A Starship Review
By Jonathan Wojcik, May 2011
It's not often (or ever, really) that I devote a whole site article to pure gushing over a single work of
entertainment, but it's also not often that a work of entertainment touches me so deeply. Deep in
my deepest, most mucus-lined membranes. Think back to your childhood for a moment, and see
if you can remember the purest, most perfect delight you ever experienced from a film, a television
show, a video game, anything at all...the feeling you got when something appealed to you so
thoroughly it felt like somebody had created it specifically for you. Maybe it involved space pirates,
or cybernetic dinosaurs, or maybe it was just
Pokemon, whatever. It's a distinct kind of
wonderment I experienced a lot in my early years, but it faded quickly by the time I hit a
double-digit age, seemingly never to return. That was until I discovered
Starship, and for a
moment I could swear to dead god I was eight years old again.
Begin HERE to watch Starship in its entirety
Starship is a stage show performed by Team Starkid, previously known for their comedic Harry
r musicals, which at the time of this writing I still haven't checked out. Showing off some truly
ambitious creativity, they take the tired premise of Human space marines vs. parasitic
xenomorphs (unashamedly inspired by
Starship Troopers) and flip it around into a colorful,
heartfelt musical adventure about challenging the status quo (there's a song about just that, at
least) and finding beauty in our differences (ditto). Both sides of the conflict are equally
sympathetic; the Starship Rangers from Earth are well-meaning idiots oblivious to the dark ulterior
motives of their higher-ups, while the "Bugs" of "Bug Planet" are simply more accustomed to us
mammals as mindless, fuzzy sacks of food. Yes, they cocoon warm-blooded vertebrates as
incubators for their flesh-eating larvae, but unlike such merciless monsters as the
tyranids or zerg,
these bugs are thinking, feeling individuals who can even fall in love.
The star of the show is a bug named simply Bug (yes, Bug the Bug from Bug Planet), who grew up
enamored with the wreckage of a human spacecraft and the propaganda videos still playing on its
scrambled consoles. Bug wants nothing more in life than to be a heroic Starship Ranger just like
in the footage, but every one of his kind lives and dies performing whatever duty their overqueen
decrees. Assigned the role of a lowly egg planter, Bug feels like his life is over until a very special
mammal from a very different planet shows up in the brood chamber. From there, we see some
elements of
The Little Mermaid and even Avatar as Bug strikes a dubious deal to blend in with
the humans and develop a cross species romance as uplifting as it is obscenely unnatural.
Using insects - parasitoid insects, I might add - to deliver such a sweet story of cross-cultural
understanding strikes a particular chord with me, as I've always felt highly defensive of nature's
diversity. Everything from Amazonian river dolphins to gastro-intestinal botfly maggots (oh yeah,
that's a thing) fill me with awe over the ingenious shapes taken by life on our planet, and my
adoration for arthropods in particular has me at odds with a vast majority of the human race. I've
never been able to grasp how people can find ugliness anywhere in the animal kingdom, let alone
in the delicate joints of an insect's exoskeleton. I've encountered people who don't merely fail to
understand what I see in these creatures, but display outright hostility towards it, baffled to the
point of disgust that somebody
doesn't find millipedes abhorrent. Of course, the message of
Starship isn't "bugs are totally cool" but "
differences are totally cool."
As you can see, Starship's alien effects consist of stick puppets and painted cutouts with
performers in plain sight - sometimes members of the human cast, still in full costume. You might
think this would be jarring, but not five minutes in my disbelief was thoroughly suspended. You can
so easily forget at times that the puppeteers are even there, but throw them a glance and you'll
see them having entirely too much fun. They emote with their characters even when said
characters are just the arms of
someone else's character, and deliver absurd, over-the-top voice
work without a care. Puppets and puppeteers fuse into a single two-headed performer with more
entertainment value than any Hollywood CGI creation could hope to achieve (well,
At three and a half hours, there are parts of Starship that might feel a little drawn out to some,
namely the extended, casual interactions between the Starship Rangers, though there are more
than enough jokes to break up the exposition, even the corniest of which are delivered with exactly
the timing and energy a corny joke craves. Personally, I wouldn't mind the show going on even
longer if the extra time were devoted to
more music. I'm a complete sucker for musicals to begin
with, and the only possible flaw in Starship's score is that there could never be enough of it. For
the rest of my life, I will never hear the words "Hideous Creatures" without
the song getting stuck
in my head.
Beauty brought (THE MANLIEST) tear to this armchair entomologist's eye. Pincer's
Kick It Up a Notch is a wickedly jazzy villain song to rival that of Oogie Boogie, Audrey II or any
Disney antagonist. Consider yourself warned that the songs are considerably more rewarding in
the context of a full viewing, and may give away a few story details.
If I can find just a single complaint with Starship, it's an embarrassingly personal one - I've spent
my entire life attempting to hone my own creativity and put it to use, yet I'm not sure I could ever
deliver anything that entertains
me more than Starship. Why should I keep working on flash
cartoons and comics when somebody else has already put a giant scorpion on stage to
about eating brains?
There are so many things I've fallen in love with as an adult that make me think "where was this in
first grade
?" I praise things by how enamored I'd have been by them if they had only come out
while I was still a bright-eyed child, when everything still felt fresh and magical. Starship is not one
of these things. I don't need to be a carefree, imaginative kid again for it to make me feel like I am.