Saturday, November 27, 2010
Rocky Jones, Space Ranger!
Listen and learn this -- Rocky Jones is pretty entertaining television.
I just finished watching a gaggle of Rocky Jones episodes. I've seen some of these shows in their blended form when the three-part stories were turned into movies, but the show is clearly much better enjoyed in its original episodic format. I must say I was impressed.
Rocky Jones as played by Richard Crane is a no-nonsense two-fisted spaceman who runs up against the machinations of an evil space queen, pirates, and even deadly wandering moons. Assisted by his sidekick Winky (played by Scotty Beckett) he along with eye-candy Vena Ray (played by Sally Mansfield),a chipper youngster named Bobby (played by Robert Lyden) and Professor Newton (played by Maurice Cass) rocket around in their spaceship the Orbit Jet.
The show clearly had aspirations, offering up stories in mostly three-episode arcs. The origin introduces the characters very effectively and sets up the main tension between the noble federation of planets represented by Rocky and the vile space queen who rules her world with an iron hand. They clash either directly or indirectly in most of the subsequent episodes until there is a actually a resolution at the end of the first half of the season. The episodes that are widely available from many sources seem only to offer these episodes, but they do form a somewhat cohesive story.
Some of the shows are quite talky, but most feature some rugged fisticuffs which reminded me of the vintage Republic fights which are held in high regard. For TV the action can be quite vivid from time to time. The special effects on this show are I guess pretty good for the time, though a modern viewer will need to adjust his expectations. I noticed some old Republic hands operating as henchmen in this one too.
The acting is surprisingly strong, though some actors have to struggle with gibberish lines since the show logically has some aliens incapable of speaking English. This is noble attempt, but does make for clunky staging at times. Some really good actors show up in this thing. The show clearly wanted to take itself seriously while at the same time wanting to have a fun show keyed to the interests of kids.
The trilogy which reprises episodes from Homer's The Odyssey is cleverly done, though a bit overwrought by the end. The final trilogy featuring the impending collision of two planets is downright exciting with some really first rate pacing.
From what I've read at this website and others, the show last one season, but made a bit impression and is still with us because the producers had the foresight to put it on film. The actor who played Winky apparently got into some significant legal trouble and was replaced in episodes I have not seen and sadly Maurice Cass passed away soon after the first season was completed. The seems to have had a bit of a curse. But it also has a neat polish and holds up well, if you adjust your settings for the 1950's.
Charlton did four Rocky Jones comics as part of their Space Adventures volume one run, and some of the stories have been reprinted. I have at least one around here, and I need to find it.
For a whole lot more on Rocky Jones see this website.