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Space Janitors Review

on Fri, 06/08/2012 - 00:00

Back in 1997—long before the advent of broadband Internet connections, video streaming and YouTube—independent filmmaker Kevin Rubio created a Star Wars parody entitled Troops and released it on the World Wide Web. Instead of the adventures of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Princess Leia, the ten-minute short focused on the unheralded stormtroopers of the Empire and their quest to find the droids R2D2 and C3PO on the planet of Tatooine during A New Hope. Filmed mockumentary style as an episode of a Cops-inspired fictitious television show, the stormtroopers of Troops explore the vast dune landscape, encounter Skywalker’s Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru and receive a message concerning a potential disturbance at the Mos Eisley Cantina.

A lot has changed since 1997 within the realm of online video technology, and the groundbreaking debut of Troops has given way to an abundance of equally professionally produced narratives created exclusively for the Internet. One such endeavor is Space Janitors, an eight episode web series that follows a group of space station custodians serving under a galactic Empire similar to the one found in Star Wars. Just as Kevin Rubio explored the world of stormtroopers in Troops, Space Janitors does the same for an even more overlooked aspect of the Star Wars universe. Although essentially a parody of not only the epic saga of George Lucas but other space-oriented science fiction as well, Space Janitors nonetheless contains enough originality, humor and finely-crafted characters to make the web series more than mere spoof.

“I’ve been dreaming of doing a pretty big sci-fi movie for many years now, playing around with ideas in my head, but I hadn’t thought of doing a comedy,” co-creator Davin Lengyel told Nerdlocker in March 2012. “About a year ago I was chatting with a comedian friend about some ‘buddy’ type comedies we could do—funny situations for two bros—and I had a vision in my head of two guys with brooms standing in the bottom of the Cloud City bottomless pit coming across Luke’s severed hand.” That vision eventually developed into the centerpiece of Space Janitors’ third episode. Darby Richards (Brendan Halloran), the custodian who discovers the severed hand during the installment, has no clue what the lightsaber still gripped by the appendage is, however, and concludes that it is some sort of musical instrument. Later in the installment, he uses the heat generated by the device to “caramelize” the “mush” that is served at each meal. The discovery of the lightsaber, meanwhile, inevitably evolves into a screwball comedy of laugh-out-loud moments as the episode rolls along.

The pilot episode of Space Janitors, meanwhile, effectively establishes the overarching theme of the web series—Darby Richards is unhappy with his current lot in life and desires to be more than just a space custodian. “How many officers do you know started out as a janitor?” co-worker Mike Chet (Pat Thornton) rhetorically asks. The majority of subsequent installments thus follow Darby as he attempts to prove that he is capable of more than washing the windows, mopping the floors and cleaning the toilets of an Imperial space station. Needless to say, these endeavors lead to numerous comic escapades as the inept Darby fails at almost anything that might change his low level status in life.

Darby Richards and Mike Chet are joined by other members of their Empire-dictated social circle, including such Star Trek-esque characters as computer psychologist Edith Kingpin (Evany Rosen) and android LN6-K (Tess Degenstein), who used to date Darby. Dennis 4862 (Scott Yamamura), meanwhile, is a squall trooper—the Space Janitors’ equivalence of a stormtrooper—that befriends the group despite the fact that they are considered “incompatible leftovers.” Dennis is also a clone and shares the same DNA with all of the other squall troopers in the galaxy. “It’s got its ups and downs,” he confesses during the series. “You see yourself a lot. You already know what the guy’s going to say when he says it to you. It’s probably something like, ‘Yeah, what’s up?’ And then you say, ‘Yeah, what’s up?’ That’s pretty much how it goes most of the time.”

The original Star Wars trilogy introduced an entire generation to the adventures of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Princess Leia, an epic narrative from a long time ago in galaxy far, far away from our own. It turns out, however, that A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi were only a small fragment of the story. In 1997, Kevin Rubio added to the mythology of George Lucas by showcasing the efforts of the Imperial Stormtroopers in his ten-minute short Troops while likewise demonstrating that what takes place off-screen can be just as enjoyable as onscreen. Space Janitors, meanwhile, takes an even more intricate look at the Star Wars universe by following the exploits of the social outcasts of the Empire as they struggle to survive in their own diminutive careers. Darby Richards and his cohorts may not share the same destiny as their big-screen brothers, but co-creators Geoff Lapaire and Davin Lengyel have crafted a humorous, effective and entertaining web series worthy of sharing the same galaxy as Luke, Han and Leia nonetheless.

Anthony Letizia (June 8, 2012)

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