Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Silver Moon Experiment

Rocky Jones, Space Ranger continues to air new episodes during the summer of 1954. Five in total during June. The middle of the month saw the release of a fantastic classic Sci-Fi movie called Them!. I don't think you can get a more generic name (maybe The Thing). A wonderful movie about about giant mutant ants.

Silver Needle in Space, part II- There must be only a dozen Space Rangers (and half of them seem to work for Cleolanthe) because once again an Ophiuchian rocket, the Nautilus led by Atlasande, with less than a dozen armed troops take over a space station with one Space Ranger, and some Space Ambassadors. This must be where Moon got the idea to put one man on the moon for three years at a time. On Peritane, Rocky calls XO7 to check in, and Dr. Tyson gives a verbally coded message before everyone is hustled on board the Nautilus. They then blast off for Ophiuchus. Rocky finally gets the message, cancels R&R, and heads back to XO7. It's empty. They call Drake on Earth. Cleolanthe calls everyone. Her ultimatum is to trade all the ambassadors for Griff and Darganto, both held prisoner for crimes against the United Worlds at the end of Bobby's Comet, part III. Nobody trusts her. Atlasande figures that with the return of Darganto, he'll be sidelined. Rocky demands, on behalf of Earth, the trade will be done on XO7 and no weapons present, or this is an act of war. Cleolanthe agrees, mainly because she appears too afraid of an all out war. I'm guessing that since Ophiuchus is one of the Outlaw Worlds, none of the others would back her up. Everyone arrives at the XO7 the trade the goes well, except Atlasande pulls a weapon on everyone and takes Dr. Tyson back as a trophy to remain in Cleolanthe's favor. TO BE CONTINUED. Rocky is kind of a gullible person. It turns out XO7 has weapons, but they are never once used against a threatening rocket ship. Once again I like the fallout of previous episodes and the political maneuvering of Atlasande. I believe this is the first mention of a Tractor Beam in the series, used to dock at space stations. There is a crazy magnetic periscope thingy in the control that helps ships dock.

Silver Needle in Space, part III- This is the best episode of this series so far. It's all survival in space and political maneuvering. While Atlasande explains why he's changing the prisoner exchange plan, Dr. Tyson in the background takes some sort of capsule, then gets dragged out of the Conference Room. They put a 3-hour timer on the door so Rocky and friends and ambassadors don't go anywhere. Darganto conspires with Griff to discredit Atlasande by shutting off station air, but when he returns to main group Dr. Tyson collapses dead. Darganto uses the moment to seize control of the operation and all the men follow him. He plans to tell Cleolanthe that Atlasande screwed up and killed Dr. Tyson and everyone else. After they leave Rocky and friends begin to feel the effects brought about by lack of oxygen. One them is an Army Engineer and recommends sending Bobby through a vent to the air and water recirculation room. Bobby makes it but has to smash his head into the grill on the other end to open it. With air restored he unlocks the Conference Room and everyone heads to the control area to save Ranger Anderson. On the way they find the discarded body of Tyson, who comes back to life. It turns out he used a Suspended Animation Capsule to fool the Ophiuchians. The group radios Earth on a scrambled line (sort of like dictating a fax on ticker-tape) to inform them of current events, then head home. Darganto and Atlasande arrive back on Ophiuchus and are called before Cleoplanthe. She's angry at both of them for not working together and getting all their hostages killed, Darganto insisting it was all Atlasande. She refuses to believe anything she hears when one of her other operatives lets her know they finally cracked the encrypted Space Affairs Astrophones. She's even more mad because they even failed to really kill anyone and locks both of them in the same jail cell for two months. THE END. The personal one-ups-manship between Atlasante and Darganto is quite entertaining and doesn't give much time for the writers to ruin science any more. Bobby is even helpful.

The Forbidden Moon, part I- The Office of Space Affairs loses contact with RV5, so the Orbit Jet is sent to investigate with all the main characters (including Bobby who stows away). When they arrive, there is one ship already docked and no one is answering. After docking Rocky and Winky check the other ship and experience pounding radiation coming from it. There is some dren about Anti-Radiation Serum everyone will have to take, but Rocky just goes aboard anyway. After a little while they all meet in the control room (except for Bobby who is grounded on the Orbit Jet) and find Ranger Clark in a coma. It's a radiation coma and Professor Newton needs to determine the original of radiation to recommend a treatment. The more I see the character of Newton the more terrible he becomes. All the science he spews is garbage. According to the logs and some audio recordings the radioactive ship is from Medina. The voices of the ruler, Yarra, and her brother, Agar, are heard on the recording. Rocky goes back to the Medina ship and gets his butt kicked by Agar, who was hiding all this time. Agar then steals the Orbit Jet, with Bobby on it, and heads to Medina. Back in the control room Rocky fills them in on what happened and learns that the Medina ship had crashed on the Forbidden Moon. While Agar had been trying to fix the ship he suffered severe radiation sickness, but found a local plant that not only cures you of radiation but makes you immune. It appears, though, that you become radioactive (only because the entire darn moon is radioactive). Rocky and friends take the Medina ship and follow the stolen Orbit Jet. TO BE CONTINUED. Science is bad again, this time with magnetism and radiation. After the Orbit Jet takes off from Earth all the gauges show a reverse magnetic polarization effect as soon as they go beyond Earth's magnetic field. Right after that Rocky finds Bobby hiding in the engine room with his favorite quartz rock. When he drags Bobby back to the Nav room where Vena and Newton are, he suddenly remembers that bismuth is in quartz and it is highly magnetic. Newton then spews how bismuth becomes even more powerful when it leaves the magnetic field of the Earth. I expect senile comments of dubious scientific nature from Newton, but Rocky is just making stuff up. In the real world Tetradymite has bismuth in it and can be found near hydrothermal quartz veins, but that's about their only relationship. Bismuth does have magnetic properties but it wouldn't reverse polarize a whole spaceship. I would like to point out the bismuth is sometimes used in cosmetics, and with Rocky always harassing Vena about her makeup, there's a better chance she's at fault than Bobby. The Anti-Radiation Serum must also fix DNA damage, too. Poor Ranger Clark.

The Forbidden Moon, part II- Things are almost explained better. Yarra and Agar want to take over the universe. Who doesn't in this show, but i don't think they realize how big it is, since none of the humanoid species in the series (including Humans) have left the solar system yet. They sounds stupidly grandiose. Bobby is brought to Yarra at the Rotasium Headquarters, then escorted around the grounds of the walled capital. Rocky in Agar's ship attempts to land, but an anti-spaceship weapon is trained on them. Thinking quick Bobby, who happens to be nearby, asks why he's about to shoot one of his own ships down. This is a point of contention I have in the series. The prop people built different rockets to represent different cultures. As a viewer you can pick out an Ophiuchian ship from the Orbit Jet from a Medina ship from a Fornaxian missile. But characters never recognize any design. Anyway the guy doesn't shoot his own ship down, which is good because Rocky and friends are on board. They are here to warn Yarra to quarantine Agar as a massive Cosmic Radiation source (they finally figured that part out). She doesn't believe them, throws them in jail and starts to feel radiation sickness. Bobby convinces her Rocky's telling the truth, she visits them and Newton gives her the Anti-Radiation Serum. It is temporary, though, and they still need to lock up Agar as he's beginning to affect the whole planet. Some of the palace guards lose faith with their leadership and try to mount a coup. Yarra slows them down by declaring they're going to the Forbidden Moon to find a cure and some other things. All the main characters plus Agar (who has everyone at gunpoint) and Yarra board the Orbit Jet and leave Medina. TO BE CONTINUED. They edited around a scene where Vena flirts with Milo the jailer, takes him somewhere private, knocks him out and takes his uniform. What gets me about Newton, other than his horrible science, is he never looks like he's paying that much attention, but suddenly wakes up to deliver a line of dialog. I'm happy the ray-guns in the series have stopped being props and are actually being used to shoot people, not just threaten them. They make a loud bang with lots of smoke.

The Forbidden Moon, part III- This one starts falling apart about here. On the way to the Forbidden Moon, Rocky hatches a plan and takes control of the ship back from Agar. On the visiograph they see the Forbidden Moon for the first time, glowing from Cosmic Radiation. Newton remembers he brought special ray-shielded goggles because the radiation will seep into your eyeballs and paralyze your brain. Riiiiight. Agar uses the opportunity to take over the Orbit Jet. again. After they land someone pulls out a metal detector to look for plants and a Geiger Counter (which should be useless because the entire moon is "hot"). The landscape is snow and rock, so plants stand out on the surface, but the main characters still need a sci-fi device to find one. A nearby cave provides just the shelter Newton needs to refine the plant cure and save Medina. At this point characters take off their helmets because their couldn't possible be any radiation in the cave. Agar has other plans and steals most of the collected plants, runs off in the Orbit Jet again, inoculates his crew, then plans to take over the universe. He fails to realize you need to refine the serum and everyone passes out, the ship adrift in space. With all the humans, plus Yarra, trapped on the Forbidden Moon, Newton detects a super-strong radiation source coming from a mountain next to their cave. He removes the atomic piles from their spacesuits (you mean their spacesuits are nuclear powered?) and makes a sort of detonator that creates such an explosion it will be picked up on Earth. They pretty much hide face down right next to a nuclear blast that destroys a mountain, but it works, Secretary Drake sees it. He loads up on the XV7 and heads out to save Rocky. Once they're safe XV7 hunts down the Orbit Jet, where they revive the comatose Medinans and return Yarra to her planet, no longer an evil despot. THE END. My problems with the sciences could fill a whole other blog post. I do like the exterior matte paintings of both the Forbidden Moon and Medina

It is difficult not to be hard on this show, but there is something to it I like. Even though all the rules of space fact and even modern space fiction seem to be ignored, they are at least internally consistent to themselves. There are plenty of carry-over characters from previous episodes and their ship naming follows a pattern. The uniforms seems to follow a rank structure, and decisions have consequences in the future. I find myself looking forward to seeing how Cleolanthe does without her top two men. And Griff is still alive of Ophiuchus.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Pirates in the Sky Experiment

Rocky Jones, Space Ranger is the show for May, 1954, with four new episodes. I like the fact the studio accepts having almost no budget to make the show as just an inconvenience. They are still trying to tell big stories on other planets with space battles and such. To save money all the different rockets in the show have the same interior bridge (something Star Trek is known to do). But to differentiate between them the prop people change the seat covers.

Pirates of Prah, part I- Vena (in a totally new outfit) is with Reggie, on cargo rocket CM7, on her way to see her brother, Paul. They are disabled by pirates, lose their cargo and are left to float in orbit of Cassa VII [sic] for eternity. It turns out a pirate group has been preying on cargo ships for the past week, including one from Mars known as Double M. Rocky and Winky are on vacation when they get the call Vena has dissappered. They launch with Bobby (for some reason) and a new piece of tech from Professor Newton, Cold Light. It should only be used in emergencies and emits Gamma Radiation. The Orbit Jet gets to the last known area of space CM7 broadcasted from when they come across the Double M. It shoots at them, but Winky easily destroys it. The pirates had burned off all the call letters from the tail fins of CM7, so when Rocky finds their ship he doesn't recognize it (even though it looks exactly like the Orbit Jet). All power (except gravity and life support) is out on CM7 so Vena pushes a missile through a missile tube to dump it into space. Rocky recognizes it as a sign of communication and they dock with the rocket. Now suddenly rockets have airlocks. CM7's airlock is on the bridge and we never see where the Orbit Jet's is, but at least Rocky stopped cutting through his own hull. Maybe the airlock was part of the upgrade last episode. They bring Vena back to Orbit Jet (leaving Reggie on his ship), hear her sad tale and tow it back to Cassa VII. TO BE CONTINUED. Rocky makes reference to going to the far edge of the solar system, which sounds like no one was done before. I am suddenly struck with the realization this whole show takes place in our solar system yet there are extra planets and people everywhere. Lazy Sci-Fi writers.

Pirates of Prah, part II- Cold Light is finally explained as essential a cloaking device. It emits a field of light around the Orbit Jet that makes it so cold that it becomes invisible (I'm guessing at Zero Kelvin, molecules stop moving so you can't see them). It's bad science, but it goes something like that. It doesn't make the inside cold, though. Nor does it require radiation shielding like we were warned about last episode. Everyone lands on Cassa VII, which has a way better space port than Earth, and everyone meets Paul Ray, Vena's brother. They go over some astronomy notes for the next day or so and Rocky thinks they're operating out of the planetoid Prah. No one has ever been able to land because the defenses are too great. On Prah, the pirates, Rinkman, Dr. Vanko, Markoff and some other guy, drop off all the stolen goods and call their boss, Cleolanthe. She learns that they failed to kill Rocky and she orders her second-in-command Atlasande to have them assassinated. Rocky, meanwhile, tricks Bobby and Vena into staying on Cassa VII while he and Winky blast off for Prah. They engage the Cold Light device and land on one of the pirate's landing pads. The pirates hear a ship but they don't see one. Rocky pops out and confronts the pirates but gets captured. Cleolanthe gets word they are holding Rocky prisoner, stays their execution and heads to Prah (with Atlasande). Rocky learns what he needs and escapes Prah just before Cleolanthe arrives and they both head to Cassa VII. TO BE CONTINUED. I just can't get over how repeatedly dumb all the bad guys seem to be.

Pirates of Prah, part III- This story is beginning to fall apart. Cleolanthe orders all the pirates (like about 5 people) to land on Cassa VII and take over. They have a contact, Ken, who works in space traffic control. Everyone wants Rocky's Cold Light device (something that shouldn't have been shared with everyone in the story, but Rocky has a big mouth). Ken knocks out Rocky and stashes him in his own engine room, then turns Orbit Jet invisible so everyone thinks Rocky left. Rocky gets loose and begins working against Ken and the pirates on his own. Once the pirates are on Cassa VII then kidnap Winky, Robby and Vena, planning to take them back to Ophiuchus. This way Rocky has to come to them and they'll get the Cold Light thing. Some muddled things happen which ends with Rocky and Winky beating up all the pirates, who they refer to as traitors so they must be humans, and they head back to Earth with everyone on board; Winky still trying to get a date. THE END. An okay story with some promise until the writers get in the way by the end. No new abuses of science in this episode, unless you count the continued use of Cold Light. For the first time in the series we are introduced to Martians, which I think are supposed to indigenous (not just a human colony). They seem a little barbaric but are technologically capable as we see with Haggar Nu, Ken's assistant set up as a scape goat. I forgot to mention the painful moment Winky chooses to sing, playing an instrument that looks way cooler than the space station models already in use.

Silver Needle in the Sky, part I- There is to be an Interplanet Peace Conference held in space and the crew of the Orbit Jet are tasked with taking the Space Ambassadors there. One of the few outstanding things I like about this show is the use of alien languages. Vena wants to go along as navigator and interpreter but Drake explains the conference is being held in neutral territory so the Universal Language will be spoken. I'm pretty sure that means English. They are headed to Space Station XO7 in the orbit of Peritane [sic], a planet in the Jupiter equalateral. I can only assume they mean it shares Jupiter's orbit but at a distance, and no where near Fornax, or they could have saved Rocky a lot of trouble in Bobby's Comet. There are asteroids way ahead and way behind Jupiter's orbit that are in a gravitationally stable position, so maybe that's what they intended? Winky worries about the Outlaw Planets respecting the neutrality of the conference which leads me to believe that any planet not part of the United Worlds is considered an outlaw. Not everyone is invited, either. Cleolanthe of Ophiuchus is mad (I don't blame her this time), so orders her human agent on Earth, Duveen, to blow up the Orbit Jet on the ground. A new alarm system warns the crew, they stop Duveen and then successfully blast off for XO7. Cleolanthe has a new idea and sends Atlasande to crash the conference and kidnap the ambassadors. Rocky gets everyone where they have to go and plans for a layover on Peritane for a re-fuel and some R&R. As soon as he leaves the station, Atlasande forces his way aboard and takes everyone captive. TO BE CONTINUED. Every space station in the show has only one Space Ranger crew member, but all rockets have at least two. It's good to see Rocky let Vena be the navigator (a job Winky used to do) and give the job of updating the log to Bobby. Another point I have in favor of the show is the use of uniforms, with rank stripes on the arms, but Winky and Bobby are the same rank and that's bull$#!7. They even have a unit affiliation symbol on the upper left of their uniforms, not unlike Star Trek. Each different culture on every planet also has a different planetary symbol. These are details I like. Now my big complaint I've seen throughout the series: rockets can only carry about a dozen people, yet we haven't seen a planet (except Ankapore) with more than a few people. It is so easy for the bad guys (pirates or Ophiuchians) to take over a space station or a planet with one rocket and some ray guns. This is so unrealistic, yet the writers kept moving forward as if nothing is wrong with the plot. Don't get me wrong, I still like the show.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Comet into Space Experiment

April, 1954, gave us four more Rocky Jones, Space Ranger episodes. The writers of this show are about as far from scientific accuracy as you can get. I suppose I can't blame them, because everything they're writing about is almost unknown or just speculative. This is an era where we still thought there could have been intelligent life on Mars, because those canals had to be built by someone. Right? Today we, non-scientist and non-astronomers, have access to the accumulated knowledge of half-a-century since the show aired. Then again, if this is the kind of stuff networks were showing kids then it's no wonder Sci-Fi has been looked down upon for so long. It took 2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Wars and Alien to show the true potential for the genre. As much as I complain I still like watching Rocky Jones, because every once in a while they have a good idea.

Bobby's Comet, part I- There is so much wrong with the premise of this episode I'll try to be brief. Missiles from an unknown source in space land on Earth, one near Newton's Observatory (which looks suspiciously like Griffith Observatory). Rocky and Winky are out on their own looking for Griff, even though we all saw his car explode in Behind the Curtain of Space, part III, he may have lived. Rocky is recalled to face this new menace. It is explained by Vena that by back tracking the ellipses (their word for "orbit") of the missiles they originate on Fornax, a moon of Jupiter. This is surprising because their current science says there's no life on that moon. They begin to describe a world that actually sounds like Io, but with a people adept at using crystal technology (sadly not in the way of Kryptonian tech). The Space Ranger fleet is alerted to the new threat, but on one of the stations Griff is in fact alive and holding the one crew member at gun point. He learns Rocky is planning a trip to Fornax and leaves to intercept him. The Orbit Jet crew assembles and boards, taking all the main characters. After clearing Earth orbit Griff attacks them (because nobody but Vena ever looks at a RADAR); Rocky manages to cripple his engines. But they wasted a lot of fuel in the fight, so they have three options; go back to Earth and refuel, go to station RV5 for fuel, or just go there and hope they find a civilization advanced enough to give them fuel. They unanimously choose the latter. It makes for a better cliffhanger I guess. They arrive and find a place to land on the planet near some artificial structures, burning their remaining fuel on a moon with twice Earth gravity. TO BE CONTINUED. Just a thought; wouldn't it have been faster to send someone already in space, then going through the time and expense of launching from Earth? Things wrong with science: Newton gets meteors and comets confused, as well as not really caring that one is about to hit the Earth; Rocky does a 180 degree turn with the Orbit Jet and flies through its own sound wave to wake up a napping Winky (What?). To be fair, he was flying in what looked like atmosphere, but he was supposed to be in space; There is no such moon as Fornax anywhere, it's a constellation; There is never an attempt by the crew to wear a space suit while on board, Professor Newton even wears a top hat; The launch of the Orbit Jet has to be pull more g's to get to Jupiter in one go, but the crew blacks-out at just over 4g's. The average human blacks-out at over 5g's, but if only the crew would at least put a G-Suit on they could go up to 9g's. If you are lying on your back during a rocket launch you can handle up to 17g's without losing consciousness. Winky almost kills everyone because the Orbit Jet has an auto-pilot lift-off routine, which he accidentally turns off when he blacks-out, wakes up, then blacks-out again; The Office of Space Affairs has a map of the solar system that is just a non-moving picture on the wall, yet they plan all their navigation routes from it, like the solar system isn't in motion; Since they run their rockets during the entire mission wasting fuel anyway, there is no reason for a such a dramatic blast-off.

Bobby's Comet, part II- On the surface of Fornax we see a new piece of tech, the Mechanical Canary. I assume the name is meant to reference the use of a canary in a coal mine as an early warning of bad air. The Mechanical Canary is an atmospheric sensor suite that deploys from the side of the ship. The data is relayed to a panel on the Bridge near the door. From the visiograph they see strange pyramidal shaped buildings. The atmosphere is breathable so they all take a walk to the first pyramid with a door in it. The door opens and out comes Zoravac, leader of the Fornaxians, and an old rival of Newton, Professor Cardos. Zoravac has been hosting Cardos on the moon for eight years since he crashed landed, and gets all of his knowledge of the United Worlds from him. Zoravac even claims the only way to get the attention of Earth was to shoot a missile at it, I'm guessing because the Space Ranger radio system doesn't extend to Jupiter orbit. Everyone seems friendly but Rocky takes Winky back to the ship. Using the visiograph he spies on everyone, with an X-Ray vision setting that also includes audio, they watch Vena try out some local fashions and catches Cardos hatching a plan with Zoravac. Rocky and Winky head back the pyramid and get in a fight while overhearing Cardos' plans. Zoravac has been lead to believe humans from Earth are evil and want war, but Rocky's offer of friendship intrigues him, so he shares the fuel system they use on their missiles to help get the Orbit Jet back into space. The test flight works and Rocky takes Winky and Zoravac to Earth, leaving Vena, Newton and Bobby on Fornax. TO BE CONTINUED. More bad science, but at least a visually interesting moon. Fornax has twice Earth gravity (in other words 2g's) but the only effect on the main characters is getting out of breath while running around. Rocky makes an insulting joke to Vena that she's putting on weight and to go check on the cargo scales. She's shocked to find out she weighs 236 pounds. Then they laugh at her. All of them should feel heavy, but they don't. The three rooms are laid out along the length of the rocket, but even when it's vertical the room's gravity always points toward the deck plating. So artificial gravity must be on at all times or everyone would fall to the back of the rocket. But then, while vertical on Fornax, Vena weighs herself, which doesn't work either. The only way I can justify this is to say the interior is actually gyroscopically balanced for gravitational environments and rotates around the middle room where the "airlock" is. Artificial gravity must only be used for space.

Bobby's Comet, part III- The Orbit Jet makes it to Earth and Zoravac meets with Secretary Drake. On Ophiuchus, Cleolanthe meets with Darganto, her right-hand man, and Griff about Fornax and the power their crystals hold. They want to get their own ship there and plant a flag before the United Worlds can. With the Fornaxian leader on Earth, Darganto's crew, including Griff, land on Fornax and take it over. Cardos sees an opportunity and joins the invading force (totally about half a dozen). Bobby has been hanging out with Zoravac's daughter, Volaca, and since the Ophiuchians didn't lock up the Space Rangers, he realizes they'll ignore a couple kids running around. A deal has been made on Earth, so Rocky and Winky launch in the Orbit Jet to deal with a new missile threat before taking Zoravac home. Meanwhile, Bobby manages to grab their portable astrophone (which is a real-time, wireless space communication system) and hide out with Volaca. He calls Rocky to warn him what's transpiring on Fornax. The Ophiuchians finish loading power crystals on their ship, the WOV, when the Orbit Jet enters the atmosphere and shoots at it. The crystals are unstable and blowup the ship, killing all bad guys, except Darganto, Griff and Cardos. Once Rocky lands he takes them all captive and leaves Fornax with all the main characters on board (and I assume the prisoners). THE END. I wish the show had more budget so we could see more of the alien civilizations and maybe aliens that aren't human.

Escape into Space- This one has a promising start but descends into stupidity really quick. Truck Harmon, an Earth criminal, and his accomplice, Lawson, escape into space by stealing rocket R74 in front of the Office of Space Affairs. When Secretary Drake calls Rocky and Winky at home, the latter is going through his black book looking for a date. Eventually Drake gets through and tells Rocky what's up. This is his chance to catch Harmon, because running away into space puts him in Space Ranger jurisdiction. But the Orbit Jet is being repaired and upgraded, so it won't be ready until noon the next day. The next day they chase Truck to Fornax, but first, both ships get caught in a meteor storm. Harmon calls for help and locks Lawson in a damaged part of the ship where he suffocates to death. Rocky breaks more laws of science and gets Truck aboard the Orbit Jet. For some reason the closest place to land turns out to be Fornax. When they get there Rocky has a meeting with Zoravac and makes up a whole bunch of shazbot about losing custody of Harmon due to local laws. Bobby forced himself into the crew rotation just in case he could meet his new girlfriend from the last couple episodes, Volaca. Some time has passed since the last episode because the Fornax people actually had a Christmas to correspond to the Earth calendar, and now Bobby tells Volaca it's October. Fornax is really drinking the Earth Kool-Aid. Since it's near Halloween, Bobby teachers her about ghosts and scaring people, when Rocky remembers Harmon is superstitious. In the dumbest thing I've scene yet in the show Rocky takes a remote control ghost toy from Volaca and proceeds to fly it around Harmon, all the while hiding in the background, pretending to be the voice of Lawson. And it works, Harmon confesses. Rocky arrests them and they leave for Earth. THE END. One of a very few stand-alone episodes. I like the Fornax continuity and that's about it. There is no big deal now about launching from Earth to Fornax, which I assume is part of the crystal tech upgrade all Space Ranger rockets would get in the new treaty from last episode. Here is my big science complaint for the episode. Even though all rockets in the show have an external hatch there is no way for one ship to dock with another. For Rocky to get to Harmon in the R74, he magnetically clamps to the ship so his engine room hull touches the navigation room hull of the other. He then dons an actual spacesuit and proceeds to blowtorch a hole, first in the Orbit Jet's hull, then into R74's hull. Once he crosses through he has Winky vent all the atmosphere from Orbit Jet's nav room into its engine room to force air into R74's nav room. Once he grabs Harmon and all the money he's stolen in his career (leaving the dead body of Lawson), they cross back over to the Orbit Jet and Rocky has to re-weld the hull. That's how dumb this episode is.

I have mentioned before that some characters on different planets seem to drive the same car. I think there is only one car model left in the future that everyone (even aliens) drive, and it is a 1953 Grantham Stardust. There must be weather modification technology on all these planets because that car is a convertible.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Beyond the Lagoon Whistling Around Rocky's Experiment

Today's blog post is all about March, 1954. The Adventures of Superman ends season two (with two episodes), and Rocky Jones, Space Ranger becomes the new series to watch (with five episodes). Superman won't be back for season three until over a year later in 1955. By then it will be in color. One of the rules of this blog I have mentioned in the past isn't just about watching a TV series but doing it in chronological order, by air date. This doesn't necessarily synchronize with episode production, but most TV at the time was stand-alone, anyway, with a status quo being met by the end. In other words, it doesn't matter what order you see it in. Rocky Jones did have a sense of production continuity as characters came and went and plots ebbed and flowed. However, by the air dates established on Wikipedia they were first broadcast out of order. This may not matter in the long run but I wanted to come clean in case any reader sees a chronology and wonders why I'm not watching it in that order. Did I forget to mention Creature from the Black Lagoon was released in theaters during the first week of March? It's a monster movie, so it counts as Sci-Fi.

Beyond the Curtain of Space, part II- Rocky Jones and friends leave fuel station RV5 fully repaired and enter the Ophiuchus system to fake an SOS, so they can land and find Professor Newton (and Bobby). After Winky trashes the starboard engine they land and are greeted by Cleolanthe, the Suzerain of Ophiuchus (oh-FEE-shus). She has secretly brain washed Newton to get something out of him, as well as threatened bodily harm to Bobby and a good brainwashing. Cleolanthe allows Rocky and Winky to see their friends so they'll be convinced they want to stay. None of the Space Rangers buys it, so Rocky takes Bobby back the Orbit Jet to shake him out of it. Bobby wants nothing to do with them and leaves with Vena. On the way back to Newton, Bobby snaps out of it and needs to talk to Rocky. Cleolanthe has another meeting with Rocky because the brain washing memory messer-upper machine is in her office. He tries to use it but Vena interrupts and Rocky runs out. He beats up all the guards, and learns from one of them the name of the person in the Space Rangers who ratted them out. Rocky then gets Newton, Bobby and Vena to the Orbit Jet and blasts off back to Earth, but doesn't think they're in the clear. TO BE CONTINUED. We see ray guns that aren't fired and the brain washing machine is a globe on the wall that glows. There is a nice touch that some characters speak Ophiuchian and they need Vena to translate, but for the most part, they also speak English. The Office of Space Affairs classifies the region as the Ophiuchus Formation, where ship communications are lost. This effect is referred to as going "through the curtain". The operation to rescue Professor Newton is called Haystack, and encrypted communications between space stations and Earth Headquarters are done by ticker-tape. Commander Drake is the head of Space Affairs.. I wish this show would better explain the locations of all these systems, but I like the space opera. Also, you don't need to keep burning rocket fuel once you're in space. The writers didn't think about momentum and inertia. I like the design for station RV5, it is a spinning ring (for artificial gravity) with an axial docking port for two rockets.

Creature from the Black Lagoon- An expedition in the Amazon, led by Dr. Maia, uncovers a fossil of a clawed hand from the Devonian period. Something that points to a link between sea and land creatures. Maia heads back to civilization, leaving behind someone to watch the dig site. At a marine biology institute he is able to drum up interest for a second expedition to look for the rest of the skeleton. With lots of talk about what humanity could learn from studying evolution like this the new expedition is green lit. They new group boards the Rita, headed for the Amazon. When they arrive on site, the man left behind has been killed by something with big with claws. They spend time digging in the rock face but find nothing more. The group is about to head back when the ship's captain, Lucas, says there's a body of water in the area, known as the Black Lagoon, where they might find more evidence of fossils on the bottom. Over the next couple days of diving, collecting and analyzing, the group encounters a new humanoid aquatic creature that can breath underwater and on land. It is highly aggressive, but curious about the one woman they brought, Kay. To defend themselves against what they call the gill-man, Lucas offers up some poison, Rotenone, he uses to fish. It has little effect on the gill-man but paralyzes all the fish. After loosing a few people, they capture the gill-man, but it escapes, so the group tries to leave the lagoon. They find a large tree has been dropped across the only exit. They have a winch system to move the log, but the gill-man sabotages every attempt. Armed with spear guns the group chases it into an underwater lair (with a cave leading to the surface). Finally the gill-man captures Kay and the remaining members of the group chase it back to the lair and shoot it. Wounded, the gill-man crawls back to the lagoon and sinks to the inky bottom.

A much better movie than I remember (and streaming in HD on Netflix). Not much Sci-Fi other than a half-billion year-old humanoid species still living in an uncharted part of the world. The implication being that evolution stopped with the fully amphibious gill-man species (a Devonian?) and the one in this movie is the last of its kind. Maybe it was looking for a mate? It has a huge healing factor, as it is able to heal from two spear gun wounds, at least three exposures to Rotenone, and being lit on fire. It takes a number of bullet wounds, including one in the head, to make it run off, where it sinks into the lagoon, presumable dead. It only clawed the crap out of one person, everyone else it basically choked out. Filmed very well above water, sometimes the underwater scenes get murky and boring. The gill-man suit underwater, though, is amazing. I was absorbed just watching it move. The best moment of this movie is when Kay takes a swim in the lagoon and the gill-man follows her. It swims underneath her just watching, then careful tries to touch her. Following that she gets back aboard the Rita, and the gill-man (in pursuit) gets caught in a fishing net. The whole boat rocks and creaks as they try to reel it in, but it escapes leaving a piece of it behind. An impressive moments that were made ten times more terrifying in Jaws.

The Whistling Bird- Professor Quinn, from The Machine That Could Plot Crimes, is back with a new invention. He is still stupidly absent minded, but aware that some people might want his formula for a new kind of flavored stamp glue. This is something that Willie Wonka might want, but not international governments. Even though the formula is supposed to be a secret, Nancy, his niece, tells Clark and Jimmy to come over and witness the first test. At the lab Quinn tells Clark someone stole a copy of the formula but he left out a key ingredient that he taught to Skylar the parakeet. When he rings a bell Skylar quotes a needed part. Quinn has Clark test a stamp by licking it, which Clark claims tastes good, but when he slams (super-slams) it on an envelope it explodes violently destroying the lab, tossing everyone around but leaving them unhurt. I'm guess Clark absorbed most the blast. Quinn declares the formula a failure, but Clark says he's contacting the government to classify the new explosive. This is what the bad guys really want, but how did they know the formula would turn out to be explosive (bad writing I say)? By the way, I hate the Quinn character, mainly because he's written for kids but everyone in the story takes him seriously. Jimmy takes a group photo, and later back at The Daily Planet, develops it to find people looking in a window. Clark knows these are the bad guys, but where to ind them. Quinn takes Skylar for a walk and meets a lady who takes an interest in the bird. Clark comes along and distracts Quinn, while the lady swaps Skylar for another parakeet. The bad guys don't know how to make Skylar talk so they head back to Quinn's lab. There they learn about the bell, get the formula and lock Quinn, Nancy and Jimmy in a secret lead-lined room (a Gamma Radiation test chamber) to suffocate in an hour. Jimmy uses a match to set off the fire alarm, but the room being air-tight begins to flood. Superman flies in and saves them by going through the ceiling (it seems the lead in the room had no effect on the plot). Quinn realizes his formula is unstable and will explode on its own, so Superman drinks it. Skylar then says "El Dorado" which means the bad guys ran to a ghost town upstate. Superman flies up there, finds the bad guys, rescues them as their hideout explodes, and then has them arrested. In the end Skylar is brought into Clark's office and the bird calls him Superman. kind of a dumb episode, with a dumb character, but the bad guys were all right.

Beyond the Curtain of Space, part III- Rocky Jones is escaping the Ophiuchus Formation, but Cleolanthe hits them with a long range magnetic weapon to scramble their controls, aiming them at an unseen moon. They decide to save energy (I think) by turning off their viewer. Lena is ordered to take care of Professor Newton and Bobby as well as take a log entry about the traitor, Griff, in the Office of Space Affairs. I don't now how Rocky is the best Space Ranger because he treats Vena like a piece of meat and almost fails to notice they're going to hit a moon. Anyway, they don't crash, and Vena gets some praise for saving them. Cleolanthe fails to get them before the XV2, aka Orbit Jet, gets to station RV5. They send a fake message to Earth to lull the traitor into a false sense of security. But an Ophiuchian ship (WOA or WAO or something) warns Griff who takes Secretary Drake hostage and plans to blow up the landing platform. The Orbit Jet lands, some people get in a fist fight, and Rocky saves the day. In fact, he saves the day by hitting the self destruct of Drake's official government car and killing Griff. THE END. The SOP for flying in space is really shoddy. I don't know how Rocky Jones has lasted as long as he has. He reminds me of Zapp Brannigan from Futurama (or the other way around). Drake has his own official car which looks exactly like the official Ophiuchian capitol car. It must be an Earth import. The show continues to make a point that Vena is a girl who doesn't belong in space and she fights for her role every time. The exterior of the landing pad on Earth appears to be power plant, which works for the look of the show. You can definitely see the Sci-Fi movie serial roots in this series. I still like the show for some reason.

Around the World with Superman- This has to be my least favorite episode to date. It's a real kid-oriented story about a blind girl who wants her parents back together. The Daily Planet is holding a contest where the best letter written from a child, on why he/she should fly around the world with Superman, will win. This little girl is blind and wants her mom to go around the world. She doesn't believe in Superman, but she thinks it's okay for her mom to fly. Ridiculous. Plus, that's outside of the rules and the mom flips out over all the publicity. Other papers, like The Blade, get wind of the little girl, so Perry White is forced to write an article about the winning entry (including name and address), or lose the news race. Clark is obsessed with helping her out and goes so far as to have Lois distract the mom while he X-Ray scans her optic nerve. You see, she's blind because her dad had an accident and she was hurt. The dad took it bad and left the family, going so far as harassing the mom with a lawyer (which she runs from). This character drama is so forced and doesn't make sense under analysis. Anyway, Superman sees a shard of glass on her optic nerve and takes her to a hospital for an operation, staying in the operating room to guide the doctor. It works, and the only interesting part happens when we actually see Superman fly around the world in two hours. He hits the hot spots of London, Paris, Vienna, a random middle-eastern desert, the Himalayas, Japan, San Francisco, the Grand Canyon and back to Metropolis. Let's do the math. He never landed once, but stayed low enough for her to breath. The Earth is almost 8,000 miles in diameter. He had to be going roughly 4,000mph (or the Hypersonic speed of Mach 6). And he went all over the place making his trip longer. He must have some kind of friction barrier around him that protects the girl. The writers were trying to pull at heart-strings and it just comes of as schmaltzy, which was probably the intention.

Rocky's Odyssey, part I- Lot's of Sci-Fi stuff in this one and not a lot that makes sense. The Orbit Jet, with Rocky, Winky, Vena, Professor Newton and Bobby, encounter an atmosphere in space with a lightning storm. No planet detected just atmosphere. Rocky goes out on a limb using science and supposes that there are two Gypsy Moons (I think he means planets, not moons, without a star to orbit), and were once much closer, sharing an atmosphere. They have since drifted part but an Atmosphere Chain still connects them. Newton agrees when they are attacked by an airplane. Instead of shooting them down Rocky has the Orbit Jet leave the atmosphere for space. The airplane can't follow and heads back to a moon. Bobby, who is forced to read The Odyssey, says they have to explore and be just like Ulysses. Rocky agrees and upon attempting to land are forced down outside a walled city, by a magnetic beam that won't allow them to leave. Several indigenous people board the Orbit Jet, and through the use of a ticker-tape translator (and Vena, too) they are able to learn each others' language. The moon is called Posita and they are at war with another moon, Negato. The two people Rocky and Vena happen to be talking to are King Bovaro and his Queen Cotanda. Bovaro demands they carry a doomsday bomb that will destroy Negato because the Orbit Jet can use it successfully from space; something neither of these peoples can do. They take Vena prisoner and exile the rest to the hills until they agree. Winky fires several rockets at the city walls with no effect. Bobby explains to Rocky the point of the Trojan Horse, so everyone leaves, Bovaro thinks no one is aboard, and Rocky and Winky sneak back in their ship. Sure enough Bovaro has the Orbit Jet moved into the city and the Rocky/Winky duo save Vena. TO BE CONTINUED. Science is so bad here but you kind of get caught up in the action. The fist fights are epic. I also like the name of the main screen, the Visiograph. They appear to have moved the RADAR to the Bridge finally. Did I mention before that the Orbit Jet has wings for atmospheric travel?

Rocky's Odyssey, part II- Something went screwy with the plot between last episode and this one so I'll skip it. Apparently they've been gone so long search parties have given up, having been declared dead. Secretary Drak makes a system-wide speech to this effect; even Cleolanthe hears it. Meanwhile, Rocky has everyone aboard the Orbit Jet, but can't take off because of the magnetic beam on top of damage to the electric parts of the engine. Bovaro offers to fix it if only Rocky will destroy Negato. It seems there used to be a single planet, named Electro, but once the people (Electronians?) harnessed electricity something went wrong and the planet split in two, becomin the moons, Posita and Negato. Strangely an airplane very similar in design to the Posita airplane from last episode broadcasts some bizarre music. Bozaro takes over the Orbit Jet long enough to shoot it down, then explains the music drains a man's soul and will to fight or some crap. Rocky accepts Bozaro's offer to fix the Orbit Jet but only if he has the chance to negotiate peace between the two people and get them to join the United Worlds of the Solar System. Bozaro agrees and the Orbit Jet heads to Negato. It also has a walled city exactly like Posita. (Get it positive and negative?). During the trip Bobby explains the part of The Odyssey where Ulysses meets the Sirens. He stuffs cotton in the ears of his men to protect them. Rocky devises the space solution by using their space helmets with the audio cord pulled out, except Rocky who for some reason wants to hear. As soon as they step outside the Orbit Jet, Rocky loses his mind and runs aimlessly all over the city to a woman standing on a roof top. Winky, Vena, Newton and Bobby chase him down and pull his audio cord. Then they grab a guy standing outside the gates and kidnap him back to the ship. Once free of the Negato Music he agrees to a peace between the people. Bobby also points out in his book that while Ulysses is away from home people take advantage of his absence. To mirror this Cleolanthe makes a soundboard of Rocky Jones catch phrases to use against the United Worlds. TO BE CONTINUED. It bugs me Rocky has the smartest scientist in the United Words on board and he never asks him to help in any situation. Maybe the scientist can figure out how to break a magnetic tractor beam, or how the Negato Music works. Rocky just comes up with ideas and Newton agrees with him. The writers named him NEWTON; he's supposed to be smart!

Rocky's Odyssey, part III- To finish out The Odyssey metaphor, Rocky must contend with coming home and the plots revolving around his absence. Once the Orbit Jet makes it into United World space they pick up a false message of Rocky Jones (being broadcast by Cleolanthe) asking Secretary Drake to attend a fake summit at the free moon Ankapore. Rocky can't break through the transmission so he takes Bobby's suggestion from The Odyssey again, head to the planet disguised as beggars and get close enough to Drake to save him. They all arrive at Ankapore; Rocky and friends as beggars, Cleolanthe and Atlasande as Vena and Rocky respectively, Drake and Higgins as themselves. Cleolanthe has a plan to use her brain-washing machine on Drake. This will make him pliable enough to agree to release several United Worlds planets to the Ophiuchians. Rocky and friends spend some time getting close to Higgens in the market square and bring him up to speed. Very quickly Rocky is able to tip the tide in his favor and save Drake. After Rocky beats up all the Ophiuchians it isn't clear what happens to Cleolanthe. Winky is happy that they survived their adventure just like Ulysses. But Bobby reminds him that everyone except Ulysses died in the book, so Winky shuts up. This is my favorite episode of the day. It was far clearer and didn't rely on bad science. THE END.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Superman Rocky Jones Experiment

February, 1954, debuts a new show: Rocky Jones, Space Ranger. This new show is more of a proper Sci-Fi series (but still meant for kids) as it involves rockets traveling between planets, artificial gravity, alien races (that look human), etc. It aired during the final week of February and takes over after The Adventures of Superman ends its second season the following month. But more of that tomorrow (assuming I don't lose power from Hurricane Irene).

The Golden Vulture- A crazy sea captain of the S.S. Golden Vulture, a salvage ship, is running a racket. Stolen gold is brought on board at night, disguised as crates of food. A special smelting room is run by a jeweler with a criminal record. His job is to melt down the gold and make doubloons, necklaces and cutlery that would look like treasure dredged out of the Caribbean. It is then sold to museums as authentic because they pay better than the black market. One of the crewman has a problem with this, and puts a message in a bottle asking for help. Jimmy Olsen finds it while fishing and gets Lois and Clark involved. The note was ruined but Clark could read the ship's name. Lois scoops Clark and takes Jimmy to the ship where the captain becomes paranoid and captures them. Jimmy stupidly lets it out that a crewman tipped them off, so he's captured and put in irons. Clark uncovers the conspiracy and heads over, first as Clark and then Superman, beating everyone up. The most interesting part of the episode happens when Clark takes his glasses of to fight and gets mixed up with Lois and Jimmy. They don't seem to notice in the dark, but he's supposed to be "mild mannered" so he stops fighting. They make him walk the plank, which gives him the perfect opportunity to change underwater. All is saved, but I wonder if Jimmy kept the fake doubloon he was handed. It's still made out of real gold.

Jimmy Olsen, Boy Editor- Perry White is having a bad dream that Jimmy Olsen is the editor of The Daily Planet. When he gets to work, it turns out that Metropolis is having a youth day for 24 hours where young people take the big responsible positions to learn them. It's a really dumb idea (that Superman oversees) but the episode plays out well enough with Jimmy in charge of the paper. It is also mentioned that the Mayor and Chief of Police are replaced as well. Jimmy knows that almost seven years ago a group of thugs robbed a bank, but there wasn't enough evidence to convict. In 24 hours the statute of limitations is up and they can't be prosecuted. Jimmy runs a false story to bait them, which works; all three barge into the his office at gun point. These are some dumb frakking criminals. Clark does some creative stuff and gets a live audio feed to the office where he and Perry listen to the standoff. The criminals think if they just wait until midnight they're free, but Jimmy reminds them they're up to gun charges now, and there is no way they're getting away. Superman secretly uses a gas in the vent system to knock them all out and Jimmy gets all the credit for catching them. Bank Robbery is 20 - 30 years, but Gun Possession is 1 year. It turns out The Daily Planet had a list of all the serial numbers of the $2,000,000 they stole and the thugs were dumb enough to bring the money with them. A dumb idea that's fun to watch. I think Clark left Jimmy and Lois as hostages just to see what Jimmy was made of. I wish this had been a dream episode.

Lady in Black- This is something else that seemed like a dream. Jimmy is back living with his mom. She goes on vacation with a friend of hers and Jimmy offers to watch the friend's apartment. At night he reads a mystery novel, The Lady in Black, and it spooks him. Also, thumping in the basement and a weird eyeball painting is also freaking him out. He gets the superintendent, goes to the basement to investigate and gets knocked out for his troubles. He wakes up on the couch and calls Clark, who shows up immediately. The superintendent explains Jimmy whacked his head on a beam and heard a cat, named Timmy, hunting for mice. Clark doesn't believe Jimmy's version of events and leaves. The next morning Jimmy heads to work and has a strange run in with several people; a man with a scar on his face, a black-veiled woman with an accent, and a man with a package. The lady hands Jimmy the package filled with money and someone throws a dagger at him. Jimmy loses his mind, but when he calls Clark the line goes dead. He then checks with the superintendent who lies dead on the floor. Superman shows up but finds nothing wrong and claims Jimmy is crying wolf. That night, terrified, he calls Clark one last time to listen to the noises over the phone. Since Clark has super-hearing he finally learns what the sounds really are. Superman shows up to stop a counterfeit painting ring that was operating out of the basement with the blessing of the superintendent. Not the best episode by plot, but Jack Larson nails the Jimmy Olsen role. The more ridiculous the characters become the better Jimmy reacts to them. He is the entertainment of the episode.

Beyond the Curtain of Space, part I- For a pilot episode there is no real character introduction, except Vena. The episode is also all over the place with lots of technobabble and alien names. Space stations and rocket ships all have alphanumeric codes, to make it all sound futuristic. Rocky Jones is a Space Ranger, which means he has the XV2 (a rocket) and a sidekick, Winky (the worst character name ever). He is of course the best Space Ranger in the fleet, run by the Office of Space Affairs. The two just finished a big mission and are being given two months leave, but a top Earth scientist, Professor Newton (and his ward, Bobby), defects to the Ophiuchus system. Rocky thinks he's being coerced and wants to mount a rescue mission. Vena Ray is an alien liaison (or something) who agrees with Rocky. She is an accomplished navigator and speaks 27 alien languages. Rocky doesn't want a girl in space with him and proceeds the rest of the episode to be as chauvinistic as humanly possible. Vena bites back every time and eventually gets put on the crew. They launch to the Ophiuchus system but must fuel up on the way. Someone back at headquarters is feeding the bad guys in space intel on Rocky, who intercept the Orbit Jet. But Vena is the only one with a RADAR and warns Rocky who, disables the other rocket ship. They then continue to fueling station RV5. But they took a hit and the engine room is venting air. Vena tries to help but gets sealed in the engine room. Rocky and Winky put on space helmets (not suits, just helmets) and have to blow-torch their way back in to the engine room. (I'm guessing because the ship's computer wouldn't voluntarily open a door into vacuum.) They save her and make it to RV5. This is my favorite episode of the day. TO BE CONTINUED.

Star of Fate- I don't know where to begin. Ahmed, an Egyptian (who doesn't look like it), holds an auction for a mysterious lead wrapped box. Lois and Clark are present to witness and the two bidders are Whitlock, a curio shop owner, and Barnak, who has his own plans. Barnak eventually wins the bid with $10,000. Clark thinks something's up and goes back to The Daily Planet. As Barnak leaves, Whitlock warns him there's a curse on the box and not to open it. Barnak agrees but his secretary opens it later and collapses. Whitlock steals the box, but an employee of his opens it and collapses. Both of them fight back and forth over it until Superman gets involved and takes the box to The Daily Planet. Lois doesn't believe in curses and opens it. She collapses, too. Clark opens it and catches a poison needle that he gives to a hospital to analyze. Inside the box is a huge gem and a clue to an antidote. There is a plant at the base of the Egyptian Pyramids that needs collecting. Superman goes to Egypt and actually lifts part of a Pyramid to get at the plant. Meanwhile Jimmy isn't satisfied with the outcome, so he threatens Barnak with calling the police. He pulls a gun on Jimmy, who gets stuffed in a sarcophagus. Superman saves him, gets Barnak, and everyone is saved at the hospital. There was also something about a dead Professor of archeology, but that was dropped, too. A so-so episode.

Rocky Jones, Space Ranger is an interesting show to watch today. Incredibly primitive and aimed at kids, but it takes itself just seriously enough I can enjoy it. The pre-Sputnik era is in full effect. The most successful rocket designs of the time were the German V-1 and V-2 from World War II. This was the template for the rocket program, which NASA will eventually inherit, and also the template for Sci-Fi. Either you have a flying saucer or a rocket ship, that's it for classic Sci-Fi. It was also assumed that rockets are reusable and would just land on their tails to be refueled. If you can get over this, Rocky Jones is watchable. The XV2 was also the precursor to a lot of tech that will show up in future TV series, like Star Trek. They have a front-facing view screen, automatic doors, artificial gravity, real time space communication, and I think the rocket is supposed to be atomic powered. One of the most interesting ideas in the pilot episode was the hull breach in the engine room. Rocky couldn't see it at first so he hit a button, a balloon popped out and was pulled right to the hole in the hull. (I think Mission to Mars did the same thing with Dr. Pepper.) They didn't have anything to repair it with so Rocky sealed the door, but a great idea. I guess duct tape hadn't been invented yet. For poor ship design I have no idea why the RADAR is not on the bridge. The whole navigation suite (with paper charts) are in a room between the bridge and main engineering. Vena has to keep running back and forth to get any work done; really inefficient, and almost got them killed.

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Clown Hated Semi-Private Perry the Wrecker Experiment

The brand new year of 1954 will finally have something new to watch other than The Adventures of Superman. But first January brings out five new episodes.

The Clown Who Cried- No clowns cried in the making of this episode. But they were sure hurt. The Daily Planet is holding a telethon for children to raise $500,000. Clark Kent has the idea of getting Rollo the clown from a local circus to perform. Rollo's ex-partner, Crackers, is hard up for money, and sees an opportunity. He knocks out Rollo and impersonates him, fooling Jimmy Olsen long enough to walk into a trap. Jimmy is held by the strong-man, Hercules. Superman saves him and gets to prove who is stronger by wrapping a barbel around the strongman. Even after meeting Crackers dressed like Rollo (he beat the real Rollo in the head, tied him up and stuffed him under a cot), Clark doesn't recognize him. Maybe he stopped relying on voice recognition since he was fooled in The Man with the Lead Mask. Later on the telethon has been hosted by Clark for 22 hours and they haven't raised half the money. They bring out a Chinese magician, Son Lo Tiu (who I'm pretty sure wasn't actually even Asian, but that might have been part of the act), and then sends in the clown, "Rollo". Crackers used to be a clown and the stunt work for the performance was pretty good. Even falling backwards off 20-foot high scaffolding. For some reason all the money being raised was going straight to the studio, which gives him the chance to pull a real gun and steal all the money. By this time Rollo has freed himself (which was supposed to be a painful experience but I laugh at clowns misfortunes) and tangles with Crackers on the streets. The cops who know one of the clowns has a gun back off and Superman enters the scene. I don't think I've ever seen a rooftop fight between clowns, but both fall off and Superman only saves one, letting Crackers die from the impact. I had hoped for a Joker reference, but it was to much to ask. This is an okay episode with a premise that doesn't quite work, and I hate clowns. Rest assured, when Superman shows up at the telethon all the money is raised

The Boy Who Hated Superman- This is an annoying episode. It involves a disillusioned teenager, Frankie (who looks to be in his 20s); the nephew of a gangster, Duke Dillon, recently arrested by Superman while trying to leave the country. The whole thing is based on an article Clark wrote and some evidence he has for the police (who never seem to do their job). On a side note, it must be common knowledge among the criminals that Superman only works in America, unless he helps Scotland Yard. Back to the story. A judge is trying to straighten Frankie's attitude out; he's too used to the gangster life. Clark thinks it would be a good idea for Frankie to live with him for a while. This is odd because Clark is already letting Jimmy room with him (since when?) and hopes Jimmy will be a good influence for Frankie. Frankie wants nothing to do with Clark, but then comes to the conclusion if he gets close enough he can find the evidence from the article and change things. To do this, and bust his uncle out, he needs to raise a bunch of money. He also stupidly tries to get Jimmy in on it. Jimmy agrees and starts overacting to a painful level, until Clark starts yelling at him to cut the crap. By the way, Jimmy has his own office, when did he start sharing with Clark? Anyway, Jimmy says he was pretending so he could figure out Frankie's motives. Eventually a double-cross is exposed and Frankie learns his uncle had no intention of leaving the country with his nephew. This causes an instant change of heart and Superman intervenes to stop the prison break. For the most part there isn't much continuity between episodes, but there is a nice reference in this one to Tony's diner from My Friend Superman.

Semi-Private Eye- It's Jimmy Olsen's turn to act the fool in this episode. Private Eye stories were a much bigger deal back in the '50s, but it just looks antiquated today. But, it did give Jack Larson some range to act by hamming it up way to much as a Private Eye. There is a real PI in the story, Homer Garrity, who is being targeted by the person his client sent him to find. An attempt on Homer's life fails when Superman saves his life from a falling brick chimney. Back to The Daily Planet offices Clark makes a slip during a conversation with Perry, and suddenly Lois and Jimmy have a flash of insight that only Clark must be Superman. The best part of this episode is Lois' plan to catch Clark in his deception. She hollows out a phone book and puts in 50 pounds of lead. Jimmy plants it on Clark's desk, with a lot of effort, than leaves the room. Clark comes in, and not paying any attention to his desk, pulls out his own phone book. He sees the one Jimmy planted and throws it in a corner, leaving the normal one in its place. Lois and Jimmy come in to ask Clark for the phone book. Clark then grabs the real phone book with ease and throws it at Lois, who reacts beautifully. They don't get their proof. Lois is so mad she hires Homer to follow Clark around, but she gets kidnapped by the people that tried to kill the PI earlier. Jimmy decides this is the time to pretend to be a PI and flubs it by getting captured, too. Superman is able to figure out what's going on and saves everyone. He displays a new power by being able to suck poison gas out of the air that was intended to kill Lois, Jimmy and Homer. Actually, if not for Jimmy this would have been a decent episode. I hate when main characters start acting stupidly to further a plot (see Rescue).

Perry White's Scoop- This one makes up for all the other one's I watched today. Perry White is angry that all the news his reporters are investigating always seems to end with Superman saving the day. Back in his day there was no Superman. So when someone wearing a diving gear is shot outside of the Daily Planet Building he takes the assignment himself to show all the younger reporters how to do it. There is a medical facility in the Daily Planet Building where the mystery diver is being treated. He utters the word "Quincy" and promptly dies (he did get shot three times). Perry writes a false front page story to lure the bad guys out. He even goes so far as to get his own diving suit, but Superman takes the suit instead. As soon as he goes outside someone shoots at Superman, who was hired by phone and knows nothing. All four in Perry's office brainstorm what "Quincy" and diving have to do with each other. Lois researches telephone exchanges but Clark hits on the Quincy Gym. Perry and Clark go to the gym. After surviving an encounter with more bad guys (there seems to be two sets of them), both reporters figure there's a water tank on the roof. Perry calls Jimmy to the gym just to have him climb into it. Jimmy finds a goldfish with a message wrapped around its tail. The message leads to a train yard and to car 763792. Little do they know all the bad guys have an apartment across the street watching them. Perry and Jimmy go to the train yard, find the car and discover it is filled with US mint paper. The bad guys are counterfeiters. Perry and Jimmy are caught, some double-crossing happens and all but two crooks are locked in a burning train car. Clark shows up in the nick of time and gets rid of Lois, giving him a chance to turn into Superman. He saves everyone and beats up the bad guys. Even Jimmy gets to knock one out. A really good episode that starts with a strange mystery.

Beware the Wrecker- An even better episode. This is the first time we have a criminal master-mind. He goes by the name Wrecker. A cross-country plane explodes. A steam ship leaving harbor explodes. A train coming into Metropolis explodes. Each time Perry White gets a phone call warning him (and demanding money), while in the background is a strange metal thump followed by a bell. There isn't any mention of casualty figures which could have been in the hundreds. A meeting is called in Perry's office with the owners of the three transportation companies. The fourth attempt is on another steam ship and a dollar amount is demanded. The calls can't be traced because the Wrecker is hacking the phone line with a portable handset. All three owners don't care about catching they guy, they just want their companies running, but Inspector Henderson convinces them to hold off paying anything out. Just before the deadline is up Superman goes into action at the pier (I don't know why he waited this long) and finds a model airplane, with explosives, flying overhead. Everyone puts their heads together and figure the Wrecker must be a guided missile expert. He threatens to launch twelve planes next unless he gets $100,000 dropped of at City Park. All the police stake out the park, but the Wrecker uses an underground passage and gets the money, even out from under Clark. On a whim he takes Lois and Jimmy to a carnival to see the High Striker game. They watch a guy play, use the mallet, whack the lever, ring the bell, and get a Superman sticker. Clark is badgered into playing and immediately breaks it. This is the sound they heard in the phone. Lois and Jimmy run off to find where the phones lines are and track it down to a shack near the carnival. They wait for someone to come home then barge in and capture the guy. Homemade wire going to the phone lines and lots of model aircraft are in evidence. They time him up and run out to find Clark. When they get back they guy is dead. The next day Superman tells Henderson to collect the three owners back in Perry's office. He uses a demonstration of the remote control airplane to scare the real Wrecker (the other guy was Emil Hatch an explosives and aerodynamics expert with a criminal history used to blackmail him), which is revealed to be Crane. He wanted the insurance money. The best episode of the day. Jimmy had his most entertaining moments trying to get Perry to let him in on the case with Lois and Clark. Any scene with Perry and Jimmy is usually a highlight of the show.

I meant to point this out last post: Superman showed off a new power in My Friend Superman. He flew in the supply closet he normal uses at the Daily Plant Building, but there's a typewriter on a desk in there. He Super-speed types out a three page news story. Jimmy meets him in the hall when Clark walks out of the closet, and nobody, including Perry White, thinks it's weird he didn't use his office to write the story.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Panic Machine Devil Friend Experiment

The final month of 1953 also sees four new episodes of The Adventures of Superman. Their show must have been given a slightly better budget because the flying effects are "improved". There are also different exterior shots of the Daily Planet Building, which now show better angles that make it a part of Metropolis. Their editors still love the shot of Clark running into a aupply closet, then jumping out the window as Superman. That was shown in the first episode, and it is still in use as of December, 1953.

Panic in the Sky- Despite the science in the being almost nonsensical it manages to be a highly recommended episode. About the only thing I can say they got right is there really are things called asteroids and sometimes they aim at Earth. Somehow scientists have been tracking a 5-mile diameter asteroid (once again really good for early '50s technology) past Venus, then Mars and finally curving its trajectory towards Earth. Superman has been helping the local observatory when it is learned it will slam into Metropolis. Professor Roberts warns him they don't know what it is made out of. It could have disasterous physical effects on Superman if he leaves the Earth. I guess they don't realize he's fine in space as long as he has a yellow star nearby. In a great scene Superman takes off for space and slams headlong into the asteroid. Superman falls to Earth dazed and confused, while the asteroid takes up a permanent orbit which causes it to eclipse the sun once a day. Now that there is a new gravitational body orbitting Earth it begins to wreak havoc on weather patterns and fault lines, causing tidal waves and earthquakes. Even Earth's rotation is slowly being affected. All this while Superman becomes Clark Kent again and loses his memory. We now see that he has three Supersuits (he must have learned how to make more Kryptonian fabric) but Clark no longer remembers who he really is. After many failed attempts by Perry White to yell at Clark, he goes back to his apartment and puts a Supersuit on. He suddenly remembers something about the observator and heads there. Roberts gives him a nuclear device which Superman flies to the asteroid, lands on it, detonates, then comes home with all his memories back. A couple things to point out. Professor Roberts warns Superman there might be Kryptonite on the asteroid, which means that information has now been leaked. This is the first time Superman flies into space, even though his cape still flaps about in vacuum. We never learn what the asteroid was made out of, but Superman was holding the bomb when it went off and the explosion cured him, so he is obviously immune to nuclear blasts. Clark at one point is lying in bed without his glasses on when Perry, Lois and Jimmy come barging into his bedroom. They don't notice he looks like Superman at all. Plus, an amnesiac Clark takes off his suit with the Supersuit underneath, next to Jimmy but he never notices. The special effects people do a pretty good job of showing the asteroid eclipsing the moon, even going so far as to put a yellow filter on the scene instead of it being just black & white. Good future-proofing, since most TV sets at the time were black & white, it would only be noticed in syndication.

The Machine That Could Plot Crimes- The fourth wall should be sparingly violated, and in the case of The Adventures of Superman only when Clark Kent winks at the audience. There have been a couple times this season where characters talk to the themselves straight at the audience for the sake of humor. It happened in this one, and it's painful to watch. But don't let that get you down, this is another great story. We have been seeing more Sci-Fi oriented episodes and this one is about a super-computer, named Mr. Kelso. Invented by Professor Quinn, not a mad scientist but a naive genius type, he shows off his computer to a has-been criminal, McCoy, who learns that Mr. Kelso can calculate complex patterns to establish the perfect crime. That being bank robbery, something that hasn't happened in Metropolis for at least a year, thanks to Superman. McCoy, and his partners Nosey and Pinky, go about robbing all the banks and getting the attention of Superman. But when Superman tries to intervene he finds laundry in bags, not money. All part of Mr. Kelso's plan. With Superman somewhat bamboozled, McCoy feeds all the information on him to Mr. Kelso, who comes up with the perfect crime to escape the country with wads of cash. Once again criminals blackmail Superman into "helping" by threatening to reveal his identity. But because they trusted Mr. Kelso it never occured them it would set them up, and eventually they get nabbed for driving the wrong way on a one way street. I've heard of people doing this with current navigation computers in cars. So the writer, Jackson Gillis, predicted a future man-machine interface error over 50 years ago. This is a great episode, even with the goofy Professor Quinn, because they actually explain many of the variables to a successful bank robbery (of the '50s). Mr. Kelso even prints out a sheet of time tables for all the traffic lights in Metropolis, as well as police patrol patterns. On the final part of he mission a thug puts dynamite on Mr. Kelso do destroy any evidence, but Superman stops it. While holding the dynamite, the thug shoots at pointbank range without thinking what Superman was holding. It appears that Mr. Kelso can make its own decisions about what to share and what to "lie" about, almost classifying it as AI. In the final moments Quinn asks the computer who Superman is and it outputs "Wouldn't you like to know." So even a computer has figured it out, while most criminals know he has an alter-ego. Superman is seriously getting sloppy. My favorite of the day.

Jungle Devil- I can't really give this episode high marks. Like Drums of Death did nothing good for Haiti, this one does nothing good for any South American jungle. I am only assuming it is set there because the map of Zinaya at The Daily Planet doesn't really show where in the world it is, but the natives are interpreted by a Hispanic guide. I guess it saves the writers from having to be realistic. They did say the area is about 10,000 square miles. Well, an expedition (to find a miracle medicine plant) is captured by natives, when the one woman on the team steals a diamond from the right eye of their god-statue and promptly loses it in quicksand. Lois and Clark (and Jimmy, too, who stowed away on their flight) are sent by Perry White to Zinaya to look for them. Really? Reporters doing search and rescue? Anyway, Clark manages to sneak off the flight and finds the missing expedition, just when the aircraft blows an engine. Superman flies back into the aircraft, changes into Clark again, and helps pilot Bill land in a clearing. While Bill repairs the engines, the three set off in the direction of the natives and are immediately captured. It is agreed that only one person needs to die and the rest can go, so Clark rigs a game to make sure he gets executed. The threat of death to all has been the feared Jungle Devil, which will be the method of execution. Clark finds a moment to become Superman and fights a large ape (escaped from a circus) of some sort, the Jungle Devil. Superman choke slams the monkey and it runs off. The natives don't care who Clark/Superman is, he's now considered a great warrior and all are spared. Clark even discovers a chunk of charcoal, and using his super-strength, crushes it into a perfectly cut diamond. It fits the statue and all is forgiven. The Lois, Clark and Jimmy scenes are fine, but the ignorant use of jungle natives ranks this really low. There is an odd moment when Clark first meets the locals. He holds out his hand like a "movie western" Native American, but instead says "amigo" instead of "how". Bad writing. I can't not recommend this episode enough.

My Friend Superman- A fairly harmless episode. Clark Kent and Lois Lane have been working on stories about extortion in Metropolis. Little do they realize a diner next to the Daily Planet Building is paying protection to a group of gangsters. Especially since Clark and Jimmy frequent it, mostly I think because Jimmy is taken by the waitress, Elaine. But the owner, Tony, is adamant he's a personal friend of Superman and even shows off a rifle with a bent barrel he keeps on a wall, as proof. The gangsters begin to worry and when they read Clark's report in the paper, they devise a plan to steal signed affidavits from store owners who are pissed. But first they need to get rid of Superman. With news that Lois is on assignment and out of touch for a few days they plant false news with Tony that she'll be kidnapped at a certain place and time. Tony reports this to Superman and the plan almost works until the gangster show back up at the diner and start talking about their plans. Tony has a recording device set up that catches them in the lie, and passes it on to Clark. In the middle of this deception Lois shows up at the diner, Superman right behind and they nab all three bad guys, but not before everyone in the joint throws pies, glasses and plates at them; eventually knocking them out. Not much happens but you feel for the Tony as he goes on about Superman, which amuses Clark to no end. No one eating at the diner actually believes Tony, until the end when Superman plays along. I like that all his food has to be either Super-hamburger or Super-soup. You also get a little dance number in the middle of the action to pass the time.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Ghost Dog Face and the Lead Mask Experiment

Four new episodes of The Adventures of Superman aired in November of 1953. The show is hitting its stride and a lot of good, quirky episodes are coming out. If you are British, though, you'll want to steer clear of A Ghost for Scotland Yard. It isn't flattering.

A Ghost for Scotland Yard- Brockhurst, An insane magician from London, fakes his own death five years before as part of a trick to get revenge on the people that hate him. This appears to be only two: Arthur McCready, owner of the theater Brockhurst used to perform in (and close friend of Perry White), and Inspector Farrington from Scotland Yard. Why McCready continued to employ someone he didn't like (or continue to keep a giant picture of him over the mantle in his living room) is beyond me, but the feeling must have been mutual because Brockhurst claimed he would return in exactly five years as a ghost to exact revenge. Clark and Jimmy get caught up in the hysteria and try to convince everyone that there are no such things as ghosts. Eventauly Superman steps in to reveal everything. Londoners don't come off very well in this episode, as they appear to be a superstitious lot. A phone call from the ghost seems to put everyone on edge, but Jimmy figures out what is really going on and Superman flies around collecting clues. It's a mediocre episode filled with accents that seem a little forced. It's interesting that in England nobody believes in Superman, but you can get his comic book at the local news stand. Is it weird that there is a Superman comic in the Superman universe?

The Dog Who Knew Superman- Corky is dog. This dog is owned by Joyce, the daughter of the gangster who runs all the bookies in Metropolis. Her husband, Hank, hates the dog, and throws him down a well. The only smart thing Hank has ever done is marry Joyce, because her father died and passed the organization to him. Clark witnesses Corky's predicament, becomes Superman and saves him. He even dives straight at the ground to tunnel into the well. With Corky safe Joyce and Hank drag him back to the car, but Corky picks up a glove Clark lost and gets Superman's scent. Back home Hank purposfully loses the dog again before figuring that Corky can lead him to the real identity of Superman. Meanwhile Corky ends up in Clark's office (following the scent trail). Some missed communications and screwy high-jinks puts Corky in a pound, a kidnapped Jimmy at Hank's place and Clark wandering the streets. Hank uses a lie-detector on Jimmy (why does he have one in his apartment?) who accidentally reveals the kennel Corky is in. Hank sends his underling, Louie, to pick him up, but Louie doesn't think it's right to know Superman's identity and leaves Corky with a dogcatcher, sure to put him to death. Jimmy gets free, Superman saves Corky, Lois calls the police and Hank does a bunch of time for kidnapping. Corky goes back to Joyce and no one thinks to use him to track Superman again. A fun story that would have been dumb except for the overacting husband and wife team of Joyce and Hank. She berates him something aweful and he's an idoit. Surprisingly entertaining. Jimmy has a great time lieing to the lie-detector and we learn he lives in the North Side. The best episode of the bunch.

The Face and the Voice- There's an ugly gangster in Metropolis that gets some plastic surgery. Turns out he looks just like Superman. He doesn't sound like him though, so Scratchy goes to Perry White's office and steals a record of a Superman speech, dated July 4th. Jimmy sees the guy but can't give a description. Neither can the story explain why Scratches knew where to find the record. Some time passes for Boulder and his voice coach, when he finally learns to sound like Superman. Then all the rival papers to The Daily Planet declare Superman is robbing people. The fake Superman even confronts Perry in his office and threatens the whole city to stay away from him. The cops believe Superman has lost his mind. They're afraid of him. Clark, for some reason, thinks he might by sleep-walking as Superman, but finally comes to his senses. When Jimmy is captured (again) chasing a lead, the real Superman goes to the police to get them to see the light. When that actually works Superman stops a gold heist and saves Jimmy. George Reeves had to play both real and fake Supeman and does a fantastic job, in an overacting dim-witted thug way. A fun episode. This is the first time he uses his Super-breath to blow out a fire.

The Man in the Lead Mask- Some of the criminals in this show are dumb. They do stupid things and get caught. I chalk it up to bad writing. Most of this episode I thought the criminals were just being stupid putting a lead mask on so Superman can't see who they are (or anyone else for that matter). But all Superman needs to do is beat one of them up and arrest him any way. The mask doesn't really help. Speaking of arresting, it appears all members of The Daily Planet are authorized to arrest people. I suppose to make it easier on the police. The actual point of the episode is about America's most wanted, Marty Mitchell, wanted dead or alive for $20,000. Clark spots him in a diner, but the face is wrong. After "stealing" his finger prints they turn out not to match police records either. Jimmy arrests him anyway, but the police can't hold him due to the finger prints not matching. Clark swears his voice and mannerisms are the same, though. The last episode was about plastic surgery and voice training, so these themes carry over well. Marty has a group of gangsters on the most wanted list who want their faces and finger prints changed too. They are given each a lead mask and told to rob $50,000 for the procedure. Superman intervenes but dresses up as one (including the lead mask) and spoils all their plans. It is finally revealed that there was never any surgery, it as all a scam for Marty to get a bunch of money from dumb criminals. A smart ending to an odd episode. Part way through Lois points out the use of a lead mask would indicate common knowledge of Superman's X-ray vision weakness. When did this get out? Sometime prior to The Big Squeeze?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Man Jet Dark Defeat Superman Experiment

There were five new episodes of The Adventures of Superman on TV the month of October, 1953. As I've said before there really aren't any good records or recordings of other contemporary shows, so for the time being this show will have to represent them all.

The Man Who Could Read Minds- Superman has to stop another criminal gang. Their plan is to pose as a mind-reading act at the Tip Top Cafe. During the act one of them "borrows" the house key of a rich "mark" attending and makes a wax impression. Then the one dubbed by the media, The Phantom Burglar, drives to the victim's house while cutting a new key from the mold. In, out and done by the time victim is home. This has gone on long enough that The Daily Planet started writing headlines that make the police look incompetent. Inspector Henderson invites all the main characters out into the residential area to show them the police are doing everything possible. Jimmy convinces Lois they can catch the burglars on their own and the two run off. They actually catch the burglars in the act but Jimmy gets beat up and shot at. Laterm Lois dresses up Jimmy to look South American so he can use his Spanish 101 classes and bait a trap. This, of course, backfires and Superman saves the day. At least Jimmy can put up a good fight. The cool Superman moment involves a car chase. Jimmy is driving Lois' car when the bad guys shoot out the tire. He almost goes off a cliff but Superman grabs the car from behind and pulls them off the ledge. There's a weird moment when the picture freezes on Perry White drive Clark Kent after Jimmy and Lois. You can still hear distant action but the image is obviously frozen because someone decided to stretch the scene out and didn't know what to do.

Jet Ace- Another one of Perry White's relatives is in the spotlight. Nephew Chris White is a civilian test pilot for the Air Force, out on a secret test flight in an F-86D Sabre Dog. Something goes wrong during an ill advised dive and he loses oxygen when his controls lock up. Because Perry invited all the main characters to the Air Force Base, Clark is in the perfect position to sneak out, become Superman and save Chris. This is just the excuse Perry needs to force Chris to take a vacation in his hunting lodge. A rival news paper reporter, Steve Martin of The Blade, tries to out-scoop everyone, but gets kicked out by the military. Chris demands to have a rifle if he is to vacation. Later at the hunting lodge Chris is attacked by two thugs who demand to have the report he wrote about his flight. He is taken to a masked man who beats him up for info. Perry gets word that Chris has vanished, fears the worst and sends Clark and Jimmy to check out things. Eventually Chris is taken back to the lodge when the masked man is revealed to be the Martin, the reporter. He torches the lodge to kill Chris, but Superman once again saves him in time. Chris had actually put the report in the barrel of his hunting rifle which was recovered from the scene. Everyone sets a trap for Martin, and Clark watches while Chris beats him unconscious. A descent episode with a convoluted plot to capture and nearly murder Chris, just so Martin can get a story. The Blade must be a terrible paper. Great moments for Superman include saving the jet and interrogating the two thugs who kidnapped Chris.

Shot in the Dark- A little kid using an infrared flash bulb happens to catch a couple photos of Clark Kent changing in to Superman (or the other way around), down the alley next to the Daily Planet. Once again Clark hasn't been as cleaver as he thought and someone just found him out... again... in that alley. That kid also took another picture of Burt Burnside, a con-man, who starts threatening the family. The addle-brained mom finds Clark, accuses him of being Superman in front of Jimmy Olsen and asks for help. The entire episode is enjoyable to watch because Clark has to tap-dance his way around every piece of evidence linking him to Superman, all while either Jimmy or Lois is with him. By the end he captures the bad guys and worms his way out of further scrutiny. This episode introduces Superman's heat vision, which he combines with X-Ray vision to find things behind walls and destroy them (all while doing no damage to his glasses or any walls). But the best bit is when Burt, who realizes Clark is Superman, pulls a pistol out of an ankle holster and shoots Clark point blank. When Jimmy demands to know how he's still alive, Clark pulls a silver dollar out of his pocket, mashes it a little and says the bullet bounced off. All the main characters are ignorant of Clark once again. Background details we learn about Metropolis: they have a subway system with a station at 34th Street and at least two commuter cars named "Valley Express" and "Valley Local". Superman once again proves his immunity to electricity when he breaks the third rail to stop a runaway Local train from hitting the Express.

The Defeat of Superman- Over a year ago crime lord Happy King ran off to Europe just when Superman was about to catch him. Unlike the first season, Superman is known world-wide now and Happy King is back in Metropolis with a European scientist, Professor Meldini. This Professor has an interesting theory. He thinks Superman is not from Earth, and suspects he's from Krypton. How did anybody on Earth know about Krypton in 1953? This is still 4 years before Sputnik. Oh wait, this is Science Fiction. Meldini somehow got a hold of meteor from Krypton and made a bullet out of it, calling it Kryptonite. Superman gets caught in a trap and is shot with it, stinging him. With conclusive proof, Meldini explains that Kryptonite doesn't hurt Superman's people on their home planet, only on Earth, and that it is harmless to humans. He devises a way to create artificial Kryptonite and makes a block of it the size of a stick of butter, enough to kill Superman before he can touch it. Another trap is set, using Lois and Jimmy who stuck their noses in when they shouldn't have, and all three are stuck in a basement with the Kryptonite. It's fast acting as Superman loses his powers then falls unconscious. Eventually Superman comes around just long enough to suggest encasing it in a lead pipe, which Jimmy finds as part of the plumbing. Superman regains all his strength and takes the pipe (with the Kryptonite) and throws it as hard as he can out to sea. King and his henchmen, driving away, see an object shoot past them in the sky, and they drive off a cliff not paying any attention to the road. Great episode again, having to do with bad guys figuring out Superman. This time they had knowledge Superman didn't even have. King also makes the leap of logic that Lois is practically Superman's girl. Now Lois and Jimmy have to keep Kryptonite a secret. This is the best episode of October.

Superman in Exile- Project X is a nuclear reactor that outputs Gamma Radiation. It runs out of control and Superman removes the control rods before Metropolis has to be evacuated. He is however dosed with too much radiation, even glowing in the dark. He chooses to exile himself on Mt. Blue Peak, which overlooks all of Metropolis, until a possible cure can be devised. Criminals realize they're free to do what they want again, and one in particular kidnaps Lois Lane, knowing Superman won't come close if she is threatened with radiation poisoning. They plan to steal an airplane with rare jewels on it. A sudden thunderstorm inspires Superman to fly into it. After a lightning strike cleans him of radiation (how, I don't know), he locates the aircraft with Lois on it, forces it to land and the police arrive to arrest everyone. Jimmy and Lois noticed throughout the episode that Clark wasn't around and began to suspect he's Superman. They are now looking for any excuse to jump to that conclusion, but in the end Clark changes her mind, again. A decent episode. Superman's glowing body is used to good effect whenever he moves into the darkness. A glowing Superman sitting on a mountain, staring at Metropolis is a powerful image.

Since Season 2 started they have been working more and more flying effects into the scenes. They are now more elaborate, and one even shows him flying past buildings, across hills and up into the sky for longer than any other episode. At least once I saw a wire holding him up, but the series is so much fun it can be ignored, and others show him flying sideways and other illogical directions. Not bad, though. He is also getting to show off more of his powers, now, and he also has a better sense of his environment as he constantly scans things using X-Ray Vision or Superhearing. A good group of episodes from October, 1953.