The 58th Squad, now named "the Wildcards" is led by Colonel T.C, McQueen (one of the best sci-fi characters!), an In-Vitro Special Operations attack jet pilot, wounded in the opening battles of the war, and now assigned to the United States Naval Space Carrier Saratoga. Throughout the rest of the series, the core characters personal struggles are highlighted against the backdrop of the bloody war with the "Chig" aliens. The series ends on a bittersweet note, a cliffhanger coupled with death and hope.
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 iof 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 as been able to preform such a task recently.
The Historical Context of SAAB
The mid-1990's were not today, there was peace, a good economy, no social-media, along with an infant world-wide-web, the realistic vision of future warfare was not hopeful, like the 90's were. While the new Battlestar Galactica is very much a product of our dark time, SAAB was calling back to the time of World War II and Vietnam, which a number of people didn't want to see.
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 attrach 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 remainor of the season completed, if it had not been, then it would have ended like Firefly.
The Future of 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...
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 some how 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.
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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