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In Astroscope!
Rocky Jones: Space Ranger, Six 1950s Sci-Fi TV Episodes
© 2013 James LaFond
150 minutes, 2004, Digiview
I found this DVD in a ghetto dollar bin a few years ago and finally got around to viewing it yesterday. This was a mid 1950s TV show that seems to have only run six episodes. You are probably cringing at the thought of the special effects. They were bad. I think stainless steel plumbing fixtures were used for the space station. That acting was poor. There was, however, a lot of potential here. A good storyline could have made it worth watching.
The lead was played by Richard Crane, with a lame wisecracking sidekick and a vapid apathetic boss in the form of the Secretary of The Office of Space Affairs. Rocky is a space ranger patrolling for the United Worlds of the Solar System. The ships were three-man rockets with leather swivel recliners. The uniforms were an assortment of superhero eroticwear and Union Cavalry dress blues.
This DVD is marketed as the precursor to Star Trek. That observation was spot on. One of the reasons why I have never been able to take Star Trek seriously as sci-fi is the sappy ‘United Nations of Space’ premise, with enforcement provided by a star fleet modeled directly on terrestrial naval tradition. Rocky Jones shows us how old is the assumption among sci-fi writers that space will be ruled from earth precisely as earth is ruled from New York and Washington D.C. It is astonishing, that to this day, the accepted nature of a human inhabited space is depicted as either an empire or a coercive federation. This makes about as much sense as Northrop Grumman being organized according to tribes and clans, with employees only being hired after undergoing a vision quest in the wilderness, dream-walkers doing employee efficiency evaluations, dog soldiers providing security, and sales reps not being promoted unless they bring home the scalp of some Boeing customer service rep. Watching Rocky Jones felt a lot like Cold War propaganda, and a lot like Star Trek, just poorly done.
The episodes were chapters in a story. The first story was Beyond the Curtain of Space. Most of these three episodes were wasted on ham-fisted Rocky arguing with petite space cadet Vina Ray [Sally Mansfield] about how space is no place for a ‘girl’. The writing was utterly terrible and never got beyond petty gender squabbles. The technology was so phony it was cute, like the plastic diving bell ‘oxygen helmet’ that was not sealed, but did have a switch on Vina’s helmet that cut off her audio when she nagged too much. Vina actually knits Rocky a sweater on his orders as they zoom off to rescue a Professor Newton.
The next three episodes told the story The Crash of Moons. This featured a larger cast, including the evil brunette princess Cleolotta of Opheseus. For you young people, keep in mind, that before the 1960s good girls were supposed to be blonde [like Vina] and bad girls were brunettes. The science was so bad in this story I laughed out loud. There was even a hurricane in outer space, and Princess Cleolotta had a windup clock on her desk.
Rocky Jones sucked. But it was a valuable view and shows how the prejudices of Hollywood [essentially the American propaganda ministry] has consistently viewed the possible future habitation of space as an extension of American Manifest Destiny, softened with a dash of the United Nations. The giveaway was the following line by the Secretary of The Office of Space Affairs, when discussing the inevitability of interplanetary war, “Self-sufficient people are hard to argue with.”
Yes they are, and that is the type of person who will be settling the solar system if our terrestrial masters ever permit it. Why do you think that a nation that can incinerate the world it rules claims to be incapable of putting people on the moon that their grandfather’s visited?
Let us just hope that if the U.S. and the U.N. ever permit solar colonization, that their space rangers will be as incompetent as Rocky Jones.
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