Superman on Radio & Audio
Superman Radio Series - Story Reviews
1946: The Radar RocketReviewed by: James Lantz
Original Broadcast Dates: February 15, 1946-March 14, 1946
"The Radar Rocket"
Jimmy Olsen has been invited by Poco, Perry White's portly chef that only speaks in rhymes, to go with him and the eccentric Professor Timothy T. Twiddle on a trip to the moon in the scientist's new radar rocket. The cub reporter asks Clark Kent about the moon before meeting with Twiddle and Poco. Even if Clark's answers ease his mind a bit, Jimmy is still quite worried.
Jimmy is now meeting with Poco at Professor Twiddle's laboratory. The radar rocket's creator claims that his invention can travel at three hundred thousand miles an hour thanks to a radar beam and can get it to the unknown side of the moon in less than two hours. The space voyage that Twiddle has planned must be kept secret because Twiddle has enemies that will stop at nothing to prevent him from reaching his destination. Despite thinking Twiddle is a little insane, Jimmy seems to believe that there's something to his theories.
Professor Twiddle is showing Jimmy the radar rocket. His assistant Gus, whose nickname is Gloomy Gus because of his negative attitude about everything, is running the radar beam's control panel. Jimmy suddenly has a change of heart about going to the moon, but because Twiddle doesn't want his spaceship's secrets revealed, the cub reporter is placed inside the craft with the scientist and Poco.
Professor Twiddle's radar rocket has been launched. Suddenly, something goes wrong. The ship has no radar beam. The spacecraft is suspended in space between Earth and the moon ten thousand miles above the planet's surface, and there is only enough oxygen in the vessel for Poco, Twiddle and Jimmy to last them twenty-four hours.
It is now night time. Poco and Professor Twiddle are asleep. Jimmy is wide awake because of the noise from the two pigeons that Twiddle had brought aboard. The birds can tell the scientist if something should go wrong with the rocket's oxygen. Jimmy has an idea to send a message via one of the pigeons. Unfortunately the birds will not arrive in time without weight on their feet. Using some keys that Jimmy has, Professor Twiddle prepares the pigeons while Jimmy writes messages to Clark Kent and Metropolis Police Inspector William Henderson. The notes ask the two men to go to Twiddle's house to re-activate the radar beam. However, Twiddle is unsure if the pigeons will survive the trip to Earth because they possibly won't have enough oxygen.
Clark Kent is in his office at the Daily Planet. An angry Inspector Henderson calls him. Thinking Jimmy is playing a joke, Henderson reads the message meant for him. The paper was found in Pennsylvania. Henderson then tells Kent that another note was found in Ohio, and it was meant for the mild mannered reporter. A split second before Lois Lane enters his office, Clark changes into Superman to travel at tremendous speeds to the address in the messages.
Doctor Marsh, a rival of Professor Twiddle's, and his gangster henchman Rocky have tied up Gus in a closet before copying the plans for the radar rocket. They are about to shoot Twiddle's assistant when Superman bursts into the room. He knocks out Marsh and Rocky before untying Gus.
Gus is trying to get the radar beam to work, but Doctor Marsh has taken the Reinstat Timer, a radio tube-like object with a dial and timing device. Superman finds it in the nefarious scientist's briefcase and places it into the radar beam's control panel. Now, all he and Gus need to do is wait for the indicator to show that the radar beam has reached the rocket's location in space. Jimmy, Poco and Professor Twiddle only have two hours of oxygen left in the ship.
The radar beam has made contact with the rocket. However, Gus cannot send it back to Earth. The spacecraft must make contact with the moon before it can return.
Professor Twiddle's spacecraft is about to make contact with the unknown side of the moon. Twiddle, Poco and Jimmy discover that there's plant life just as the ship touches the surface. Unfortunately, the vessel does not turn back to go to Earth as originally planned. For some reason, the radar rocket is stuck on the moon.
There is only an hour of oxygen left in the radar rocket, and the intrepid trio of explorers' options are limited. Leaving Poco to guard the rocket, Professor Twiddle and Jimmy explore the moon. Suddenly, some unusual monkey-like creatures with long, corkscrew noses come from beneath the moon's surface. They pursue Jimmy and Twiddle. The cub reporter and crackpot scientist run back to the radar rocket, which is now being surrounded by the moon beings.
It is now after 5:00 PM. The radar rocket should have returned to Earth. Superman now makes a decision against the advice of Gus. He is going to fly to the moon to attempt to save his friends. He follows the radar beam until he is struck by some heat bulbs that make him lose his strength. He manages to get free and regain his powers. However, he has lost the radar beam. Without it, he can't find Jimmy and Poco. Plus, Superman will be lost in the dark vastness of space.
The moon monkeys are now trying to burrow into the hull of the radar rocket with the aid of their corkscrew noses. Professor Twiddle, Jimmy and Poco are trying to convince them that they mean the beings no harm. Jimmy thinks that he and the others should find where the underground moon dwellers find food and water in order to survive. Suddenly, an odd noise frightens the ape-men. The wings of giant bird mammals that disappeared from Earth millions of years ago are flapping, and they are swooping down to attack the moon creatures, Professor Twiddle, Poco, and Jimmy.
On Earth, Jimmy's mother is worried sick about her son. Perry White, the Daily Planet staff, the Metropolis Police and Inspector Henderson are searching every corner of the city and surrounding area for any sign of the cub reporter.
While Superman is flying through space, the giant bird mammals are attacking the radar rocket on the moon. Suddenly, Jimmy drives them away from the trio with a fire extinguisher. However, the horse-sized animals are still attacking the friendly moon monkey men. In the meantime, Superman has found the radar beam. Now, he can save his friends.
Poco is scared frozen inside the radar rocket, which has a hull full of holes, as Professor Twiddle and Jimmy watch Superman swoop down from space to battle the winged bird creatures. After defeating them, the Man of Steel chides Jimmy for risking his own life and that of his friends. Superman then listens as Jimmy tells of the moon dwellers. The Man of Tomorrow tells of Doctor Marsh's plans to steal the radar rocket's plans before getting ready to take his friends back to Earth. Unfortunately, that will have to wait. Poco has disappeared from Professor Twiddle's spacecraft.
While Superman searches for Poco, Professor Twiddle is inside the radar rocket reassuring Jimmy about the fat, rhyming chef's fate. Suddenly, strange scratching noises and an odd smell reach the scientist and cub reporter. Without warning, they fall asleep. Unable to find Poco, Superman returns to find Twiddle and Jimmy unconscious. He takes them out of the spaceship after smelling the unusual odor of a moon gas.
Later, Superman, Jimmy and Professor Twiddle have re-entered the radar rocket in search of clues to Poco's whereabouts. The Man of Steel's X-ray vision cannot see below the surface of the moon. The dust that it's made of seems to contain elements of lead. The trio sees that a piece of metal from Twiddle's spacecraft had been removed and replaced. It was located in the area where Poco had been sitting. Superman then gets the idea to explore the moon's underground tunnels to find Poco. It's possible the rhyming cook has been taken by the monkey-like moon creatures.
Superman is leading the expedition into the moon caverns. Professor Twiddle and Jimmy are holding onto our hero's cape in order to not get lost in the dark, winding tunnels. The Man of Steel hears everything from the sound of feet scampering to water gurgling, but he cannot see very far.
The trio has just found an underground river of black water. Superman tests it to make sure that the liquid is safe to drink. Jimmy suddenly falls into the water. Superman dives into the river to save the cub reporter. Unfortunately, Superman returns empty handed. There is no sign of Jimmy until Professor Twiddle and Superman hear the lad calling to the Man of Steel. In addition to needing to find Jimmy, Superman and Professor Twiddle now see hundreds of yellow eyes gleaming at them in the darkness.
Jimmy has stopped calling, and there are hundreds of toothless, glowing lizard creatures approaching Superman and Professor Twiddle. They make cricket-like noises. The tails of the reptiles nearly strike Twiddle. The moon lizards dive into the black river before Superman hears Jimmy's voice again.
After punching a hole in the moon cave wall, Superman finds Jimmy. The cub reporter had stopped calling when one of the moon lizards had struck him with its tail. He had yelled again when he awakened. Jimmy was scared, but the reptiles were just as afraid of the lad as he was of them.
Superman is trying to find the hole that he had made in the walls. However, the opening is now closed. In an attempt to punch another door into the cave, a landslide suddenly causes the Man of Steel to lose his balance, and he is unable to stop his fall. Superman has now disappeared.
Jimmy and the absent-minded Professor Twiddle are searching for Superman. A quake occurs as they are figuring out how to find our hero. A great breeze comes at them after a short time. Both the tremors and wind were caused by the Man of Steel. The gravitational pull of the hole in which he had fallen was so great that he found himself punching through a deep crater to the moon's surface. Once Superman got there, he followed the sound of the river back to where Jimmy and the professor were. Now, the trio can look for Poco. Or can they? Professor Twiddle has now mysteriously disappeared.
In their search for Professor Twiddle, Superman and Jimmy find some hair from the moon monkey men, hear the roar of a big animal and discover that they are possibly being followed. As their journey progresses, they find glowing red trees giving light to the underground city with the hut-like houses of the ape-like moon dwellers. Suddenly, two giant reptile, mammoth creatures with shaggy hair, long necks and tusks come up from the moat around the city to charge at the Man of Tomorrow. Superman's great strength has a tremendous time fighting the beasts, but he eventually defeats them.
A being on a hollowed log traveling on the moat is approaching Superman and Jimmy. It is Professor Twiddle, and he reveals that Poco has become the king of the monkey men's city. The eccentric scientist continues to say that the creatures in which Superman had fought guarded the village from enemies even if the moon dwellers feared the beasts. The ape-like people took a secret tunnel to avoid the gargantuan reptiles.
Professor Twiddle has brought Superman and Jimmy to King Poco. The radar rocket's creator says that he can understand the moon dwellers clucking language that is heard as the monkey creatures cluck frantically to Poco. Large moon ants are on the way, and nothing has ever been known to survive their destructive path.
The moon ants are arriving. Superman is trying to fight them in the tunnels as Poco, Jimmy and Professor Twiddle patrol the moat around the moon dwellers' city. The alarmed Twiddle shows the cub reporter and chef-turned-king that the red moon ants are taking leaves to use as boats to cross the moat into the village. With Superman in the tunnels, there is nobody that can stop the great insects' invasion.
Desperately, Poco, Professor Twiddle and Jimmy dig for rocks and other ammunition to knock the ants off their makeshift boats into the black waters of the moat. They succeed even as more of the savage red insects come at them. However, the trio is running out of things to throw. The army of thumb-sized ants is closing in on the moon dwellers' city. Superman helps to ward off the six-legged soldiers. However, millions more are on the way all over the moat, and Superman can't be everywhere at once.
While Poco gets his moon dwelling subjects prepared for evacuation, Superman takes Professor Twiddle and Jimmy to the moon's surface. Unfortunately, it is now night, and the temperature has dropped to two hundred degrees below zero. There seems to be no chance of survival for Superman's friends on the surface or in the caves. Our hero must find a way to help them.
Having returned to the moon dwellers' underground city, Superman takes Poco, Professor Twiddle, Jimmy and the monkey men to a tunnel that the Man of Steel had cleared of the large moon ants. Superman blocks the passage way so his friends don't drown. He plans to send a torrent of water to rid the city of the red, savage insects. He succeeds, but the ape-like, little moon dwellers, because of fear, are using their corkscrew noses to open the tunnel that Superman had just closed. There is a lot of noise from the water and digging, and the tunnel walls are like lead. Superman will be unable to see or hear his friends from the coming flood in the passage way.
Superman has deepened the moat around the moon dwellers' city. This drains the water in the tunnels. The city will be wet for a while, but it is safe. A tearful Poco says his goodbyes to his subjects, and Superman grabs the rhyming chef, Professor Twiddle and Jimmy to fly them at extreme speeds back to Earth, where an angry Perry White awaits with Gloomy Gus, Professor Twiddle's assistant.
We are now back at the Daily Planet, Perry is yelling at Clark Kent about his recent absence from the office, but a phone call from his Asian scholar friend Chi Wan interrupts him. There's trouble for him in Chinatown, and it's a matter of life and death. Be sure to be here next week, boys and girls, when Perry and Clark discover "The Mystery of the Dragon's Teeth" in The Adventures of Superman.
Chapters eight and nine are missing from this serial as of this writing.
Okay, I know that two episodes of this story are missing, but unlike the sagas from the World War II years, there was enough of the arc to review it. The narration and character dialogue helps continue the plot for those that missed the lost parts. In fact, it feels like those chapters weren't necessary. Still, that doesn't change the fact that "The Radar Rocket" is, so far, perhaps the worst serial I've had to review. Even "The Emerald of The Incas" and Tumbleweed Jones' appearances had some redeeming qualities. I wish the same were true of this horrible mess.
I can't decide which character is more irritating between Poco and Professor Twiddle. Both characters make one wish Superman broke his oath to never take a life. A drill to the cranium is less painful than listening to those two when they're in the same chapters together. I honestly hope we never hear from Poco and Twiddle ever again. Maybe if Darkseid comes through in a Boom Tube and crushes the life out of them, we'll be fortunate to have a serial without them.
In addition to annoying supporting characters, "The Radar Rocket" is quite possibly the worst story in the Superman radio shows. It makes any film shown on Mystery Science Theater 3000 look intelligently written. This serial insults the listener and forces them to swallow things that were probably absurd even for 1946. If I had a time machine, I'd use it to go and slap the writers that thought this serial would be a good idea. It honestly makes me long for the quiet dignity of Pete Ross' return to Smallville. (Sorry folks, but that was the worst episode of that television series that I could think of off the top of my head.)
The moon creatures also tend to get under one's skin after about two seconds. They are among the many things that make one want to ask the writers, "What on Earth were you thinking, people?" I'd like to forget that "The Radar Rocket" ever happened. Let's do that and move on to the next serial, Superfans. It revisits one of the 1941 story arcs. It'll be interesting to see how "The Mystery of the Dragon's Teeth" is different from the original. Until then, don't touch that dial, and remember to keep smiling and look up in the sky.
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