It’s the year 1996. Mission Impossible, Independence Day, Jerry Maguire, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame was released in theaters. 3rd Rock from the Sun, 7th Heaven, Everybody Loves Raymond, and Moesha debuted on TV. Since 1994, Nickelodeon was the #1 rated network for kids ages 2-16 and would continue holding that rank for many years (more on that later). For ’96, it would end up being a huge year for Nickelodeon. They would release shows that would still remain classics to this very day. It ended up being one of the most important years of Nickelodeon’s history similar to what 1991 was.

The first show that came out was their first sci-fi series. On March 2, Space Cases debuted on TV.

The show was about 5 teens from different planets who attend a Space Academy in Pluto. The entire class goes on a field trip with the exception of the 5 teens since they caused a lot of trouble. All of a sudden, a mysterious ship appears at the school. One of the teens, Harland Band (played by Walter Emanuel Jones), decides to sneak out of the classroom and explore the ship. The other 4 teens chase after Harland, knowing that they would get into more trouble if their teacher finds out that they left the classroom. Their teacher and Space Academy principal T.J. Davenport (played by Cary Lawrence) and Commander Seth Goddard (played by Paul Boretski) follow the students into the spaceship. Due to a series of unfortunate events caused by Bova (played by Rahi Azizi), one of the 5 teens, the ship takes off and travels into a rift. The way the ship is able to be controlled is that all 5 teens have to form a bond with it.

They finally stop and realize that they’re light years away from the Academy and their home. The minimal amount of time it would take to get home is 7 years. So, the whole series is about traveling through space, meeting up with friends and allies in ways to get home. Also, throughout the series, we find out more about the 5 teens, T.J., and Commander Goddard.

Each of the 5 teens come from a different planet and have special, unique abilities. For example, Harlan Band is a human from planet Earth. He’s the definitive leader of the 5 teens with a cocky, headstrong personality. He serves as the pilot of the ship and is an advanced martial artist and gymnast able to fight his enemies with no effort.

Bova is from the planet Uranus. He has a small antennae growing on his forehead that can shoot out electricity. He also has a huge appetite with the ability to eat anything and still remain hungry. He’s a bit of a pessimist and “the butt of every joke”.

Catalina (played by Jewel Staite) is from Titan, one of Saturn’s moons. She serves as the ship’s engineer and has the ability to release sonic screams, which had been useful when it came to disabling missles and attacking the ship. She claims that her powers are nothing special since her people can use their sonic screams to demolish buildings, but she has been one of the most relied on characters throughout Season 1. She has a friend named Suzee that only she could see. Everyone else on the ship thinks that it’s imaginary, so they don’t pay any mind to her.

Radu (played by Kristian Ayre) is from Andromeda. He serves as the navigator and has super sensitive hearing and super strength. He has to work together with Harlan since he’s the pilot, but they’re rivals to one another. But together, they settle each other’s differences and try to find an easier, faster way to get home.

Rosie Ianni (played by Paige Christina) is from Mercury. She serves as the doctor/scientist and has an enthusiastic, mothering personality. She has the ability to produce vast amount of heat since Mercury is the closest planet from the Sun.

 THELMA (Techno Human EmuLating MAchine played by Anik Matern) is the only inhabitant on the ship. She’s an android with serious malfunctions that was accidentally caused by Harlan when they first entered the ship. She tends to take things literal and gets emotional over the littlest things.

Throughout the show, we also get to know the main characters’ backstory. Harlan was going to Space Academy to be a Stardog like his father. His father was killed by an Andromedan during the Andromedan War. For this reason, he’s prejudice against Radu since he’s an Andromedan. Radu has no family since Andromedans are born from eggs and are left to fend for themselves. He longs for a family and to feel like he’s needed. Along the way, the crew meet a girl named Elmira (played by Katie Emme McIninch) who’s a alien being called a Spung. Radu doesn’t trust Spungs since they enslaved the Andromeda people and caused the Andromeda War. But Elmira explains that she had ran away from home since the Spung don’t really care too much for women’s ranks into society despite her being an oracle with the ability to predict the future. But they settle their differences and fall in love at the end of Season 1.

A new villain comes into the show in the form of Warlock Shank (played by George Takei), a Spung space pirate and the father of Elmira. He doesn’t approve of Elmira falling in love with Radu since he’s an Andromedan. He becomes the recurring villain throughout the entire series.

The end of Season 1 ends up with Bova and T.J. finding a sister ship in a debris pile with a few Spung spaceships. They decided to check out the sister ship in order to find the weapons used to destroy the Spung spaceships. However, Warlock Shank appears and the sister ship activates its self destruct sequence put their by the creators of the ship in case the Spungs happened to enter in to steal their weapons. While the ship is about to self destruct, Shank captures Catalina as hostage in exchange on the ship’s weapons. Harlan lies to Shank and confuses him about the weapons. While it left them enough time to distract Shank to escape the sister ship, it was too late for Catalina. She stays in the sister ship alongside Shank while it explodes. Saddened that their friend is gone, they throw a funeral in her honor. While giving the eulogy, all of a sudden, a mysterious cloaked figure appears before them. When the crew asks them who this mysterious person is, she laughs saying that she knows who they are, but they don’t know who she is. This ends Season 1.

Season 2 begins with the identity of the mysterious person. It turns out to be Suzee (played by Rebecca Herbst), Catalina’s friend, the person that no one was able to see. She’s an intelligent person and has the ability to read minds and possess people’s bodies. She serves as the new engineer to the ship. They find out that Catalina is not dead, but instead transferred into Suzee’s dimension where she remains safe.

Throughtout Season 2, they crash into an unknown planet and must learn to adapt to their new environment and repair the ship so they can get home. The Spung eventually find the crew and starts to attack them and their already broken ship. Throughout the series, there were many other characters portrayed by actors such as Mark Hamill, Danny Tamberelli, Robin Leach, Michelle Trachtenberg, and Bill Mumy.

The show was created by Peter David and Bill Mumy. Peter David is a comic book, movie, and TV writer known for writing for the The Incredible Hulk, Young Justice, Aquaman, Super Angel, and Supergirl comics. He also written some Star Trek novels such as Imzadi and The New Frontier series.

Bill Mumy is an actor mostly known for his role as Will Robinson in the 1960’s TV series Lost in Space. 


While playing as Lennier from the sci-fi series Babylon 5, he met with Peter David, who was a writer in the show, and came up with an idea for a show that was similar to Babylon 5, Star Trek, and Lost in Space, but for kids. That was how Space Cases was born.

The show lasted for 2 seasons until it was cancelled on January 27, 1997. Some of the actors and creators went on to do different things after Space Cases while others faded into obscurity.

Walter Emanuel Jones has done other movie and TV roles such as Sabrina, The Teenage Witch, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Power Rangers Lost Galaxy, Moesha, Spyder Games, American Gun, Love and a Bullet, The Shield, Pair of Kings, The Dogwalker, and Prime Suspect.


Jewel Staite has appeared in other movies and TV shows such as Firefly, Just Deal, Wonderfalls, Carpool, Cheats, Stargate Atlantis, Serenity, and The L.A. Complex.


Kristian Ayre has appeared in other movies and TV shows such as The New Ghostwriter Mysteries, Alien Abduction: Incident at Lake County, Running Home, Nothing Too Good for a Cowboy, Elf, and Of Golf and God. 


Cary Lawrence has appeared in made for TV movies and TV shows such as The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo, The Hunger, Snake Eyes, Stardom, Sacred Ground, Deception, The Favorite Game, Tripping the Rift, and Life Interrupted. 


Rebecca Herbst has appeared in other TV shows such as Sister, Sister, Days of Our Lives, Brotherly Love, General Hospital and its spinoff General Hospital: Nightshift, and Dirty Soap. She’s married to former General Hospital co-star Michael Saucedo (who played Juan Santiago) and has three children.

Peter David has written other comic book series, novels for TV shows and movies, and has written episodes for shows such as Young Justice and Ben 10: Alien Force.


Bill Mumy has narrated for 50 episodes of the Biography series as well as hosting and narrating for shows from A.E., Animal Planet, the Sci-Fi Network, and E!. He has voiced for animated shows such as The Ren and Stimpy Show, Animaniacs, Batman: The Animated Series, and Buzz Lightyear: Star in Command. He has released a number of CDs with his band The Be Five, Barnes & Barnes, as well as solo CDs.

Overall, looking back at this show, it was ambitious to release a sci-fi show for kids in a time when other sci-fi shows like Babylon 5, Star Trek: Deep Space 9, and Star Trek: Voyager were airing. There were no other sci-fi series for kids at the time, so seeing that Nickelodeon was doing it, it was proving once again that Nickelodeon was diverse in different genres when it came to their teen series. This was 2 years before Power Rangers in Space debuted. However, the show was not viewed by many kids at the time and still to this day, most of them have never even heard of Space Cases. It had gained a cult following among true Nickelodeon fans who grew up in the 90’s. So, should you check this show out? Well, yes and no. Mostly no. I say yes because it had well developed characters that we’ve grown to know and love, a compilation of classic sci-fi shows such as Star Trek and Lost in Space done for kids, and a continuing premise that makes you wonder if they were ever going to reach home. I also say no because there are some huge major flaws in the show. The story lines are extremely cheesy at times, the acting is wooden and sometimes unwatchable, and the show looked extremely cheap. An interesting fact about Space Cases is that they used most of the props from other Nickelodeon shows such as Are You Afraid of the Dark? Also, the control panels on the walls was only an electronic game called “Lights Out”.

I can excuse the show from having a low budget and being cheap looking. As long as they can overcompensate it with a good storyline and memorable characters, then it’s excusable. Some of you might recognize Walter Jones from another TV series from the 90’s. He was the Black Ranger Zack Taylor from Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. He left the show during the middle of Season 2 of Power Rangers due to money disagreements.

He had appeared in a few small roles on a few Disney Channel shows and movies before starring as Harlan in Space Cases. It’s an interesting choice of including Jones in Space Cases. It was like trying to lure kids to watch the show saying “Hey, the original Black Ranger from Mighty Morphin Power Rangers is in our show, but he’s the leader now. Check it out”.

It was a shame that the show was cancelled since it did have a consistent plot of the teens trying to get home. But it ended in a typical episode that had no connection to the story and left a lot of things unanswered. If you’re a kid wanting to get into sci-fi shows, then Space Cases might be hard to recommend. The show is poorly aged due to the cheesy storylines, wooden acting, and cheap sets. You’re probably better off watching Doctor Who, Star Trek, Babylon 5, Firefly, or Stargate Atlantis. 


That’s all for now. Tune in next time as we look at Nickelodeon’s attempt to create a duo to be just as well known and iconic like Laurel and Hardy with Dan Schneider’s first All That spinoff Kenan and Kel. 


Hope to see you around Old School Lane soon. Take care.

-Patricia

 

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