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Space: Above and Beyond
1995 - - 1440 Mins.
Director: Glen Morgan, James Wong, et al
Producer: Stephen Zito
Written By: Glen Morgan, James Wong
Starring: Morgan Weiss, Kirsten Cloke, James Morrison, Rodney Rowlands, Lanei Chapman, Joel de la Fuente, Tucker Smallwood
Review by: Harrison Cheung
Official Site: www.imdb.com/title/tt0112173/
   
A carrier in space? A hostile alien force? Artificial life forms created by man only to rebel? Sounds like the highly acclaimed re-imagining of the hit series, ‘Battlestar Galactica’ but in fact, this overlooked sci-fi gem was the TV series ‘Space: Above and Beyond’ or SAAB as it is known by its fervent fans.

During its one season run in 1995-1996, SAAB was an interesting experiment in taking a gritty ‘Band of Brothers-like’ military drama and setting it in space. The premise? In the not too distant future, a number of young men and women join the Marines – each with their own poignant back story – only to find the Earth at war after a surprise attack by a hostile alien race. The Marines bond and join ‘The 58th’ – a team headed by a silver-haired, flinty eyed Colonel McQueen, brilliantly played by James Morrison who does indeed channel the Steve McQueen cool factor.

Created by ‘X-Files’ producers Glen Morgan and James Wong, ‘SAAB’ is now available on DVD – all 24 episodes. Well-written and indeed, eerily reminiscent of the gritty tones that the new ‘Battlestar Galactica’ would take, SAAB is a highly watchable drama. Special effects were state-of-the-art CGI for the mid-90s, so expect some aging there, but smartly, the show is character-driven.

The saddest thing about watching SAAB is the lost potential of such a talented cast. A quick look at the IMDB shows that none of the cast members broke out into any other project in a big way, after the end of SAAB. Morgan Weisser stars as Nathan West, a young man who joined the Marines in the hope to find his girlfriend who was ambushed during the alien attack. Kirsten Cloke – who also appeared in the Morgan/Wong flick, ‘Final Destination’ – portrays a Marine who’s parents were murdered by the A.I.’s (Artificial Intelligence or Silicates), a human-looking race created by humans for slave labor (echoes of Cylons?). And the show’s scene stealer is Rodney Rowland, who looks like a young Ray Liotta. Rowland plays Cooper Hawkes, an In Vitro human, bred to kill A.I.’s. Because In Vito’s are born at age 18, Hawkes has precious little understanding of human behavior. Rowland's performance is the best example of the classic sci-fi character - the outsider trying to learn more about humanity.

While the Marines battle the aliens, nicknamed, “Chigs,” they learn more about what it means to be human, bad politicians, and loyal commanders than you could in an entire Vietnam history lesson. Occasionally, the dialogue is ponderous, but those scenes are great showcases for the young actors allowed to flex some acting muscle. Still, there are moments when the show takes itself way too seriously.

While SAAB was slowing building its audience, a number of guest stars tried to prop up its ratings. Look for David Duchovny, R. Lee Ermey, Coolio, and Doug Hutchison. No surprise that there are ‘X-Files” favorites here.

This 5 disc DVD collection offers no extras. But if you’re yearning for something to watch in between ‘Battlestar Galactica’ gaps, ‘Space: Above and Beyond’ is a worthy show that could have, should have, found a wider audience.
 
Movie Guru Rating
An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater.
  4 out of 5 stars

 
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