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Series / Space: Above and Beyond

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Space: Above and Beyond (1995-1996) was a Military Science Fiction series on Fox. 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.

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.
  • Admiring the Abomination: Elroy-EL loves to wax poetical about how kind and benevolent the Chigs are compared to humans.
  • 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."
  • Aliens Steal Cable: This is the explanation for the Chigs mutilating human dead: it's not really malicious, they just misunderstood the Gospel narrative as indicating that humans can come back to life after being killed.
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  • Aliens Speaking English: Justified: One of the early hints that not all is as it seems with the Chigs is that they appear to learn human languages remarkably quickly despite the apparent We Come in Peace — Shoot to Kill situation in the pilot. And not just English: in "Stardust" the protagonists plant disinformation written in Navajo. Whereas humans have almost entirely failed to decipher the Chig language. At the midpoint of the series the Chigs turn out to be in contact with the Silicates. In the Grand Finale it turns out a Mega-Corp first encountered the Chigs several years earlier and kept it quiet to protect their newfound source of profit. The war started because of the Mega-Corp reneging on the deal it had made with the Chigs.
  • 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. The Chigs' native atmosphere is apparently methane-based.
  • America Saves the Day: The war with the Chigs is a UN operation, and the People's Liberation Army, Coldstream Guards, and Finnish Air Force all make appearances. However, the US Navy and Marine Corps forces are both the focus of the series and consistently the most successful fighters.
  • Ancient Astronauts: It's all but confirmed in "Stardust" that the Chigs have encountered humans for a long time: they can apparently understand Navajo enough that the Marines are able to successfully plant disinformation written in it. In the series finale, the Chig ambassador claims his people are originally from Earth, but left home hundreds of thousands of years before humans evolved. This was in an ancestral form, as bacteria that survived in space and found their way to a new life-bearing planet, but the familiarity with the Navajo language does imply that the 21st century wasn't the first time they dealt with Homo sapiens.
  • And This Is for...: Invoked a couple of times by different characters:
  • Arc Words:
    • "Abandon all hope," a Shout-Out to the The Divine Comedy.
    • "Take a chance," for the AIs, owing to their obsession with gambling.
    • "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 in all of you,", addressed to the entire squadron after they saved her.
    • Operation Roundhammer: The planned Terran invasion of the Chig Homeworld.
  • Artificial Human: Organic and synthetic. Both subject to Fantastic Racism and notably, they're somewhat related;
    • The Silicates are android servants who predictably Turned Against Their Masters; not so predictably because of abuse, but simply by introducing them to the concept of chance — they became obsessed with probability, relishing unlikely outcomes even when they weren't in their favor. The "AI Wars" were not really wars or even rebellions so much as massive, widespread and deadly pranking campaigns which ended with the machines getting bored and leaving Earth to wander the universe. They ended up interacting with the Chigs relatively peacefully — enough to interrogate humans on their behalf.
    • The InVitro "Tanks" were how the world government fought an enemy that marched off of assembly lines ready, willing and able to fight; they developed a way to mass-produce soldiers. InVitros are 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 artificially gestated — a process with a 90% failure rate which produces humans physically 18 years of age — to be full-grown Child Soldiers, socially awkward children with the bodies and training of elite military operatives, but with no life experiences. Though skilled fighters, they actually made poor soldiers; without familial or social ties to humanity, they were hesitant to risk their lives in heated combat and many deserted. Lacking equal rights under the law when they were first created, every single one was obviously a draftee, and Really Was Born Yesterday. This led to their entire "race" being condemned as lazy and cowardly, and post-war are condemned to the drudge work of society — and often predictably go From Camouflage to Criminal, adding "violent lawbreaker" to the litany of bigotry. As an InVitro, Lieutenant Cooper Hawkes of the 58th constantly endured slurs like "nipple-neck" (InVitro were trained through Neural Implanting via a second umbilical cords at the base of the neck which left a puckered scar after removal) and "tank."
  • 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.
    McQueen: An unloaded weapon always shoots the loudest.
  • Artistic License – Military:
    • 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. While the US military did do this in the past, A) they only recruited enlisted men this way, not officers, and B) they officially ended this practice several decades before the series was made, never mind set. Hawkes would have had to obtain a waiver after the fact; he most certainly would not have been shipped from jail still in a prison jumpsuit and shackles. Besides which, becoming an officer in the US military requires a college degree (whether from a civilian university or a service academy).
      • Of course, in-universe all InVitros technically are the equivalent of fully trained officers, and Cooper in particular is one gone AWOL; in "Who Monitors The Birds" it's revealed that he was going to be killed by his trainer for being too intelligent and curious, and instead killed him and escaped. It's a grotesque miscarriage of justice, but also a way of highlighting the utter amorality of the described process.
    • The military had long since abandoned the issue of sending letters to inform families of their dead loved ones. Appropriately, to avoid exactly the sort of situation Nathan finds himself in one episode. His parents not getting the letter and still believing their son is alive.
    • No, Colonel McQueen, the real Marine Corps does not routinely send naval aviators in as infantrymen. Despite the Marine creed that every Marine is first a rifleman, that would be a stupid risk of very expensively trained officers. It's also worth noting that Marine aviators are not primarily air-to-air combatants as shown in the series (though that does happen), but rather mainly provide air support to ground forces.
    • The Angry Angels wear custom uniforms and berets. This is officially frowned upon by the USMC because they believe that all Marines are alike to the point where unit patches were eventually phased out.
  • Asian and Nerdy: Wang is an interesting take on this trope, as he's a sports nerd (his parents once send him sod from Wrigley Field, and he claims he can figure out where exactly in the field it's from by the smell).
  • Attack Its Weak Point: How T.C. finally takes down Chiggy von Richthofen: by planting a salvo of missiles in its engine intakes, apparently the only part of the fighter that isn't armored to shrug off human weapons.
  • Awesome McCoolname: Colonel Tyrus Cassius McQueen.
    Interrogator: Is your full name Colonel Tyrus Cassius McQueen?
    McQueen: I always thought T.C. stood for "Top Cat".
  • Bald of Authority: Commodore Ross, the CO of the Saratoga and the guy who gives McQueen, essentially the ship's Commander, Air Group, his orders (as well as being as close to a best friend as commander and subordinate can be). He's the only major black character other than Damphousse.
  • Battle Cry: The United States Marine Corps Battlecry. Turns out to be a Meaningful Echo, being prominently featured in the very first episode and at the climax of the very last episode of the series.
  • 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 USS Hornet)
  • 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 (hence the Fantastic Slur "nipple-neck").
  • Bittersweet 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.
  • Bizarre Alien Biology: In the pilot, Damphousse decides to give the Chig POW some water, to show that humans are not bastards. Unfortunately, Chigs are deathly allergic to water.
    • 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 Artistic License – 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.
  • Brick Joke: "You will be issued one urine and fecal collection device. A yellow flashing light on the flight suit indicates full capacity."
  • 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 officer 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.
  • The Cameo: R. Lee Ermey appears as a drill instructor in the pilot.
  • 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.
  • Cassette Futurism: The show had lots of CRT screens (not disguised) as well as CDs and other mid-nineties tech.
  • 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.
  • Christmas Episode: "The River of Stars".
  • Colonel Badass:
    • T.C. McQueen repeatedly was shown to be the only guy who knew what the Hell he was doing - especially when he fought Chiggy Von Richthofen.
    • Lieutenant Colonel Raymond T. Butts, who crosses this with The Neidermeyer, can not only take on entire groups of Marines in a brawl, but manages to lure a group of Chig fighters into falling into a Black Hole, singing along to Johnny Cash as he gets pulled in with them.
  • 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.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: The Silicates use torture for various reasons. McQueen recounts his own experiences during the Silicate War and how, even with an InVitro's enhanced pain resistance, he was still forced to divulge everything he knew.
  • Cool Helmet: The Wild Cards all have custom artwork on their flight helmets, including their (poker card) themed callsigns.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Almost every Aero-Tech employee in the series.
  • Crime of Self-Defense: How Cooper ends up in the Marines, thanks to some creative sentencing by the judge.
  • Cunning Linguist: Played with in "Sugar Dirt": the Chigs use recorded human voices to try and lure surviving UN forces into booby traps. When that doesn't work, they try taunting them, which works even less well:
    "Hey! Abe Lincoln's dead!"note 
  • 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.)
  • Curb-Stomp Battle:
    • 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.
  • Cyanide Pill: A captured chig uses water as this in the pilot, which unbeknownst to the 58th is fatal for them.
  • 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
  • Dare to Be Badass: In the pilot, Coop, an unwilling recruit to the Marines, complains to McQueen (who is still with the Angry Angels at this time) that "I won't die for them!" (referring to natural-born humans in general). McQueen retorts, "What would you die for?"
  • The Dead Have Names: In his Dying Moment of Awesome, Wang yells out the names of all the 58th Squadron Red Shirts who died over the course of the series during his heroic Last Stand.
  • Deadline News: A reporter is broadcasting from aboard the USS Yorktown 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".
  • Do-Anything Soldier: The 58th are ostensibly fighter pilots but more than half the episodes have them sent in as infantry or recon instead (see Artistic License – Military).
    • Lampshaded in one episode when the 58th complain about this; Colonel McQueen justifies it with the Marine creed that every Marine is a rifleman.
    • Deconstructed in "Sugar Dirt". The 58th are ordered to land their planes and join in ground combat, which lets their fighters be destroyed on the ground when the Chigs spring their trap.
  • Dramatic Unmask: When a Chig ambassador aboard the Saratoga takes off it's helmet, revealing itself as the same alien species the 58th aided on Anvil.
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty:
    • Gunnery Sergeant Hartmann reappears, played by R. Lee Ermey, only this time he insists his name is Bougus... and he has toned it down to PG-13 dialogue. Bogous is also a lot less nasty than Hartmann: he's certainly tough on his cadets but it's made abundantly clear that he deeply cares for them and wants them to succeed.
    • 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 (lampshaded by Wang, who says he's "seen too 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.
  • Due to the Dead: A number of episodes feature memorials for fallen comrades of one kind or another, notably for Pags in the pilot and Winslow in "The Angriest Angel." Averted by the Chigs, who not only practice no such rituals but also dismember any human remains they find. Not believing in any form of afterlife, they took the human belief in "life after death" a little too literally...
  • 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.
  • Embarrassing First Name/Embarrassing Middle Name: Colonel T.C. McQueen never goes by any other name than "Colonel" or "Sir", to cover up the fact that T.C. stands for Tyrus Cassius.
    McQueen: I always thought T.C. stood for "Top Cat".
  • 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, and are looked down on by the now-battle-hardened 58th.
  • 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.
  • Face Your Fears: How the 58th defeats the Chig bioweapon in "The Enemy."
  • 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 InVitros 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 openly expressed.
  • Fantastic Ship Prefix:
    • The Kennedy-class space carriers took the current hull classification for a nuclear carrier, CVN, and put an 'S' (for Space) in front resulting in SCVN. Saratoga is SCVN-2812.
    • The official designation for the Hammerheads also uses the S prefix: SA-43. This is partially true to life; the letter S can be used to denote a spacecraft under the United States' aircraft designation system, however American designations put the "vehicle type" last (i.e. AS-43).
  • Fantastic Slurs: One or more exists for just about every race in the series. Notably:
    • "Chigs" or (less commonly) "Chiggers" for the aliens, after a kind of mite - to the point of being Only Known by Their Nickname.
    • The InVitros are called "Tanks" or occasionally "Nipplenecks."
    • The name "Silicates" may itself have originated as a slur in the AI Wars.
    • The Silicates themselves refer to humans as "Carbonites".
    • The Chigs have a slur for humans that roughly translates to "red stink creature."
      Elroy-EL: It's much more poetic when they say it.
  • Fantasy Conflict Counterpart: Later battles are directly based on parts of the Pacific and Normandy campaigns in World War II, with the similarities usually directly called out in the episodes.
    • In "Hostile Visit", the Wild Cards use a captured Chig bomber to mount a sneak attack on a Chig base, likening it to the Doolittle Raid. The operation is an Epic Failure, mainly due to their poor ability to pilot the alien ship: they miss their intended target completely (the Chigs claim they hit a civilian target) and get shot down and captured.
    • "Stardust" = a disinformation op in the leadup to D-Day. Also referenced are the code talkers, with the Marines using missives written in Navajo and attached to corpses to mislead the Chigs.
    • "Sugar Dirt" = Guadalcanal, with a landing force being abandoned to fend for themselves for months in favor of taking advantage of a more strategic position elsewhere (New Guinea in real life, the planet Ixion near the Chig homeworld in the episode). Complete with a Vanity Plate dedicating the episode to Guadalcanal veterans.
    • Round Hammer itself is inspired by Operation Downfall, the planned invasion of the Japanese home islands. The UN brass even refers to their strategy as 'planet-hopping', a reference to the USN's island hopping campaign in the Pacific. But unlike the real one that never happened because the Japanese surrendered after the American nuclear attacks, Round Hammer is called off in the finale because the Wild Cards screw up and give away the battle plan to the Chigs,note  who offer to open peace negotiations instead of taking advantage. The negotiations go badly awry and the war restarts, but the UN has lost the initiative.
    • The new Lieutenant in "Toy Soldiers" is named after Lieutenant Henry Herrick who was killed in the opening minutes of the Battle of Ia Drang in Vietnam in 1965 made famous in the book and movie "We Were Soldiers." Depending on who you ask, the actual Herrick was overly gung-ho and allowed his men to be separated from the main force of his battalion and most were killed or wounded.
  • Fatal Family Photo:
    • Averted with West. The photo of his girlfriend recovered from the wreck of her colony ship is specifically what keeps him going.
    • 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.
  • Fictional Geneva Conventions: The Ho Chi Minh City Convention of 2054, which grants AI POWs similar rights and protections.
  • Fun with Acronyms: This M.A.R.I.N.E.S. chant.
    M: Mean as Hell!
    A: All the Time!
    R: Rough and Tough!
    I: In the Mud!
    N: Never Quits!
    E: Every Day!
    S: Semper Fi!
  • 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.
  • Great Offscreen War: The AI Wars. Several senior officers including McQueen, Ross, and Butts are veterans of that war.
  • The Grim Reaper: In "Who Monitors The Birds?", Hawkes is Trapped Behind Enemy Lines and hallucinates a nightmarish Vansen beckoning to him.
  • Guilty Pleasure: When the 58th gets R&R on a pleasure ship, they're offered whatever their hearts desire. Colonel McQueen's desire is to kick back and watch Bugs Bunny cartoons all day.
  • Gung Holier Than Thou: Lt. Herrick straddles the line between this and The Neidermeyer - as a commissioned officer, he does have authority over the men in his platoon (who revere him) but his antics provoke eye rolls at best from the 58th, all of whom outrank him.
  • 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 Jerkass 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.
  • Humanoid Aliens: The Chigs, while usually clad in concealing full-body armor suits, generally are put together the same as humans are.
    • 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 Just Want to Be Special: The officer attached to the 58th in "Level of Necessity" to investigate Damphousse's apparent psychic abilities would like nothing more than to become psychic himself.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In Space, Everyone Can See Your Face: Those lighted helmets must make good aiming points for Chig soldiers in the dark.
  • Informed Ability: Played with. The Angry Angels are reputed as the top pilots in the Marine Corps, so much so that they get a Custom Uniform. The entire unit is obliterated in the first major battle with the Chigs in the pilot. Possibly justified: it's indicated in the pilot that there hasn't been a major Earth conflict since the A.I. War about twenty years earlier, so it would appear the Angels actually attained their reputation during military exercises in peacetime. It's only much later in "The Angriest Angel" that we see their real skill, when T.C. McQueen, the only member of the unit to remain on active duty after the battle in the pilot, personally goes out and kills Chiggy von Richthofen in a solo sortie despite having been crippled during the Angels' last battle.
  • 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.
  • Insult Backfire: "Hey! Abe Lincoln's dead!" Said by Chigs in "Sugar Dirt" to the bemusement of the Wild Cards.
  • ISO Standard Human Spaceship: Human warships play this to the letter as big, flat, gray boxes.
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: McQueen torturing a captured Silicate saboteur to death to find out where Chiggy Von Richthofen is.
  • 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.
  • Land Mine Goes "Click!": When one of the 58th steps on a "buzz beam", it does not go off immediately; the rest of the squadron has time to figure out a way to defeat the boobytrap.
  • Left Hanging: Like many, many, many other Fox shows, due to premature cancellation. Word of God is that the creators did this deliberately in hopes that the show might someday be brought back.
  • Limited Advancement Opportunities: McQueen notes that if he wasn't an InVitro, he would be a general.
  • Living Ship: the Chigs' spacecraft were at least partly biological and may or may not have been sentient.
  • Manchild: Cooper Hawkes, Justified since he is not only just a few years old, but also very poorly socialized due to being a runaway. He improves over time as he fights and serves alongside the other Wild Cards.
  • Macross Missile Massacre McQueen kills Chiggy von Richthofen with one.
  • The Main Characters Do Everything: This is the real reason for the 58th being Do Anything Soldiers. In real life, USMC naval aviators do not get sent on ground missions, but it's a TV show so this gets fudged for budget and plot reasons.
  • 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.
  • Meaningful Echo:
    • "I Believe In You," by the end of the show, it becomes "I believe... in all of you."
    • Not to mention the UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS BATTLECRY: In the pilot, Wang is incapable of producing a convincing battlecry without the help of two Drill Sergeant Nasties demonstrating one for him at point blank range. In the series finale, he produces a fine battlecry while making his Heroic sacrifice. To top it off, he even throws in a To Absent Friends by screaming the names of every Wild Card Red Shirt and Mauve Shirt who died on the show as part of his battlecry.
  • Meaningful Name: Lieutenant Herrick is likely named after Army Lieutenant Henry Herrick, whose similiar foolhardy and bloodthirsty attitude got his platoon surrounded and himself killed at the battle of the Ia Drang Valley in the Vietnam War. Yes, he's the foolish green officer in We Were Soldiers.
  • 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.
    • The UN Secretary General sat on their board of directors, the Chigs demanded that the CEO attend the peace conference, and they appear to have paid informants all over the military.
    • they knew about the existence of the aliens for years, but never even told their own government.
  • Men Are the Expendable Gender: Averted. Plenty of female soldiers fight and die over the course of the series, on and off screen. At the end of the finale, the only two members of the 58th still fit to fight are West and Hawkes.
  • 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.
    • In "The Angriest Angel", several of the Wildcards get too familiar with Colonel McQueen (Wang casually invites him to join in a game of pool, while Winslow is in the process of hitting on him. McQueen proceeds to lay down the law on all of them, reminding them that he is not there to be their friend.
  • Military Science Fiction: USMC Kicks Alien Ass: The Series.
  • Minovsky Physics: "Sewel Fuel", a glowy form of Un Obtanium which is extremely energy-dense.
  • 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 
  • Ms Fan Service: the character of Shane Vansen (played by the lovely Kristine Cloke, the wife of one of the producers) is shamelessly exploited in this respect. Despite being a hard as nails Marine officer she is often to be found strutting around in her skimpy underwear/night attire flaunting her leggy supermodel face/figure and huge breasts for no apparent reason. When Coooper fantasises about her in 'Who Monitors the Birds?' she is represented as a seductive, scantily clad Angel of Death. When she decides to earn money as a pool hustler at the Baachus resort she feels the need to wear a revealing skintight minidress and high heels and had the series continued to a second season it was intended that she and Damphouse would have ended up as slavegirls working as hookers at one of its' brothels before being eventually rescued.
  • Must Have Caffeine: Sgt. Fox takes his morning coffee by swallowing a mouthful of coffee grounds washed down with canteen water.
  • A Nazi by Any Other Name: "Eyes" features an election of a new United Nations secretary general (which has apparently gone to a worldwide popular vote instead of selection by the Security Council delegates) after the previous one is assassinated by an InVitro. One of the candidates is Nicholas Chaput, a Frenchman who is said to be the leader of a far-right political movement and wears military-styled uniforms with a badge clearly meant to be a stylized swastika.
  • The Needs of the Many: In Mutiny, the ship the 58th faces destruction by the chigs if they don't divert power from one section to get away. That section happens to be where the InVitros are being stored, and the InVitro crewers refuse their orders. A mutiny occurs, but eventually they're persuaded to stand down because if they don't do this, everyone will die. In the end, they do it.
  • The Neidermeyer: Ray Butts, due to a combination of He Who Fights Monsters and Poor Communication Kills, is generally despised by the 58th. Played with, in that once the rest of the 58th learn why he's co-opted them from Col. McQueen - his previous unit was wiped out; he wanted to go back to the site of their last stand in part to give his men a proper burial - they gain some respect for him.
    • Zigzagged with Lt. Herrick. His inexperience (bordering on willful ignorance), Drill Sergeant Nasty tendencies, and gung ho attitude would ordinarily make him a decent example... but the equally raw men under his command revere him. It's those outside his chain of command who see him for what he is.
  • 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.
  • No-Dialogue Episode: "Who Monitors The Birds" was an attempt to make an episode with minimal dialogue. Hawkes being alone in enemy territory means he has no-one to talk to, and the flashbacks to his training as a InVitro shows them being conditioned rather than trained, with the instructors interacting with them as little as possible.
  • No One Gets Left Behind: Inverted, albeit under protest, in "Sugar Dirt". A landing to capture a strategic airstrip goes south because the Chigs suckered the UN high command, but the Navy realizes that in order to pull this off the Chigs withdrew forces from an even more strategic target, which is now open to attack. But there isn't time to retrieve the troops already on the ground so the ships are forced to abandon 25,000 troops, including the 58th, for two months until they've captured the new target and can return to retrieve them... by which point the 58th have nearly starved to death and only 2,000 survivors remain. Commodore Ross says it best at the end:
    "As a commander, I feel no obligation to explain my actions. But as a man, I have never been more ashamed of myself, or more proud of you."
  • Nose Art: Chiggy Von Richtofen's Ace Custom has a human skull painted on the nose, and the words "Abandon All Hope". In English, as the characters note.
    • 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.
  • Outranking Your Job:
    • 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. It's Truth in Television when they're acting as pilots, however: In the US military, fixed-wing aircraft pilots are all officers.
      • 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. (The team actually has the right of it, though: the Rifleman's Creed notwithstanding, Marines are not Do Anything Soldiers, and sending in naval aviators as infantry is a stupid risk of very expensively trained officers.)
  • 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.
  • People Jars: InVitro growth tanks.
  • Physical Fitness Punishment: Sergeant Major Bougus has several officer recruits drop and start doing pushups: One for mouthing off to him, and another for smirking at the first one doing pushups.
  • Psychic Powers: Left ambiguous, if not outright subverted: an entire episode is devoted to how the military (specifically, one officer who really wants to "see what you see") turns what is likely common intuition into a deal that endangers the whole of the squadron.
  • 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.
  • Recovered Addict: The In Vitros have severe problems with addictions to certain pain meds. Col. McQueen has had problems with the same "Green Meanies" prescribed to Hawkes in one episode.
  • 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.
  • Red Herring:
  • Really Gets Around: Downplayed: The first episode of the Chiggy von Richthofen arc has an offhand mention that Vansen has an offscreen habit of having quickies with members of the flight crew.
  • Red-plica Baron: A recurring antagonist is a chig ace named Chiggy Von Richthofen.
  • Red Shirt: Any members of the 58th that aren't part of the main cast can be assumed to be dead men walking.
  • Ridiculously Human Robots: The Silicates, who look like regular humans with crosshairs for eyes, along with some uncanny behavioral tics.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Vansen goes on one when she learns why the Silicates killed her parents: they flipped a coin,note  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.
  • Sacrificial Lion:
    • Winslow, a character who appears for four episodes about the middle of the series before being killed when Chiggy von Richthofen destroys her Escape Pod. This prompts McQueen to have his cochlear implant removed so he can safely fly a one-man sortie to kill Chiggy.
    • The series finale has Wang cover the escape of West, Hawkes, and Kylen and the other captured colonists by separating the cargo compartment of an APC with him in it so West can grab the one from the other, disabled, APC. He blows away several Chig fighters with a mounted gun before one crashes into him. Word of God is that, had the series not been cancelled, the death would still have stuck.
  • Satellite Love Interest: West's girlfriend has no real role in the plot other than to be a Damsel in Distress to motivate him.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: The InVitros awoke from their tanks, were informed they had been created to fight a war they had no stake in, and promptly deserted.
  • Send in the Clones: Much like Cylons in the later Battlestar Galactica remake, there's only about a dozen models of Silicates, all of whom share memories with others of the same model. This means an individual of one type of Silicate can be killed in one episode only to come back for more later (c.f. Wang's experience with two different Elroy EL Torture Technicians).
  • Servant Race:
    • 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.
    • The InVitros a.k.a. "Tanks," are basically created as slaves to the "normal" humans: serving as expendable soldiers (initially to fight the Silicates!), miners, et cetera, and even once they're "freed" from indentured servitude (which is "banned" but still practiced) they still are always assigned the "dirty jobs."
  • Shooting Gallery: In "Who Monitors the Birds?", Hawkes is Playing Possum after the officer he was working with is killed, and has a flashback to the officer (played by Dale Dye) recruiting him from a firing range after witnessing his marksmanship. We then flash back to the present where three Chig soldiers have finished hacking up the officer's body and are now advancing on Hawke, who promptly puts his shooting skills to the test.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Shown Their Work:
    • The show is of course known for averting Mildly Military, but they even go so far as to include little touches like having the deployed servicemen read The Stars and Stripes.
    • The song that that 7th Cav Sergeant sings at the beginning of "Pearly"? That's not a random tune, that's Garry Owen, the 7th's regimental song.
  • Sole Survivor: A few characters are depicted as the last surviving members of their (former) units.
    • Major McKendrick's ordeal behind enemy lines began when his unit was wiped out.
    • Lt. Col. Butts is ultimately revealed to be this; one of his motives for taking command of the 58th was to return to the site of his previous unit's last stand and give them a proper burial.
    • Possibly McQueen himself, as he is the only member of the Angry Angels explicitly shown to have survived their battle with the Chigs.
    • Played with in "Stay with the Dead" - West's superiors think he is the only survivor, and he must convince them otherwise in order to save the rest of his unit. The Wild Cards faked a last stand for the Chigs' benefit, only it was too effective and convinced the Saratoga crew as well.
  • Something Only They Would Say: In "Stay With the Dead", when the 58th receive a message - which they at first don't believe - saying extraction is coming, what convinces them is hearing the title phrase repeated at the end of the transmission. As this was the last thing Vansen said to West before he was rescued, they realize the message is genuine.
  • Space Plane: The Hammerhead Space Fighter, which is specifically designed to operate both in an atmosphere and in space.
  • Space Is an Ocean: References are made to "dropping anchor", "setting sail" and "burial at space" (and yes, it's at space, not in space).
  • Space Is Noisy: Has noisy space like almost every other sci-fi show, but also parodied in the pilot with R. Lee Ermey's line, "In space, no one can hear you scream, unless it's the battle cry of a United States Marine!"
  • Space Marine: Notably US Marines, but since it's the future their role has been extended to space.
  • The Squad: The 58th Reconnaissance Squadron, also known as The Wildcards.
  • The Squadette: Vansen, a Military Brat, is very much a tomboy and is arguably the best pilot and fighter among the squadron, and is eventually even made XO.
  • Starfish Language: Communicating with the Chigs proves extremely difficult.
  • 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.
  • Super Prototype: Chiggy Von Richtofen's custom Chig fighter. It's hull is Nigh-Invulnerable to Earth weaponry, it has superior handling than the Hammerheads, and it's almost completely invisible to sensors. It consequently slaughters Earth fighters by the squadron before McQueen finally destroys it by planting a salvo of missiles the only place it's vulnerable: the engine exhausts.
  • Supernatural Fear Inducer: In the episode "The Enemy", US troops on a desolate planet the 58th have been sent to resupply are reported to be stuck in a meat grinder of a battle. It turns out that there aren't actually any Chigs on-planet, but they left behind a panic-inducing weapon that's causing the troopers to turn on each other or blunder into minefields.
  • Tank Goodness and Tanks, but No Tanks: Discussed in "Pearly". The Wildcards end up taking refuge inside an armored vehicle on the battlefield. They keep referring to it as an Armored Personnel Carrier, much to the driver's annoyance. Finally he screams "TANK!", briefly being Mistaken for Racist because Hawke is there - but it turns out that Pearly is a battle tank, not an APC.
  • Theme Naming: The True Companions' squadron is called The Wildcards. Their callsigns are all based on poker cards.
  • Title by Year: The Market-Based Title Space 2063 (after the year it starts) in several European countries.
  • 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.
  • Torture Technician: Elroy-EL, a line of Silicates that specialize as torturers.
  • 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.
  • Trapped Behind Enemy Lines: A feature of several episodes:
    • "Choice or Chance" sees the 58th escaping and evading after their Trojan Horse Chig bomber is shot down.
    • "The River of Stars" sees the 58th in a damaged APC drifting through Chig space.
    • "Stay with the Dead" sees all but one of the 58th given up for dead on an enemy held planet, with the "sole survivor" struggling to convince his superiors the rest of the squadron is still alive.
    • "Who Monitors the Birds?" sees Hawkes alone in enemy territory when a mission to assassinate a Chig officer goes wrong.
    • "Pearly" has the 58th encounter a British Major who has been hiding behind Chig lines long enough to begin to decipher their language.
    • "Sugar Dirt" sees the 58th and 25,000 other Marines marooned on an enemy planet when the Saratoga and the rest of the fleet must suddenly leave orbit.
  • 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 (hence the Fantastic Slur "nipple-neck"), though he insists it's more like a "belly button".
  • Trust Password: When investigating a mining facility in "The Dark Side of the Sun", the 58th use "Bulldog" and "Chesty" as a sign/countersign. As it was Vansen who came up with the code words, they are likely in reference to famed Marine Corps General Chesty Puller.
  • 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.
  • Virgin-Shaming: Very downplayed. Most of the cast are sexually active offscreen (West has his MIA girlfriend, McQueen is a divorcee, and Vansen is once mentioned to sometimes have quickies with members of the flight crew), but in "R&R", West hires a prostitute to take care of Hawkes' virginity. Rather understandable that the socially stunted runaway with no family (other than his unit) would be one.
  • 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.
  • Unusable Enemy Equipment: Hawkes at one point tries to use a Chig rifle but either can't figure out how to fire it or is technologically prevented from doing so. The team also manages to capture a Chig bomber and use it in a redux of the Doolittle Raid, but they're not good enough at flying it to actually hit their target and are instead shot down and captured.
  • Ultraterrestrials: In the final episode the Chig ambassador claims that his species evolved on Earth before humans did, but left before it became suited to oxygen-breathing life. Actually, his species evolved elsewhere, from Earth-originated bacteria that were transported naturally to another planet via Panspermia
  • Wham Line: From an unarmed Chig ship at the end of "And if they lay us down to rest...", transmitted in English;
    Chig Ambassador: PEACE
    • And in the finale, when the Chigs confront the head of Aero-Tech:
    E. Allen Wayne: How can you lay sole claim to the universe?
    Chig Ambassador: How can you claim the Earth?
    E. Allen Wayne: It's our home, we originated there.
    Chig Ambassador: So did we.
  • "What Do They Fear?" Episode: "The Enemy." The members of the 58th are exposed to a Chig bioweapon which amplifies their fears to crippling levels.
  • 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 Tellus colonists imprisoned, including West's girlfriend Kylen, mining fuels for the Silicates. At the end of the episode, it's revealed that "Kylen" was some sort of shapeshifter, but what about the rest of the prisoners?
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?:
    • 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, but Hawkes pulls some Assassin Outclassin' and escapes the facility.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: The Chigs' Amygdala weapon turns any mild fear into a crippling phobia.
  • 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.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Lieutenant Herrick, West's brother's CO in the Recon Marines, is gung-ho and caught up in the tales of heroic Marine battles of the past, wanting to imitate them in his own career. Unfortunately, Space: Above and Beyond is a War Is Hell-style series and he isn't the protagonist. As a result, he goes against orders on a routine scouting mission and his entire unit are killed in a Chig ambush, with West's brother fighting to his last bullet.
  • 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.