Tangent Online

  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size
the genre's premiere review magazine for short SF & Fantasy since 1993

John Steele, Adventurer -- "The Mission"

E-mail Print

John Steele, Adventurer (1949-1956) aired "The Mission" on November 1, 1949. The show debuted just as television was beginning to compete with radio for the attention of the American public, and while it held its own for a respectable number of years, never quite achieved the recognition that other long-running shows featuring an action and adventure format such as Suspense and Escape were able to garner before the advent ot television.

The show's premise had roving adventurer John Steele (played by Don Douglas, photo at right) introducing the many adventures of others he had met or run into during his world-spanning travels (some of which involved government work for the State Department), which ranged from the Pacific to the Near/Middle East and beyond. Billed as full of suspense and hard-hitting action, the stories were of the same mold as those in magazines like All-Story and Argosy, two long-running, iconic pulp adventure magazines (All-Story published the first appearance of Edgar Rice Burroughs's Tarzan with Tarzan of the Apes in its October 1912 issue, for instance).

"The Mission" finds Steele assigned to a post in the Near East prior to an election in a nearby country where different outside players (the US among them) seek to influence the outcome by insuring the candidate they back gets elected. One of Steele's undercover operatives sent to Turkey has not been heard from in a month and the worst is feared. Enter a new operative that Steele must read-in to the delicate situation in order to find and/or replace the missing agent, and complete the original mission if possible. Along the way we have a beautiful woman involved (when is a beautiful woman not involved in a good spy story?), large amounts of hashish, and a few deaths. Influencing political elections abroad is dangerous business, but with much at stake if the balance of power in the region tips against the US, certain missions are deemed, as the saying goes, "vital to the national interest." Given that the scenario deals with influencing a political election and the methods chosen to do so, is it any wonder that parallels present themselves to similar escapades today? Brings to mind the phrase, "The more things change, the more they remain the same." I think you'll find the frank discussion of the moral justification and harsh reality motivating the actions driving this scenario very...interesting.

Play Time: 30:01

{A brisk walk to the corner newsstand in the early days of November of 1949 found the neighborhood gang in good spirits as they wondered what magazines would catch their eyes and fire their young imaginations. Astounding SF (1930-present, now Analog) was never passed up, it being the bedrock of several of their collections, and not at all a surprising favorite, for who knew when a new Isaac Asimov story might show up? In 1949 Astounding was a monthly.The issue of Planet Stories (1939-55) below was also grabbed up quickly, especially since Leigh Brackett's name was on the cover again. The previous issue cover-featured Brackett's "Queen of the Martian Catacombs," so another story by this popular tale-spinner couldn't be passed by. Planet Stories was a quarterly in 1949 but would up its game when it went to six issues per year in 1951. Thrilling Wonder Stories (1936-55) was bi-monthly in 1949 and also was fortunate to be able to include stories by Leigh Brackett, no less so than this issue with one of her most beloved stories. Looks like Brackett (and her fans) were having a good year in 1949. Though this trip to the newsstand occurred in November and there was little hope of finding this October issue of TWS still on the shelf, one of the neighborhood gang found it misplaced behind another pulp title, bringing a smile to his face as he showed it around.}

[Left: Astounding, Nov. 1949 - Center: Planet Stories, Fall 1949 - Right: Thrilling Wonder Stories, Oct. 1949]


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