It takes nearly two hours of tiresome setup to get there, but "Space: Above and Beyond" may be on to a winning formula: a fighter-pilot drama set in space.

It takes nearly two hours of tiresome setup to get there, but “Space: Above and Beyond” may be on to a winning formula: a fighter-pilot drama set in space.

The characters are pretty flat and somewhat cliched, and the cast of unfamiliar faces breathes little life into the roles, but with lots of slam-bang hardware and effects, Fox’s target audience may cheerfully go along for the ride.

The two-hour pilot presents its share of hurdles, though. First, viewers meet a colony on a distant planet and see them attacked and massacred, presumably by hostile aliens. Then a second mission is mounted and launched from Earth, and it too is attacked. Then thereare the boot-camp experiences of the ultimate stars ofthe series, and we’re still a couple more minor missions away from the space battle that highlights the show.

Such a lengthy setup would have made for a smoother ride had there been deeper, more original characters and a more credible future world to explore.

The crew includes Nathan West (Morgan Weisser), who’s improbably separated from his true love and must get out to space if he’s to have any hope of a reunion; Shane Vansen (Kristen Cloke), physically and psychologically scarred from an earlier war that left her orphaned; and Cooper Hawkes (Rodney Rowland), a bad-boy member of the parent-less “in-vitros.”

Rowland and Cloke handle their roles fairly well, but most of the cast flounders somewhat, with director David Nutter failing to elicit the kind of emotional authenticity that would have helped viewers believe these attractive actors are experiencing some of the script’s improbable events.

To the rescue come visual effects producer Tim McHugh and supervisor Glenn Campbell, who give “Above and Beyond’s” pivotal space scenes a sharp theatrical look. Planet-bound action is usually too choppy and confusing to help nearly as much.

Space: Above and Beyond

(Sun. (24), 7-9 p.m., Fox)

Production

Filmed in Queensland, Australia, and at Warner Roadshow Movie World Studios by Twentieth Century Fox Television and Hard Eight Pictures Inc. in association with Village Roadshow Pictures. Executive producers, Glen Morgan, James Wong; co-executive producer, Stephen Zito; supervising producer, Tom Towler; producer, Michael Lake; co-producer, Herb Adelman; line producer, Howard Grigsby; director , David Nutter; writers-creators, Morgan, Wong.

Crew

Camera, David Eggby; editor, Ron Spang; production designer, Bernard Hides; art director, Virginia Beinham; visual effects producer, Tim McHugh; visual effects supervisor, Glenn Campbell; sound, Paul Clark; music, Shirley Walker.

Cast

Cast: Morgan Weisser, Kristen Cloke, Rodney Rowland, Lanei Chapman, Joel de la Fuente, James Morrison, R. Lee Ermey, Bill Hunter, Colin Friels, Amanda Douge , Peter Kent, Theresa Wong, Anja Coleby, Darrin Klimek, Chris Kirby, Robert Coleby, Alan Dale, Michael Edward-Stevens, Charles Anthony, Bartholomew John, Gennie Nevinson, James Campbell, Melissa Bullock, Ric Anderson, Angus Grant, Colin Handley, Rebecca Riggs.
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