I'm old enough to remember having seen an old science-based science fiction show in syndication back in the mid '60s or so. Of course, by then the Gemini program was in full swing and all of my attention was riveted on the Real Thing. But John C. Frederiksen is a bit older than I. Not much, but just old enough to have seen Men Into Space when it was originally broadcast in 1959, just before men really did go into space. And this program, which ran for only one season on network television, fueled his passion for space exploration that continues to this day. The affect of the show was so profound on Dr. Fredriksen that he has written a program guide to the series that is available in both Non-Volatile Storage Medium and PDF form. Personally, I like the feel of a real book, so my words will refer to the NVSM version.
Table of Contents:
The book starts off with the author's preface whereupon he tells how much the series affected him, followed by the first chapter (Space Was New/The Future Was Now) which chronicles the early days of spaceflight and its depictions on television, focusing on the series Men Into Space. He describes the origin of the series, the background of the production company and the context in which it played. It's an enjoyable, yet scholarly account, complete with endnotes. There is a bit of editorializing in the last couple of pages of this chapter, bemoaning the current state of manned spaceflight and its current indirection. While I don't agree with his overall pessimism, I can certainly understand his viewpoint. (And, just to pick nits, the author is incorrect in saying that Luna II was the first manmade object to orbit the moon: it wasn't... it was the first man-made object to hit the moon.)
The next chapter consists of brief biographies of the cast and crew of the series. From the cast: William Lundigan, who portrayed Colonel Edward McCauley; Joyce Crowder, who played McCauley's wife Mary (except in the pilot episode); Charles Herbert Saperstein, who played their son Peter. From the crew: Lewis J. Rachmil, the producer of the series; Chesley Bonestell, who provided the concept art for the series; David Rose, who wrote the musical score; and the Convair Atlas, the launchings of which provided much stock footage for the series. As with the first chapter, each section is followed by a short bibliography.
The meat of the book is a detailed guide to all thirty-eight episodes of the series, starting with the pilot episode and ending with the final episode which was only aired in syndication. Each guide gives the title of the episode, its original air date, a cast list, the writing and directing credits and a very detailed recap of the episode. Included in the recap is a verbatim transcript of the voiceover narration that was a feature of each show. A production still from the show also accompanies each episode description. It's clear that the author sat down and watched each episode multiple times in order to give an accurate guide.
The appendices include a short interview with Anastacia Lundigan, daughter of the star of the show. It's a nice little conversation, but doesn't really yield much insight. The second appendix consists of some black and white pictures of merchandise tied to the show: lunchboxes, space helmets, games and figures. There weren't any model kits tied to the show: Lunar Models had once issued a resin kit called "Men Into Space" but it was based upon a Bonestell concept rather than taken from the television show. However in at least one of the episodes, a Revell XSL-01 model is used as a prop. Pretty cool.
The book ends with a little bio of the author, the previous mentioned endnotes, and an index of all the names in the book. It's a really nice guide to an obscure and mostly forgotten television show, so it's nice that the author has given us an additional reference to the early days of spaceflight on television. BTW, if you use the Google, you can find copies of Men Into Space available on DVD.
Thanks to John C. Fredriksen for the review copy.