This show is an absolute gem of an awful little sci-fi comedy. For obvious reasons, it’s been lost to time.
The utter fail of this show starts at the most fundamental level: there is nothing funny in it. 25 minutes of “jokes”: things that are supposed to be funny, but which aren’t. Kiss of death.
But let’s go a little deeper. The show is wrong is so many ways, why focus on just the one?
They screw up right out of the gate. Captain Stoner strides onto the scene, looking capable, confident, and driven. With the opening dialogue, he’s immediately established as the one sane person in a crew of lunatics, then we stay on him for several minutes while he tries to corral the insanity. All this immediately establishes him as the Protagonist, the one the audience should be rooting for and empathizing with.
Only he’s not. He’s actually the jackass, the Frank Burns of this little stellar military. He’s the humorless jerk who exists solely to be the foil for the clever, charismatic, and conniving Captain Thomas Woods. Well, if you want him to be the jerkhole everybody hates, you need to establish him as the jerkhole everybody hates, right out of the gate.
Have him berate the communications guy. Have him sneer at the station, people’s uniforms, and the obviously insane computer. Have him behave in ways that make the audience hate him, that way the shift to antagonist in the bottom half of the show won’t be so puzzling.
There’s another way to go, of course: Woods. Woods is a handsome, lovable rogue who’s breaking regs to help out some orphans. (Apparently.) HE should be our POV character. He’s the one with all the talent anyway. Fred Willard, who plays Woods, has had a long career, including a stint as the Buy n Large CEO in WALL·E.
The episode should revolve around Woods’ efforts to help out the hospital while avoiding the Machiavellian machinations of Cpt. Stoner and the inept interference of Commander Hinckley. He sneaks around them, makes them look like fools, romances the dame, and just when it seems like Stoner is about to nab him, he convinces the Commander to let them all go.
You could actually build the episode, or the series, around this exact dynamic: stone-faced stick-in-the-mud Stoner vs wild-and-crazy womanizer Woods. MASH ran for 11 seasons with just this premise.
The show is awful and abysmal, and maybe competent storytelling wouldn’t have saved it, but maybe it might have. In any case, it would have made the show less painful to watch.