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.
Aired: 1993, CBS, 1 Season Totaling 6 Episodes
Starring: Jeff Kaake, Jack McGee, Marjorie Monaghan, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Clint Howard, Linda Hunt
Created By: Pen Densham
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.
Is It Must-Watch Sci Fi? No, but it is a ton of fun.
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 entry. It gave us the well-tread trope of a group of intrepid misfits fighting against all odds vs. the many dangers of deep space to protect the people who depended on them. 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 they 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.
Cancelled Too Soon? Yes. CBS execs apparently took notice that the sci fi genre was doing quite well off-network in syndication and on the cable channels and decided they should get their own series on the schedule. However, that network had little tolerance for genre shows (a fact that is still true today), and didn’t give this one much of a chance. They scheduled it in the Wednesday 8 PM EST timeslot that they had struggled with for several seasons, and not surprisingly it debuted to poor ratings. The network cancelled the show after only one episode and only aired four of the six completed.
Should It Be Rebooted? Yes, yes, yes! Well . . . I think it should. The show was a ton of fun and could have turned into a decent little sci fi series. The concept has plenty of potential even if it is somewhat derivative. The best way to reboot it would be to set the new series in the future related to the original and bring back some of the actors, maybe acting as administrators of Fort Hope now. But this one never developed much name recognition, even if it was popular overseas, and I doubt there would be much interest in bringing it back.
Interesting Facts: 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.
Where Can You Watch It? The entire series has been released on DVD and it is economically priced. It is not available for streaming that I am aware of, but the episodes tend to show up on YouTube.