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Rocky Jones, Space Ranger

Rocky Jones, Space Ranger, an American science fiction television serial originally broadcast in 1954, lasted for two seasons then dropped into obscurity. Neither ground-breaking nor particularly enthralling as far as story-telling goes, it may have one slight but completely unexpected claim upon today’s viewer.

Rocky Jones, an Earth-based space policemen known as a Space Ranger, patrolled the United Worlds of the Solar System in 2054 using a chemically-fuelled, upright rocketship, the Orbit Jet XV-2, and later the nearly identical Silver Moon XV-3, on various world-saving missions. With lots of fistfights, strange worlds, English-speaking alien characters who always appeared as normal humans, the show’s half-hour episodes were usually grouped into stories that consisted of three 'chapters' that were broadcast on successive weeks.

Nothing about this is especially remarkable except for one character who appears as an ally and companion of Rocky on his adventures: Professor Newton, played by Maurice Cass. Professor Newton provided scientific explanations for the fantastic events of each episode, and although elderly, he would often accompany the spaceship crew on their adventures.

Keep in mind that a young Canadian, Sydney Newman, an avid fan of science fiction, probably watched this programme when it was broadcast in the early 50s.

Now look at the resemblance between Cass as Newton and William Hartnell as the Doctor in the first series of the classic series Doctor Who. The Doctor was Sydney Newman’s creation. On being presented with a proposed outline for the new series which was to be broadcast on Saturday’s on the BBC, Newman insisted that not only must a young teenager be added, but that there must be the character of a frail and grumpy old man. The name given to the character by Sydney Newman was as ambiguous and mysterious as his character's true origins: it was simply, ‘the Doctor’.

And so history was made. Perhaps we will never know to what extent Rocky Jones, Space Ranger played a part in Newman’s invention of this character - initially seen as a companion - but the groundwork had been laid for the world’s longest-running science fiction programme.

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