and His Video Rangers, which premiered 27 June 1949 on the DuMont
Network, was the first science fiction, space adventure program
on television and was to inspire a spate of similar offerings. Although
it combined many of the early staples of children's programming,
such as the inclusion of inexpensive film clips and pointed moral
lessons, Captain Video capitalized upon the public fascination
with science and space and the technical elements of the new television
medium to create the longest running science fiction show in early
was the creation of James L. Caddigan, a DuMont Vice President.
Set in the year 2254, the show was an ambitious undertaking--it
was live, technically demanding, and programmed as a continuing
serial appearing every evening from 7:00 to 7:30 P.M. The show was
designed to take advantage of the new technology; dissolves, superimpositions,
and crude luminance key effects were utilized to place Captain Video
in fanciful surroundings and allow him to travel through space and
time. Without the luxury of video tape and editing, however, scripts,
written by Maurice C. Brock (a veteran radio scriptwriter for Dick
Tracy and Gangbusters), had to contain a great deal of
exposition to allow time to set-up for short bursts of action.
The lack of
sustained action was the reason given by creator Caddigan for using
clips from the DuMont film library. In a typical program, as the
conflict subsided for a moment, Captain Video (played by Richard
Coogan, who later portrayed U.S. Marshal Matt Wayne on The Californians)
would turn to his Remote Tele-Carrier, or inexplicably the show
would switch to Ranger Headquarters, to show the exploits of other
rangers (often cowboys such as Bob Steele and Sunset Carson in Western
films). These clips always involved action-oriented sequences and
helped to pick up the pace of the show and as well as allow time
for the production crew to change sets and set up special effects.
between scenes were filled with Ranger Messages. While messages
on other children's programs would focus on children's issues such
as safely crossing the street, Ranger Messages dealt with more global
issues such as freedom, the Golden Rule, and nondiscrimination.
The sophistication of these messages seemed to anticipate an adult
audience, but the shifts between space and Western adventures were
incomprehensible to many adults. The show was most popular with
children and by 1951 was carried by 24 stations and seen by 3.5
million viewers, outdrawing its nearest competitor Kukla, Fran
As the "Master
of Science," Captain Video was a technological genius, who invented
a variety of devices including the Opticon Scillometer, a long-range,
X-ray machine used to see through walls; the Discatron, a portable
television screen which served as an intercom; and the Radio Scillograph,
a palm-sized, two-way radio. With public concerns about violence
in television programming, Captain Video's weapons were never lethal
but were designed to capture his opponents (a Cosmic Ray Vibrator,
a static beam of electricity able to paralyze its target; an Atomic
Disintegrator Rifle; and the Electronic Strait Jacket, which placed
captives in invisible restraints). In testimony before Senator Estes
Kefauver's subcommittee probing the connection between television
violence and juvenile delinquency, Al Hodge, who had previously
starred in radio's Green Hornet and became Captain Video
in 1951, noted that he did not even use the word "kill" on the show.
to the futuristic inventions, the plots featured sharply drawn distinctions
between good and bad science. Although Captain Video, with the fifteen-year-old
Video Ranger (played by Don Hastings, who later appeared in The
Edge of Night and As the World Turns), battled a wide
array of enemies, the most clever and persistent was the deranged
scientist Dr. Pauli (originally portrayed by Bram Nossem who could
not sustain the grueling live schedule and was replaced by Hal Conklin).
The battles were originally earthbound with Captain Video circling
the globe in his X-9 jet to thwart the plans of Dr. Pauli who joined
forces with other villains, such as the evil Heng Foo Sueeng. However,
in response to other newly created science fiction competitors,
in 1951 Captain Video began to patrol the universe and battle aliens
in the spaceship Galaxy under the auspices of the Solar Council
of the Interplanetary Alliance. He encountered such notable villains
as clumsy McGee, (played by Arnold Stang) an inept Martian, Norgola
(played by Ernest Borgnine) who turned the sun's energy into magnetic
forces, and television's first robot, Tobor ("robot" spelled backwards)
played by Dave Ballard.
was exceptionally involved in the show, often writing to oppose
plot developments or to suggest new inventions. For example, Tobor
and Dr. Pauli were destroyed when their schemes backfired; however,
the opposition of the viewers was great enough to bring them back
in later episodes. Young viewers were also encouraged to join the
Video Rangers Club and to buy Captain Video merchandise, including
helmets, toy rockets, games, and records although the show not as
extensively merchandised as some of its competitors. The show was
supported, however, by large sponsors such as Skippy Peanut Butter
and Post Cereals. Fawcett also published six issues of Captain
Video Comics in 1951. A fifteen-chapter movie serial, Captain
Video, Master of the Stratosphere (released by Columbia Pictures
in 1951, starring Judd Holdren and Larry Stewart), was the first
attempt by Hollywood to capitalize on a television program. DuMont
also attempted to build on the popularity of the show by developing
The Secret Files of Captain Video, a thirty-minute, weekly
adventure complete within itself which ran concurrently with the
serial from September 1953 until May 1954.
Captain Video was "The Guardian of the Safety of the World," he
was not able to escape the economic necessities of the industry
nor prevent the demise of the DuMont network. When Miles Laboratories,
Inc., canceled its sponsorship of the Morgan Beatty news program,
Captain Video remained as DuMont's only sponsored program
between 7:00 and 8:00 P.M. Unfortunately the income was not large
enough to justify the rental of the coaxial cable, and Captain
Video left the air 1 April 1955, with DuMont folding that same
Captain Video and His Video Rangers
Video (1949-50)..................... Richard Coogan Captain
Video (1951-55)............................... Al Hodge The
Ranger........................................... Don Hastings
Dr Pauli (1949)...................................... Bran
Mossen Dr. Pauli (later).........................................
Olga Druce, Frank Telford, James L. Caddigan, Al Hodge
June-August 1949....... Tuesday/Thursday/Friday 7:00-7:30 August
1949-September 1953..... Monday-Friday 7:00-7:30 September 1953-April
1955......... Monday-Friday 7:00-7:15 February 1950-September 1950...........
Saturday 7:30-8:00 September 1950-November 1950......... Saturday
Val. "'Space Opera' Hero" New York Times, 26 March 1950.
"Captain Video!" TeleVision Guide (Radnor, Pennsylvania)
6-12 August 1949.
"'Captain Video' Doomed." New York Times, 16 March 1955.
"Captain Video." Variety (Los Angeles), 13 July 1955.
Stuart. Kids TV: The First Twenty-Five Years. New York: Facts
on File Publications, 1983.
Jack. "Captain Video." New York Times, 20 November 1949.
Gary H. Saturday Morning TV. New York: Dell, 1981.
Philip. "Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep." The New Yorker (New
York), 22 December 1951.
David. "The 50s Golden Age of Science Fiction Television." Starlog
(New York), December 1980.
"7 M.P.S; Zero 3." Time (New York), 25 December 1950.
of Pictures." Life (New York), 13 September 1954.
Horne, Harriet. "Space Rocket Kick." Theatre Arts (New York),