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Space: Above and Beyond – Choice or Chance (Review)

This November (and a little of December), we’re taking a trip back in time to review the third season of The X-Files and the first (and only) season of Space: Above and Beyond.

Hostile Visit and Choice or Chance follow the two-part template established by The X-Files, keeping things fresh by offering a pretty dramatic shift between the two episodes in question.

Hostile Visit featured a covert trojan house mission to infiltrate enemy space and stage a devastating attack behind enemy lines. The episode ended with the mission a failure and our heroes drifting through space. Choice or Chance features our heroes landing on a prison planet maintained by the Silicates, the evil artificial organisms that have skirted around the edge of the show’s mythology to this point.

Here's Douggie!

Here’s Douggie!

Choice or Chance comes very close to working. It is a lot more dynamic than Hostile Visit was, which is a good thing for the second half of a two-parter airing during November Sweeps. However, while Hostile Visit felt a little padded and extended, never quite building the momentum necessary for the story to work, Choice or Chance feels a little over-stuffed. There’s a lot of nice stuff here, but no room to properly digest it. It’s an episode that comes up with something for every member of the cast to do, but this inevitably means that the character arcs feel abbreviated and shortened.

There is a  pretty solid two-part episode to be constructed out of the ingredients of Hostile Visit and Choice or Chance. Sadly, the resulting two-parter is not it.

Crash and burn...

Crash and burn…

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Space: Above and Beyond – Hostile Visit (Review)

This November (and a little of December), we’re taking a trip back in time to review the third season of The X-Files and the first (and only) season of Space: Above and Beyond.

At this point, Space: Above and Beyond could do a lot worse than learn from The X-Files.

There are quite a few echoes of The X-Files in Space: Above and Beyond, becoming more pronounced as the show approaches the middle of the season. Eyes built on the suggestion of conspiracy and cover-up to assure viewers that Space: Above and Beyond was just as cynical about authority as The X-Files ever was. The Enemy felt like an attempt to copy the formula that Morgan and Wong had worked so well back in Ice.

Picture imperfect...

Picture imperfect…

Hostile Visit and Choice or Chance feels like an attempt to do a big sweeps two-parter in the style of The X-Files. This was a crucial moment for Space: Above and Beyond. The series had been scheduled outside of its comfort zone, had not been drawing huge ratings, had found itself preempted and bounced around the schedule as a result of factors outside its control. It needed a strong performance for the November sweeps, which were a matter of pride (and money) for the networks and a matter of interest for the advertisers.

So structuring a two-parter around that period makes a great deal of sense. Unfortunately, Hostile Visit does not make for the most compelling first half.

"I want a good clean sweep."

“I want a good clean sweep.”

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