Space Above and Beyond Review #14: Never No More
Original air date: February 4, 1996
The war has started to turn in our favor when the Chigs launch an experimental fighter that’s capable of wiping out entire squadrons in the blink of an eye. When the 58th are thrown into the fray looking to eliminate this threat will they be be able to take out this alien Red Baron or will they become yet another statistic?
“Never No More” is probably the best episode of Space: Above and Beyond, it’s certainly the best up to this point. While other episodes have dealt with things like the war with the Chigs and what it’s like to leave loved ones behind and sometimes see them die, “Never No More” is the first episode in the series to handle all that in one episode so succinctly.
Here, the tables are finally starting to turn and the Earth forces are beginning to make advances against the previously seemingly unbeatable Chigs. But whenever squadrons of our fighters go off to patrol around a certain planet they end up getting wiped out by a single, special, Chig ship. And even when we send scores and scores of fighters against this Chig fighter dubbed “Chiggie Von Richthofen” we’re only able to score a temporary victory over it after having suffered massive losses.
The Earth is set to mount a major new offensive against the Chigs, they think they know the location of the alien’s home planet is, but in order for it to start we first must destroy this new fighter less it continue to kill Marine pilots.
With “Never No More” we get a whole heck of a lot of Shane Vansen’s backstory here. This is mainly of her turning down an engagement proposal from her high school boyfriend in a flashback before the war, which with these two characters is where the real interest in this episode lies.
In flashbacks the character of Capt. John Oakes (Michael Reilly Burke) is a bright-eyed kid who’s excited to fly off to a great adventure after graduation in the Marines. But that adventure turned to something darker after the outbreak of the war and more recently with the loss of his girlfriend to this Chiggie Von Richtofen.
And Vansen, who’s been so closed up to this point with the loss of her parents as a kid, comes off as someone in “Never No More” with a bit more heart than I think anyone had expected. She’s in love with Oakes but with the realities of what’s going on around them their relationship is something different. Them being together even for a little while is some small respite from a war that’s taken so many of their friends and comrades.
“Never No More” has more gut-wrenching emotion than all the previous episodes combined. And after watching this episode when it originally aired I was never able to hear the Patsy Cline song “Never No More” the same way again.
“Never No More” also features what I’d guess is the most special effect shots of any episode of the series up to this point – even if some of those shots were cribbed from earlier episodes. There’s shots of Marine Hammerheads stalking this Chig fighter and the battles fought between them too. While these shots look a bit dated today none-the-less they were groundbreaking for the time this episode aired.
We also get a bit of the wider scope to the war here too. There’s an (I think) Israeli pilot playing cards with the 58th in one scene and in another the “Fighting Finns” who are I’m assuming Finnish pilots in another.
The Chigs develop a fighter that’s practically invisible to the Marines yet after the next episode they never use this again. Chig technology that could seemingly turn the war in their favor yet they only ever use it once is a common theme throughout SAaB.
Capt. John Oakes: “He disappeared about 100 of these ago.”
On who he is now compared to as a teen when receiving death notices is a normal occurrence.
TC McQueen about Chiggie Von Richthofen: “You might as well be talking about ghosts and werewolves because there is no such thing.”
Shane Vansen: “The only certainty is now and I sure don’t believe in forever.”
Capt. John Oakes: “I hate the word you said to me that night, but I’ve come to believe them.”
TC McQueen: “You’re sending them into the dark without a light.”
Shane Vansen: “I’m so sorry that she’s not here, but I’m not sorry that I am.”
Pilot: “Sir, how do we detect it?”
TC McQueen: “When a plane in your formation goes down, you know you’re in the schoolyard.”
Commodore Ross: “Abandon all hope my ass!”
Oakes girlfriend Brandt is leader of the “Soaring Hornets.”
Cooper Hawkes has no poker face.
“Never No More” takes place around February 14, 2064. Valentine’s Day.
Vansen and Oakes went to El Cajon Valley High School.
Oakes went to the Marine Corps High Intensity Survival Training on the Moon in the Sea of Tranquility.
The operation the Marines are participating in at the start of the episode is “Shadow Watch.” Later they join operation “Red Baron.”