Monday, October 24, 2011

Radio: The Hole in Empty Space (Space Patrol)

It occurred to me that every radio episode I've ever posted here has been an adaptation of a published story.  But there was a lot more to radio science fiction than that.  So this time, I bring you the earliest surviving radio episode of Space Patrol, aired about 13 months after last week's Dimension X finale.

Although largely forgotten today, Space Patrol was something of a multimedia blockbuster in its time.  It started on March 9, 1950, as a 15-minute show, broadcast every weekday on a local Los Angeles television station.  The ABC radio network picked it up as a twice-weekly radio program in the summer of that year.  Then the ABC television network began a half-hour weekly show that December 30.  Since the local show continued for some time, and the radio show continued twice a week for the first few weeks the network television version was on, that means stars Ed Kemmer (Commander Buzz Corry) and Lyn Osborn (Cadet Happy) were briefly doing eight shows a week.  And they did frequent publicity appearances as well.  It's a wonder they didn't go space happy.  (As it was, Kemmer referred to Osborn as "Hap" to the end of his life, in 2005.)

The radio show returned in a once-weekly timeslot on August 18, 1951, continuing until March 19, 1955—three weeks after the TV show was discontinued.

0:30 Did they actually have to say, back then, if a show was "transcribed" (i.e., pre-recorded)? Reminds me of when sitcoms began with, for instance "All in the Family was recorded before a live audience." (Did they have to say that? Was the FCC looking out to protect the public against shows that they might otherwise mistakenly think were live?)

Incidentally, the television show was broadcast live through almost all of its life (1950-5), so it's kind of funny to think cast and crew had more latitude for error in making their audio-only adventures than they did with their far more complex audiovisual ones.

0:35 That should be "phenomenon." "Phenomena" is the plural. I mention that for the 95% of the Internet that's also unaware of this.

0:42 It seemed to be up to the individual actor whether Terra V was pronounced "Terra Five" (as Buzz Corry does at 6:59) or, as here, "Terra the Fifth." It amazes me that, more than two and a half years since the TV show premiered, someone hadn't definitively decided it one way or the other. Judging from the TV episodes I've seen, they seem to have agreed on the former sometime in 1953.

1:30 "Sounds just like a walkie-talkie" was pressing the truth more than a little. According to "Cadet Hanzo's Guide to Space Patrol Merchandising" in Jean-Noel Bassoir's Space Patrol book, the Space-o-Phones were "a futuristic version of the tin can telephone that worked about as well."

5:17 "D.U.'s" is short for "Distance Units," Space Patrol's measure of distance. I don't think they ever pinned down what, exactly, one amounted to. Confusingly, they also used it as a unit of speed (as at 7:16).

8:49 Again, trust your editor. "Phenomenon": singular. "Phenomena": plural.

14:31 "Spun out of shredded wheat." As you can see on the television show, Rice Chex looked substantially the same in the early '50s as they do today, but Wheat Chex were tiny shredded wheat biscuits. Beats me what Instant Ralston was like, but the fact it isn't around today probably says something.

20:10 The mention of superconductors inspired me to look them up on Wikipedia and in my Langenscheidt's New College Merriam-Webster. Turns out the word was coined all the way back in 1913. Writer Lou Houston, who read science magazines for ideas and background, may have read about the then-recent Ginsburg-Landau Theory, the first mathematical modeling of superconductivity. "Black hole," incidentally, wasn't coined until 1968, hence this episode's "cycloplex." (Granted, the cycloplex isn't a black hole—its effects are electromagnetic rather than gravitational—but you just know that after 1968, they'd have called it one anyway.)

26:06 If you're wondering about the distinction between "Terra" and "Earth," Space Patrol's Terra was an artificial planet, assembled between the orbits of Earth and Mars, which served as the capital of the United Planets.

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