MILL CREEK NIGHTMARE WORLDS: Menace from Deep Space (1956)

Clean-cut, square-jawed Rocky Jones of the Space Rangers was the lead character of a syndicated science fiction series that ran for two seasons from February to November of 1954. Shot in black and white, the show was about Rocky’s adventures as the space policeman for the United Worlds. Flying in his Orbit Jet XV-2 — and later the Silver Moon XV-3 — Rocky was a victim of budgets, as despite having a laser gun, he often defeated villains with his fists. Just as often, those villains were people in costumes speaking English instead of some alien tongue. Also, no matter where women came from — even lead villain Cleolanta, Suzerain of the planet Ophecius — they all love him in a precursor to the way James T. Kirk would be able to land any lady, even the green ones.

Rocky Jones was created by Roland D. Reed and starred Richard Crane as Rocky and former Our Gang member Scotty Beckett as Rocky’s co-pilot Winky. It was sponsored by Gordon Baking Company, which is why one of Rocky’s other ships was called the Silvercup Rocket after one of their bread brands. The show was greeted with a ton of cash-in merchandise, including watches, space dollars, badges, buttons, records, comic books and clothing.

Charactets changed in the last season, due to Professor Newton (Maurice Cass) dying of a heart attack — he was replaced by Professor Mayberry (Reginald Sheffield) — and Winky (Scotty Beckett) being arrested for possessing a weapon after being implicated in an armed robbery at the Cavalier Hotel in Hollywood. He left for Mexico, wrote some bad checks, got in a gun battle with the police and was jailed until he came back to the U.S. in 1954. He was replaced by a new comedy character, Biffen Cardoza (James Lydon). As for Cleodata, the new enemy became Juliandra, Suzerain of Herculon, played by Ann Robinson.

There are 39 episodes of the show with 36 being broken into 3-chapter arcs that were edited into TV movies. Menace from Deep Space are the “Bobby’s Comet” episodes that originally aired on April 6, 1954. The story is all about the Jovian moon Fornax, which is filled with energy crytals that Rocky and his friends — as well as his enemies — all want. Is it a Cold War analogy? Probably not. Yet the villains do dress like Arabic people and Cleodata refers to Rocky as an infidel, which is pretty strange.

There may be a kid sidekick, but Rocky’s love interest Vena Ray (Sally Mansfield) sure has a fancy car.

Ralston also sponsored a show called Space Patrol and working with Blue Bird shoes, gave away a spaceship. Here’s the ad copy courtesy of Solar Guard: “A hugh silver and scarlet rolling clubhouse, the Commander’s rocketship, the Terra IV. The ship is 35′ long, 10,000 lb in weight with a full size motorized flatbed truck to pull the Rocket. You can take the rolling clubhouse on trips, camp outs with your dad, sightseeing trips, or use it for you and your friends Space Patrol Headquarters. It has bunk beds lights, cooking equipment, and lockers for space gear. In addition to the Ralston Rocket there is $1,500 in cash to spend.”

There was also supposedly a rocket that traveled to promote Rocky Jones and for years, I’d hear rumors that people had found it. Imagine having your own space ship.

For a fictionalized retelling of the days of space kids TV, check out the Matt Fraction and Howard Chaykin comic book Satellite Sam.

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