Military science fiction
|Created by||Glen Morgan
Joel de la Fuente
|Theme music composer||Shirley Walker|
|Country of origin||United States|
|Original language(s)||English (with one occurrence of spoken Navajo and 2 occurrences of Traditional Chinese subtitles)|
|No. of seasons||1|
|No. of episodes||24 (List of episodes)|
|Running time||approx. 45 minutes|
|Audio format||Dolby Surround|
|Original run||24 September 1995 – 2 June 1996|
Space: Above and Beyond is a short-lived mid-1990s American science fiction television show on the FOX Network, created and written by Glen Morgan and James Wong. Originally planned for five seasons, it ran only for the single 1995–1996 season. It was nominated for two Emmy Awards and one Saturn Award. It was ranked “50” in IGN’s top 50 Sci-Fi TV Shows, described as “yet another sci-fi show that went before its time”.
Set in the years 2063–2064, the show focuses on the “Wildcards”, members of the United States Marine Corps Space Aviator Cavalry, 58th Squadron. They are stationed on the space carrier USS Saratoga, and act as infantry and pilots of SA-43 Endo/Exo-Atmospheric Attack Jet (“Hammerhead”) fighters.
In the years leading up to 2063, humanity has begun to colonize other planets. Lacking FTL technology, this is accomplished by taking advantage of transient but predictable, naturally-occurring wormholes. Without warning, a previously unknown alien species, the “Chigs”, attack and destroy Earth’s first extra-solar colony and then destroy a second colony ship. The bulk of the Earth military forces sent to confront the Chigs are destroyed or outflanked, in part because the Chigs have some form of FTL, affording them greater freedom of movement (although this technology appears limited, and the Chigs also primarily utilize natural wormholes). In desperation, unproven and under-trained outfits like the 58th “Wildcards” are thrown against the Chigs. The Wildcards are the central focus of the series, which follows them as they grow from untried cadets into veterans. Although the unified Earth forces come under the control of a reformed United Nations, the UN has no armed forces of its own and therefore navies such as the U.S. Navy and the Royal Navy operate interstellar starships.
The Space: Above and Beyond milieu includes an underclass race of genetically engineered and artificially gestated humans who are born at the physical age of 18, and are collectively known as In Vitroes or sometimes, derogatorily, “tanks” or “nipple-necks”. The In Vitroes have replaced the previous underclass, the artificial intelligences known as Silicates. These human-looking androids, referred to as “walking personal computers”, have rebelled, formed their own societies, and wage a guerrilla war against human society. The Silicates are also suspected of having some involvement with the Chigs.
Space: Above and Beyond connects episodes through several prominent story arcs beside that of the main arc, the Chig War. In an approximated descending order of significance, these are:
Chig War (2063–)
The Chig War, taking place six years after the AI War (2047–2057), represents a major setback for human space exploration. In the first half of the season, and up to approximately episode 1.16, the Chig War progressed rather grimly for humanity (e.g. episodes 1.09, 1.15), but with superior military strategies, covert operations and disinformation (episodes 1.13, 1.21), the humans are able to gain an upper hand and are able to launch major offensives (episodes 1.22, 1.23), although neither the War nor the story arc concludes at the end of the series.
With the Chig War as the main story arc of the series, Space: Above and Beyond probes human emotion in extreme desperation and conflict. The important motifs presented in this story arc can be found in a variety of war dramas: loyalty, courage, and the significance of individual actions.
Nathan West and Kylen Celina
The Nathan West and Kylen Celina story is a reoccurring theme following Kylen, who had been taken hostage by the Chigs (episode 1.03). In her place, the device in most episodes is an audio recording photograph, with the recording of Kylen saying:”I believe in you.” (episodes 1.01 ff.) When Kylen was rescued and briefly before returning to Earth, she replaced the recording with : “I believe in all of you.” (episode 1.24)
The relationship between Nathan West and Kylen Celina is a prominent theme in the Chig War, adding the ideas of hope and faith to the Chig War story. As the hope for a rescue of Kylen Celina appears to be a key motivation for the “Wildcards” (e.g. episodes 1.06, 1.12, 1.24), this story arc also appears to be the driving force of the overall series.
As artificially gestated humans, the In Vitroes do not share social equality with those viviparously born, or so-called “naturally born”. Literally removed (“born”) from their individual gestation tanks at physical age of eighteen, they are educated swiftly and rather harshly to enable them to enter society with at least a nominal idea of how to deport themselves. They are derisively termed “tanks” by regular humans, which seems to be a double entendre, describing not only their method of birth but also their physical toughness, which is always greater than “naturals”, and the disposable nature of them, the first to come in battle, the “tanks” that open the way for the infantry. Unfortunately, due to their limited amount of emotional development, their deployment in the AI War as troops was not as successful as the pioneers of the In Vitro program nor the military would have liked, as the In Vitro battalions had no emotional connection beyond the most basic to their country, planet or even race; this led to their racial reputation as “lazy” and “not caring for anything or anyone” (episode 1.01/1.02), which contributed to the prejudice against them from “naturals”. In Vitroes also seem to refer to themselves as “tanks” amongst themselves. Before its abolition, they were subject to indentured servitude (episode 1.05), and there is still considerable racial segregation and resentment by normal humans (e.g. episodes 1.01, 1.07), and governmental abuse for morally dubious purposes (episode 1.13). Two main characters, Cooper Hawkes and T. C. McQueen, have to face all the ramifications of such a society from their perspective as In Vitroes.
This repeating theme explores topics such as racism and prejudice in a society, and also freedom. It differs from other story arcs in its complexity in the form of a division into two substories. One is presented as historical narration by the characters (e.g. episodes 1.05, 1.18) or flashbacks (episode 1.13); the second occurs in the present, with the experiences of Cooper Hawkes and T. C. McQueen, including a subtle substory of the shifting relationship between Nathan West and a maturing Hawkes (e.g. episodes 1.07, 1.11).
The Silicates, or AI rebels, stole military spacecraft at the end of the AI War and went into space (episode 1.04). During the Chig War, Silicates collaborate with the Chigs, acting as mercenaries (episodes 1.04, 1.16, 1.19) and operating Chig mining and prison facilities (episode 1.10). There is a sub-story, Paul Wang and Elroy EL, in which Paul Wang must deal with the fact that under torture, he falsely confessed to having committed war crimes (episodes 1.10, 1.16, 1.19).
The Silicates also provided an important part of the background story for Vansen, having killed her parents in front of her when she was a child. This became a major psychological hurdle for her to overcome and showed her growth over the series as the race which caused her childhood nightmares reemerged from the dark of space.
Nathan West and Neil West
The relationship between Nathan West and his younger brother Neil is a short story arc in the episodes 1.02, 1.17, and 1.18. It is used to explore the emotions associated with the amount of human loss and sacrifices to a much greater degree than any episode before 1.17.
Aero-Tech and the UN
The dark Aero-Tech and the UN story arc injects an element of conspiracy and high-level cover-up. Aero-Tech, founded in 2015 (episode 1.24), appears to be a monopolistic aerospace and defense supplier. It is connected with the UN by Aero-Tech’s clearly evident political power, both with the UN (with a former Aero-Tech director becoming the United Nations Secretary-General in episode 1.07) and with the armed forces, as evidenced by its control over advanced technologies (episodes 1.03, 1.10, 1.16). It is also suspected that Aero-Tech was aware of the Chigs before the rest of humanity, and deliberately endangered the Vesta and Tellus colonists (episodes 1.07, 1.24). Aero-Tech further gathers, uses or withholds key strategic information in pursuit of its own corporate agenda (e.g. episodes 1.03, 1.09, 1.10, 1.16).
The Aero-Tech and the UN story arc explores topics such as power, intrigue, politics, the military-industrial complex and perhaps to some degree also the ethics of science in the service of military and corporate interests and moral responsibility.
Other topics explored
Beside the story arcs described above, there are 5 “disconnected” episodes not used to carry on any of the story arcs beside the overall Chig War story arc. These are episodes 1.06, 1.08, 1.11, 1.14, and 1.20. Some of the episodes have a less prominent motif, while others explored topics outside any of the main story arcs. Yet other topics also have been explored in episodes related to a story arc. Examples of these additional topics are: fear and revenge (episode 1.04), loss and sacrifice (episodes 1.06, 1.11), subconscious fears (episode 1.08), parapsychological abilities and responsibility (episode 1.14), drug addictions (episode 1.20), desperation and hope (episodes 1.13, 1.22). Beside the story arcs, several episodes also explore other private relationships of the characters in war time (e.g. episodes 1.05, 1.15, 1.18).
The final episode (1.24) ends in an open-ended fashion, where T. C. McQueen is badly injured and most of the major cast is apparently killed or missing in action, with only Cooper Hawkes and Nathan West remaining. Yet with Earth in a much stronger strategic position, there is hope despite the losses and sacrifices.
Although sometimes perceived as a cliffhanger, this was the ending the producers chose when it was evident that the show was about to be cancelled. Even with this ending, the producers still planned a possible continuation in a second season, with T. C. McQueen returning to Earth to treat his injuries, possibly given an AI prosthetic leg, and meeting up with his ex-wife Amy. The “Wildcards” receiving a new female commanding officer who is disliked by everyone except Shane Vansen. In interviews given by Morgan and Wong they state that they toyed with the idea of Wang being rescued by the same model of silicate that had previously tortured him, but eventually decided – if the show had made it to season 2 – he would simply have been killed in action. Vansen and Damphouse would have survived their crash and would become prisoners of war, then slavegirls at the Baachus resort/bordello – seen in the episode ‘R&R’ – before eventually rejoining the unit. The 58th would find themselves courtmartialed for leaking information to the enemy, leading to the defeat of the massive offensive planned by Earth forces in the final few episodes. However, their punishment is simply to be sent back to the front. West’s girlfriend would rejoin the fleet as a nurse and the war would end with a negotiated peace rather than an outright victory for either side. Instead of any triumphant parade the final scene would consist of the survivors simply drinking a toast to their fallen loves and comrades.
According to the producers, the main fictional work that influenced Space: Above and Beyond was the 1974 science fiction novel The Forever War by Joe Haldeman, in addition to other fictional works such as the 1948 World War II biographic novel The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer, the 1895 American Civil War novel The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane, and the Iliad, and the 1962 television series “Combat!.” At the same time, Space: Above and Beyond also shares conspiracy elements with other television shows co-produced by the same team, such as The X-Files and Millennium.
Cinematography and visual effects
The series featured a very dark and desaturated color grading, apparently inherited from the cinematography of series such as The X-Files and Millennium, co-produced by the same team, but taken to a greater extreme. The strength of desaturation employed in many scenes reaches the level that makes them almost black and white (quantitatively, the saturation in CIE xy color subspace of a typical scene in Space: Above and Beyond is in the range 0.03–0.15, approximately 1/4 of a typical contemporary film or television program).
With the increasing affordability of computer systems with performance suitable for 3D rendering, Space: Above and Beyond relied heavily on computer generated imagery (CGI) for space scenes. Physical special effects still played a significant role. The computer generated effects of Space: Above and Beyond, were created by the visual effects company Area 51 using NewTek LightWave 3D. Some of the models used, such as the USS Saratoga and the alien carriers, lack detailed textures and bump maps, which gave them a strongly polygonal appearance.
A notable criticism from the actor Joel de la Fuente has been quoted in an article by P. G. Min & R. Kim (under the pseudonym “Michael”, on p. 744), in which he describes his perception of a possibly stereotypical nature of his character Lt. Paul Wang, for which (referring to the Silicates story arc) he felt “discomfort” for a role that he describes as “a cowardly soldier who betrayed his comrades”:
|“||Whenever I see Asians in military uniform, I cannot help but recall common images of Asians from the Vietnam War and World War II. They were “yellow-bellied cowards” who took the lives of loyal Americans. They were treacherous and crafty, impossible to gauge. Wang could be seen as all of these stereotypes, I thought.|
58th Squadron aka Wildcards
- Kristen Cloke — Capt. Shane Vansen (USMC), call sign first episodes “Ace of Diamonds”, later changed to “Queen of Diamonds”. The eldest of three daughters, Vansen was born to two career marines. Her parents were executed at the hands of a patrol of Silicates during the A.I. war (she would later discover on interrogating a Silicate that her home was invaded and her parents killed as she and her sisters watched due to a coin toss (the Silicates adhering to their doctrine of “Take a chance” (Ep1.04) She joined the Marine Corps to honour their memories, and with ambitions to be one of the elite of the 127th Squadron, the “Angry Angels”. A natural leader, solid tactician and outstanding pilot, she was quickly chosen by her peers to be in command of her squadron in the early days of the Chig war, (ep1.02)and this choice was reflected in her being selected as ‘honcho’ by her superiors in missions thereafter. (ep1.04) During the war, she would repeatedly encounter the Silicates, and would demonstrate a cool head under pressure even when facing these nightmares of her childhood.(ep1.04, 1.06, 1.08,1.09) Reflecting her war record, having been wounded several times in combat, received repeated citations for achievement in battle as well as the continued respect of her peers and superiors, 1st Lt. Vansen was promoted to Captain in late 2063. (ep 1.17) She was close friends with all of her squadron, subconsciously slipping into the ‘big sister’ role that she had been denied as she and her sisters has drifted apart in the aftermath of their parents’ deaths.
- Morgan Weisser — 1st Lt. Nathan West (USMC), callsign “King of Hearts”, Hammerhead dubbed “Above and Beyond” (ep. 1.01)Arguably the heart of the 58th Squadron, Nathan West had never intended to become a Marine. His choice or career and by definition, lifestyle had been in the Tellus Colony program. He and his girlfriend, Kylen Celina had worked long and hard to be selected for the program,with the kind of strong moral conviction of the truly adventurous. They had also been long-standing advocates of In Vitro rights.
On the eve of their mission to colonise Tellus, they were advised that one of them was being summarily replaced by an In Vitro, a political decision that had ironically robbed them of their dream. Although Nathan tried to stow away, he was unsuccessful, and was removed from the transport. Kylen stayed on, handing a photo of them together, with a recorded message of “I believe in you” to Nathan. He watched as Kylen and his life flew away. Having been advised that a USMC sentry might be stationed at Tellus, he joined the Marine Corps, and was halfway through training when the news arrived that Vesta Tellus colonies had been preemptively attacked by the extraterrestrial species that came to be known as the “Chigs”. After undergoing Accelerated Training, he and the rest of the nascent 58th Squadron participated in the “Battle of the Belt”; the Earth forces’ first victory against the enemy. 1st Lt. West was credited with six confirmed kills in this space battle. Along with the other members of his Squadron, he was awarded a prestigious medal for this decisive victory. (ep.1.01/1.02)
- Rodney Rowland — 1st Lt. Cooper Hawkes (USMC, In Vitro), callsign “Jack of Spades”, Hammerhead dubbed “Pag’s Payback” (ep. 1.01)
- Joel de la Fuente — 1st Lt. Paul Wang (USMC), callsign “Joker”
- Lanei Chapman — 1st Lt. Vanessa Damphousse (USMC), callsign “Ace of Hearts”
- James Morrison — Lt. Col. Tyrus Cassius “T. C.” McQueen (USMC, In Vitro) callsign “Queen 6”
- Tucker Smallwood — Commodore Glen van Ross (USN)
- David Jean Thomas — Gen. Alcott (USMC)
- David St. James — ADM Broden (USN)
- Amanda Douge — Kylen Celina (Aero-Tech, Tellus colonist)
- Tasia Valenza — 1st Lt. Kelly Anne Winslow (USMC) callsign “Queen of Spades”
- Edmund L. Shaff — “Chaplain” (USN)
- Bill Hunter — Secretary General Spencer Chardwell (UN)
- Robert Crow — Officer Crow (Lt. Pruitt in last episode) (USN)
- Doug Hutchison — Elroy EL (AI)
- Kimberly Patton — Feliciti OH (AI)
- Harriet Sansom Harris — Ambassador Diane Hayden (UN) (Secretary General, UN in ep. 1.07)
- John Lendale Bennett — “Master of Arms” (USN)
- Michael Mantell — Howard Sewell (Aero-Tech, member of the Board of Directors)
- James Lesure — Charlie Stone (USMC)
- Melissa Bowen — LTJG Stroud (USN)
- Gennie Nevinson, Loren Chase — Anne West
- Angus Grant, Marc Worden — Neil West (Private, USMC in ep. 1.07)
- Iva Franks-Singer — Sabrine EW (AI)
- Coolio — The Host
- David Duchovny (uncredited) — Alvin El 1543 aka “Handsome Alvin” (Silicate)
- Dale Dye, Capt., USMC (ret.) — Major Jack Colquitt (USMC)
- R. Lee Ermey, GySgt., USMC (ret.) (uncredited) — Sergeant Major Bougus (USMC)
- Adam Goldberg — Sergeant 1st Class Louie Fox, Seventh Cavalry, U.S. Army
- Richard Kind — Colonel Burke
- Steve Rankin — Lieutenant Colonel Raymond Thomas Butts, callsign “Kick Butts” and “Deuce” (ep. 1.05, “Raymond Butts”)
- Gail O’Grady (uncredited) — Colonel Klingman in the episode “Stardust”
- Martin Jarvis — Major Cyril MacKendrick (episode “Pearly”)
- Jennifer Balgobin — Communications Lieutenant Price in episode “Sugar Dirt” (USN)
|Germany & Austria||Pro Sieben|
|India||STAR World India|
|Panama||RPC Canal 4|
|United Kingdom||Sky One & BBC 2|
|United States||Fox Network & Sci Fi Channel|
In Norway, the series was given the name “Skvadron 58” (Squadron 58). In Sweden, its name was “Slaget om Tellus” (The Battle for Tellus). In Denmark, it was called “Rummet år 2063” (Space, year 2063). In Germany (during the first two times, the series was shown on VOX), France, Switzerland and Finland, it was called “Space 2063”. In Croatia, it aired under the title Svemirski marinci (Space Marines) and in Hungary it was called “Űrháború 2063” (Space war 2063). In Spain and during the third time, the series was shown in Germany on ProSieben, the name was cut to just “Space” while in Poland it was given the title Gwiezdna eskadra (Star Squadron). In Brazil, the TV series was given the title Comando Espacial (in English: Space Commando). In Slovakia, its name was “Vesmír bez hraníc” (Universe without borders).
In 2005, Space: Above and Beyond was released on DVD in the United States and Canada by 20th Century Fox as a set of DVD-10 discs. Episodes feature closed captioning, and the set also contains some of the original television promotional advertisements for the series. Certain pressings feature a distorted image of the Babylon 5 space station—which is unrelated to and does not appear in the series—on the discs’ title screens.
In 2011, Space: Above and Beyond was released on Region 2 PAL DVD in Germany by KSM GmbH.
In April 2012, Space: Above and Beyond was released on Region 2 PAL DVD in the UK by Fremantle Media / Medium Rare Entertainment. It contained a new documentary, cast interviews, some episode commentaries, galleries and deleted scenes. The pilot episode is included in the full season set but has also been released separately with just a commentary.