Space Above and Beyond: United States Marines IN SPACE!!!

I picked this show up from the library because I remember watching an episode or so when I was a little kid, but I didn't remember anything about it except that it was about soldiers fighting aliens in space. After watching it, my opinion is, while this isn't the strongest show out there, it is competently produced and has a few nice touches.

The show takes place in the mid twenty-first century, where humanity has successfully established one colony on a far-off planet, and are about to establish another, when both are attacked by a mysterious and technologically superior alien species, nicknamed the Chigs. The series follows five young people as they join an elite Marine fighter pilot unit, the Wildcards, and do their best to repel the Chig menace.

Our main character is Nathan West (Morgan Weisser), who was scheduled to be a part of one of the colonies with his girlfriend, but who was booted at the last minute. His goal is to find his girlfriend, believed captured, and rescue her from the Chigs. Joining him in the Wildcards are Shane Vansen (Kristen Cloke), a young woman whose parents were killed in the last war Earth fought, Paul Wang (Joel De La Fuente), a snarky sports fan, Vanessa Damphousse (Lanei Chapman), a young woman trained as an engineer, and Cooper Hawkes (Rodney Rowland), an artificial human known as an InVitro who was sentenced to the Marine Corps for getting into a fight. Their commanding officer is Colonel T.C. McQueen (James Morrison), a dedicated career soldier who like Hawkes is an InVitro.

The main characters are a mixed bag. West is rather bland and on occasion can be somewhat unlikable, whereas Vansen is hampered by the fact that her actress is not a very good actor. Damphousse was interesting, although there weren't many episodes focusing on her and she struck me as too nice to really be a Marine. Wang was a fun character, and personally my favorite, although on occasion he was subject to weird personality shifts, as well as on occasion forced to behave illogically or strangely because of how he's written (something that his actor apparently complained about). However, on the other hand Hawkes and McQueen are endlessly fascinating. InVitros were created to fight a rebellion by artificial intelligence robots, but most refused to fight. As the series opens, they are treated with prejudice and contempt by a significant portion of society, and this explains many intricacies of both Hawkes' and McQueen's characters. Hawkes starts out surly and combative, but soon is revealed to be sensitive, shy, somewhat naive, and immensely loyal to his friends. McQueen, who fought in the AI wars, seems at first cold and detached, but it soon becomes very clear that he cares deeply for the Wild Cards, and he becomes a sort of father figure to all of them, particularly Hawkes.

As for the story, it has a few interesting twists and episodes, but overall it can be a bit formulaic. This isn't helped by the fact that the series was cancelled after one season, with several plotlines unfinished. The Chigs as an enemy are much too mysterious, and very little is revealed about them (we don't even get to see what they look like under their faceless helmets until the penultimate episode), especially their conflict with AeroTech, the company which financed the two colonies they attacked, which seems to predate the current war. of much more interest to me were the Silicates, the rebel robots who took off into space after their rebellion was crushed, who return as allies to the Chigs. The Silicates in essence worship luck and probability (their rebellion started when a programmer inserted a virus into their programming instructing them to "take a chance"), and most of the ones we encounter are snarky but sadistic comedians, particularly recurring model Elroy-EL (Doug Hutchison) , who we are first introduced to as a torturer. The Silicates are a fun and interesting foe, but we don't get to see them much.

All in all, this series is interesting (and it gets better as it goes along and the actors ease into their roles), but it isn't amazing. This is the sort of series you get from the library and watch if you encounter it, not the sort of series you spend a lot of money on it. If you want to see Marines fighting aliens in space, definitely check it out.

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