Superman on Radio & Audio
Superman Radio Series - Story Reviews
1947: The Mystery of the Lost PlanetReviewed by: James Lantz
Original Broadcast Dates: April 09, 1947-April 25, 1947
"The Mystery of the Lost Planet"
Daily Planet editor Perry White wants to thank the Man of Steel for his efforts in fighting intolerance. He orders Clark Kent to write about Superman's greatest adventure for the Sunday magazine section. Going through the newspaper archives. Kent recounts how Anthahr from the planet Utopia had spoken to Jimmy Olsen because he must contact our hero. Anthahr must eat red beans to keep him from floating because Earth has different gravity from the alien's home world. He proves this by allowing the cub reporter to lift him into the air. Jimmy is flabbergasted to see that he can actually do this. He continues to speak of his planet Utopia that is in danger of destruction from Zerham, the world's dictator. Zerham will attempt to take over Earth before Utopia ends. At the turn of the century for the past seven hundred years a fragment of Utopia would turn to dust. Anthahr and his friend Poco were sent to find Superman to aid them in stopping Zerham. Skeptical, Jimmy is convinced to go to Utopia. He advises Clark Kent, who has called from Metropolis Police Inspector Bill Henderson's office, but the mild mannered reporter thinks young Olsen is joking.
Jimmy is being led by Anthahr to the plastic, spherical space shell parked on the roof of the Daily Planet Building. The cub reporter also meets Poco, the king's fat jester that speaks only in rhyme. Fearing that he's in the presence of madmen, Jimmy changes his mind about going to Utopia, but he is forced into the ship just as Clark Kent returns to his office to search for the young man. Can Superman help Jimmy and learn the truth about Anthahr and Poco?
The space shell has just landed on Utopia, and Jimmy is adjusting to how the music-like sound is on the planet. Unfortunately, Jimmy cannot move a muscle to escape oncoming guards of the dictator Zerham. Poco and Anthahr are forced to carry the boy to a scientist friend named Gorhs. Gorhs has a compression chamber that can help Jimmy's body work in Utopia's heavier gravity. Unfortunately, the soldiers are getting closer to the trio due to the bells on Poco's jester suit. Meanwhile, Clark and Perry are on the roof of the Daily Planet looking for Jimmy. They find Tom Carlson, announcer for the newspaper's radio station. Carlson passes out before he can tell them where Jimmy has been taken. Clues to the cub reporter's location will have to wait for now.
Carlson has regained consciousness and has told Clark that Jimmy was taken in Poco and Anthahr's space shell. At the same time, Zerham's men have taken Jimmy and Anthahr. Poco, at the dictator's feet, is saying that he saw the space shell land while he went for a walk late that night. Zerham then sentences Jimmy and Anthahr to die of suffocation in a space shell, Anthahr, being a senator, demands a trial before his colleagues in the ruling council. He gets his wish and has bought himself and Jimmy some time. However, it may still be too late for Superman to rescue them.
Clark is asking astronomer Professor Wilson if the planet Utopia really exists. He is discouraged to find that the scientist does not know of such a world. On Utopia, Poco has risked is life to secretly aid Anthahr and Jimmy. He intends to return to Earth to find Superman. To prove he speaks the truth, Poco takes Jimmy's high school graduation ring. The rhyming jester is about to go on a dangerous mission. If he fails, Anthahr and Jimmy will be executed.
As Poco goes on what Anthahr considers a fool's errand, Jimmy and Anthahr himself are on trial for their lives. Zerham's kangaroo court finds them guilty and pronounces sentence of death by suffocation in a space shell. That night on Earth, Clark Kent has received word of Poco's ship crash landing. The fat, rhyming jester is unconscious in a local hospital. Will he be able to tell Superman of Jimmy's fate before death strikes the cub reporter?
Poco has awakened and was able to contact Clark Kent and Perry White. He has told them of Jimmy's peril and Zerham's plot to invade Earth. Superman later shows up to take Poco with him to Utopia. Using a solar compass, the pair flies through space. Unfortunately, Poco and Superman left Earth far too soon and are now lost in space. It might be difficult for the Man of Steel to prevent the deaths of Jimmy and Anthahr.
As Superman and Poco struggle with a comet and the elements of space, Anthahr and Jimmy watch as the space shell is prepared for them. Both of them hope that the rhyming jester and the Man of Steel arrive. They get their wish as they are about to be placed into the ship. Unfortunately, Superman has succumbed to the heavier gravity of Utopia. He is unable to move. It looks like all hope is lost for Jimmy Olsen and his friends.
Superman has been placed in one of Zerham's dungeon cells after the dictator fails to injure him. This gives Jimmy and Anthahr a stay of execution. However, Jimmy is threatened into telling the tyrannical regent of Superman. Zerham has shown the cub reporter a powerful, marble-sized explosive's effect on a statue, and he'll use another on Jimmy, or the lad can die of suffocation in a space shell. This choice is his. Superman may not be able to prevent Jimmy's doom.
Hearing Zerham speaking to Jimmy, the Man of Steel has an idea to trick the tyrant. Changing into Clark Kent, he frightens a guard into telling the dictator that Superman has escaped. The infuriated, yet curious, Zerham interrogates Kent, who calls himself John Smith. The mild mannered reporter's ruse doesn't last. A listening device is inside Clark's cell, and Zerham is using it to hear his conversation with Jimmy Olsen. The evil ruler may yet learn all of Kent's secrets.
Unaware that the Utopian dictator is spying on them, Clark and Jimmy talk about the whereabouts of Superman. Clark is being evasive, but he tells Jimmy that the Man of Steel is not far. Jimmy then tells Clark that Zerham plans to invade Earth the day after tomorrow. The pair must hurry to stop the villain. However, before more can be said. Clark discovers the listening device. Later, Zerham is in courtyard with some soldiers and his prisoners. He is about to use one of his tiny spherical explosive to prove that Clark Kent is Superman. Suddenly, a quake interrupts the demonstration. The demise of Utopia is at hand, and, because of the planet's gravity, Superman is helpless to save his friends.
Utopia's heavy gravity is still causing problems for Superman. Zerham has ordered that Clark Kent, Jimmy Olsen, Anthahr and Poco's death be caused by the coming destruction of the alien planet. In the meantime, Zerham and his men will rake space shells to invade the Earth sooner than he had originally planned. Out hero and his friends are doomed, and, to make matters worse, Kent has fallen into space thanks to the cracking of the ground. Superman must now do everything in his power to save the now unconscious Anthahr, Poco, and Jimmy.
Free of Utopia's gravity, Superman flies in search of his friends. He is able to save Jimmy and Poco, but Anthahr was not as fortunate. Then, while carrying Jimmy and Poco, the Man of Tomorrow rockets through space in pursuit of Zerham's armada of space shells that are heading for Earth. He leaves the cub reporter and Utopian on the roof of the Daily Planet Building in order to deal with the seven alien starships. Superman makes short work of the space vessels. Zerham's invasion of Earth has been thwarted, and Poco has found a new home on Earth as Perry White's chef. This is how Superman's most unusual adventure ended for our hero and those around him.
Clark Kent has given his story to the Sunday magazine section's editor and has entered Perry's office. The chief is about to hit the ceiling. Lois Lane has gone with eccentric Ohio correspondent Horatio F. Horn to the northern banks of Canada to investigate why shipments of a rare fish has not arrived for a wealthy man in Greenrun that likes to eat them for breakfast. Perry thinks Lois is on a wild goose chase until a telegram arrives. The star reporter has found something that could be a big story. If she's not heard from in twenty-four hours, all efforts are to be made to contact Superman. What strange mystery have Horatio and Lois stumbled upon? Why will Superman be needed? "The Phantom of the Sea" holds the answers to those questions next week, boys and girls. Be sure not to miss a moment in The Adventures of Superman.
This serial recounts the events of the 1944 serial "Planet Utopia."
The Layman's National Committee gives the show a citation of Best Children's Program Of The Year before chapter seven begins.
"Superman's Most Unusual Adventure" - Jackson Beck's narration dubs "The Mystery of the Lost Planet" in such a way. If ever there was truth in an announcer's words, it's in the beginning of this serial's chapters. With the origin of Poco retold and the classic science fiction that is campy even for 1947's standards, I expected this story to be a pain in the neck. However, the things that normally bother me in these types of Superman episodes are not taking center stage for some reason. The focus seems to be more on Jimmy Olsen and Superman's efforts to save Utopia. The annoying aspects, unfortunately, are in placed the saga, but they aren't seen as often as in previous tales.
I will admit to using a little bit of a creative licensing, for lack of a better term, with the names of the Utopians. I thought "What if those of the governing body of Utopia had an r and an h next to each other in their names. Not having the scripts on hand makes it a bit difficult to know how some monikers are spelled, especially those of the aliens encountered in The Adventures of Superman.
Aside from the obvious, there are two things that do bother me about "The Mystery of the Lost Planet." The first is the fact that Superman seems out of character after saving Jimmy and Poco from Utopia's destruction. He seems to give up on rescuing Anthahr. Normally, The Man of Steel would work tirelessly to help anyone even if chances were slim on the person's survival. However, even his dialogue of "He probably would have wanted to die with his people" seems extremely unlike Superman.
My second complaint is minor, but it is still unnerving. It's Poco's sudden voice change. In chapter two, he sounds like an elderly man, but Jackson Beck plays the role in the episodes that follow. I guess this jars me because I'm more accustomed to Beck's portrayal. It's like Tom Servo in Mystery Science Theater 3000. When I began watching the show, Kevin Murphy was Servo. I was surprised to hear Josh Weinstein as the plucky robot in reruns of the first year of the series, and the same goes for Poco. As irritating as the character is, listening to someone other than Jackson Beck as Poco is disturbing for the ears.
Still, despite it's use of my least favorite elements of the Superman radio show and its flaws, "The Mystery of the Lost Planet" is a halfway decent serial. It's far from perfect, but it isn't the irritating incoherent mess that I was expecting either. Let's hope the return of Horatio F. Horn in next week's "The Phantom of the Sea" will provide us with some entertainment and a few laughs, Superfans. Speaking of laughs, while you're waiting for the next review, please feel free to check out my first attempt at humor at this link, and tell me what you think. (Darn, Poco has me rhyming now.)
Okay the shameless plug is over. Now, go read "New Krypton" and come back in seven days or so for another serial in The Adventures of Superman.
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