Captain Video Space Game

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Captain Video

Frontier Psychiatrist
Gallery Volunteer
Sep 4, 2009
Partially Submerged Boat
Personal Text
"No man can eat fifty Faberge eggs!"
It's getting late here, but I wanted to post some pictures of something cool I was recently lent.

As I mention on occasion, I take the name "Captain Video" from a mid-century TV program called Captain Video and His Video Rangers. This was a show produced by the DuMont Television Network, and if you're not familiar with them, it's probably because they went out of business in 1956. What I absolutely love about their programs is that every single one of them looks like the network was about to go out of business, something I think that was most visible in Captain Video. Set hundreds of years in the future, and following a man sworn to guard the Solar System from evil, the whole affair was shot against cardboard backdrops in a studio next to a department store, from which it borrowed props.

Aimed at kids, though reportedly popular with adults as well, Captain Video produced a fair amount of tie-in merchandise, which (from what I've heard) was often of a quality superior to what the actual actors on the actual show had to work with, because you cannot possibly appreciate how broke the network was. Anyway, one of the pieces of merchandise was the Captain Video Space Game, and as it turns out one of the regular community producers from the public access TV station I work at had a copy, which he kindly lent to me. I've been documenting it extensively through photographs. These are my findings.

Presenting the game on a beach towel laid across my washing machine was definitely a sound curatorial choice.

As we can see, this is AN EXCITING SPACE GAME! As we can also see, this particular copy of the game is not in stellar shape. The game's exact title ("Captain Video Space Game") is drawn from the instructions inside the lid. This is a Milton Bradley product, manufactured in Springfield, Mass. (As an aside, as a child in the 1990s, my parents took me to see the abandoned lot where the Milton Bradley factory had been before the fire. Heady stuff!)

I haven't yet pinned down the game's publication date. The man in the yellow inset (closeup below) is Al Hodge, the second actor to play Captain Video himself (1950-55, taking over from Richard Coogan, 1949-50). Hodge doesn't smile in many of his early photographs in the role, and I read somewhere that this is because he had bad teeth, something he had fixed sometime in the mid-early '50s, allowing him to give a healthy smile to the camera for later photo shoots. Nevertheless, he looks bitterly unhappy to be a part of this game.

The logo is the best thing I have for pinning down the year. From what I know, the TV show itself always used a simple logo where the letters were composed out of jaggy lightning bolts. This rather fancier design does appear, however, on a series of Fawcett comic books from 1951, so I'm going to guess (at present) that the game is from around then.

Finally (for this evening) I give you the board:

I'm not going to try to get into gameplay right now, but the key takeaway here is that the people making this had an ignorance of the Solar System that was nothing less than willful. In addition to including eight of the nine then-recognized planets (where is the love for Pluto?), the board also includes the moon and Cetv, Corvi, Planet "X" and Zeno. These heavenly bodies are arranged buffet-style.

So many of the series' episodes have been lost that there may be no way of ever finding out what these last four were supposed to be. The writers seemed to be fond of inventing planets. I have hazy memories of reading one synopsis where the Captain goes to Black Planet (phrased just as such, with no article before the name). I also know that Black Planet is now the name of an African-American dating site. I enjoy knowing these things.

In the bottom left is the starting point, CAPTAIN VIDEO'S, from which players depart to DR. PAULI'S, located in the upper right. Dr. Pauli was the show's perennial bad guy. For some perspective, he looked like this:

I actually took that screenshot, but I don't remember what the context for that huge board filled with vacuum tubes is. I think Dr. Pauli might trying to steal cable.

What does the rest of the game look like? How was it played? Check back tomorrow for more excitement!

Captain Video

Frontier Psychiatrist
Gallery Volunteer
Sep 4, 2009
Partially Submerged Boat
Personal Text
"No man can eat fifty Faberge eggs!"
The adventure continues!

These are the instructions:

For those averse to squinting, the backstory opens thusly:

Captain Video's arch enemy Dr. Pauli has set up a laboratory on a distant planet at the other end of the Universe and threatens to either destroy or gain control of all the planets. Captain Video has located the position of Pauli's laboratory with his super radarscope.

In order to stop Dr. Pauli from carrying out his scheme, Captain Video assigns 4 ships to each player with a coded identification such as red squadron, blue squadron, etc. However, because Dr. Pauli is so heavily guarded, two of a Ranger's ships must reach the laboratory at exactly the same time to overpower the Doctor. The players in this game act as Rangers and pilot these ships.

Structurally, the game seems to be an especially fiddly version of Snakes and Ladders. "All ships that land exactly on Red hazard spots, found in the tails of Comets, must return to the nearest planet for inspection and repairs, due to possible damage from this contact." The ships, it should be noted, are actually color-coded wooden pegs painted with what is almost certainly lead paint. Players advance by spinning the middle dial in the board below. The two numbers in each slot are so a player can either move two ships, one for each of the numbers, or add the numbers and move one ship that many spaces.

The inside of Captain Video's spaceship looks like a steam-powered pinball machine. Again, the actuality of the show might be worse:

(Captain Video is on the right, talking into the listening end of a telephone receiver; I have trouble with faces and can't tell if it's Hodge or Coogan, his predecessor. To the left is the Video Ranger. The show always maintained that Captain Video was head of a large group called the Video Rangers, but from what I've been able to gather, this guy may have been the only one ever seen on the show, and was just "the Video Ranger." He's played by Don Hastings, one of the few people involved with the show who's still alive. Note with interest that they both get steering wheels, like those shopping carts with seats in the front so little kids can pretend they're driving a car.)

Back to the game: "If two ships should be unfortunate enough to meet by exact count on a Spot in a space lane," shit gets real. This is where the game breaks out its most devastatingly nonsensical component: the top half of the ship's dashboard.

As you can see, on the left and right of the SPACE TRAVEL INDICATOR are two dials, A-1 and B-1. The instructions explain that the overtaking ranger must spin dial A-1, get a "flight plan" code and check the corresponding instructions on the A-1 Videoscope (the gold wheel to the left of what appears to be a water pick). The ranger being overtaken spins dial B-1 and checks the matching number on the B-1 Videoscope. Pause to consider that the Videoscopes do not provide video output and are not scopes in any traditional sense of the word. This, combined with the fact that the main spinner is set in the middle of a picture of a TV screen, strongly suggests that the people designing this had never actually seen a television set and also spoke no English.

The best part is that every aspect of the Captain Video show itself - DuMont's most emblematic, most ambitious, and most conspicuously underfunded program - followed these terms. The show's early head writer was a man named M.C. Brock, who was eventually paid to stay home. The histories of the show refer to a specific kind of technobabble referred to as "Brockenese," which is manifested perfectly in the "secret instructions" inside the box lid.

For some reason, underneath the game's regular directions, the Videoscope directions are reproduced. I'm at a loss as to why the game designers did this, except that perhaps they worried that kids might lose or break the Videoscope dashboard panel. The Videoscope directions are pretty straightforward, simply telling a player what to do, but the panel instructions contain Brockenese flavor text that is almost gloriously pointless:


"A - 1 Videoscope"

Flight Plan AX-1-- Turn on Magnetic Ray to advance ship 15 spaces.

Flight Plan DD2-- Use Dynamicon to advance ship 20 spaces.

Flight Plan CB3-- Inject emergency Rocket fuel to advance ship to next planet.

Flight Plan XY4-- Radio Scillograph another ship to advance both ships 10 spaces.

Flight Plan QR5-- Increase pressure in rear rocket to 027.15 to advance ship 12 spaces.

Flight Plan MT6-- Set directional gyros at 00.9 and advance ship to next planet.

Flight Plan NS7-- Use Atomic Primer in Rockets to advance any 3 ships 6 spaces each.

Flight Plan JO8-- Switch in emergency solar battery to advance ship 15 spaces.

Flight Plan IG9-- Recharge solar batteries, spin again.

Flight Plan RO10-- Change over to nuclear power to advance all 4 ships 8 spaces each.

Flight Plan GA11-- Set impact velocity at .90023 to advance ship 16 spaces.

Flight Plan HF12-- Adopt trajectory Sigma 19 Beta 12 to advance to next planet.

"B - 1 Videoscope"

Warning 1-- Hit super ionized space mine, go back to Capt. Video's.

Warning 2-- Entire circulating system damaged, go back 15 spaces.

Warning 3-- Evasive maneuver, move 2 ships back 8 spaces each.

Warning 4-- Guided missile damages controls, go back 10 spaces.

Warning 5-- Caught in magnetic field lose turn.

Warning 6-- Magnetic Solenoids shattered, return to nearest planet for repairs.

Warning 7-- Disintegrator Ray cripples generator, go back 12 spaces.

Warning 8-- Discatron rendered useless by radar jamming, lose turn.

Warning 9-- Coordinated eliptic
[sic] atomic blast knocks 2 ships back 5 spaces each.

Warning 10-- Space gas stupefies crew, go back 10 spaces.

Warning 11-- Repeller ray equalizes rocket power, ship remains stationary, lose turn.

Warning 12-- Double Dueteron beam penetrates hulls of 2 ships, one ship must return to Captain Video's and another goes back 8 spaces.

In case you haven't figured it out, nothing before either the comma or the word "to" in those blurbs means anything, and none of those pieces of technology are referenced in any other way in the game. They all seem to come directly from the show's proud litany of homespun doodads.

At any rate, someone finally wins when they land two ships at Dr. Pauli's at the same time. At this point it is customary to wonder what you're doing with your life.

And that's it for me! I'm off to Twitter to tweet all the Videoscope alerts as horoscopes. You can follow me at OurWorldcomic, where I've been this entire time.
Last edited:


Prime Minister of Fun!
Jul 7, 2010
This is kinda awesome truth be told. It's clearly meant for kids who are fans of the show, as they are the only ones who will care about the flavor text. In some ways it isn't any different than magic, the non direction stuff is meaningless unless you care about the story.[DOUBLEPOST=1406600890,1406600840][/DOUBLEPOST]I will note that you always want to be the lander, not landee. Spinning the b video scope is for chumps.
Likes: Captain Video

Captain Video

Frontier Psychiatrist
Gallery Volunteer
Sep 4, 2009
Partially Submerged Boat
Personal Text
"No man can eat fifty Faberge eggs!"
I'm glad someone besides me got a kick out of this. The game does a surprisingly good job of capturing the show's feel. I've seen a few of the surviving episodes online, and they all seem to embody the same sort of dream-logic as the game. The critics of the day blasted Captain Video for this, but those who remember watching it as children - in their 60s and 70s now - have nothing but love in their hearts for this program, which was, at its core, bewildering. I forgot to mention it above, but those things in the slots on either side of the lower dashboard panel - the one with the spinners - are the pegs for playing the game. Only a true fan with great imagination could take a Sorry peg and believe it was a spaceship traveling between worlds to fight evil.