If you were a sci-fi television fan in the mid-late-'90s, then you were very familiar with the spaceship adventure show genre. In addition to your Star Trek: The Next Generation, you had Babylon 5, Andromeda, Farscape and I’m sure many others — each one more ridiculous (gloriously so) than the last. They always starred a ragtag group of adventurers, each one filling a role you might recognize if you played a lot of RPGs. They also usually included a ship that was also somehow a character. In the case of Andromeda, that became quite literal.
These shows had everything you could want if you enjoyed your sci-fi gung-ho and a little cheesy — unless you were a kid. For that, we had Space Cases.
I would say you'd be hard-pressed to find a millennial sci-fi fan who didn't watch this show as a kid. For many of us, it was our introduction to space-based science fiction. And if you were a female fan, then you were definitely a fan of Catalina, the rainbow-haired engineer from Saturn's moon Titan. Catalina was perky, stubborn and brilliant. She was basically a baby version of Firefly’s Kaylee Frye.
Oh, and did I mention she was played by Jewel Staite?
And she had rainbow hair. The hair is very important. You cannot tell me you didn't want this dye job. Well, I guess you can. I just won't believe you. Her multi-tonal bob was a statement, a prism of confidence and individuality. Plus … it was so shiny.
In addition to having the universe's greatest hair, Catalina also had a bad-ass voice. She possessed a sonic scream, much like Black Canary of DC Comics (and since the show was partly created by Peter David, I would be surprised if that wasn't intentional). Now, while you might think the ability to shatter glass, puncture eardrums and destroy electronics would be pretty dangerous on a spaceship, more than once she used her sonic shriek to save the day.
And then there was Suzee, Catalina's invisible friend. Throughout the first season, Catalina had to deal with everyone thinking she was crazy or immature, talking to the walls or somehow convinced that her imaginary friend was real. For some reason, in a universe in which you can accidentally get shot through a hole in space and end up traveling on a spaceship with half a dozen different alien species, the concept of an invisible girl is too far over the line. Catalina was defiant, though, maintaining her insistence that Suzee was, in fact, real.
Naturally, she would be proven right just too late. At the end of the first season, Catalina is on board an alien ship when it explodes. While the rest of the crew thinks she has perished, it turns out that she and Suzee had just traded places! Suzee is now part of the crew, while Catalina and her brilliant hair and mind are trapped in Suzee's home dimension Yensid (which is Disney backwards — owing to the fact that Staite had left the show to star in the Disney Channel series Flash Forward).
So let's raise a glass to the rainbow-haired '90s heroine and celebrate not only her fabulous follicles but her underappreciated brilliance.