45 hours before its end, Personal Space is a mere 1458 dollars away from successful completion of their crowdfunding campaign! Recently, Nicki Clyne uploaded a video on why you should donate towards the project and what it’s all about:
Also, you can read the interview with Tom Pike, creator of Personal Space, below!
Personal Space, a vlog-style series which, by the show’s creator Tom Pike, was dubbed The Lizzie Bennet Diaries in space is an ambitious science fiction project that focuses on the subtle interpersonal conflicts crew aboard a generation ship might experience. The crew of this ship have no idea their therapy sessions are being broadcast as a reality show back on Earth in 2016.
The story takes place in an alternate timeline where the American space program has been decades ahead of actual history. Overture, which is the name of the ship, was launched on a very long journey in 1991. The show was created by Tom Pike and Zack Wallnau and stars Nicki Clyne, Tahmoh Penikett, Richard Hatch, Kurt Yaeger and Tim Russ.
We spoke to Tom Pike about the show, the crew, its promising kickstarter and much more.
BSG-M: What does it mean to serve on a generation ship like Overture?
Tom Pike: The crew serves in 25 year shifts, with each shift passing the torch to the shift after. The Commander of a retiring shift is supposed to stay awake for a couple extra weeks to make sure the new crew is up to speed. But in the first crew turnover in 2016, problems arise when the First Shift commander refuses to cede command to his replacement.
BSG-M: Where does the reality TV angle come from?
Tom Pike: In the universe of Personal Space, the space program on Earth ran out of money. The program was sold to a reality TV company, Actaeon, who agreed to maintain mission control if they could broadcast the astronaut’s required therapy sessions as entertainment. There was a clause in the astronauts’ contracts that signed away the rights to their images for the purposes of promotion, so what they’re doing is technically legal, even though no one has told the crew that this is happening.
BSG-M: What can viewers expect to see when watching “Personal Space”?
Tom Pike: The series will be released in “real time”, as if the episodes are airing live as the recordings from the ship arrive on Earth. On Personal Space, we have been helped by the appeal of the show’s premise, and by fan affection for our cast. There’s a big appetite out there for good scifi.
BSG-M: What have been some of the challenges of running a scifi kickstarter?
Tom Pike: Kickstarter is not some kind of magic money bucket. You’re only going to raise funds if there is a passionate audience for the thing you’re making. And even if you have something that electrifies people, running a Kickstarter is still constant hard work – and I don’t just mean while it’s running. We prepared for our campaign for four months.
BSG-M: Talk to us about the background of “Personal Space”.
Tom Pike: We started making this show in 2014, when something unusual was going on. Since The Next Generation premiered in 1987 through to the end of Battlestar Galactica in 2009, there had always been at least one (and usually more than one) space-set scifi show on television. This genre achieved its highest degree of critical success with Battlestar Galactica. You would have thought that after that, we’d see a host of imitations, dawning a new age for the genre. Bafflingly, we saw the opposite. We went six years before anyone even attempted to go back to space in any kind of serious way, when The Expanse finally stepped in to fill the void.
Zack Wallnau and I had noticed this void, and this show was our attempt to fill it. We believed the fans of the genre were still out there, they just weren’t being catered to. And we believed that if we made something they wanted to see, they would discover it. So far, it looks like we were right.
BSG-M: It’s an ambitious project on a relatively low budget, what have been some of the biggest accomplishments so far and what do you hope to achieve? Both in screen time and visually/VFX
Tom Pike: The show will last about 170 minutes total – much longer than a feature film. We can achieve this because of the show’s vlog-style format. Aside from scenes at Mission Control, and a few intense visual sequences, we’re not going to be leaving the therapy room. That means we don’t have to set up new lighting rigs, we don’t have to move from studio to location, we don’t have to build a dozen sets… It means the only reason to redo a take is to coach an actor’s performance. You would not believe how much this speeds up the production process.
In terms of the VFX, we’re hoping to present a realistic view of the ship. Our ship model contains more than 10 million polygons. Each part of the ship is functionally designed – you can figure out roughly what each component does just by staring at it long enough. And some of our fans have!
BSG-M: “Personal Space” notably stars many BSG alums alongside an array of impressive cast, on purpose or a coinsidence?
Tom Pike: Definitely on purpose! Nicki Clyne was who we pictured when we wrote the role of Gail Gartner. We felt she had the emotional range necessary to anchor a long and nuanced story. We were thrilled when she ended up joining the project. Tim Russ also joined us early. Once we got a few respected TV actors, the rest of the cast came together pretty effortlessly. For example, Nicki, Tim, and Kurt Yaeger all separately recommended Richard Hatch for the role of Robert King.
Zack and I are big fans of Battlestar Galactica, so we were thrilled with this outcome. But we were careful not to put our famous scifi actors into retreads of roles they’ve already played. Nicki Clyne’s character Cally was one of the lowest-ranked characters on the Battlestar Galactica, yet we have her as our Commander. Battlestar Galactica’s Helo (Tahmoh Penikett) was BSG’s moral compass, but on Personal Space, everyone is scared of him. In this way, we can reward our fans’ nostalgia for Battlestar Galactica while also giving them something new. It surprised me when Tahmoh told me Richard Hatch and he never shared any scenes or dialogue. Personal Space is more than just a reunion: it’s going to feature the first scene between these two actors.
BSG-M: “Personal Space” was announced to be the first project of SHARETV, how did this collaboration come about and what are the plans?
Tom Pike: The ShareTV deal happened almost by accident. At the time, I did social media marketing for films and TV shows to pay the rent, and they’d brought me in to help out with a couple things. Over the course of a year, one thing gradually led to another. They didn’t have the money to finance a show outright, but they could spread the word about a crowdfunding campaign and help us distribute the show. They get an original series; we get a wider audience. Everyone wins.
BSG-M: Nicki Clyne gets promoted from deckhand to commander. Walk us through the characters a bit. What are some of their likeable or less than impressive traits?
Tom Pike: Nicki Clyne’s character, Gail Gartner, is based in part on my sister. My sister is a Kuiper Belt astronomer. Gartner studies the Oort Cloud. Those are both distant, cold regions of the Solar System dotted with icy bodies. The Kuiper Belt, which is much closer, is fairly well-understood, but the Oort Cloud is still hypothetical – it has never been observed. Gartner is, first and foremost, a research scientist whose goal is to observe and understand the Oort Cloud. Which is why it really annoys her when her time is spent dealing with the fallout from petty bickering rather than making observations. As the Commander of the second shift, that is also part of her job.
Richard Hatch’s character, Robert King, was the Commander of the first shift. The ship is on a 1200 year journey. The crew serves 25 year shifts, where they’re awake and in charge of ship maintenance. At the end of their shift, the retiring Commander is supposed to stay awake a few extra weeks, to help the new shift get acquainted with the changes that have happened and help them get on their feet. But for deeply personal reasons, King has trouble letting go of command, setting up a game of cat and mouse with Gartner.
Tahmoh Penikett plays Captain LaBarre, who is in cryo, only to be awakened in the event of a crisis where communication with Earth has been lost. He is in command of the mission, but frankly, everyone is a little intimidated by him. He dropped napalm in Vietnam before becoming a test pilot. Not exactly a fun guy at parties. I was once asked by a fan if the name “LaBarre” was a reference to Jean-Luc Picard, who was born in a town called LaBarre in France. I had no idea that was the case. It’s actually from a family name in my genealogy. My family tree includes the Chevalier de la Barre, who was burnt at the stake in France in an act of religious intolerance. It’s not relevant to the story of Personal Space. I just think the name sounds beautiful, so I used it. I was surprised to learn that the name still comes across as an allusion to Picard: the Chevalier de la Barre died in Picardy.
BSG-M: Why should people donate? What are some of your personal favourites of the perks that are offered?
Tom Pike: We’re offering people a chance to do more than just back us – they’d become a part of the project. For $65, they get access to additional audio episodes featuring the main cast. At $110, they’ll get a credit as a Digital Producer. We’re also giving away mission badges with backers’ names on them. We want our backers to go on this journey with us! Our campaign is all-or-nothing. This is the minimum amount for which we can make the show, and our only chance to raise the money. The Kickstarter must succeed for the show to be made.
BSG-M: What’s the appeal of combining space with psychology?
Tom Pike: The concept was dictated by the format. We wanted to make a show that would look great, even on a small budget, which meant vlog-style. And in real life, space programs are careful to provide astronauts with emotional outlets and access to therapy. Aboard the ISS, Earth is right there next to you. But on Overture, there’s a 36-day time delay before your signal gets back to Earth, so you need a therapist on the ship with you. And that therapist shouldn’t be an additional crew member, because then they’d be eating your food, cracking their knuckles, and annoying you too. An impartial computer could be sent along to keep folks sane, and make sure they have someone to talk to. The result is a character study focused as much on inner space as outer space.
BSG-M: “Personal Space” sounds like something that required a lot of research, both on the level of psychology, interpersonal relationships and science?
Tom Pike: Many episodes are prompted by the dangers posed by real deep-space hazards. The idea that even well-qualified, intelligent people would start to annoy each other after being locked together for extended periods of time is inspired by experiments like Biosphere. AMI, the ship’s therapy computer, is based on an early therapy chatbot named ELIZA from the 70’s. Overture’s thrust is based on a proposal from the mid-20th century called an “Orion drive”, where you blow up nukes behind a ship to propel it forward. The Oort Cloud is a real thing – at least in theory, since no one has seen it. Hence Gartner’s curiosity.
BSG-M: Who helped you in getting the facts straight?
Tom Pike: My family has helped with this, informally advising us on aspects of the show’s science. My sister helped me figure out how Gartner would go about her search for Oort Cloud objects. My brother is an engineer working for a space program contractor, and he helped me with the math concerning relativity. My father once plotted satellite trajectories, and he’s been a great sounding board. But none of these folks have built nuclear pulse engines, so when it comes to the more outlandish aspects of the mission, it’s been up to me to do the research! All the technology shown on screen has either been developed, or at least been the subject of a serious proposal, at some point in the last sixty years. There are moments of artistic license – after all, we are talking about a show where a generation ship was launched in 1991. And, because I’m not Andy Weir, I’m sure there will be the occasional error. But it is my sincere goal to make the show plausible.
BSG-M: Creating a show and getting it on the air is possible thanks to a host of people working together as a machine. What can you tell us of the team that runs Personal Space behind the scenes?
Tom Pike: The show was created by myself and my frequent collaborators, Zack Wallnau and Dana Luery Shaw. We’re the same team that made the TV Tropes webseries Echo Chamber a few years back.
Zack came up with an idea to do the show vlog-style for the most part, with us seeing the therapy records of a spaceship crew. This limited the number of sets we had to build, while still allowing us to tell an expansive story, similar to the storytelling style of the wildly-successful Pemberly Digital shows.
From there, I assembled a writer’s room, and together we developed the characters and their arcs, and added the alternate past idea so that we could tell the story as if it was happening in the present. But the core of the show was Zack’s idea, and he incepted it into my brain and got me to fight for it like it was my own.
BSG-M: One last question. Where can people donate and how long do they have?
Tom Pike: Our Kickstarter can be found here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/tomrpike/personal-space-a-science-fiction-webseries/
Fundraising ends at 11:59 PM Pacific Time on May 25th. But please don’t wait until the last minute! 😉
You can find the Personal Space Kickstarter by clicking here (or any photo in the article)
You can find Personal Space on Twitter by clicking here
You can like Personal Space on Facebook by clicking here