Universe Journey is a segment in It's All Been Done Radio Hour . It was the first segment conceived and written for the show by Jerome Wetzel, and has been part of every regular monthly show performed by the troupe except for Show VII in January 2016 and Show XLIX in July 2019 (though characters from the segment appeared in the latter). It is almost always the first segment of the live show. Nick Arganbright has written some of the episodes, including "The Universe Journey RPG Event."
Universe Journey is a sci-fi romp that follows the crew of the A.S.S. Thrifty as it travels the galaxy, exploring planets and encountering aliens, and later, the staff of Eastwood Station near Surreptittia. The A.S.S. is a relatively new organization as the series begins, in existence for less than a decade, and is based in Columbus, Ohio on Earth, although some aliens serve the fleet, too.
The main characters in the segment are the senior staff, although not all senior staff are main characters. The admiral who oversees the crew also appears frequently. The First Officer, or XO, often died in the series when it took place on the starsheep, meaning there have been quite a few of them since the segment began.
Universe Journey is primarily a comedy, though does have some drama from time to time. It is set in the 2420s, and progresses more or less in real-time to our world. Per Larry, there is no radio in this future ("The Pursuit of Packer").
Nick Arganbright was instrumental to Jerome in the creation of this segment and all of Radio Hour. As the program developed, he really wanted to play with Kahkay or M-, but Jerome refused to pre-cast, making him audition with everyone else. He won Kahkay, a hotly contested part, by delivering the best audition.
Main article: List of Universe Journey characters
- Richard "Dick" Kahkay played by Nick Arganbright. Kahkay was the youngest captain ever named in the fleet, and the first known sexist in centuries. He is arrogant and often brags about his sexual prowess. Although, it has been proven that he does have the skills to back up such claims. His bravado covers up insecurity, and he has reached a point where he thinks he's ready for a serious, adult relationship. He (secretly nobly) sacrificed his starsheep, and subsequently was demoted and assigned command of a station no one else wanted.
- M- played by Shane Stefanchik. (Pronounced Meow-meow.) M- is a Sureptish, a lizard-chicken-like species known for sounding (and being) evil. They are also known to be religious, although M- is the science officer on the Thrifty, and claims to not be evil, either. M- has been shown to value logic over compassion, murdering Kahkay's girlfriend, Jane, to preserve the timeline. He is also a very good guesser. M- is not well-liked by his fellow officers, though he tries very hard to fit in. After the destruction of the Thrifty, M- accepted a position with Admiral Jamieson's Echo Dimension office.
- Michelle Tokaladie played by Katie Boissoneault. Besides being great at communications, Tokaladie is a brilliant inventor and engineer. She was thrown by Kahkay's sexist attitudes when he first took command, and thus didn't talk very much, constantly being interrupted when she tried. She eventually found the confidence to speak up and push him to change, which later led to her leaving the Thrifty to complete A.S.S. Command Track training. After completion of training, she chose to become Kahkay's XO at Eastwood Station.
- Colm Foley played by Seamus Talty. Foley is extremely smart, but currently cares more about developing himself socially. He looks up to Kahkay in a huge way, going along on benders with the captain even though he was happily married to his assistant chief engineer, Fitzy. Foley is universally liked by all his crew mates. Fitzy was killed in the Thrifty's destruction, which Foley blames Kahkay for, leading the engineer to resign from the fleet.
- Jamie Jamieson played by Keith Jackson. Although not in every episode, Jamieson is listed as "with" at the end of the cast list credits due to his importance. Jamieson's wife, Janice, cheated on him, leading him to begin an affair with Doctor Awshucks. After Awshuck's death and Janice's imprisonment for treason, Jamieson suffered a nervous breakdown and was assigned to be XO of the Thrifty. After more than six months, he earned a position back at A.S.S. Command, and eventually started the Echo Dimension department.
- Neu played by Kristin Green (season three to present). Neu is an android built by Foley and Tokaladie to pilot the Thrifty, traditionally the job of the XO, since the Thrifty is without an XO frequently. Neu is fully functional as a woman, although does not have blood or organs. She does have emotions, and seeks to be a member of the crew. She is childish, but maturing rapidly. After the destruction of the Thrifty, Neu enrolled at the A.S.S. Academy.
- Michael Anders played by Ryan Yohe (guest season two, recurring seasons three through five, lead season six to present). Anders was a member of Tokaladie's communications staff, and assumed her position after she left the Thrifty to conduct her command track training. Anders was one of only two senior offices, along with Tokaladie, to initially follow Kahkay to Eastwood Station.
- Who Grappa played by Chase McCants (lead seasons one through three, guest season four on). A Lieutenant in the A.S.S., Who is from an ape-like species who, as shown, appears developmentally backwards. The race speaks only in monosyllables, though over time, Who has learned to speak in bigger chunks. She had been a doctor prior to the series' start, but switched to security for unknown reasons. She switched back when she failed to save the lives of many XOs and the Thrifty's chief medical officer was killed, providing an open position. Who returned to her homeworld after the destruction of the starsheep.
- Prudence Awshucks played by Amanda Iman (season one through mid-season two). Awshucks was an alcoholic who hated space travel. When the A.S.S. required starsheep rotation, she retired early, but soon ran out of money. This led her to accept a job offer on the Thrifty, which she never quite got around to liking. She was very much a live-for-today person, having an affair with Jamieson, even though she knew he was married. Promoted to XO primarily because no one else wanted the cursed job, she was killed by Nathan Chestnut, a genetically enhanced man from the past.
Recurring A.S.S. Characters
- Admiral Jenko played by Jessica Gibson. A fleet admiral higher in rank than Jamie Jamieson because she is his boss. Tough but fair, she has been seen presiding over trials and hearings. She is not the highest ranking member of the A.S.S.
- Ambassador Cynthia Nixon played by Samantha Stark. Nixon was assigned to negotiate with the C'mons, but failed to prevent war. Known for her very slow style of speech, Nixon has occasionally been useful to the Thrifty crew. She also apparently had enthusiastic sex with Ray.
- Grace Thomas played by Katelyn Hamilton and Kyle Mason. Grace is the captain of the A.S.S. Meru. She came up through the ranks with Kahkay. Although they often competed in charged situations, and were both were interested in one another, they never hooked up or officially dated. She was ahead of Kahkay in rank for a while, but he became captain first, which she has never forgiven him for. Their backstory is chronicled in the novel Love's Lust Lost.
- Bobbi Luna played by Ashley Collins. A member of the Echo Dimension department who became lost in the Echo Dimension with Janice Jamieson and M-. Luna is smart and speaks her mind.
- Raymond Ray played by Nathan Haley. After Who became doctor of the ship, Ray took over as chief of security. The flamboyant man is a little bit weird, and thus has not really been embraced by his peers, though he'd sure like to be part of the core friend group of senior officers.
- Fitzgerald "Fitzy" Fitzsimmons played by Addie Peelle (and once by Samantha Stark). Fitzy is the assistant chief engineer and wife of Foley. She has also filled in at Tokaladie's station on occasion. She had a good marriage, but was sometimes jealous of Foley's affection for Kahkay. She was killed when the Thrifty was destroyed.
- Sylvia 'Bernie' Bernard played by Samantha Stark. Bernie is Neu's roommate at the A.S.S. Academy. Socially a little awkward, she quickly became fast friends with the android.
Recurring Echo Dimension Characters
- Echo Dimension M- played by Shane Stefanchik. 'Evil' M-, as he is known, switched places with Lt. Com. M- in a beamer accident. When M- came home, evil M- was imprisoned by the A.S.S. until Echo Dimension Janice freed him.
- Echo Dimension Janice Jamieson played by Ryan Yohe. A ruthless fleet admiral. Janice accidentally invaded the 'regular' dimension, where she slaughtered everyone in the Echo Dimension office. Echo M- is her exboyfriend.
Other Recurring Characters
- Zee played by Colleen Dunne. A very powerful, god-like being, Zee became aware of the Thrifty when they outsmarted her re-programmed space probe. She kidnapped several of the senior staff, and during, became infatuated with Kahkay. Zee is childish, presently maturing at a faster rate than humans, although she is much older.
- Janice Jamieson played by Ryan Yohe. Janice lost her son in the A.S.S.'s first encounter with the C'mons and never recovered. She began sleeping with people who could help her start a war with the C'mons, hoping to get revenge for her loss. Her treason was discovered and she was imprisoned. She was released to accompany her ex-husband, Jamie Jamieson, to the Echo Dimension, where she assumed her alter ego's identity as an admiral.
- Captain Yeez played by Dan Condo (and once Joe Morales). Yeez is a C'mon captain. The C'mons are the rivals of the A.S.S., and the two are officially at war. Yeez is less aggressive than his peers, though, and after trying and failing to prevent the war, has secretly fed information to Kahkay to try to save lives. He was suspected of being a mole, and Kahkay allowed him to destroy the Thrifty to preserve his cover.
- Harry Dirt played by Dallas Ray. Dirt was first introduced as XO of the Thrifty, but turned out to be a con man. After faking his death, he has engaged in various smuggling and other illegal operations, chronicled in his UJ returns and his spin-off segment, Space Dirt.
Main article: List of Universe Journey episodes.
While only somewhat serial (usually), Universe Journey is divided into seasons of episodes.
Season one ran from July 2015 through July 2016 and contained twelve episodes, beginning with Kahkay taking command of the Thrifty and ending with the C'mons declaring war on the A.S.S.
Season two ran from August 2016 through June 2017 and contained fourteen episodes, introducing Grace Thomas and Zee, bringing back Harry Dirt, and ending with the disappearance of Lt. Com. M-. Doctor Awshucks, almost immediately after being promoted to XO, died mid-way through, and for the second half of the season, Admiral Jamieson served as XO. Security Chief Lt. Who also became the Chief Medical Officer, having been a doctor prior to the series beginning.
Season three ran from July 2017 through July 2018 and contained sixteen episodes. It introduced the Echo Dimension and the android Neu, saw Jamieson return to Command, and followed Tokaladie through multiple postings off of the Thrifty as she completed command track training. There was also an eighty-minute RPG-event in which the UJ characters role played through other Radio Hour segments. It ended with the destruction of the A.S.S. Thrifty and the death of Foley's wife.
Season four began with an hour-long musical concerning Kahkay's hearing. He was demoted, and without an immediate command, the crew scattered. Foley and Who resigned from the A.S.S., Neu enrolled in the A.S.S. Academy, and M- joined Admiral Jamieson's Echo Dimension project. Tokaladie alone stuck by Kahkay, following him to his eventual post at Eastwood Station near the planet Surreptittia. The result of this was three separate storylines, with most episodes only serving one or two of the plots.
Season five saw most of the crew reunited on Eastwood Station. Foley lived more than fifty years on an alien world, before being returned to the time and place that he left. Dr. Who took him to Eastwood to be with his crew. Zee returned, and showed Janice Jamieson how to invade the regular dimension, leading to an attack halfway through the season. The A.S.S. was victorious thanks to the efforts of Jamie Jamieson. Echo Jamie Jamieson took over the O.S.S. fleet. Then Kahkay tried to sacrifice himself to bring the war with the C'mons to an end.
Season six brought a new starsheep, the A.S.S. Thrifty 2 Fast 2 Furious to Eastwood, giving a newly-restored Captain Kahkay command of both. Zee showed Tokaladie several possible dark futures, leading her to believe they would eventually lose the war with the O.S.S.
Universe Journey borrows more from an outside program than any other Radio Hour segment. Although the series itself is not a direct parody of the original 1960s Star Trek, there are certainly influences, from the theme song, to the use of 'beamers,' to the womanizing captain, to the command structure of the crew, ranks, and senior positions. Tokaladie's original character pokes fun at how little Uhura got to say. Some characters are similar, too. Harry Dirt is sort of a combination of Star Trek's Harry Mudd and Cyrano Jones. The android Neu is similar to Star Trek: The Next Generation's Data, while Zee is like TNG and Voyager's Q. The C'mons are obviously like the Klingons.
Several UJ episodes parody specific Star Trek episodes, though mostly extremely loosely. The Echo Dimension is obviously a send-up of Star Trek's Mirror Universe, but is handled differently. The direct relations have occurred less frequently as the segment has gone on.
- 1.01 "God Man" is a parody of Star Trek's pilot, "Where No Man Has Gone Before."
- 1.03 "The Conundrum With C'mons" is a parody of the second season Star Trek episode "The Trouble With Tribbles," although without any counterpart for the tribbles themselves.
- 1.04 "Trapped on the Bridge" is a parody of the first season Star Trek episode "The Corbomite Manuever."
- 1.06 "Homesick for the Holidays" is a parody of the first aired Star Trek episode "The Man Trap."
- 2.01 (#13) "Kids These Days" parodies several original Star Trek episodes, including "Miri" and "And the Children Shall Lead."
- 2.05 (#17) "Defrosted" parodies the first season Star Trek episode "Space Seed."
- 2.07 (#19) "Changes" parodies the second season Star Trek episode "The Changeling."
- 2.11 (#23) "City of the Past That, In a Way, Exists Forever" is a parody of the first season Star Trek episode "City on the Edge of Forever."
- 2.14 (#24) "Dirt's Women" parodies the first season Star Trek episode "Mudd's Women."
- 2.16 (#26) "Journey of Babble"'s title references the second season Star Trek episode "Journey to Babel," although except for containing the starsheep transporting an ambassador, there isn't much similarity.
- 3.11 (#37) "Spring Break" is a parody of the first season Star Trek episode "Shore Leave."
- 3.12 (#38) "Woman or Fauxman" is loosely inspired by the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Measure of a Man."
- 3.13 (#39) "Old Dogs" parodies the classic Star Trek episode "The Deadly Years."
- 3.15 and 16 (#41 and #42) "All Good Things..." parts 1 and 2 aren't parodies of an episode, but are named after the Star Trek: The Next Generation series finale.
- Elements of season four involve a space station, Commander Kakkay being named the Blessed One, and the discovery of a wormhole. These are plays off of major Star Trek: Deep Space Nine elements, but are handled quite differently and don't line up with specific DS9 episodes.
- #5.02 "Zee Faveur" finds Zee showing the A.S.S.'s enemy how to invade, which is sort of similar to Q introducing the TNG crew to the Borg which happens in the episode "Q Who," though again, not a specific take on an episode.
- #5.03 "A Life Well Lived" has strong parallels to the TNG episode "The Inner Light."
- 1.05 "Weekend at Commander Sanders" is a send-up of the film Weekend at Bernie's.
- 3.03 (#29) "It's a Trap!"'s title is a reference to the famous Star Wars line uttered by Admiral Akbar.
- 3.08 (#34) "Three 'Men' and an Infant" is a loose parody of the film Three Men and a Baby.
- The "Who's on First" commercial is a take on the Abbott and Costello routine, "Who's on First?"
- Whenever a day of the week is mentioned in UJ, it is almost always Tuesday. This is a tribute to the running joke at the beginning of the movie Star Trek: Generations.
- The starsheep is frequently said to be traveling to Starbase Rana, but is never shown getting there. This is a tribute to Seth Meyers, who both on Saturday Night Live and Late Night With Seth Meyers begins a story about a tree frog that is never finished. Rana is a genus of frogs.
In 2017, IABD Presents published its first novel, Love's Lust Lost. It relives the first five episodes of Universe Journey through various crewmember's perspectives, concentrating on the insecurity Kahkay was feeling when he took over the starsheep. About a third of the novel concerns flashbacks chronicling the relationship between Kahkay and Grace Thomas from their Academy graduation through Kahkay's promotion to captain. It also gives insight into the other series leads at the beginning of the program, and although it covers some things seen in episodes, many of the scenes in those stories were not part of the podcast, especially in the later segments.
In April 2020, Universe Journey Season 1 Script Book was released for paperback and ebook, one of the first two script books released by It's All Been Done Radio Hour. It included a new introduction by creator Jerome Wetzel, scripts for the first twelve episodes (with text edited only for typos and formatting, not updated to match spoken dialogue), and a cast list. Photos are included for each episode, and at the beginning and end of the book. There is also a preview of Love's Lust Lost in the back.