SPACE COMMAND (1953-1954) – Long, long before the recent television series of this name came Canada’s Space Command. James “Scotty” Doohan was Phil Mitchell, Robert Barclay played Frank Anderson, the 20-something young man who was the ostensible star of the show, Harry Geldard portrayed Captain Steve Cassell and Austin Willis was Dr. Fleming.
William Shatner made a guest appearance on one episode, so he worked with James Doohan before Star Trek, just like he did with Leonard Nimoy. Special effects on Space Command were as cheap and unconvincing as they were on any other science fiction program from the time period.
This series was broadcast live but was kinescoped like various other series back then and episodes were distributed around Canada following the live broadcast from Toronto. Space Command ran from March 13th, 1953 to May 29th, 1954. Out of the program’s supposed 150 episodes, only 1 has been found so far, but the search continues.
Some sources list only 51 episodes for the series, which would make sense if it generally aired weekly. For Space Command to have had 150 episodes it obviously would have had to run multiple days a week, which WAS done with assorted fictional series in the early decades of television. The sole surviving episode aired in November of 1953.
The space vessel flown by the main characters was called the XSW-1. According to online reviewers who state they saw episodes when they were children, the saga of the men and women of Star Command began with a manned landing on Mars.
Wreckage of an alien spaceship was found and the Star Command personnel were able to cannibalize the “space warp turbine” engine from that incredibly advanced craft and construct the XSW-1 for exploration of other star systems, looking for other signs of intelligent life.
Other storylines recalled by such reviewers included a living planet with dangerous craters and predatory vines and small meteors or asteroids which breached the hull of the XSW-1, necessitating hurried repairs by the crew just to stay alive.
As for the lone surviving episode, it features the three-man crew of the XSW-1 exploring the Proxima Centauri System, where they have so far found two planets, but neither of which supported life. Somehow the crew are able to maintain instant radio communication with their male and female colleagues back on Earth, so maybe the wreckage on Mars also contained futuristic communications technology.
An alien ship is spotted by our crew, so they contact Space Command-Earth for orders on how to proceed. The alien crew maintains radio silence but maneuvers our heroes into a position so close to the star Proxima Centauri that the XSW-1 is overwhelmed by “sunspots” which knock out the power, leaving the vessel on a crash course with the star.
SPOILER: After some fun technobabble and frantic scrambling by our three-man crew, power is restored and the ship is saved. Sadly, at no time does James Doohan make any Scotty-esque remarks. And, obviously, he does not speak with a Scottish accent as Phil Mitchell.
Space Command may have been serialized, as this episode ends with the crew informing Earth that the alien vessel has disappeared but they begin scouring the vicinity for it. At any rate, this program was the first original dramatic series produced in Canada.
Alfred Harris wrote most of the episodes and per the CBC site, Space Command‘s run was broken up into these “seasons” –
Fri 7:30-8:00 p.m., 13 Mar-17 Jul 1953 … Sat 6:30-7:00 p.m., 3 Oct-12 Dec 1953 … Fri 6:00-6:30 p.m., 8 Jan-23 Apr 1954 … Sat 6:00-6:30 p.m., 1 May-29 May 1954
As always, it is such a regrettable waste that so many episodes of early television programs are gone forever.
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