Friday, January 9, 2015

Sci Fi Genre Gems: Space Rangers

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 colonists 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 to the next level.  Space Rangers delivered 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 makes it to DVD just recently, 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 cancelled shows to have that honor.  It later received a DVD release for Region 2 as well.

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.

Buy Space Rangers and Other Cancelled Sci Fi on DVD from

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