Science fiction is an amazing genre. It allows us to look into the future and places that we can only imagine. We are able to explore places and moments that are totally out of the realm of possibility by today’s technological standards and see how humanity will face the new challenges that will come. Science fiction can be as hopeful as grim, and by today’s standards, and in reflection of our current society, science fiction stories tend to be a bit darker than they used to be.
In particular, the stories dealing not only with aspects of science fiction such as space travel, but also with how society will work, and how the military will get involved in those scenarios. Nothing really gets as grim as Warhammer 40k in the realm of current science fiction. However, there are many stories out there that take their influence from the gigantic tabletop game universe and use it to feed their own stories with that dose of darkness and violence.
Salvage Marines is one such tale. This is a new science fiction TV series developed for Popcornflix, and Crackle that you can watch for free right now by just going to any of these websites. That is a great incentive, but does the militaristic sci-fi show manage to be a good time investment, or is it a better choice to look somewhere else? The show is an adaptation of the Necrospace series of books written by Sean-Michael Argo. In the series, Argo mixes a military angle with some serious social commentary.
The first thing that we have to say about Salvage Marines is that for everyone out there that is a fan of Warhammer 40k or stories in that similar vein, Salvage Marines might have something for you. The premise might be the strongest element in the show. If someone is going to watch the entirety of the first season, all six episodes, then it is going to be just for the premise alone. Everything else around the idea for the show leaves a lot to be desired.
The series introduces us to a future where mega-corporations have developed into their own nations, owning countless planets that they exploit for profit. The exploitation doesn’t just involve the natural resources of each planet, but also the people who live on those planets. These inhabitants are basically the property of the corporation that runs the planet, and most people are drowned in debt in order to survive the inhuman living conditions. Working a normal job will get you nowhere, but becoming a salvage marine might be the way out.
The series stars Casper Van Dien, Peter Shinkoda, Jennifer Wenger, and Armand Assante. Van Dien is one of the producers on the show, and of course, the Starship Trooper vibes are strong in this one. Van Dien isn’t a bad actor, but his career never went beyond his Starship Trooper fame, and this show is just one more project riding on the audience’s love for that amazing classic from the 90s. Van Dien takes the role of the main character, Samuel Hyst, an honest regular man trapped in a terrible situation.
The show becomes fascinating when world building takes place. The idea that mega corporations now rule every single planet in the Milk Way and beyond might sound like a joke. But it is actually quite a commentary on capitalism and how sometimes the system just takes away every single piece of humanity from its workers just to make money. It is a sad story, but one that hits home to reality once the parallels with the corporations of our day start to appear easier and easier.
However, the cool premise can hide the fact that Salvage Marines doesn’t look good at all. It might actually be one of the cheapest TV shows ever created. In an age when TV can rival movies in theaters any day of the week, Salvage Marines really stands out as a relic from the past. This is the kind of project that movie stars feared when thinking about making TV. The show has too many great ideas, but they cannot be fully realized because the budget is just too low.
The sets look frail and fake, the green screen composites look like wall paper, and the action sequences are laughably bad. We really need to salute the actors for taking their roles as seriously as they do. The cast really pulls a lot of the weight in this production, but every part of the visual aspect is just too cheap and ugly. It would have been nice to see this world fully realized, but without exaggerating, this thing looks like Doctor Who from the 70s, or maybe even worse.
Without the capabilities to execute properly on the idea the show presents, Salvage Marines drifts away in space, to an audience that will laugh ironically at the show, and find it endearing because it is so bad. This might be the best way to look at the show: as a sort of student project level filmmaking, the product of someone who doesn’t really know what to do and didn’t have any money to make it. This is the best way to look at it, because if looked at it in any other way, it would be completely unwatchable.
Salvage Marines has a cool premise, and a cast of actors that do their best. However, it cannot properly match the standards of today’s TV efforts and comes off as amateurish and funny when it is not supposed to be. Watch ironically and you might have a good time.