Thursday, April 7, 2016

Collection Recommendation #5: Space Rangers (1993)

Most of you probably don’t recall the CBS series, "Space Rangers", but to the select few who did acknowledge its six-episode, 1993 run, it remains revered for its unpretentious, swashbuckling storytelling.  (Currently, the series is available on DVD through Mill Creek Entertainment.)

Created and produced by Pen Densham, "Space Rangers" involves a group of space marines aboard the defense craft, Slingshot #377 (aka, "Tin Lizzie"), who protect and police a crime-prone colony called Fort Hope, on the planet Avalon, in the Year 2104.

Overseen by the honorable Commander Chennault (Oscar winner, Linda Hunt) and the practical-to-a-fault Colonel Erich Weiss (Gottried John), the brave band is led by the Han Solo-ish, family man, Captain John Boon (Jeff "Viper" Kaake) and consists of soldier-minded Daniel Kincaid (Danny Quinn); geeky Dr. Mimmer (Clint Howard); craggy cyborg Doc Krueger (Jack McGee); beautiful, Ripley-esque Jojo Thorsen (Marjorie Monaghan); and priestly but petulant Zylyn (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa), of the Graaka race. Beyond Chennault and possibly Weiss (who occasionally insinuates Zachary Smith inclinations), the do-gooders are more in tune with the offbeat Guardians of the Galaxy than their refined “Star Trek” or “Babylon 5” counterparts (though in truth, Zylyn sometimes projects the edgier aspects of Spock and Worf). 

The set-ups aren't complex, but no less well constructed because of such. In many ways, they echo the no-nonsense, space operas of the ‘50s, like “Rocky Jones, Space Ranger” and “Tom Corbett, Space Cadet”, though with an early ‘90s look and sensibility. In fact, “Space Rangers” has the same slick zeal of John Wesley Shipp’s “Flash” and John Haymes Newton/Gerard Christopher's "Superboy", only set within a darker structure.

The adventures include an “Aliens” knock off (with the often referenced, teleporting Banshees as stand-ins); the discovery of an ancient super-weapon; drug smuggling; a know-it-all android; a particle-breaking alien; surly saurians; a stranded comedian; and that old standby...murder! Guest stars Keith Berger; Claudia Christian; Richard Grove; Buddy Hackett; Wings Hauser; Sherman Howard; Pat Morita; Leon Russom; and Sam Whipple (among others) help push the escapades along.

The lead characters, however, deserve exclusive credit for keeping the show anchored, with Tagawa’s Zylyn being the most memorable (and coming straight off the heels of the actor's admired Eddie Sakamura characterization in "Rising Sun"). In fact, to this day, whenever I see Tagawa in a movie or television show, particularly a fantasy-based one like "Mortal Kombat", “Planet of the Apes '01", or “Man in the High Castle”, I can’t help but recall Zylyn's stoic gallantry. 

Howard's Mimmer is also engaging, allowing the actor to take his fidgety mannerisms to new heights, which if only nurtured over a decent haul, may have formed his most celebrated persona. 

At this stage of the game, there’s little hope of a “Space Rangers” reunion, let alone the show having any profound impact on pop culture (its particular lightspeed and "bellysnapper" technologies sure seemed destined for such, though), but the series is still ripe for (re)discovery, deserving as much a pat on the back for effort as Joss Whedon's short-lived, “Firefly”.

As a fan, I'm hopeful the series' adventurous charm and DVD accessibility will carry it onward; and with fingers crossed, it might still gain the audience that evaded it nearly a quarter of a century ago. Check it out, in any event; I believe you'll appreciate (and maybe even savor) the visit. 

(As a side note: the music for "Space Rangers" was composed by Mark Mancina, noted for "Speed" and "Twister", and Hans Zimmer, acclaimed for his driving "Pirates of the Caribbean" and Batman/Superman scores. Their collaborative effort gives "Space Rangers" a breezy, heroic flow: a satisfying soundtrack just itching for its own official release.)

1 comment:

  1. Big fan of Marjorie Monaghan. I was pushing for this show and was sad when it got the ax.