Space: Above and Beyond: Wikis

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Space: Above and Beyond
Space above.jpg
Space: Above and Beyond Titles
Format War drama
Military science fiction
Created by Glen Morgan and James Wong
Starring Lanei Chapman
Kristen Cloke
Joel de la Fuente
James Morrison
Rodney Rowland
Morgan Weisser
Theme music composer Shirley Walker
Country of origin  United States
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)
Production
Location(s)  Australia
 United States
Running time approx. 45 minutes
Broadcast
Original channel FOX
Picture format NTSC/480i60
Audio format Dolby Surround
Original run 24 September 1995 – 2 June 1996

Space: Above and Beyond (abbreviated as S:AAB) was a short-lived mid-90s 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.

Set in the years 2063–2064, the show focuses on the "Wildcards", a group of United States Marines, members of the United States Marine Corps Space Aviator Cavalry, 58th Squadron. They are based on the space carrier USS Saratoga, and act as infantry and pilots of SA-43 Endo/Exo-Atmospheric Attack Jet ("Hammerhead") fighters.

Contents

Synopsis

In the years leading up to 2063, humanity has begun to colonize other planets. 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 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.

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!."[1] 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.

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Story arcs

Wildcards patch

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:

The 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 like covert operations or 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, and a generation that will grow up enveloped in them. The important motifs which can be gleaned from this story arc are those that can be found in a variety of war dramas: loyalty, courage, and possibly most importantly in the narrative perspective of Space: Above and Beyond, the significance of individual actions.

Nathan West and Kylen Celina

The Nathan West and Kylen Celina story arc is a theme present in many episodes following Kylen, who had been taken hostage by the Chigs (episode 1.03). Instead of her, the device appearing in most of the episodes is an audio recording photographic tag, with the recording of Kylen saying: "I believe in you." (episodes 1.01 ff.) When Kylen was rescued and was onboard the Saratoga 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 the most prominent story arc except for the overall setting of the Chig War, and is also placed against and interwoven with the Chig War story arc, adding the motif of hope and faith to the Chig War story arc. As the hope for a rescue of Kylen Celina appears to be a key symbol of hope and 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.

The In Vitroes

As artificially gestated humans, the In Vitroes do not share social equality with those viviparously born, or so-called "naturally born". 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. 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

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 mining and prison facilities for the Chigs (episode 1.10). There is a sub-story arc, 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).

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).

Ending

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 the "Wildcards" receiving a new female commanding officer.[2] [3]

Criticism

SA-43 pilot Lt. Col. Tyrus Cassius "T. C." McQueen prepares for action

A notable criticism from the actor Joel de la Fuente has been quoted in an article by P. G. Min & R. Kim[4] (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.

However, Paul Wang gives his life willingly in the last episode, staying behind to hold off Chig forces while Nathan West and Cooper Hawkes lead the POWs, including West's long-lost-love, to safety. In his final moment, his character fulfills a foreshadowing from the pilot episode uttering a reverberating battle cry (which he was unable to do convincingly during basic). The drill instructor taunted the recruits, stating "In space no one can hear you scream...unless it is the battle cry of the United States Marines!" Paul's voice is ultimately the one that proves the point.

Cinematography and visual effects

Hammerheads exiting Earth's atmosphere

Space: Above and Beyond 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 effects still played a significant role. The digital 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.

Characters

58th Squadron aka Wildcards

Cast (from left to right): Cloke, de la Fuente, Weisser, Morrison, Rowland, Chapman.
  • Morgan Weisser — 1st Lt. Nathan West (USMC), callsign "King of Hearts"
  • Kristen Cloke — Capt. Shane Vansen (USMC), callsign "Queen of Diamonds"
  • Rodney Rowland — 1st Lt. Cooper Hawkes (USMC, In Vitro), callsign "Jack of Spades"
  • 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"

Recurring characters

  • David Jean Thomas — Gen. Alcott (USMC)
  • David St. James — ADM Broden (USN)
  • Amanda Douge — Kylen Celina (Aero-Tech, Tellus colonist)
  • Edmund L. Shaff — "Chaplain" (USN)
  • Bill Hunter — Secretary General Spencer Chardwell (UN)
  • Robert Crow — "Controller" (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)
  • Tucker Smallwood — CDRE Glen van Ross (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)
  • Tasia Valenza — Kelly Anne Winslow (USMC) callsign "Queen of Spades"

One-time characters

International broadcasts

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 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).

DVD release

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 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.

References

External links


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