On September 17th, 1983, the CBS saturday morning lineup featured more than just your typical slate of cartoons. A live-action series from Hanna-Barbara and Joe Camp premiered: Benji, Zax, and the Alien Prince. Staring Benji (whose real name was Benjean, an offspring of the original shelter dog, Higgins, who played Benji in the 1970s films), Ric Spiegel as Zax, and Christopher "Chris" Burton as the "Alien Prince" Prince Yubi, Crown Prince of the red planet Antars, a planet recently taken over by the warlord tyrant Zanu (played by Ken Miller and seen only in the opening credits).
The opening credits show first the planet Antars, followed by Earth, and the landing of Yubi's small spacecraft which awakens a sleeping Benji and inspires an investigation of the craft by Benji. Benji is the first earth creature encountered as Zax opens with "At last your highness...planet EARTH" as the ship opens and the white and gold adorned prince tentatively exits his ship.
From there, the narrative cross cuts back to Antars where we hear Zanu explain the situation on Antars in a tone clearly designed to remind us of Darth Vader--this is 1983, after all, and Return of the Jedi came out only the spring before!
Returning to Earth, we see Yubi tentatively petting Benji for the first time while Zax explains what a dog is and the credits flash telling us that the show stars Benji and Chris Burton.
A humble beginning, but I remember, as a sixth grader seeing previews for the show that summer, that I could not wait to see this Benji, Zax, and the Alien Prince. That September morning, I was not disappointed. Only disappointed when soon enough CBS started moving the show from its original time slot, then finally cancelled it.
There was something DIFFERENT about this prince from another star--and about the way this actor, Christopher Burton, played him. He was not just your typical character from your typical show on tv.
On this website you will find photos, episode summaries, character biographies (spoiler alerts--read the character biographies only if you have seen all the episodes each character appears in!) and lots more information about both Benji, Zax, and the Alien Prince and what this writer could discover (through published sources) about Christopher Burton. There's even a bibliography so you can visit the same sources I used for the creation of this site--and double check my work! A good research paper is only as good as the citations behind it, after all!
You will want to check out our latest page: Back Stage. Back Stage is filled with memorabilia images you, the readers of this site, send me for inclusion to the site. We go back in time, discovering artefacts from the series that only those who love this show (or its cast/crew) can appreciate. So if you have found something, anything at all--a letter, a prop, a script, a costume, a newspaper clipping about the show, we want to see it!
You will also find our QUOTES page which is constantly being added to. This is where you will read your favorite lines from the different episodes. Check back to this page often as i am adding new material to it often. No scripts are involved in making that page...just careful dictation from the DVDs. Now if only I could make out that technical term (the name of the kind of ship) in the early dialogue of "UFO" when Prince Yubi says "At least it's not a *garble* ship..." Script anyone? That one word could tell us something about Zanu!
As you can see, I have a bachelors in film (along with psychology and history). Specifically, I studied to become a film writer. I was never produced, in part because I never knew how to pursue my film skills beyond university. This site and its detailed analysis of BZAP and Christopher Burton's work is probably the first application of a 50 hour major and all the acting, writing, journalism, music, and social science work I did as part of that degree. I do not simply watch a series. My university studies gave me the critical analytical skills to truly recognize high quality work from poorly done work. I was taught was standard uses of camera motions and read these messages very precisely. Watch how often in BZAP the camera starts close to the prince and zooms far away from him. This is standard motion to signal helplessness or vulnerability.
Yet our prince has help and in the end, we know that for all the drama and tension in each episode, somehow everything will work out, even if it comes down to a very close call!
As it should be in a story that ultimately endures the test of time...as this one certainly has. 27 years after it first aired, Benji, Zax, and the Alien Prince is just as enjoyable to watch as it was back on CBS all those years ago. We forgive the matte shots and remember that the special effects used were attempting to use techiques developed only six years before with the release of Star Wars. Instead, we focus on our charming prince with those soft, penetrating, gray eyes. No matter what role he played, Christopher Burton was expert at using his eyes in his acting--from Prince Yubi to Timmy Charles to Rudy Anderson and beyond.
It is in his eyes that we see a good, kindly prince we want to see free...and an Antars we hope will someday have as its king, a new monarch named YUBI.
The photos, video, and audio files contained on this site from Benji, Zax, and the Alien Prince and/or other Christopher Burton films/television appearances were created by screen capture and by editing of DVD material. Except where quoted otherwise, all written content on this site written and created by site owner, Laurel A. Rockefeller. Quotes page was created by careful dictation into this site of each scene or portion of each scene from its cited source.
The views expressed on this website belong to the site owner and do not reflect on any way, shape, or form on any other entities, living, dead, or corporate.