Friday, May 24, 2013

The Many Faces of The Space Rangers Television Show & Comic Book Series

 Back before Firefly was even a thought bubble in the mind of its esteemed writer there was another show that aired briefly on CBS back in 1993. Though gone it was not forgotten. Back in Boston when I was working in the video rental shop this show had a small following. It became the background for a long lived Eon Trinity by White Wolf games.
The Space Rangers Intro!

The show ran officially from January 6, 1993 – January 26, 1993. However there was a comic book series that proceed it with some of the very same concepts and ideas by none other Mark Ellis. The ideas of the show were way ahead of their time and I'd go so far as to say too far ahead. Make no mistake that this was a space western. In every sense of the word.
The plot according to wiki: 
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.
The cast list was pretty damn good for a CBS show : 

The concepts as I said were first rate and there's something to be said for them. 
A space-faring predator. They teleport aboard spaceships as they travel at lightspeed. They are violent, impervious to regular weapons and teleport away as suddenly as they arrive. They also emit a high pitched sonic "scream" that can disorient a person in close quarters, which is where they get their name from. If they manage to kill everyone aboard the ship they will envelope it in an organic cocoon and teleport it with them back to their hyperspace hive.
A single person escape pod. They are used to travel to a planet's surface. They are called "bellysnappers" because they tend to give their passengers rough rides and make them sick to their stomachs.
The higher echelons of command back on Earth, respected but often considered meddlesome, inefficient and out of touch with the facts of frontier life. The term also refers to the distant core of human civilization in general.
Hazard pay 
When a situation is above and beyond the level of danger that a sane person might elect to encounter, the Corps have been known to entice volunteers for missions with a bonus in Rangers' pay-checks. Boon's team is offered "triple" hazard pay if they could capture a Banshee for scientists to study. Doc has mentioned to the others that he is still waiting for hazard pay-checks from two other missions and does not expect to ever see them.
Lightspeed rings 
Large orbital ringed structures, they are designed to "slingshot" spaceships into hyperspace from one planet to another. Some ships, such as Slingships, are capable of reaching light speed without the usage of the lightspeed rings.
Small, but swift and highly maneuverable interplanetary craft often stolen by smugglers to be used for their runs.
The interceptor spaceship of choice used by the Space Rangers. Unlike other ships, it does not need a lightspeed ring to achieve hyperspace as it can use a planet's orbital gravity to sling itself. It can still use lightspeed rings to conserve fuel. Captain John Boon's team are assigned Ranger Slingship #377. It has been nicknamed "Tin Lizzie" by its flight engineer Doc Kreuger and there are shark teeth nose art, much like pilots did to their fighter planes back in Earth's World War II-era. Slingship #377 has seen better days as Doc has had to jury rig many of the ships parts and systems to keep it online, as budget cuts have prevented them from always getting the proper parts and repairs.
A traditional drink at Fort Hope's Officers' Club which is consumed after returning from a successful mission.

 The planets and locations are places you don't really want to go 

New Venus -A former Earth colony that was overrun with Banshees. While most of the men elected to abandon the colony, the women chose to stay and fight off the invaders. As a result the colony became an Amazon-like matriarchy. Jojo Thorsen originates from this colony and harbors a deep hatred for Banshees.
Skaraab -A desolate planet where the days are so hot that the suns burn away all surface life in a matter of one day. The planet's vegetation has to grow back overnight and is so aggressive that it will even consume animal tissue in order to survive. It is also home to an ancient Graaka burial temple.
Earth -Home to the Space Rangers Corps & its Central Command. It is several weeks away at lightspeed from Fort Hope.
Avalon -Home to our heroes' colony of Fort Hope. On the outside it looks much like the Painted Desert in the American southwest.
Katraz -Penal colony. A place where the galaxy's worst are dumped off never to be heard from again. There are no guards and no ways to leave. The planet is ruled by anarchy among the inmates. One inmate named Rec heads the majority of factions on the planet. The name is no doubt derived from the former San Francisco prison of Alcatraz Island which also had the reputation for being impossible to escape.
Blood Nebula -A favorite hiding spot for smugglers and slavers. Its red clouds jam most sensors making enforcement in this area difficult at best.
Vee'Lon Prime -A wet, sandy, and tropical planet home to the reptilian Vee'Lons.
The Episodes read like a western in space with some interesting little twists. Again from the Wiki entry: 
"Fort Hope" aka "Space Rangers" aka Pilot -A lone escape pod reaches Fort Hope, its passenger tells the Rangers of a transport ship that went down. The ship was carrying Boon's former captain ex-Ranger Decker (Wings Hauser) and Graaka High-Priest Nazzer (Pat Morita) as it went down on the desolate planet Skaraab, a lifeless, sun-scorched wasteland, that's also home to a sacred Graaka burial site. Boon picks up new team member Daniel Kincaid who is fresh out of the academy. Zylyn tells Boon a legend of an ancient weapon hidden on the planet a thousand years ago, and protected from intruders by deadly vegetation. The Rangers attempt a rescue mission that could cost them all their lives.
"Banshees" -Colonel Weiss asks the Rangers to trap one of the deadly space predators known as Banshees - a request that Boon refuses until he learns a young boy (Rick Latini III) is trapped on an abandoned slaver spaceship in the Blood Nebula with some of the creatures. Once aboard the spaceship, they have difficulty finding him and learn the secret of his exceptionally long survival. They also have to worry about saving their own lives against creatures they know little about.
"The Replacements" -The Rangers are assigned a new android troubleshooter, who they dub "Ringer" (as in Dead), while they try to uncover the reasons behind a mining ship's hijacking. They're convinced that the ship is being used by a Hobbaba crime lord named Isogul for smuggling a deadly drug known as "Exjay", but if they cannot prove it, they have to return it. They also discover that Colonel Weiss's plans to eventually replace all human Space Rangers with androids.
"To Be Or Not To Be" -A has-been comedian Lenny Hacker* (Buddy Hackett) crash lands on prison planet Katraz on which there are no guards and from which no one ever leaves. Desperate to escape from yet another dress rehearsal for visiting General Kincaid (Danny's father), the Rangers undertake to rescue the comedian. General Kincaid holds Commander Chennault responsible for his son's safety. The team lands on the inhospitable penal colony and come face to face with its violent inhabitants, and the prisoners' vicious leader Rec.
"The Trial" -Zylyn is accused of the murder of another Graakan. When they fail to find legal counsel for his defense, the rest of the Rangers are forced to defend him in court themselves. Convinced there is a conspiracy to bring discredit to the Graaka race, they hunt for evidence as to the identity of the real murderer. Meanwhile, Isogul, the ruthless Hobbaba crime lord, has a new card up his sleeve to destroy the Space Rangers' defense system from inside. His master plan is to take over control of Fort Hope, but the Rangers also have a plan of their own designed to stop Isogul's crime wave permanently.
"Death Before Dishonor" -Captain Boon twice accidentally offends a race of reptilian warriors known as Vee'Lons. The Vee'Lon's dignitary Prince Gor'Dah (Sherman Howard), sentences Boon and his crew to death and declares war on Fort Hope & Central Command. After Central Command's Ambassador Hardcastle is assassinated, Chennault and Weiss are left alone to prevent an attack on Fort Hope. The crew's only way to avoid execution is for to Boon challenge the Prince Gor'Dah in a duel to the death in hand-to-hand combat.

The show wasn't the first incarnation of the Space Rangers though. Back in the days of the black and white cycle of comics in 1987 through 1988. The Star Rangers traveled the same circles as Death Hawk. Another Ellis creation as Death Hawk! The motif of the space western rung through this comic like a bell.
 According to wiki :
Star Rangers was a four-issue American science-fiction comic-book series created by writer Mark Ellis and artist Jim Mooney, following the adventures of a military spaceship crew in a 25th century controlled by corporations.
The plot,crew, and background of Star Rangers according to wiki : 

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 crew consists of:
  • Commander Jon Blake
  • Aristo the reptilian medic
  • Ahrikeem, master of combat from the Vholon Empire
  • Radac, the ship's synthetic human engineer
  • Maya Lucas, an embittered pilot who has little use for men.
They report to Commodore Nyota M'membe.
The story arc of the four-issue series dealt with the Rangers uncovering a conspiracy between two corporations and the criminal empire of Lord Rogue on the Freeworld of Amicus, and finding themselves branded criminals by their own organization.
 The whole series actually connects to the recent Loki's Spur saga and DeathHawk together with the greater Ellisverse.
The DeathHawk Saga
File:Death Hawk 1 cover.png

Death Hawk is the final piece of this puzzle. Its background can be seen to exist on its own or as part of the Space Ranger cosmos. It was a back up feature.
The background according to wiki: 
The 25th century as presented in Death Hawk and its companion series Star Rangers was a dystopia of solar system-spanning corporations that held the true power behind the centralized government of the Sol 9 Commonwealth. His true name unrevealed, the protagonist was the surviving member of a group of corporate outcasts who called themselves the Death Hawks. When the group was betrayed by one of their own, Death Hawk escaped in his 50-year-old spaceship the Peregrine. With the aid of his bio-engineered sidekick, Cyke, Death Hawk traveled the spaceways eluding arrest warrants and creditors, his eye always out for ways to keep his salvage business going — often when legality was questionable.
Cyke, described as an "intelligent blob of goo" was a telepathic protosymbioteproduced by the Biotek Corporation. Although Death Hawk referred to Cyke as "he", the creature was sexless. However, it possessed the ability to morph into a variety of sizes and shapes. Not only was Cyke extremely intelligent, it was far more knowledgeable than his human partner and wasn't above reminding Death Hawk of the fact.
The story arc "The Soulworm Saga" revolved around the quest for a mythical alien object of immense power.
Other characters included:
  • Brigid O'Shaunessy/Vanessa Bouvier, a beautiful con artist who claimed to be an exo-archeologist.
  • R'yex, an Arcturan mercenary who first opposed Death Hawk then out of necessity joined forces with him.
  • Anton Chane, a director of the mysterious Biotek Corporation, whose agenda has far-reaching implications for the evolution of humanity.
  • Takaun, one of the "high daimyos" of the Sol 9 Shogunate, who was just as crafty as Chane and as greedy as R'yex, but in his own way.
The character starred in a namesake, three-issue series series published by Adventure Publications from 1987-1988, created and written by Mark Ellis. He first appeared in a five-page back-up feature in Star Rangers #2-3, by the same writer.
There is a ton of online support for both comic book series and they are going to be avaiable soon as digital download. 
Here are a bunch of links for the comic series that could provide a DM with some very cool inspiration! 

The Ellisverse as OSR Blue Print

 The Ellisverse is a perfect blue print for a game like Star Without Number where the game is generic blue print for a space opera. For an X-plorer's game I'd take a stroll over the Exonaught blog for some very cool ideas for incorporating the space frontier into your games. 
 The area of the Spur is a given very vivid treatment and detailed with lots of rpg adventure ideas. 
For a game like Stars Ships and Space Men Second Edition this series offers a perfect portrait for a poorer sector of space. Someplace with low lifes and a lower technology axiom.
 For a game like Mutant Future the number of lowly space westerns that have post apocalyptic planets is pretty damn high. PC's are likely to encounter any number of mutant tribes.
For a game Metamorphosis Alpha the Banshees from the television show make a perfect monster for a group of mid level adventurers. The Spur is a great place to encounter space wrecks from any of the multiplicity of minor interstellar brush fire wars and battles of the past. First edition of the game is great for creating just these kinds of space salvage adventures.
I  don't think that at this late date that I would use the Space Rangers in either incarnation or the Death Hawk comic book. The books are great inspirations for any old school space opera role playing game. The latest incarnation of the Spur is available on Amazon right over HERE.


  1. I watched this show when it aired. I always figured Marjorie Monaghan needed to play an elf in anything/something.

    I'm sure it aired again years later. Maybe on the early days of Sci-Fi channel or some other basic cable channel.

  2. I remember watching a couple of episodes of Space Rangers back in the day. Seems like it was here one day, and gone the next. I didn't realize they actually made six episodes. I'll have to track them down.


  3. Saroe - I believe this did air back about 1995 or 1997 on the Sci Fi channel late at night when it was the Sci Fi channel. Suffering from insomnia, cable was one of the salivations of late night channel surfing.
    "Marjorie Monaghan needed to play an elf in anything/something." Yeah of pretty much the same opinion about her back then. She would have been perfect for the role of an elf or something of that nature. On the other hand she's served as the template for any number of Elven NPC's in my games over the years.
    Thanks for the comments!

  4. "I remember watching a couple of episodes of Space Rangers back in the day. Seems like it was here one day, and gone the next. I didn't realize they actually made six episodes. I'll have to track them down."
    Ed- I believe I saw the "Star Rangers" episodes over on youtube or Hulu but I can't remember where I did though. I've been using them for reference for my up coming Talon Campaign Reboot! "Two Hundred Years of Blood" will be coming soon. Thanks for the comment!


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