Back in the 90s and early 2000s, the Fox Network put out several awesome science fiction series. The problem was Fox didn’t know what to do with them nor how to promote these series. Fox notoriously sabotaged their own series and usually canceled it after one season (sometimes before). One of my favorite was a Space Marine series called Space: Above and Beyond.
I came across this series again last week. I started watching it and to my delight, it was as good as I remembered. You can find this series on Youtube and watch all 23 episode of the first and only season.
Space: Above and Beyond is the story of a rookie band of Space Marine fighter pilots nicknamed, The Wild Cards. These 5 rookies in the Marine Corps Space Aviator Cavalry 58th Squadron members come from a various backgrounds and Pre-war lives.
This series brought a vibrant history and mythology with it. In the past, humanity create a group of androids to be servants to humanity. They were called Silicates. The Silicates developed intelligence and rebelled against humanity. They began a war with the human called the AI War. Humanity eventually won this war. Many of the Silicates fled for space and survived.
To help combat the Silicates and to create a class of humans that were able to do the dirty work, In Vitroes were created. These are artificially gestated human in a tank for 18 years. They have no parents or family. They are seen as a second class citizen and often referred to as “Tanks”. Many of the In Vitroes refused to fight in the AI Wars because they had no emotional connection to humanity. Because of this, In Vitroes are often considered to be lazy.
Two of the main characters on Space: Above and Beyond are “Tanks”. We have 1st Lt. Cooper Hawkes “Jack of Spades” and Squadron Commander, Lt. Col. Tyrus Cassius “T. C.” McQueen “Queen 6” who are In Vitroes. There lives are always under a microscope because they are “Tanks”.
Capt. Shane Vansen “Queen of Diamonds” (originally Ace of Diamonds) has a past affected by the Silicates. Her parents were officers in the military during the AI Wars. Their family was attacked. Her parents hid her and her younger sisters in the rafters right before the Silicates killed her parents. They watched it their parent brutily killed.
This series pulled no punches on how easy it is to fall into Racism and view people with our own prejudice. Hawkes story starts and continues to touch on this. His character is beat up and hunted like an animal in the first episode. He ends up being assigned to the military as punishment for breaking society’s rules. He is called “a stupid Tank” by not only his drill sergeant (R. Lee Ermey) but also by his superior officer and fellow In Vitro, McQueen. This stays a focal issue through out the series.
Even characters that are sympathetic the prejudice that In Vitroes suffer, have to face challenges of reality. 1st Lt. Nathan West “King of Hearts” is an supporter of equal rights for In Vitroes. He is replaced from the mission to Tellus Colony by In Vitroes because of politics. He and his girlfriend Kylen were planning a new life on Tellus and now she has to go but he doesn’t get to go. His anger and prejudice come to the forefront when he realizes that he is replaced by In Vitroes who didn’t sacrifice like he did. He initially had issues with Hawkes because of this experience.
This series explored the issues of seeing your family killed before you eyes by Vansen. She suffers for regular nightmares from her experience. She is very uncomfortable around any type of AI. She became the the mother to her younger sisters at a young age by default.
The experience of war and how it affects each member of the Wild Cards. During this series they have watched many friends and fellow Marines killed in front of them. War is HELL and they go through it. We watch how to affects and changes each member through out the 23 episodes.
Pilot (Episode 1): This episode did a great job of introducing us to each character and setting up the War. This episode won me over right away and kept me watching even when FOX continued to change the time and day this series was on.
Ray Butts (Episode 5): This is a wild episode where a military legend takes over the Wild Cards for a special mission but uses very unorthodox methods. He may be a bit crazy. By the end of the episode, you found a new respect for Ray Butts … and pancakes.
Sugar Dirt (Episode 21): The Wild Cards and 25,000 other Marines are stranded on a planet captured by the Chigs. The USS Saratoga is forced to leave but will return for the marines but it will be awhile. The Wild Cards have to suffer through continual battle and an attempt to just survive and find food.
And If They Lay Us Down to Rest… (Episode 22) : The Wild Cards recon the moon around Chig home-world before a major invasion. They run into a lot of Chig fighters. They also find an unknown species that appears to be no threat and could be destroyed with the upcoming invasion.
This series has been one of my favorite Science Fiction series of all time. Going back and watching it again has lead me to keep that view. It has wonderful storytelling and character development. It has a large mythos. I want to continually go to the next episode.
The special effects were really good in the day and still hold up alright. It was created for Television and was not in high definition. But the cinematography is really good.