Low-budget and local, this 15-minute sci-fi show still managed to gather both a loyal fan base and critical acclaim during its three-year run on San Franciscos KRON-TV. The special effects were crude, and only three actors could be featured per episode, but Captain Zero was still hailed for being both educational and entertaining. Written by and starring Roy Steffens, the show featured a rocket ship/time machine that allowed Z-Ro and his young sidekick Jet to chase villains through time while still managing to give impromptu history lessons. Episodes were often appropriately written according to the time of year. The Thanksgiving and Christmas episodes, for example, featured adventures that explained the historical significance of the holidays. After three years on local live TV, Captain Z-Ro finally expanded to a half-hour, switched to film, and was syndicated nationally in 1955. Despite the move to the big-time, fans were pleased to see that Captain Z-Ro stayed true to its roots, maintaining its simple charms for the remainder of its television run.
Science Fiction on Television in the 1950s: Captain Z-Ro
Captain Z-Ro Syndicated; December 18, 1955 thru June 1956
Character Name Actor Captain Z-Ro Roy Steffens
Jet (1st actor) Bobby Trumbull
Jet (2nd actor) Bruce Haynes
INTRODUCTION:: "Captain Z-Ro! Research explorer in time and space! Somewhere in a remote uncharted region of a planet called Earth stands the laboratory of CAPTAIN Z-RO. In this secret location, known only to a few in the outside world, Captain Z-Ro and his associates experiment in time and space to learn from the past -- to plan for the future. (morse code signal begins) Contact has been established. We now transmit you direct to the laboratory of Captain Z-Ro. Please stand by."
Captain Z-Ro (1951) TV serie 1951-1956
Directed by: David Butler
Plot Summary: Captain Z-Ro! Research explorer in time and space! Somewhere in a remote uncharted region of a planet called Earth stands the laboratory of Captain Z-Ro. In this secret location, known only to a few in the outside world, Captain Z-Ro and his associates experiment in time and space to learn from the past - to plan for the future. (from imdb.com)
Roy Steffens …. Captain Z-Ro
Bob Turnbull …. Jet (1951)
Bruce Haynes …. Jet (1955-1956)
Joe Miksak .... General George Washington/Lieutenant Hammond / Daniel Boone as a Man (3 episodes) Richard Glyer .... Finley (2 episodes)
Sydney Walker .... King Alfred/Guthram (2 episodes) Jack Sullivan .... Soldier / Warrior (2 episodes)
Superheroes: Captain Z-Ro
Runtime: 15 min/30 min (77 episodes) (3 seasons)
CAPTAIN Z-RO AT THE CONTROLS OF HIS TIME PROJECTION MACHINE KRON-TV - CIRCA 1952
SBE CHAPTER 40 NEWSLETTER September 1996 SAN FRANCISCO Roy Trumbull - Editor
When Bill Palmer passed away this summer it kind of closed off an era which took in much of local TV in the 50s. All the stations had telco circuits into Palmer Film because he did kinescope recordings. If you really wanted to save something, recording it on film was the only way to do it until video tape came along in 1956. And Palmer was also able to produce programs directly on 16mm for syndication.
One such show was Captain Z-Ro which ran live on KRON-TV in the early days. It was written and produced by Roy Steffensen who also played the Captain. The plot involved going back to historical events in a time machine.
And it's hard to imagine the transporter on Star-Trek or Mr. Peabody's "way- back" machine being anything other than knock-offs of Z-Ro's Time Projector. Please note in the photo that Z-Ro was an analog kind of guy who used a microscope to find the spot on the globe that his beam would take him and his fellow adventurers to.
Palmer produced 26 episodes of Captain Z-Ro for syndication. Some of them used footage from kinescopes of live programs. But a battle over rights erupted with the syndicating company and that pretty much shut down the distribution of the program.
Steffensen went onto a career as an art director for motion pictures and television. He's retired and lives in Southern California. He signs his letters in Captain Z-Ro fashion: "Good luck in time and space."
ZX-99 - Spacecraft on the children's sci-fi series CAPTAIN Z-RO/SYN/1952-55.
The ZX-99 was owned by scientist/explorer Captain Z-Ro (Roy Steffens) who with his assistant, Jet (Bobby Trumbull) flew through outer space at a speed of five miles per second. When the Captain wanted to zoom through time, he used his special time machine which enabled him to visit a variety of historical periods from Biblical days to the American Revolution. The Captain's time machine featured an Electro Generator, a Trillatron, and the Lectric Chamber with Spector Wave Length which transports the Captain back into any desired period of time. Before departing on a mission the Captain remarked "Spaceman's Luck." When he was ready to return to his present time, he said "All right, Jet, take me back." To protect himself, the Captain used a Pararay Gun that paralyzed victims for 60 seconds at a time. The CAPTAIN Z-RO program not only provided good vs. evil plots but educated its young viewers about a variety of historical periods. The show was a precursor to other time traveling programs such as YOU ARE THERE/CBS/1953-57 where reporters from the 20th century delivered on the spot reports and interviews with people and events in the past; PEABODY'S IMPROBABLE HISTORY, an animated component series of ROCKY AND HIS FRIENDS/ABC/1959-61 about a genius dog who traveled in time via his WABAC Machine with his boy Sherman; DOCTOR WHO/BBC/1963-89 a British sci-fi adventure about a Timelord from the Planet Galifrey who transcends time and space in his TARDIS time machine; THE HECTOR HEATHCOTE SHOW/NBC/1963-64 the animated misadventures of a time traveling scientist who bumbled about in America's past; THE TIME TUNNEL/ABC/1966-67 with James Darren as Dr. Tony Newman and Robert Colbert as Dr. Doug Phillips, two American scientists who entered "The Time Tunnel" and got lost in the swirling maze of yesteryears; TIME EXPRESS/CBS/1979 about a train carrying people back in time to events important to their lives; QUANTUM LEAP/NBC/1989-93 with Scott Bakula as scientist Dr. Sam Beckett whose soul occupied the bodies of persons living in the immediate past; TIME TRAX/SYN/1993-94 with Dale Midkiff as Darien Lambert, a 22nd century cop who traveled back to the present time (via TRAX-Trans-Time Research and Experimentation) to catch mad scientist Dr. Mordicai Sahmbi (Peter Donat) who escaped through time; and a similar series TIMECOP/SYN/1997-98.