Space: Above and Beyond – 20 years gone
I was excited about the TV series Space: Above and Beyond (SaAB) from the moment I first heard about it in 1995. Back then, the series The X-Files was one of the biggest and most exciting things on television and was riding a creative high to boot. And other than The X-Files series creator Chris Carter the two people most responsible for the look and direction for that show at that time were writers Glen Morgan and James Wong. And those two would be the producers and lead writers on SAaB.
What wasn’t there to be excited about from a sci-fi geek like me?
Set in the year 2063 where space travel is common, the world is at peace and human beings can be created wholly inside a lab, SAaB follows a group of Marine Corps recruits who’ve joined up for various reasons; to follow a girl to the stars, to stay out of jail, out of a sense of familial duty… But when an alien race known as the “Chigs” begins attacking Earth colonies across the galaxy, and beating our forces badly, these recruits are thrown into the battle to try and stop the alien advances.
And that’s what most of SAaB is about, this galactic war, the people caught up in the conflict and their losses.
It’s probably been a good 15 years since the last time I sat down and watched the whole SAaB TV series. It was so long ago that I remember the last time I watched the series it was recorded from TV on VHS! But back at the end of 2013 I decided to sit down and watch the show again and review all the episodes leading up to the show’s 20th anniversary this September 24. And while I did watch and review about half the series, I wasn’t able to watch the entire series run again. (Alas, life.)
However, after having watched 14 episodes I can happily report that not only does SAaB hold up today 20 years after it originally premiered, it’s actually still a quite good show. Well, “good” with one caveat.
When I first started re-watching SAaB I was a bit taken aback that while the show does have a central story narrative, namely the progress of war, the actual stories of SAaB sometimes carryover between episodes and sometimes do not. Things will happen in one episode that will directly affect the next but other things are completely ignored.
In one episode the story deals with a character who is suffering from brain damage who must remember a specific piece of information or his friends will be killed. In reality any soldier who has an injury like that would be shipped back home. In the universe of SAaB this character is seen piloting a ship the next episode seemingly injury free. And in more than one episode the Chigs develop weapons that would turn the tide of war in their favor, but these weapons are forgotten by the next episode.
I had a hard time coming to terms with this all until I began taking each episode on its own terms. I would almost imagine that each episode was a “reset,” that we’re meeting the characters of SAaB for the first time in every episode — that the story before may carry over to each new episode but that the details of the previous episode may may not.
It’s not like SAaB was unique in this regard, lots of similar series of the ‘90s dealt with stories the same way. That each episode was separate, fresh and new from the previous. I think where SAaB almost went from a good show to a great one was the inclusion of the overarching galactic war storyline. It’s something that a show like Battlestar Galactica would take and run with less than a decade after the end of SAaB to great effect.
Now that The X-Files is getting a reboot series set to premiere early next year, let’s hope that a SaAB reboot, like Battlestar Galactica was too, isn’t far behind. 🙂 Currently, the single season of SAaB is only available on DVD.