Recap: Rocky Jones Manhunt In Space

Series: Rocky Jones, Space Ranger
Title: "The Pirates Of Prah"
Alt Title: "Manhunt In Space"
Number Of Episodes: 3
Recapper: Scooter007

Part 1

The fun begins with Vena Ray and Space Ranger Reggie flying in to Casa 7 to visit her brother Paul, who is overseeing preparations for the planetoid's colonization by the United Worlds. But their reunion is forestalled when, just before they reach Casa 7's gravity field, their rocket ship loses all power — no engines, no weapons, nothing (except life support and gravity, natch). Even the radio doesn't work, so no way to call for help.

Meanwhile, back on Earth, Rocky Jones and Heterosexual Life Partner Winky are preparing for a relaxing holiday (with Winky going on about his "gay" nightlife — let's not ask, hee?). However, they are called into the office of Secretary of Space Drake, who cancels their vacation plans and puts them on the case: seems several cargo ships, en ruote to Casa 7, have vanished along with their sensitive cargo. Mars calls, allowing that their own cargo shipments to Casa 7 are also vanishing, just to give a sense of scope to the problem, and Rocky and Winky head out— now that, you know, a main character is among the vanished.

But first Rocky pays a quick visit to old Professor Newton, who's dithering about his lab with Bobby. Bobby again manages to cajole his way into the mission, because Rocky (for reasons that will never become clear) just can't refuse his request. Well, maybe it's just to get Bobby out of the room; for while Bobby goes to get ready, Newton and Rocky discuss a secret new discovery that Rocky might use on this trip: a "cold light" generator, which Newton has been keeping secret until now (and which continues to be kept secret from the audience. Jerx).

Back in space, Vena and Reggie are baffled by their inexplicable predicament, but things become clear when another rocket pulls up alongside and its crew boards — they're space pirates, come to loot Vena's cargo. Vena and Reggie get the drop on the initial boarders (Vena using a seltzer sprayer placed on the bridge — a sprayer? On the bridge?? Okay, maybe it's a fire extinguisher... OF THE FUTURE!!!), but Reggie is not the hero of the show and Vena is just a 50s woman; and so the pirate leader, Rinkman, gets the drop on them in return and they are captured. Rinkman explains that his small band of pirates are behind the cargo disappearances, depriving the ships of all power, raiding their cargo, then leaving the ships to silently orbit Casa 7 forever, powerless and unable to call for help; and, after offloading Vena's cargo (as well as pausing to explain to astro-navigator Vena Ray how an "orbit" works), the pirates leave Vena and Reggie to the same Fate Worse Than Death. Rinkman also anticipates the involvement of Rocky Jones, and promises to have a deadly trap waiting. Left with absolutely no hope at all, Vena bucks up and puts on a brave smile... and makes lunch for Reggie. Ah, The Fifties!

'Long about that time the ol' Duke boys — ahem, I mean, Rocky and Winky are on their way to Casa 7. Bobby, trying to be more than a Tagalong Kid, notices the Cold Light Generator (which he is already familiar with, although the audience still learns squat) installed in the Orbit Jet and points out that it could be dangerous if left on too long, A statement which has "Plot Point" written all over it. Anyhoo, they soon come across a derelict spaceship which appears to be one of the missing Martian cargo haulers. Unbeknownst to them, this is Rinkman's cunning trap; the derelict is booby-trapped and fires on the Orbit Jet. Happily, Rocky is not the booby Rinkman takes him for, and also the trap was seemingly programmed by Stormtroopers; Our Heroes slip the trap and destroy the derelict, and now it's on to Casa 7. But uh-oh, maybe Rinkman's trap was craftier than we thought, for upon seeing Vena's drifting rocket ship, Rocky assumes it to be another booby trap and prepares to bomb it as well.

Vena and Reggie, in their powerless ship, become aware of the approaching Orbit Jet (a Hand Wave lets us know that the VisioGraph still has some power, but not enough for communications). Since they can't just call out for help, Vena gets the idea to push (not fire) a missile out the missile tube, using what little power they have left. When Rocky sees the missile emerge slowly from the other ship, he realises that it was meant as a signal rather than an attack. And so Vena and Reggie are saved!

Part 2

Rocky and his crew land on Casa 7, where we meet Paul Ray, Vena's big brother (hey, at least someone on this show has a living relative somewhere. I'm looking at you, BOBBY). The group pow-wows to ponder their predicament vis-a-vis the missing cargo runs, explaining to Paul how the ships were burgled and then left in permanent orbit — so at least now they can go save those missing ships and their crews (which, you'd think, would be visible to any passing ship's sensors at the very least, or even FROM THE GROUND via TELESCOPE). Rocky gets right to work scanning atlases in search of potential pirate bases (with Vena providing vital assistance by... bringing food for the guys. I mean, are they even pretending anymore that this woman is an astronaut?); he eventually narrows the field down to a couple of nearby planetoids, but ultimately puts his eye on one called Prah — probably because it sports a mysterious defense barrier which prevents any approaching ship from landing. But Rocky is sure the Orbit Jet can make it through — probably due to that Cold Light thing we keep hearing about but still don't know what it is. Ducking out while Vena and Bobby are asleep (which only serves to highlight their general uselessness), Rocky and Winky set sail for Prah.

We now head on over to the evil planet Ophecius, where the evil Queen Cleolanta answers a call on her evil AstroPhone — because, as we saw in Beyond The Curtain Of Space, this evil despot of an entire world doesn't employ an evil secretary or anything. The caller is Rinkman; turns out (as if we couldn't guess by the fact that we're looking at Cleolanta right now) that Ophecius is behind the pirating of Casa 7's cargo ships, as part of their Cold War harrassment of the United Worlds. Mention of Rocky Jones sets Cleo's teeth on edge, as does Rinkman's casual contempt for her authority, and she commands her favorite henchman Atlasan (who is pointlessly eavesdropping at the door) to execute the pirates for disobeying her orders, although which specific orders she might be referring to remains unspecified. On his way out, Atlasan smarmily notes that she should prefer to execute Rocky Jones instead, and Cleo throws a total hissy fit (and a book). Oooo, I think she's in loooooove, like a first grader.

Approaching Prah now, Rocky takes Winky aside and (finally!) explains exactly how the Cold Light Generator is going to help them get past Prah's mythic defenses — and boy, is that explanation ever worth the wait! Turns out it's an Invisibility Cloak that is apparently an inversion of the idea of "mirages" — i.e. that heat-distorted light can cause false images to appear. Cold Light, on the other hand, causes real images to vanish by creating a field of super-refrigeration. (Never mind that mirages don't actually work quite like that.) Oh, and don't forget the time factor they keep mentioning. So they turn on the CLG, Orbit Jet dutifully vanishes and they find a small outpost on Prah's surface.

Inside that outpost, Rinkman and his Number Two Dr Venko are startled to hear the sounds of a rocket ship approaching their landing platform. The flight tower insists that no rockets are landing, though, and the bad guys all pile out to the platform to have a look-see. They're surprised to find no rocket on the pad, but they're even more surprised when Rocky Jones steps out of thin air and confronts them with a warning to lay off Casa 7. Too bad for him, one of Rinkman's flunkies is sneaking up behind Rocky on the backside of the gantry; and Winky, manning the Jet's guns for just such an occurence, does absolutely nothing about this (possibly Rocky was in his line of fire, but it's never made clear), and so Rocky is captured. Winky, still safe inside the Cold Light Cloak, fusses and fidgets.

Rinkman calls Cleolanta to report Rocky's capture, and this puts him in her good graces long enough for her to signal Atlasan and stay their executions, telling him she wants to go to Prah herself. Atlasan seems a tad annoyed, first by her changing her mind (as is a woman's prerogative, don't you know) and second by her insistence upon leaving the house (see above note concerning Vena): "Prah... is no place for a woman!" But Cleo is not to be denied.

Atlasan: If that is what you wish.
Cleolanta: It is what I command.

In the pirates' dungeon, Rocky pulls out his Bob Barker Microphone (they didn't frisk him; don't these guys watch movies?) and calls Winky. Diplomatically he refrains from saying "WHERE THE $#*&@^% WERE YOU WHEN I NEEDED YOU?" instead ordering Winky not to try to rescue him but to keep the Orbit Invisible Jet ready for immediate takeoff. Winky opens himself up to more verbal Dope Slapping by saying he feels like a lunkhead just sitting there (like he did when... well, you get the point), but Rocky is interrupted by the approach of Rinkman, so he tucks the Microphone into his pocket, being very careful to leave it sticking about six inches outside his jacket. Yeah, Rinkman will never notice that.

Spoiler: He never notices it.

Rinkman tries to barter Rocky for that Invisibility Cloak, even offering to take him in as a pirate partner. Rocky pretends to be interested just long enough to worm the names of Rinkman's sponsors out of him (because the pirates couldn't possibly be an independent operation), but Rinkman ain't no name dropper. And so Rocky suddenly shouts to Winky as if he were standing at the dungeon door, and Winky responds through the Microphone in Rocky's jacket, and Rinkman totally falls for this patently transparent ploy and gets deservedly locked in his own cell as Rocky fights his way out (watch for the moment when one of the "rock" walls of the cave shakes like plywood when someone bumps into it). Rocky books it back to the Orbit Invisible Jet, after a brief and pointless detour to the pirates' control room, and the Orbit Jet takes off.

On their way out of Prah, Rocky notes that their job isn't done yet, because they still don't know who's backing the pirates (and also because they haven't actually stopped them). But they do see a spaceship approaching Prah even as they're on their invisible way out and presume that "Rinkman's boss is probably on that ship!" Turns out she is; it's Cleolanta. Cleo finally confesses to Atlasan that Rocky Jones has been captured, and this is why she's giving it her "personal attention". "I want him on our side!" she says, unaware that Rocky has escaped almost literally right under her nose. "This time, I'm not going to fail," she ironies.

Part 3

Down at Casa 7's space control tower, Head of Space Traffic Control Ken receives a signal from Rocky that the Orbit Jet is coming in. Making sure no one is around (and how many people could it take to run a spaceport anyway?) Ken contacts the Pirates of Prah with the news. Rinkman acknowledges this report rather sullenly, because the very pissed-off Cleolanta is standing over him (so to speak). She wastes no time in tearing the fools a new one for their foolish handling of the whole Rocky thing, noting that their pirating of United Worlds cargo stuffs is "finished!" (Um, why exactly?) Instead, she issues a new command: "I want Casa 7 taken!" Which, as an outright act of war, would be much worse than pirating. But I guess the kiddies aren't supposed to notice that. Anyway, their Mole Ken will deactivate Casa 7's defensive systems (it's just that easy!) to allow a quick invasion.

Orbit Jet lands on Casa 7; Rocky and Winky meet with Ken in the control tower and receive a message from Earth Headquarters to the effect that a transmission was detected between Prah and Ophecius. Which pretty much wraps up that little mystery uncerimoniously. Anyway, Paul arrives, and Our Heroes detail their adventure on Prah, including mention of the Cold Light Generator and how it made them invisible. All this, of course, right in front of The Mole (to be fair, they don't know this; but discretion is the wiser course, of course of course).

Paul now confesses a little detective work re: the priated cargo runs, noting that each ship vanished just outside Casa 7's gravity well, immediately after contacting Casa 7 to announce final approach. From this they conclude that the priates knew exactly when the ships would be arriving — and thus when their window of opportunity was — and conclude that someone on Casa 7, probably in the space control tower, is a pirate accomplice. Paul notes that Ken's Martian assistant Hagar-Nu (so it takes two people to run a spaceport) has gone missing; and so everyone assumes he must be The Mole, although Rocky, for his part, doesn't sound entirely convinced.

Later on, Ken is contacting Rinkman, this time with good news: He has immobilized the installation's defenses (it's just that easy!), and he also informs his pirate pals about the Cold Light Cloak, telling them that he turned it on so Rocky will think his ship is vanished! He is interrupted by the arrival of Rocky, who is baffled by the disappearance of his ship. Err, Rocky does know about the Invisibility Cloak, yes? In any case, Ken gets the drop on Rocky and clonks him real good, then ties him up and stashes him aboard the Orbit Invisible Jet — along with a dude who turns out to be the elusive Hagar Nu, also tied up. Turns out Hagar Nu is in this fix for pretty much the same reason as Rocky: he stumbled upon The Traitor Ken just as he was The Mole-ing and so had to be silenced. Rocky would now like to point out Ken's tactical blunder in stowing his prisoners aboard the Orbit Jet: Rocky knows this ship Briar Patch like, including any and all protruding sharp edges; and so he quickly gets to work on his bonds.

Meanwhile, Rinkman and his awesome four-man invasion force land on Casa 7, where they and The Traitor Ken have no difficulty in subduing Paul and Winky (and Vena and Bobby). Since no one else seems to work here ("After [taking Paul prisoner], it'll be easy!"), Casa 7 is officially taken.

Mean-meanwhile, Rocky manages to free himself and Hagar Nu. They're still locked in the Orbit Jet's store room, but Rocky still knows a thing or two that The Traitor Ken don't: how to hotwire an electric door. He then gets to work on a clever scheme to move the Orbit Invisible Jet to a different landing platform; but he stumbles upon an easier way: Meeting back up with Hagar Nu, Rocky smugly details how he found a chalk mark Ken had left on the landing gantry where Orbit Invisible Jet was docked, and how he simply erased the chalk mark and made a new one on a different gantry. "I'd sure like to see Ken's face when he looks for the Orbit Jet!" Rocky preens. Yeah, it ain't like he's got a whole three platforms to search. The parking lot at LAX, this ain't.

Nonetheless, it turns out Ken really is that dumb, for he leads his accomplices right to the improperly marked wrong platform and very nearly steps off the ramp into empty space, flabbergasted to find the Orbit Jet not only invisible but gone! Rinkman decides to take his prisoners to Ophecius in his own jet, thus forcing Rocky's hand, and leaves Ken to fret over the Orbit Missing Jet. Ken don't have to fret long though; Rocky confronts him in the control tower, delivers a revenge smackdown and leaves the traitor tied up in Orbit Jet's store room. During all this, Hagar Nu rapels down the side of Rinkman's rocket and sticks a couple handfuls of what looks suspiciously like C-4 compound into the exhaust.

Rocky, escorting The Traitor Ken into the Orbit Jet, manages to give Ken just enough leash to grab a loudspeaker and shout a warning to Rinkman before being ushered inside. Rinkman, though, sees nothing out of the ordinary (apparently forgetting that Orbit Invisible Jet is, y'know, invisible and stuff; and BTW, at this point you can go ahead and forget about the device's much-touted time limit, because the writer certainly did), and so he has the prisoners locked up in the store room, orders his ship readied for lift off, and (for reasons never elucidated) decides to use the AstroPhone in Paul Ray's quarters to report in to Queen Cleolanta. Mean-mean-meanwhile, Rocky and Hagar Nu are securing The Traitor Ken in the Orbit Jet, and Hagar Nu finally fesses up what he's been up to: To prevent the pirates' escape (and not knowing about their prisoners), he "inserted 'toh-nite alpha' into the rocket tubes of Rinkman's spaceship!" Rocky is aghast at the thought of blowing up the pirates and runs off to stop Rinkman's departure.

Stopping by Paul's quarters to collect Winky, Rocky instead finds himself one step ahead of Rinkman, who comes in and tells Number Two Venko to blast off, informing them that Cleolanta is sending a couple troop carriers to officially occupy Casa 7, "before the people here [what people?] know Paul Ray is missing!" Rocky gets the gunpoint drop on Rinkman, who boasts that Paul, Vena and the others are aboard his just-about-to-launch rocket. Oh noes! As Rocky tries to tell Rinkman his ship has been sabotaged, Rinkman's flunky tries to jump Rocky from behind. But Rocky turns psychic and dodges, then stows his gun so he can go fist-to-fist with Rinkman. Felling his foes, Rocky runs out to stop the ill-fated launch.

But for some reason, Venko and his pilot are unable to engage the ship's launch rockets. "???" Rinkman sends warning that Rocky Jones is on the way, so Venko tries to capture him. But Rocky is still psychic and manages to evade an ambush in the cockpit; and suddenly Winky is there too — the heck? In any event, Rocky and Winky are ultimately victorious, and suddenly Paul, Vena and Bobby are here too. Rocky tells them how they almost got bombed and stuff, and Winky says "It was lucky I thought of knocking out those fuel pumps." And when did he ever have a chance to do this? In a more conceivable Hand Wave, Bobby brags how he short-circuited the door to the store room. "That's why you took me along!" he rationalizes. Rocky ties the loose threads by mentioning Rinkman and his flunky, still lying around in Paul's quarters (like they're just going to wait there to be arrested), as well as those two incoming warships from Ophecius, which Paul promises to "blast 'em!"

Orbit Jet returns to Earth. Just to reassure the kids that Rinkman did indeed wait around to be arrested, we see all the pirate gang tied up in the store room. And finally, in the obligatory Everybody Laughs Ending, Winky needs to use the phone to call "Betty", who is supposed to be waiting for him in Central Park, and even promises to get a girl for Rocky too. ???

P.S. — That time limit on the Cold Light, remember that? That's okay, neither did they.