2000 Plus - "The Rocket and the Skull"

Saturday, 04 June 2016 15:00 Dave Truesdale

2000 Plus aired "The Rocket and the Skull" on October 10, 1951 as its 83rd episode. 2000 Plus ran from March 15, 1950 through January 2, 1952, and was the first adult SF anthology series (as opposed to serials, most of which were juvenile--Buck Rogers and Tom Corbett come to mind) on radio, beating out Dimension X by a month. For those trying to keep a chronology of the important adult SF series' straight, here's a breakdown:

2000 Plus -- March 15, 1950

Dimension X -- April 8, 1950

X Minus One -- April 24, 1955

Exploring Tomorrow -- December 4, 1957

Created by Sherman Dryer, 2000 Plus featured all original scripts, some of which are considered quite good, leading many OTR historians to proclaim that the show has been underrated when compared to those listed above. This might be due, in part, to the fact that only 16 episodes are now extant, and to evaluate a show's relative level of expertise on such slim evidence is miselading. While estimates vary wildly as to the number of shows aired during the show's lifetime (some guess 39 or 52), a consensus puts the number nearer to 90 or even 95. How many were original as opposed to rebroadcasts is the question, and with so many episodes "lost" and historical references incomplete, or somewhat confusing (syndicated stations around the country airing the same show but at different dates), it is doubtful at this juncture if we will ever know. What we do know is that a mere 16 shows have survived, and of these the audio quality is up and down (unless digitally remastered).

"The Rocket and the Skull" tells the story of our competition with the Russians to put a base on the moon, primarily for its strategic military advantage. It centers on a test pilot with the name of Colonel Bradbury (yes, a homage to Ray Bradbury), who is the only one with specific knowledge crucial to our "experiment" in getting to the Moon. Unfortunately, Bradbury is injured in an accident and barely able to speak until a metal plate is placed in his head in an attempt to save him. In the meantime, we learn there are Soviet agents who have infiltrated our Moon program but we are uncertain of their identity. Who among the inner circle of our secret program can be trusted? Time is also of the essence, for the Soviet Moon program is neck and neck with ours and any delay (or information leak from ours) could prove disastrous.

"The Rocket and the Skull" is a product of its time, with saboteurs, spies, the pervading paranoia of a Russian threat, and with an unknown extraterrestrial element thrown into the mix for the icing on the cake. The sound quality is average, though easy enough to follow, so listen now to this tension-filled (and prescient) story of a race to the Moon between the United States and the Soviet Union, with a clever spy vs. spy...vs. spy layer added for and even more thrilling story.

Play Time: 27:44

{A brisk October Saturday morning was perfect for a leaf-blown walk to the corner drugstore once the neighborhood gang had assembled at the end of the block. As always, the ever-reliable Astounding was on their must-buy list, it never wavering from its monthly publishing schedule. Two relative newcomers were among their other choices. Galaxy was already a monthly in 1951 and this issue celebrated its one year anniversary, its first issue hitting the stands in October of 1950. With its Fall 1949 debut, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction began a year earlier than Galaxy. It went quarterly in 1950, its first full year, and in 1951 accelerated to a bi-monthly schedule.]

[Left: Astounding, Oct. 1951 - Center: Galaxy, Oct. 1951 - Right: Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Oct. 1951]


To view the entire list of weekly Old Time Radio episodes at Tangent Online, click here.