Space: Above and Beyond – A Review

Another series that I didn’t have time to watch, back in the day. And as they say (all too often), another show that shouldn’t have been canceled. No spoilers (so don’t comment that I missed something; I probably left it out to avoid spoilers).

I just finished watching the one season that was made, which ends on something of a cliff-hanger. It was a thoughtful attempt to do WW2 as SF, with a liberal dollop of The X-Files mixed in. It revolves around a group of space marine fighter pilots. There was some very interesting writing, lots of quotes, nice character development, and some very good stories. The conspiracy element was a novelty.

The look holds up, except for one choice they made. They did this silly thing where the fighters’ cockpits were detachable. The ship lies below the deck where we can’t see it, and the cockpit detaches and rises up through the deck above. And that’s where our actors are. They get in the flimsy little structures and sink through the floor. Obviously they didn’t want to spend money on building a bunch of fighter models, so they cheesed out. It’s not a good look.

There are a few other nits to pick. These are supposed to be marine pilots, but very often they get assigned to do grunt work. Off-loaded via APC and sent to wade through the mud like a rifleman. I didn’t think the military worked that way. They invest a lot of specialized training in a pilot, I didn’t think they wasted it by making the guy do other stuff. But you’ll just have to pretend that’s not an issue when you watch the show.

The alien foe doesn’t appear as often as you might expect. Since our protagonists don’t see what they really look like, why are they calling them chigs (as in chiggers)? That’s the explanation we’re given, but they melt into goo when their suits are breached. Are we supposed to believe it’s their suits that inspire the name? They don’t seem insect-like when walking around in their suits. Their ships don’t look like insects, either.

I’m not really familiar with military organization, but it seems odd that one colonel on the carrier has as his only responsibility the command of the 58th squadron, which only consists of a handful of marine pilots anyway. He doesn’t seem to have responsibility for any of the other squadrons, or for any marine non-pilots that are aboard. He doesn’t accompany the squadron; he presents them with their missions, then stays behind. On the other hand, he also seems to spend time on the bridge giving more general orders, and is almost treated as a second in command by the carrier’s commander. Shouldn’t this colonel be in charge of all the marines on the naval carrier? If not, where are all the other colonels? Wait, towards the end of the series I noticed another colonel was mentioned in passing, in conjunction with another squadron. So I guess our colonel is just well-regarded, and the rest are invisible to the viewers. Maybe I’m too used to Battlestar Galactica, where there’s one officer who’s basically in charge of all the pilots.

In any case, I recommend the show. It’s available on disc. The show’s creators were also a part of The X-Files. One of the actors later appeared in The Man in the High Castle. Another of the actors ended up happily married to one of this show’s creators, which is always nice to hear. Semper Fi.

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