While there is little about "Rocky Jones, Space Ranger" to justify
recommending it today, there is a certain value to considering the
historical importance of what it was in 1954.
I should say, that I grew up watching this program. I and one of my friends, joyfully, wrote away to the show and were rewarded with a Rocky Jones, Space Ranger Fan Club kit, which included a large, blue, scroll-type banner with gold tassels, a selection of cheaply reproduced head shots of the actors in character, and if I recall correctly, a couple of code rings that were nice but had no relation to the show.
We both watched the show religiously and were thrilled by the adventures and the wonder of space travel. We both read science fiction and we were both precocious little intellectuals who understood just how poorly these shows approximated quality in that area. Still, it was fun, it was science fiction, it was for kids, and it was 1954-55.
If you consider the plots, such as they were, and consider the headlines of those days then it should not be hard for you to recognize how idyllic Rocky's problems seemed to us.
Yes, Rocky Jones KNEW what was right, but the '50s was a time when knowing what was right was very important. There was a certain amount of social commentary built into the show that said that doing 'the right thing' was more important than political concerns. Rocky Jones doesn't seem human to us today, because he is not paralyzed by doubts, he is serious about what he is doing, he is dedicated to fighting the bad guys who are clearly 'bad' guys. That a woman was aboard was ground breaking just as having a mixed crew was shocking when "Star Trek" hit the air waves. It was futuristic, and though it didn't go nearly far enough, it pointed the way to where our society has actually begun to go.
Rocky was a hero. He was not an ordinary guy with some extra training. He could do no wrong, by definition. Heroes are always in short supply, so it is not surprising that others went to him for advice and took what he gave. The only real difference between a hero story then and one now is that today's heroes need to fight the system to do their heroic deeds and they are tortured by the fear that they may die alone because no one understands their truths.
Certainly, there is more depth to a modern hero, but the question is, how often does that depth advance a hero story?
As far as cheap sets and cheap effects go, they weren't for that day and time. They were pretty much state of the art for weekly television in the '50s. We, today, are spoiled by our current technology which makes much better effects cost effect where they were impossible before. Compare "Star Trek" to "Enterprise", both relatively low budget for their times. Consider "Bewitched" versus "Buffy, the Vampire Slayer".
So, for a proper appreciation of "Rocky Jones, Space Ranger" in the context of what it was versus what it is now, let me say that it has no depth or artistry that survives its original time. There is no great artistic merit to the shows which would justify a week long retrospective. It was an afternoon syndicated children's show, which added wonder and hope to my life as a child. I would joyfully sit through an episode or ten, to revive old memories and to ruefully remark on how sophisticated I have grown and how technology has advanced. But, then, I am currently re-reading the Shadow and Doc Challenger novels for much the same reason and with much the same recognitions.
There were great space operas in the literature that still hold up today for all their lack of modern sophistication and they reach all the way back to the '30s. There have not been many great science fiction films and fewer television shows until much more recent times. If you need examples, consider "Metropolis", "Things to Come", "Destination Moon", etc. as big budget films for their day compared to modern science fiction movies. (We'll skip movie serials completely.) As far as television goes, till the '60s, all I can remember are this one, "Captain Midnight/Jet Jackson", "Superman" and "Science Fiction Theatre" and none of these others offered adventures in space. I'm sure that others of us, can think of more, but I'm willing to bet, not many more.
So, if anyone wants to put out a bunch of episodes on DVD, they've got one purchaser ready, with cash in hand.
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