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Volume 1, Issue #6
"Stand By For Mars!"
June 2006

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The Thunder Child Televison Sourcebook
Rocket Fins and Ray Guns: 1950s American Science Fiction Television
by Caroline Miniscule

Literature had had a thousand year history before science fiction came on the scene, in 1818, with the publication of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein: Or, the Modern Prometheus. And if Frankenstein was the first science fiction novel it was also the first play as well, as the book was adapted to the theatre within months of its appearance.

But once science fiction made it on the scene, it did not lag behind in newly invented media. Frankenstein doesn't quite get the accolade of the first science fiction movie (Edison made a version in 1905), Melies' A Trip to the Moon (1902) deserves that honor.

On the radio? A science fiction show called Ultra Violet made its debut in the 30s, and Buck Rogers in 1932.

And then there was television. Milton Berle, "Mr. Television," made his debut in 1948, as did a host of other drama, mystery and comedy shows. Science fiction did not lag far behind. Captain Video began in 1949 and proved to be very popular, lasting until 1955 (when Space Patrol and Tom Corbett went off the air as well).

1950s American Science Fiction
Television series and anthologies
(cartoons not included)

Show Debut Final
Captain Video 06/27/1949 04/01/1955
Space Patrol 03/13/1950 02/26/1955
Buck Rogers 04/15/1950 01/30/1951
Tom Corbett, Space Cadet 10/2/1950 06/25/1955
Tales of Tomorrow 08/03/1951 06/12/1953
Out There 10/28/1951 01/13/1952
The Adventures of Superman 09/19/1952 04/28/1958
Atom Squad 07/06/1953 01/18/1954
Johnny Jupiter 03/31/1953 01/30/1954
Rod Brown on the Rocket Rangers 04/18/1953 05/29/1954
Operation Neptune 06/28/1953 09/21/1953
Rocky Jones, Space Ranger 01/20/1954 12/?/1955
Science Fiction Theatre 04/?/1955 04/?/1957
Captain Z-Ro 12/18/1955 06/?/1956
The Twilight Zone 10/02/1959 06/19/1964

By 1955 the three great shows - Captain Video, Space Patrol and Tom Corbett, Space Cadet were taken off the air...not so much because of poor ratings but because the networks wanted to replace them with shows that were easier to do...Westerns. "Take that, Space Toy!"

It would be another 9 years, until 1964, before another science fiction series (as opposed to anthology) would be on the air...Lost in Space....and then came Star Trek.

Left: Al Hodge as Captain Video
Above: Ed Kemmer and Lyn Osborn in Space Patrol

Left: Frankie Thomas as Tom Corbett, Space Cadet
Top: Bob Hastings and Bob Courtleigh in Atom Squad

Wright King in Johnny Jupiter

Cliff Robertson as Rod Brown and His Rocket Rangers

Richard Crane as Rocky Jones, Space Ranger with Sally Mansfield

Roy Steffens as Captain Z-Ro

External links
  • Comic Kingdom's Science Fiction on Television in the 1950s
  • The Solar Guard: Tom Corbett and Space Patrol
  • Episode Guides: Captain Z-Ro
  • The Space Hero Files (all of 'em). Part of Roaring Rockets.

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