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"Once upon a time in a school in outer space,
—The Theme Song
The long description: A live-action science fiction show for children that aired on Nickelodeon. It told the story of a group of Starcademy students from different planets who sneaked aboard a mysterious space ship called The Christa. After two of their teachers come looking for them, the ship takes off with all of them aboard, right through a white hole that drops them off over 7 years from home. They become lost in space.
The characters were:
- Harlan Band: The Hot Shot, All-American Earthling, defacto leader of the kids. He was skilled at gymnastics and martial arts. Played by Walter Jones, who played Zack, the original Black Ranger on Power Rangers. In the episode "All You Can Eaty," Harlan even tells Ms. Davenport and Suzee, he'll meet them back at "the command center." - known in all instances before as the com post. Um, wrong show, Walter.
- Catalina (played by Jewel Staite): An Insufferable Genius with rainbow hair from Titan, Saturn's largest moon. Has the ability to produce supersonic screams. She has a friend named Suzee, who exists in another dimension. The other crew members think she doesn't exist and think she is just an "Imaginary Friend," at least at first. At the start of the second season, however, Catalina is transported to Suzee's dimension and Suzee comes to Catalina's (in the person of Rebecca Herbst, a few years before General Hospital).
- Radu: A young man from Andromeda who possesses Super Strength (while being, in a reversion of the associated trope, short, slight, and not in the least bit imposing or aggressive) and super hearing. Because of their abilities, Andromedans were enslaved by an evil alien race called the Spung, the show's version of Star Trek's Klingons. Has romantic feelings for Suzee. Radu faces prejudice from Harlan early in the series, due to the fact that Harlan's father was killed by Andromedans during a war.
- Bova: From Uranus, he has an antenna which creates electricity and a high metabolism. Really hates it when people make jokes about his home planet. Perpetually depressed, but in a "funny" way.
- Rosie Ianni: Genki Girl Pollyanna from Mercury who is hairless and has hot pinkish skin. She can create heat and always has a "sunny" attitude about everything.
- Thelma: The resident robot and ship's avatar. She's a little screwed up, thanks to Harlan stepping on and cracking her jewel. It's not clear how much of her personality was like that before the jewel cracking though.
- T.J. Davenport, one of the two teachers on board. Extremely uptight and straitlaced. Has a tendency to faint.
- Commander Seth Goddard, the second teacher: He is an officer (now busted of rank) who tries to whip the crew into shape.
The show later introduced:
- Elmira: Cute Monster Girl / Green-Skinned Space Babe member of the evil Spung species. Daughter of the team's Arch Nemesis, Warlord Shank. Was going to be a main character, but the network kiboshed it and shoved in Suzee.
- Warlord Shank: Big Bad played by George Takei.
- Suzee: Catalina's "imaginary" friend from season 1 was really an alien girl living in a different dimension. Teen Genius, can perform Astral Projection, can breathe any atmosphere, and all the boys like her.
There's also an entertaining pictorial series summary.
- Adults Are Useless: "Davenport and Goddard do the best they can."
- Since the Christa won't respond to their commands, they really are.
- Aliens Speaking English
- Always Chaotic Evil: The Spung.
- And Starring: Paul Boretski as Commander Seth Goddard
- Beware the Nice Ones: Radu in the second episode, albeit virus-induced.
- The Bridge
- Bullying a Dragon: Harlan does this to Radu, rather a lot. Given that we've seen what he's capable of when an alien virus drives him over the edge, it's a damn good thing for Harlan's welfare that Radu's a harmless, socially-awkward, somewhat klutzy sweetheart rather than the violent savage Harlan seems to think all his species are.
- Cloudcuckoolander: Thelma, expect everything she does to be off-the-wall and of marginal usefulness.
- Catalina appears to be one at first, habitually talking to her imaginary friend Suzee. It turns out Suzee is actually real.
- Curse of Babel: Catalina is the only one who knows why the ship is under attack in the same episode that she loses her voice from practicing her sonic scream powers.
- Data Crystal
- Dawson Casting: Nicely averted by the actors who played Catalina, Bova, and Rosie, all of whom were 13-14 during the first season. Radu and Suzee were borderline; both actors were 19-20 during the second season. Played deadly straight with Walter Emanuel Jones who, several years earlier, had been too old for his role in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and, well, hadn't gotten any younger since.
- Did Not Do the Research: Rosee says that on Mercury, they always look on the sunny side of the street and both sides are the sunny side. Well; not at once, but you do got to give her credit that she knew Mercury wasn't Tidally locked.
- Disney Death: Catalina in the first season finale.
- This was actually a case of Executive Meddling. Catalina was supposed to die, and be replaced by the recurring character Elmira. Nick thought that she was too alien, and they were forced into having Catalina trade places with Suzee. Other examples of Nick's meddling was moving Davenport and Goddard into the background in season 2.
- The Eeyore: Bova
- Empathic Weapon: The Christa, which works only for the kids, defends herself when she thinks she's being invaded, and is alive... sort of... more or less...
- Even the Guys Want Him: Commander Seth motherfucking Goddard.
- Evil Twin: "The Trouble With Doubles."
- Executive Meddling: The original season 1 finale came without the tacked on ending where it is revealed Catalina survived the explosion in another dimension but Nickelodeon demanded they put it in because children can't handle death. Also, it was originally planned for Elmira to officially join the main cast in season 2. However, Nick executives felt she was too "alien" and were afraid fans would find her scary. So, they replaced her with Susie.
- Expository Theme Tune
- Fantastic Racism: Harlan to Radu. The best part is Harlan is the token black guy.
- Radu to Elmira. Slightly more understandable since her race enslaved his. He gets over it.
- Five-Man Band: By personality and skills:
- The Hero: Harlan, in his own mind at least ("Thinks he knows it all"/"Leaps before he looks").
- The Lancer: Bova ("Acts like nothing's funny")
- The Smart Guy:
- Season 1: Catalina ("Talking to the wall")
- Season 2: Suzee ("Smarter than a million books")
- The Big Guy: Radu ("Really super strong")
- The Chick: Rosie ("Cheery, bright, and sunny")
- By role: If Harlan is The Hero, Radu fits the role of The Lancer as Harlan's foil and rival. Likewise, Catalina is The Chick, as The Hero's love interest. Bova and Rosie don't work out as The Smart Guy and The Big Guy in a reasonable way, but they're paired with each other in the way that The Smart Guy and The Big Guy often are.
- Five-Token Band: IN SPACE! There's a Mercurian, a Uranian, a Titanian (who gets replaced by whatever Suzee is in Season 2), an Andromedan and the human is an African-American. A pretty diverse group.
- Genki Girl: Rosie
- Genre Savvy: Commander Goddard
- Hot-Blooded: Harlan
- Human Aliens
- Humans Are Special: In the Personality Swap episode, the perks Radu gains of being human are getting to boss everyone around and act like you're better than everyone else, so also Humans Are Bastards.
- Humanity Ensues: During the Freaky Friday episode, Thelma was switched with Suzee and became...whatever Suzee is. She was upset about this since the combination of new emotions and being mentally cut off from Christa was too much for her to handle.
- I Ate What?: A comedic example, though we never find out what the mystery substance is. The Christa is stranded on a planet and three of the cast are sitting around a fire, where the following exchange occurs.
Harlan: Ugh! What is that?
- Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Every episode title in Season 1 is a riff on a popular song from the 50's or 60's.
- Intangible Man: Harlan gets this in one episode.
- Interspecies Romance: Radu/Elmira (Andromedan/Spung), Harlan/Catalina (human/Saturnian), Suzee/everyone (who knows/everything)
- Kangaroo Court: The episode titled "Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Court."
- Keep Circulating the Tapes: More accurately, keep circulating the YouTube Channel, although in the early 2000s, fansite Space Cases TV made an attempt at streaming the video.
- Literal Genie: Thelma takes commands so literally, she won't warn you that the ship's been delivered a death threat if it requires deviation from the schedule.
- Living Ship
"Your ship is alive?"
- Loud of War: Done by the evil twins in The Trouble with Doubles.
- Mr. Fanservice: In "Both Sides Now," Radu gets turned into a human. So many girls (and statistically several boys) liked him a lot better that way.
- And some of us like him anyway.
- My Brain Is Big: Davenport says almost this exact line when her head swells to 19 times its size and she develops Psychic Powers enough to (seemingly) bend the laws of metaphysics. In actuality she just figures out how to access the ship's "morphing abilities," which supposedly makes more sense but really doesn't...
- Nice Hat: Rosie wore one that helped her regulate her high body temperature in the first season. She ditched it later on, a sign of maturation and better control over one's heat powers for her race.
- Noodle Incident: Goddard's "space pirate story." It was what busted his rank, put him on thin ice with the brass and "almost started a war." Reaver - said space pirate - feels that he owes Goddard some payback for what happened.
- Organic Technology
- Personality Powers
- Personality Swap: "Both Sides Now" because The Mind Is a Plaything of the Body.
- Playing with Fire: Rosie
- Put on a Bus: Not only Catalina when she was sent to another dimension -- don't worry, we don't mean that sort of other dimension. Commander Goddard was crushed by the ship while taking off from the planet they'd been stranded on and put in some kind of Suspended Animation to heal for the series' duration. His only appearances afterwards were a minute or two of the others checking up on him.
- Goddard was actually healed by the penultimate episode and was present for the it and the finale. He makes up for his absence by single handedly saving the crew from the Doppleganger.
- Ragtag Bunch of Misfits
- Real Life Writes the Plot: Part of the reason Catalina had to be written out was because Jewel Staite had a commitment to the Disney Channel/Family Channel (CA) series Flash Forward (no relation to the '09 series). Peter David knew this going in; thus the creation of Suzee.
- Actually, he originally envisioned having Catalina stay dead and have Elmira take her place on the Christa. However, Nickelodeon intervened and squashed that. Some believe this is why Suzee was so much of a Creator's Pet was that they had to cobble her character together at the last minute.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: Harlan and Radu.
- Reverse the Polarity: Not only could Rosie and Bova expel massive amounts of heat and electricity, they could also absorb it as well if the ship was overheated or overloaded.
- Rubber Forehead Aliens: They even take it a step further and have Rainbow-Hair aliens.
- Shock and Awe: Bova
- Shout-Out: The ship is named for Christa McAuliffe, the schoolteacher who was killed in the Challenger explosion. Also, a few of the kids' names reference famous sci-fi writers; Harlan Band = Harlan Ellison; Bova = Ben Bova.
- This one takes some setup: one of the (very few) changes that J. Michael Straczynski wrote into Peter David's episode "There All the Honor Lies" of Babylon 5 involved a bear getting thrown out an airlock. See, JMS hates cute, the bear was a gift from Peter to JMS...it was inevitable. Fast-forward to Space Cases. In the second episode, the kids find a teddy bear floating in space, leading one to ask, "what kind of monster would space a perfectly good Earth bear?" It turns out to have been an evil race called the Straczyn, who wanted to conquer the galaxy, but didn't have the budget, so they tried for shoestring bio-warfare, booby-trapping the bear. There's also a game called Minbar chess.
- Being a former cast member of Babylon 5, Mumy also added a little B5 shout out. In the episode The Trouble with Doubles, there's a scene where the evil twins are tormenting their nice counterparts by playing annoying and loud music into the room they're trapped in. In a line of dialogue, it is revealed that the instrument being played is called a Minbari flugel horn.
- Star Trek Shake: Lampshade Hanging: everyone BUT Radu is getting knocked around, quite dramatically so, but Radu is standing completely still.
- This one is actually justified in-show. Radu has super strength and super hearing, since balance is established in the ears, those two traits would justify a great sense of balance.
- Super Strength: Radu
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Suzee
- In fact, Peter David knew that Jewel Staite had another commitment (to Flash Forward), so he wrote Suzee into the script as an "imaginary friend." When Jewel had to leave, all that had to be done was to switch 'em off et voila!
- Team Mom: Miss Davenport
- To the Batpole: The cast uses a network of unbelievably cool slide-like tubes to travel between areas of the ship. Thanks to TECHNOLOGY, they can slide up just as easily as down.
- One episode even had the ship malfunctioning so two of them got stuck in the tubes all day.
- Translator Microbes: Harlan is given a potion by a tribe of aliens who think he's their king to allow him to understand them. Not only was language simply never an issue before or after, but language poses no problem for the others when they show up to rescue him.
- True Companions: Andromedans are born in hatcheries and raised without a family. The Christa's crew is Radu's first experience of what families are like. Too bad it's a kind of dysfunctional one.
- Uranus Is Showing
Bova: I hate being from Uranus! I'm the butt of every joke!