Why Am I Jonesin' For McDonald's...?

This time I'm sharing a very obscure, but nonetheless very fondly remembered, bit of science-fiction with you. There are two television series that were favorites of my childhood, that I never in a million years would dare have dreamed would ever see the light of day on DVD, they were so off the beaten path. But I must be doing something to make someone up there happy, because a few years back they were both given DVD releases! The other one I'll discuss sometime soon, but the one I'm talking about today is Benji, Zax and the Alien Prince.

This admittedly silly little show aired exactly where you might have expected it did if you've ever seen an episode: on Saturday mornings, for a fleeting thirteen weeks in the fall of 1983. It told the story of young Prince Yubi (Christopher Burton), who escaped his home planet of Antareus when the evil tyrant, Zanu, overthrew the king, Yubi's father. A droid named Zax (which kind-of looked like a giant hamburger with a neck and head resembling a cartoon version of E.T.'s) was sent along to protect Yubi, and upon their arrival on Earth they were both befriended by that loveable pooch, Benji. But Yubi wasn't out of the woods, because Zanu himself deployed two ruthless soldiers to capture Yubi and bring him back to Antareus for imprisonment.

The acting wasn't impressive, the premise was very simple, and so were the special effects, but the early '80s Saturday morning audience wasn't exactly a demanding one. You'd certainly never hear me complain, as I was glued to the TV every week waiting for Yubi's newest adventure. In fact, if I may get a little personal with you, one reason this show holds such a special significance with me is because it was responsible for the first true inkling of my adolescence: in an episode in which Yubi was robbed of his precious bracelet (which Antareans needed in order to survive in Earth's atmosphere), and began to get ill and weak, I found myself wanting to climb through the TV and do everything I could to care for him, for reasons I wouldn't yet understand for another few years. (And the jewelry connection might have had something to do with my fascination, too ... just kidding!)

The set is a bit of a shelf-hog, I have to say ... four regular-sized single-disc cases housed in a slipcover, taking up the width of two VHS tapes. So I decided to conserve a bit of shelf space by replacing them with one slim 4-disc case, even re-designing a new insert card with all the info tidily packed onto the back panel. When it comes to the DVDs themselves, don't expect a crystal-clear, high-definition transfer ... it looks like the folks assembling this package had nothing better than analog videotape masters to work with -- well preserved considering their age, though there are still the occasional crawling lines of distortion from "wrinkles" in the tape, and maybe a few other artifacts. (Hey, it was well before the digital age, after all ... and I have to wonder if they'd ever imagined they'd have reason to pull them out of the archives!) Again, I'm not complaining ... I'm happy to have these old relics on DVD in any way, to relive those fond childhood memories again.

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