SPACE: 1949

Captain Video first aired on WABD, the New York flagship of the Dumont Network on June 27, 1949. Created by Larry Menkin for program director James L. Caddigan, various versions of the show would run on the network till April of 1955.

Captain Video and His Video Rangers began with the thrilling strains of Wagner's Flying Dutchman Overture as viewers  were shown a glimpse of Captain Video's secret mountaintop headquarters. In this high-tech laboratory (which was actually located in a makeshift studio on the top floor of Wanamakers's department store in NY) the Captain or one of his "Rangers"  would show film segments - mostly from old westerns - in "sharp focus". These western clips were supposed to depict his Rangers at work, and accounted for half or more of the show's 30-minute running time. After fulfilling his obligations to his sponsors (if any, in the early days) the  viewers would be brought up to date on what dastardly plans the Captain's enemies were purportedly setting into action. Sometimes these villains would be shown in tight close up transmitting their schemes to their allies in "the Outer Limits and the ninth cycle of time".

I'm not sure what that means, but it sounds impressive. Leslie Stevens and Joe Stephano must have thought so too, when they were looking for a name for their
"Please Stand By" show which became The Outer Limits.

 
  The show soon became popular and more time was given to detailing Captain Video's (and his young assistant the Video Ranger) adventures both on earth and in outer space. Stage actor Richard Coogan played Video in the first year of the show and Don Hastings was the Video Ranger. The show was quite low budget in the early days - the weekly prop and effects budget was supposedly $50!

  This modest budget allowed for the Captain's mountain top headquarters, villain's hideouts, ray guns and the odd flash powder explosion. However, Captain Video's  jet plane the X-9 was never shown on-screen -- only as a painted cockpit backdrop or cardboard set. (In one episode I saw ,the Video Ranger and a guest star apparently sat on stools, because the jet's seats were part of the rather amateurishly painted backing.)  And though Captain Video beat the villainous Dr. Pauli into space, Video's ship the Galaxy was never shown at this point, except perhaps as stock footage of a V-2 launch. (Memories differ.) For reasons primarily of time and budget, no attempts were made by the Dumont crews to depict models of the craft in flight. This would change after a time - in a way.

The plots became more elaborate, and Video could be seen acting as a real force for good in the universe. In one surviving episode he seems to have served as a kind of one-man United Nations -- only Captain Video could bring warring planets to together to negotiate peace.
  As the show became a hit, Coogan wearied of the pace and wanted to return to stage work. A new
Captain Video had to be found.