The Thunder Child

Science Fiction and Fantasy
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Vol 1, Issue #5
"Stand By For Mars!"
May 2006

Non-Fiction Book Reviews
by Caroline Miniscule

Space Patrol: Missions of Daring
in the Name of Early Television

McFarland Press
Jean-Noel Bassior
438 pages including index

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Caroline Miniscule has traveled around the world. She now stays in one place and reads science fiction. She is a graduate of D'Illyria University.

March 9, 1950: Space Patrol made its debut as a 15-minute a day, 5-day a week serial on a local Los Angeles TV station. Nine months later it had grown so popular that it was purchased by a network and aired nationwide.

Television was in its infancy and there was no such thing as videotape. Families who crowded around their television sets were in essence watching live theater. If an actor forgot a line or a prop failed to work properly, it happened in full view of millions of people...and it was the actor's job to cover those lapses. And for the most part they succeeded admirably.

Actors in science fiction had it much harder than straight drama programs. They had to work on sets that evoked a future era, deal with special effects such as floating in space when gravity controls gave out, and memorize lines and lines of technology-filled dialog. The Space Patrol actors and production people (who if anything had more difficult roles to fulfill) thrived in this adrenalin-charged atmosphere, and their audience thrived on it also.

Cadet Happy, Major Robertson, Carol Carlisle,
Commander Buzz Corry, and Tonga

Space Patrol lasted for five years, coming to an end in 1955. (As did its two main rivals, Tom Corbett, Space Cadet and Captain Video and His Video Rangers). The space shows were usurped by the Western just a couple of years before the space program took off in real life (but that's a topic for a different article.)

Now, fifty years after its first broadcast, both Space Patrol and Tom Corbett remain in the hearts and minds of many of the people who grew up watching those programs - from those who were merely inculcated with the values of loyalty and friendship demonstrated by the characters in these programs, to those who were actually inspired to become space scientists of some kind.


1. Countdown
2. Blast-Off
3. Up Ship and Away! Launcing the Show in Los Angeles
4. The Right Stuff
5. Stardrive: Going Network
6. Norman Jolley: The Soul of Space Patrol
7. In Search of Heroes
8. Houston, We've Got A Problem
9. Hap
10. Hey, Kids!
11. Robbie
12. On the Beam: Lou Houston and the Radio Shows
13. Dick Darley: Making it Real
14. "That's My Cadet!"
15. Bela
16. The Search for the Ralston Rocket
17. Landing
18. Spacemen's Luck
19. Actor and Archetypes
20. Carol and Tonga: The Women of the Space Patrol
21. A Mission of Daring
22. Where Have All the Heroes Gone?
Appendix 1: Cadet Handzo's Guide to Space Patrol Merchandising, by Stephen Handzo
Appendix 2:
Space Patrol Television Episode Guide: Network Shows, by Frank Bresee with additions by Cadets Nancy Heck and Joe Sarno
Appendix 3: Major Chuck Lassen's
Space Patrol Radio Episode Log, by Charles S. Lassen
Appendix 4: The Ships and Miniature Sets of
Space Patrol, by Jack McKirgan II

FileWhenAuthor Jean-Noel Bassior's book Space Patrol: Missions of Daring in the Name of Early Television, is more than a history of the classic science fiction program ? it's also a history of some of the most exciting years in the history of television itself. More than that, it's a memoir - a history of Bassior's decade-long quest to find and dialog with the cast members and production personnel of the show ? with a presence at her shoulder every step of the way.


The voice was urgent: "Go inside and ask about Space Patrol".

I was standing alone - except for the eerie feeling that Someone or Something was at my side - in front of the new nostalgia store in Guernsville, California, a small resort town on the banks of the Russian River. Guernville makes the national news every few years when the river floods its banks and devastates the town - again. Each time it happens, folks gripe about the recklessness expansion of the city of Santa Rosa upstream, a burgeoning bedroom community sixty miles north of San Francisco. In recent years, vineyards and pastures that used to absorb the rainwater have been paved over to make way fo housing developments, so the floodwaters rush downstream, ravaging the small communities that dot the river's shores.

Lyn Osborn, who played Cadet Happy, died of a brain tumor at the age of 32, just 3 years after the show had gone off the air. But his presence is very much felt by Bassior as she interviews the actors: Ed Kemmer (Buzz Corry), Virginia Hewitt (Carol Carlisle), Nina Bara (Tonga), Ken Mayer (Major Robertson) and Bela Kovacks (Prince Baccarotti).

She also interviewed Norman Jolley - the writer for most of the televison programs, whom she titles "the Soul of Space Patrol", Lou Huston who wrote the radio programs, and Dick Darley, the director, as well as actors who guested on the program.

At 357 pages (plus an additional 80 pages of appendices), this book is jam-packed with photos of the cast and crew, the premiums which kids could acquire from eating the sponsor's products, and behind-the-scenes shots, as well as memories and reminiscences from the men and women who worked long and hard hours to bring the program to life.

Space Patrol was ostensibly aimed at children, but because the actors and writer took it seriously, and because of the dedication of the crew who filmed the show, it was much more than that.

The actors? The characters - each one willing to die for the others - were true heroes in the eyes of the audience.

The episodes? Cast your eye on the Episode Guide at the back of the book and a few of those synopses will remind you of Star Trek adventures. The plots were sophisticated (for the most part) and well thought out and exciting!

Space Patrol's legacy lives on in many ways.

This book is highly recommended to all fans of television history, science fiction history, and to those who just like a good read about fascinating people.

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