Captain Star

Captain Star
Created by Steven Appleby
Frank Cottrell-Boyce
Pete Bishop
Starring Richard E. Grant
Adrian Edmondson
Denica Fairman
Kerry Shale
Gary Martin
Country of origin United Kingdom, Canada
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 2
No. of episodes 13 (total)
Running time 30 minutes
Distributor DHX Media[1]
Original network ITV
Original release 8 July 1997 – 27 August 1998

Captain Star was a British/Canadian animated series starring Richard E. Grant as Captain Jim Star, based on a comic by Steven Appleby: Rockets Passing Overhead. Only thirteen episodes of thirty-minutes each were produced and aired. The series ran on the British ITV and Canadian Teletoon networks from 1997 to 1998. The show was also later repeated on Locomotion in Latin America, Nickelodeon UK in the United Kingdom, and Space in Canada.


The story of Captain Star involves the crew of the rocket ship Boiling Hell, who have been ordered to a deserted planet known only as "The Nameless Planet" at the Ragged Edge of the Universe. The ship's crew consists of the egocentric and often paranoid Captain Star, Dana Scully-esque science officer Scarlette, nine-headed engineer Jones, and fish-keeping Navigator Black. They are later joined by a robot, Jim-Bob-Bob, who performs laundry duty and various other servitudes.

Captain Star is introduced in the opening theme as "the greatest hero any world has ever known". A legendary explorer who has hundreds of planets named after him, Captain Star's birthday is a holiday throughout the universe. Throughout the series, the characters await further orders from Mission Control which never come. It is unclear whether Mission Control has simply forgotten about Star and his crew, but the implication is that they have put the aging Star out to pasture, but spared him the indignity of forcing him to retire, and kept him on active duty so that he can continue to be a hero to the public. Events occurring on and off the planet, however, frequently require Star's intervention.

Main characters

From left to right: Captain Jim Star, Atomic Engine Stoker "Limbs" Jones, First Officer Scarlette, Navigator Black

Captain Jim Star (Richard E. Grant) Groomed from birth to be a starship captain, Captain Star is regarded as the greatest captain in the fleet. He left the Captain's Academy at age 12 to spend a year as a trainee under Captain Ned Nova of the Merry Cheeser, who had named 115 planets after himself, which was the record until Star surpassed him. Captain Star is roughly 127 "space years" old, which appears to make him a man in his fifties in his society. Not humble, though not excessively arrogant, Captain Star believes himself to be a hero and feels deserving of his universal acclaim. He is often oblivious to danger and to the advice and concerns of his crew. Unquestioningly loyal, Star firmly believes that his orders will eventually come.

First Officer Scarlette (Denica Fairman) A strong and fearless woman, and an accomplished scientist, Scarlette often saves the day through her scientific endeavours. Scarlette's logic and investigative nature are a stark contrast to Captain Star's tendency to improvise in an emergency. On The Nameless Planet, where Captain Star has no ship to command or adventures to lead, Scarlette handles most of his command duties.

Atomic Engine Stoker "Limbs" Jones (Adrian Edmondson) Mutated in an atomic accident, "Limbs" Jones has nine heads and six arms. Each of Jones' heads houses a different part of his brain, causing each head to have a slightly different personality. Jones is a great cat lover, having sequentially named pet cats Sputnik 1 through 374. Conversations between Jones' many heads and other members of the crew often lead them to become impatient and annoyed with him.

Navigator Black (Kerry Shale/Gary Martin) Once the navigator of the Boiling Hell, Navigator Black sets up a small fish-shaped restaurant on The Nameless Planet and becomes the cook. Obsessed with fish, the restaurant is filled with aquariums. Black often swims with his fish, and even creates a brain-computer interface device that depicts their thoughts. Black has a nervous temperament and often panics under pressure. A running gag in the show is Navigator Black's inability to tell his left from his right.

Minor characters

Captain Bloater (Gary Martin)

Jasper Quilt (Gary Martin)

Captain Spratt (Denica Fairman)

Story format and themes

Many episodes begin with a flashback to the Boiling Hell's glorious missions, which is then immediately contrasted with their abandonment on The Nameless Planet as an obsolete and over-the-hill crew. These flashbacks set the tone for the episode and foreshadow the story's theme. At the end of each episode, while sitting in his wheelbarrow, Captain Star recites an entry into his Captain's Diary which begins, "Uneventful day", followed by a short witticism which sums up the moral of the story.

A small moon in very close orbit of The Nameless Planet, called The Low-Flying Moon, often flies overhead, lifting objects off of the ground for a few seconds.

For a children's program, Captain Star deals with unusually advanced themes. The primary theme throughout the series is of society's treatment of the aged. While Captain Star appears to be strong and healthy and continues to save the universe, after several decades of distinguished service, Mission Control sweeps him under the rug by sending him to the edge of the universe to an unnamed planet and has him remain there with no orders to carry out. Despite continuing to prove his usefulness, there is an ageist undertone that Mission Control assumes that he is no longer a valuable asset because of his age and long service.

Many episodes feature a popular television program called "Star of Space" in which actors portray the crew of the Boiling Hell in many of Captain Star's most heroic missions. Captain Star is presented as a James Bond-like hero, handsome and virile, who saves the day almost effortlessly. The episodes exaggerate his role in events while minimizing the contributions of his crew most conspicuously presenting strong and scientifically accomplished first officer Scarlette as a bimbo and damsel in distress. Even when watching events that had just occurred earlier in the episode, every member of the crew except for Scarlette regard the reenactments as mostly historically accurate, emphasizing the role of television as a means to control public perception of people and events.

While Captain Star is removed from the public eye, he continues to be promoted as a hero in public propaganda. Keeping him on active duty, while separated from the public by assigning him to the Ragged Edge of the Universe, the public can continue to regard him as a hero who is in his prime forever. His birthday is a public holiday throughout the universe, an occasion which allows him to be presented as a larger than life hero figure and promoted as a role model. While never presented as dystopian, it is implied that the government is exploiting Captain Star's celebrity, presumably as a recruitment tool and to encourage patriotism, unity, and support for the government.

115 space years prior to the events of the program, Captain Star's former captain, Ned Nova, was ordered into retirement. Disobeying orders, Nova fled in his ship, the Merry Cheeser. Captain Star was ordered to arrest his former captain and chased the Merry Cheeser to a black hole. Refusing to retire, Nova piloted his ship into the black hole. He was discovered, in suspended animation, in the stomach of a space slug in the present day on The Nameless Planet. Star decided to let him leave in his rocket ship and declared that he could not have been Ned Nova because he was only half Ned Nova's age (thanks to his preservation inside the space slug). While an act of loyalty to his former captain and role model, his willingness to preserve an idealized image of Nova by refusing to arrest him and turn him over to Mission Control in disgrace ironically mirrors Mission Control's decision to preserve an idealized image of Star himself by exiling him on The Nameless Planet.

The program frequently presents commercialism in an absurd light. The opening theme reveals that the voyages that made Captain Star the greatest hero any world has ever known were missions in which he travelled to inhabited planets and renamed them after himself (much as explorers during the colonial era would rename and claim inhabited lands for Europe), and sell them things that they didn't need, such as a group of aliens in the opening theme who purchase umbrellas before returning to their underwater homes. In the second episode, a "hard-sell droid" attempts to sell the crew a carpet and refuses to take no for an answer. The crew are ultimately forced to dismantle the droid, revealing that it had a brain the size of a pea. Many episodes feature unlikely Captain Star-themed products and memorabilia, such as a croquet set using a tee and hoops shaped like Captain Star's head, demonstrating the rampant consumerism surrounding Star's image and likeness.

Episode list

First season 1997–1998

# Title Original air date
01The Atomic Alarm Clock8 July 1997
02Day of the Zooties15 July 1997
03The Worm Turns22 July 1997
04No Future29 July 1997
05Nine Heads are Better than One5 August 1997
06Waiting for Sputnik12 August 1997

Second season 1998

# Title Original air date
07Rocket to Nowhere16 July 1998
08It's Written in the Stars23 July 1998
09Ned Nova30 July 1998
10The Gravity of the Situation6 August 1998
11The Collector13 August 1998
12The Edge of the Universe20 August 1998
13A Galaxy of Stars27 August 1998

Home video releases

At least one VHS release of Captain Star is known to exist, containing the first three episodes of the series.


External links

See also

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