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Space: Above and Beyond? More Like Space: 1995! - The Book of the Celestial Cow

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February 10th, 2007


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02:02 pm - Space: Above and Beyond? More Like Space: 1995!
In 1995, I began watching three shows, fell in love with all three, and managed to cancel them all with the sheer power of my love. The three shows were Space: Above and Beyond, American Gothic, and VR.5. While the last one is not available on DVD, the first two are, and I now own them for nostalgic value. I have just finished rewatching Space: Above and Beyond to see if it holds up.

It doesn't.

It was a fascinating and maddening experience to watch this series that my fourteen-year-old self was apparently quite fond of. Because now, over ten years later, I could identify so many of the elements of a great show that would have appealed to me. A diverse ensemble cast focusing on teamwork and The Family You Make for Yourself. Spaceships blowing each other up. Plot continuity, both subtle and arc-wise. A shady conspiracy. The occasional moral and ethical dilemma. Episodes spotlighting particular characters and illuminating their backstories. A tertiary character slowly being built up in importance until her moment comes.

But for some reason, the execution is off every time. You can see Glen Morgan and James Wong, veterans of my beloved X-Files, trying so hard to make a great show. The ambition is there, and I appreciate that, but it's almost embarrassing how badly it fails, sometimes.

Space: Above and Beyond tells the story of a ragtag group of pilots struggling for their survival in a war precipitated by an unprovoked massacre by a foreign race, but it's more of a militaristic human drama than a sci-fi show. Sound familiar? Yeah, let me tell you, watching this show made me appreciate how great Battlestar Galactica really is.

Around the time I decided Jake 2.0 had a great cast, I decided this show did not have a great cast, which was one problem. There are some standouts. Rod Rowland, who was one reason I thought it would be fun to watch the show, does deliver as Cooper Hawkes. He's entirely different from Liam Fitzpatrick, far more confused and vulnerable about being a black person an in vitro, an artificially created human. I also really liked Joel de la Fuentes as Lt. Wang, for some reason. I'm not sure why, but he was just very likable, even though his one character note of Sports Fan was annoying at times. James Morrison as Lt. McQueen is pretty much the reason to watch, as he's always on, even when the writing isn't up to par, which is most of the time. And Tucker Smallwood as Commodore Ross was similarly consistently good. But Morgan Weisser has zero charisma as the star of the show. Kristen Cloke feigns toughness, but it just never quite works. And Lanei Chapman isn't particularly bad, but she doesn't really bring anything to the table either. The actors all have good chemistry together, but they're not strong enough to overcome the bad writing. Of which there is much. Oh my God.

This may be the most heavy-handed show I have ever seen, which may be appropriate in a show where the ships are called Hammerheads. Key themes are repeated not once, not twice, but at least three times through the course of the episode. Parallels to our modern times are made painfully obvious. Sentiment is worn on sleeves. The music tells you what to feel. And characters have these great moments of supposed development...and return to normal in the next episode. There's almost no character continuity at all. Which I suppose makes it good that the show basically has no 'ships at all, either.

Another thing that bugged me was that a show set in 2063 kept making constant references to things in our century, as if they barely had any history of their own besides the A.I. War (the show has Silicates, which are basically Cylons in that they're artificially intelligent humanoid models). Basically every single fucking move they make is predicated on some military tactic in WWI or WWII. They magically import some "antique" music from our era as well, and I don't care how realistic it may be in the grand scheme of things, it just doesn't work. I know that, hey, we still talk about the damn Trojan Horse (and, hey, guess what: so does the show!), but it was just jarring to hear them talk about WWII heroes (or Laurence Olivier, or W.C. Fields, etc.) as if they were the only touchstone they had.

Also, it's tacky to complain about this in a show from 1995, but the CGI blows. It looks like something a ten-year-old made on his Amiga. (Yet, still better than the CGI in Gryphon.)

The last four episodes are undoubtedly the best, but by that I mean that the show makes the leap from mediocre to pretty decent. I did find myself becoming emotionally invested, which had only happened in a handful of other episodes. Maybe I retained such a fondness because the show went out strong. But, really, I was fourteen, and I didn't know any better.

It's just sad, really. The show could have been really good, but it's just...not. So, for the first time in the history of new show squee, I am not recommending you watch this show, though you are certainly welcome to if you wish, since it's not completely without merit. Did anyone else watch it back in the day? I wouldn't give it a rewatch unless you want your happy memories shattered.

I'm hoping American Gothic doesn't let me down. I don't think it will, as I have much stronger memories of it. I think it was ahead of its time. And, really, so was Space: Above and Beyond. It was trying to be Battlestar Galactica ten years too soon.
Current Mood: disappointeddisappointed
Current Music: Chevelle - Another Know It All

(32 memoirs | Describe me as "inscrutable")

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:sowell
Date:February 10th, 2007 10:20 pm (UTC)
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Hee. I didn't know anyone else watched VR.5. I wonder how that show would hold up?
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:February 10th, 2007 10:22 pm (UTC)
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I don't remember a whole lot about it except for THAT EVIL CLIFFHANGER.

I hope it holds up, if they ever release it on DVD.
[User Picture]
From:sowell
Date:February 10th, 2007 10:24 pm (UTC)
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Seriously! That cliffhanger has been haunting me for years. I remember that, and that Giles from Buffy was in it. That's about it.
[User Picture]
From:ciaracat
Date:February 10th, 2007 10:42 pm (UTC)
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Did anyone else watch it back in the day?

I'm pretty sure I watched it, at least for a little while. It must have made a mediocre impression on me at best. I can remember making the effort to watch it, and almost nothing else about it. Even reading your descriptions -- rings not a single bell! I'm glad to hear there might have been a good reason for it not being memorable. (But I was also slightly older than 14 when it came out. :))

I know what you mean, though. I've had quite a few shocks like that, particularly when re-reading books that I loved when I was a teenager.
[User Picture]
From:soleta_nf
Date:February 11th, 2007 07:25 pm (UTC)
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Tell me about it. Sweet Valley High isn't nearly as engrossing as when I was 12.
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:February 11th, 2007 07:29 pm (UTC)
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What about The Babysitters Club? Are they still good?
[User Picture]
From:ciaracat
Date:February 11th, 2007 09:36 pm (UTC)
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There have been a lot, but the main one that comes to mind at the moment is Dune. I *loved* those books in my early teens. Well, I loved the first one, and I think I loved the second one, and then another book or two or three down the line it was getting WAY too weird and kindof boring. Read the first one, at least, over and over again.

Then I re-read it five or six years ago, as an adult. And I was like, Holy AND!!! (Don't know yet whether it's kosher to swear in this nice fellow's LJ. :)) The sexism in particular really bowled me over. Part of the shock, I think, was that I didn't notice anything wrong with it at all when I was younger. Kinda scary, things like that!
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:February 11th, 2007 09:45 pm (UTC)
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Holy AND!!! (Don't know yet whether it's kosher to swear in this nice fellow's LJ.
Okay, you must be new. This is a fucking profanity-friendly zone. Swear away!
[User Picture]
From:ciaracat
Date:February 11th, 2007 09:48 pm (UTC)
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Yay!! :D
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:February 11th, 2007 09:47 pm (UTC)
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Dude. You went to Rice!

What college?
[User Picture]
From:ciaracat
Date:February 11th, 2007 09:50 pm (UTC)
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Wiess. Before they tore it down and rebuilt it somewhere else.

You?
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:February 11th, 2007 09:57 pm (UTC)
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Hanszen!

I remember Old Wiess. Oh, Acabowl. Oh, Acatramp.

New Wiess is not so bad, though.
[User Picture]
From:soleta_nf
Date:February 11th, 2007 09:58 pm (UTC)
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I can't believe you used our Neopets censor!swearing on LJ. :D! (And yes, I'm sure it's quite okay.)
From:wee_warrior
Date:February 10th, 2007 11:38 pm (UTC)
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Mainly commenting on your title: oddly enough, the show was called "Space: 2063" in our realm. I never really watched it, though, I wasn't into military shows back then.
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:February 11th, 2007 02:20 am (UTC)
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Ha! That's amusing. I was riffing off Space: 1999.
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From:golden_aurelia
Date:February 11th, 2007 01:05 am (UTC)
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I think American Gothic is in my queue. I remember thinking it sounded interesting, but I don't think I had much time for TV that year.
[User Picture]
From:spideychris
Date:February 11th, 2007 06:23 am (UTC)
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Non sequitor.

I was playing World of Warcraft today, and there was a mission where I had to go find a ghost cow for a ghost farmer in a cursed town where the spirits wandered all over, unable to be at peace and therefore attacking you.

I get to the field where the cow is, and as I see Bessie, I also notice that there are a ton of other ghost cows milling about... And everyone one of them has, floating over their head, the title of "Spectral Bovine."

I may get you a screenshot later.
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:February 11th, 2007 06:30 am (UTC)
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HA HA HA HA HA.

Oh my God.

I need to sue Blizzard.
[User Picture]
From:the_partyman
Date:February 11th, 2007 10:14 am (UTC)
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I totally used to watch Space: Above and Beyond! It always seemed to be on the TV late at night after I got home from DJ'ing, and after a few epes I made an effort to note days and times and plan to watch!

Can't really remember a whole lot about it thogh. :/

Sorry to hear it doesn't hold up to the faded memories, but thanks for the post nontheless. :)
[User Picture]
From:harper47
Date:February 11th, 2007 12:06 pm (UTC)
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Well I never saw Space but I adored American Gothic. Great show.
[User Picture]
From:amy37
Date:February 11th, 2007 03:48 pm (UTC)
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Oh, I loved American Gothic! Damn, I keep forgetting I can NetFlix this stuff -- I don't remember much about it, except that I loved it when it was on, and I was astounded that Shaun Cassidy (object of many of my preteen fantasties WAY BACK IN THE LATE 70s -- sob) was the producer.
[User Picture]
From:ciaracat
Date:February 11th, 2007 09:38 pm (UTC)
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Seriously??? Wow! I may have to check that out just because Shaun Cassidy produced it! That was me in the late 70's, too. Until Superman came out, anyway! :)
[User Picture]
From:soleta_nf
Date:February 11th, 2007 07:20 pm (UTC)
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I LOVED S:A&B back in 1995 (well, it was more like 1996 and my roommate and I watched repeats on the Space channel here). I haven't seen it since, though, so I'll trust your opinion and not run out and buy these DVDs. ;)

Another thing that bugged me was that a show set in 2063 kept making constant references to things in our century, as if they barely had any history of their own

That is also SO Star Trek, except instead of just referencing 20th C. events and culture, they reference 20th C. human events and culture, as though they never bothered to learn about the Klingons or anybody else.
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:February 11th, 2007 07:26 pm (UTC)
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I'm just going to go with "We were young and didn't know any better." There's no other explanation. We hadn't seen these elements done well, so we didn't recognize that they weren't being done well, even though we loved that they were there.
[User Picture]
From:soleta_nf
Date:February 11th, 2007 07:30 pm (UTC)
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That sounds like a good justification. :D
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From:eldritch_flame
Date:February 12th, 2007 04:29 am (UTC)
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Well, I never watched S:AAB when it was on, but I'd been thinking of checking it out, and now I know not to bother. I can't stand inconsistent character growth.

And I hate it when you reexamine things you used to love and find that they're not actually that great. I recently tried to rewatched Sliders and it was like pulling teeth. I just don't understand how I could have been so not annoyed with it the first time arround.
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:February 12th, 2007 04:32 am (UTC)
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Oh shit! I loved Sliders!! I was wanting to do a rewatch on that too and see some of the later seasons after it went to SciFi.
[User Picture]
From:eldritch_flame
Date:February 13th, 2007 10:05 pm (UTC)
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Well, I would recommend against it. I didn't rewatch the later seasons (the box set that I bought was just the first two) but I don't think the writers would've suddenly come to realize the importance of continuity and character growth in later seasons when such concept were so incredibly lacking earlier on. When it was first on I think I watched a bit after the switch to SciFi (we didn't actually have a network switch here so I'm not sure when that occurred story-wise), but I definitely didn't stay through to the end. I remember thinking it got pretty bad, though, with only one original cast member left and characters being dropped and added in rather improbable ways.

It's a shame, because it's such an awesome concept, and the acting was pretty strong throughout, but the crappy dialogue and why are you rehashing the same old issues and doesn't this completely contradict something that happened on another world and okay I need to go lie down cos you're making my soul cry and, yeah. I should've just kept my fond memories and left it at that. And I don't think my standards are anywhere near as high as yours, so you'd probably be even more pissed off with it than I was.
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:February 13th, 2007 10:10 pm (UTC)
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Dude, you think I have high standards? I still watch Smallville.

But dammit. How could it have been bad? There was Sabrina Lloyd, being all pretty! Replaced by Kari Wuhrer, who continued the being pretty!


Oh, fond memories.
[User Picture]
From:eldritch_flame
Date:February 16th, 2007 06:48 pm (UTC)
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But dammit. How could it have been bad? There was Sabrina Lloyd, being all pretty! Replaced by Kari Wuhrer, who continued the being pretty!

I know! Well, switch Charlie O'Connell for Kari Wuhrer and then I know (I'm totally with you on Sabrina Lloyd, though; damn was she ever cute). Plus, wacky sci-fi highjinks! And dinosaurs, sometimes! And Gimli!

And, well, if you can still stomach Smallville, you might be okay with it. My expectations were very high, and it might be enjoyable if you're not expecting it to be great.
[User Picture]
From:backup10
Date:February 12th, 2007 04:55 am (UTC)
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Speaking of shows that won't let you down: Profit. $9 per set if you and a friend agree to split the cost.
[User Picture]
From:meghatron
Date:February 13th, 2007 07:56 pm (UTC)
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In 1995, I began watching three shows, fell in love with all three, and managed to cancel them all with the sheer power of my love.

Occasionally I forget that you and I are like, the same person.

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