Larry "Buster" Crabbe,
the former Olympian, helped Buck Rogers make the leap from the radio waves to the
theaters. Cheaply made for the time, it was released as a cliffhanger
serial in 1939. These film shorts played and then lay dormant until they
were edited together and re-released as a theatrical release in 1953 as Planet of
Later, Buck's popularity soared when it
brought into the living room. In 1965, Planet of Outlaws was re-titled
Destination Saturn and played on television. This version has remained
the most commonly shown of all early science fiction serials, concurrent with Crabbe's other starring role,
Throughout the serials, Buck's focus
was preserving Earth's technology from thieves from outer space, most notably
the Draconian Empire forces led by Killer Kane and Ardala Valmar.
Centralized in the American Industrial Revolution a few decades before, Buck,
like United States leaders at the time, realized that security was based
primarily in maintaining a technological advantage over potential enemies.
1939 serial villains were taken from the pulp fiction of the era. These
fast action tales capitalized on the distrust of foreigners rampant at the time.
The Chinese Boxer Rebellion provided a firm background for these ideas that
writers exploited. Consequently, space foreigners intent on causing
Earthlings harm was a well accepted theme.
serial's impact has never fully been realized. It laid the foundations for
thousands of later stories, television shows, and blockbuster movies. Many
elements of Star Wars: A New Hope were directly lifted from this serial.
Over the years, practically every scene in "Destination Saturn" has been adapted
and worked into subsequent television shows and movies.