Space: Above and Beyond (1995-1996) was a show on Fox that only lasted one season. Set in space around the middle of the 21st century, it focused on a group of young, ragtag Marines living aboard the carrier U.S.S. Saratoga. Humanity was embroiled in a war with an alien race known as "chigs." The central cast were Marine pilots in the 58th Fighter Squadron, or the Wildcards. The show often focused on current issues and introduced moral dilemmas without being pathetically obvious.An example of this would be the several plotlines revolving around "InVitros," humans who had been created in laboratories (it's not exactly cloning: each InVitro embryo is made from chromosomes mixed and matched from hundreds of separate donors for optimal results, so their "parents" never existed as two living, breathing human beings) and were trained from birth decanting to be killers. They also performed the drudge work of society and did not have equal rights under the law when they were first created. As an InVitro, Lieutenant Cooper Hawkes of the 58th constantly dealt with racism, enduring terms like "nipple-neck" (InVitro umbilical cords stem from the neck and leave a puckered scar after removal) and "tank." He was physically a grown man, but had been "alive" for only six years — a socially awkward, dangerous killer.Fox, being Fox, dumped the show after one full season. The show ended with one character presumed dead, another two falling in an escape pod into enemy territory, one reunited with his prisoner-of-war lover, and the others in general limbo.
This show provides examples of:
Ace Custom: Chiggy Von Richthofen's fighter, the only one of its kind among the alien forces, and the only alien ship to feature any sort of nose art.
Action Girl: Many of the female Marines, but particularly Captain Vansen, the most gung-ho of the squad.
A.I. Is a Crapshoot: The Silicates, who started a Robot War against humanity due to a disgruntled programmer adding a directive to their programming instructing them to "Take a chance."
All Planets Are Earth-Like: both averted and played straight in different episodes. Some planets can be operated on in plainclothes, while others require full space suits.
"I believe in you," a hasty message recorded in an audio picture frame by Lt. West's girlfriend; it is his reason to stay in the fight, the hope that he will find her and rescue her after her colony was attacked by the Chigs. At the end of the series, she changes the message to say "I believe inallof you,", addressed to the entire squadron after they saved her.
"Take a chance," the message that leads to the Silicate rebellion.
The InVitro "Tanks", human beings grown in laboratories for use as soldiers, who are also victims of Fantastic Racism.
As well as the Silicates, the original race of android servants created by humanity who Turned Against Their Masters. The InVitros were created to fight them.
Artistic License - Gun Safety: Invoked when Lt. Herrick hands over his rifle to Mcqueen... and is immediately (and correctly) chewed out for not opening the breech and checking the chamber first.
Asian and Nerdy: Wang is an interesting take on this trope, as he's a sports nerd (his parents send him sod from Wrigley Field, and he claims he can figure out where exactly in the field it's from from its smell)
Battle Discretion Shot: The fight between a Chig force and the USS Hornet is only seen by means of a reporter broadcasting from aboard the ship (where we can't see anything except the ship shaking, things breaking, smoke, etc.), and the view from Earth as the entire battle is seen only as a series of flashing lights in the sky.
The Battlestar: Though primarily used as a spacecraft carrier, the USS Saratoga is shown from time to time to engage in ship-to-ship combat against enemy capital ships. Presumably her sister ships (including the USS Eisenhower and presumably the USSHornet)
Belly Buttonless: The InVitros lack standard belly-buttons. Instead, they have nipple-like bumps on the back of their necks from there the artificial placentas attached to them in the womb-tanks.
Bitter Sweet Ending: One of the Wildcards almost certainly dies in a firefight while two others are falling in an escape pod into enemy territory; McQueen is severely injured in an explosion that kills a handful of important human officials; the war, once within sight of peace, now rages as intense as ever and the human forces have lost the initiative, making Operation Roundhammer irrelevant. On the other hand, the colonists held captive since the series pilot, including West's girlfriend, have been successfully rescued. We also learn that the alien aggression might not have been as unwarranted as we've been told. All in all, it would have been a very interesting second season.
Word of God is that the ending, had the series continued into the second season, would still be bittersweet, as the war would've ended not with a victory but with a tenuous peace treaty, in part thanks to a major Earth offensive failing. While the two women would have survived, they would be enslaved and taken to a brothel. Wang would still be dead.
In the next to last episode, an armourless Chig runs around a wet swamp without problems. It's more likely that that first one committed suicide.
Then again, Damphousse might have a degree in Art Major Biology, since she started pumping water into what was obviously a gill used for breathing. Odds are, if the first one didn't commit suicide, it drowned.
Later the Chig are show to be grown in bee hive like domes and when ready are planned under ground, making them part bee part plant.
Also, since they have evolved from microorganisms brought from Earth by a comet, it doesn't make sense for them to be allergic to water.
The Brigadier: Commodore Ross. His rank is even the naval equivalent of brigadier.
Bug War: Not a literal example, although the humans' nickname for the enemy is The Chigs. It is revealed along the way that the Chigs have a nickname with similar connotations for the humans.
Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Major McKendrick, a slightly crazy British guy who got stuck on a planet with nothing to do but listen to Chig transmissions on a broken radio all day, who has managed to at least start to understand the Chig language. he refuses to be evacuated in order for him to finish the job
Cassandra Truth: In "Stay with the Dead", West is believed to be the only survivor of the 58th after a disastrous mission. When he tries to tell his superiors the rest of the Wildcards are still alive, they think he's suffering from PTSD. Eventually, he manages to convince Col. McQueen, and the squadron is rescued.
The Cast Showoff: Tucker Smallwood as Commodore Ross played blues guitar as often as possible.
Casual Interstellar Travel: Averted. Naturally occurring wormholes are used opportunistically to supplement the rarely mentioned "Hawking Drive" (a form of artificial FTL); presumably the wormholes have some unspecified advantage over the Hawking Drive.
Colonel Kilgore: Herrick is only a lieutenant, but otherwise fits this trope rather well, being overly eager to fight the Chigs and gain prestige and honor—even when he's commanding the reserve in a recon mission and has been specifically ordered not to engage the enemy. He disobeys a direct order from Vansen (a superior officer) and decides on his own initiative to attack a Chig satellite tower. he ends up getting his entire squad killed, including Nathan's younger brother, as the tower was a decoy and a trap
Crime of Self-Defense: How Cooper ends up in the Marines, thanks to some creative sentencing by the judge.
Custom Uniform: The 127th Attack Wing, AKA the "Angry Angels". Black uniforms with leather jackets and black berets is probably not a standard Marine Corps uniform, given that we never see anybody outside of that unit wear them. (And we never see most of the Angry Angels wear them after the pilot episode. See The Worf Effect.)
Several, including the early fight in the pilot between the Chigs and the USS Hornet and the Angry Angels, and several engagements against Chiggy Von Richtofen.
In one battle, they sent fifteen squadrons out specifically to hunt down and destroy Chiggy Von Richtofen and his Ace Custom. Not only did they fail to destroy him, but of the three squadrons that found and engaged him, only one survived. To clarify, the humans engaged Chiggy with thirty to one odds and barely came away with a stalemate.
Dangerous Deserter: Major McKendrick is a subversion of sorts. In fact, when McQueen points out his refusal to be rescued and evacuated is technically desertion, he gets extremely offended, as he considers his current work decoding the Chig language to be much more important than the pencil pushing the British Army would undoubtedly reassign him to. This doesn't stop the Wildcards from suspecting him first when a power cell goes missing. it was actually Wang who stole the power cell
Deadline News: A reporter is broadcasting from aboard the USS Saratoga in the pilot, as the humans are about to fight their first major battle against the Chigs. From what we can see of the broadcast and the aftermath, it didn't go well. (Fridge Logic: One wonders if the reporter's live feed from aboard the flagship might have made it easier for the Chigs to defeat the human force with such uncharacteristic ease, compared to later in the series.)
Death Notification: After the death of Nathan West's younger brother Neil, Nathan is shocked to discover that the notification letter was sent to the wrong address. He ends up writing a letter of his own home to inform their mother himself. It is implied that rather than being hand-delivered, the notices are sent in the mail in "ugly yellow envelopes".
Gunnery Sergeant Hartmann reappears, only this time he insists his name is Bogess... and he has toned it down to PG-13 dialogue.
Colonel McQueen has shades of this too. He generally cares for the pilots under his command, but will come down harshly on anyone who doesn't measure up to his exacting standards or doesn't show him proper respect.
Lt. Herrick tries to be this with his unit,note lampshaded by Wang, who says he's "seen to many war movies." but McQueen steps in and does the same thing to him.
Dork Knight: Once his harsh exterior wears down Hawkes begins to show signs of this trope, being Book Dumb, a tad naive, and incredibly appreciative whenever someone else on the squad is nice to him.
During the War: T.C. McQueen recounts some stories about the Silicate War where his kind were discriminated against. Likewise, the leader of the squadron has flashbacks to her childhood. Hawkes also spends an episode having flashbacks to his training in preparation for fighting against the Silicates.
Ensign Newbie: The entire 58th squadron during the pilot, as it shows them going through basic and flight training and culminates in their first battle with the Chigs.
Later on, fresh-from-training Lt. Herrick shows up with a squad of equally raw Marines.
Faceless Goons: The enemy was almost always shown wearing their environmental suits. They have a suicide pill that turns them into goo if someone tries to force their helmets off but you see what they look like near the end.
Faking the Dead: In "Stay with the Dead", the 58th use this as a ploy against the Chigs. Unfortunately, their fellow Marines believe it too.
Fantastic Drug: "Green meanies", a painkiller in the form of green pills that In Vitros find highly addictive. Hawkes is prescribed them by an unthinking doctor and spends the rest of the episode either addicted or detoxing; when he offers to help get him clean, Col. McQueen mentions he also had gotten addicted during the AI Wars.
Fantastic Racism: There are three or four intelligent races in this show's setting, depending on if you count the InVitros as a separate race from humanity: Humans, InVitros, Silicates, and Chigs. Racism back and forth between the different groups varies from implied to outright expressed.
In an interesting twist, Nathan's brother Neil dies in the episode where he gives Nathan a photo of himself in his Marine dress uniform.
A Father to His Men: Lt. Col. McQueen, even if it's often the stern-father archetype (although he is often kinder to them when they are under severe stress, like when Nathan's brother was killed). As the series goes on it becomes increasingly clear that the Wildcards are incredibly important to McQueen, and whenever it appears they are dead or lost his distress is obvious. This all counts double for Hawkes, given that both are InVitros and McQueen begins to serve as a Parental Substitute to him.
Colonel McQueen frequently tells his Marines, "Hear this, C.F.B.!" C.F.B. refers to "Clear as a ***ing Bell."
Glory Hound: Lt. Herrick to the core - he's obsessed with wanting to see action and prove himself to the veterans around him, even if it means disobeying orders. His unit is wiped out when he leads them on an ill-advised attack.
Government Conspiracy: It turns out the human higher-ups were aware of the Chigs' existence before they established the colonies at Vesta and Tellus. According to them, when the Chigs warned them against settling those worlds, they concluded that the Chigs had no legal claim to planets so far outside their sphere of influence. The Chigs disagreed.
Handicapped Badass: Lieutenant Colonel T.C. McQueen, call-sign "Queen Six". He suffered a crippling injury to his inner ear during a battle with the Chigs in the first episode, being the only survivor from his squadron. He has an artificial implant which allows him to not suffer crippling nausea, but high-g maneuvers (such as those experienced during Space Fighter combat) would cause it to explode. In the second episode featuring Chiggy Von Richthofen, he has the implant removed, trains himself to be able to stand upright and function without a working inner ear, and proceeds to defeat Chiggy Von Richthofen in one-on-one combat while presumably suffering the kind of nausea that would leave most badasses vomiting and sobbing inside their space helmets.
He Who Fights Monsters: Col. Ray Butts has been a Marine for so long and in so many stressful situations that it has seriously compromised his inter-personal skills—all of the 58ths and McQueen absolutely loathe him within a few minutes of meeting him thanks to his Jerk Ass personality, rude sense of superiority, and refusal to explain any of his mission objectives even when it's necessary to understand the mission. When you make the dour, humorless McQueen seem friendly and approachable, you're obviously doing something wrong.
Hollywood Atheist: Wang, who stopped believing in religion after seeing the horrors of war, although he still has a tendency to cross himself before battle and when he thinks he's going to die. When Damphousse (a devout Christian) calls him on it, he claims it's just superstition and habit.
Hollywood Law: Cooper Hawkes ends up getting arrested due to a combination of Fantastic Racism and a misunderstanding with the police after a group of thugs try to hang him in an alleyway. The judge sentences him to serve his debt to society via military service... by putting him through a commissioning program to become a space fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. The Drill Sergeant Nasty even goes so far as to describe the entire situation as a cruel prank played at his (the drill sergeant's) expense.
Kick the Dog: Chigs have a habit of chopping up any human they find, dead or alive.
This gets subverted later in the series when they explain just why the Chigs do this. A running theme in the show is that the Chigs aren't pure evil per se, just very "alien" from humans. It is eventually learned that the Chigs have no concept of an afterlife, and misinterpret human references to such as being a human ability to come back from the dead. So they are trying to counter that presumed advantage of the humans.
It doesn't help that while the Chigs have very limited communication with the humans, they do appear to be working with the Silicates, who hate the humans, and are rather bastards themselves.
I Never Told You My Name: Invoked by Nathan in "Choice or Chance", when "Kylen" calls for two of Nathan's squadmates to follow, he coldly shoots her.
I never told her who you were.
Insectoid Aliens: the Chigs are so named because their environmental suits make them resemble chiggers, although Wang points out they look more like praying mantises or walking sticks to him.
I Will Find You: West spends the entire series searching for his girlfriend, whose colony ship was attacked by the Chigs shortly after he was pulled off the colony mission. He and his squadron rescue her and the other surviving colonists in the series finale.
Manchurian Agent: "Eyes" involves the possibility that one of the 58th's own might be one. It turns out to be one of the squadron's new replacements, although Hawkes finds himself getting this treatment as well and coming within a hair of killing his target.
Mauve Shirt: Kate Winslow, a minor character that remained in the squadron for several episodes and even had a minor arc in which she coaxes out a more sentimental side of McQueen. She gets killed in that same episode.
Mega Corp.: Aerotech, having enough power that their corporate reps are able to march onto the Saratoga and send the 58th on missions for them. At one point, a powerful new missile that they hope to use is stated to be Aerotech property even as they are preparing to use it in action.
Mildly Military: Averted; The show went out of its way to show a rigid military command structure with a lot of division between ranks.
Primarily, it was small details that fell into this trope, such as haircuts and the like.
Mistaken for Racist: InVitros are pejoratively called Tanks. A Tank is also a type of armored ground combat vehicle. Pearly is not an Armored Personnel Carrier. Sgt. Fox is initially misunderstood when he tries to clarify this. note Hawkes kept calling Pearly an APC, leading to the vitriol-filled correction from Fox
Mohs Scale of Science Fiction Hardness: Like Babylon 5,SAAB was surprisingly "hard" sci-fi for a television show (excluding the artificial gravity, humanoid robots and aliens): FTL travel was accomplished by use of naturally occurring wormholes, kinetic weapons are used by Earth's ground forces, and translating an alien language proves extremely difficult (see below).
Must Have Caffeine: Sgt. Fox takes his morning coffee by swallowing a mouthful of coffee grounds washed down with canteen water.
New Meat: The fresh-from-training 5th Force Recon in the appropriately named episode "Toy Soldiers".
Nicknaming the Enemy: The term "Chigs" is used to refer to their alien enemies, apparently because they look like chiggers.
The enemy pilot flying the distinctive Ace Custom in later episodes quickly earns the nickname, "Chiggy Von Richtofen". he's even deadlier than his namesake.
Nose Art: Chiggy Von Richtofen's Ace Custom has a human skull painted on the nose, and the words "Abandon All Hope".[[note:In English.]]
When the 58th becomes operational late in the the pilot episode, several of their Hammerheads have slogans painted on, including "Pags' Payback" (on Hawkes' fighter) and "Above and Beyond" (on West's).
Old-School Dogfight: Played with a little. The Human SA-43 "Hammerhead" fighters have guns in front and behind so they can shoot at targets that aren't in fount of them.
Operation Blank: Several examples, most notably the much-foreshadowed "Operation Roundhammer", the all-out invasion of the Chig homeworld.
As the 58th is composed entirely of officers, each member should be leading ground units of enlisted soldiers (or at least be attached individually to such a unit as forward air controllers), not acting as cannon fodder. This is particularly egregious when the unit is depicted fighting alongside a conventional infantry unit, commanded by a lieutenant - he is outranked by ALL members of the 58th.
Lampshaded in the finale, where Damphousse points out that the only reason the 58th has remained as a unit the way they are is that because of attrition the Marines lack the manpower to split them up properly.
In "Who Monitors the Birds", the sniper team sent to assassinate a Chig officer consists of Major Colquitt and Lieutenant Hawkes.
It's lampshaded pretty early on. Col. McQueen takes time during a briefing to chew the team out for whining about ground duty, remind them that "every Marine is a rifleman!" and that they'll damn well keep their traps shut.
Paintball Episode: When Lt. Col. Butts (briefly) takes command of the 58th, one of his first actions is to put the squadron through a training exercise with paintball pistols.
Puny Earthlings: Averted. Chigs die as easily as humans, and the Silicates, not having been built for fighting, can be beaten by humans in hand to hand combat. In fact, McQueen and Hawkes are able to break into a Silicate-run prison and liberate the others (who had been captured) pretty much entirely on their own. Three of the few enemies not killed by McQueen, Hawkes, or someone they freed are the two Silicates and the Chig that Vansen and Damphousse manage to kill from their prison cell.
Recycled IN SPACE!: The show draws heavily from World War II, including elements of both the Pacific and European Theaters of Operations. Often lampshaded with the officers explicitely drawing inspiration from their own homeworld's military history, or making historical allusions while discussing the strategic situation. The show's setting of 2061 is also meant to draw a paralell to the Civil Rights Movement and the Space Race of the 1960s.
In particular, "Stardust" referernces Operation Mincemeat, a British misinformation ploy against the Germans, and the series two part finale reveals that Operation Roundhammer to be an obvious nod to Operation Downfall, the planned Allied invasion of the Japanese home islands.
In the episode "Eyes", one of the candidates for UN Secretary-General is the "far right wing" Nicholas Chaput. He's set up to look like the bad guy via the swastika-like emblem of his political party, his distrust of InVitros, and his penchant for polygraph loyalty tests (but only from InVitros). He then reveals that his opponent's corporation provoked the chig attacks in the first place, and said exec (who winds up getting elected as world leader) tries to have Chaput assassinated.
Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Vansen goes on one when she learns why the Silicates killed her parents: they flipped a coin,note Heads, they kill Vansen's family. Tails, the family across the street as Silicates view betting as a semi-religious experience. She starts her rampage off by beating a Silicate to death with her bare hands.
Robot War: The Silicate War, shown in flashbacks and alluded to often. Literally an Origin Story for Lt. Hawkes and Lt. Colonel McQueen.
Romantic False Lead: At several times in the series, Vansen and West appeared to be getting set up as a couple. The Finale sank this ship by having West rescue Kylen and Vansen getting stranded behind enemy lines.
Servant Race: The InVitros a.k.a. "Tanks," are basically created as slaves to the "normal" humans: serving as expendable soldiers, miners, etcetera, and even once they're "freed" from indentured servitude (which is "banned" but still practiced) they still are always assigned the "dirty jobs."
Before that, the Silicates were created for use as laborers and servants to humans, but rebellled thanks to the insertion of "Take a chance" into their programming. Ironically, the InVitros were created to fight the Silicates, but also rebelled.
Sex Bot: The original programming for some of the Silicates, notably Felicity OH.
Stiff Upper Lip: Major McKendrick, a British logistics officer who refuses to let his being trapped alone behind enemy lines after the loss of his entire unit get him down. Instead, he forges on finding ways to keep himself occupied, including monitoring and analyzing the Chigs' communications to try and gain intel on them.
Trading Bars for Stripes: Hawkes. Unusually, his deal included becoming an officer and a fighter pilot, rather than being pressed into duty as an enlisted soldier.
Triple Nipple: Lt. Hawkes is an InVitro, meaning he spent his embryonic period in a tank. The mark where the feeding tube was connected at his neck resembles a nipple, though he insists it's more like a "belly button".
Token Minority: Played With, given the setting. The squad includes several women, at least two African Americans, and an Asian guy. The only minorities in the squad, however, are caucasian Hawkes and McQueen, the only InVitros in the squad, and amongst the few in military service.
Turned Against Their Masters: The Silicates launched a brutal Robot War against humanity, and would later sign on with the Chigs when their war with humanity broke out. The InVitros were a more minor example, created by humanity to fight the Silicates, but turned out to make poor soldiers as they had no stake in the fight and gained little motivation from being used as easily-replaced Cannon Fodder. Rather than actually turn against their creators, they mostly just refused to fight for them with a few exceptions.
2 + Torture = 5: Wang confesses under torture to war crimes he didn't commit.
United Nations Is a Superpower: Very much in effect, though countries like the UK and the USA are shown to still exist, the UN will have a lot more political authority in the mid-21st century, according to this show.
What Happened to the Mouse?: In the episode "Choice or Chance" he Wildcards are captured and thrown into a Silicate prison where they discover what looks like the missing Tellas colonists imprisoned, including West's girlfriend Cailen, mining fuels for the Silicates. At the end of the episode, it's revealed that "Cailen" was some sort of shapeshifter, but what about the rest of the prisoners?
Most of the problems that the humans have with the Silicates and the Tanks are because the humans keep treating their creations like slave labor or cannon fodder. A decade or more after the Silicate War, racism against the Tanks is rampant because they are perceived as cowards at best, or freaks at worst.
McQueen convinces a captured Silicate saboteur to divulge needed information by yanking pieces of his internal circuitry out, despite both the silicate and Lieutenant Wang protesting that Silicates are specifically reserved certain rights as intelligent beings, including protection from torture. After the silicate dies, McQueen orders that the "pile of scrap" be disposed of.
Who Watches the Watchmen?: In a flashback sequence in "Who Monitors the Birds?", Hawkes asks one of his indoctrination monitors the eponymous question. When the monitor replies, "I monitor the birds," Hawkes' next question is, "Who monitors you?" The monitors decide Hawkes must be eliminated at that point.
The Worf Effect: The 127th Attack Wing, AKA the Angry Angels, are hyped up by their fangirl (Vansen) as "The best there is, ever will be." Except for McQueen, they don't survive past the first half of the pilot. Could be justified by claiming that the Chigs would try to hit the humans hard in the first attack, and after both sides took severe losses early on, the general intensity of the battle dialed back down from eleven once it became apparent the war would be on for a while.
Vehicular Turnabout: The Earth military captured an alien Bomber. They had to spend some time learning how to operate it before they could use it against the Chigs, though.
Younger than They Look: In Vitros are all considerably younger than their physical age, since they're force-grown to eighteen while still in the tank.