Filmed over 41 days in Hollywood and then Australia, partially because of Australian funding, the $7.5 million 1988 mini-series 'Something Is Out There' sought to explore "speculative themes and metaphors about the future." Initially called 'Invader', Maryam d'Abo played an extra-terrestrial called Ta'Ra from the make-believe planet of Zeton who could read human mind.
Ta'Ra landed on Earth, and with the help of a human police man, Jack Breslin, tried to capture an alien convict known as Xenomorph (an Arachnid type creature) who had escaped from a prison spaceship Ta'Ra was on. The alien had reportedly costed Rick Baker $700,000 to bring to life. On Earth, Xenomorph terrorized human beings by invading their bodies and assumed their identities. It was noted the beast from outer space was also planning a takeover of the planet.
John Dykstra provided the special effects. 'Something Is Out There' was created by Frank Lupo from 'The A-Team'. Joe Cortese observed 'Something Is Out There' "touches of wry humor are followed by action as Lupo keeps the pace up. His dialog follows an arc, starting off one way and ending with a twist. This is his first show away from the Stephen Cannell company. He called me after seeing me in 'The Death Collector' movie and the TV pilot 'Brothers-In-Law.'"
The mini-series did well in the May 1988 sweeps against 'The Bourne Identity' starring Jaclyn Smith and the Robert Altman's adaptation of Herman Wouk's 1953 'The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial'. Joe recalled, "When this came on last May (back in 1988), I never thought it would do as well as it did. It was up against some tough competition, but it came out on top. I was pleasantly surprised." Part 1 of 'Something Is Out There' attracted some 19.3% of the 88.6 million American homes with TV sets at the time (roughly 17.1 million homes with TV sets were counted watching).
'Something Is Out There' then became a regular weekly TV series in the 1988-1989 season. Up against 'Dallas', 'Something Is Out There' lasted only 6 episodes. It finished the season attracting an average rating of 8.3% of the 90.4 million American homes with TV sets at the time.
Producers John Ashley told 'Starlog', "Things definitely change fast when a mini-series or movie becomes a weekly series. It's great when you've got 4 hours, $7.5 million and the talents of Rick Baker and John Dykstra to play around with. But what happens when you're suddenly cut to a million per episode budget, don't have the talents of Baker or Dykstra and have to take the mini-series concept to the next level while turning out an hour a week? What happens is that you make changes."
From the outset, Joe Cortese told the press, "It's not going to be a creature of the week show and it's not going to be another cop show or romantic comedy. It’ll have a supernatural element and our cases will be a little more eerie." Joe reasoned, "Every kind of story you can do in a cop show's been done. So, we're taking a risk. It's a new arena and it could be a hit or a miss."
John Ashley remembered, "In the early episodes, we felt we had pulled our reins in too far. We discovered that many people were expecting an alien every week, because of the mini-series, and were being disappointed. What we were giving them just wasn't working. So, we took a step back and looked at what elements made the mini-series work and made the later episodes along the lines of where the show should have gone. We went back to basics. We brought the creature from the mini-series back for a 2-part episode, gave Ta'Ra some additional powers and made the show more science fictional in nature."
Of one episode, Joe recounted, "In this episode, the girl has telekinetic powers and she knows something is going to happen. Two renegade intelligence agents are after her because her father invented a serum that gives her these powers. They want to sell it to the highest bidder." Of the TV series, Joe insisted, "There's going to be a lot of humor between this man and woman. She'll help him solve the cases with her power. There'll be bantering and some sexual tension between them, but that's it. They’ll never get together. This is much more accessible to the audience than 'V'. The audience is going to like this guy and girl. After people saw the mini-series they started comparing it to 'Moonlighting'. I think it stands on its own."