"Even outer space had maniacs. I learned this from a show called Captain Video
, featuring a man named, oddly, Captain Video, a space pioneer in charge of an extremely low-budget spaceship that appeared to be made from materials that you might find around a TV studio. For example, the device he used for communicating back to the Earth was obviously a regular telephone; Captain Video held the handset as though it were a microphone and talked into the listening end."
— Dave Barry, Dave Barry Does Japan
Live-action TV show (full title Captain Video and His Video Rangers
) produced and aired on DuMont
from 1949—55. Due to the limitations of technology at the time, Captain Video
, like most shows of The Fifties
, was done live (i.e. what the cameras saw went out to the viewers).
The show followed the adventures of Captain Video, an agent of good who was billed at the opening of each show as the "Master of Time and Space" and an "e-lec-tronic wizard" who helped maintain peace on Earth and abroad, aided by the Video Rangers.
It was the first science-fiction TV show, something that was perpetually at odds with its strapped production budget. It's still occasionally mentioned by humor writer Dave Barry (see above), who was a huge fan as a kid, and especially loves to bring up the Captain's communicator just being a regular phone, which he attempted to disguise by talking into the listening end like a microphone. In fact, many of the Captain's things were simply whatever was handy. In The Forgotten Network,
a book about DuMont
, it's mentioned that the uniform Captain Video wears is modified Army surplus, and one of his weapons (a rather fearsome-looking gun) was made from a car muffler.
The list of writers for the show is pretty much a who's who of classic sci-fi.
This show provides examples of:
- Aluminum Christmas Trees: The series' props, despite being comically mundane for their time and place, are all now antique, adding a second layer of removal for modern audiences.
- Captain Space, Defender of Earth!: Captain Video himself.
- The Film of the Series: More specifically, a serial. While Captain Video, Master of the Stratosphere is available on DVD, the color tinting was lost and had to be recreated...except they messed up and used color for all the other planet scenes instead of just for the outdoor scenes.
- Kid Sidekick: The Video Ranger.
- Mad Scientist: Dr. Pauli
- Missing Episode: Most of the episodes are gone, since the kinescopes were lost, destroyed or reprocessed to save money. Some of the surviving ones can be seen at the Internet Archive.
- Once an Episode: See Stock Footage below
- The Other Darrin: The Captain was played by two actors during the run of the series, and a third for the film (see above).
- Sdrawkcab Name: It featured a robot named Tobor.
- Space Cadet: A forerunner and pace-setter for the standard, Captain Video featured some scenes that were, in fact, supposed to be in space ships, in which the characters would wear crash helmets and goggles...since that's apparently all you need to survive in the depths of space if you have some kind of accident.
- Stock Footage: Probably the most bizarre part of each episode was the Video Ranger Broadcast, a Show Within a Show in which viewers saw some of Captain Video's agents at work on various parts of Earth. While a necessity (the footage ran for several minutes, allowing the actors to change outfits and/or get to another set), it wouldn't have been nearly as bizarre had the footage not always come from cowboy films.