Academic journal article Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts

Bassior, Jean-Noel. Space Patrol: Missions of Daring in the Name of Early Television

Academic journal article Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts

Bassior, Jean-Noel. Space Patrol: Missions of Daring in the Name of Early Television

Article excerpt

Bassior, Jean-Noel. Space Patrol: Missions of Daring in the Name of Early Television. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 2012. 448 pp. Softcover. ISBN: 978-0-7864-6900-0. $25.00.

Writing about a science fiction series with as many episodes and as much history as Space Patrol poses some unusual problems and Jean-Noel Bassior's Space Patrol: Missions of Daring in the Name of Early Television bravely faces these difficulties. Bassior maps the series exhaustively, taking the reader through its history while including extensive interviews discussing both the actors' lives and the various problems involved in putting together such a ground-breaking show. Though she manages to convince the reader of Space Patrol's importance to the boom in space exploration narratives during the post-World War II era, frequent digressions into tangential subjects, a sometimes overly casual writing style, a lack of critical perspective, and a sometimes chatty interest in the people behind the show limits the text's usefulness for academic audiences. While the book may interest those looking for data on the series' production, its various marketing strategies, or first-person accounts of work in early science fiction television, these appear without analysis or context; it is a book primarily valuable for fans of the show like Bassior herself.

Beginning with a brief narrative describing a coincidental encounter with Space Patrol memorabilia, the text proceeds to weave a number of different threads together in an exhaustive presentation of both concrete details (including the lives of actors, writers, producers, directors, sound engineers, and special effects designers) and more speculative material (like the nature of the show's success, a suggestion of carryover from actors' lives to their parts, and fears over the state of contemporary television). Consisting of twenty-two chapters focused on the show's history and biographies of its cast and crew followed by four appendices of episode summaries (both television and radio), merchandise listings, and photos of the sets, Bassior intersperses sections featuring the show's marketing between biographical and historical chapters, and the result is a confused presentation without any distinct units. The text lacks a rigorous organizational strategy, though some chronological movement forward throughout the book provides a tenuous framework. Her discussions of single issues or concerns are often spread over multiple chapters, as the discussion of Ed Kemmer, who played the show's lead, demonstrates. Bassior begins with his background in chapter four, his later career in chapter seven, and, in chapter nineteen, a coda for her belief that the character's nobility stems from Kemmer's own wartime experiences. Appearing more as an exploratory narrative of the show's history than a clearly defined argument, Bassior's decision to spread her assertions throughout the book make what few claims exist choppy and difficult to follow.

This difficulty is exacerbated by her prose, which is casual and rarely if ever provides an analytical exploration of her subject. Bemoaning the death of the "family" behind the production of the shows, Bassior asserts that

   Creative decisions shifted from the soundstage and production
   office to the celebrities themselves, and then to an inner sanctum
   of business people, as agents and accountants discovered how much
   power they could wield in the new industry.... Lethal cracks in the
   once-strong camaraderie on the stages appeared as studio employees
   unionized and pecking orders evolved. (339)

These complaints regarding industry changes are presented without context or comment--other than a dismissive attitude toward whatever conditions she perceives as having made it difficult for a show like Space Patrol to continue or exist today. This and Bassior's tendency to rely on quotations from primary sources without careful examination of their importance or context give the book a journalistic feel, leaving readers with a great deal of interesting data but questions about their relevance. …

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