Space Age TV – Space Patrol: The Space Patrol Code Belt

Join Commander Buzz Corey and Cadet Happy in this half hour Space Adventure! When the Space Patrol’s paycheck shipment is stolen three times in three weeks, Buzz Corey decides to set Cadet Happy on the trail of the criminals, complete with his own Space Patrol Code Belt!

Okay, so this episode is barely more than a half hour infomercial for a piece of tie-in merchandise, but honestly that doesn’t make it any less fun to watch! This episode features a good little mystery, a believable villain, and a clever climax. Not bad for a half hour long commercial for a toy I’ll never be able to afford. (Last time I checked, Space Patrol Code Belts in a condition I would consider acceptable were trading hands over $500 on the bay.)

This episode features a lot of what makes Space Patrol great, and interesting, in my book. The Code Belt was a clever twist on the Secret Decoder Ring so popular in the space age era. Working it directly in to the plot, not only as an item that the crew wears, but as a vital component in the lives of the Space Patrolmen was a stroke of marketing genius. Cadet Happy is a more capable cadet than Corbett or Astro, and Commander Corey is a more likable character and a more responsible CO than those we were normally treated to on Tom Corbett, Space Cadet.

This episode originally aired in October of 1951. It’s a half hour long, so it would have been a Saturday broadcast. Space Patrol, like most shows of the early 50s, was broadcast live. Unlike most shows of the early 50s, Space Patrol was broadcast live 6 days a week, with two live Radio broadcasts mixed in for good measure.

Between the 15 minute weekday shows, the half hour, semi-weekly radio broadcasts, and the half hour Saturday shows, more than 1000 episodes of Space Patrol were produced. Just over half of the Saturday broadcasts, most of the Radio episodes, and only a handful of 15 minute weekday broadcasts still survive. Like ‘Tom Corbett, Space Cadet’, the TV episodes of Space Patrol we have today are kinescopes, which means that they are of low quality relative to shows originally shot on film, such as Rocky Jones Space Ranger, or I Love Lucy.

If you pay attention in this episode, you’ll see several of the hallmarks of a live broadcast with little rehearsal, including the occasional flubbed line, and inexplicable, awkwardly long shots of a cloudy sky used as transitions when we need a character to quickly move between scenes.

All together, a fine episode, and thoroughly enjoyable.

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