July 23, 2022

ROD BROWN OF THE ROCKET RANGERS

 

ROD BROWN OF THE ROCKET RANGERS
(CBS, April 18, 1953-May 29, 1954)
 
CBS Television Network

 

MAIN CAST:
Cliff Robertson – Rod Brown
Bruce Hall – Frank Boyd
Jack Weston – Wilbur “Wormsey” Wormser
John Boruff – Commander Swift

  

In the entertainment world, imitation is part of the game. Whenever something proves immensely popular, imitators are sure to follow; keeping it similar enough to be recognizable while also changing enough to avoid being straight plagiarism. Sometimes by the competition, sometimes by the same people who made that popular thing in order to corner the market and steal an audience away from the competition. Unfortunately, for Rod Brown of the Rocket Rangers, it stuck a little too close to its inspiration for its own good.

CBS camera check.


CBS wanted to get back into the science fiction game—particularly the space-faring kind that was at the peak of its popularity in 1953. Having been the original home of the still-thriving Tom Corbett, Space Cadet currently airing on the DuMont Network, CBS decided they should create a similar program of their own. They hired one of the original Corbett directors, George Gould, to direct the series. With him came several of Corbett’s writers and the technical know-how for the effects used on that program.

Rod Brown.


Like Corbett, it would focus on a crew of three traveling on adventures through space on their atomic-powered space ship Beta in the mid-22nd century. Rod Brown (Cliff Robertson) was the captain, with his prickly partner Frank Boyd (Bruce Hall) and the chubby glasses-wearing Wilbur “Wormsey” Wormser (Jack Weston), who served as the comic relief (something Corbett didn’t have). They reported to Omega Base back on Earth; specifically, to Commander Swift (John Boruff), who would deliver their weekly missions via radio transmission. Unlike Corbett, which tried to adhere to the science of the day and keep its episodes grounded in reality, Rod Brown opted for a more fantastical approach with the customary ray guns and alien encounters, along with common space criminals.

Brown, Boyd, "Wormsey" and Swift at Omega Base.


Rod Brown of the Rocket Rangers debuted on CBS on April 18, 1953. Each episode opened up with the introduction: “CBS Television presents Rod Brown and the Rocket Rangers. Surging with the power of the atom, gleaming like great silver bullets, the mighty Rocket Rangers space ships, stand by for blast-off. Up, up, rockets blazing with white-hot fury, the man-made meteors ride through the atmosphere, breaking the gravity barrier, pushing up and out, faster and faster and then outer space and high adventure for the Rocket Rangers.” The series was broadcast live from New York City at 11:30 in the morning. Robertson was offered the role by William Dozier, an executive at CBS at the time, and Robertson took it thinking it’d be a quick, easy payday (sources vary on his salary being $150 or $175 a week, almost $2000 when adjusted for inflation) while he was also doing a Broadway show. He never counted on it becoming successful, running for over a year and producing 58 episodes (some sources say 59). The series’ theme was composed by Robert Allen.

Operating some futuristic technology.


While there were some differences, there were far more similarities to Tom Corbett for its producers’ liking. They filed a lawsuit against CBS, which didn’t immediately affect the production or the show’s release schedule. After four months of deliberations, the known consequence of the suit was that the kinescope recordings of Rod Brown had to be destroyed. As far as anyone knows, they were and the series was never rebroadcast after its conclusion. Some of the audio recordings from a few episodes do exist, however.

Rod Brown getting his space helmet prop.


While Rod Brown had a sponsor in Jell-O Instant Pudding, very little premiums or merchandise were released for the show compared to the other space programs at the time. One item was a flannel shirt for young boys featuring the show’s logo, and a record of “The Rocket Ranger March” from Columbia Records. Kids could apply to be a member of the Junior Rocket Rangers and receive a membership kit that included a Rocket Ranger squadron charter and a membership card singed by Commander Swift emblazoned with the “Rocket Ranger Code”:

            On my Honor as a Rocket Ranger, I pledge that:

1.      I shall always chart my course according to the Constitution of the United States of America.

2.      I shall never cross orbits with the Rights and Beliefs of others.

3.      I shall blast at full space-speed to protect the Weak and Innocent.

4.      I shall stay out of collision orbit with the laws of my State and Community

5.      I shall cruise in parallel orbit with my Parents and Teachers.

6.      I shall not roar my rockets unwisely, and shall be Courteous at all times.

7.      I shall keep my gyros steady and reactors burning by being Industrious and Thrifty.

8.      I shall keep my scanner tuned to Learning and remain coupled to my Studies.

9.      I shall keep my mind out of free-fall by being mentally alert.

10.  I shall blast the meteors from the paths of other people by being Kind and Considerate.

 

 

EPISODE GUIDE (incomplete):
“Operation Decoy” (4/18/53) – The Beta crew investigates pirate attacks on shipping lanes.
 
“The Case of the Invisible Saboteurs” (4/25/53) – The Beta crew looks into the disappearance of highly-classified files.
 
“The Planet of Ice” (5/2/53) – The Beta crew must rescue a mail ship forced to land on frigid Jupiter.
 
“Whispers in the Mind” (5/9/53) – A mind-control device gives false information to two Rangers on a navigation project.
 
“The Crater of Peril” (5/16/53) – The Beta crew looks for radioactive material on the dark side of the moon.
 
“The Globe Men of Oma” (5/23/53) – While searching for a missing spaceship, Rod and Frank are captured by the Omans.
 
“The Adventures of the Venusian Sea” (5/30/53) – A giant octopus-like creature terrorizes the sea.
 
“The Little Men of Mercury” (6/6/53) – The Beta crew visits a planet populated by tiny humanoids.
 
“World of the Doomed” (6/13/53) – The Beta crew investigates a smuggling operation on a prison asteroid.
 
“The Strangler Trees of Triton” (6/20/53) – The Beta crew rescues a fellow Ranger from a dangerous forest.
 
“Stranger from Outer Space” (6/27/53) – An alien robot kidnaps Rod.
 
“The Phantom Birds of Beloro” (7/4/53) – Rod and Frank rescue some old prospectors from bird-like preadators.
 
“The Black Cloud of Calistro” (7/11/53) – NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE.
 
“The Suits of Peril” (7/18/53) – NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE.
 
“Apples of Eden” (7/25/53) – NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE.
 
“Space Bugs” (8/1/53) – NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE.
 
“The Martian Queen” (8/8/53) – NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE.
 
“The Fire Deamons of Delmos” (8/15/53) – NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE.
 
“The Big Hammer” (8/22/53) – NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE.
 
“The Volcanoes of Venus” (8/29/53) – NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE.
 
“The Death Ball” (9/5/53) – NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE.
 
“The Unseen Planet” (9/12/53) – NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE.
 
“The Madness from Space” (9/19/53) – NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE.
 
“The Looters of Leeron” (9/26/53) – Rod is captured by a group of smugglers to work in their illegal radioactive mineral mine.
 
“The Octopus of Venus” (10/3/53) – A routine assignment to salvage a wrecked spaceship leads to trouble under the sea.
 
“Colossus of Centauri” (10/10/53) – Rod breaches the end of the solar system and discovers a planet of giants.
 
“The Lights from Luna” (10/17/53) – Rod must protect Earth from the destructor of Solar City.
 
“The Twin Planet” (10/24/53) – Investigating an old theory leads the Beta crew to discover a primitive land that resembles Manhattan Island before Columbus.
 
“The Treasure of Tesoro” (10/31/53) – Rod and Frank are on guard duty for the treasury vaults of Space Fortress Tesoro.
 
“The Robot Robber of Delmos” (11/7/53) – The Beta crew investigates a bank robbery by a humanoid robot.
 
“The Magic Man of Mars” (11/14/53) – A carnival performer leads a secret life as a space pirate.
 
“The Stickman of Neptune” (11/21/53) – A stowaway steals the Beta to head for Neptune to search for a treasure.
 
“Money-Makers of Juno” (11/28/53) – Swift is kidnapped by a ring of interplanetary counterfeiters.
 
“The Deep Sleep” (12/5/53) – Interplanetary bank robbers use oxygen boosters to put everyone to sleep on Ganymede.
 
“The Cyclops of Themis” (12/12/53) – NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE.
 
“The Electric Men” (12/19/53) – NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE.
 
“The Copernicus Diamond” (12/26/53) – NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE.
 
“The Stone Men of Venus” (1/2/54) – NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE.
 
“Energy Eaters from Luna” (1/9/54) – NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE.
 
“Operation Dinosaur” (1/23/54) – NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE.
 
“Escape by Magic” (1/30/54) – NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE.
 
“The Invisible Force” (2/6/54) – NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE.
 
“Return of the Stickmen” (2/13/54) – NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE.
 
“The Fishman of the Venusian Sea” (2/20/54) – NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE.
 
“The Strong Man of Mayron” (2/27/54) – NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE.
 
“The Eel of Iapetus” (3/6/54) – NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE.
 
“The Strange Men of Leefri” (3/13/54) – NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE.
 
“The Monkey that Couldn’t Stop Growing” (3/20/54) – The planet Clavo enters the solar system due to its erratic orbit.
 
“The Plan of Planet H” (3/27/54) – The Beta crew discovers Planet H plan to flood and take over the Earth.
 
“Invasion from Dimension X” (4/3/54) – The Beta crew encounters shadowy figures from another dimension.
 
“The Matter-Transfer Machine” (4/10/54) – A gang uses a transporter to smuggle isotopes off of Earth.
 
“Terror in the Space Lighthouse” (4/17/54) – Two inmates plan an escape from an asteroid prison.
 
“Assignment Danger” (4/24/54) – Wormsey encounters trouble on a routine passenger liner trip to Venus and is rescued by what seems to be a kindly elderly woman.
 
“Bird Girl of Venus” (5/1/54) – An archaeological expedition leads to the discovery of a winged humanoid.
 
“The Exploding Man” (5/8/54) – The Beta crew takes on attempts to loot a uranium discovery on Ganymede.
 
“The Metal Eaters” (5/15/54) – NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE.
 
“The Man who was Radioactive” (5/22/54) – NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE.
 
“The Cobalt Bomb” (5/29/54) – NO SYNOPSIS AVAILABLE.

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