Plug: Space: Above and Beyond

I’ve been making my way through the first and only season of Space: Above and Beyond (SAAB). I’m having a great time with it.

SAAB is a really engaging show when you get into it (the pilot – while it sets the story up – is a bit shaky. Stick with it!). It tells the story of a group of space marines, fighting a war they don’t really understand, against a seemingly faceless, ruthless enemy. It has backstory, it has character-driven drama, it has conspiracy, it has space fights. But it seems torn between the gritty realisation of Battlestar Galactica, and more showy sci fi like Star Wars, and that’s where it suffers – it’s trying so hard to do so many things, and maybe that’s partly why it failed to last more than a season.

See: MorganAndWongOnline for an alternative viewpoint from a fan.

Perhaps the best way to explain this show is to say that for me, it could have been the Battlestar Galactica of its time, but didn’t quite get there for a variety of reasons:
It’s a character-driven drama, but the characters tended to be heavy on exposition and just a little bit cliched – everything was pretty much spelt out for you; the acting is generally good, with some odd and inconsistent exceptions; it tries to portray a realistic and gritty future, but there’s sound in space (hate that sound in space!); and the graphics just aren’t up to the standard of better Sci Fi CGI at the time (like Babylon 5): explosions are chunky and angular and everything is always shiny… especially at the start of the series, you’re always keenly aware that you’re watching graphics. Planets are particularly iffy, with big blurry textures covering most spherical blobs. The graphics do improve as the season continues, but it’s pretty bad at first. Looking back, I remember being quite impressed at the time, but CG was probably the wrong choice for many of the scenes in SAAB, where models would have been more effective. And this is probably where the mainstream audience evaporated.

For all its flaws, it has flavour, and that flavour is pretty tasty. The show improves dramatically during its 20-odd episode season. Drawing on everything from Starship Troopers through Star Trek, and featuring not one, but two enemy races (the Chigs and the human-form Cylons Silicates/AIs), plus an oppressed and reviled sub-class of humanity (the Invitros/Tanks)… if you’re a fan of the current crop of Sci Fi and are interested in its spiritual forbears, this might well be one to keep.

So, overall I’d give the series an 8 out of 10 for enjoyment, if you make it past the early stumbles. It becomes so compelling, you won’t want to stop.

It’s a modern classic that made me a Rodney Rowland, James Morrison and Kristen Cloke fan. I haven’t made it through to the last episode again yet, but I remember it being a real gut-puncher when I watched it on TV at the time.

Now go buy it, and enjoy!

Pinkjoint, spongbo, space: above and beyond, science fiction, sci fi, tv, dvd