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Space: Above And Beyond 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 flying 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 (its 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.

Tropes used in Space: Above and Beyond include:


  • Ace Custom: Chiggy Von Richthofen's fighter.
  • Action Girl: Many of the female Marines, but particularly Vansen.
  • AI Is a Crapshoot: The Silicates.
  • All Planets Are Earthlike: both averted and played straight in different episodes.
  • Arc Words: "Abandon all hope," a Shout-Out to the Divine Comedy.
    • "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.
    • "Take a chance," the message that leads to the Silicate rebellion.
  • Artificial Human: The InVitro "Tanks", 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.
  • 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)
  • Awesome McCoolname: Colonel Tyrus Cassius Mc Queen
  • Baby Factory: Where the InVitros come from.
  • 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.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Most of the Wildcards are dead or missing, McQueen is severely injured in an explosion, the war, once within sight of peace, now rages as intense as ever, 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.
  • 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.
    • Later the Chig are show to be grown in bee hive like domes and wend ready are planned under ground, making them part bee part plant.
  • 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
  • Bunny Ears Lawyer: Major Mc Kendrick, 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
  • The Cast Showoff: Tucker Smallwood as Commodore Ross played blues guitar as often as possible.
  • 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, USMC, says hello.
  • 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.
    • Inverted as well, with McQueen torturing a captured Silicate saboteur to death to find out where Chiggy Von Richthofen is.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Aero-Tech.
  • 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. [1]
  • 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.
  • Dangerous Deserter: Major Mc Kendrick is a subversion of sorts. In fact, when Mc Queen 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
  • Dead Line 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. [2]
  • 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".
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty:
    • Gunnery Sergeant Hartmann reappears, only this time he insists his name is Bogess... (and 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.
  • 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.
  • Faceless Goons: the enemy was almost always shown wearing their environmental suits
    • Justified that 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
  • 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.
  • Fatal Family Photo: Averted. The photo of his girlfriend is specifically what keeps West going.
  • A Father to His Men: Lt. Col. McQueen, even if it's often the stern-father archetype. As the series goes on it becomes increasingly clear that the Wildcards are incredibly important to Mc Queen, and whenever it appears they are dead or lost his distress is obvious. This all counts double for Hawkes, given that both are In Vitros and Mc Queen begins to serve as a Parental Substitute to him.
  • Good Looking Privates
  • Government Conspiracy: Oddly, for the human race's own good.
  • Handicapped Badass: Lieutenant Colonel T.C. McQueen, callsign "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.
  • 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.
  • Humanoid Aliens
  • 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.
  • 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
  • In Space Everyone Can See Your Face: Those lighted helmets must make good aiming points for Chig soldiers in the dark.
  • ISO Standard Human Spaceship
  • 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.
  • Land Mine Goes Click
  • Left Hanging
  • Living Ship: the Chigs spacecraft were at least partly biological and may or may not have been sentient.
  • Macross Missile Massacre McQueen kills Chiggy von Richthofen with one.
  • Manchurian Agent: "Eyes"
  • Meaningful Echo: "I Believe In You," by the end of the show, it becomes "I believe... in all of you."
  • Mega Corp: Aerotech.
  • Mildly Military: Averted; The show went out of its way to show a rigid military command structure with a lot of division between ranks.
  • Military Science Fiction
  • Minovsky Physics: "Sewel Fuel"
  • 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.
  • Mix-and-Match Man: Implied to be used to make the Tanks
  • 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; translating an alien language proves extremely difficult (see below); .
    • But they completely ignored the crucial fact that Groombridge 34 is a binary star system! How could they?!
    • There are oblique references to "Hawking(?) Drives" but it's never actually established whether humans or Chigs have artificial faster-than-light propulsion, though logically it would be a much different war than was shown if naturally occurring wormholes are the only means of getting from star system to star system.
  • Must Have Caffeine: Sgt. Fox takes his morning coffee by swallowing a mouthful of coffee grounds washed down with canteen water.
  • The Neidermeyer: Ray Butts
  • Nicknaming the Enemy: The term "Chigs" is used to refer to their alien enemies, apparently because they look like chiggers.
  • Nose Art: Chiggy Von Richtofen's Ace Custom has a human skull painted on the nose, and the words "Abandon All Hope".
  • Old School Dogfighting
  • Operation Blank: Several examples, most notably the much-foreshadowed "Operation Roundhammer", the all-out invasion of the Chig homeworld.
  • People Jars
  • 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, Mc Queen 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 Mc Queen, Hawkes, or someone they freed are the two Silicates and the Chig that Vanson and Damphousse manage to kill from their prison cell
  • Red Herring: 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.
  • Ridiculously-Human Robots
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Vansen goes on one when she learns why the Silicates killed her parents: they flipped a coin, 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.
  • Shoot the Dog: The entire show is implied to be a series of these moments)
  • Shout-Out: In Space, no one can hear you scream... Unless it's a UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS BATTLECRY!!!
  • 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.
  • Space Fighter
  • Space Plane
  • 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 Marine: Notably US Marines, but since it's the future their role has been extended to space.
  • The Squad
  • The Squadette: Vansen. Damphousse was female but not a Squadette.
  • 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 Mc Kendrick
  • 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!". Turns out that Pearly is a Tank, not an APC
  • Technology Marches On: CRT Monitors and CD-RO Ms are used aboard the Saratoga.
  • Theme Naming: The Nakama's squadron is called The Wildcards. Their callsigns are all based on poker cards.
  • 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".
  • Torture Technician: Elroy EL.
  • Turned Against Their Masters The Silicates and InVitros.
  • Two Plus Torture Makes Five Wang confesses under torture to war crimes he didn't commit.
  • United Nations Is a Super Power: 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?
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Most of the problems that the humans have with the Silicates and the Tanks is the fact that 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.
    • Mc Queen 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, Mc Queen orders that the "pile of scrap" be disposed of.
  • 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.

Notes

  1. And we never see most of the Angry Angels wear them after the pilot episode. See The Worf Effect.
  2. 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.
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