Thursday, August 14, 2014

Five Unsung Classic Television Shows As Inspiration For Your Stars Without Numbers Campaign Or Your Old School Space Opera Campaigns

Space Island One 1998 

This was a hard one to track down, its a wary look at the for profit corporate exploit of science and some pretty weird and interesting science fiction in space aboard an international space station.

According To Wiki : 

Space Island One (or Raumstation Unity in German) is a British/German science fiction television series that ran for 26 episodes beginning in 1998. A co-production between the UK's Sky One channel and the German Vox channel, it starred Judy Loe as Kathryn McTiernan, the commander of the multinational crew of the space station Unity. Described as “a mix of Moonbase 3 and Jupiter Moon, but more turgid than either,[1] other sources describe it as
"The best science fiction show you've never heard of… The show unflinchingly looks at the implications of for-profit science… and provides the most realistic look ever at life in space, including bone-mass loss. A few episodes are dull, but the show is often surprisingly weird and fun… It also features some of the most complex, believable characters of any television show".[2]
Apart from the show's creator, Andrew MacLear, other script-writers for the show included well known TV writer P. J. Hammond, acclaimed science fiction novelist Stephen Baxter and young adult writer Andrew Lane.

There are some solid ideas here for incorporating into an Xplorers campaign setting or a Stars Without Number style space station.
There's a few twists and turns that might make things very interesting for a group of PC's not used to dealing with some high end science problems. A relatively unknown show and when last I checked there wasn't a Blu ray available. 

Star Cops 1987

Way back in 1990 something a British friend of mine turned me on to this show when I was working in a back alley video store in Boston. The show was interesting, and the cases pretty engaging but here the bit that I loved about the show : 
Operating in a relatively accurately realised hard SF, near-future, space environment, many of the cases that the Star Cops investigate arise from opportunities for new crimes presented by the technologically advanced future society the series depicts and from the hostile frontier nature of the environment that the Star Cops live in.

Star Cops is set in the year 2027—some 40 years into the future at time of broadcast—a time in which space travel has become common and mankind is in the process of exploiting and colonizing the Solar System. There are five permanently manned space stations orbiting the Earth and there are bases on the Moon and Mars. Approximately 3,000 people are living and working in space. 

Most of the above came from wiki. 
 Set early in the development of outward bound colonizing efforts, I've used this show for several small one shot Alien and Alien style backwater one shot adventures with X plorers and Stars Without Number. It worked out quite well. 
Don't feel like getting spanked by Star Trek fans every time you want to set up a quick game set in the Star Trek universe? There are so many back drop continuum problems now it shouldn't be a problem but I used the Animated series which ran from 1973 to 1974 for all of the quick pick up games I've run. 

Another classic series that gets not a mention is one of my all time favorites, Space Above and Beyond.
According to Wiki : 

Set in the years 2063–2064, the show focuses on the "Wildcards", members of the United States Marine Corps Space Aviator Cavalry, 58th Squadron. They are stationed on the space carrier USS Saratoga, and act as infantry and pilots of SA-43 Endo/Exo-Atmospheric Attack Jet ("Hammerhead") fighters.

Space above.jpg

There is enough material here to run at least three to six campaign's worth of material. The series is mostly forgotten but had a Robert Heinlein Star Ship Trooper vibe to it. And there was plenty of weirdness, modified humans, worm hole hijinks and more. Wiki has a nice break down HERE
Man I miss this show and its mostly been forgotten but it would make a very nice early campaign setting. Lots of action and corporate betrayal and more. 

I also think that with a bit of work this setting could work very strongly with X plorers or Stars Without Number 

10 Unsung Science Fiction TV Classics

Star Rangers 1993
From 1993 comes a show that I used for Star Frontiers and later as an add in to my Stars Without Numbers campaign : 
In the year 2104 the Earth colony Fort Hope on the distant planet Avalon struggles to survive. A small force of police/marines called the "Space Rangers Corps" are the first, last and only line of defense for the colonists against crime and the perils of interstellar exploration. The series concentrates on Captain John Boon and his team of Rangers aboard Ranger Slingship #377.

You can find more information about the series on wiki HERE 
 However I confess to using the comic book that it was based on as more of the background. The comicbook was written by Mark Ellis and had a much deeper background as well as more alien races so its pretty easy to see where the scattering of adventures went for this game. We eased away from the show and moved into the world of the comicbook. 

The comic is much more dynamic and interesting a background, so I simply shoved New Hope into the background. Here's why.. 
Set in the 25th century, the series revolved around the crew of the Sabre, the last ship in the Frontier Battalion of the once-fearsome Star Rangers Corps. In both Star Rangers and its companion series Death Hawk, the era is a dystopia of solar system-spanning corporations that held the true power behind the centralized government of the Sol 9 Commonwealth. By the time of the series, the Star Rangers Corps has been reorganized into a token peacekeeping force while the corporations maintain their own security divisions, such as the Sol 9 Shogunate's Tigers of Heaven. As such, all Star Rangers ships and weaponry are outdated, making it difficult for Sabre crew to perform its duties. The ship patrols Sectors Four through Nine of the Orion Spur.
The above is from wiki of course but because of this setting's deep connection to my Stars Without Number campaign, I'm going to have to revisit it soon. The Space Rangers comic is set within the same world as the The Spur - Loki's Rock which is an excellent book by Mark Ellis available HERE

Dungeon masters frequently borrow, steal, modify, create their own fan fiction campaign settings and then ply them with players. I've done it countless times and once in awhile continue to throw elements from these sorts of campaigns into my games.Just seems like its an old school thing to do and I find myself slipping in these sorts of references and story elements to entertain my players. Your mileage may vary but its fun to play around with this sort of material for games. 


  1. Space: Above and Beyond was a good military sci-fi show and Space Rangers was kind of campy fun, but both were good in their own ways. Too bad they never took off (no pun intended).


  2. Well I'm throwing these 'golden oldies' out there for folks to get a few more options for their old school campaigns. They seldom get the nod or mention these day and it seems to me that its sort of a shame that none of these shows get's any pardon the pun, 'air play' at the gaming table.
    This has been a very popular blog entry and I did it for some old school fun. Ed its great to see comments by people who really enjoyed these shows as much as I did. Cheers pal.


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