuck with a mother, Misty (Marisa Coughlan) who is neurotic and jealously guarding her for purely selfish reasons, since her daughter is the only person who loves her, and even then because she doesn't know any better. Her husband Ted (Matt Bomer) is not much help with his hang-ups over his robot hand, and now he is attracted to Jessica who has taken a liking to Sunshine mostly because she cannot have children of her own.
You could see a depressive air to much of Space Station 76, and at times it wasn't as funny as the filmmakers thought simply thanks to the amount of emotional pain the characters were enduring. One thing they got right about the future in the seventies was how important psychology would be, and with so many mentally damaged people around now coping with the present that was no way as impressive at the past had led us to expect, soothing that nagging sense of disappointment and malaise with their technology rather than addressing it in a helpful manner, you could well see Plotnick was onto something. The most telling scene comes when Misty is seeing her psychiatrist Dr. Bot, who is a little toy robot cued to respond to key phrases spoken in therapy, and when she tries to get to close to it as the only "person" around who understands her, it goes into alarm mode until she has to switch it off. Then she hugs it anyway. That unease science fiction mixed with regrets about not enjoying your life was uncomfortably realised: amusing, but... Music by Marc and Steffan Fantani.