Never No More
By Bert Ehrmann
October 1, 2010
On September 24th a TV anniversary quietly passed by that few took notice of. On that day back in 1995 the doomed series Space: Above and Beyond (S:AAB) premiered on Fox.
Each new season of TV I end up watching many new shows and since most of these end in cancellation there are a lot of short lived series I hold near and dear to my heart. But the only show that still HURTS when I think about how good it was, how groundbreaking it was and what could have been is S:AAB.
I can clearly remember the lead-up to S:AAB the summer of ‘95. Fox heavily promoted the show with TV spots and print ads in magazines and comic books. The night S:AAB premiered I had to work so I ended up watching the premiere episode later that night on VHS. And what a premiere it was. S:AAB was everything I could have hoped for in a series, mixing true emotions, characters who “felt” real and great storytelling in one compelling package.
Essentially, S:AAB followed the exploits of a group of kids in their early 20s who join the Marine Corps in 2063. Each joins up for different reasons; to stay out of jail, out of a sense of duty, in pursuit of love… Regardless of the reasons, when each joins up it’s a time of peace when people are venturing out to the stars and are colonizing far off planets while the Marine Corps, and the armed-forces in general, have little or nothing to do.
While in training, one of these colonies is attacked by a mysterious alien species dubbed the “Chigs,” and in short order these aliens overrun most of the colonies and even threaten the Earth. All of the armed-forces are thrown into the fight, including these recruits just out of boot-camp. And that’s essentially the crux of the series; what happens to a group of 20-something kids when they’re thrown into a war they’re not prepared for? How do they act and how do they change? (Kids who join the military in a time of peace only to be thrust into a war…Hmmm, where have I heard that before?)
S:AAB seemed like a sure thing. The series was created by Glen Morgan and James Wong who, proir to S:AAB, had been co-executive producers on The X-Files which had been a MONSTER hit on Fox. Unfortunately, the seeds of doom for S:AAB seemed to have been sown before the series has even premiered. For most of its run, S:AAB aired at the odd time of Sunday nights at 7. A good time for 60 Minutes or light comedies but a terrible time for a serious drama like S:AAB that dealt with adult themes of conflict and loss.
Arguably, what hurt S:AAB the most was that everytime a Sunday afternoon football game ran over to the evening, which was often, it meant that S:AAB would air in its entirety after the game but at a slightly different time, would air with however many minutes the game intruded into the show cut off or would not air at all.
Because of the bum time slot and the fact that viewers could never be quite certain just when the next episode of S:AAB was going to air the series never caught on and was eventually pulled from the Fox schedule altogether. In a last ditch attempt to garner viewers the series was moved to Friday nights where the last few episodes aired. Because low ratings S:AAB wasn’t picked up for a second season.
What’s interesting, though, is that what didn’t work on Fox in the mid-1990s, a sci-fi series about war that’s an commentary on our current times, would be extremely successful a decade later on the SCI-FI Channel with the critically acclaimed series Battlestar Galactica that essentially dealt with much of the same themes and story ideas S:AAB had started exploring a decade prior.
Still, some 15 years later I wonder what could have been if S:AAB had been a bit more successful? What would’ve happened in the second season of the show? The third? The seventh? In the movie? I’ll never know. The entire S:AAB series is currently available on DVD.