Up until SAAB, there had not been a show firmly centered around a future war on a space carrier since the classic Battlestar Galactica. This show came at a time when Star Trek and it's clean vision of the future dominated the sci-fi landscape, while SAAB showed the grittier, darker side of a future in space.While the show is not well known today, due to the infancy of the Internet at the time of its TV run, it has impacted people creating sci-fi today, with its more realistic air. All one has to do, to see the impact of SAAB is by watch the new Battlestar Galactica, if it was not for SAAB then the new Battlestar Galactica would not have been as breathtaking and groundbreaking.
While CGI effects were featured on other sci-fi shows like Babylon 5, SAAB aired on a major network with a healthy budget allowing for then-cutting-edge CGI. These effects were one of the most expense elements of the show. While I cannot confirm this, it is my firm belief that SAAB influenced the first HALO game. One just has to look at the M590 and the MA5B, the Pelican dropship and ISSCV to witness that Bungie mined the series for their games. In addition, SAAB,was one of the few military science fictions to use conventional weaponry and not energy based weapons, and shortly after this, the trend in military science fiction was to use conventional bullet-firing kinetic weaponry. Consider the USMC 7.62x51mm M590 of Space:Above and Beyond and the UNSC 7.62x51mm MA5B of HALO: Combat Evolved. Along with the ISSAPC from SAAB and the Pelican from HALO.
Why SAAB is a MSF Classic?
The reason that Space: Above and Beyond (SAAB) is a classic of Military Science Fiction is for it being unique and filled with, what I can only describe as, dark poetry. The last sci-fi property to be set in such a world was ALIENS in 1986. Unlike the Star Trek films and shows, this series did not always project humanity any differently than today, they drank, used drugs, wanted sex, had dirty-minds, along with racism being alive and well in 2063, and this gave the series an edge not seen in main-stream sci-fi TV show before. Watching marines fight in the terrible conditions of an off-world battlefield while people die, and not just the "red-shirts".
Another way that it is a classic, is that SAAB setup things to come, namely Battlestar Galactica with its dark tone and realistic military portray. Another reason for me, that SAAB is classic, is that it was original. The concept of marines in space fighting an aggressive unknown alien species is not new, but how they showed the world of 2063 is. The USMC is showed much like it is today, the Chigs were shown as complex and brutal, all while preserving an air of mystery. The show's producers, Morgan and Wong, were able masterfully incorporate elements like Johnny Cash, Imperial Japan war-time poetry, Shakespeare, the band X (I kid you not), and humanoid robots that rebelled, all in the same show without making it looked forced or alien to the overall concept. Only Battlestar Galactica has been able to perform such a task recently.
The Historical Context of SAAB
Why Did It End?
SAAB suffered from the same decisions that also killed Firefly, being jerked around the TV schedule, not enough promotion, and a lack of faith in the show itself. In addition, FOX aired SAAB on Sunday nights, after football, and often the show was delayed, losing the audience or like in my case, your VCR would only tape half of it! Also, FOX believed that the producers of the X-Files could create another mega-hit in this dark-sci-fi war show. However, the sci-fi nature of SAAB did not attract the legions of X-Files fans, nor did the dark dirt hard atmosphere of the show attach fans of the happier Star-Trek universe. The other reasons for the canceling the series was money and rating. If SAAB had the pull of the audience , then the ad money would have flowed in, and the rumored one-million-bucks-an-episode production cost would have been justified. It is my belief, that only because of the X-Files success and the connect of SAAB to that show was the only reason that the remainder of the season completed, if it had not been, then it would have ended like Firefly.
Is There an Future for SAAB?
I have read a few rumors that Ronald D. Moore, the god of the new Battlestar Galactica, original approached the Sci-Fi Channel about a remake of SAAB, his second pitch wa BSG. If this is true, than it is possible that a remake is in the future. However it took 20 years for BSG to get a remake. At the moment, SAAB is fondly remembered by fans like me who forge a spot for their beloved show in the old interwebs. Sadly, I do not think there is much of a future for this show, but its influence will live on in the hearts and minds of fans.
The 2005 DVD Release and the 2012 Release
In 2005, SAAB was finally released on DVD in a 10 disc box set, and while it is nice to finally have the complete series on DVD, the release was disappointing. Little money was spend on it, and there is no special features, no interviews, and somehow the Babylon 5 space station makes an appearance on the title menu screen! I really believed when the DVD collection was released, that Space:Above and Beyond would get some respect and notice, but given the bare-bones nature of the release, it looks like more of the same for the series. In 2012, a United Kingdom media company released a Region 2 PAL DVD set that included all of the features missing from the barebones 2005 release: new interviews, deleted scenes, galleries, some commentary on the epsiodes. Sadly, this was not released on a format for United States DVD players, leaving us out in the cold.
The Best Five Episodes of the Series
- The Farthest Man From Home (episode#2)
- Ray Butts (episode #5 and my personal favorite)
- The River of Stars (episode #11. this is the Xmas story that uses a great WWI historic event)
- Who Monitors the Birds? (episode #12, the original of Hawks and an sniper assassination mission)
- The Angriest Angel (episode #15, the single best episode of SAAB)
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