‘Space: Above and Beyond’ Turns 20

Birthdays & Anniversaries Entertainment Geek Culture Television

spaceaboveandbeyond

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the premiere of Space: Above and Beyond. Don’t remember it? You’re not alone. The show, which had a five-year story arc mapped out, lasted only a single season before, like many sci-fi shows to follow, it was cancelled by FOX. However, in its one season on the air it was nominated for two Emmys and a Saturn award, and was named by IGN as number 50 on its “Top 50 Sci-Fi TV Shows.”

Set in 2063, the show’s opening tells how humanity had begun to colonize space, believing that we were alone, until a mysterious race of aliens suddenly attacked and massacred a colony on a planet 16 light years away. The show follows a squad of young Marine pilots as they fight their way through the resulting war.

The cast was made up of mostly unknown guest stars from series such as Law & Order, Quantum Leap, and Silk Stalkings. Perhaps the best-known lead, at least to genre fans at the time, was Lanei Chapman, who had had a recurring role on Star Trek: The Next Generation as Ensign Sariel Rager. The team was led by tough-as-nails Lt. Col. T.C. McQueen, played by James Morrison, best known today for having played CTU boss Bill Buchanan on 24.

The show’s real pedigree was its behind-the-scenes team of executive producers Glenn Morgan (who would go on to marry Kristen Cloke, one of the show’s stars) and James Wong, who were at the time also running a little show called The X-Files. They brought some of their signature conspiracy theory subplots to the show. While it never got far enough in to explain exactly who the aliens were or why they were attacking us, there were implications that to at least some of the humans in charge the attack might not have been quite so unexpected.

Space also included an interesting plot thread on racism and inclusion. Both Morrison’s McQueen and one of the young pilots, Hawkes (played by Rodney Rowland), were “In Vitroes,” or artificially gestated humans, who are seen as lesser beings by “natural borns” and subjected to discrimination. There are also artificially intelligent beings, called Silicates, who have risen up against their human masters and have decided to side with the aliens, due to their perceived mistreatment by humanity.

While few of my friends have heard of, much less seen Space: Above and Beyond, it’s a show that has stuck with me all these years later. It’s hard to put my finger on exactly why. The stories were interesting, exploring a lot of bigger themes while still following these young soldiers–basically kids–in this huge intergalactic war. The effects, while a bit cheesy by today’s standards, were great for the time. The music was wonderful, and the theme is one that still gets stuck in my head from time to time. But ultimately, it was just entertaining sci-fi TV.

There are only 23 episodes of the series, and it ends in a cliff-hanger as the producers were clearly hoping for it to continue despite its chronically low ratings. The entire series is available on DVD. It does not appear to be available on any streaming service or via digital purchase, which is unfortunate. Still, if you happen to come across a copy, you should check it out.

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7 thoughts on “‘Space: Above and Beyond’ Turns 20

  1. Loved this show. LOVED. The cliffhanger was so heartbreaking when I finally learned the show wasn’t being continued (this was before Internet searches could get you instant answers about a show being renewed).

    Remember Coolio as a guest star? And David Duchovny as a Silicate!??? The writers of this show could make a mint if they could find a way to continue the show in book form.

  2. I too loved this show and have the DVDs. I loved the special effects at the time and the way they did space combat differently than anything I’d seen before. And James Morrison was fantastic!

  3. This show brought about some good friendships and some not so good! I always thought the main reason for the low ratings was because the network wouldn’t just put it in one time slot and LEAVE it there. James Morrison was and IS the best. The entire crew made a point of putting themselves out there to be available to fans. Too bad it just wasn’t enough.

  4. I miss this program. It was in my opinion one of the best. I was and am an x-files fan, but SAAB has always had a special place in my mind. It was such a darn shame when it was cancelled. While the cgi effects don’t look as real anymore, especially on a big screen with HD, the stories are as real as ever and many of the characters still stick with me.

    And heck I still use the expression, “easy as eatin’ pancakes”.

    Part of me hoped over the years for a remake, but when I see what the original creators of the X-Files did to that show in 2016 I shudder to think what some come-lately stranger with no connection to Space above and beyond would do to it. Sorry no thanks. The show still stand on it’s own, as it was, in my opinion. And it is better that way.

    RIP SAAB.

  5. You probably would have enjoyed the anniversary celebration that was held in Burbank, CA August 2015. Not a whole lot of people showed up, but we did manage to get the cast, and a number of crew there. Was oly one day, but we all had an enjoyable time. Yes, pics were taken (I think I have an album on my FB page – set to public view)

  6. Happily, the entire series is available for free on Youtube. Look for the episodes uploaded by Jones Testen, as their video quality is better than average.

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