What Could Have Been: Space: Above & Beyond Season 2
This month’s edition returns to a show that had its moment in the Obscure Sci-Fi Primer spotlight just a few months ago. Like so many other Fox shows, Space: Above & Beyond was canceled before it had a chance, after being yanked around by the network for a few months. From the start, the creators had hoped the show would last at least 5 seasons, which in and of itself is a pretty common desire for showrunners (5 seasons times 22 episodes equals 110 total, enough to secure syndication, which in the 90s is where the big money came from). And while this show is hardly a well-planned out 5 year arc like Babylon 5, the creators, James Wong and Glen Morgan, did have some plans for Space: Above & Beyond season 2 sketched out before the show was canceled (and even discussed the possibility of a theatrical continuation). So let’s dig in and find out where this very military show might have headed had it continued.
First and foremost, the finale wouldn’t have been as it was; had they known in advance they’d get another season, it wouldn’t have ended with nearly all the characters dead or in mortal danger. But even with the finale the way it ended up, there were plans to continue the story.
- Essentially, they’d have been able to write out anyone who wanted out fairly easily. Even if everyone somehow returned and survived, the plan was to introduce new characters anyway. In a chat held by the Sci-Fi Channel after the show’s cancellation, Wong and Morgan stated that McQueen would’ve returned to Earth and had to face his new disabilities. His replacement would’ve been a woman, although there’s very little detail about her character. It sounds like it would’ve been an “Umbridge” situation, to borrow a phrase from TVTropes, which is itself a fairly common plot when introducing a change in leadership.
- In a separate chat with McQueen’s actor James Morrison, he described McQueen’s season 2 arc as a “warrior without a war,” and part of his recovery would’ve meant accepting his new prosthetic leg, built off the same technology used to construct the Silicates. Having his former enemies now, in some way, a part of himself might have proven difficult to accept.
- According to more dubious sources (ones that have vanished to the annals of internet history, where even the Wayback Machine can’t find them), the female commander would’ve had a lot of friction with most of the surviving WildCards, the exception being Vansen, who’d have looked up to her. Eventually, as is often the fate of “Umbridge”-type characters, she’d have screwed up and lost Vansen’s support, ultimately being sent away. This is a rather predictable subplot, so I hope they’d have done something different or more interesting with it. This would be right around the time when McQueen is getting past his problems, making way for his return.
- Furthermore, exploration of Chig culture and a look at their society and homeworld would’ve been a big part of Space: Above & Beyond season 2. Stumbling upon the incubator planet was setup for this. Delving into the alien civilization and proving that they’re not so different after all would’ve absolutely been in keeping with the show’s themes of the cost of war for the everyman.
- All of the characters in danger at the series’ end would’ve had a way out, should the continuation (in whatever form it took) have deemed their survival important to the plot. Damphousse and Vansen would’ve been captured and taken to work in a brothel (either the same one, or a similar one, to the Bacchus ship). This is an absolutely awful idea, if you ask me. Taking your only two female characters and instantly throwing them both into a situation like that is just… ugh. Especially taking into account that this isn’t even the enemy, here. It’s their own side; it’s other humans. Given that Glen Morgan actually ended up married to Kristen Cloke, Vansen’s actor, his opinion on that seemed to change. Other interviews and con appearances by him have suggested the ladies be rescued by Hawkes and West, possibly using the dead Chig Ambassador’s ship.
- Wang, meanwhile, could have survived with some kind of escape pod, left in space in a really difficult spot. From what I gather, the showrunners have gone back and forth on whether he’d have survived to season 2 or been killed off as a form of redemption, but had he survived, one of the ideas toyed with would be that rescue comes to him in the form of a Silicate identical to his torturer. So while this innocent AI might save him, he’d still have PTSD-style struggles with their shared appearance.
- West, as we know, was reunited with his girlfriend, but it’s unclear if she’d have been a continuing presence on the show in its second season. They’d have to address her somehow, either by sending her back to Earth (preferable) or coming up with a convoluted reason for her to be on the ship (…less preferable. Significantly).
- The WildCards as a whole would’ve had to face the music, being courtmartialed for leaking info to the enemy as an act of conscience. And in the end, their punishment is simply to be sent back to the front lines. Earth is doing poorly at this point, but as the first season had been leading up to, the humans were basically the aggressors in all this, so…
- By the end of the series, the war would end not with a climactic battle and overwhelming victory for the humans, but with a peace treaty that no one’s particularly happy with, having wasted years and millions of lives and countless resources, all for nothing. According to Morgan and Wong, the series would end with the surviving WildCards having a toast to fallen friends, a bittersweet note to drive home the senselessness of war.
While the ending sounds great, a lot of these other ideas are clearly underdeveloped, which is forgivable given that everyone knew the show was doomed long before a second season was even on the table. Of the possibilities they considered, I think a wrap-up movie would’ve been a better option for this show than a second season, but if they managed to bring in some more interesting subplots like the conspiracy one from the first season, then maybe it’d still be okay. The only real problem I see with a wrap-up movie is how bad the CGI is in the series itself; if they’d done a movie, the graphic would have to be better, and that’d create a huge disconnect between series and movie. Other series that made the jump like Firefly or TNG didn’t really have this problem.
What do you think of these plans for Space: Above & Beyond season 2? Would a wrap-up movie have been better, or do you prefer the ending as is, in spite of its relative hopelessness? How about suggestions for future “What Could Have Been” pieces? Let me know in the comments, or on twitter @RetroPhaseShift. You can also subscribe to the “What Could Have Been” RSS Feed here.