Tom Corbett, Space Cadet

Tom Corbett, Space Cadet

Synopsis of Saturday Morning Show

One of the most significant shows of its time, Tom Corbett, Space Cadet captured the imagination of the American viewing public during the tense, fearful era of the Cold War. Its optimism may also have served as an inspiration for another landmark science-fiction series, Star Trek.

Set 400 years in the future, Tom Corbett centered on a group of Solar Guards, sworn to protect the peace of the Solar Alliance—Mars, Venus, and Earth. The Guards were ambassadors of peace between the planets, and were trained to fight for freedom and liberty without the aid of guns.

Guided by the hand of Captain Steven Strong, Cadet Tom Corbett, untrustworthy Cadet Roger Manning, Commander Awkwright, Dr. Joan Dale, and Astro the Venusian traveled the galaxy aboard the spaceship Polaris.

Based on Robert A. Heinlein’s novel Space Cadet, the series had the distinction of airing on four networks (including former network Dumont), two of them simultaneously. Space Cadet originally ran on CBS for two months, then aired nightly on ABC. After a few years, there were over a hundred licensed Tom Corbett, Space Cadet products on the market, including a substantial toy line and even Cadet clothing.

Tom Corbett set many precedents in the realm of science fiction, specifically with its special effects. Willy Ley, an international authority on rockets since the 1920's, was hired as a technical advisor for the show. His knowledge of space and physics provided reality in the laws of gravity (i.e. space walks) and accurate dialogue. He even advised the crew on how to create the illusion of a weightless environment, by painting the studio black and draping the mechanical dolly—which held an actor aloft—with black fabric.

Another innovator associated with the show was the series’ director, George Gould. He helped design a video switcher, dubbed the "Gizmo," which allowed him to superimpose actors from a blank set onto another, more imaginative set without image washout. With this new invention, Corbett and crew were able to appear on the "moon."

Frankie Thomas, a.k.a. Tom Corbett, later noted that the real moon landing, in 1969, looked like it was out of their show. “Good Lord, that’s our stuff!” Thomas said, “I felt like I had been there so many times I could have pointed the way.”

Release History

10/2/50  - 12/29/50 CBS
1/1/51 - 9/26/52 ABC
7/7/51 - 9/8/51 NBC
8/29/53 - 5/22/54 Dumont

TV Sub Categories


TV Studio

CBS, ABC, NBC, Dumont

Television Cast

Tom Corbett  Frankie Thomas
Capt. Steve Strong (1950) Michael Harvey
Capt. Steve Strong (1951-52) Ed Bryce
Astro the Venusian  Al Markim
Cadet Roger Manning  Jan Merlin
Dr. Joan Dale  Margaret Garland
Cadet T.J. Thistle  Jack Grimes
Commander Arkwright  Carter Blake
Gloria  Marion Brash
Cadet Farren Kort Falkenberg
Cadet Alfie Higgins (1951-54) John Fielder
The Mercurian (1950) Tom Poston
Dennis David Sheiner
Unknown Frank Sutton

Other Saturday Morning Links