Space: Above and Beyond - The Complete Series (US - DVD R1)
Matt Joseph takes a look at the recent release of Space: Above and Beyond
After their success with writing and producing duties on The X-Files, the team of Glen Morgan and James Wong were given the opportunity to branch out on their own in 1995 with the television series Space: Above and Beyond. Although the series lasted only one season on the Fox Network, the show gained a loyal fan base during its short run and left many a viewer clamoring for repeat episodes which would occasionally pop up on The Sci-Fi Channel from time to time. Now, ten years after its initial broadcast run, Space: Above and Beyond is finally getting a well deserved release on DVD from Fox Home Video.
Taking its cues from Robert A. Heinlein’s science fiction classic Starship Troopers and the 1960s television series Combat!, the show revolves around the first year of the young fighter pilots in the Marine Corps’ 58th Space Aviator Calvary Squadron, better known as The Wildcards, and their struggle in a war against an alien race bent on the destruction of humanity. Set in the year 2063, the peoples of Earth have begun to colonize outer space when suddenly an unknown alien species begins to wipe out all of the colonists. Soon after, Earth's top fighter squadrons are decimated and a group of young, military cadets is unexpectedly hurled onto the front lines of what quickly escalates into an intergalactic war. Led by Lieutenant Colonel T.C. McQueen, The Wildcards—Nathan West, Shane Vansen, Cooper Hawkes, Paul Wang, and Vanessa Damphousse—must must fight over land, sea, and air against a mysterious enemy that strikes in greater numbers and without fear.
I was only able to catch a few episodes here and there during the show’s initial run ten years ago, but after a rocky first few episodes, Space: Above and Beyond turns out to be a pretty good show. Initially the storylines don’t seem to gel very well from one episode to the next and the special effects are embarrassingly bad, but about a third of the way through the series the episodes become more cohesive and the effects get much, much better. It seems it took everyone involved with the series a little bit of time to find their footing and figure out what kind of show they were making, and by the time the last episode was over I was left wanting more.
There are several outstanding episodes in the series’ twenty-four episode run, such as ‘Eyes’ which revolves around a presidential assassination plot, ‘Who Monitors The Birds’ which features very little dialogue, the two episode arc ‘Never No More’, and ‘The Angriest Angel’ involving a Red Baron type enemy, and the episodes ‘And if They Lay Us Down to Rest…’ and ‘...Tell Our Moms We Done Our Best’ that conclude the series and offer some answers and sense of resolution to a few of the shows storylines while offering up some new questions and intriguing plot twists that sadly will never be fully realized.
While the show wasn’t as deep a drama as a certain other space military program currently on the air, each episode offered a unique storyline and characters and generally showcased some quality action. Watching the first season in its entirety, and without having to wait a week in between each episode, I came to appreciate the show and what it was attempting to achieve much more so than I did ten years ago. Hopefully with this release more people will find and enjoy the show now than in 1995 as it certainly deserves some belated attention.
Space: Above and Beyond is presented in its televised aspect ratio of 1.33:1 for its release on DVD. The video is a bit soft in places and contains a fair amount of grain, which is especially more apparent given the fact that much of the show takes place in the blackness of space. Most of these problems, however, can be attributed to the quality of the materials used in filming the series back in 1995 and to that end the series has never looked better.
Fox Home Video has presented Space: Above and Beyond on DVD with English, Spanish, and French Dolby Surround audio tracks with optional English and Spanish subtitles. Not surprisingly, most of the sound is relegated to the front channels with a few surround effects thrown in here and there, but there is little to complain about concerning the audio as I could not detect any noticeable defects. Again, as with the video transfer, the series has never sounded better than what is presented on this DVD.
Fans of the series looking for some audio commentaries or behind-the-scenes featurettes will be sorely disappointed with the special features included within the five-disc set as the only extras to be found are a few television commercials for the series, which run out their welcome fairly quickly. The menu system for the set is strictly of the vanilla variety and nothing to write home about either, but it does its job and includes chapter menus for each episode.
As far as the packaging is concerned, the five-disc set is encased within three THINpak style cases with each case holding two discs save for the third. The discs themselves are for the most part DVD-10 discs, double-sided and single layered, each housing two episodes per side save for the dual layer, first side of discs one and five which contain four episodes. I’m not sure why Fox decided to go this route instead of offering six DVD-9 discs instead, which would have been better as far as disc care goes and would have eliminated the need to flip the discs to view all four episodes on each, but I hope this isn’t the direction that future television releases from them will be taking.
Space: Above and Beyond was a fairly decent science fiction series that, like a few other sci-fi shows to air on the Fox Network, was cancelled before its time and leaves me to wonder in what direction Morgan and Wong would have taken the show and the mythos that began to take shape during this first season had the series continued on to a second year. I really enjoyed the series this time around and I’m sure that this package will convert a few more viewers into fans. This DVD release, however, no doubt owes its existence to the current incarnation of Battlestar Galactica, and with its bland and basically featureless presentation seems like an attempt to quickly cash in on that series and its popularity. While there is little to complain about as far as the video and audio are concerned, this set will certainly leave die hard fans feeling a little cheated as there are no worthwhile extras included. Overall, if all you care about is finally getting your hands on the series then you will be satisfied with this release, but those looking for anything more will be disappointed.
Review by Matt Joseph
Release Date: 8th November 2005
Disc Type: Dual side, single layer
Aspect: 1.33:1 Full Frame
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround English, Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround Spanish, Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround French
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Extras: Television Promos
Easter Egg: No
Cast: Morgan Weisser, Kristen Cloke, Rodney Rowland, James Morrison
Genre: Action, Adventure and Sci-Fi
Length: 1032 minutes
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