Tuesday, 9 December 2014

1997: SPACE: ABOVE AND BEYOND Issue 1 (Titan Magazines)

From March 1997: The first issue of Titan Magazine's SPACE: ABOVE AND BEYOND comic/ magazine, based on the short-lived FOX fighting-in-space TV show that spluttered to a halt after one season.

Titan must have known this monthly had a finite life before they even published this first issue (complete with a nice pin badge with the squadron logo) as the bulk of the contents came from the US comic published by Topps... and that only mustered five issues before closing.

The three-part limited series revived the old Marvel tradition of stretching an adaptation of the feature-length pilot over three issues.  The two-part follow-up, The Gauntlet, was an original adventure.  The end of the TV show, along with (presumably) low sales, meant Topps didn't publish anything else.  

The UK edition managed four issues (the three-part pilot and the first installment of the follow-up) with an announcement that the impending fifth edition would be the last.  Titan obviously had no intention of spending their own money on commissioning new material.  But the fifth issue never appeared.

Titan also issued a trade paperback collection (now long out-of-print but a regular fixture of remaindered book shops for years) which collected all five of the US issues.  

The demise of the Titan edition can probably be attributed to the show's UK scheduling.  Sky, predictably, had first bite and - as I recall - ran the show on (the soon-to-be-defunct) SKY TWO channel (which they seemed to be positioning as their home for SF and fantasy shows).  Titan launched the monthly to coincide with the terrestrial broadcast on BBC TWO... except the schedulers tucked the show away in a late Friday night slot where audiences (especially the type who would then go out and buy a comic about the show) must have been miniscule. 

The show has now been released on DVD. 


  1. I loved that show when I was younger. Pretty decent effects (to my eye, much less gloss and more realistic than Babylon 5) and some great casting. A very dark sort of saga, which probably hurt its chances, putting it ahead of its time.

  2. What I most remember about Space was the producers - not unreasonably - complaining about a negative print review months ahead of the show's premiere that was based on a pirated copy of the pilot which had no SFX, no musical score, was 40 minutes long, and had a different cast. The then-small world of sci-fi journalism closed ranks and proceeded to take a hatchet to the show regardless of the occasionally-high quality of episodes, and word of mouth had ruined interest in it before it made it to UK channels.

    1. Didn't that rogue review appear in SFX magazine? I remember it at the time.

      That said, I thought the Pilot (the only outing shot in Australia... hence the brief appearance of Jim from Neighbors) was pretty dire when I first saw it. It just didn't seem to gel very well, despite the talent on-camera and behind the scenes. The first episode of the weekly series proper seemed star miles better.

      That said, I think the series as a whole struggled to find its voice. I expected a tone and delivery more akin to TOUR OF DUTY (albeit in space) and the writing seldom really captured that.

      I was surprised that FOX didn't keep this on air longer... the show was cancelled on the eve of the release of the first of the STAR WARS prequels (via another part of the vast Fox conglomerate) and S: A&B looked well-placed to capitalize on the upswing in interest in the genre (not least because it reminded me a lot of the original BATTLESTAR, long before the remake was mooted).

    2. I don't know about the timing of the Star Wars prequels being much use to Space's PR, but I recall thinking if Fox had held onto the show for a second season, the timing would have been perfect to cash in on the success of 1997's Starship Troopers, which was another space war franchise about marines fighting an army of insects in a dystopian future, and which had tapped into the post-pub audience that would be the only ones likely to see Space in its graveyard programming slots.

      Yeah the pilot wasn't much cop compared to later episodes like Who Monitors the Birds, but it - and follow-up episodes - were clearly nowhere near as bad as the small world of sci-fi journalism was suggesting at the time - a particularly noticeable disparity if you were scratching your head wondering why they were so cock-a-hoop about the often-disappointing Babylon 5.
      Although to this day I still wonder who that Asian lady was in the Space pilot. You could see her in all the group shots of the Wild Cards squadron, but she never spoke and was gone by the first episode of the series proper. Perhaps she was a ghost like that kid from Three Men and a Baby?


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