Sunday, November 3, 2013

Space: Above and Beyond

"Courage. Honor. Dedication. Sacrifice. These are just the words they used to get you here. Now the only word that means a damn to you is life -- yours, your buddy's. The one certainty in war is that in an hour, maybe two, you'll either still be alive or you'll be dead.  For the next hour, here's your best chance of staying alive."


I forget if I've talked about my family's tradition of watching some good (or bad) sci-fi on the weekends.  Last week we finished going through the full set of David Tennant's run as the 10th Doctor.  This weekend we started something a bit different.

Space: Above and Beyond was a science fiction TV series that ran from 1995 to 1996.  Yup, just one season.  But what a season!  This show is typically in top-ten lists of "awesome shows that were cancelled before their time."  It was created by Glen Morgan and James Wong, two guys that started out writing some of the best early episodes of the X-Files, and then were given the chance to create their own show for Fox in the mid-90s.

My wife and I enjoyed this show at the time it first aired, and we were disappointed at its cancellation.  Watching the pilot again today, we were pleased at how much held up.  The characters remain engaging, the special effects aren't too clunky, and the patented Morgan-Wong monologues still have the ability to tug at the heart strings.  (They must have been big fans of classic American theater... Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller, and so on... They put in at least 2 or 3 identifiable bits of eloquent speechifyin' per episode.  For a show about war, love, and loss, it works.)  Our boy really enjoyed it, too.

The show follows the path of five fresh lieutenants, space marines in the year 2063, who happened to join up right as humankind happens to discover that, no, we are not alone.  In the wake of a horrific series of Pearl Harbor type alien attacks, they have to finish their training fast and head to the front lines.  There they meet the 6th main member of the cast (and fan favorite), Colonel T. C. McQueen, a battle-hardened vet who gave the speech I quoted above.  The actor who portrayed him may share the same name as a famous mojo-risin' lizard king, but he's all about the gravitas, with a cauldron of emotion simmering under the surface.  Back in the 90s, we were hooked by the plot and effects, but we kept on watching for him.

We'll be going through this wonderful old show over the next 20 or so weekends.  I can't promise to review every single episode, but I'll pop in with thoughts as I have them.

13 comments:

  1. Sounds like my kind of show! Two questions... 1) Do you know if it's on Netflix? Nevermind, I'm extremely lazy, I could probably check that myself, LOL... 2) Since it was only one season long, did it have a good ending or did it end on a cliffhanger?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If I was on Netflix, I could probably tell you, but I ain't... :-)

      The ending was, in its own way, satisfying and momentous. It also had some major cliffhanger-y aspects. The creators said they knew it was cancelled when they made that last episode... but then they also gave out dribs and drabs about how they wanted to follow up on it in the 2nd season. So who knows?

      Delete
  2. The training always has to be finished fast, doesn't it? Ah, the urgency!

    Thanks for clueing us into a top tenner. It's always so sad when quality stuff gets canceled too soon.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was quality, but there were cliches aplenty. :-) Even the basic idea of "space marines" was still probably riding on the coat-tails of 1986's Aliens.

      Delete
  3. I keep meaning to catch up on this show. The good thing seems to be that it has yet to be forgotten, and the memories are always positive from those who talk about it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is worth it. The whole pilot is on youtube, I'm pretty sure. (I won't link to it, because I suspect I'm a jinx... several times I've linked to something that's, erm, marginally official, and in no time it's taken down...)

      Delete
  4. My faves were th colonel Buts and final episodes. They cancel you, go out with a bang!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ray Butts was awesome... that's an early one, coming up soon for me. The whole season built up gradually in tension, despite having lots of quasi-stand-alone episodes. Thanks for stopping by!

      Delete
  5. Thanks for posting this. I never saw this show but will look for it now.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Awesome. When Colonel McQueen quoted the Iliad in another of his pep talks, I knew this was one for the ages.

      Delete
  6. 95-96, my first year out of college. Somehow I missed this one. Sounds like fun! In an hour, you'll either be dead or alive - tough to argue with that.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That was a major pre-battle pep talk from the pilot episode. It also contained what would become a catchphrase of the Colonel: "Watch your six!" :-)

      Delete
    2. I had to Google the expression... clearly a pilotish thing.

      Delete