Space: Above And Beyond – Who Monitors the Birds?

I don’t think it’s too early for me to say that I am enjoying this show less than I did Earth 2, but I’m not yet ready to claim this is a bad show, and certainly they’re able to try some interesting things. Large swathes of this episode are without dialogue and, even if there is some clearly-mandated-by-higher-ups clumsy narration at the beginning, I found this to be a bold choice for television of the era.

One of our top two favourite handsome In-Vitro cast members, Cooper Hawkes, gets to star in this one. He’s recruited for a secret mission that goes badly and he winds up stranded on a Chig-occupied planet waiting for extraction that he may or may not be able to get to. Hawkes spends a lot of this episode killing Chigs and being haunted by a corpsey sexylady (who, being bad at faces, I didn’t realize was played by the same actor as Vansen until after, and I don’t know what is relevant about that to the scenario). This is interspersed with flashbacks to Hawkes’s birth and training in the In-Vitro training facility (we see text on screen and In Vitro is apparently not hyphenated, but I ain’t changing now). We see that Hawkes first began to question the propagandistic programming they were being fed when he saw a bird (appropriate given his name) and he was considered “defective” and had to escape. All good stuff.

In the present, while stranded on the planet fighting the Chigs, he is about to kill a Chig when he notices it looking up at that planet’s equivalent of a bird (and I was very happy to see this example of alien life, I assure you). With this, Hawkes (and the viewer) finally comes to think of Chigs as persons with maybe different personalities and points of view and whatnot. Maybe it’s just that they all look exactly the same because of their armour, but I suspect that they probably have a lot of similarities to In-Vitros, who are trained from day one to be soldiers. Later Hawkes has a moment of bonding with a Chig (probably the same one who watched the bird, but how would I know). And later still, he has to fight some more and realizes that one of the ones he killed was the same one he had the moment with. It’s a shame. It’s a tragedy. It’s war.

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