February 16, 2012

Space Rangers: "Pilot"

1993 was a great year for American TV science fiction. Not only did Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Babylon 5 launch (and as you know, I've been writing about them quite a bit lately), we also got The X Files, Lois & Clark, SeaQuest DSV and a bunch of other shows.

The X Files was probably the most successful of the "class of 1993", but the least successful was probably Space Rangers. Created by Pen Densham, one of the writers of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, it lasted six episodes before it was quietly and unceremoniously shoved off the screen. Since I've been giving the other two space shows of '93 a fresh appraisal, it seemed only fair to dust off my copy of Space Rangers and giving the pilot a watch.

It's predictably dreadful, but dreadful in that bizarrely watchable way. It's fairly fast-paced, and breezy, and certainly colourful, and it has that same use of slightly too early computer-generated effects as Babylon 5 had. It follows a team of peacekeepers known as the Space Rangers, based on the colony of Fort Hope, as they travel around rescuing starships in peril and fighting off attacks from the mysterious "Banshees".
This is a show that wallows in cliche. Densham has created a very lazy series. There's the unshaven maverick space captain, who isn't out of line - the whole colony's out of line. There's the grizzled, bearded engineer who's half-cyborg and likes 20th century rock'n'roll. There's the alien warrior with a head just bumpy enough to plagiarise the Klingons without actually being sued for it. There's the hard-as-nails female space pilot who's too angry and "one of the boys" to fall in love. There's the rookie. There's the irritating scientist with glasses. And so on and so forth. The dialogue follows in pretty much the same vein.

There are a few things that rise above the generic "so bad it's good" vibe of the series. Linda Hunt plays Commander Chennaux, the head of Fort Hope, and she plays it with a lot of integrity for something so embarrassing. She's an Oscar winner, and deservedly so, and it's actually kind of sad that of every science fiction series that started in 1993 she got cast in this one. Also good is Cary-Hiroyuki Tanaka, a Japanese-American actor that I've always appreciated whenever I've seen him.

I'll probably keep rewatching Space Rangers in among the episode of DS9 and B5. I'm not sure it's worth blogging about every episode. I'll let you know. I can't say I didn't enjoy watching it, but there's no way I'm going to claim it's good. So this is zero good episodes out of one. So far.

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