Space: Above and Beyond TV Series Overview


Introduction

Space: Above and Beyond is an American science fiction television show that originally aired on Fox, created and written by Glen Morgan and James Wong.

Originally planned for five seasons, it ran only for the single 1995–1996 season, due to low ratings. It was nominated for two Emmy Awards and one Saturn Award.

Outline

The Earth is embroiled in a desperate war against alien invaders, and this series focuses on one squadron of Marine pilots involved in it.

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, battling an invading force of extraterrestrials.

Background

In the years leading up to 2063, humanity has begun to colonise other planets. Lacking technology that would enable them to travel faster than light, also known as “FTL technology,” colonisation is accomplished by taking advantage of transient but predictable, naturally occurring wormholes in space, which allows them to traverse vast distances. 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 utilise natural wormholes).

At the opening of the show, the Chigs have defeated all counterattacks, and have entered the Solar System. 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 formal armed forces of its own and therefore navies such as the US Navy and the Royal Navy operate interstellar starships.

Prior to the events of the show, there was a war between humans and android 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 from a number of remote bases. The Silicates are also suspected of having some involvement with the Chigs.

In an attempt to defeat the Silicates, a new underclass of genetically engineered and artificially gestated humans were bred to quickly swell the ranks of the military. These troops, collectively known as In Vitroes or sometimes, derogatorily, “tanks” or “nipple-necks”, are born at the physical age of 18, and trained solely for combat. In the post-war period the tanks have attempted (with mixed success) to re-enter human society.

Cast

  • Main (58th Squadron aka Wildcards):
  • Kristen Cloke as Captain Shane Vansen (USMC), callsign 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”).
    • 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, and this choice was reflected in her being selected as ‘honcho’ by her superiors in missions thereafter.
    • 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.
    • Reflecting her war record (having been wounded several times in combat, receiving 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.
    • 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 had drifted apart in the aftermath of their parents’ deaths.
  • Morgan Weisser as 1st Lt. Nathan West (USMC), callsign “King of Hearts”, Hammerhead dubbed “Above and Beyond”.
    • 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 programme.
    • He and his girlfriend, Kylen Celina had worked long and hard to be selected for the programme, 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 the 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 as 1st Lt. Cooper Hawkes (USMC, In Vitro), callsign “Jack of Spades”, Hammerhead dubbed “Pag’s Payback”.
    • After being scheduled to be “erased” for asking a single question about freedom, Hawkes subdued one of his monitors and killed him in retaliation.
    • Escaping the In Vitro training facility in Philadelphia, Hawkes lived on the streets until being arrested while chasing an In Vitro racist who had tried to hang him.
    • The judge ordered him to the Marines, where he found the only people he ever cared about: The Wild Cards.
    • He bonded especially with his fellow soldier Mike “Pags” Pagodin, who was K.I.A in the early stages of the conflict with the Chigs; and Lt. Col. “T.C.” McQueen, who became a father figure to him.
  • Joel de la Fuente as 1st Lt. Paul Wang (USMC), callsign “Joker”.
    • After growing up in poverty in his hometown of Chicago, Illinois, Wang enlists and is assigned to the Wildcards.
    • He was especially known for his sense of humour, attachment to the Chicago Cubs and Wrigley Field, and his budding romance with Lt. Stroud (played by Melissa Bowen, who later married Joel de la Fuente) and squadmate Vanessa Damphousse.
  • Lanei Chapman as 1st Lt. Vanessa Damphousse (USMC), callsign “Ace of Hearts”.
    • Originally from Upstate New York, Damphousse graduated from Caltech with a degree in nuclear physics. She functions as the squad’s technical expert.
    • She is in a relationship with a previously married man, who is later revealed to have left her for her best friend.
    • She is close to Paul Wang, with whom she becomes romantically involved over the course of the series.
  • James Morrison as Lt. Col. Tyrus Cassius “T. C.” McQueen (USMC, In Vitro) callsign “Queen 6”.
    • McQueen is the commander who leads the 58th.
    • Prior to assuming this position, McQueen has commanded the 127th squadron, the Angry Angels; the unit was decimated during the first contact with the Chigs, leaving McQueen as the sole survivor.
    • He is a veteran of the AI wars, during which he was captured and tortured.
    • McQueen is divorced from his wife due to his inability to procreate naturally.
    • McQueen has a strong bond with Hawkes, for whom he functions as a father figure.
  • Recurring:
    • Tucker Smallwood as Commodore Glen van Ross (USN).
    • David Jean Thomas as General Alcott (USMC).
    • David St. James as Admiral Broden (USN).
    • Amanda Douge as Kylen Celina (Aero-Tech, Tellus colonist).
    • Tasia Valenza as 1st Lt. Kelly Anne Winslow (USMC) callsign “Queen of Spades”.
    • Edmund L. Shaff as “Chaplain” (USN).
    • Bill Hunter as Secretary General Spencer Chardwell (UN).
    • Robert Crow as Officer Crow (Lt. Pruitt in last episode) (USN).
    • Doug Hutchison as Elroy EL (AI).
    • Kimberly Patton as Feliciti OH (AI).
    • John Lendale Bennett as “Master at Arms” (USN).
    • Michael Mantell as Howard Sewell (Aero-Tech, member of the Board of Directors).
    • James Lesure as Charlie Stone (USMC).
    • Melissa Bowen as LTJG Stroud (USN).
    • Gennie Nevinson, Loren Chase as Anne West.
    • Angus Grant, Marc Worden as Neil West (Private, USMC in ep. 1.07).
    • Iva Franks-Singer as Sabrine EW (AI).
  • Guest Stars:
    • Coolio as The Host.
    • David Duchovny (uncredited) – Alvin El 1543 aka “Handsome Alvin” (Silicate).
    • Dale Dye, Capt., USMC (ret.) as Major Jack Colquitt (USMC).
    • R. Lee Ermey, GySgt., USMC (ret.) (uncredited) as Sergeant Major Frank Bougus (USMC).
    • Adam Goldberg as Sergeant 1st Class Louie Fox, Seventh Cavalry, US Army.
    • Steve Rankin as Lieutenant Colonel Raymond Thomas Butts, callsign “Kick Butts” and “Deuce” (in ep. 1.05, “Raymond Butts”).
    • Harriet Sansom Harris as Ambassador Diane Hayden (Secretary General, UN) (in ep. 1.06, “Eyes”).
    • Richard Kind as Colonel Burke (in ep. 1.14, “Level of Necessity”).
    • Martin Jarvis as Major Cyril MacKendrick (in ep. 1.18, “Pearly”).
    • Ronald G. Joseph as General Oliver Ranford (USMC) (in ep. 1.20, “Stardust”).
    • Gail O’Grady (uncredited) as Colonel Klingman (in ep. 1.20, “Stardust”).
    • Jennifer Balgobin as Communications Lieutenant Price (USN) (in ep. 1.21, “Sugar Dirt”).

Production

While drawing comparisons with Robert Heinlein’s novel Starship Troopers, and the movie bearing the same name (though opposite message), according to the producers, the main fictional work that influenced Space: Above and Beyond was one written in response to that story, 1974 science fiction novel The Forever War by Joe Haldeman. In addition, it was inspired by 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 colour 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 programme).

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.

Music

Wong and Morgan were looking for a more traditional musical approach than the synthesiser scoring favored on The X-Files; visual effects supervisor Glenn Campbell introduced the producers to the music of Shirley Walker, who had worked on Batman: The Animated Series. Wong and Morgan were initially unconvinced on hearing Walker’s synth demos, until it was explained that her musical ideas would be filled out by the orchestra. Wong went on to describe the scoring session as “(his) favorite part of filmmaking.” Walker scored the pilot and the entire series, receiving an Emmy nomination for “The River Of Stars,” and reunited with Wong and Morgan on many of their later projects (her final film score was for their remake of Black Christmas).

In 2011, La-La Land Records issued a three-disc limited edition featuring Walker’s score for the pilot and music from most of the episodes (“The Enemy,” “Choice or Chance,” “Level of Necessity,” “R&R” and “Stardust” do not have any score cues on the album).

Sound Effects

The sound effects used on the show are often reused on the animated series Futurama.

Release

Home Media

Space: Above and Beyond was released on DVD in the United States and Canada by 20th Century Fox as a set of five DVD-10 discs on 08 November 2005. 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.

There were several books and comic books released based on the show’s episodes.

Space: Above and Beyond Series

Production & Filming Details

  • Director(s):
    • Thomas J. Wright … (6 episodes, 1995-1996).
    • Charles Martin Smith … (3 episodes, 1995-1996).
    • Félix Enríquez Alcalá … (2 episodes, 1995).
    • David Nutter … (2 episodes, 1995).
    • Winrich Kolbe … (2 episodes, 1996).
    • Stephen Cragg … (1 episode, 1995).
    • Tucker Gates … (1 episode, 1995).
    • Michael Katleman … (1 episode, 1995).
    • Jim Charleston … (1 episode, 1996).
    • Vern Gillum … (1 episode, 1996).
    • Stephen L. Posey … (1 episode, 1996).
    • Henri Safran … (1 episode, 1996).
    • Jesús Salvador Treviño … (1 episode, 1996).
  • Producer(s):
    • Ken Dennis … associate producer (23 episodes, 1995-1996).
    • Howard Grigsby … producer / line producer (23 episodes, 1995-1996).
    • Glen Morgan … executive producer (23 episodes, 1995-1996).
    • James Wong … executive producer (23 episodes, 1995-1996).
    • Herb Adelman … co-producer (22 episodes, 1995-1996).
    • Tim McHugh … producer (22 episodes, 1995-1996).
    • Stephen Zito … co-executive producer (10 episodes, 1995).
    • Tom Towler … supervising producer (7 episodes, 1995).
    • Dan Dugan … coordinating producer (3 episodes, 1995).
    • Michael Lake … producer (1 episode, 1995).
  • Writer(s):
    • Glen Morgan … (creator) (23 episodes, 1995-1996).
    • James Wong … (creator) (23 episodes, 1995-1996).
    • Matt Kiene … (3 episodes, 1995-1996).
    • Marilyn Osborn … (3 episodes, 1995-1996).
    • Joe Reinkemeyer … (3 episodes, 1995-1996).
    • Richard Whitley … (2 episodes, 1996).
    • Doc Johnson … (1 episode, 1995).
    • Peyton Webb … (1 episode, 1995).
    • Stephen Zito … (1 episode, 1995).
    • Howard Grigsby … (1 episode, 1996).
    • Jule Selbo … (1 episode, 1996).
  • Music: Sjirley Walker.
  • Cinematography:
    • Gordon Lonsdale … (14 episodes, 1995-1996).
    • Anthony R. Palmieri … (8 episodes, 1995).
    • David Eggby … (1 episode, 1995).
  • Editor(s):
    • James Coblentz … (8 episodes, 1995-1996).
    • George Potter … (7 episodes, 1995-1996).
    • Chris G. Willingham … (7 episodes, 1995-1996).
    • Ron Spang … (1 episode, 1995).
  • Production:
    • Village Roadshow Pictures.
    • Hard Eight Pictures.
    • 20th Century Fox Television.
  • Distributor(s):
    • 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment (2005) (USA) (DVD) (complete series).
    • 20th Century Fox Television (all media).
    • Fox Network (1995-1996) (USA) (TV).
    • Home Video Hellas (HVH) (1996) (Greece) (VHS).
    • SBS6 (1997-) (Netherlands) (TV).
    • Twentieth Century Fox (all media).
  • Release Date: 24 September 1995 to 02 June 1996.
  • Running Time: 60 minutes (per episode).
  • Rating: TV-PG.
  • Country: US.
  • Language: English.

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