| About The Show|
Update: December 26, 2012
May 2, 1997
Space Cases, for those who came in late, is the tongue-in-cheek science fiction series created by Bill Mumy and me, which has been airing for the past year on Nickelodeon and which I feel honor-bound to keep you apprised of. After all, I've been writing about my first foray into series TV on and off since we shot the original pilot (which never aired, incidentally, so anyone who saved the photos that ran accompanying those articles has something of a collectors item.)
Thus far, we've aired two seasons of 13 episodes each. The ratings have been OK but not spectacular. This didn't surprise us: science fiction on television generally takes a good long while to catch on. X-Files took three seasons to really hook its audience, as did Babylon 5. And that was three seasons of 22 episodes each. By comparison, our air record is relatively modest.
During our time on the air, though, we made definite inroads into fan consciousness. Attention was beginning a slow build. There are, at this point, dozens of unofficial websites. The most comprehensive, put together by a fellow named Robert Rhodes, can be found at:
Furthermore, fan clubs are springing up all over. There's an on-line newsletter called "Zabagabe" (named after a Saturnian chant in one episode which, in a typical Space Cases in-joke, was also the name of one of Mumy's Barnes & Barnes albums) had hundreds of members and was gaining every day. There's been talk of trying to push for the nomination of our first season closer, "On the Road to Find Out" (guest-starring George Takei) on the Hugo ballot.
In the "real"' world, we were getting more write-ups in such publications as TV Guide and, more important, we were nominated for a Cable Ace Award for Best Children's Programming. (We lost to a series of HBO Concert Specials - a reflection of what voters wished kids were watching, rather than what they're actually watching.)
In short, we're rolling. Unfortunately, however, we haven't been rolling fast enough to satiate the Nielsen gods. You remember the Nielsens. It's the ratings service that networks are now claiming isn't, in fact, an accurate measure, at all.
As a consequence, we received word on the Ides of March (appropriately) that Nickelodeon has decided not to continue production of Space Cases. Bill and I had had a 65 episode story arc worked out, but - as of this moment - it seems destined that we are left at the one-third mark, with many mysteries left unanswered and our crew still in the depths of space. I mourn for the stories we didn't have the opportunity to tell - including my favorite, an episode that would have guest-starred Mumy and Jonathan Harris as "William" and "Doctor," accompanied by a familiar robot. Yes, thats right, we wanted to have the crew of the Christa find and rescue - unofficially, of course - the crew of the Jupiter II. Talk about free publicity. To say nothing of such opportunities as having Doctor Smith and the Smith-esque Miss Davenport both moan, "Oh, the pain, the pain," or having the android Thelma find a soulmate in the robot.
First and foremost, one must remember that "canceled" in the Nickelodeon world doesn't mean the same thing as it does elsewhere. The vast majority of Nick's programming is made up of canceled series, be it the "Nick at Nite" line-up or such assorted original series as Are You Afraid of the Dark and My Brother and Me, which continue to rack up ratings. So Space Cases remains on the air at 1:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. ET every Sunday.
Second, Nickelodeon has given us the all clear to shop the series elsewhere, provided it's not a direct competitor (such as Disney or Fox Kids). Discussions have begun with the Sci-Fi Channel, the place most fans would like to see it land.
Third, a series of original novels is a possibility. There's interest from Archway Paperbacks, and an editor there, Lisa Clancy, is a fan of the series and would like to see it happen. But she has to convince her bosses that there's a market for it: realign their thinking so that they don't see it as a book series tying in with a canceled program, but rather a science-fiction book series with a presold potential audience of millions.
The bottom line is Mumy and I began a series that had a beginning, middle, and end. We would like, in some way, shape, or form, to finish the story and answer the many mysteries that we introduced.
If Space Cases fans are interested in helping this happen, here are the folks you can write:
Barry Schulman, President, Sci-Fi Network, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020.
Lisa Clancy, Archway Paperbacks, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020 or @prenhall.com [email@example.com]. (The Postal Service is preferred in most write-in campaigns, but Lisa is perfectly happy to hear from people via e-mail.)
And, if you want to voice support for the series as a whole, you can write to Nickelodeon, 1515 Broadway, New York, NY 10036. Fans have been addressing their letters to Nick President Herb Scannell.
I'd love to get copies of whatever letters are sent in. If Bill and I ever write a book about the whole experience, it'd be nice to have some genuine fan comments.
No matter what happens, there's no downplaying the impact that the series has had on my life. First and foremost, I've had the privilege of working with Bill on creating the show and writing the scripts. We worked together on scripts in every imaginable way: Sometimes he did the first pass on the script, sometimes I did, sometimes we each wrote half the script. On one memorable occasion, we were working on two different scripts seated across from each other and, every so often, we'd switch. (Since we were working off detailed scene-by-scene outlines, it was easy enough for one of us to pick up where the other stopped.) And the show's producer, Susan Dietz, helped ramrod much of our vision through.
I was at all the casting sessions and I think we put together a great gang: Kristian (Radu) Ayre, Rahi (Bova) Azizi, Paul (Commander Goddard) Boretski, Paige (Rosie) Christina, Becky (Suzee) Herbst, Walter (Harlan) Jones, Cary (Davenport) Lawrence, Anik (Thelma) Matern, and Jewel (Catalina) Staite (who had to leave us after the first season, since she was contractually obligated to do a series for Disney called Flash Forward). And our sort of unofficial 10th cast member, Marcel Jeannin. Marcel, an incredibly versatile actor, was in our original, unaired pilot and became a sort of one-man rep company, appearing in four episodes in various guises. If anyone out there is putting together a convention and wants some terrific guests - guests who, by and large, are genuine science-fiction and/or comic-book fans and will appeal to kids as well as adults - get word to me and I'll get word to them.
Nor will I forget filming in Montreal. Ill never forget when people learned I'd be spending the entire winter up there. How they pitied me. So there I was in Montreal, and, in the meantime, New York got hit with the mother of all winters. It was like a thousand feet of snow. And in Montreal - not much of anything.
The fans have been and continue to be terrific. I can't tell you how much it means to me to see how so many people have embraced the series, the characters, and the Space Cases universe - and don't want it to end. And who knows? I mean, heck, if series ranging from Star Trek to The Jeff Foxworthy Show can be brought back, why not us?
The show gave me my nationwide acting debut, when I had a cameo playing Bova's father in one episode. If nothing else, it convinced me that I shouldn't quit my day job.
And I guess, most of all, I'm pleased for the opportunity the show gave my kids. They would come up, sometimes for a week at a time, and got along great with the cast. Gwen was an extra in one episode called "King of the Hill," while Shana did a full-blown guest stint in our final episode, appearing as a computer entity named Pezu. Five-year-old Ariel didn't get her own guest shot. She simply watched. The show had no greater fan. There was one time where she marched up to a kid on a playground and said, out of the blue, "Hi, I'm Ariel. My daddy does Space Cases. Do you watch Space Cases? It's about some children out in space. It's on Nickelodeon." She just kept chatting for five minutes, as the other child stared at her in confusion, having no idea where this kid came from or what she was talking about.
Ariel was there for the last days of filming.
(As was Shana. Both of them can be seen in the lower left of the cast photo that appears on the contents page of this week's issue, Shana in blue face make-up and Ariel holding a little doll of Bova.) She did nothing except watch the show being made, hour after hour. I thought she'd be bored out of her mind, but I couldn't pry her from the soundstage. She seemed to be taking in everything. Just how much, though, I hadn't quite suspected until just yesterday.
I was running Return of the Jedi for her, and she was watching the scene in the swamps of Dagobah wherein a glowing Obi-Wan Kenobi walks up to Luke Skywalker. And Ariel turned to me and said, "Daddy?"
Clearly she had a question. I figured there was some plot point that was confusing to her. She is, after all, only 5 (well, 5 and a half). I said, "Yes, honey?"
And she gave me a serious, thoughtful look and said, "Did they shoot Obi-Wan against a green screen?"
And if you don't know what that means, I can send Ariel over to explain it to you.
Peter David, writer of stuff, can be written to at To Be Continued Inc., PO Box 239, Bayport, NY 11705. Latest weird Star Wars change: in Return of the Jedi, when Han Solo is hanging upside down from the skiff as Lando is about to be dragged into the Saarlac pit, the supposedly blind Solo shouted, "'Trust me!" and shot the creatures tentacle, releasing Lando. But in the "Special Edition," I could swear I heard additional dialogue with Han shouting something like, "I can see better now!" First Han lets Greedo shoot first and then he has to explain himself to Lando. Weird.
This column reprinted from Comics Buyer's Guide issue #1224 (May 2, 1997).