Follow TV Tropes


Series / Space Cases

Go To

"Once upon a time in a school in outer space,
There was a class of misfit kids from all around the place.
They snuck aboard a mystery ship,
Which soon slipped through a spacial rip,
And now they're stuck on a long strange trip."
— The Theme Song

A live-action science fiction show for children that aired on Nickelodeon from 1996-1998. It told the story of a group of Starcademy students from different planets who sneaked aboard a mysterious space ship called The Christa. After two of their teachers come looking for them, the ship takes off with all of them aboard, right through a white hole that drops them off over 7 years from home. They become Lost in Space...

...and by pure coincidence, Bill "Will Robinson" Mumy was one of the creators of this show. By less coincidence, Peter David is the other.

Has a Character Sheet. Also has an entertaining off-site pictorial series summary.

This show provides examples of:

  • Adults Are Useless: "Davenport and Goddard do the best they can." Since the Christa won't respond to their commands, they really are.
  • Aliens Speaking English: For the cadets it's justified as they are all classmates and a teacher speaking half a dozen languages would be inefficient. On the other hand, there's no excuse for the Spung or the other aliens in the far reaches of the universe knowing English.
  • All There in the Manual: While Suzee's cultural identity was never revealed the way everybody else's was (Earthling, Mercurian, etc.), the ''Space Cases'' website states she's from a planet called "Yensid", a reference to the fact that Jewel Staite left to do the Disney show Flash Forward.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: The Spung are all evil, with the exception of Elmira.
  • And Starring: Paul Boretski as Commander Seth Goddard.
  • Arrow Catch: In the episode "King of the Hill", Thelma catches an arrow right before it hits Harlan.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Radu is one of the nicest, most gentle characters on the show, but in the second episode, he is infected with a virus that causes hallucinations and paranoia, resulting in him lashing out at what he believes to be hostile aliens impersonating his friends and manages to inflict some serious damage on Thelma. As Goddard notes, you really do not want to try and fight an Andromedan.
  • Big Eater: Bova, and a creature that the crew once took in as a pet.
  • Big "SHUT UP!": In the first episode Goddard shouts "QUIET!!!" while everyone is panicking after learning it'll take seven years to get back to the academy.
  • Birthday Buddies: In "It's My Birthday, Too, Yeah", Radu lies and claims that he shares a birthday with Bova, because his species don't actually have birthdays and he's never had a birthday party.
  • The Bridge
  • Bullying a Dragon: Harlan does this to Radu, rather a lot. Given that we've seen what he's capable of when an alien virus drives him over the edge, it's a damn good thing for Harlan's welfare that Radu's a harmless, socially-awkward, somewhat klutzy sweetheart rather than the violent savage Harlan seems to think all his species are.
  • Cloudcuckoolander:
    • Expect everything Thelma does to be off-the-wall and of marginal usefulness.
    • Catalina appears to be one at first, habitually talking to her imaginary friend Suzee. It turns out Suzee is real but from another dimension.
  • Curse of Babel: Catalina is the only one who knows why the ship is under attack in the same episode that she loses her voice from practicing her sonic scream powers.
  • Data Crystal: The Crista's consoles, the fact that Thelma's crystal is cracked helps explain her loopiness.
  • Delirious Misidentification: One episode saw Radu and Bova trapped on a shuttle and running out of oxygen. Suffering from oxygen starvation, Radu starts hallucinating that Bova is Suzee, who's back on the ship.
  • Depending on the Writer: Radu's strength seemed to fluctuate from one episode to the next. Usually it was mentioned how he needed to be extremely careful to avoid hurting people. However, on several occasions, when Radu had this particular Restraining Bolt removed (evil Doppleganger, when he infected with an alien virus, etc.,) he and Harlan would fight and somehow Harlan wouldn't be liquified in the process.
  • Disney Death: Catalina in the first season finale. This was a case of Executive Meddling. Catalina was supposed to die, and be replaced by the recurring character Elmira. Nick thought that she was too alien, and they were forced into Catalina trading places with Suzee.
  • Disease Bleach: Actually happens to Christa itself in the season 2 premiere as it's organic like exterior is burnt by the atmosphere of the planet as they crash leaving it a dull metallic color. This is actually a permanent change as even when they repair the ship and leave the planet the color damage remains for the rest of the show.
  • Doesn't Know Their Own Birthday: In "It's My Birthday, Too (Yeah!)", it's revealed that Radu doesn't know his birthday because those of his kind are born in hatcheries, and he lies that it's his birthday so he can have his first party.
  • "Do It Yourself" Theme Tune: The theme song was a duet with Walter Jones and Lisa La Shawn.
  • Dream Intro: The episode "The Impossible Dream" opens with Catalina dreaming that she and her friends are all in a medieval court.
  • The Eeyore: Bova is, as the song goes 'cloudy'.
  • Empathic Weapon: The Christa, which works only for the kids, defends herself when she thinks she's being invaded, and is alive... sort of...
  • Evil Twin: "The Trouble With Doubles."
  • Exactly Exty Years Ago: The series never gives an exact date, but judging from Harlan's comments, his ancestors were slaves almost exactly 400 years ago. (Which would put the series somewhere in the 2200's, possibly the early 2300 depending on what direction Harlan rounds in.)
  • Expository Theme Tune: As quoted above. In the first season the original opening theme was orchestral, with a narrator (Harlan Ellison) giving a preamble, and the theme tune was used over the closing credits. The closing theme moved to the opening in the second season, re-recorded to fit Catalina's replacement and new descriptions of the characters. It was further re-recorded for first season episodes after the series ended, but with Catalina featured in, and a new opening sequence was created, according to Wikipedia, making the original opening a truer example of Keep Circulating the Tapes.
  • Family of Choice: In the episode "It's My Birthday, Too (Yeah!)", the cadets have to make family trees, but Radu is stymied by the fact that Andromedans were born in group hatcheries with no family ties while enslaved by the Spung. He first tries making up a pretend family, but when that gets exposed, he eventually decides that the cadets and teachers have become as good as family, with a little help from Thelma.
    Thelma: Why were you upset at your party?
    Radu: Because I lied and they all knew I lied. That's why. I just wanted to have a family. Even a pretend one was too much to ask for. You couldn't understand.
    Thelma: I couldn't? My understanding has always been that a family is not only those from whom you are born, but those to whom you belong. [Beat] Did I screw up, too?
    Radu: No... no, not at all.
  • Fantastic Racism:
    • Harlan to Radu. The best part is Harlan is the token black guy.
    • Radu to Elmira. Slightly more understandable since her race enslaved his but he gets over it.
  • Five-Token Band: IN SPACE! There's a Mercurian, a Uranian, a Titanian (who gets replaced by whatever Suzee is in Season 2), an Andromedan and the human is an African-American. A pretty diverse group.
  • Foreshadowing: In "Spung at Heart", Elmira is looking into each cadet's future, when she's on Catalina, "No one can see who's coming here, but Catalina disappears." Due to the season 1 finale, that has two meanings.
  • Fun with Acronyms: Thelma stood for Techno Human EmuLating MAchine.
  • Genki Girl: Rosie is a living, humanoid, star. Naturally, she has a great deal of energy and cheer.
  • Hot-Blooded: Harlan 'leaps before he looks'.
  • Human Aliens: Most aliens the crew encounters are Ambiguously Human, except for the living ship, its builders, and the Spung.
  • Humans Are Special: In the Personality Swap episode, the perks Radu gains of being human are is bossing everyone around and acting like you're better than everyone else, so also Humans Are Bastards.
  • Humanity Ensues: During the Physical Attribute Swap episode, Thelma was switched with Suzee and became... whatever Suzee is. She was upset about this since the combination of new emotions and being mentally cut off from Christa was too much for her to
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Most episode titles in Season 1 are a riff on a popular song from the 60s or 70s.
    • This occasionally shows up in season 2 as well: "Both Sides Now" is a Joni Mitchell song.
  • Instant Sedation: Warlord Shank's tranq darts both play this straight and avert this depending on the targets size. Catalina (a fairly slender girl) is immediately out before she even hits the ground, while Radu (who's much bulkier than her) doesn't even notice he's been hit and is perfectly fine for about 30 seconds before he suddenly passes out. Harlan (who's well built and athletic, but not to the point of an Andromedan) immediately feels the effects and falls to his knees but takes a short while to actually pass out.
  • Intangible Man: Harlan gets this in one episode.
  • Interspecies Romance: Radu/Elmira (Andromedan/Spung), Harlan/Catalina (human/Saturnian), Suzee/everyone (who knows/everything)
  • Ironic Echo: In the first episode, after being told the class' field test is canceled.
    Harlan: It's not fair!
    Davenport: The vacuum of space isn't fair either, Mr. Band. It can destroy anybody that doesn't have what it takes to survive.
    • Later in the same episode, after getting pulled into the space rip, with Goddard stuck with the cadets.
    Goddard: This isn't fair.
    Harlan: The vacuum of space isn't fair, commander! It can destroy anybody that doesn't have what it takes to survive. Right, Ms. Davenport?
  • Kangaroo Court: The episode titled "Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Court."
  • Literal Genie: Thelma takes commands so literally, she won't warn you that the ship's been delivered a death threat if it requires deviation from the schedule.
  • Living Ship
    "Your ship is alive?"
    Goddard: Our ship is part machine, and part living matter.
  • Loud of War: Done by the evil twins in The Trouble with Doubles.
  • A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Read: While Suzee can read minds, she is very reluctant to do so as she regards it as violating someone's privacy.
  • Mr. Fanservice: In "Both Sides Now," Radu gets turned into a human. So many girls (and statistically several boys) liked him a lot better that way.
  • Mundane Solution: In "The Sporting Kind" the crew get trapped by bracelets that prove resistant to the group's assorted superpowers...until Rosie just slips hers off.
  • My Brain Is Big: Davenport says almost this exact line when her head swells to 19 times its size and she develops Psychic Powers that can (seemingly) bend the laws of metaphysics. In actuality she figures out how to access the ship's morphing abilities.
  • Noodle Incident: Goddard's "space pirate story." It was what busted his rank, put him on thin ice with the brass and "almost started a war." Reaver—said space pirate—feels that he owes Goddard some payback for what happened.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: Harlan hates all Andromedans for the death of his father, while Radu hates all Spung for enslaving his race. Elmira notes in "Spung at Heart" that both are afraid of their prejudices being proven wrong.
  • Odd Friendship: Bova and Rosie; the cloudy boy and the sunny girl.
  • Only One Name: All Uranians (in fitting with their Eeyore-like dispositions).
  • Opening Narration: The original Season 1 intro (before Nickelodeon decided to go back and redub it with a brand new one) featured this narration, with music by Gary Stockdale:
    Harlan Ellison: "The eye of the future sees them. Five clever Space Cadets snuck aboard an Alien Ship, flung through a weird hole in space, thousands of lightyears from the academy. Yeah, it seemed like a good idea at the time. But will they ever get home? Or are they forever destined to be... SPACE CASES?!"
  • Organic Technology: The Crista is part machine and part organic matter.
  • Personality Powers: Rosie is a cheerful and sunny and is a sun.
  • Personality Swap: "Both Sides Now" because The Mind Is a Plaything of the Body.
  • Physical Attribute Swap: One episode has the various people on the Christa swapping races with each other after each character complains someone else on the ship has it easier. The swaps also swap most of the character's hair styles as well. In addition it proves that the really happy and really pessimistic ones are that way by genetics.
  • Playing with Fire: Rosie can shoot fire from her hands and mouth because she is a living star.
  • Put on a Bus: Catalina was sent to another dimension and Commander Goddard was crushed by the ship while taking off from the planet they'd been stranded on used some Human Popsicle process to heal. His healing completed in the penultimate episode and was present for both it and the finale. He makes up for his absence by single-handedly saving the crew from the Doppelganger.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: "There was a class of misfit kids from all around the place."
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: Part of the reason Catalina had to be written out was because Jewel Staite had a commitment to the Disney Channel/Family Channel (CA) series Flash Forward (1996). Peter David knew this going in; thus the creation/reveal of Suzee.
    • Likewise, part of the genesis of the "Davenport is trapped in the ship's computer" plot came from the fact that her original actress from the pilot was pregnant, and, rather than explain the baby bump, this was going to be an ongoing part of the series. With the recast, it got changed to a single episode plot instead of an ongoing one.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Harlan (hotblooded and aggressive) and Radu (calm headed and shy).
  • Required Secondary Powers: Nodded at in one episode where they come across a hatch and Radu tries punching it, assuming his Super-Strength would break it. He ends up hurting himself, as like anyone else if the object you punch has no give all that force is returned back into you.
  • Retirony: A variation of it in the first episode. Commander Goddard was demoted to teacher following a "space pirate" incident (see Noodle Incident). After the Christa was sent seven-light years from the academy, he said he was three weeks away from having his career as an academy teacher be over and return to space with a crew, and now he stuck in a strange alien ship... out in space with a crew.
  • Reverse the Polarity: Not only could Rosie and Bova expel massive amounts of heat and electricity, they could also absorb it as well if the ship was overheated or overloaded.
  • Rubber-Forehead Aliens: They take it a step further and have Rainbow-Hair aliens.
  • Shock and Awe: Bova can shot lightening from his antena.
  • Shooting Superman: At one point Bova is zapped with an electricity-based weapon. He refers to the 3,000 volts it outputs as 'baby food' and zaps the wielder right back.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The ship is named for Christa McAuliffe, the schoolteacher who was killed in the Challenger explosion. Also, a few of the kids' names reference famous sci-fi writers; Harlan Band = Harlan Ellison; Bova = Ben Bova.
    • This one takes some setup: one of the (very few) changes that J. Michael Straczynski wrote into Peter David's episode "There All the Honor Lies" of Babylon 5 involved a bear getting thrown out an airlock. See, JMS hates cute, the bear was a gift from Peter to JMS... it was inevitable. Fast-forward to Space Cases. In the second episode, the kids find a teddy bear floating in space, leading one to ask, "What kind of dope would toss a perfectly good Earth bear into space?" It turns out to have been an evil race called the Straczyn, who wanted to conquer the galaxy, but didn't have the budget, so they tried for shoestring bio-warfare, booby-trapping the bear. There's also a game called Minbar chess.
    • Being a former cast member of Babylon 5, Mumy also added a little B5 shout out. In the episode The Trouble with Doubles, there's a scene where the evil twins are tormenting their nice counterparts by playing annoying and loud music into the room they're trapped in. In a line of dialogue, it is revealed that the instrument being played is called a Minbari flugel horn.
    • In one first season episode, Catalina finds herself wrongfully imprisoned. Her prison number? 24601.
    • Commander Seth Goddard is no doubt named after producer Bill Mumy's own son, Seth Mumy, as well as Mark Goddard, the actor who played Major Don West on Lost in Space which Bill Mumy stared in as a child.
    • In the episode where Bill Mumy and Mark Hamill play two silver skinned aliens, the robot from Lost in Space can be seen in the background of their ship.
    • The Christa's crashing in the 2nd season premiere was based on the Enterprise-D crashing in Star Trek: Generations, although unlike the Enterprise, the Christa was able to be repaired.
    • In the first episode, after getting sucked into the space rip, a distraught Davenport said they're "lost in space".
    • Bova is named after science fiction writer Ben Bova. It's revealed in "Long Distance Calls" that his father (played by Peter David) is named Benn.
  • Shut Up, Kirk!:
    Warlord Shank: Do you know what Warlord Shank has learned? Warlord Shank has learned that he doesn't care what you have learned!
    [He blasts a piece of equipment in the center of the room. Pezu, the AI who was just explaining what she had learned, laughs maniacally.]
    Warlord Shank: Oh dear...
  • Solar System Neighbors: The inhabitants of Saturn, Mercury, and Uranus, who are all descended from a common humanoid ancestor who colonized all three planets.
  • Sons of Slaves: The Andromedans were enslaved by the Spung during the Spung war with Earth. Basically, the Spung captured the Andromedans' eggs, containing their offspring, and held their hatchery ship hostage, forcing the adults to fight the humans in the war against Earth.
  • Space Cadet Academy: The Starcademy that the teachers and cadets start out from. We also meet the principal of the school in "Long Distance Calls".
  • Star Trek Shake: Lampshade Hanging: everyone BUT Radu is getting knocked around, quite dramatically so, but Radu is standing completely still. This one is justified. Radu has super strength and super hearing, since balance is established in the ears, those two traits would generate a great sense of balance.
  • Super-Strength: Radu, as seen in the song, is "really super strong".
  • The Team: The cadets, the two adults, and Thelma form the crew of the Christa.
  • Team Mom: Miss Davenport takes over the role of mothering the children once they are stranded.
  • Team Pet: Gizbot
  • Title Drop: In the first episode.
    Davenport: They're just students!
    Goddard: Flunking students. Space cases, the misfits, the— ! Nothing personal, Mr. Band.
  • To the Batpole!: The cast uses a network of unbelievably cool slide-like tubes to travel between areas of the ship. Thanks to TECHNOLOGY they can slide up just as easily as down. One episode even had the ship malfunctioning so two of them got stuck in the tubes all day.
  • Translator Microbes: Harlan is given a potion by a tribe of aliens who think he's their king to allow him to understand them. Not only was language never an issue before or after but language poses no problem for the others when they show up to rescue him.
  • Trapped on the Astral Plane:
    • In the episode "Nowhere Man", Harlan is accidentally blasted into another dimension, becoming incapable of interacting with the physical world or being seen by his teammates. His plight isn't discovered until Radu's superhuman hearing picks up his pleas for help. The other kids ultimate find a way to restore him.
    • At the end of the first season, Catalina is shunted off into another reality in an explosion. As a side-effect, her friend Suzie, previously believed to be imaginary, ends up physically manifesting aboard the Christa.
  • True Companions: Andromedans are born in hatcheries and raised without a family. The Christa's crew is Radu's first experience of what families are like. Too bad it's a dysfunctional one.
  • Uranus Is Showing
    Bova: I hate being from Uranus! I'm the butt of every joke!
  • Wagon Train to the Stars: The Crista travels to many planets on its trip home.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: After Suzee and Catalina settled into their respective new homes, the entire subplot of returning them to their original dimensions was dropped completely.
  • Whole-Plot Reference:
    • "Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Court" is a "Rashomon"-Style episode in which the crew try to determine who is at fault for an accident.
    • "The Impossible Dram" is heavily inspired by Don Quixote, as Catalina aids a self-styled knight-errant in hunting a dragon that is supposedly hidden aboard the Christa.