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Tom Corbett: Space Cadet

US tv series (1950-1955). CBS TV, later ABC TV, and then NBC TV for season five. Produced by Mort Abrahams. Writers included Albert Aley, Alfred Bester, Joseph Greene, Jack Weinstock. Directors included George Gould, Ralph Ward. Cast includes Michael Harvey, Al Markim, Jan Merlin and Frankie Thomas. Five seasons. Three fifteen-minute episodes weekly for the first four seasons; weekly thirty-minute episodes in season five. Black and white.

Initially conceived by Joseph Greene as early as 1945, the first of various Tom Corbett, Space Cadet iterations – primarily television, Radio as Space Cadet (1952), newspaper strip, book – was one of the earliest US Children's-SF television serials; Captain Video preceded, but Tom Corbett: Space Cadet got into space first, though not before the publication of Robert A Heinlein's Space Cadet (1948), which helped to shape the general concept and setting.The sequence follows teenaged Tom Corbett (Thomas) and his pals Astro and Roger Manning, who are cadets in the Solar Guards, an interplanetary police force in 2350 CE that helps maintain the Solar Alliance of Earth, Mars and Venus; the default background is their training Spaceship, the Polaris. Later in the series the cadets leave the Solar System and go out into the Galaxy. The scientific adviser was Willy Ley, and some of the glaring inaccuracies typical then (and now) of visual media presentation of sf were tempered. As with other sf serials of the early 1950s, the concept was on a grand scale but the visual effects were severely limited by budget and by the necessity to broadcast live: much had to be described in dialogue or merely suggested. Nevertheless, the show was hugely successful – it introduced the phrase "Blast off!" into popular speech – and was followed by comic strips, Comic books, Toys and other products, in one of the first examples of the merchandising power of televised sf. The eight Tom Corbett, Space Cadet Ties as by Carey Rockwell, beginning with Stand By For Mars! (1952), remained popular for some time.

Whether Joseph Greene was the central creative figure in all aspects of the franchise is not known, though he does (see above) seem to have initiated the project, and it seems very likely – given his claimed productivity as a writer for Comics and other media under various names – that he had a role as editor or author or co-author (probably all three) in the Carey Rockwell Ties. It is also possible that Richard Jessup, who wrote one episode – "The Space Projectile" – for the Television series in 1954, may have had some part in the sequence. One rather obvious imitator of Tom Corbett: Space Cadet was Rod Brown of the Rocket Rangers (1953-1954). [PN/JC/JB/DRL]

see also: Education in SF.

Tom Corbett, Space Cadet

All published as by Carey Rockwell except for one 2007 reissue (accidentally?) bylined Roy Rockwell.

individual titles

graphic reprints


Entry from The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (2011-current) edited by John Clute and David Langford.
Accessed 15:17 pm on 30 June 2022.