The black depths of space are no stranger to Frankie Thomas, who starred as Tom Corbett, Space Cadet from 1950 to 1955. Dead at age 85, the veteran actor departs for his own space journey: he was buried yesterday wearing his “Tom Corbett” costume.
The TV show, which aired on CBS, NBC, ABC, and the Dumont network, spawned the first science-fiction product marketing campaign, and informed school-boys’ conversation with catch-phrases like “Blast your jets!” and “Spaceman’s luck.”
For a young DrPat, the premise was absorbing. Cadet Corbett, living 400 years in the future, being trained for his job as a Solar Guard, went to school just like we did, but found adventure zapping intruders and sailing the spaceways with his plucky companions Roger and Astro. I ate Kellogs Pep from the “Solar Cereal” box adorned with Thomas’ image as Corbett, and yearned for a plastic “fuser pistol” so I could ZZZT my playmates in style.
Alas, the program ran only from 1950 to 1955, and Thomas retired when the program was cancelled. The severely-dated look of the sets and props never quite rose to the camp level of Buck Rogers or Flash Gordon, and the series is remembered mostly for its hearty baritone introduction. When Jackson Beck boomed out, “Tom… Corbett! Space… Cadet!“, we settled in for an enjoyable ride to the outer limits of our mid-century imagination.
Farewell, Mr. Thomas. Don’t fuse your tubes!