|Format||Science fiction, childrens|
|Created by||Peter David
|Starring||Walter Emanuel Jones
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||2|
|No. of episodes||27 (List of episodes)|
|Running time||22 minutes|
|Original run||March 2, 1996– January 27, 1997|
Space Cases is a science fiction television series that aired on Nickelodeon for two seasons. Created by Peter David and Bill Mumy, it premiered on March 2, 1996, and was cancelled a year later. It aired for a time on Nickelodeon's Saturday night block of shows known as SNICK, and on Nickelodeon UK, with reruns on Family and TVOntario in Canada. Its premise revolves around a group of misfit students and two adults who are stranded far from home aboard an alien ship. Their attempts at journeying back see many dangerous adventures and controversies, with some occasionally more mature themes.
Because of budget constraints, props from Are You Afraid of the Dark? and other Nickelodeon shows were used in the show. In other episodes, more mundane props were used, as in the episode "Homeward Bound," the character Suzee is sitting in a chair with compact discs pasted to either side. During the first season, electronic games were used as 'control panels' on walls.
Season One's original theme song was orchestra-based, with an announcer voiceover giving a preamble. A vocal song telling the story of the Space Cases was used as the closing. For Season Two, this song was moved to the front and re-recorded to accommodate the removal of Catalina, the addition of Suzee, and some re-arranging to how the characters were presented. At some point after the series ended, Nickelodeon had the song re-recorded once more, using the same character arrangement as Season Two, but removing Suzee and adding Catalina back in, and created a new opening for the Season One episodes with this song.
The series opens in a Space Academy orbiting Pluto, in which a small group of misfits are kept behind from a field trip. Nearby, an odd bird-like alien ship appears, and Harlan Band decides to sneak onto it; the other students, all of which are younger and much less troublesome, follow Harlan onto the ship. During their exploration of the ship's interior, the seemingly organic space shuttle appears to bond to each student when each touches a bulkhead.
TJ Davenport, their teacher and principal, and Commander Seth Goddard go after them and, in a series of unfortunate events, become separated throughout the vessel. A disoriented Bova falls out of the Jump Tube system, a network of tubes used by the crew to transport throughout the ship, and accidentally fires an electrical blast that charges the engines, hurtling the ship off into a spatial rift. By the time everyone figures out that only the children who bonded to the ship can actually control it, the ship is stopped and it is discovered that they have traveled light years away from the Academy, and it would take a direct journey of seven years, four months, and twenty two days at maximum speeds to make it back home the soonest.
THELMA, a cybernetic female, is discovered on the ship, but Harlan accidentally damages her, leaving her somewhat unreliable for the rest of the journey. Also, as a result of the damage caused to the crystal in her forehead, THELMA cannot offer much of any expertise as to how to operate the ship, but does explain that it is named the Christa, in memoriam of Christa McAuliffe, a science teacher from Earth who died in the infamous explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1986. Resigned to their fate, the group of lost "Space Cases" must establish a chain of command and a schedule in order to find their way home. Along the way, the Space Cases meet new allies and deadly enemies, most notable of which are the malicious Spung, a lizard-like race ruled by Warlord Shank (who has a particular hatred for "Earthers"), who is also the father of a young oracle, Elmira, who seeks to escape the evils of her race, and takes brief refuge aboard the Christa. Some of the crewmembers are wary of the girl because of her notoriously villainous ancestry. Radu especially does not trust her at first, much in the same way Harlan dislikes Radu for being from Andromeda because an Andromedan killed Harlan's father in the war. Radu, in turn, feels ambivalent toward Elmira for being a Spung because it was the Spung who enslaved the Andromedans to fight for them in the war. However, Radu and Elmira soon bond and start a subtle flirtation (which is featured in other episodes later in the series). Eventually, Elmira leaves the Christa in order to distract an attacking Spung vessel that was overwhelming the apparently harmless Christa.
Throughout the season, Catalina and Harlan would compete more and more for their dominance over the rest of the kids, with Catalina arguing that Harlan is rude and Harlan insisting that Catalina is crazy for having an imaginary friend named "Suzee," but Harlan and Radu's rivalry would prove to be the most controversial. Harlan would continue to be unwilling to trust Radu for being of the same race that killed his father, despite Radu's rationalization that the Andromedans were enslaved by the Spung, thus making them victims as well, and hostiles only as a result of that. On several occasions, Harlan and Radu would be forced to set their biases aside and risk themselves to save the other's life.
The Christa would remain a mystery to the crew for the entire season, with many controls, decks and rooms that they know nothing about. At the end of the first season, the Christa comes across a debris field filled with the remains of an exact duplicate (save for its color) of itself. Also, among the debris are the remains of several Spung Killcruisers, revealing to the Space Cases that if the sister ship was an exact duplicate, then their own ship must contain the same powerful weaponry that allowed the destroyed ship to defeat that many Spung ships. Seeing it as essential to their survival to research the secrets of their own vessel, Commander Goddard leads an exploration of the sister ship's remains, sans Bova and Miss Davenport who remain on the Christa. A damaged ship's log is discovered that reveals that the owners of the ship, a race called the Lumanians (also the creators of the Christa), had managed to escape the destroyed sister ship after destroying several Spung ships. On top of that, they reveal that they left the ships remains to self-destruct in order to destroy the surviving Spung, prompting Bova and Davenport to get to the sister ship and warn the others. Much to their surprise, the ship traps the exploring crew inside with the surviving Spung, which includes Warlord Shank and Elmira.
With the Spung still seeking to put Elmira's fortune-telling gifts to military use, Elmira has continued to distance herself from her race, but before the crew can return to the Christa, each member is systematically incapacitated and captured by Shank. Seeking information about the Christas weapons, and believing the Space Cases and their ship to be responsible for his defeat, Shank uses Catalina as a hostage but just before he can kill her, Harlan saves her life by offering Shank fake information that confuses him.
In the meantime, Davenport and Bova manage to sneak onto the sister ship, and Bova battles down Shank with his more formidable electrical abilities (Shank wields an electrical scepter) while Davenport releases the tied-up crew. Goddard instructs Davenport to return the crew to the ship, and then home (in a moment of high emotion, regarding each other by first name for the first time ever) before he enters the battle and takes Shank on directly, allowing his crew to escape. Ultimately overwhelming Shank, Goddard joins the others and helps guide his crew through the airlock, with Harlan and then Catalina at the back of the line. As Goddard traverses the airlock to get to Catalina and help her through, Shank leaps from the shadows and pulls Catalina back into the sister ship just before the airlock closes and seals them inside. The rest of the Space Cases are pulled back into the Christa, which automatically departs as Harlan tries to break through the air lock door and save Catalina. Unfortunately, his efforts are futile, and the sister ship is destroyed in a massive explosion, with Catalina and Shank stuck inside. In the end, Goddard gives Catalina's eulogy, apologizing for failing to care for his crew, and insisting they carry on nonetheless, but Harlan is saddened that Catalina would never know that he really did like her (Catalina kissed him on the cheek after she awoke and heard that Harlan saved her from Shank). But in the final moment of the episode, a cloaked figure appears, confusing the crew with the fact that she seems to know all of them despite none of them recognizing her.
In the beginning of the second season, the cloaked figure is revealed to be none other than Catalina's "imaginary friend" Suzee. The highly intelligent Suzee explains to the crew the nature of her situation: apparently the powerful explosion that destroyed the Christas sister ship opened a dimensional tear in space that threw Catalina into Suzee's dimension, and knocked Suzee into their dimension, safely within the Christa. It turns out that the ship responds to Suzee's control as well, because she bonded with it at the same time that the rest of the crew did at the start of the series. With Catalina safe at Suzee's home, and Suzee the new engineer of the Christa, the crew heads for home (something is blocking the sonic frequencies that allow Suzee and Catalina to communicate inter-dimensionally).
The crew spend the majority of the rest of Season Two stranded on an unknown planet, following a violent attack by the Spung. Here, they must learn to survive in their new environment as they dedicate themselves to repairing the ship and going home. Several times in the season, the Space Cases come across different technologies that offer the lost cadets hope. In one such encounter, the crew discovers technology that will allow each of them to talk briefly to a loved one back home (Suzee gets to speak to Catalina, who makes her only appearance in this season). Harlan and Radu would again become rivals over the romantic interests of the attractive, rainbow-haired Suzee.
After the botched ascent of a newly repaired Christa, another attack on the ship not only damages it further, but causes it to land on top of Goddard, crushing and critically injuring him. He would then spend the majority of the rest of the series healing in suspended animation. Eventually he heals by the end of the series.
Because of its cancellation, the series has no true ending, and leaves several storylines open. One such storyline comes about in the episode "Trouble With Doubles," in which the crew becomes cloned and must each battle their own evil selves. At the end of the episode, it is explained that Goddard has been cloned before. When asked what assurances the crew has that he isn't a clone of the real Goddard, the episode ends in ambivalence, with no true answer to the question.
The final episode sees the crew responding to a distress call coming from a satellite that was ravaged by an attack from the Spung. When Goddard leads Suzee, Harlan and Radu on an away mission to the satellite to find the originator of the distress call, they instead find that the satellite itself is the originator. The sentient, lonely satellite, known as Pezu (patterned after a female), is elated to have company after so many years, becoming particularly bonded to Suzee who is similarly intelligent and comes to understand her after Suzee reads her mind. Pezu eventually turns hostile, capturing the visiting crewmembers when she feels betrayed by Suzee who has the others distract her while she searches Pezu's systems for the truth behind what Suzee senses she's hiding. In the meantime, the returning Warlord Shank and his henchmen invade the satellite and attack Goddard, Harlan and Radu, after losing to them in battle so many times in the past. Eventually, Pezu releases the crew when Suzee convinces her that she can't force people to like her and that Suzee would hate her forever for trying to. As the crew departs to adventures unknown, Pezu is left with the Spung who damaged her trapped inside her for her to exact revenge upon.