Saturday, February 24, 2007

Space Patrol

Then at 11 AM came my favorite, and perhaps the most generally popular of the Saturday morning sci-fi adventures: Space Patrol. It started out with a really neat space ship (named the Terra), and the announcer: "High adventure in the wild, vast reaches of space! Missions of daring in the name of interplanetary justice! Travel into the future with Buzz Corry, Commander in Chief of the SPACE PATROL!"

The Space Patrol was the service of the United (Federation of) Planets (like Star Trek later, and like Trek--Gene Roddenberry's biographer David Alexander points out--it was created by a military pilot of the U.S. Navy, as Roddenberry was, in this case by William " Mike" Moser. )

Commander Corry and the Space Patrol battled space pirates, evil scientists and other intersteller bad guys. But like all of these shows, they also warned of the dangers of radiation and promoted peaceful solutions and even disarmament. After Buzz Corey encountered a planet that had destroyed itself through hatred, he returned to earth determined to see that it didn’t happen there.

Their base of operations was an artificial planet in the solar system, also called Terra. There were real sci-fi plots like Corry traveling a thousand years in the past to find a particular blood donor, but mostly space opera adventures, traveling to a planet of Amazons, and to battle the Wild Men of Procyon, Captain Dagger, zombie robots, invisible creatures and their greatest nemesis, Prince Baccaratti.

Ed Kemmer played Corry. Kemmer had been a military pilot in World War II, was shot down and held in a prisoner of war camp. He had some theatre training but no TV acting experience. Lyn Osborn, Kemmer's pal from the Pasadena Playhouse and himself an ex-military airman, played the often comic sidekick, Cadet Happy. He did Robin for the space age with his "Smokin Rockets!" and "Blast off!" exclamations. Ken Mayer was the action assistant, Major Robertson. Norman Jolley was the wise old Secretary General of United Planets, Mr. Karlyle, and his comely blond daughter, Carol, was played by Virginia Hewitt, but there was also a sultry brunette with a "criminal past" called Miss Tonga, played by Nina Bara. Once again the future had short skirts (even before the 60s and Star Trek.)

Gene Barry (soon to star in War of the Worlds) had a guest shot, and probably the highest octane villain is one I think I remember, the evil Mr. Proteus, played by Marvin Miller, who not only starred later in The Millionaire TV series but was the voice of Robbie the Robot in Forbidden Planet.

I have one strong memory in connection with this show. It was starting one Saturday morning when my mother heard the announcer or someone on the show refer to it being set in the thirtieth century. (I have the vague recollection it was another time travel plot.) She asked me if I knew what century it is now. I wasn't sure. She told me the twentieth, and then said that she used to listen to Buck Rodgers on the radio--his space adventures were in the 22nd century. I remember this partly because I hadn't imagined my mother listening to space adventures, but also because I began to sense the extent of time, and of the future.

UPDATE: Ain't the Internet great? Turns out there's an entire and really great website about Space Patrol with lots of information, the audio of the show's opening, and an entire episode to watch. (The production values don't match Rocky Jones, but listen to the crisp diction of the actors.) It's by the author of the Space Patrol Book, Jean-Noel Bassior, who left a comment here. Thanks Jean-Noel!

1 comment: said...

Cool! There are many "cadets" in the galaxy who remember (and treasure) the positive impact of Space Patrol.

Jean-Noel Bassior