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 a rocket ship called the Boiling Hell, who have been ordered to a deserted planet known only as "the Nameless Planet", at the Ragged Edge of the Universe, in order to wait for their next assignment. The ship's crew consists of the deeply egocentric and often paranoid Captain Star, the Dana Scully-esque Science Officer Scarlette, the nine-headed, six-armed mutant Engineer/Stoker "Limbs" Jones, and the fish-keeping milquetoast Navigator Black. They are later joined by a robot, Jim-Bob-Bob, who performs laundry duty and various other acts of menial servitude.
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 entire universe. Throughout the series, the characters await further orders from Mission Control which never come, and they seem to have been waiting there so long that Navigator Black has constructed and established a fish restaurant on the Nameless Planet, which he mainly uses as a giant aquarium. 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 while sparing 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.
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, the entire 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 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.