Type(s): Audio show
Genre(s): Science fiction comedy
Director(s): Malcolm Wilson
Artist(s): Malcolm Wilson
Soundtrack: Malcolm Wilson
Episodes: 3 (latest: "Ananke Ascertainment")
First: May 31, 2013
Last: December 31, 2017
Space Rover is a Canadian science fiction comedy drama written and edited by Hamish and Graham Wilson, and directed by Malcolm Wilson. Set in the year 2142, the series features Captain James (Hamish Wilson), a disgraced shipping captain for the Space Commonwealth, and his two electrical companions: Peter Gans Lee (Malcolm Wilson), the singularly named android, and the rouge hologram worker merely known as Hologram (Graham Wilson), all travelling aboard the titular Rover.
The premise revolves around the adventures of the three, from encounters with spacial phenomena to just plain making a living in a corrupt and cynical future; a longer term continuing plot thread is to play out as the series progresses. It is the first Internet series commissioned by Malcolm Wilson Multimedia, though others are planned. It is released under the GNU Free Documentation License 1.3 and Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike licenses and is available from the Internet Archive, YouTube, FictionPress, and the MWM website on icculus.org.
- 1 Multiversal Incarnations
- 2 Plot
- 3 Characters
- 4 Entities
- 5 Spaceships
- 6 Technology
- 7 Factions
- 8 Spacecraft
- 9 Development
- 10 Influences
- 11 Themes
- 12 External links
- 13 Malcolm Wilson Multimedia
In the vein of Douglas Adams's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the universe of Space Rover is intended branch out into several mediums. It was originally conceived as a low, or really no-budget, science fiction video show filmed with a dead Land Rover Series as the principal set and the Wilson-Warman family farm as additional locations. The scripts were written with this primarily in mind, though very early on there were plans for an audio version. As time went on, there was more confidence in their ability to do it as a full video series, but after not being able to get started filming during the summer of 2012 (by which time pre-production mostly ended, with six full script drafts written), it was decided that production should first be scaled back to the creation of a single pilot based on the first episode. This was originally hoped to be a video production done in the autumn of 2012, but when winter arrived the idea was floated of setting out to make an audio pilot instead, before deciding the next move.
The objective in the long-run is to have the audio and video shows existing in a comparative tandem, with production phasing in and out between them. The canonical status of the two productions is intended to be fairly close-knit, with few major revisions or alterations in story-line, thereby making details between the two virtually synonymous. This reflects head writer Graham L. Wilson's larger ambition in following in the steps of J. Michael Straczynski in terms of having the story unfold based on a thought out vision and in a particularly deliberate fashion, rather than writing it out as time passes based on whims and expediency. Slight changes, mostly in matters of presentation (visual jokes for example, or exact wordings), will be tolerated under the notion that the audio and video series exist in slightly different but closely linked points in the multiverse. Novelizations of each series are also planned in a similar vein, retaining the same basic plot and universe, but fleshing out further the background and detail of the universe.
Following an accidental crash landing aboard the SCW Labrador, what was to be his new command, Captain James is put up for review and discharged. Now unemployed, he arranged to travel to the terraformed colony on Pluto to purchase one of the cheap and largely refurbished spacecraft produced there to begin life as an independent contractor. Whilst on Pluto, he arranges to purchase the cheapest ship he can find on a given lot and is sold the Space Rover - which was re-created from an old Terran all-terrain vehicle.
As an additional gift he is given an android known under the startlingly dull name of Peter Gans Lee as well, but only because the salesman can not stand his in-your-face analysis. Whilst testing his new craft, the two encounter a hologram program that had hidden itself in the ship's computer after having escaped from a hologram work camp. The Captain and the Hologram are immediately at odds with one another, but Peter and an act of annoyance removal by Hologram convinces the Captain to let him stay aboard.
The first officer aboard the SCW Labrador, the ship James was commissioned to command when he has involved with his crash. An ambitious career officer, she is not content to wait for High Command to notice her talents and so attempts to grant herself her own promotions by backstabbing her superiors - a tact that seems to have done well for her so far. James mentions his suspicions that she was actually involved in the death of the aged Captain Julius Alexei, former commander of the Labrador, by hinting that she deliberately triggered his heart attack by playing at his neurotic hatred of improper grammar on a status report. She is also the one who made sure that High Command did not just merely forget James's incident as they had previously intended to do. She is never properly present, and is only referred to.
The owner of the "registered freelance freighter" that takes Captain James to Pluto, the Debacle, in the pilot episode. He is an anti-social man, with a deep vocal drawl, who spends his time hauling cargo from colony to colony. Due to his aversion to, and tendency to grate on, people he only transport human cargo if the price is right. James only proffers up that amount of cash to avoid the attention he might get taking a public shuttle after his infamous crash incident. Still, he seems to enjoy the company somewhat and probes the Captain for his back story, if only to make belittling comments. He is voiced by Malcolm Wilson, and only ever heard through a loud-speaker, thus conveniently obscuring his voice through the crackle.
The owner of Pluto Rag-&-Bone Refurbishing, and the man who sold the Space Rover and Peter to James, played by Graham Wilson. His is a greasy-haired, gruff-voiced, scowling and slouching man whose unpleasant air somewhat counteracts his sales ability. At the same time, he is able to convince the Captain towards quite a few pitches, only for Peter to step in an enlighten him to the true intents or other unsaid issues with the offers. It this antagonistic relationship between them that made the salesman so intent on sending Peter away with James as a special feature with the ship - that and Peter's tendency to point out that his greased hair is done to cover his bald spot. He sells the Captain the Rover after failing to convince him to buy the far superior, if more expensive, former Fleet vessel SCW Cambrian.
An obnoxious reporter for a large media outlet, Big Mash Network, trying to interview James about the incident that lead to his discharge. Hologram goes in his stead and tricks the reporter into admitting that they actually create incidents to make ratings raising news stories by pretending to reveal on camera that James' crash was one such incident. Winning him over with the threat of revealing them, the reporter promises to leave the crew of the Rover in peace and also pay a fair amount of cash. By doing this Hologram finally convinces the Captain to keep him around, though the two continue to share a feeling of animosity. The reporter was voiced by Hamish Wilson, as a loud, boisterous screech.
He reappears in "Ananke Ascertainment" as the host of the popular radio show Scandal Hour, and is again persuaded to help the Rover crew by distributing some disturbing revelations about Forged-Turf Limited, and use their prior weight to actually convince him to pay them. In this exchange, his first name is shown to be Terry. Hologram also arranges him to pull a prank for him, in the on-air promotion of his fictional beverage brand Jam-Tastic Space Ale.
The Greater Intelligence
The self-christened title of the original hologram aboard the SCW Haystack, accepted by the ship's computer voiced by Hamish Wilson. He was created as a test-bed for an artificial intelligence experiment involving the prototype AI Enhancer program. After being stolen by a less than law abiding Commonwealth transport crew, his enhancer proves faulty and he soon sees his compatriots illegal deeds as an absolute threat to himself that must be eliminated. After beginning his rampage, the crew soon abandon ship. After this, the hologram "enhanced" the computer system and made it set to disable anything human controlled or related, before eventually running out of power. When the Rover arrived, the enhancer activated and disabled the craft and after the computer was booted up the native hologram merged with the Rover hologram. This merging proved unstable due to the two hologram's differing personality and knowledge base, casuing quriky behaviour and a tendency switch into Latin, based on the enhancer's language protocals. The greater intelligence was finally destroyed alongside the enhancer program, fully restoring the Rover hologram.
The appropriately named "freelance transport freighter" which Captain James rides to Pluto on in the pilot episode. It is usually used to move organic goods, such as hay or, apparently, broccoli. Whether or not they are annoyed by the comments of the ship's pilot is uncertain.
Formerly the SCW Cambrian, the ship has since been auctioned off by the Commonwealth Fleet to Pluto Rag-&-Bone Refurbishing. The salesman attempted to convince Captain James to buy it, noting that it was still "a very fair ship" despite its age, but the price, predictably, proved to be a sticking point.
Big Mash Mobile Studio
The primary source of space travel, having achieved mass saturation due to military surplus from the Solar War.
The latest in spacial drives developed for the use of the Commonwealth Fleet, and thus also available to those with connections to people in power.
A superluminol extension of the Internet, radio and television services, consisting of the usual mass of cultural flotsam and jetsam with the expected lack of quality control or sense of good taste. Named in homage to Douglas Adams.
Technically paraterraforming. A system of doming, atmospheric tweaking and soil manipulation that results in habitable and even fertile zones on otherwise dead planets and satellites.
In addition to vast amounts of extra-planetary mineral extraction, humanity has finally begun to understand the concept of thrift. The problem is that instead of doing it in a collected and forward thinking way, they instead scooped up their industrial garbage, shipped it off of Earth and dumped it onto their less regarded colonies for recycling or refurbishment. Still, it provides something of a meagre living for people in places such as Pluto, and the streamlining of the process of imbuing frames as largely space-worthy has helped bring space travel to the masses. The problem is that this is also starting to lead to massive space lane backups. One man's trash leads to another man's congestion.
Commonwealth Fleet Ship
The combat and transport ships used in the Commonwealth Fleet, some of which have now been decommissioned or auctioned off, such as the Cambrian. Generated from the combined Fleets of Anglo-America, Eurasia and the European Union.
Conceptual Design: 2008-2009
The basic elements of the universe were created as a game creators Hamish, Graham and Malcolm Wilson played as children, with Hamish being a human captain, Malcolm, always interested in robotics (leading also to the creation of Brogo) being an android, and Graham being a hologram, all aboard a Land Rover Series inspired spacecraft. The characters were developed as they role-played through them as children and are were widely inspired by Red Dwarf and Star Trek. The idea remained in their minds as they entered adolescence and the idea was attempted to be spun out at various points into stories and computer games. None of these projects ever went very far.
In August 2008 they decided to start working on plans for a situation comedy video series after viewing the "making-of" documentary (The Starbuggers) on the DVD for Series VI of Red Dwarf. Script writing and basic planning began immediately, with ideas for the episode "Ne Humanis Crede" being one of the first created. The writing was originally more deliberately comedic and far more referential, largely to computer games and other technical topics. This idea was later retreated from when they decided they wanted to write something more subdued and universally accessible and realized that explicit outside references were already too heavily done in other shows. Symel, on the other hand, is still largely based on parody.
In 2009 they first began testing their equipment by recording a short demo ad-libbed based on the premise of "Ne Humanis Crde" in April. This proved only to be somewhat successful as whilst they were able to make film a full four and half minute storyline, involving Hologram getting a virus and going insane and eventually transporting away, only to later be caught trying to steal a craft from a sealed Space Commonwealth shuttle bay, the film and audio quality was not as great as they had hoped. This was largely due to the relatively dark set of the family's barn - the main set for all haulage craft. For the rest of the year, most of the work focused on expanding and writing scripts, some of which featured co-writers Hamish and Graham retreating the dead Land Rover to be used as the show's main set and bouncing ideas off of each other in character.
In November, they attempted their second demo, among other experiments, and featured an original though, again, entirely ad-libbed plot. This time it was set inside the Space Rover itself, with the Captain and Hologram sparring off against each other whilst flying through a worm-hole creating various spacial apparitions, most notably a black dog. This take, though only about two minutes long, features scenes in the primary set, close-up shots and far more complex and lengthy dialogue. It still had problems, such as being able to see trees outside of the set's windows, in between the present white haze that lead to the idea of travelling through a wormhole. This problem was fixed by adjusting the gamma settings, obscuring the branches though lightening up the whole piece.
Late in 2009, Malcolm Wilson touched up and made the first demo, now titled "Haystack Hell", far more production ready, using their new video editor of choice Kdenlive. He brightened up the overly dark shot, cleaned up the quality, and added intermediary computer analysis shots. The quality was still low, but within the context of the plot this is explained by it being low-quality security recordings being streamed out to an "Outpost Space-wave Monitor Six". Seeing his work, the others were impressed and more cheered towards the prospects of the project.
In May 2010, inspired after watching the series finale of the second season of Babylon 5, Graham Wilson suggested filming another demo, this time with a proper script, acting, props, sets, music, title cards, credits and model shots. He wrote an overview of the script, based around the Captain's quest to make it rich by mining a valuable mineral on Europa, and later wrote the entire script. Filming was permanently delayed, however progress was made throughout the summer by Graham Wilson working on the episode scripts and Malcolm Wilson making the first steps towards creating the 3D models to be used. In July, the first script draft was completed, Graham Wilson's pet episode "War", now intended to be the series finale, and in late August as draft for the first episode, "Undocumented Features", was finished. He also worked on and expanded the other episodes for the first proposed series whilst also making plans for later.
In September, Malcolm purchased a new camera which featured HD filming. Whilst experimenting with the new camera, he also probed into Kdenlive and also studied blue-screen technologies and the pasting of effects onto live video. In October 2010, he used the camera to interview Mike Tulley, a notable Edmonton-area sound engineer and American Vietnam War deserter, for a school project and used the camera and edited it using Kdenlive. On January 2, 2011 Graham read out a time-line of fictional history and the "War" draft out to Malcolm and Hamish and they brainstormed ideas. For the next few months, Malcolm conceived his character's proper name, found a basis for the main ship model and composed a demo for the main theme tune - unveiling it to the others on March 19, 2011.
Inspired, Graham continued work on the episode "Rewinding the Watch" that Saturday night and finally completed its first draft on April 10. Advancements for the episode "Ne Humanis Crede" started on May 28 and the first draft was completed on June 11. Work on the project took a back burner again until October, when Graham decided that all pre-production work, including final drafts for all of the scripts, should probably be done by the summer of 2012 in hopes of committing their ideas to film. With this in mind, he began work on a script to fill in a hole in the schedule called "Clean, Clean, Clean", and finished it through November and December. It is the only script set entirely within the Rover itself, with no outdoor or other ship interior sequences.
Pre-production remained in high gear for the start of 2012, working out all the details in advanced of their planned filming date. This included some new ideas for costumes and sets, particularly for Peter's character. Also useful was the studying of the making-of documentaries from a variety of Peter Jackson films, which equates roughly to "attending film school." Graham also became more inspired towards drafting out the show's back-story and fictional universe after watching through the intricately plotted anime Neon Genesis Evangelion in March, particularly in terms of plot exposition being handled through a very precise vernacular of series terminology, and the general idea of plot unveiling by showing characters with varying knowledge of the universe.
In April, Graham began efforts to complete the final script, consulting with Hamish prior to taking over the development of his earlier script draft "Ananke Ascertainment" on April 14. Due to the stress of finals and diploma exams, the script was not completed until the end of June, and read out to the production team in early July. With all the scripts drafts now completed, work began towards actually starting production - including editing of the scripts (Graham doing a complete read through first, and then one by head editor Hamish), camera tests (including devising ideas for a "making of" machine) and sets (again, including the plans for a more advanced cockpit with actual screens) and costuming.
In late July, production, of sorts, began with the start of the creation of visual details for the show by Malcolm, such as logos for various in-universe organizations such as the Space Commonwealth and Big Mash Network, as well as a final draft for the show's logo itself. Graham soon followed up on this by beginning work on a simulated interface written in Gambas to be displayed on the ship's screens, using the graphics, sounds and music already created by Malcolm. Plans for filming in August however were dashed by intense heat, various distractions, delayed script editing and occupational preoccupations (including the moving in of their farm's hay for that winter, and a short-term position for Malcolm at a local bee farm) later in the month.
Due to these issues, it was decided that production would be scaled back into the production of the first episode as a full-length pilot, as a proof of concept and penultimate technical demonstration, so script editing was soon narrowed to this focus. This was originally hoped to be a video production done in the autumn of 2012. When winter arrived however, the idea was floated of seeking out to make an audio pilot instead, before deciding the next move. Hamish Wilson finished editing the script around Christmas 2012, and Graham Wilson finished adapting it for audio on February 1, 2013. Finally, five years after work on the project began, initial recording took place on February 16, 2013, with pick-ups finally recorded on May 11, 2013. After nearly four months of work, a finished version was privately exhibited on May 26, and released publicly on May 31, 2013. Following this, Graham focused on trying to promote the episode, creating entries on various audio drama wikis and databases, and posting about it on the Audio Drama Talk forum on June 20, 2013.
Although efforts to adapt the second script "Ne Humanis Crede" for audio were attempted early on after the release of the pilot, production on the second episode was stalled due to work obligations and then weather. Recording for episode two was finally completed on January 20, 2014 during a warm spell after several months of a burtally snowey winter, and the first release draft for episode two was finally premiered on May 26, 2014 after sparodic periods of pickups. The main development here on the technical front is the use of incidental music created by Malcolm Wilson on April 11, based on the series main theme tune that premiered with the pilot, created via a Yamaha DX21 synthesizer. The final version was publicly released a year after the pilot on May 31, 2014, though some site updates waited until June 2, 2014.
The series entered sustained hiatus for the next few years, although small releases such as as an assortment of logos was released on December 24, 2015 and conceptual art of the Rover ship was released on December 1, 2016. Work on retweaking the third episode script were underway in fits in starts, with a final draft finally completed in August 2017. Recording took place on November 11, 2017 and finally the third episode was released on December 31, 2017 as "Ananke Ascertainment". Efforts continue on producing further episodes of a planned six episode series entitled A Man and His Machines.
Arguably the three most important human inspirations from the series are British comedy writers Grant/Naylor (Red Dwarf, Colony), Ben Elton (Blackadder, The Thin Blue Line), Graham Linehan (Father Ted, Black Books, The IT Crowd) and Douglas Adams (The Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Dirk Gently) - the former and latter are explicitly cited in the series' credits. As such, it is to follow the conventional six-episodes-a-series format popular among British situation comedies, rather than a far longer season structure used in North American television; partly due to that, other than Corner Gas, Canada does not have as strong a history of situation comedies and has instead emphasized sketch more (Wayne and Schuster, SCTV, Air Farce and History Bites as a few examples), and there being little desire among the creators to emulate American comedies.
More science fictional and dramatic aspects of the plot are largely inspired by Star Trek and Babylon 5, particularly J. Michael Straczynski's handling of series mythology, with Graham having commented during development that the concept was "Star Trek without the optimism, Babylon 5 without the mysticism and Red Dwarf with more direction." The series is also intended to be open to experimentation with varying genres, such as the more horrific elements of "Ne Humanis Crede" or the social critique format of "War". Science fiction was chosen not just as it was their innate preference, but also because it was flexible enough to both work around their limited, or non-existent budget, as well as allowing creative freedom in a variety of ways.
Several later script or story ideas are based on the premise that it can move beyond a science fiction comedy show, while seeking to never forget its roots, balancing itself out similar to M*A*S*H or the shows of Norman Lear. Fundamentally, the series has never sought to shy away from more adult or mature themes, and as such can already balance out more serious or dramatic content alongside dark or cynical humour. Recently going through the series Farscape has also helped draft out how the show can remain comedic or eccentric even with having a strong and central dramatic storyline.
Comedy in Space Rover is primarily intended to be based on observational, ironic, satirical, surreal, dark or occasional visual comedy, with an emphasis on word play and high comedy as the backbone. The series contains comedy-drama elements mostly handled through social and political commentary and satire, as per the creators belief that comedy plays a role in every part of life, no matter how dark or unsettling a situation or topic may be.
Cynicism and Sarcasm
The series has a strong bent of sarcasm and cynicism with most of the characters having a dim view of the world around them and human nature in general. Most of the dialogue involves sarcastic quips and cutting remarks with much of the humour derived from the sheer absurdity of their surroundings or situation. All characters are prone to moments of wit and are constantly parodying themselves, each other and their environment in general. Even the most ostensibly 'honourable' facets of society are corrupted such as a military filled with malevolent careerists and journalists willing to create calamities in order to boost ratings.
Politics plays a strong part in the universe the series is set in. The Space Commonwealth is depicted as a large imperialistic bureaucracy whose democracy is in fact rotted through by personal and commercial corruption. It is steadfast in its claims on most of the terraformed colonies, fuelling discontent among many colonists such as on Pluto. Pluto's separatist movement is a pastiche of the Quebec separatist movement. The economy is shown as stagnant and depressing, with many people working as wage slaves or merely the futuristic equivalent of rag-and-bone men refurbishing old industrial waste exported off Earth. The main characters themselves do not have steady jobs and wander around the civilized galaxy looking for whatever work comes their way as well as snatching whatever they think they can get away with. Corporations are depicted as greedy and exploitative with salesmen and marketing depicting as merely means of public control and con-acting. The series is also intended to show a working class person in the future rather then other futuristic shows that depict commanders, politicians or scientists. The show is also intended to show a future Earth blighted by climate change and pollution and a humanity increasingly dependant on its new space-faring status.
Science and Technology
Like most science fiction, the series does contain much that is inspired by science and technology. The series also employs a few attempts towards scientific accuracy such as not featuring audible sound in the space scenes, while not necessarily promising to be hard science fiction at the expense of plot or jokes. The series also features no extraterrestrial life and instead depicts a universe inhabited merely by humans and artificial intelligences, based on the idea that while the vastness of space is likely to have, had or will throw up other lifeforms somewhere else (ala the Drake equation), the actual chances of humans ever encountering it would be small (as well as following the view taken by Red Dwarf that such set-ups have become cliché). Later ideas may also feature multiversal theory, and Graham Wilson has floated around the idea of having an episode or sketch based on the recently confirmed Higg's boson.
Peter Gans Lee is depicted as an "azure" type android that was the first made to look closely like a person and outfitted in blue work uniforms with industrial apparel as both a means of differentiation and as a marketing gimmick. The holograms depicted in the series are said to be emitted by a central device inside them projecting out light controlled by an internal artificial intelligence and can only become solid by emitting radiation encouraging the light particles to come close together - based on the particle theory of matter.
The choosing of the twenty-second century was due to the large amount of science fiction set in the twenty-third century such as Star Trek: The Original Series and Babylon 5 and the amount set in the twenty-fourth century such as Star Trek: The Next Generation and spin-offs Deep Space Nine and Voyager, as well as shows set in the modern day with alien influences such as Farscape or the Stargate series. The closer setting also works with the shows more primitive depiction of the future with humanity largely restricted to its own star system and with very conventional technology.
- Space Rover at Audio Drama Talk
- Entry at Audio-Drama.Com
- Entry at the Audio Drama Wiki
- Entry on Tongue Tied, the Red Dwarf Wikia