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Space: Above & Beyond – Pilot (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.

Space: Above and Beyond made a great deal of sense in the context of the mid-nineties. Fox had begun its life as a scrappy little network that had trouble producing seven nights of broadcasting, but had rapidly solidified itself into a credible alternative to the big three networks. There were lots of reasons for this. The X-Files was one reason, but the network had also solidified itself with a slate of popular young dramas like Beverly Hills 90210, Melrose Place and Party of Five. Securing the NFL rights in 1993 didn’t hurt.

By late 1995, Fox was largely past the growing pains stage of its evolution. The network had been announced in late 1985, and first hit the airwaves in late 1986. It was approach the end of its first decade by the time Space: Above and Beyond was broadcast. Fox was no longer a small network fighting for scraps, but a viable challenger to the so-called “big three.” This change in outlook would lead to great success in the twenty-first century, but would also lead to change in how Fox did business.

Everything burns...

Everything burns…

The X-Files had been the right show at the right time in a number of ways. It landed at the perfect point to speak to a generation that grew up in the shadow of Watergate, but also to tap into millennial anxieties and insecurities. From a commercial perspective, The X-Files launched towards the end of the period where Fox could take chances on young shows struggling to find an audience. The first season of The X-Files was a cult hit, but not a breakout success story. The network had faith in the show, and that faith paid off.

It is interesting to wonder whether The X-Files would have received a second season if it débuted even two years later. After all, Fox would develop a reputation as a network with a ruthless tendency towards cancellation and plug-pulling. If The X-Files had first appeared in September 1995, would it have enjoyed the same fate as Space: Above and Beyond?

Distant sands...

Distant sands…

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