Space Cases is a science fiction television series that aired on Nickelodeon for two seasons. Created by Peter David and Bill Mumy, it premiered on March 2, 1996, and was cancelled a year later. It aired for a time on Nickelodeon's Saturday night block of shows known as SNICK, and on Nickelodeon UK, with reruns on Family and TVOntario in Canada. An episode aired on TeenNick in the US as part of its The '90s Are All That block on the night of October 14, 2011 for the block's U Pick with Stick line-up.
The show's premise revolves around a group of misfit students and two adults who are stranded far from home aboard an alien ship. Their attempts at journeying back see many dangerous adventures and controversies, with some occasionally more mature themes.
Because of budget constraints, props from Are You Afraid of the Dark? and other Nickelodeon shows were used in the show. In other episodes, more mundane props were used, as in the episode "Homeward Bound," the character Suzee is sitting in a chair with compact discs pasted to either side. During the first season, electronic games such as Lights Out, were used as 'control panels' on walls.
Season One's original theme song was orchestra-based, with an announcer voice-over giving a preamble. A vocal song telling the story of the Space Cases was used as the closing. For Season Two, this song was moved to the front and re-recorded to accommodate the removal of Catalina, the addition of Suzee, and some re-arranging to how the characters were presented. At some point after the series ended, Nickelodeon had the song re-recorded once more, using the same character arrangement as Season Two, but removing Suzee and adding Catalina back in, and created a new opening for the Season One episodes with this song.
It was shot in Montreal, Quebec.
- Theresa James "T.J." Davenport (Cary Lawrence) is the children's vice principal, but serves as their teacher aboard the Christa. Davenport takes herself and the rest of the universe a little too seriously. She has a habit of fainting at the first sign of danger, but on several occasions has stood strong in the face of terrible danger, even though she ends up bluffing some of the time.
- Commander Seth Goddard (Paul Boretski) is a former Stardog, and fought in the Spung War. Busted in rank from Captain and forced to teach the "Space Cases," Goddard is tough enough to whip the kids into shape, though his rigidity sometimes entices the kids to provoke him and Miss Davenport with practical jokes. He has a long and bitter rivalry with a space pirate named Reaver. It is revealed in the second-season episode "Long Distance Calls" that Goddard was busted in rank for "almost starting a war" with Reaver. Goddard's backstory is one of the least explained in the series, and Reaver's appearance in the episode (whose entrance into the plot is explained by the creation of a communications device that the Christa's crew has possession of and Reaver wants to steal) raises more questions than answers. For example, Reaver can hold his own in a fight against Radu, who is Andromedan and allegedly has the strength of ten Earth men. Reaver even, for a time, 'psychically' combats Suzee who, up to this point in the series, never had problems pitching her consciousness into another entity to control them.
- Harlan Band (Walter Emanuel Jones) is a human from Earth, and is attending the Academy to become a Stardog like his biological father, who was killed by an Andromedan during the Andromedan War. Because of this, he is often antagonistic and prejudiced against Radu, at least during Season One. Harlan is headstrong and the self-appointed leader of the students, acting as pilot on the bridge. However, he is extremely overconfident, which sometimes leads to his endangering the crew. Harlan displays advanced martial arts and gymnastics skills. Jones is also credited as stunt coordinator in an episode of Space Cases.
- Catalina (Jewel Staite) is a rainbow-haired female ship's engineer from Titan, a moon of Saturn. Saturnians possess evolved vocal patterns, giving them and Catalina the ability to release destructive sonic screams. Though hers have disabled missiles, floored large attackers and assaulted the ship and all its contents, Catalina considers her powers to be "nothing" compared to the really skilled Saturnians who are known to shatter buildings with a single sonic blast. Catalina is often heard using the term "Grozit" which appears to be a Saturnian non-vulgar expletive, similar in usage to the word "Heavens," in context such as "Heavens, no/Grozit, no." Series co-creator Peter David has used the curse "Grozit" in his Star Trek: New Frontier novels and Captain Marvel comics. Initially, Catalina carries on conversations with Suzee, a person whom she explains is an invisible friend that no one else can see, but her crewmates initially believe Suzee to be an imaginary friend, despite Catalina's insistence to the contrary. In the Season 1 finale, "On the Road to Find Out", Suzee is explicitly revealed to be a real person, played by Rebecca Herbst. It is explained that Suzee existed in another dimension, on a planet called Yensid. In Season One, Catalina explains that their brainwaves are attuned to the same sonic frequency, allowing them to speak and even see each other as though they are in the same room (Catalina even turns to face Suzee as she talks to her). Catalina even tells the others that she can see Suzee, but no one else can. In Season Two, when Suzee and Catalina trade places, Catalina lives at Suzee's home and is not present on the ship in the same manner that Suzee seemed to be during Season One. During the second season, Suzee explains that something blocks off her ability to communicate with Catalina inter-dimensionally, which may have something to do with the reason why Suzee can't see Catalina the same way Catalina saw Suzee in Season One. Jewel Staite would again play a young engineer on a spaceship years later in the cult television series Firefly.
- Radu (Kristian Ayre) is a being from a planet called Andromeda (most people assume this to mean that he is from the Andromeda Galaxy). He has no real family, since Andromedans are hatched from eggs. Radu has super-sensitive hearing and superhuman strength, just as all Andromedans do, which was the reason behind the Spungs enslaving them and starting the Andromedan War. Radu suffers from an inferiority complex; as such, he tries his very hardest to get people to like him. The Andromedan culture is based on uniformity of mind and purpose, making Radu's desire to have a family and be his own person an anomaly of character. Radu has an appreciable sense of direction, which makes him the best candidate for the ship's navigator, forcing him to work in conjunction with the pilot, rival Harlan Band. Andromedans not only possess an internal temperature, but an internal barometric pressure as well. It is possible, when ill, for an Andromedan to have snow come from their ears. Radu has a significantly greater molecular density than most humanoids, which accounts for his superior strength, stability and long hair (which is nearly impossible to cut). In the episode "Desperately Seeking Suzee," the Christa is knocked around, and the entire crew is thrust about except for Radu who stands comfortably still with his arms crossed. He is also more patient,logical and realistic than the rest of the crew, especially Harlan.
- Bova (Rahi Azizi) is from Uranus. His race possesses an extra appendage: a small, pronged antennae growing from their forehead which can generate powerful blasts of electricity. Bova has an incredible metabolism that supplements his advanced energy production, which is the reason for his incredible appetite. He will eat nearly anything, and is always hungry. Being from Uranus, and thereby "the butt of every joke," he is consistently pessimistic in every situation, a Uranian cultural trait. Bova is responsible for operating and monitoring the Christa's shields. The nature of Bova's name is never explained, but in the Season Two episode "Long Distance Calls," when Bova's father, Benn, calls to speak to his son. This is a reference to science fiction writer Ben Bova. (It is assumed that Uranusians have only one name.)
- Rosie Ianni (Paige Christina) is from Mercury, and has the ability to produce vast amounts of heat at will. At the beginning of the series, she wore a helmet to help her control this ability, but it was removed in subsequent episodes, revealing her inherent bald head, which is a trait of all Mercurians. Rosie is the mothering influence within the crew, always trying to make sure that her fellow cadets are happy and getting along (because Mercury is so close to the sun, all Mercurians have a tendency to 'look on the bright side' of things). She serves as a doctor/scientist, and has a tendency to adopt seemingly cute things that turn out to be troublesome for the crew. At one point in the series, Rosie temporarily took on the power to generate telekinetic energy blasts, on top of her fire-based powers.
- Thelma (Techno Human EmuLating MAchine) (Anik Matern), the mysterious ship's only native inhabitant, is an android who often malfunctions, owing in no small part to the fact that her memory chip, a small gem residing in her forehead, is cracked. (It is unclear whether the crystal was cracked when Harlan stepped on it, or if the damage was preexisting.) She has a habit of taking things too literally, and often does not realize moderately obvious things. In season 2, her appearance changes to reflect the altered appearance of the Christa following the emergency crash on a planet. Her color changes from copper to silver and her gem changes from amber to saphire.
- Suzee (Rebecca Herbst) is Catalina's best friend, and is believed to be imaginary by the crew throughout Season One. Following Catalina's apparent death at the end of Season One, Suzee joins the crew in her stead. Suzee's hair is similar to Catalina's, but is longer and actually shows up as colored streaks interspersed through her predominantly brunette hair. She is very intelligent (she is said to be "smarter than a million books" in the revised opening title sequence that includes her character) and has two sets of gills just beneath both sides of her clavicle that allow her to breathe in any atmosphere, though not in the vacuum of space. A bit overconfident herself, and sometimes at odds with Miss Davenport for being treated like a child despite not officially being one of her students, Suzee is also a telepath who can read others' minds and project her consciousness into other people's minds in order to possess their bodies. This ability even extends to sentient computers, such as Pezu in the series finale "A Friend in Need". Suzee often acts as a rival to Harlan, though as the season progresses a possible love interest seems to develop between them. However Rosie once accidentally blurts out that Suzee likes Radu the best of all the crew members. Moreover, Radu and Suzee appear to be more at ease with one another, and it is evident that Suzee also prefers him rather than Harlan.
- Elmira (Katie Emme McIninch) is a frequent ally of the Christa crew. She is a Spung oracle and as such, the crew did not trust her at first (especially Radu). Due to Spung society having a low opinion of their women, Elmira ran away from home years ago. Despite her upbringing, she is quite gentle and pleasant, if rather secretive. Although Radu at first despises her for her origins, the two grow close and kiss twice. It is revealed in the Season One finale that she is Warlord Shank's daughter. It is interesting to note that she gives the first foreshadowing of Catalina's later "death" when she predicts that someone new will come and Catalina will disappear.
- Warlord Shank (George Takei), is a Spung commander who is a deadly space pirate and adversary for the crew of the Christa, having elite Spung officers under his command. He first appears in his Killcruiser when he intercepts and threatens to destroy the Christa after discovering that his daughter Elmira, a Spung princess and love interest of Radu, could be on board. Shank develops into a major villain throughout the run of the series.
- Mark Hamill as Pel
- Bill Mumy as Jin
- Serge Houde as Neinstein
- Daisy Eagan as Sofiana Mrtz
- Mark Camacho as Warden Opus
- Jim Bradford as Dram
- Zachary Ouimet as Kirge
- Peter David as Benn
- Chip Chiupka as Reaver
- Alexander Chapman as Ubi
- Robin Leach as Utz
- David Schramm as Yee Haw Jones
- Marcel Jeannin as Jesse
- Ted Jessup as Gunter Ianni
- → Main article: Space Cases episode list
The series opens in a Space Academy orbiting Pluto, in which a small group of misfits are kept behind from a field trip. Nearby, an odd bird-like alien ship appears, and Harlan Band decides to sneak onto it; the other students, all of which are younger and much less troublesome, follow Harlan onto the ship. During their exploration of the ship's interior, the seemingly organic ship appears to bond to each student when each touches a bulkhead.
TJ Davenport, their teacher and principal, and Commander Seth Goddard go after them and, in a series of unfortunate events, become separated throughout the vessel. A disoriented Bova falls out of the Jump Tube system, a network of tubes used by the crew to transport throughout the ship, and accidentally fires an electrical blast that charges the engines, hurtling the ship off into a spatial rift. By the time everyone figures out that only the children who bonded to the ship can actually control it, the ship is stopped and it is discovered that they have traveled lightyears away from the Academy, and it would take a direct journey of seven years, four months, and twenty two days at maximum speeds to make it back home the soonest.
THELMA, a cybernetic female, is discovered on the ship, but Harlan accidentally damages her, leaving her somewhat unreliable for the rest of the journey. Also, as a result of the damage caused to the crystal in her forehead, THELMA cannot offer much of any expertise as to how to operate the ship, but does explain that it is named the Christa, in honor of Christa McAuliffe, a science teacher from Earth who died in the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. Resigned to their fate, the group of lost "Space Cases" must establish a chain of command and a schedule in order to find their way home. Along the way, the Space Cases meet new allies and deadly enemies, most notable of which are the malicious Spung, a lizard-like race ruled by Warlord Shank (who has a particular hatred for "Earthers"), who is also the father of a young oracle, Elmira, who seeks to escape the evils of her race, and takes brief refuge aboard the Christa. Some of the crewmembers are wary of the girl because of her notoriously villainous ancestry. Radu especially does not trust her at first, much in the same way Harlan dislikes Radu for being from Andromeda because an Andromedan killed Harlan's father in the war. Radu, in turn, feels ambivalent toward Elmira for being a Spung because it was the Spung who enslaved the Andromedans to fight for them in the war. However, Radu and Elmira soon bond and start a subtle flirtation (which is featured in other episodes later in the series). Eventually, Elmira leaves the Christa in order to distract an attacking Spung vessel that was overwhelming the apparently harmless Christa.
Throughout the season, Catalina and Harlan would compete more and more for their dominance over the rest of the kids, with Catalina arguing that Harlan is rude and Harlan insisting that Catalina is crazy for having an imaginary friend named "Suzee," but Harlan and Radu's rivalry would prove to be the most controversial. Harlan would continue to be unwilling to trust Radu for being of the same race that killed his father, despite Radu's rationalization that the Andromedans were enslaved by the Spung, thus making them victims as well, and hostiles only as a result of that. On several occasions, Harlan and Radu would be forced to set their biases aside and risk themselves to save the other's life.
The Christa would remain a mystery to the crew for the entire season, with many controls, decks and rooms that they know nothing about. At the end of the first season, the Christa comes across a debris field filled with the remains of an exact duplicate (save for its color) of itself. Also, among the debris are the remains of several Spung Killcruisers, revealing to the Space Cases that if the sister ship was an exact duplicate, then their own ship must contain the same powerful weaponry that allowed the destroyed ship to defeat that many Spung ships. Seeing it as essential to their survival to research the secrets of their own vessel, Commander Goddard leads an exploration of the sister ship's remains, sans Bova and Miss Davenport who remain on the Christa. A damaged ship's log is discovered that reveals that the owners of the ship, a race called the Lumanians (also the creators of the Christa), had managed to escape the destroyed sister ship after destroying several Spung ships. On top of that, they reveal that they left the ships remains to self-destruct in order to destroy the surviving Spung, prompting Bova and Davenport to get to the sister ship and warn the others. Much to their surprise, the ship traps the exploring crew inside with the surviving Spung, which includes Warlord Shank and Elmira.
With the Spung still seeking to put Elmira's fortune-telling gifts to military use, Elmira has continued to distance herself from her race, but before the crew can return to the Christa, each member is systematically incapacitated and captured by Shank. Seeking information about the Christa's weapons, and believing the Space Cases and their ship to be responsible for his defeat, Shank uses Catalina as a hostage but just before he can kill her, Harlan saves her life by offering Shank fake information that confuses him.
In the meantime, Davenport and Bova manage to sneak onto the sister ship, and Bova battles down Shank with his more formidable electrical abilities (Shank wields an electrical scepter) while Davenport releases the tied-up crew. Goddard instructs Davenport to return the crew to the ship, and then home (in a moment of high emotion, regarding each other by first name for the first time ever) before he enters the battle and takes Shank on directly, allowing his crew to escape. Ultimately overwhelming Shank, Goddard joins the others and helps guide his crew through the airlock, with Harlan and then Catalina at the back of the line. As Goddard traverses the airlock to get to Catalina and help her through, Shank leaps from the shadows and pulls Catalina back into the sister ship just before the airlock closes and seals them inside. The rest of the Space Cases are pulled back into the Christa, which automatically departs as Harlan tries to break through the air lock door and save Catalina. Unfortunately, his efforts are futile, and the sister ship is destroyed in a massive explosion, with Catalina and Shank stuck inside. In the end, Goddard gives Catalina's eulogy, apologizing for failing to care for his crew, and insisting they carry on nonetheless, but Harlan is saddened that Catalina would never know that he really did like her (Catalina kissed him on the cheek after she awoke and heard that Harlan saved her from Shank). But in the final moment of the episode, a cloaked figure appears, confusing the crew with the fact that she seems to know all of them despite none of them recognizing her.
In the beginning of the second season, the cloaked figure is revealed to be none other than Catalina's "imaginary friend" Suzee. The highly intelligent Suzee explains to the crew the nature of her situation: apparently the powerful explosion that destroyed the Christa's sister ship opened a dimensional tear in space that threw Catalina into Suzee's dimension, and knocked Suzee into their dimension, safely within the Christa. It turns out that the ship responds to Suzee's control as well, because she bonded with it at the same time that the rest of the crew did at the start of the series. With Catalina safe at Suzee's home, and Suzee the new engineer of the Christa, the crew heads for home (something is blocking the sonic frequencies that allow Suzee and Catalina to communicate inter-dimensionally).
The crew spend the majority of the rest of Season Two stranded on an unknown planet, following a violent attack by the Spung. Here, they must learn to survive in their new environment as they dedicate themselves to repairing the ship and going home. Several times in the season, the Space Cases come across different technologies that offer the lost cadets hope. In one such encounter, the crew discovers technology that will allow each of them to talk briefly to a loved one back home (Suzee gets to speak to Catalina, who makes her only appearance in this season). Harlan and Radu would again become rivals over the romantic interests of the attractive, rainbow-haired Suzee.
After the botched ascent of a newly repaired Christa, another attack on the ship not only damages it further, but causes it to land on top of Goddard, crushing and critically injuring him. He would then spend the majority of the rest of the series healing in suspended animation. Eventually he heals by the end of the series.
Because of its cancellation, the series has no true ending, and leaves several storylines open. One such storyline comes about in the episode "Trouble With Doubles," in which the crew becomes cloned and must each battle their own evil selves. At the end of the episode, it is explained that Goddard has been cloned before. When asked what assurances the crew has that he isn't a clone of the real Goddard, the episode ends in ambivalence, with no true answer to the question.
The final episode sees the crew responding to a distress call coming from a satellite that was ravaged by an attack from the Spung. When Goddard leads Suzee, Harlan and Radu on an away mission to the satellite to find the originator of the distress call, they instead find that the satellite itself is the originator. The sentient, lonely satellite, known as Pezu (patterned after a female), is elated to have company after so many years, becoming particularly bonded to Suzee who is similarly intelligent and comes to understand her after Suzee reads her mind. Pezu eventually turns hostile, capturing the visiting crewmembers when she feels betrayed by Suzee who has the others distract her while she searches Pezu's systems for the truth behind what Suzee senses she's hiding. In the meantime, the returning Warlord Shank and his henchmen invade the satellite and attack Goddard, Harlan and Radu, after losing to them in battle so many times in the past. Eventually, Pezu releases the crew when Suzee convinces her that she can't force people to like her and that Suzee would hate her forever for trying to. As the crew departs to adventures unknown, Pezu is left with the Spung who damaged her trapped inside her for her to exact revenge upon.
- As seen in the episode "A Friend in Need".
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