Space: Above and Beyond Review #1: Pilot episode
Originally aired September 24, 1995
The year 2063 is a time of peace, until a mysterious advanced alien army known as the “Chigs” strike from the depths of space and declare war on the human race by destroying several of our colonies on far-off planets. It’s up to the military, more specifically “58th” squadron of Marine Corps Space Aviators, to fight back as the Chigs approach Earth set for invasion.
The future of 2063 isn’t a perfect place, it’s full of all sorts of horrible things from racism to murder. But it’s not all bad either. It’s also a time where mankind is exploring the stars and, for the most part, has abolished war. But there’s still a need for the military, even if all they really do is maintain order.
To all this enters a group of Marine Corps recruits, all have joined the Corps for different reasons, only one who’s joined in order to fight for her country. There’s:
- Nathan West (Morgan Weisser): Separated from the love of his life by bureaucracy, West only joined the military on the chance that he might one day be stationed on the planet his girlfriend is off colonizing.
- Shane Vansen (Kristen Cloke): Vansen is actually the only member of the 58th to have joined up to serve in the military, but she also joined up since she really has no other place to go.
- Cooper Hawkes (Rodney Rowland): Hawkes is a “Tank,” a person grown in a literal tank who was attacked, nearly hung and fought back but ended up in jail none-the-less. He only joined up in order to avoid jail time.
- Paul Wang (Joel de la Fuente) not much is revealed about Wang or Vanessa Damphousse (Lanei Chapman) in the first episode, but we’ll learn more about them later.
And while they all joined up for various reasons, no one could have known that the time of peace was nearly at an end and that all these new soldiers would soon be fighting on the frontlines of an intergalactic with this alien enemy.
The fictional SAaB world of 2063 closely resembled the world of the mid-1990s more than I realized the first time I watched the show. We assumed back then that just because the Cold War was over and there really was no major enemy to worry about that wars would be a thing of the past too. And the people of 2063 thought that just because humanity had declared peace with each other they wouldn’t have to worry about wars either. And in both cases lots of young adults joined the armed services looking to see the world, to help pay for an education, for a long-term career… and not many of the recruits thought they’d be fighting anytime soon.
But in the real world we were only a few years away from the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and the two wars that would follow and in the world of SAaB they were only weeks away from a total was with the Chigs.
Goofs: Humanity is just now exploring the stars, and we’ve already decided that “…we are alone (in the universe).” How could you EVER know we’re alone in our galaxy, let alone in the vast universe?
Favorite quote: “What would you die for?” – Lt. Col. “TC” McQueen
Stray Observations: Back in the 1990s I used to have to to work every Friday, Saturday and Sunday night meaning that I’d regularly miss new episodes of SAaB. I desperately wanted to see the first episode so I set our VCR to record it. Unfortunately, for whatever reason the recording cut-off five minutes before the episode ended meaning that the first time I ever got to see the episode complete was years later after I’d bought the series on bootlegged VHS off of eBay. (This was long before TV series would be released on home video.) In fact, up until then, I had to rely on my brother’s description of the end to fill in what I’d missed!