Dogs In Space: Dogs With Something To Say

(This column is posted at and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

A good piece of fiction is alive.  It has a personality, a sense of being, and like any living creature, it surprises you.  Those living fictions are the ones that reach us and make an impression, often one that surprises us.

This is why I’m reviewing Dogs in Space.  Not the 1980’s slice-of-life band move.  I’m reviewing the Y7 Netflix series literally about dogs traveling in space to find a new planet for humans.  Truth in advertising indeed.

In Dogs in Space, humanity sends genetically uplifted dogs into space to find a replacement for our used-up Earth.  The story focuses on excitable be-thumbed Corgi named Garbage, captain to an equally eccentric crew of explorers.  Many episodes parody or refer to classic SF tropes, ranging from mildly amusing to laugh-out-loud funny and clever.  The pinnacle of these call-outs sees most of the cast turned into puppies and the adorable chaos that genetically enhanced puppies can get into.

Entertaining enough, but these shenanigans take place in a continuing plot and established world.  Our canine heroes are just a few of the crew of the giant mothership M-BARK, which boasts an entire city of evolved dogs.  Discoveries reveal a larger universe, from powerful aliens aware of Earth to Garbage and company finding another uplifted dog sent on an earlier mission.  There’s a living world inside the colorful and cute cartoon tale – one that could easily spawn a game or spinoffs.

Such a detailed world raises troubling questions, and the show is happy to follow these troublesome threads.  Each uplifted dog has an owner they pine to return to – but are humans manipulating them?  Are humans really worth saving, considering what we did to Earth?  Like any good fiction, Dogs in Space will surprise you and make you think – and throws in some surprises.

Dogs in Space holds a funhouse mirror up to SF, but sometimes it holds a mirror up to you and me – while keeping it’s Y7 rating.

This is why it deserved a review because it’s a fun little show that is well done.  I’m sure that many of us would enjoy a Y7 show (if only with our kids or young siblings) that had dogs making fun of SF tropes.  Instead, the show goes all the way to creating something alive, something good that makes an impression.

I can’t say it’s as good as the Netflix CGI He-Man.  The former is a masterclass in redoing a property and good, concise writing and pacing.  Dogs in Space is more a good example of bringing an idea to life, even with a few clunky or breezed-over bits.

Plus Dogs in Space has adorable dogs doing everything from piloting robots to pulling heists on alien space stations.  It’s just much more than that, its a piece of fiction that comes alive, and that warrants a review.

Steven Savage

Despite All Her Rage She’s Still Just A Panda In A Cage: Aggretsuko

(This column is posted at and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

Someone I knew had an awful day at work, and as part of the conversation they brought on Sanrio’s new series Aggretsuko.  If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a show based on one of their cutsey characters – who is an angry red fox in an awful job who takes out her rage with drinking and singing death metal.

So I had them watch it.  I also tuned in, because I’d not seen it and “rage-filled Sanrio character” is something I had to see.

It was kind of disturbing.  There’s a poison-blade edge beneath the cuteness, there’s things a bit too true, and if it had been done live action (or even with semi-realistic animated humans) it would have been even more painful and depressing.  My acquaintance, oddly, felt a bit better after the whole thing.

Now this is not a review, except I can say “damn that was better than expected and I will watch this.”  But it’s about impact, because I saw it affect someone.  And it was a show of cute animated characters (albeit in a bad situation).

There are some stories that just speak to us – not about what is good or great, but about what sucks.  These are important not as “misery porn” or anything else, but for us to reach out to, to relate to, and to laugh at.

And we have to laugh, because many of these things confront horrible issues that are hard to handle without humor.  If you were to take many of the truly relateable workplace dark comedies like “Clerks” or “Office Space” and do them realistically they’d at best be the equivalent of the moral black hole of “torture porn” horror.  They’d just be a parade of suffering.

However the comedy aspects, the irony, the dark laughter, is actually what makes things both tolerable but also relateable.  The humor lets us go from just the horror to truly see the ridiculousness of it all, while providing a buffer for us to internalize our lessons and maybe feel like we’re not just facing awful stuff on our own.  Humor both ads and buffers the empathy we need to feel to “get it.”

Some media and the like obviously would not work with humor – I think it’d be hard to do a funny Lovecraft/weird horror take.  Some of the dark things we explore are best explored without humor, with that immediate injection of empathy caused by being terrified or confronted.  We need that direct in-your-face connection.

But some forms of horror, only humor truly lets us process them.

– Steve

What Has Marvel Got To Lose?

[This article was originally published at Comics Bulletin.]

So having seen Thor 2: Return of Loki and some other guy with blond hair, it’s obvious (and as in being discussed all over the internet) that Marvel is going large. Huge. Enormous.

This all sounds like it may lead to a rather “rocky” crossover with a real gem of an idea that could get you stoned if you did it wrong. Wow, that metaphor got out of hand.

So what is Marvel doing having, as it were, thrown down the gauntlet?


Read more