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The Golden Age of TV Space Heroes

© 1997 By Cadet Rory Coker

|..Tom Corbett ..|.. Space Patrol ..|.. Capt Video ..|.. Rod Brown ..|.. Rocky Jones ..|.. Men In Space ..|

Tom CorbettTom Corbett, Space Cadet
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Broadcast history:
1st network show: October 2, 1950; Last show: June 25, 1955.
Broadcast live, 15 minutes, 3 days a week (1950 - 52); 30 minutes, Saturdays,
(1953 - 55). This was the only t.v. show ever to run on all 4 networks, and to run on two different networks simultaneously.
CBS (1950); ABC (1951 - 2); NBC (1951); DuMont (1953 - 4); NBC (1954 - 55).
In 2350, Tom Corbett enters the Space Academy to train to become an officer of the Solar Guard. Plots depended more on hazards of space travel than on human menaces. Based on the novel by Robert A. Heinlein.

Director(s): George Gould, Ralph Ward.
Craft: The nuclear powered space-cruiser Polaris
Writers: Jack Weinstock and Willie Gilbert, Stu Brynes, Albert Aley, Ray Morse, Alfred Bester, George Lowther, Richard Jessup, Frankie Thomas.
Special Effects: Done by studio staff live;
Technical advisor: Willy Ley

Tom Corbett --- Frankie Thomas (command cadet)
Roger Manning--- Jan Merlin (radar deck cadet)
Astro--- Al Markim (power deck cadet)
Captain Steve Strong--- Edward Bryce
Professor Doctor Joan Dale--- Margaret Garland
Commander Arkwright--- Carter Blake
Alfie ``The Brain'' Higgins--- John Fiedler (science cadet, 1950 - 1952)
T.J.Thistle--- Jack Grimes (radar deck cadet, 1954 - 55)
Major ``Blastoff'' Connel--- Ben Stone
Others--- Tom Poston, William Windom, Frank Sutton, Jack Lord, Jack Klugman, etc.

Sponsors: Kellogg's Cereals (1950 - 52), Red Goose Shoes (1953 - 54),
Kraft Foods (1954 - 55).

Tom Corbett was hugely popular, and extensively promoted, with toys, juvenile series books, a newspaper comic strip, a comic book, a radio show (with the same cast), etc.
The cadets' adventures were generally confined to the solar system, with an occasional visit to a nearby solar system (Alpha Centauri, Sirius, etc.) via hyperdrive. Monsters and aliens were very, very rarely encountered. The program was the first to use electronic travelling mattes for live special effects.

Tom Corbett Universe: Storylines and connections:
A WARNING! Under no circumstances should background information about Tom Corbett, the other space cadets, the Space Academy and the Solar Guard be taken from the 8 G & D juvenile novels written in the early 1950s by ``Cary Rockwell.'' Despite a lot of research, as far as I know, the actual author has never been identified, but he was obviously British. He was also obviously supplied with very little background information about the TV series, and had never seen even one episode. The illustrators obviously were initially not supplied with reference photos from the TV series.

The result is that the author felt free to make up essentially all the details as he went along, and they are in essentially every case inconsistent with the TV series. However, later novels in the series, such as THE ROBOT ROCKET, are based fairly closely on actual TV or radio scripts (for instance, ROBOT ROCKET is based partly on ``The Space Projectile,'' broadcast on April 30, 1955). These books were simultaneously published in England and were quite popular there, although SPACE CADET was never broadcast on TV in England. The British versions of the books had identical text, but different illustrators. It is interesting that the name of the Commander of the Space academy is different in these novels; since Commander Arkwright was the only character name borrowed directly from SPACE CADET by Robert Heinlein, there were probably legal considerations involved in the change of name in the juvenile novels. The possiblility of a British author for the G & D Tom Corbett novels apply only to the first or second novel in the series, not the later ones adapted from TV scripts. And it is these two that have the same style as the DIG ALLEN series.

If you like this writer, he also apparently wrote (at least the style is identical) the DIG ALLEN SPACE EXPLORER series of juvenile sf, under the pen name ``Joseph Green,'' for Golden Books in 1960. These novels are fairly easy to find in the used book market. There are 6 in the series:

The ``universe'' in which the stories take place is virtually identical to Tom Corbett's.

Other remarks on consistency: there was near-perfect consistency between the radio and TV incarnations of SPACE CADET, and the radio version even adapted several TV scripts directly. There was much less consistency in the daily newspaper SPACE CADET comic strips and the Dell comic books, but they were infinitely closer to the TV continuity than the G & D juvenile novels. Editor's Note: Many of Rory's comments have been noted by others, which has led to the speculation that there were several sources used for the writing direction of the Tom Corbett Universe. The newspaper strip's author, Paul S. Newman, has shed some light on the writing process for the strip and an interview with him will be forthcoming. It appears the producer of the show, Albert Aley, had a lot of control over the written material of the character. Joseph Greene's son, Paul Greene, has supplied a number of cast pictures from the show as well as the proto-type for Tom Corbett - Tom Ranger (see The Tom Ranger Adventure on The Space Record page). As research continues, more information will come to light.

|..Tom Corbett ..|.. Space Patrol ..|.. Capt Video ..|.. Rod Brown ..|.. Rocky Jones ..|.. Men In Space ..|
 Space Patrol
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Broadcast history:
1st network show: September 11, 1950; Last show: February 26, 1955.
Broadcast live, 30 minutes, ABC, daily 1950; Sundays or Saturdays 1951- 52;
Saturdays, 1952 - 55.
A thousand years into the future, the Space Patrol, headquartered on the man-made planet Terra, commanded by Buzz Corry, safeguards the peace of the solar system. Aided by
his comical sidekick, Cadet Happy, Buzz battles supercriminals in a series that is basically a ripoff of Captain Video.

Creator: Mike Moser; Director(s): Dick Darley, Helen Moser, Lew Spence
Craft: Battle Cruiser 100; Terra IV, V.
Writers: Norman Jolley, Mike Moser, Lou Houston
Special Effects: Franz, Oscar and Paul Dallons (done live)
Practical Effects: Cameron Pierce

Commander Buzz Corry--- Ed Kemmer
Cadet Happy--- Lyn Osborn
Carol Karlyle--- Virginia Hewitt
Tonga--- Nina Bara (1950 - 53)
Major Robbie Robertson--- Ken Mayer
Secretary General Karlyle--- Hal Forrest, Paul Cavanaugh
Prince Baccarratti--- Bela Kovacs
Dr.Malengro--- Larry Dobkin
Agent X--- Normal Jolley
Mr. Proteus--- Marvin Miller
Others--- Lee Van Cleef, Gene Barry

Sponsors: Ralston-Purina (1951 - 54), Nestle Chocolate (1954 - 55)

Space Patrol offered a fine line of premiums and toys, over 80 in all, the greatest of which was the Rocket Cockpit. They also offered the greatest giveaway contest prize of all time, the Ralston Rocket or ``Terra IV,'' a 35-foot long spaceship, on its own flatbed truck, with instrumented cockpit, bunks, kitchen and meeting room! Actually two such ships existed, one used for personal appearances by Corry and Happy.

Corry faced mainly human villians. In the remote future he inhabited, there were human colonies on most of the planets and moons of the solar system, and most planets of other solar systems were inhabited by manlike beings. There were no monsters or inhuman looking aliens. As on  Captain Video and  Space Cadet, captured villians were rehabilitated.

On  Space Patrol a special gadget called the ``Brainograph'' was used for both interrogation and for rehabilitation. This was the best-looking of all the live space-travel t.v.shows, thanks to elaborate sets, impressive practical effects, and adequate special effects.

|..Tom Corbett ..|.. Space Patrol ..|.. Capt Video ..|.. Rod Brown ..|.. Rocky Jones ..|.. Men In Space ..|
 Captain Video
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Broadcast history:
1st network show: June 27, 1949; Last show: April 1, 1955.
DuMont Network, 30 minutes, broadcast live 5 to 6 days per week!
During the 1953-54 season there were two separate shows with different titles, one weekly, the other on Saturday morning--- Secret Files of Captain Video

In the 22nd Century (2149 to 2155), great scientific genius Captain Video and his juvenile sidekick The Video Ranger battle crime, various menaces from outer space, and strange situations on distant planets.

Creator: James L.Caddigan;
Director(s): Larry White, Pat Fay.
Craft: (jet plane) X-9; (spaceships) Galaxy, Galaxy II
(1949-51) M.C.Brockhauser, Larry Weinstock and Willie Gilbert, Carey Wilbur;
(1952 - 55) Jack Vance, James Blish, Robert Sheckley, C.M. Kornbluth, Arthur C.Clarke, Damon Knight, etc., etc.
Special Effects: ``Russell and Haberstroh''--- done on 16 mm film

Captain Video--- Richard Coogan (1949 - 50);
Al Hodge (1950 - 57)
Video Ranger--- Don Hastings
Commissioner Carey--- Ben Lackland
Dr. Pauli--- Bram Nossem, Hal Conklin, Stephen Elliot
Tobor--- Dave Ballard (7 ft, 6 inches!)
Spartak--- Grant Sullivan
Others--- Ernest Borgnine, Jack Klugman, Tony Randall, etc., etc.

Sponsors: Powerhouse Candy, Skippy Peanut Butter (1949 - 51); Post Cereals (1951 - 55)

Although the most popular of the space shows, and the only t.v. show ever to inspire a movie serial, Captain Video in 1951, the show was poorly ``merchandised'' and very few Captain Video toys survive.

Captain Video battled more than 300 fiendish villians during the show's run. Some standouts: Nargola, Mook the Moon Man, Neptune, Kul of Eos, Hing Foo Seeng, Dr. Clysmok, Dahoumie, The Beggar, Ultima Aureans, Permes Lykos, Prince Spartak of the Black Planet, Atar, Clipper Evans, Zazarion, Radig, The Space Pirate, Gayo, Muroc, Amos the Mastermind, Sulla, Circe, Zotor, Capt. Dink, Prof. Linkoff, etc., etc.

Scripts involved not only space travel \& adventure, but also search for Atlantis via submarine, search for underground civilizations via subterrine, etc. Captain Video was the first space hero to fall into a Black Hole (1954) or encounter a planet ruled by a giant computer (1953).

Jack Vance Scripts For CAPTAIN VIDEO:
According to WRITERS OF THE 21st CENTURY: JACK VANCE, ed. by Tim Underwood and Chuck Miller, (Taplinger, 1980), Jack Vance wrote the following scripts for Captain Video in 1952 - 1953:

The flavor of these adventures, as I recall them dimly after so many years, is virtually identical to that in Vance's Winston juvenile novel VANDALS OF THE VOID, also published in 1953. Captain Video was broadcast daily, 5 to 6 days a week. The 30-minute program expended about 14 minutes on part of an old cowboy movie and commercials, leaving about 15 minutes for live, scripted adventure. A single story generally took 2 to 3 weeks to spool out, so the adventures written by Vance probably covered 10 to 15 weeks of the broadcasts.


|..Tom Corbett ..|.. Space Patrol ..|.. Capt Video ..|.. Rod Brown ..|.. Rocky Jones ..|.. Men In Space ..|
Rod Brown of the Rocket Rangers
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CBS, 30 min, live, April 18, 1953 to May 29, 1954.

This was a direct ripoff of  Tom Corbett with the same producer, director (George Gould) and writers (Jack Weinstock and Willy Gilbert). Theodore Sturgeon contributed a few scripts. The show lasted only one season. No known kinescopes have survived.

Rocket Rangers operated from Omega Base in 2153 to safeguard the solar system. The crew of the space cruiser Beta consisted of Commander Swift (John Boruff) and rangers Rod Brown (Cliff Robertson), Frank Boyle (Bruce Hall) and Wilber Wormser (Jack Weston).

Special effects were both live and pre-filmed, done by the CBS studio crew.

|..Tom Corbett ..|.. Space Patrol ..|.. Capt Video ..|.. Rod Brown ..|.. Rocky Jones ..|.. Men In Space ..|
 Rocky Jones, Space Ranger
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Syndicated, 16 mm films, 30 minutes, 1953 - 4.

This is the most obscure of all 1950's space adventure shows, and was almost unknown when most of its 30-odd episodes became available on video tape in the late 1970's. It is probably one of the most poorly written t.v. shows of all time. The special effects, by a Hollywood crew, were somewhat better than the usual for 1950's t.v. Only one season of syndicated programs were produced.

A thousand years into the future, Rocky Jones (Richard Crane) commands the Space Rangers. Piloting his ``orbit jet'' the Silver Moon, accompanied by his comical sidekick Winky (Scotty Beckett), his girlfriend Vena Ray (Sally Mansfield), scientific advisor Professor Newton (Maurice Cass), and kid sidekick Bobby (Robert Lyden), Jones faces adventures in a completely imaginary universe where the writers (Warren Wilson, Arthur Hoerl) don't know the difference between a planet and a star, or a solar system and a galaxy. Jones rarely encounters anything but entirely human looking aliens. When Scotty Beckett was sent to prison, Jones' sidekick became Biff (James Lydon). ``Aliens'': Juliandra (Ann Robinson), Pinto Vortando (Ted Hecht), Darganto (Frank Pulaski) and Ed Wood's bulky pal Tor Johnson played a villain in the series.

|..Tom Corbett ..|.. Space Patrol ..|.. Capt Video ..|.. Rod Brown ..|.. Rocky Jones ..|.. Men In Space ..|
 Men Into Space
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CBS, 1959 - 60, 30 min, 16 mm film.
Aimed at adults, and with the cooperation of the U.S. Air Force and space artist Chelsey Bonestell, this series tried to give a ``realistic'' picture of space flight in the near future (say, 1970). Colonel Ed McCauley (William Lundigan) was the only regular cast member, as he supervised the construction of a manned space station, and a lunar colony. In later episodes he was on expeditions to Mars and Venus. Although there was a hint of an extraterrestrial civilization, no life was depicted on any other planet of our solar system (correctly). Suspense came from failure of men and equipment during space exploration. The show was hampered by dull scripts, poor acting, and inadequate special effects and lasted only one season.

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