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Space: Above and Beyond – Never No More (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.

On the surface, Never No More and The Angriest Angel feel like a companion piece to Hostile Visit and Choice or Chance. Both are two-part episodes airing around sweeps, almost in step with the equivalent two-part episodes of The X-Files. Both push the show’s story arcs forward. Both also draw in recurring guest stars Doug Hutchinson and Michael Mantell, last seen during Choice or Chance. In many respects, Never No More and The Angriest Angel could be seen as a follow-up to that earlier two-part adventure.

However, there are a number of subtle differences that help Never No More and The Angriest Angel feel like a series highpoint – rather than another ambitious misfire. Hostile Visit and Choice or Chance seemed like episodes trying to do too much, and straying into areas where Space: Above and Beyond had always faced difficulty. They were high-concept science-fiction epic adventures that also tried to work in character arcs for the entire ensemble, set against a truly epic story about an ambitious suicide mission and subsequent rescue attempt.

It's only a paper moon...

It’s only a paper moon…

In a way, Never No More and The Angriest Angel are a lot more modest in their scope. There are big revelations here, and plot points that push the show’s arc forwards. However, these elements are not foregrounded. Never No More and The Angriest Angel are not episodes that aspire to be all things to all people. Instead, they are two character studies centred on the two strongest characters (and actors) in the cast, filling in other details as a secondary concern.

Space: Above and Beyond always worked better as a war show than as a science-fiction drama, and Never No More and The Angriest Angel seem to realise this. The two episodes play as an extended homage to the tropes and conventions of classic war stories. Never No More is the story of love divided by conflict, and The Angriest Angel is a tale of personal discovery set against the backdrop of a larger war. They combine to produce a highlight of the entire Space: Above and Beyond run.

Not a patch on his original squadron...

Not a patch on his original squadron…

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Space: Above and Beyond – The Dark Side of the Sun (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 is half-way between an epic space opera and a wartime saga.

The Dark Side of the Sun confirms something suggested as early as The Pilot. While creators Glen Morgan and James Wong have a firm grasp of the war story aspect of the show, they are a bit less comfortable with the science-fiction elements. While The Farthest Man From Home was a solid old-fashioned “love in wartime” epic, The Dark Side of the Sun is steeped in stock science-fiction elements and interesting ideas, but seems to falter in the execution.

Wild cards...

Wild cards…

It feels very much like Morgan and Wong are trying to push the show’s science-fiction elements to the fore, but aren’t entirely comfortable with those elements. The result is a curious little episode, one that does a decent amount of character and world-building, while also baking some intriguing ideas and concepts into this potential future for mankind. At the same time, there’s an awkwardness to it all, as if The Dark Side of the Sun is trying to establish the show’s sci-fi credentials and can’t quite figure how everything fits together.

The Dark Side of the Sun is a show that feels like it could have used a bit more time and another draft or two, perhaps a reminder that Morgan and Wong are still relatively new at this sort of thing.

Cold dead eyes...

Cold dead eyes…

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