Sci Fi TV Genre Gems: Forgotten magic and hidden treasures from the worlds of sci fi TV
What Is It? This short-lived 1993 television series followed the adventures of a misfit band of the Space Rangers Corps stationed on the edge of the explored galaxy at Fort Hope. They must defend the colonists in their sector from menaces like inter-stellar bandits, an alien race known as the Banshees, and the most dangerous threat of all: budget cuts.
Why It Stands Out: This blink-and-you-missed-it series was no ground-breaker and it definitely served a healthy serving of cheese with its sci fi. But it was good, raucous fun that drew a bit on Aliens and also hinted at what would come later with Space: Above and Beyond, and it definitely deserved more than its truncated six episode run.
The Skinny: 1993 was an important year for sci fi television with The X-Files gaining a reputation in its first season and Babylon 5 and Star Trek: DS9 getting their launches. And amidst that, Space Rangers briefly popped onto our screens before slipping into cult infamy. It was a cheesy bit of space opera that often over-stepped the reach of its budget limitations (which the rangers themselves had to deal with within the series), but it had an immediate charm with plenty of potential to develop into a sleeper genre series. It gave us the well-tread trope of a group of intrepid misfits fighting against all odds to defend the people who depended on them from the many dangers of deep space. And it practically stole the aliens from the Alien film franchise, though it gave them a bit of a twist. And while none of the episodes delivered what could be called first-rate genre scripts, the collection of colorful characters all had their quirky charms that somehow seemed to elevate the stories above the level of throwaway retreads. Space Rangers offered the usual suspects for a genre show–the grizzled captain, the vicious yet restrained alien, the kick-butt female, the cranky engineer, the green rookie–but the actors demonstrated an affecting chemistry that just made the series work. And this set of actors also succeeded at getting the most from the limited scripts. This wasn’t the more intelligent sci fi we were seeing with Babylon 5 and the Star Trek sequel shows, but it mixed humor with a dour grittiness and went down quite easily. Unfortunately, the show was out of place on the broadcast networks (especially genre-averse CBS) and would have had a much better chance in the syndication market where sci fi TV was reinventing itself at that time. It only lasted six episodes, but those delivered plenty of shoot-em-up, swashbuckling sci fi fun and are definitely worth seeking out. And the series finally made it to DVD, so I highly recommend you give it a look.
Notable Stars: Marjorie Monaghan (Jojo Thorsen), Clint Howard (Dr. Mimmer)
Did You Know: This series proved very popular abroad which prompted its full release on VHS the year after it came out, one of the first short-lived shows to have that honor. It later received a DVD release for Region 2 as well (and it is now available domestically on DVD).
Marjorie Monaghan (no relation to Dominic) later appeared in several episodes of Babylon 5 as “Number One”, the leader of the Mars resistance. She also guest-starred on sci fi shows Quantum Leep, Star Trek: Voyager, The Sentinel, The Pretender, and Andromeda. And she was considered for the part of T’Pol in Star Trek: Enterprise. Clint Howard (Ron’s brother), appeared as a child in the infamous Star Trek episode “The Corbomite Maneuver” and has had many genre roles since then.
Sci Fi Genre Gems: Forgotten magic and hidden treasures from the worlds of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror
Sure, everybody knows Star Trek and Star Wars and Harry Potter and the other “big name” sci fi / fantasy franchises, but there’s so much more to the genre than just those juggernauts. Anybody remember Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski’s other TV series, the post-apocalyptic Jeremiah? What about the Kick-Ass-like Defendor which starred Woody Harrelson and actually beat Kick-Ass to the punch (so to speak)? Ever read the Pelman the Powershaper fantasy book series that pitted an actor/wizard/prophet against a two-headed dragon and a sentient castle (two, actually)? What about that PBS television adaptation of Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Lathe of Heaven? Anybody want to play the Nuclear War card game?
Never heard about of those properties mentioned above? Then Sci Fi Genre Gems is here to enlighten you as it takes a look at the nuggets, the upstarts, the dark horses, the gems of science fiction and fantasy.
Delivering a journey through the obscure, the forgotten, and the over-looked, Sci Fi Genre Gems seeks out those hidden treasures to reveal to the wider sci fi fanbase what they have been missing. So prepare to discover some lost nuggets of the genre that may have been previously unknown or that you may have just heard about in passing references. Also get ready to revisit some buried classics (or semi-classics) as this book goes beyond the big names and uncovers some of the less-renown entries of the genre while offering up a fun read that will expand your sci fi horizons.