Review: Space - Above and Beyond / Director: Various / Screenplay: Dan O'Bannon / Starring: Morgan Weisser, Kristen Cloke, Rodney Rowland, Joel de la Fuente, Lanei Chapman, James Morrison / Release Date: Out Now
Finally, after years of waiting, the UK gets its long awaited DVD release of Space: Above and Beyond, and it has to be said - the wait has been worthwhile.
For those of you unfamiliar with the series, it’s similar in concept to the 1997 feature Starship Troopers, but precedes it by two years. Coming from a fine creative pedigree, the minds and talents of X-Files scribes Glen Morgan and James Wong, this series was sadly short lived, lasting only one of its projected five seasons. Set in 2063, when a previously unknown alien race, known disparagingly as the "Chigs" have wiped out Earth’s first extra solar colony without warning.
The humans are using a form of wormhole technology to travel these vast distances, whilst the Chigs have something broadly similar but which gives them a greater degree of movement.
The series of 23 episodes follows the Space Aviator Cavalry of the United States Marine Corps nicknamed The Wildcards based on the space carrier Saratoga - as they graduate through their training in the pilot episode, which is a kind of a Full Metal Jacket (complete with R. Lee Ermey) with hostile aliens and dogfights, and then go on a tour of duty, battling the Chigs on the front line.
It’s stunning how well the series has aged since it’s original run on Sky One in the mid nineties. The effects were ahead of their time back then, and for the most part, still hold up well today. In fact, I’d say that the later reboot of Battlestar Galactica is a direct descendant of Space: Above and Beyond, perhaps the next generation, as it were, but without the religious imagery and metaphors that weighed BSG down in its later seasons.
As well as the 24 episodes, which include the double length pilot episode which sets up the episodes to follow, this six disc set contains an all new documentary on the design of the show, with several of the episodes featuring an optional commentary track. Also of interest are the original publicity interviews of the cast, deleted and alternate scenes and for the completest, never before seen test FX footage of the Hammerhead fighter craft used by the Wildcards.
For those of you not fully convinced, there is a separate package available containing only the original pilot film and a commentary track, but believe me - as soon as you see the pilot, you will be back for more.
All in all this is the complete package the long standing fans have been waiting patiently for and one which will hopefully gain some new and appreciative viewers for this sadly under rated gem.
Special Features: Beyond and Back, Designs for a Future War, Audio Commentaries, Deleted/Alternate Scenes, Cast Publicity Interview, TV Spots, Stills Gallery