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DVD Review

DVD cover

Space Above and Beyond
The Pilot Episode


Starring: Lanei Chapman, Kristen Cloke, Joel de la Fuente, James Morrison, Rodney Rowland and Morgan Weisser
Mediumrare Entertainment
RRP: £12.99
Certificate: PG
Available 23 April 2012

2063 and mankind faces a bright future of colonisation, tinged with sadness. After one hundred and fifty years, man has concluded that he is alone in the universe, until, Vesta, the first established colony is destroyed by an alien force. Nathan West and Kylen Celina, meanwhile, remain full of optimism as they await the launch of the second colony ship. In a last minute change Nathan has to give his seat up for an artificial human, an In Vitro, and is not aboard when the ship is shot down. Nathan's only chance of finding Kylen now lies in joining the space marines...

Space Above and Beyond (1995 - 1 hr, 27 min) was created by Glen Morgan and James Wong on the strength of their work on The X-Files (1993-2003). The series was nominated for two Emmys, a Saturn award and won three awards from Sci-Fi Universe Magazine, USA. Although the whole of the first season is available in the Collector’s Edition, this DVD has just the first two episodes which were created so that they could be show as a television movie, even if the show wasn’t picked up.

The pilot took its inspiration from the strong subgenre of militaristic science fiction literature, especially Robert A. Heinlein’s Starship Troopers (1959) and Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War (1974), a sub-genre which continues to be a fan favourite with modern writers like Jack Campbell. If we add to this the popularity of war movies in general, and the idea of following a group of space marines as they head off to war, this would seem to be a formulaic winner. Unfortunately, this is not what happened as the show was cancelled after a single season.

Taken on its own merits the pilot has much to commend it, especially as it avoids the problems of the season’s first half.

With slightly less than an hour and a half the plot follows the well-worn path of introducing the characters, finding a reason to limit their training to about fifteen minutes before throwing then into space to kick some alien Chig arse, which of course is what we’re all waiting for.

We are introduced to the lovelorn Nathan West (Morgan Weisser) who follows Kylen into space in the cockpit of his hammerhead fighter; Cooper Hawkes (Rodney Rowland) an In Vitro artificial human, who is bred as a slave sub race; Shane Vansen (Kristen Cloke) who comes from a family with a military tradition; the young and naïve Paul Wang (Joel de la Fuente). I’m presuming that going the whole way and calling your character Paul Penis would have been too much, but his name does produce a level of adolescent humorous pleasure. The 58th’s last member is Vanessa Damphousse (Lanei Chapman) who is... just there. Overall the acting is ok, with a few clunky moments, from the mostly young and inexperienced actors.

The look of the piece is opposite to the ordered tidiness of Star Trek, this is grunge science fiction. The effects have held up pretty well for a pilot which is knocking on seventeen years old. The design of the Chig body armour, which owes a lot to 16th century European knight’s armour, remains a striking visual design.

The pilot is presented in its original 4:3 aspect ratio with a surround sound audio track. The disc does have a full length commentary from the show's makers, but no other extras, not even subtitles.

Given the sort of tosh that often gets shown as television science fiction films, this represents something which is above average. I’m not sure why anyone would buy this disc though. Essentially, it’s the same as that found in the boxed set, so if you want to see this again why not just go the whole hog and buy the box set?


Charles Packer

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