February 10th, 2007
|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 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: disappointed
Current Music: Chevelle - Another Know It All
|Date:||February 10th, 2007 07:20 pm (UTC)|| |
Hee. I didn't know anyone else watched VR.5. I wonder how that show would hold up?
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.
|Date:||February 10th, 2007 07:42 pm (UTC)|| |
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.
Tell me about it. Sweet Valley High isn't nearly as engrossing as when I was 12.
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.
Ha! That's amusing. I was riffing off Space: 1999.
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.
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.
HA HA HA HA HA.
Oh my God.
I need to sue Blizzard.
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. :)
|Date:||February 11th, 2007 09:06 am (UTC)|| |
Well I never saw Space but I adored American Gothic. Great show.
|Date:||February 11th, 2007 12:48 pm (UTC)|| |
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.
|Date:||February 11th, 2007 06:38 pm (UTC)|| |
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! :)
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.
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.
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.
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.
|Date:||February 12th, 2007 01:55 am (UTC)|| |
Speaking of shows that won't let you down: Profit. $9 per set
if you and a friend agree to split the cost.
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.