Space: Above and Beyond Review #8: Hostile Visit
Originally aired November 19, 1995
During an attack a Chig bomber is disabled and captured by the crew of the Saratoga. The question becomes should be bomber be disassembled and studied to better learn the enemy’s technology, or should the 58th use it to fly a suicide mission to attack an enemy planet for a little payback?
The first of two parts, “Hostile Visit” is actually one of the better episodes of the SaAB series so far. Here, the Chigs attack the Saratoga but in the melee one of their ships is left behind with its crew dead but the bomber relatively intact. Which is something that hasn’t happened before in the SaAB universe. We’ve never captured a Chig whole anything and mostly undamaged so this bomber is a bit of a bonanza.
Enter Aerotec, the big meanie mysterious corporation that serves a conspiratorial function in SaAB that was trying to harness some of the then very popular The X-Files vibe. Aerotec wants to take the ship apart so they can reverse engineer the tech and eventually use it against the Chigs. But the Marines want to learn to fly the ship and take it back to where it came from and attack whatever’s there using the ship as a Trojan Horse right away.
Which is interesting logic from the Marines. Since the Chigs have never heard of the Trojan Horse story using the bomber to sneak in and attack a Chig base just might work.
The real meat of the episode here is of the 58th coming to terms with the idea that they might have just gotten elected to a mission that would almost certainly end with their deaths but that these deaths might have a bigger meaning in the overall war with the Chigs. The 58th like to think that they’re going on a Doolittle-like raid where US flew bombers off an aircraft carrier during the early days of WW2 to attack Tokyo. But as “Hostile Visit” progresses it becomes clear that while their mission might have some aspects of the Doolittle Raid, it’s more like the Japanese Kamikaze missions during the fading days of WW2 too.
There’s also a through-line here about the military and privatization. The private company Aerotec can fully study and develop new technologies from the bomber faster than the military can. But can a private corporation be expected to do what’s right in a situation where extinction is on the line or will they watch their bottom line instead?
The 58th does manage to fly the craft to the Chig planet, and before they’re shot down themselves they’re able to fire a missile at (what looks to be from above) a Chig city. But after all their effort and sacrifice the missile misses and falls just short of its target.
Which I find amazing. In just about any other show they payoff here would have been the crew of the 58th hitting the target then being shot down to continue the story. But when SaAB is at its best and is firing on all cylinders it’s able to subvert the viewer’s expectations and deliver something a bit more hard hitting.
They’re already setting up here (spoiler) that the Chigs originated from the Earth by having Vansen remark that it’s interesting that humans are able to interact with alien Chig technology as easily as they do.
“Geaked” — Means “get psyched” or “let’s go kick butt.” Maybe a replacement for “Gung Ho” in SaAB?
The Chig planet the 58th attacks is located in the “Cerus Region.”
The front-line between the Earth forces and the Chigs is called the “Von Bruan Line,” almost certainly named after Wernher von Braun, the father of modern space travel.
The Saratoga has a crew of about 15,000.
(About the Chig bomber)
Crewman: “Is that thing dead?”
‘T.C.’ McQueen: “If it’s not, we are.”
Shane Vansen: “At least Armstrong had an idea what he’d find on the Moon.”
Cooper Hawkes: “I ain’t no kamikaze – ’cause I’m coming back.”
(About the organic insides of the Chig bomber)
Paul Wang: “I feel like I’m being digested.”