by Ron Butler
“Rory Rammer, Space Marshal” is the radio equivalent of “Tom Corbett, Space Cadet” or “Rocky Jones, Space Ranger.” It is post-Buck Rogers, but pre-Star Trek, produced sometime between the end of the Second World War but before the beginning of the actual Space Age. As a boys’ afternoon radio serial of the Eisenhower Era, we find it a little conformist in mindset (at least on the surface), pro-military, and stereotypical. This should not be played for obvious camp; any irony should seem to be the natural result of the passage of forty years and changes in public attitudes. (In reality, I’m well aware that we’re writing in the ’00s for a ’00s audience. This is just my way of telling prospective writers to avoid the cheapest laughs.)
“1985.” Like the year “1964” in On the Beach (Don’t you remember — when World War 3 killed everybody on Earth?) this is 1985 as imagined from 1952. It is postulated that travel into space is common and that the Moon is well-settled; Mars, Venus, and the Asteroid Belt have been colonized but only thinly; and Jupiter and Saturn are the sites of scientific outposts.
Anywhere in the Solar System, especially the inner Solar System. I have avoided writing anything set below Low Earth Orbit because I don’t want to specify very closely what Earth is like in “1985.” (Classic Trek did the same for similar reasons.) At this stage of the exploration of space, Jupiter and Saturn are at the outer edges of things (though Pluto can be considered if you have a specific story in mind that needs it). Interstellar travel is out for technology reasons. This leaves you with “only”: Space between the Earth and Moon, the Moon, Venus, Mercury, Mars, the Asteroid Belt, Jupiter, Saturn, and various comets, etc. Oh, yeah — the Sun, too.
A SHORT TOUR OF THE RAMMERESQUE SOLAR SYSTEM
The Soviet Union having fallen, the United States is the premier power on Earth, possesses the most colonies on the other planets, essentially owns the Moon, and throws its weight around pretty much as it pleases everywhere else. Nonetheless, there are British, French, German, Japanese and Brazilian colonies on various planets, moons, and asteroids. The space between the edge of Earth’s atmosphere and the orbit of the Moon has become thick with space stations, observation platforms, radio / TV relay satellites, and specialty manufacturing facilities. Due to the economics of moving from the Earth’s surface into Earth orbit (see “Technology” below) the U.S. Space Marshals are headquartered at “Space Station J. Edgar Hoover,” in a geostationary orbit over the equator at a point due south of Washington, D.C.
Main source of materials and metals for the burgeoning orbital industrial zone around Earth, the Moon is getting a tad crowded and civilized but still has lots of holdovers from its days as a roughneck company mining town. (See episode “Luna Shall Be Dry!”)
Mars has natives (see “The Green Man’s Burden) analogous to the North American Indians. Militarily and technologically, the “Green Indians” are overshadowed by the earthly newcomers, but a match for them (at the least) in intelligence, determined to defend their culture — while glomming onto anything interesting human civilization offers and adept at making a buck on the side, too.
The human settlements on Mars are the oldest (after those on the Moon) and tend to be heavily bureaucratic, stuffy, even puritanical since government authorities in charge of the colonization were determined to “do it right this time,” after letting capitalists, prospectors, saloon-keepers, madams, and all sorts of other ‘unsuitable’ people overrun the Moon. (See “The Martian Mafia”) The existence of the Martian natives gave the bureaucrats the excuse they needed to do things their way, so as to ‘protect’ the indigenees. The indigenees put up with it.
Environmentwise, this is a late-1940’s Mars, with thin but breathable air, savagely cold nights, and abundant flora / fauna.
The other life-bearing planet, is the home of a really decadent alien civilization. Not specified to this point, think of it as the ultimate banana republic. The Venusians are eight feet tall, languidly elongated, yellow-skinned and stylish. (Think: elves. Snotty ones.) A government bureaucracy exists here, too, to protect the natives. The natives view it mainly as an impediment to smuggling exotic drugs off-planet, and selling their neighbors’ lands, mineral rights, and nubile young females to gullible humans.
Environmentwise, this is also a late-1940’s Venus — permanent cloud cover, hot and humid, jungles and swamps, but survivable by humans.
- Asteroid Belt:
Where all those ‘unsuitable’ people went when the Moon got too crowded for them and the authorities wouldn’t let them settle on Mars. Abounds in two types of folks: Miners and social / political / religious utopians. Hard to tell which sort is crazier.
- Jupiter & Saturn:
Gas giants, they cannot be landed on because there’s no ‘land’ (i.e., solid surface) there. There is a balloon-supported scientific research base in Jupiter’s atmosphere, and the various world-sized moons around the two planets offer plenty of playing room. None of the moons have been colonized yet but various nations sporadically engage in attempts to ‘claim’ them.
- Space Travel:
The toughest trip to make in the Civilized Solar System (Say that three times fast without spitting!) is that between the surface of the Earth and Low Earth Orbit. Earth’s gravity well is deep and environmental restrictions do not allow the use of atomic power within Earth’s atmosphere. So any journey to or from Earth has two parts: 1) From the surface to one of three Orbital Transfer Stations (“Hartsfield,” “O’Hare,” or “Lacks”) on a chemical-fueled Orbit Freighter, then 2) on to anywhere else.
Large spacecraft which do not operate to Earth’s surface are generally atomic-powered, using water or ammonia as “working fluid,” to be heated by the atomic reactor and exhausted out the rear.
Small spacecraft — ‘runabouts’ — are powered by any of a variety of chemical fuels.
Unmanned freighters may use ion drives, which are extremely economical but have such low thrust that trip times may be weeks or months, even between Earth Orbit and Moon.
Typical trip times for passenger and military vessels are as given below:
Earth surface – Earth orbit
Earth orbit – Moon
Earth orbit – Mars or Venus
Earth orbit – Asteroid Belt
Earth orbit – Jupiter
Earth orbit – Saturn
I have tried to keep at least a superficial gloss of plausibility on space flight in the “Rory Rammer” scripts. Just keep in mind: 1) It takes time to get anywhere in space, and 2) You *can* run out of fuel.
- The ‘Silver Star’:
Marshal Rammer’s usual spacecraft, the ‘Silver Star’ is atomic-powered, but streamlined and with wings, to be used for glide-landings on Mars or Venus. Approximately 120 feet long and weighing about 1.5 million pounds fully fueled. Blazoned across the body is “Rocket Ship ‘Silver Star’ — U.S. Space Marshals — Homeport: Space Station ‘J. Edgar Hoover’ — R. Rammer, Commanding.” (See “Rory Rammer and the Martian Mafia”)
Standard energy weapon is the ‘blaster,’ from a sidearm to something the size of a battleship’s 16-inch artillery piece. Blasters fire ‘pulses’ of energy instead of a steady beam.
Projectile weapons persist, however, especially in situations where it is not desirable to melt a hole in the hull with a missed shot. Space Marine weapons include carbines (firing flechette rounds) and shotguns.
Not encouraged: Lasers. (Not invented in 1952.) “Phasers.” (This is not Star Trek.) “Light sabers.” (Nor Star Wars.)
- Science and not:
I’ve been trying to stick to what was known / supposed about science, space travel, and the planets around 1950 – 1955. Please avoid doubletalk, inventions that would change the assumptions of the series radically, psychic powers (in general), and gratuitous one-time-only aliens. (Unless the script is really funny and then we’ll talk about it.)
ORGANIZATIONS / BUREAUCRACIES:
- U.S. Space Marshals:
Extraterrestrial branch of U.S. Dept. of Justice — meaning they’re run by the same people who gave you the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. The U.S. Space Marshals are headquartered at “Space Station J. Edgar Hoover,” in a geostationary orbit over the equator at a point due south of Washington, D.C.
- Bureau of Martian Affairs / Bureau of Venusian Affairs:
- Like “Bureau of Indian Affairs,” but “looking after” the natives of Mars and Venus.
- U.S. Space Force and U.S. Space Marines:
- Relevant U.S. military forces. No other nations are allowed military forces in space. Space Marines can be called on for extra ‘muscle,’ like the U.S. Cavalry in an old “Lone Ranger” episode.
- Space Force is ultimate Big Stick, when someone just has to be threatened with nuclear annihilation. It is USSF doctrine to shoot first and let the radioisotopes sort themselves out later. Space Force cruisers are large, fast, and named after archangels (“Michael,” and “Gabriel.”)
- Dept. of Health Education, Enhancement, and Enforcement Proctors — Federal Mars Colony (The “Dee-Hees”)
- De facto police force of the human colonies on Mars. Essentially unlimited powers, as they administer not laws but regulations. Enforce the draconian regs against tobacco, alcohol, high-cholesterol foods, fragrances and other harmful substances forbidden in the Federal colonies.
PEOPLE YOU ARE LIKELY TO MEET:
- Rory Rammer:
From “Who’s Who Above the Tropopause [1997 ed.]”: Rammer, Alan Roarke. b. 8-16-52, Hope, Arkansas. Education: BS, Ga. Inst. of Technology, 1974. MS, Reno U. (U.S. Fed gov’t.), 1976. Brevet U.S. Space Marshal Div., 1976. First posting: Luna City SM Office. [See “Luna Shall Be Dry!”]
(Daniel Kiernan asked me at one point if Rory Rammer was like Roger Ramjet. No. RR is usually quite competent, even steely. Humor arises from his stuffy over-devotion to duty. If you *want* him to act like a buffoon, put Miss Feynman nearby [see below].)
- ‘Skip’ Sagan:
Obligatory sidekick, Skip seems to be about seventeen years old. (Now if his voice would just change.) Hugely enthusiastic, his intelligence is matched only by his naivete. Described as a “Space Marshal Cadet,” he seems to be attached to R. Rammer so Rammer will have someone to explain things to.
- Prof. Irwin Feynman:
Director of “Science Station Galileo,” a science research laboratory in Earth orbit Resident know-it-all scientist, good guy variety, mostly seems to be there to explain things to R. Rammer. (If you want a Mad Scientist, make up one of your own.) Widower, one daughter (see below).
- Kryssa Feynman:
Prof. Feynman’s daughter, 25 years old. No, she doesn’t have a PhD in astrophysics, but she could probably keep up in a graduate seminar, just from listening to her father talk over the dinner table. Basically a nice, normal young woman — with a slight tendency to scream. Not as taken with Rory Rammer as he is with her, and sometimes downright unimpressed with him (See “Runaway Rockets”) and not above manipulating the marshal / her father / any other males in line of sight to get what she wants.
- ‘Rex’ Gorbachev:
Former General Secretary of the local Communist Party at Severomorsk before the Presto War and the Collapse, currently a ‘foreign-currency entrepreneur’–which means about the same thing to the Ministry of External Affairs of the Russian Republic that ‘privateer’ did to Queen Elizabeth I when speaking of Sir Francis Drake. Often apprehended by Marshal Rammer and extradited back to the Russian Republic — which slaps his wrist and sends him out into the world again. So far, Rammer has resisted the urge to just shoot Gorbachev and get it over with.
- Chief Two Moons:
“Green Indian” chief in the Solis Lacus [“Lake of the Sun” — lots of schoolboy-Latin place names on Mars] region of Mars. Regularly runs mental rings around local Bureau of Martian Affairs agents. President / CEO / Chairman of the Board of “Barsoom Corp. (Pty.),” the legal entity of his “tribe.” Addicted to the BBC Interplanetary Service, but somewhat naive about certain aspects of life on Earth. (Thinks the British royal family are sitcom characters.) Speaks perfect English with a posh British accent. Appearance: E.R. Burroughs four-armed Martian.
- Sinead O’Chronos
Brilliant but unbalanced Irish physicist. Invented and attempted to test an experimental time machine in “Set Loose the Dogs of Time!” but was thwarted by an omnipotent superbeing that guards the integrity of the time stream. Last seen headed for her lab carrying a consolation prize from the superbeing: a live Archeopteryx.
- Renee Marceau
Unbalanced but brilliant French geneticist. Was hounded off Earth to Venus after her genetically-engineered squid-snail hybrid grew to enormous size and wrecked the city of Marseilles, France before being destroyed. Hatched a plot to cover the swampy surface of Venus with a living carpet of mutant squid / snail / grass but was thwarted by R. Rammer. Probably dead; last seen being gulped down by the carnivorous “lawn” of her island while attempting to escape.