Space: Above and Beyond – Pilot

It begins, as I assume most sci-fi shows from the era do, with a double-sized episode that is essentially a movie. They set up a lot of worldbuilding and whatnot, but overall it’s a lot of stuff that would make for a pretty boring movie to me. The year is 2063 and humanity has started settling on other planets and is extremely confident that they are alone in the universe. They’re proven very wrong when they get attacked by mysterious alien invaders (wiped out, but with just enough possibility for survivors that the one we’ve been asked to care about may turn up alive for drama later).

And suddenly, humanity is at war with the first non-Earth-based lifeforms they’ve learned of. And it is going poorly, which is why the show is able to focus on a batch of new barely-trained space marine pilots, because with everyone else getting wiped out, they are moved into positions of prominence quickly. Honestly, most of the story is cliche. We’ve got all the standard bickering caused by clashing bad attitudes and cadets with machismo-fueled desires to prove themselves by doing dangerous crap. They’ve even got R. Lee Ermey playing the drill sergeant for heaven’s sake (Though he did give me one line I thought was worth writing down: “In space no one can hear you scream unless it is the battle cry of the United States Marines.”)

So if all that stuff is trite, I’ll have to give them a little credit for the sci-fi world they’re in. There’s nothing mind-bending, but they do more than the bare minimum. There is mention of the AI Wars and AI, who I gather are robots who look just like humans. More relevant to the plot are In-Vitros (derisively called Tanks), who are humans grown not from parents, but apparently created through genetic engineering from tinkering with DNA and all that. The In-Vitros are used as a “minority group that doesn’t have equal rights” for the setting (the first one we meet is almost immediately lynched, and another character is upset because the government cost him his job because they wanted more In-Vitro representation, and so on). The In-Vitros actually have their navels on the back of their necks, which is an image I’ve had in my head forever but if you’d ask me where I’d seen it I would’ve guessed Outer Limits or something. The In-Vitro character on the main cast (Hawkes) is a brooding-jerk-with-a-chip-on-his-shoulder kind of character, again trite, but it’s a setup with story potential down the line. Incidentally, about the characters, right now the members of the main cast I find tolerable at all are Vanessa Damphousse and Paul Wang. Mostly because they are less toxic military-brain types than the rest.

They have kept us in the dark about the aliens so far. We see one. It is generally humanoid in shape and size, but is wearing so much armour that we can’t get the details. This is something that works both for suspense and for budget, so I don’t mind. In fact, I often wish that Star Trek would throw some weird-looking spacesuits in the background of crowd shots. The alien we meet is captured by the main cast and seems better at trying to communicate than the humans are with it. It also manages to pull off a cyanide-tooth suicide sort of thing, rather than be taken alive, by drinking water, which is apparently toxic to it.

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