Captain Scarlet – White As Snow

Directed by Robert Lynn

Teleplay by Peter Curran & David Williams

First Broadcast – 3rd November 1967

In the transition between Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet there were some key personnel changes going on at Century 21. With cornerstone directors Alan Pattillo and David Elliott no longer at the studio, Desmond Saunders promoted to supervising director, and David Lane busy with pre-production on the Thunderbird 6 feature film, there was a great deal of promotion from within the company with the likes of Alan Perry, Brian Burgess (who had directed later episodes of Thunderbirds) and Ken Turner. Leo Eaton was originally brought in as an assistant director with previous experience on live action shows like The BaronThe Saint, and Gideon’s Way. He later wrote and directed episodes of Scarlet. One other new addition to the directorial team was Robert Lynn. By a long way, Lynn had more experience of directing film and television than all of the other directors combined. All previous Supermarionation directors learnt their trade from within the Century 21 studios, rising through the ranks. White As Snow was his second episode.

Supported by Tony Barwick, who had script edited on Thunderbirds, a team of new writers was also brought in, replacing staples such as Alan Fennell and Dennis Spooner. Shane Rimmer, famous for his portrayal as Scott Tracy, struck up a strong friendship with Barwick which saw the pair working together for years to come. With the exception of Alan Pattillo who wrote The Trap, all other writers for the series were completely new to writing for Supermarionation, and indeed many were not experienced television script writers at all. The partnership of Peter Curran and David Williams contributed four scripts to the series, with White As Snow being the second produced.

White As Snow can be viewed as the result of two relatively new writers and a seasoned live action director having recently found their feet in the bizarre world of puppet film-making and almost certainly trying to keep on working as if these were real people. The personalities and quirks of the characters are played upon in this episode, something which would have worked flawlessly in a live action production, but results in some rather odd moments within the realms of Supermarionation…

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The episode opens on a spaceship which looks like… well… ask your parents…

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Aboard the TVR-17 is space-disc-jockey Bob Lynn, named after the episode’s director, Robert Lynn. This opening was a late addition to the script, explaining why this episode’s pre-credits sequence is one of the longest in the series. Among the equipment in this room we have the tape machine from Big Ben Strikes Again, and the Sentinel computer from the Thunderbirds episode Ricochet. Most of this equipment was seen in a similiar setup in the previous episode, Renegade Rocket.

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This same building is seen all over the place throughout the series in a number of roles. Today it’s the TVR control building.

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This is Orbital Control No. 3 which features the same Sentinel computer bank which we just saw. It’s clear that Bob is due to come home soon, but he wants to hold off until his super hip and cool radio show is over, which I can’t believe wasn’t the plan all along. The tune in the background is a Barry Gray special which enjoyed a commercial release under the name White As Snow and became the go-to piece of radio music for future Supermarionation productions. It’s catchy that’s for sure.

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A spanner is thrown in the works when this happy chap turns up. As with many of his appearances, he’s here to cause some trouble before just toddling off again.

With the controller taken care of, Black adjusts the orbit of the TVR-17 to something a little more deadly… the blaggard… The shot of the TVR-17 changing course appears to have been achieved by tilting the camera rather than the model and backdrop.

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Now that really does look a bit rude.

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Even though the front of the ship is the thing getting really, really hot, it’s the back that explodes first. Bob Lynn is very dead.

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But without any interruption to the transmission, the TVR-17 is brought back by the Mysterons, along with Bob who isn’t really needed for this next bit except to do a bit of announcing, which we know the Mysterons could do themselves anyway by re-creating Bob’s voice.

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White As Snow is a rather nice title for its double meaning. It may actually stem from the Bible verse, Isiah 1:18 “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.” It also literally refers to the fact that Colonel White will be adopting the name Robert Snow.

Everyone on Cloudbase is chilling out and enjoying the TVR-17 broadcast. Scarlet is asking for trouble putting his feet up on the Colonel’s desk. His feet are probably close to resting on the Cloudbase self-destruct button. Melody and Harmony are the angels on duty in the Amber Room with Rhapsody and Destiny off duty in some very lovely outfits. Doctor Fawn must be the only person actually doing some work right now. Even Symphony is tuned in as she waits on standby in Angel 1. We get a good look at the puppet set for the Angel cockpit here.

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Colonel White catches everyone by surprise, exclaiming, “What the?!” Who knows what manner of profanity he had to hold himself back from uttering. White references Captain Scarlet getting out of the chair but we don’t actually see him doing it because there is no way that a puppet could get their legs off of a desk, onto the ground, and stand up in one movement.

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“This is supposed to be an operational base, not a rest centre!” It’s always a fun moment when the Colonel’s sternness is played to the ultimate extreme. It isn’t necessarily supposed to be funny, but it clearly is. He’s being incredibly over the top, but you know he’s deadly serious.

The music is starting to get awfully loud as the spacecraft’s altitude decreases. Lieutenant Green attempts to turn down the volume but with no success. White isn’t happy. The speaker was specifically added to the set for this scene.

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Symphony’s angry face appears to be exactly the same as her normal face but with some very well defined eyebrows drawn on and tilted downward.

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Doctor Fawn has just arrived in the Amber Room to give his finest violin solo…

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Captain Blue theorises that this must be a plot to deafen all Spectrum agents… he’s a sharp one…

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The TVR-17 is picked up on Spectrum radar. Scarlet quickly realises that this is the reason the music is getting louder and louder. Green dramatically announces that the satellite is on a collision course for Cloudbase!

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Just before the TVR-17 enters the Earth’s atmosphere, we cut away to the opening credits and the Mysterons making their threat to kill Colonel White. It’s heavy stuff and has been slipped in to the story at this point to make it clear why they are sending the TVR-17 towards Cloudbase. That said, before the additional scenes were added to the beginning of the episode, it could be that the threat was announced after the incident so that the Spectrum team had a chance to digest it.

Colonel White is convinced that the satellite is in the control of the Mysterons. Scarlet doesn’t want to take the risk of killing the dozen people that (he guesses) are aboard. White demands the launch of Angel 1 to which Scarlet yells, “No!” The tension is extraordinary. I love the edgy relationship between Scarlet and White. Throughout the series they bicker and come to blows, yet there is a mutual respect between the two. This episode demonstrates that superbly.

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Symphony is soon in the air. I’ve only just noticed that the ‘White As Snow’ music has stopped… well it had to end eventually.

Silence falls as Symphony approaches the satellite. The tension in this sequence really is beautifully put together. Even though we know the craft is under Mysteron control we’re still concerned. That being said, one wonders whether this would have been more effective if we didn’t know that the TVR-17 had been Mysteronised. We still get to find out later from Lt. Green that it had indeed been taken over, so keeping it a mystery for this sequence might have been a nice touch.

In between shots, Symphony’s hair goes from being braided over her right shoulder to completely down, which is how it was at the beginning of the sequence.

She opens fire. Believe it or not, the destruction of the TVR-17 is an alternate take to the destruction shot we saw earlier, even though they look very similar.

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Scarlet isn’t happy. It’s amazing how much expression these completely expressionless puppets can have. He asks to be excused so that he can go and have a little cry in the corner… surely Scarlet of all people would have known that the TVR-17 was under Mysteron control? His Scarlet-sense should have been tingling.

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We take a rare opportunity to watch an Angel aircraft come into land. Despite launching from the front of the formation on the deck, another aircraft has already moved into the lead position as Symphony lands on a ramp at the back. It’s not certain why the Angels land on an incline, but apparently that makes it easier.

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Scarlet sulks from the observation deck, which for some reason is done up like a tropical rainforest…

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Captain Blue is either talking to Captain Scarlet, or presenting an episode of Gardeners’ World… I can’t quite remember…

Apparently everyone has now heard the Mysteron threat to kill Colonel White, suggesting strongly that the opening credits were originally supposed to be played after Symphony blew up the satellite. Destiny is looking awfully friendly with Captain Magenta. The Colonel announces that he intends to leave Cloudbase to go somewhere super secret, just in case the Mysterons should do something like trying to destroy Cloudbase in order to kill him… y’know, like the thing that just happened which apparently Scarlet still thinks was totally unrelated. He’s a clever one.

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So Scarlet continues to rant on and on about how nasty it was of the Colonel to blow up the satellite…

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Continuing his little temper tantrum, Scarlet refuses to take command of Cloudbase in the Colonel’s absence. Captain Blue jumps at the chance because he’s actually a decent bloke.

Everyone says their farewells, including an unbelievably bitter Captain Scarlet who uses all his might to not spit on the Colonel on his way out… Of course, because we know that Scarlet is very, very wrong it just makes him look like he’s being a bit of a twerp.

Green reveals that the original TVR-17 was destroyed by the Mysterons, making Scarlet feel really, really small. He says that the ship was destroyed three hours before the Mysteronised version attacked Cloudbase… so that tune was playing for 3 hours??? Then Scarlet starts poking his nose into the Colonel’s secret plan, but Green is keeping his mouth shut. Top man.

A helijet overflies the ocean. This is the same model which was seen as the World TV Helijet in the Thunderbirds episode The Impostors as well as many others. Under the heavy disguise of a hat, some sunglasses and a fetching green jumper, Colonel White is preparing to disembark. He is assuming the role of a deep sea fisherman, which I think is supposed to explain the jumper…

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From the depths a mighty submarine emerges, the same model which was previously seen as the Reaper in the Thunderbirds episode Atlantic Inferno. Century 21 were very good indeed at doing water stuff by this point. There aren’t many wet episode of Captain Scarlet but the visual effects are always a treat, even when it’s only a mildly moist episode…

The Colonel is lowered onto the deck of the USS Panther II… we don’t ask about what happened to the USS Panther I… In the model shot the harness is around his waist, but in the puppet shot he just clings on for dear life.

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White introduces himself as Snow… Robert Snow… is the Colonel having some sort of mid-life crisis?

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After the commercial break, the submarine prepares to dive. For a submarine control room it’s actually rather spacious, but a good job has been made of making it look busy with as many components crammed onto the wall as possible.

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The safety procedures aboard Panther II are pretty horrendous. This poor soul has his ankle trapped in a (presumably) Mysteronised chain. But you would have thought someone might check everyone was off the deck before closing the hatch. Standard procedure is that the last person inside closes the door behind them, which is quite a bit safer then just shutting it at the drop of a hat…

Now we get to watch a man drown to death. I can’t really blame the Mysterons for this one. Anyone could have gotten trapped on the deck for any number of reasons and they would have suffered the same fate. Notice the giant ‘S’ next to the hatch is starting to bubble and peel off as the transfer couldn’t withstand the water!

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It’s hard to be certain, but this may well be a stunt puppet being used to avoid ruining the real Soames puppet. The Mysterons rings may also be superimposed rather than projected onto the set live as we usually see.

Soames is soon back on the sub and offers to “take care of Mr Snow” in a way which doesn’t sound terribly genuine.

Meanwhile, the Angels are out on target practice in the middle of the desert. Some poor fellow had to go out in the middle of the blistering heat and put those targets up, just for them to be vaporized in a matter of seconds. Still, it adds some explosive action into the episode.

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Captain Blue is attempting to command Cloudbase with a firm hand. Lieutenant Green is already sick of him. It’s an interesting insight into Blue’s personality. He always seemed so bright and reasonable, but given the slightest bit of power he turns into a bit of a twerp.

Symphony, Melody and Harmony don’t seem to mind too much and knock out the remaining targets with ease.

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Blue then announces that Doctor Fawn will be giving a lecture which all off-duty personnel must attend… Green makes his feelings known and quite right too.

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Destiny and Rhapsody are thrilled by the possibility of a lecture from Doctor Fawn on the physiology of the lower primates. Everyone on Cloudbase tries to avoid Doctor Fawn at the best of times so having to listen to him talk about anything is quite a chore. Why Blue thinks such a lecture would be advantageous for any Spectrum personnel to attend is beyond me. No particular reason is given as to why Blue is being such a twerp, so we have to assume it’s just a massive character flaw. He’s always playing second fiddle to Captain Scarlet so if anyone in Spectrum was going to have a horrendous power complex it would probably be Blue…

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The Panther zips past camera. One assumes that standard underwater filming procedure was adopted in that the model stayed dry and was filmed through an aquarium in front of the camera.

Soames is creeping about, no doubt just popping to the galley to fetch Mr Snow a cool glass of lemonade… or trying to kill him… one of the two. The Captain requests that Lt. Belmont fetch Mr Snow for a stroll on the deck… how sweet.

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The tension builds as Soames approaches the Colonel’s cabin. What a lovely pair of fire extinguishers on the wall.

But when the door is opened, Soames gets a nasty surprise. The Colonel, who has somehow acquired Captain Scarlet’s gun, spins around and opens fire!

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A stray bullet fills the area with what I assume must be steam. Poor visibility is, of course, a key ingredient in any nail-biting shootout.

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Mercifully the Captain has actually started paying attention to what’s going on. After drowning one of his own men earlier, it’s gratifying to know that he doesn’t turn a blind eye to a gunfight.

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Okay, so there may be evidence to suggest that this isn’t actually Colonel White. Sorry to give away the ending…

The order is given for the door to be cut open. Gas/laser cutters are always readily to hand in the world of Supermarionation. The sequence plays out with no music which does give it some quiet tension, but some Barry Gray goodness is always welcome during climactic scenes like these.

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Were it not for the gun, the clouds of steam, and the fact we’re on a submarine, Soames would look like he was waiting for a bus…

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I think it’s just possible that this cunningly disguised impostor is in fact Captain Scarlet. Incidentally, one of the booklets on the floor was previously seen in the Thunderbirds episode, The Duchess Assignment

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Scarlet gets shot, causing his entire body to do this rather bizarre jolt into the air…

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But don’t worry, he gets one more shot in to nobble Soames as well. The implication is that Soames is now dead… even though it’s been established by this point in the series (at least if you follow production order) that high voltage electricity is the only way to kill a Mysteron…

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With a great deal of groaning and moaning, the two chaps manage to take care of the door. The yelling of, “heave-UH, heave-UH,” is rather amusing…

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Despite getting shot and falling flat on his face, Soames has somehow managed to get a cabinet dropped on him while lying on his back… But where is Mr Snow?

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What’s that noise?

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Seems to be coming from the cupboard…

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He does not look pleased. The Colonel’s cupboard companion is a bag belonging to Alan Tracy which was seen in the Thunderbirds episode, Move – And You’re Dead… but what was Alan doing in that cupboard?

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Did we mention that this was Captain Scarlet in disguise all along? Well it is. He’s dead… again…

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Naturally the Colonel is inconsolable, threatening a cheery court martial to lighten the mood. Curiously, the scene ends with the Colonel saying “Well I never in all my born years. Oh…” and the scene cuts off just before he’s able to say what was undoubtedly going to be a very rude word…

Colonel White is back at his desk flicking through a mag while everyone else is working. Captain Blue has returned to his normal duties of cleaning out the toilets and proofreading Doctor Fawn’s lecture transcripts. All of the Angels, except for Harmony, are very pleased to hear that the Colonel is back.

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Ummm… he’s… ummm… smiling… is that… is he… okay? I think I need a lie down…

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Apparently Captain Scarlet has been waiting outside for an hour. Let’s be honest, he probably didn’t wait outside for the whole hour. He probably nipped off for a cup of tea around the 30 minute mark… The human conveyor belt brings him towards the Colonel’s desk. Lieutenant Green’s chair has been conveniently moved out of the way.

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The story comes out about Scarlet pulling rank on Lieutenant Green to find out the Colonel’s location, and how he slipped through naval security to stowaway before the submarine left port. The part where Scarlet stripped the Colonel’s clothes off of him and put him in his pyjamas is glossed over for the sake of decency.

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Scarlet’s been a right twerp on this occasion and the Colonel is monumentally cross. He decides that death penalty is the only course of action…

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He’s doing that thing with his face again. So I guess that was supposed to be a joke was it? The Colonel didn’t land the punchline at all well. Does one really joke about having your own officers executed? Realising that the gag has backfired horrendously, he proceeds to babble about Scarlet being indestructible etc etc.

Green is told to wipe that grin off his face… even though he clearly doesn’t find it funny, which results in the Colonel looking like he’s completely lost his marbles. I get that this whole bit is supposed to be funny, but it’s ended up being funny in a completely different way because Colonel White clearly needs to be sent to the loony bin…

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And so the episode ends. A triumphant flourish plays us out to celebrate the fact the Colonel has made it to the end of the episode alive.

White As Snow certainly has its odd moments. We see Colonel White joking about execution, Captain Blue doing a terrible job at being a commander, and Captain Scarlet remaining oblivious to the impending Mysteron threat for the first half of the episode and arguing with his superior about it even though he was clearly in the wrong. The attempts at humour are almost as good as they get for the typically serious Captain Scarlet series, but I would describe them as odd rather than funny.

The Colonel’s life being threatened, and Cloudbase itself almost getting destroyed is remarkably underplayed. Perhaps more could have been done with the concept had the episode not being restricted to a 25 minute running time. The stakes are high but we don’t get too much of a sense of that, partly because humour has been injected into the script wherever possible, and partly because there isn’t time for that. Almost as soon as we learn about the threat against the Colonel  and he manages to hide himself away on the submarine, Scarlet is immediately taking his place for the final shootout. But does Captain Scarlet settle in a little better to its short running time later on in the series? Well we’ll have to find that out won’t we?

Next week, Captain Scarlet, Captain Blue, and Lieutenant Green take a voyage to the moon to uncover the questionable motives of the controller of Lunarville 7. What secret does this advanced lunar colony hold? Stay tuned to the Security Hazard blog for our review of Lunarville 7!

Captain Scarlet – Big Ben Strikes Again

Directed by Brian Burgess

Teleplay by Tony Barwick

First Broadcast – 13th October 1967

There is one very limiting aspect of the Captain Scarlet format which must have had the writers banging their heads on the typewriter morning, noon, and night. The nature of the Mysteron threats basically gives you two types of plot – the Mysterons want to assassinate someone, or the Mysterons want to destroy somewhere. Most episodes fall into one of those two categories. Fortunately, the very best Captain Scarlet episodes take one of those categories and do something incredibly inventive with it. Big Ben Strikes Again is the atypical example of the ‘we will destroy city X’ threat, but with a twist in there to keep you on your toes.

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The opening shot awkardly has the camera pan down a street at a bit of an odd angle. Barry Gray’s initial flourish immediately informs us that this is London. We’re going to be seeing these buildings a lot during this opening sequence so get familiar with those distinctive signs.

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It’s 11:45pm. This appears to be a stock shot of Big Ben rather than a model.

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In the startlingly empty streets of London, a truck is being driven around with a police escort. Meanwhile, Mersham is advertising very specific holidays to South West Africa. The truck was designed by Mike Trim and features again in a very similar role in the episode Expo 2068. It’s a rather lovely thing.

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This is Macey, the driver, who is later seen as Captain Indigo in Spectrum Strikes Back among many other roles. It’s an interesting driver’s cabin in that there’s only one seat, and it’s mounted on the left hand side of the vehicle because Macey is driving on the right hand side of the road… even though they’re in the UK. It just goes to show that even in the most minor ways, this show was being made firmly for an American audience.

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This is the cargo. It’s a nuclear bomb. People may try and tell you that it’s a nuclear device for civil use, but let’s just call it a nuclear bomb. That means, at some point, it will explode – because this is a Gerry Anderson show and that’s just what happens. Much like the truck, the same device appears again in Expo 2068 in a very similar role.

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The escort passes TWF which we previously saw in New York in The Mysterons, but the sign is mounted in a different building which appears to be some sort of car show room. Meanwhile, the actual TWF building which was seen in The Mysterons is now being used as the Paragon Cleaner building next door. The Pato’s sign which was seen in the first shot of the episode has now been slapped on the side of a building we saw as the Tilps building in that same opening shot. Now I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Please don’t bang on about the building signs for the rest of the episode – we get it, they move, the same pieces of set are moved around multiple times in order to produce multiple shots with limited resources. Now please don’t go on about it.” If that’s your line of thought then Security Hazard probably isn’t the blog for you.

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The two police officers in front of the truck have a bit of a chat about how dangerous, or apparently not dangerous, this operation is. The first police officer is voiced by Paul Maxwell putting on an interesting interpretation of an… Irish accent? Most sources state that Martin King voiced the second officer. I’m not 100% on that because King’s voices are usually… well… a bit samey. This is quite different. Whoever does the voice, it’s the same voice that we hear for the DT19 co-pilot in Winged Assassin. We don’t hear a voice like it again in the series. There’s a mystery for you. The puppet used to portray the second officer is Lieutenant Dean from The Mysterons who also had a prominent role in Winged Assassin as the Airport Chief. Clearly, certain puppets were favoured more than others. The 1st police officer only makes small cameo appearances in the future. Much of the car interior was previously seen as Scarlet’s stolen car in The Mysterons, the steering wheel appearing both in that vehicle, and in the Spectrum Saloon Car.

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Captain Black pops up just as the police officer utters the ruddy stupid words of “Oh relax, what can go wrong?” The puppet of Black is rather beautifully finished to look terrifying in all lighting setups. In Fire At Rig 15 he utters the bizarre line “turn out the light, then you will see me,” suggesting that he… glows in the dark? Beads of sweat are visible on his forehead, suggesting that he’s under quite a bit of pressure to nail this one.

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The journey continues. This shot of the street is almost identical to an earlier one, except what was Paragon Cleaner is now Homersham (the same label used for Mersham earlier), although above the door you can still see the Trans World Freight sign from The Mysterons. Hardings is now slapped on the side of the blue building in place of Pato’s. These shots are so brief that you wouldn’t normally notice the duplication, and the fact the buildings all look the same actually goes a long way to making the city feel more real.

Macey suddenly loses control of the truck, ploughing the lead escort vehicle into a shop called Vincent… Vincent won’t be pleased. There’s also another branch of Mersham next door. But how did Macey lose control of the truck? With Captain Black present, the suggestion is that he uses his own powers to take control. That said, the Mysterons haven’t actually needed to destroy and replicate the truck in order to manipulate it on this occasion.

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Poor Macey is left at the wheel of a renegade truck with the potential death of two police officers already on his conscience.

This is our first opportunity on the blog to go through the Mysteron threat sequence which appears in every episode from Winged Assassin onwards. The purpose is simply to set up the plot of the episode and introduce key characters to those who don’t know them. Because of the use of this sequence in every episode, we never see how the Spectrum personnel actually receive the Mysteron threats – whether they are broadcast to the entire world, or just on Spectrum wavelengths. Do the Mysteron rings appear every time or is their influence just implied for the purposes of this sequence? The choice of characters for introduction is curious too. Destiny Angel is made to stand out in front of the other Angels, purely because she holds the title of Angel leader more often than the others. All of the Angels are introduced – some of whom do very little in the series, yet Lieutenant Green, and Captains Ochre, Magenta and Grey remain unseen. The shot of Captain Black in the graveyard is so deliciously evil and brilliant. It’s one of the few opportunities Scarlet has to be a little bit visually surreal, aiming as it does for gritty realism the rest of the time.

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We pick up from where we left off as the title card reveals that Big Ben will strike again… which seems appropriate seeing as they’ve just turned Big Ben off at the time of writing this. MPs actually cried about it… someone better put this episode on a loop for them I guess…

In the first shot you can just about see the wire that pulls the truck towards camera, whereas in the second there’s a gap in the road which is the track the model is pulled through to get a more realistic turn. Mersham has opened yet another branch.

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These poor police officers are stuck behind the truck and basically can’t do anything. Both officers are played by the pilot and co-pilot of Delta Tango 19 from Winged Assassin.

The truck wallops its way around the next turn… which is identical to the one it just took.

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Just past a branch of Homersham, the police car attempts to pass the truck…

It doesn’t go well. It was a pretty rubbish attempt at an overtake to be fair. The truck carries on down a road which has the rather curiously named ‘Go-Gay Shop’ on it.

Macey watches in horror as the truck continues to accelerate and steer itself wildly through the deserted streets of London. Seriously, where did everybody go?

Along the way, we pass another branch of Tilps, the TWF building restored to how it looked in The Mysterons, and the Cope Bros. store is completely demolished.

The truck then passes another branch of TWF again, followed by the Dunstall store that we spotted in the opening shot.

We finally end up at the Jermyn car park (and yes, we’ve seen the Jermyn sign before too). Curiously, there is a branch of Burn’s Discount Store on the street approaching the building, and on the street off to the right of the car park…

The truck comes to a sudden stop, almost sending Macey through the windscreen. The doors ominously close…

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A ‘bom-bom’ transition (yes, that’s what we’re calling them now) brings us to this short scene of more police officers trying to find the truck. They don’t find it.

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Another ‘bom-bom’ transition takes us to Cloudbase. I told you it was a short scene. Cloudbase is presented rather beautifully at night with all of its lights on.

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Colonel White has got the hump. He claims that the search for the transporter truck has been going on for two and a half hours… we’ll see later that this claim is a load of rubbish. The team assures the Colonel that everyone is working as hard as they can, but he’s not buying any of it.

Captain Grey appears to be the expert on the case. The Sean Connery look-alike was sculpted by Terry Curtis and sadly only appears prominently in the first half of the series due to Paul Maxwell’s departure. It’s unfortunate because Grey appears to be the most competent out of all of Spectrum’s subsidiary captains. Blue reveals that the transporter is heavily lined with lead, making the nuclear device undetectable. Meanwhile the trigger mechanism can only be activated by five keys held by five particular people in the whole world. The Colonel is reassured but still barks at the captains for not finding the transporter quick enough. He then spells out the plot for us, linking the Mysteron threat with the missing transporter – just to really nail that down for us…

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Colonel White calls for a red alert. Angel 1 is immediately launched while Harmony and Destiny take up their positions in Angels 2 and 3. This is the first time in the series that Destiny hasn’t been the Angel leader.

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“This is a red alert, not a stroll around the deck! MOVE!” He’s a grumpy git today isn’t he?

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Back in the truck, Macey wakes up – he is one of the few revamp puppets fitted with a ‘blinker’ head.

The radio transmitter is knackered, leaving Macey to take in his surroundings and try to determine a way out. As the car park is only semi-constructed, the sky is actually visible through the supporting beams. Had Macey been a bit more with it he could always have climbed out. On his cracked watch, the time shows that it is almost midnight… so rewind to the shot of Big Ben from the beginning of the episode which shows the time as 11:45. It is now just over 10 minutes later… yet the Colonel claims that the search has been going on for two and a half hours. The chances are that the shot of Big Ben in the opening scene wasn’t supposed to show the time as 11:45. Despite the transmitter not work, the radio itself does work and is tuned to around 95FM… BBC Radio 4.

Set to the soothing lounge music on the radio, Macey wanders over to the doors. It’s only just occurred to me how unusual it is to have doors on a car park rather than a gate or barrier. We hardly see Macey actually move as his slow walk towards the doors is shot from his point of view, once again avoiding any embarrassing or unrealistic walking from the puppet itself. Macey rather firmly slams his fist straight into the door a few times. When banging on a large metal door, one tends to avoid going right ahead and punching it because the door will generally win. But Macey’s tough and takes it like a champ.

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That said, he is scared by a puddle.

The tune comes to an end, and the radio announcer, with a very BBC Radio 4 voice, announces that Joe Twilight will be broadcasting until 6am. Joe Twilight sounds like a hip sort of guy. The announcer concludes by saying goodnight to everyone as if this were some sort of horrible children’s book. The chimes of Big Ben commence over the radio…

Macey counts, with the drips in the puddle timed with each chime.

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The chimes reach 12, and then – wait for it folks – Big Ben Strikes Again! I won’t spoil the ending, but that thirteenth chime doesn’t quite sound like the others. Also, that’s a rather nasty wound on Macey’s face…

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It could just be the angle or the lighting, but Macey appears to briefly adopt a frowning face as he heads back towards the truck as everything starts to go a bit pear-shaped…

The Mysteron influence comes back into effect as the back door opens to reveal the nuclear device, and then the countdown springs into life.

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Just as Macey starts to get a bit shouty, he is knocked out by…something… this probably would have looked a little more effective in close-up because there is clearly nothing and nobody behind him when he falls over for no apparent reason.

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The countdown is set to 43,200 seconds – that’s 12 hours exactly before the bomb blows up. Regardless of the need for five individual keys, the Mysterons have managed to take control of the device regardless – without the need to create their own replica… as far as we know that is.

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After the commercial break, Macey wakes up out on the soggy street. It’s actually amazing how much effort has gone into make that puddle look realistic.

Our hero arrives, driving solo through the streets of London because apparently that’s his job. We’re treated to a little plasticine figure of Macey which doesn’t look too unlike the puppet so we’ll give that a pass.

The standard stock shot of Cloudbase has been darkened ever so slightly in order to tie-in with Colonel White’s remark that it is in fact supposed to be dawn.

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The Colonel looks to be in quite a foul mood. Scarlet reports that Macey was found in a side street near the river and he is being brought to Cloudbase by Captain Blue… seeing as Scarlet was driving alone, why didn’t he bring Macey straight to Cloudbase himself?

Suddenly the Colonel has switched on his bedside manner and is having a bit of a natter with Macey about what went on. Although Macey says he’s feeling better, there’s still a gaping wound on his face which probably needs some attention!

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The next scene begins with everyone sitting in the conference room listening to a recording of Macey’s story. For some reason the camera lingers on an empty seat. There may well be no connection at all, but it’s worth noting that in Tony Barwick’s original draft of the script there are scenes featuring two Spectrum officers designated ‘Yellow’ and ‘Purple’ which also featured the Room of Sleep as referenced in Treble Cross and Place of Angels. We don’t know whether these scenes were ever filmed, but if they were it’s reasonable to assume that the Yellow and Purple captains became Ochre and Magenta, as the production team wouldn’t have gone to the expense of creating new uniforms and then never use them again.

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Curiously, Lieutenant Green’s tape machine has no fast forward button, only re wind… as opposed to rewind.

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Scarlet smugly remarks that there are 2,000 car parks in London. That’s pretty laughable for a start. The Colonel completely flips his biscuit and doesn’t care if there are two million car parks in London! He orders his team to sit and listen to the tape all over again to find some sort of clue… I mean even if there were 2,000 car parks in London, surely if you had every Spectrum agent, police officer, car park attendant, or indeed anyone with a working pair of eyes check every car park they would probably find the right one in a matter of minutes. But no, instead Colonel White is holding his best men back to listen to the ramblings of a concussed truck driver.

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They are genuinely just sitting there listening to a tape. Note that Blue and Scarlet refuse to share a tape machine. I mean we could have an epic montage of a mass-search featuring all Spectrum vehicles and personnel, but no two blokes listening to tape in silence while their superior officer just sits there and watches them is exciting too…

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A lab report has even been run on Macey’s clothing – as if the specific type of tarmac left on his jacket will tell them exactly which car park he fell over in… seriously, just search all the ruddy car parks…

In case this scene wasn’t tedious enough, Blue has a eureka moment and we have to watch him rewind his tape, then he tells the Lieutenant to do the same, so then we get to watch him rewind the tape as well. Note that the control panel on the puppet set looks nothing like the tape machine we see in the live action cutaway.

It’s that whole Big Ben striking 13 thing that inspires Blue. Scarlet’s having none of it but everyone else gets it though, even the Colonel who’s usually denser than cold custard. With some lightning quick mathematics, Blue is able to calculate that the car park is within a 1500 yard radius of Big Ben… not actually sure he could do those calculations that quickly but I guess he’s some kind of genius. Oh and don’t worry, we will be diving into the science of all this, we’re just saving it for the grand finale.

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Why is Bank 8 next to Bank 5? Anyway, according to the Spectrum car park computer there are two car parks in that circle which means the Colonel can now be bothered to start the search.

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An SPV comes charging down the street, passing the good old TWF building we saw earlier. The streets of Central London are still completely deserted which is just silly.

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Captain Ochre confirms that the other car park is empty so the job falls to Blue and Scarlet. I don’t think it’s ever explained why the SPV has dual controls but it looks cool.

Scarlet blows the door… snigger…

With the truck located, Colonel White’s plan for saving London is revealed. Scarlet will take the device to its original destination and allow it to blow up in an underground construction site. Blue is envious that Scarlet gets to potentially blow himself to bits… because that’s the kind of heroic fellow Captain Blue is.

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The SPV, quickly followed by the truck, come screaming out of the parking lot. The crack in the road is visible through which the models are being operated.

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Scarlet is at the wheel and to be honest he looks a little unsure of himself.

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Time for a bunch of shots of the vehicles driving through the abandoned streets of London. Take a good look at all the shop signs because you know we’re going to be talking about them again.

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As Scarlet takes the turn waaay too fast, notice that the signs for Vincent and Rawlinson have popped up just around the corner from where we last saw them. What fun!

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That Jermyn signs pops up yet again on the TWF building, the main sign for which is on the building next door.

Aside from the police we saw earlier in the episode, these are the only two other cars in all of London. The lady at the wheel has a bit of trouble getting her car going again when the light turns green. The set of the car interior is almost identical to that of the police cars. Now, does this scene suggest that she can’t get the car started because she’s a woman? I don’t think we can rule out that interpretation because this is still a product of the Sixties. This piece of light humour in the middle of a tense action sequence is rather unusual and not an approach seen often in any Gerry Anderson shows, perhaps because the humour ends up not packing much of a punch, and neither does the action as a result.

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Captain Blue is not a patient man, giving her a quick bonk on the behind to nudge her out of the way. Well at least it wasn’t an SPV rocket to the behind. That would have been a lot more paperwork…

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Scarlet continues on his merry way. To be brutally honest, there isn’t a lot to comment on in this sequence besides repetitive signs and such because it is basically just driving set to fast music. Compared to the previous episode we reviewed, The MysteronsBig Ben Strikes Again isn’t quite so stuffed full with action. The story is intriguing enough but perhaps could have done with a little more flesh on the bones.

More streets… you can pick out the signs for yourselves by this point…

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The duo soon arrive at the construction site which is being worked on by Naylor Civil Contractors. I hope Mr Naylor was told Spectrum were coming.

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Smaller models of the SPV and the truck are used for this shot. It’s interesting to note that a lot of buildings in Scarlet are given that seriously realistic concrete look using some very nice dirtying down and some added pencil lines.

Blue quickly hops out of the SPV to operate the lift. Let’s do some fun mathematics here. The truck needs to travel 10,000 feet down. The shot of the nuclear device’s timer just before entering the lift shows 90 seconds left. Just before reaching the bottom of the shaft the timer is almost at 70 seconds. 10,000 feet in 20 seconds… putting the speed of that elevator at an average of a whopping 340 mph…

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Somehow Scarlet’s brain hasn’t come pouring out of his ears as he drives the truck out of the lift.

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The truck is driven to the middle of an exceptionally large excavation. Did anyone ask what Mr Naylor happened to be building 2 miles underground that required a bloomin’ great nuclear bomb?

Scarlet legs it to the lift for another vomit-inducing ride. Will Scarlet make it to the top of the shaft before the bomb blows up? He should do in theory. He gets into the lift around the 40 second mark and we already know that the journey can be done in 20 seconds…

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The bomb goes up in a very tasty fireball. It’s what we’ve all been waiting for.

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Somehow Scarlet didn’t quite make it, probably breaking many bones as well as getting a nasty wound to the head. But he’ll be alright, we’ve figured that out by now…

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Despite being killed in Winged Assassin last week, the Director General of the United Asian Republic is back on his feet and having dinner in London.

Scarlet, Blue, Destiny and Melody are very nicely dressed up indeed. Melody’s hair is a particularly impressive work of… something. So here it comes, the bit where Blue explains the whole thing to thicky Scarlet. Now I’ll be honest, I’m really no scientist or mathematician. Fortunately a clever person did all the math and you can read about it in this fine blog post. It turns out, Captain Blue was bang on the money with his calculations, albeit the sound of that 13th chime would have been very faint indeed to Macey when he was locked in a car park surrounded by four thick walls. From the restaurant, Captain Blue gives another demonstration of the whole thing which is a bit tedious, but at least confirms that Scarlet does know how to count.

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Scarlet’s going to make 13 his lucky number. You’re indestructible… is that really necessary? Anyway, so ends the episode.

Big Ben Strikes Again certainly has a novel twist on it. That is undeniably what it’s most remembered for, even though a Captain Scarlet plot based around mathematics was never going to be all that thrilling to actually watch. Aside from that 13th chime twist, there’s not necessarily anything that outstanding about the episode and I must be honest, I was a little surprised when this episode came out in the top five of our poll. One strong merit of the episode is the dark atmosphere of the opening scenes. Unfortunately, Spectrum and particularly Scarlet don’t have a lot to do in this one until the very end. Prior to that they’re just sitting on Cloudbase listening to a tape. There are certainly more exciting installments to come!

Next week, Colonel White himself is facing the threat of assassination! He goes into hiding aboard a submarine without telling even his most loyal agents. But Captain Scarlet is determined to defend his commanding officer at all costs. Stay tuned for our review of White As Snow.

Captain Scarlet – The Mysterons

Directed by Desmond Saunders

Teleplay by Gerry & Sylvia Anderson

First Broadcast – 29th September 1967

This month, we are celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons in the only way we knew how. Based on your votes, 5 episodes have been selected to be reviewed, poked and prodded in typical Security Hazard style, and where better to start things off than at the beginning? Episode 1, commonly referred to as The Mysterons, scored very highly in our poll which didn’t come as much of a surprise. It’s probably the episode that everyone’s seen the most, and the events of this story are referred to throughout the rest of the series. It’s essential viewing really, and it’s also pretty action-packed which always helps. There’s a lot going on actually, an awful lot, possibly too much to adequately squeeze into the 25 minutes of running time…

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So it goes without saying that Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons is quite a different kettle of fish to its predecessor, Thunderbirds. Production on the final six episodes of Thunderbirds, and its feature film tie-in Thunderbirds Are Go was completed around August 1966. Lew Grade had failed to sell Thunderbirds to any of the major American television networks, and thus the funding of the series was no longer viable. But the recently renamed Century 21 team were all set to keep moving forward. Gerry had previously submitted an idea to Lew Grade for a live action detective show which saw the lead character killed off halfway through the series. This shocking premise didn’t tickle Grade’s fancy, but it was re-worked in multiple ways to eventually create Captain Scarlet. The initial script for The Mysterons saw Captain Scarlet killed and resurrected mechanically by an advanced Spectrum computer, rather than the more supernatural and mysterious resurrection which he receives under the control of the Mysterons in the finished episode.

In place of the high-energy montages of Thunderbirds and Stingray, the Captain Scarlet titles are quite different. The music is eerie, quiet and atmospheric – a feel that composer Barry Gray was no stranger to, but really had the opportunity to hone on this series. The model set of the alleyway is highly detailed and very carefully lit. Already these titles look and feel different to anything we saw in Thunderbirds. Now that isn’t to say that the series as a whole is a complete departure from the look and feel of Thunderbirds – the brightly coloured costumes and vehicles will never allow you to forget that this is Supermarionation. But these titles emphasise more clearly than anything else that Century 21 were doing something a bit different, even if the intended audience was almost exactly the same – just a little nudge towards a more adult audience. The narration provided by Ed Bishop is unique to this episode but serves the same purpose as the standard opening narration – to set up the basic premise of the show. The Mysterons, perhaps more-so than any other Anderson pilot show, puts establishing the premise as the number one priority. There’s a lot to explain, and Lew Grade wasn’t exactly known for having a strong attention span so no time is wasted!

It’s also worth noting that this is the first time that specific members of the crew are named in the opening credits of a Supermarionation television series. Not only is this a more cinematic approach, but it suggests that either the names behind the series were considered an important selling point, or there was a feeling that certain team members should stand out above the rest, a standard practice in most film studios. The success of Supermarionation did, however, rely on the collaboration of many talented people across several departments, rather than a select few at the top of the food chain. It seems a little odd to highlight Derek Meddings as Supervising Visual Effects Director, but not Christine Glanville or Mary Turner as puppetry supervisors, or a vast number of other contributors.

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The camera spins and a cat makes a noise like it’s had a sofa dropped on it. Our hero is revealed. A machine gun opens fire but the figure remains unmoved until firing a single shot which kills the assailant stone dead. It’s a bit of an odd moment and seems to be more about selling the concept of an indestructible officer as quickly as possible, rather than actually remaining faithful to the real premise of the show. That machine gun should have cut through Scarlet like an SPV rocket through a fridge, and a single bullet from Scarlet’s gun shouldn’t have affected the attacking Mysteron agent one little bit. But it’s all about the headline – Captain Scarlet is indestructible… just not as indestructible as these opening titles try to make out.

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In the manner of all the previous Supermarionation series, Captain Scarlet is introduced as the starring character. In a rather unnerving way he just sort of stands there motionless which emphasises a common weakness of the new Century 21 puppets. Oh did I mention there are new puppets? Well as every book on the subject will tell you, advances in the technology meant that Supermarionation puppets could now have smaller heads, in turn meaning that they could be realistically proportioned without enlarging the sets or the studios. That got a big tick from Gerry Anderson who wanted his audiences to forget he was actually working with puppets. The puppet sculptors and operators, however, were in a bit of a pickle. The smaller heads meant that less detail could be crafted into the faces, making them rather less distinctive. A superb job was done regardless of creating some good looking characters. The operators struggled to make the more realistic puppets also move in a more realistic way to match, partly because they were lighter, and partly because seeing something so human-like move in a puppety way just looked silly. As a result, you will rarely see a Captain Scarlet puppet move… at all. They’re either always standing in one spot (literally fixed to the spot to avoid them swaying about), or they’re sitting down. Granted, Thunderbirds puppets weren’t exactly performing gymnastics, but they had a natural, fluid movement to them which helped to make their performances engaging. The Scarlet puppets are very restricted. They are incredibly impressive pieces of artistry, but as performers there’s definitely some magic missing. So ends the obligatory rant about the Scarlet puppets.

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The year is 2068 A.D. Not 2068 B.C. That would be quite different.

So here’s a puzzle. This is the Martian Exploration Vehicle as seen in Thunderbirds Are Go. It’s not just the same model, this is a part of another Zero-X mission to Mars. This is quite a landmark moment because it’s the first time on screen that a direct crossover between two Anderson series is referenced. Numerous links are drawn in the TV Century 21 comic, but here it is basically confirmed once and for all that Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet take place in the same universe. Point one, unless the Zero-X program has been running, unaltered, for over 40 years that pretty much shuts down any thought of Thunderbirds taking place in 2026. Point two, what manner of horrific event took place to make everyone’s heads so much smaller between the two series? Point three, fans can now endlessly pontificate about how all the different shows are linked even though it doesn’t really make any difference. The MEV model itself has undergone some minor changes, namely the addition of the words ‘Martian Exploration Vehicle’ on the side. We get a good look at the detailed paneling which has been drawn on the side of the model, much of which would have probably needed to be refurbished after getting blasted a bit during the battle with the rock snakes in Thunderbirds Are Go. Speaking of which, anyone care to explain what happened to those?

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The interior of the MEV is very similar to the version seen in Thunderbirds Are Go. Almost all of the controls are the same but the walls and panels have been repainted and lit differently. The uniforms worn by Lieutenant Dean and the blonde bloke in the background are very similar to those warn by Dr. Pierce and Captain Greg Martin in the film. The strong continuity ties here are frankly astounding considering just how apalling the continuity was in Thunderbirds at times. Leading this expedition is Spectrum agent Captain Black who for some reason gets to keep his uniform on. Apparently Spectrum have been monitoring some signals on Mars and Captain Black has been sent up to investigate… I would have assumed they were caused by those pesky rock snakes but there’s a good chance everyone has forgotten all about them. Anyway, Black wants to look over one more ridge and then head back to Earth. According to Thunderbirds Are Go it takes Zero-X six weeks to travel to Mars and another six weeks to travel home. Let’s hope they find something over that ridge or Captain Black will have just wasted three months of his life…

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As luck would have it, there is something there. But first of all, let’s just take a moment to appreciate how ruddy handsome Captain Black is. It sure would be a shame if something were to happen to him in the next two minutes…

Our first and only look at the Mysteron complex on Mars. It’s unlike anything we’ve ever seen before in Supermarionation. According to Gerry Anderson’s commentary on the episode, vaseline was smeared over some glass in front of the camera in order to achieve the effect of the blurred buildings. It’s a surprisingly good effect, and perhaps saves the Mysteron complex from looking like a fairground made of kitchen utensils, rather than a futuristic city. The structures signify that the Mysterons are very definitely alien, but not necessarily that they are threatening or powerful.

Inside the complex, things get even weirder. I remember seeing this for the first time as a six year old and being thoroughly gob-smacked. There is no human logic applicable to anything that we see inside the complex. There’s a screen showing a strange pattern. But who is watching it? What does it mean? There’s an enormous glowing sphere. Is this the Mysteron intelligence? Is it a computer? Is it just a big lamp? There’s an orange thing that looks like Number 2’s chair from The Prisoner. Is it a chair? Do the Mysterons need chairs? There’s a thing going up and down in a thing. Are they mining? Is this their power source? Which building is this? Why is it so big? Why are there so many different bits? Was this built or grown? For me, the Mysterons are some of the most alien aliens in television history. Their existence is completely outside of the human understanding of ‘existence’. Their complexes have physical presence yet the Mysteron beings have none. I could go on and on about how weird the Mysterons are but frankly, they are just brilliantly conceived because there is next to no conception behind them at all. They have a base on Mars full of elaborate architecture, yet they have no physical form. Why? Never mind, we’ve got to get on with the story now. As I said, this pilot episode has so much to establish that it tends not to dwell on any details for too long. In some cases things end up being left under developed, but in the case of the Mysterons, we’re left with a complete mystery which is never fully explained and that makes them totally alien.

The Mysterons begin to inspect the MEV, eager to welcome the curious earthmen. But because their camera looks like a gun, Lieutenant Dean and Captain Black immediately assume hostility and prepare to attack. It’s an allegory as old as time but it never stops being an intriguing setup for a sci-fi story, examining the shallow and hostile instincts of humanity to defend themselves at the cost of all other life. It’s certainly deep and not following the typical Anderson formula of a straight forward battle of good vs. evil.

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The destruction of the Mysteron complex is quite spectacular. The way the thick layers of dust on the Martian surface jump up with the shockwave is just superb. The first of many big bangs that this episode has to offer.

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Dean volunteers to go out and collect some samples of the obliterated city with absolutely no remorse for the civilization he’s just slaughtered.

But from the ruins of the city, a mysterious blue beam is fired from the mountainside. Moving across the debris, the beam soon restores the city entirely. Why is there a blue beam when all other reconstructions in the series are shown using the green Mysteron rings? Who knows, but it looks pretty cool, and hasn’t aged as badly as some 1960’s optical effects. The voice of the Mysterons makes an announcement – one unified voice which appears to speak for the entire Mysteron race. The use of the plural ‘Mysterons’ implies that there is more than one but we don’t really know that for sure. We only ever hear the one voice speaking for all of them. In a split second, the Mysterons go from announcing that they are a peaceful race, to revealing their plan to take slow, painful revenge on the Earth which will result in humanity’s ultimate destruction. It’s as if destroying the complex has thrown a switch on a computer which cannot be reasoned with or countermanded. They will use humanity as a destructive weapon against itself, which makes complete sense for a race of peaceful beings with no weapons themselves.

Captain Black changes. One moment he looks one way, the next he’s transformed. The process is not shown, we don’t know how it happens or why he was chosen. In order to take over human beings, the Mysterons first have to kill, but we don’t see Captain Black die. This is what makes him so illusive because we just don’t really know what happened to him. Is he a Mysteron agent like any other, or has something even more horrific happened to him personally? We don’t know why Captain Black speaks with a Mysteron voice while all other agents for the Mysterons retain their own voices and personalities. It’s not just that this is never explained, I firmly believe that there simply is no explanation for it. So many of the things that happen in this first episode happen just because they do and it’s only later that the lore of the series and how the Mysterons work becomes a little more solidified. Anyway, within about 5 minutes an alien race has been discovered, been destroyed, been brought back to life, declared war on Earth, killed one of the first guys we laid eyes on and announced a plan to kill the World President. Keeping up?

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The first ever famous Captain Scarlet drum beat transition takes us to Cloudbase. When you mention Captain Scarlet to anyone who’s ever seen it, they either think of “This is the voice of the Mysterons” or “BOM BOM BOM BOM BOM BOM BOM.” There’s no real explanation as to why it is so good except that there’s just never been anything else quite like it on television that is so simple yet effective.

Anyway, this is Cloudbase. It’s rather cool isn’t it? Gerry Anderson has certainly come up with some cool ideas for headquarters throughout his entire career, and Cloudbase has to be one of the best, and totally suited to the feel of this new, much more serious series. Gone is the community of Marineville, or the absolute luxury of Tracy Island – Cloudbase is built for function alone, not the convenience or comfort of the Spectrum team. Sure they have their relaxation areas, but it’s a far cry from Alan, Gordon and Tin-Tin going out fishing in between missions, or the Stingray crew going ice-skating on a snowy day. Spectrum are a group of serious people doing a serious job 24 hours a day… which is a bit depressing really.

In the control room, Colonel White barks an order at Lieutenant Green which he immediately obeys. Their relationship develops a little bit beyond that point over the course of the series, but not very much. Nevertheless, Colonel White is loveable for his barkiness, and Lieutenant Green for his obedience.

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Angel 1 is ready for immediate launch. This is Destiny Angel. Unfortunately she doesn’t get much of an opportunity to shine during the series, the writers often choosing to focus their attention on Symphony Angel. One of the other breakthroughs of the Captain Scarlet puppets was the regular use of under-control puppets rather than wires. During the early Supermarionation series you’ll notice that a number of cars and planes have great big holes in the canopies to accommodate for the puppet control wires. Well the Angel pilots are safe and sound in air-tight cockpits now, with the operators working underneath the set.

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Previous Supermarionation series had tended to focus on a star vehicle, with even some Thunderbird craft being considered more important than others. However, in Captain Scarlet there isn’t necessarily one vehicle that stands out. That’s possibly down to the high quality of the design work which unifies them as one fleet, as opposed to the Thunderbird machines which are a bit of a mish-mash. Each Spectrum vehicle has been designed with a certain amount of realism and functionality in mind, while still having some very special features. That being said, the Angel aircraft aren’t necessarily all that special, with the skill of the pilots often being the focus of the dialogue, rather than the abilities of the machines which was certainly the focus of Thunderbirds. Throughout Scarlet people comment on what a great team the Angels are, but you don’t hear anyone saying, “Cor, that Scott Tracy’s an ace pilot” – instead they say things like “Boy, what a machine!”

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Within seconds, Angel 1 is airborne. Certainly quite a change of pace to the lengthy launch sequences that have been a staple of Supermarionation since Supercar. There’s no doubt that while vehicles do still heavily feature in the series, they are tools, not the stars.

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Rhapsody, Harmony and a rather shy Symphony Angel are hanging out in the Amber Room. One of those press conference phones from Thunderbirds Are Go can be spotted behind Symphony – they also popped up all over the place in the second series of Thunderbirds so why break a habit I guess… The coffee service on the table was previously seen in the Thunderbirds episode Lord Parker’s ‘Oliday, among others.

Not wasting any time at all, Harmony and Rhapsody hop in their chairs which are raised straight up into the aircraft which then immediately blast off. No time is being wasted here! Maybe the original intention was for these sequences to be longer, but there’s so much stuff crammed into this first script there just isn’t time to focus on any of it for too long. There’s just about enough of a plot to this episode to avoid the whole thing looking like a simple montage of all the bestest, coolest bits of the series.

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Colonel White then immediately calls up Captain Scarlet. Yep, no time for any exposition about the Spectrum organisation or anything like that, we’re whisked away from Cloudbase to look at another one of the Spectrum vehicles, the Spectrum Saloon Car… or Patrol Car… or apparently some people call them Spectrum Saloon Vehicles which sounds a bit mad to me.

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Here’s a slightly unattractive shot, partly because of the incredibly flat angle in order to avoid showing the hole in the top of the car for the strings, but also because of bouncy back projection footage of a real road – a technique which is used a lot less as the series goes on.

Captain Brown… the chap in brown… is assigned the task of protecting the World President. Scarlet announces that this is Brown’s first big assignment and wishes him luck with all the sincerity of a brick through a window. So hang on a minute, a terrifying and completely unknown alien intelligence broadcasts a message to the entire planet announcing that they are going to assassinate the World President – literally the most powerful person on Earth – and Spectrum decides to give that job to a newbie, while designating Captain Scarlet (whom we assume is reasonably important within the organisation even at this point) as Captain Brown’s driver. Scarlet and Brown have a brief discussion to remind the viewer that they know absolutely nothing about the Mysterons, but Scarlet references “what happened on the Martian expedition.” So Spectrum are aware that something happened then, okay good to know.

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Then this happens, and mercifully it never happens ever again.

The world of Captain Scarlet has a lot of roads built next to sheer drops. So when the Mysterons blow the tyre of the car, it plummets straight down the cliff and explodes in an enormous fireball. That’s Captain Scarlet dead. The star of the show, dead within about 7 minutes. You’ve got to admit the Andersons were feeling pretty bold when they came up with this one.

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Oh and Captain Brown’s dead as well by the way…

The bloody corpse of our hero gets dragged behind a bush… well I’m sure no-one will find it there. But what’s this? Standing right next to the body is an exact replica of Captain Scarlet! A beautifully executed reveal.

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Back on Cloudbase, three Angel aircraft are on the deck. Assuming that the three we saw earlier are still in the air, that means there are six aircraft in total… even though there are only five pilots… hmmm…

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Scarlet has made it back to Cloudbase. Who knows how long it took him to get back there but it must have been pretty quick. In fact we have no real idea what kind of time expanse this episode is supposed to take place over. One assumes it hasn’t been all that long since the Mysteron threat was made as Spectrum have only just come into action… but we’ll discuss that more later… Anyway, everything is carrying on – everyone in New York has been told to stay indoors while the World President is escorted to Spectrum Maximum Security Building.

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A Maximum Security Vehicle is driven through the deserted streets. Captain Scarlet street scenes are delightful in their level of detail, but are almost always lacking in people.

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The MSV achieved fame thanks to Dinky Toys, despite quickly being superseded in the series by the Yellow Fox Tanker which could transport passengers in safety and secrecy, without having a giant Spectrum logo slapped on the side to inform the enemy exactly where their target is.

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Captain Brown is looking well. Of course we don’t know for a certain that he definitely died in the car crash so we’re left to wonder for a bit whether this is a Mysteron replica or not. The World President is voiced by the charming Paul Maxwell of Steve Zodiac fame. The original choice for the role was in fact superstar  actor Patrick McGoohan of Danger Man and The Prisoner fame. The intention was to have a different guest star every week to join the voice cast and get a puppet made in their image. This never came to fruition. A part of me would have liked to see who they could have got in the series, but another part of me is glad it didn’t happen because I’m sure that not all the stars would have had the gravitas of Pat McGoohan, based on the appearance of Cliff Richard in Thunderbirds Are Go which I guess the Andersons believed worked quite well…

The President is conveniently told about some of Spectrum’s arsenal. Spectrum guards who are basically Spectrum agents but not as good are standing on top of the buildings. You can spot the Jet Air Transporter from the Thunderbirds episode Move – And You’re Dead posing as a transmitter. The rarely seen Spectrum Helicopter is overflying the motorcade while the Angels continue their patrol. The President remarks – “Angels is the right word for that team.” It’s not explicitly clear that he’s saying that just because they’re an all-woman team, but it’s certainly implied – and thankfully the writers get over that fact pretty quickly.

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Captain Brown’s face goes all out of focus while the President talks about the Mysterons… which probably means he’s one of them.

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Can anyone spot the flaw with the Spectrum Maximum Security Building? Well I know if I were constructing a building of maximum security there are two things I probably wouldn’t do. The first is build it in the middle of New York City where people might notice. The second, and perhaps the most important, I wouldn’t put a whacking great sign above the door advertising that this is a Maximum Security Building. You’re pretty much inviting any attacker to walk straight in a pick off whichever important person happens to be staying that week.

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Yeah puppet walks aren’t a thing anymore. These human conveyor belts are all over the place because people can’t be bothered to put one foot in front of another anymore. So when you enter the Spectrum Maximum Security Building you are greeted by massive guns and some lovely shrubbery.

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The really lucky Spectrum guards get to sit inside plastic capsules all day long. The blonde guy is destined for greater things though – the same puppet goes on to become Shane Weston in Joe 90.

Captain Brown sets off the weapon detectors because he’s a wrong’n. Shane is ready to shoot him to bits while we’re treated to the first live action hand insert of the series.

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Is it me or is this not the same puppet for a brief second?

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So are the cigarettes considered the weapon here or the cigarette case? Because surely the cigarette lighter is the bigger issue…

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For goodness sake, the conveyor belt even turns them around in the lift. The puppets couldn’t even be trusted to do that convincingly.

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The lift takes them all the way down to a very strange office. There’s an entire room dedicated to a tree.

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The World President is quite happy with the idea of playing three-dimensional chess while trapped in the basement for weeks on end. Captain Brown is thrilled. You’ll notice that the pace of things has slowed down a bit, allowing a bit of tension to build as we wait for the moment Captain Brown reveals his true nature…

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The President is a bit spooked by the camera in the wall. Video surveillance technology has apparently become rather less subtle by 2068 than it is today. Let’s also take a moment to appreciate the beautiful detail of the set, from the miniature cushions to the plaster effect on the walls.

Captain Brown suddenly runs out of things to say. The President is a tad concerned.

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President probably getting a little more concerned now.

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Despite being Captain Brown’s stunt double, this puppet is still beautifully finished – even if he doesn’t look that much like Captain Brown.

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Sleep tight kids.

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The Spectrum Maximum Security Building is blown to bits in the blink of an eye. The model was pretty much designed to explode as the whole thing breaks apart and collapses with ease.

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Destiny Angel reports to Cloudbase. She doesn’t sound the slightest bit phased by it. Destiny tends to have only two emotional states – either not bothered, or wildly hysterical. Voice artist Liz Morgan often tells the story of being reminded that puppets can’t cry, requiring her to tone down her performance somewhat!

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The World President managed to escape the disaster and has made it straight to Cloudbase… but don’t worry, Colonel White promises to move him to a new place of maximum security which he somehow manages to say without giggling. Captain Scarlet looks as grumpy as ever despite having his victim handed to him on a plate.

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Despite the whirlwind pace of this episode, we’re apparently going to take some time out to watch that last bit again. Even though we all saw what happened.

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Like an old git insisting on showing his grandkids some home movies, Colonel White yells out for the Spectrum Information Center to roll the video tape… which is presumably code for “bung the video on, Lieutenant.” The Colonel teaches us how fast forwarding works for a bit… I won’t lie, this scene is pretty bewildering. There’s supposed to be a point to it but I don’t get what that is. I guess video tape was a pretty revolutionary thing in 1967 so maybe the audience is supposed to be marveling at that for a bit.

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The President escaped through the wall, just in case you were interested. He knew exactly where the button was though, which means he must have had some pretty thorough briefing about the facility before turning up. So while Captain Brown was babbling on about the building earlier, the World President must have known everything there was to know already.

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Colonel White begins the dumbest lecture I have ever heard. He says that the video teaches us that the President only just got out alive… which he already knew. It also teaches us that Captain Brown exploded… which we also already knew. So reviewing that footage was pretty pointless. When the President sounds like he’s about to have a go at Spectrum for hiring an exploding maniac, Colonel White immediately leaps to Brown’s defence calling him “one of my finest men.” I don’t think that’s going to put the President at ease funnily enough…

The Colonel continues to describe the happenings since the Zero-X mission to Mars as “peculiar.” I think that’s putting it lightly. He mentions that Captain Black, “again, a trusted man” disappeared upon returning from Mars… so picture the scene: The Zero-X touched down at Glenn Field after a six week journey from Mars (which means at least six weeks have passed since the initial Mysteron threat was made even though that doesn’t make any sense). When the ship touched down, Captain Black just sort of slipped away – with nothing even said of his two crew mates who may well have been murdered immediately by Black for all we know. Surely it would have made a lot more sense for the Mysterons to have just teleported Captain Black down to Earth, therefore generating the story that he never left Mars. But no, Spectrum is well aware that Captain Black returned to Earth exactly as planned, but then just swanned off afterwards.

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Anyway, Captain Scarlet is now being trusted to escort the World President to another highly populated city because that worked so well the first time. The camera goes all blurry again which is shorthand for “this Spectrum agent is now a bad person.”

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The Spectrum Passenger Jet sure is a pretty thing.

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Already the President looks absolutely terrified. To be fair, they told him he would be sitting in business class with Captain Magenta acting as his personal flight attendant – being forced to take over as co-pilot probably wasn’t what he had in mind. Nevertheless they soon take off with an Angel escort hot on their tail.

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Meanwhile, Lieutenant Green receives some disturbing news from Spectrum New York. Apparently the Mysterons didn’t do a terribly good job hiding the body of Captain Brown after the car crash.

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Colonel White can be utterly thick at times. He first assumes that the Captain Brown who escorted the President was some kind of impostor… well to be fair there are a lot of people in the world who look like Captain Brown…

So, y’know, it could be an impostor…

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Fortunately, Lieutenant Green is the real brains of the outfit, pointing out that Captain Scarlet was also involved in the crash and therefore probably can’t be relied upon to remain unexploded. Now you would have thought that after a major car accident Captain Scarlet would have received some sort of medical examination… maybe an x-ray or two… oh wait, the writers haven’t come up with that Mysteron weakness yet…

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Destiny is given orders to escort Scarlet “back to the carrier” which sounds a bit weird because nobody ever refers to Cloudbase as a carrier ever again. Scarlet’s funky sepia shades make him look even grumpier than he already is as he ignores Destiny’s demands.

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White checks his big map and remarks that they are crossing the English coast. Of course it isn’t directly referenced, but seeing as the World President was brought to Cloudbase from New York, and is now minutes away from London despite having only just taken off, the implication is that Cloudbase has moved. Sounds obvious, but the fact that Cloudbase can move isn’t brought up for a while yet in the series.

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Destiny is given orders to open fire on the SPJ but make sure she misses. I’m sure the President will be thrilled. He’s almost been blown up by one of Spectrum’s top agents, kidnapped by another, and now he’s about to be fired upon by their best pilot. It’s very satisfying to see the model Angel aircraft in the background of the puppet set, just to add that touch of realism.

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Trouble is, Captain Scarlet isn’t the least bit bothered about the attack. In fact the Mysterons would probably prefer Spectrum to murder the President – it would just prove their point.

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The President gets more than he bargained for when he tries to call for help. So now he’s been blown up, kidnapped, shot at and now whacked in the face by trusted Spectrum personnel. His bloody lip is rather well done.

Scarlet and the President both decide to take their sunglasses off (for some reason) and eject from the aircraft. Ejecting happens a lot in Scarlet and it’s awfully fun.

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Colonel White has the thrill of telling Spectrum Headquarters London about losing Scarlet and the President. I’m sure they think he’s a complete wally. He informs them that the ejection took place 60 miles southwest of London City Centre. That puts them somewhere near Winchester, which coincidentally is listed as Captain Scarlet’s hometown…

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Destiny watches over this rather lovely countryside scene. We see more of this sort of thing during Thunderbird 6.

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But never mind that, a dashing young Spectrum agent has arrived at a garage.

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Captain Blue of Spectrum. Isn’t he gorgeous? He’s notable for being one of the only operatives within Spectrum who a) has his head screwed on at all times and b) is allowed to go out and do cool stuff. And he’s about to do something pretty cool.

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This guy’s a good laugh. Having granted Blue’s request for a Spectrum Pursuit Vehicle he then explains to Blue exactly how they work… even though he already knows. Of course, this is entirely for the benefit of the audience, but seeing as we watch Blue driving backwards using a TV monitor in just a few seconds time it isn’t really necessary to also tell us that he’s going to do that.

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A truck nearby explodes and collapses to reveal the magnificent Spectrum Pursuit Vehicle. The gimmick of, “Where’s the SPV hidden this week?” is wonderful fun. The design of the vehicle itself is magnificent in its versatility and toughness. There’s nothing to compare it to in the real world.

Captain Blue is soon on the road. We marvel as the back projection footage through the side window shows him moving backwards, but the TV monitor in front of him shows him moving forwards. All SPVs are fitted with sick buckets as standard while your brain does cartwheels to figure out all this motion.

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Blue joins the M21 in hot pursuit of Captain Scarlet, as advised by Destiny Angel. It’s worth noting that as of right now there is no M21 in the UK, but there is an A23 which runs from London to Brighton.

Meanwhile, Rhapsody Angel is dispatched on a special mission to destroy a bridge. Hopefully they got permission from someone first or Spectrum will have a big bill to pay. The plan is that this will force Captain Scarlet to divert towards the London Car-Vu.

Which he does at great and dangerous speed. The shots of Destiny Angel overflying the area are flipped to show her travelling from right to left, as indicated by the Spectrum emblem on her helmet appearing reversed.

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Colonel White’s map doesn’t look terribly useful as it isn’t showing anything any further east than Southampton… but hey, you keep monitoring that suspicious activity over in Somerset, Colonel… I’m sure it’s relevant to the mission at hand… Anyway, White is now pretty confident that they’ve foiled Scarlet’s plan as they attempt to trap him at the London Car-Vu.

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Nobody is having a worse day than the World President by this point.

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This is the London Car-Vu – a very unusual piece of design, the purpose of which I don’t think I’ve quite grasped. As far as I can work out, the only purpose is that you drive to the top and look at London… you certainly can’t just park at the top and go anywhere else. Why does this exist? Well just to serve the story really but who cares, it looks cool.

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Scarlet crashes straight through the barrier which conveniently tells you the time it opens, the time it is currently, and tells you to stop – just in case that wasn’t clear. Building 67 from the Thunderbirds episode, Alias Mr. Hackenbacker can be spotted in the background.

Scarlet and Blue begin their dizzying drives to the top of the Car-Vu. I really don’t know how Blue hasn’t lost his lunch by this point. The screeching of tyres suggests that maybe they’re driving a bit fast. For the shots of the Car-Vu structure whizzing by, the camera remains stationary while the entire set is rotated.

Captain Blue makes contact with Spectrum Helicopter A42, but there is no pilot! The Mysterons reveal another of their incredible powers – to control vehicles without an operator. It’s really rather chilling to hear the voice of a pilot that isn’t there.

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The chase up the tower does go on a bit I must say.

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The President may be about to throw in the towel, give up world politics and take up gardening somewhere quiet…

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According to the clock at the top of the tower the drive has taken five minutes. There’s a few telescopes dotted about, but hurry because the places closes at 12pm despite only opening at 10am…

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Watching from a safe distance from his cosy little retirement flat, Captain Black – still decked out in uniform – has his eye on things. He speaks telepathically to Scarlet, informing him that helicopter A42 is on the way to pick him up. Apparently they must have the World President alive… which isn’t usually a requirement when you’re trying to assassinate someone. There’s something about this script which feels so fast paced and chopped together that there must have been a number of very heavy edits made which have made some of it rather nonsensical or glossed over far too quickly. Captain Scarlet has had sooo many opportunities to kill the President at this point but apparently the plan all along was to take him somewhere in a helicopter but none of that is ever explained. In the 50 minute Thunderbirds format there probably wouldn’t have been this much of a problem of things being skipped or forgotten. As brilliant and action-packed as The Mysterons is, it is rather messy.

So while waiting for the helicopter to arrive, Scarlet takes the President over to a ridiculously dangerous looking structure on the side of the Car-Vu, which Destiny actually refers to as “the sky-park.” It’s a car park in the sky so I guess that makes sense.

The SPV finally arrives at the top, but for some reason Blue decides to park as far away as possible and take his hover-pack. He manages to climb out of his chair and put on the gear during the briefest of cutaways.

Captain Blue slowly comes to the realisation that helicopter A42 is no longer on his side. In a show which has already seen a lot of violence, one genuinely believes that the machine gun could cut Blue to pieces. The threat in Captain Scarlet always feel very real because we quickly learn that violence being depicted on screen is definitely on the cards.

With the helicopter raining down fire from the sky, and Destiny on her way to take it down, all Blue can do is open fire on Scarlet while desperately trying to avoid getting shot himself, or losing control of his hover-pack and falling.

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And there’s a long, long way for him to fall…

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Stunning detail on this particular section of set as you can even see the bird droppings that have been painted on.

With incredible accuracy, Destiny knocks out the helicopter and, I might add, manages to pull out of the dive before ploughing straight into the Car-Vu.

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The same can’t be said for the helicopter which explodes in a spectacular fireball right at the heart of the structure… this may cause a few problems…

Things are starting to get wobbly at the top of the tower now. Scarlet and the President cling on for dear life.

It’s time for the ultimate showdown, Blue vs. Scarlet. This moment has a little more impact when you’ve seen the entire series and know how close the two become as colleagues. For some reason, explosive charges were not actually loaded into either of the guns, and the shots firing are only suggested by the sound effects and the puppets jolting their arms slightly each time.

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Blue wins, and as a prize we’re treated to this very special puppet head sculpt. This is the face of a man who has been shot, and is unaware that he’s about to fall a very, very long way. My hope is that somebody from the studio took this head, kept it in their attic, and one day somebody will come across it on a stormy night, royally peeing themselves in the process.

Down he goes! It’s the best thing that’s happened to the President all day. Goodness knows what state Scarlet’s body will be in once it hits the ground, but it sure won’t be pretty.

As the tower slips some more, the President is left dangling from the structure, with Blue quickly sweeping in to pick up the poor man. He looks thoroughly defeated by the whole ordeal. Despite this, he bounces back in time for another appearance in the episode Spectrum Strikes Back. Hurrah!

The tower finally takes a tumble, but rather unfortunately we cut away to Cloudbase before we get to watch the structure hit the ground and devastate the surrounding area. It can be excused I suppose because there are an awful lot of loose ends to tie up…

Doctor Fawn has the body of Scarlet in the sick bay which Destiny identifies with relative ease. He doesn’t look bad for it y’know.

While Harmony Angel and Lieutenant Green watch from the sidelines, Colonel White chairs a briefing with key members of Spectrum. Captain Ochre must have missed the memo because everyone else remembered to turn up. In order to address everyone in the room, Colonel White’s chair constantly rotates, which means motion sickness could strike at any moment. By the way, everyone always asks how Colonel White gets into the middle of the table… the table splits apart… easy…

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So let’s wrap this story up. Captain Scarlet is recovering in some very hideous pyjamas. He has returned to life but also managed to shake off the Mysteron influence. We have no idea how or why – it is never explained how he manages to do this while retaining certain characteristics, including his indestructibility of course. It’s one of those great mysteries, or at least it would be if some attempt was made to investigate it further. Doctor Fawn gives up on the whole thing at the beginning of Winged Assassin, despite it potentially being one of the most important discoveries they could have possibly made during the fight against the Mysterons. The whole episode is wrapped up just a little bit too quickly because time has quite simply run out!

The Mysterons is a bizarre creature of a show. The story is simple at its core, but has so many key elements of the series to establish and explain that it often feels rushed and could have done with at least an extra 25 minutes of running time to do it proper justice. Nevertheless, all the vehicles are shown, all of the most important characters have their parts to play, we learn about who the Mysterons are and what they’re going to do, how Captain Scarlet became indestructible (sort of), and we get some spectacular special effects and puppet work on top off all that. The entire Captain Scarlet premise has been set up, but perhaps the strength of this pilot episode is that there’s a lot of room to grow. As we learn more about the Mysterons, the series develops and changes. The best is yet to come!

Next week, a nuclear device is lost in the heart of London! Will Spectrum hunt it down before the Mysterons have a chance to blow up the city? And why oh why does Big Ben strike 13?? Stay tuned for our review of Big Ben Strikes Again!

VOTING CLOSED: Captain Scarlet September Reviews!

To celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the indestructible Captain Scarlet, every Friday on the Security Hazard blog throughout the month of September we will be reviewing your favourite episodes of the classic Supermarionation series.

Five episodes will be poked, prodded, analysed and laughed at (probably) starting on Friday, September 1st and continuing every Friday for the rest of September.

But how will the five episodes be chosen? That responsibility falls to you, earthman. Select the five episodes from the series that you would like us to get to work on! The five episodes with the most votes will be featured here on the Security Hazard blog – voting closes on August 20th.

 

Terrahawks Gets A Big Finish! – Volume 3 Review

Terrahawks is back for a third series of audio adventures from Big Finish. Since the television series began in 1983, the show was always in a state of change – daring to try new and whacky ideas to keep the audience on their toes. The show shifted from serious and chilling, to downright hilarious and bizarre – and often mixing the two tones into a terrifying yet tongue-in-cheek blend of something which made Terrahawks a very unique and entertaining piece of television, and a stand-out Gerry Anderson production.

Fast forward 30 years, and the Terrahawks formula has been given new life by Jamie Anderson, cast members old and new, some special guest voice artists, and a talented team behind the scenes dedicated to recapturing the old magic, while also creating something special and unique all over again.

When the announcement was made at Andercon 2014 that Terrahawks would be returning as an audio series, the very notion of it was as near perfect as you could get. Jeremy Hitchen, Robbie Stevens, and Denise Bryer were all set to return to their original roles, with Hitchen filling in superbly for the retired Windsor Davies as Sgt. Major Zero, and newcomer Beth Chalmers faithfully bringing back Captain Kate Kestrel and Cystar, characters originally voiced by the late Anne Ridler. The colourful characters of the original television series were driven by strong and distinctive performances from the voice artists, making the characters easily transferable into audio stories.

Now to be frank, if there’s one thing that the original Terrahawks series needed, it was more money behind it. The limited budget meant that the format was never quite able to reach its full potential on television – and so the audio adventures picked up where the series left off. Across the three audio series, the writers have developed the characters and built upon the Terrahawks format in ways the original series simply couldn’t have done. There’s a newfound maturity to the formula which presents the characters at their best, while also offering some of that quirky humour which makes Terrahawks unique.

Volume 3 picks up from the dramatic conclusion of Volume 2 which saw the Terrahawks team and Zelda’s forces pushed to the limits of destruction by the twisted Prince Zegar of Guk. Take a look and listen to the trailer:

*SPOILER WARNING – A few minor plot details are hinted at in the following comments on each episode*

Episode 1, No Second Chances, written by Jamie Anderson, sees the surviving Terrahawks slowly picking themselves up after the devastating battle. After the conclusion of Series 2 it was certainly going to be a challenge for both sides to get back on their feet, but through some clever twists in fate, Mary is able to take command and continue the fight against Zelda who is soon back in full force. It’s a thrill to have Terrahawks treated to mature, complex storytelling with some genuinely intriguing resolutions and shocking moments. The characters retain their amusing quirks while also facing some very real drama including the love and loss felt between Ninestein and Mary at the climax of the story.

The quality of the performances in this episode, and across the entire box set is stellar. The cast give it their all with both the drama and the comedy. The team are clearly having a ball recording these scripts while also working extremely hard to deliver performances consistent with the characters they brought to life over 30 years ago. The audio adventures have injected the characters with some raw emotion which was previously lacking from the television series, and is now played upon to full effect by the cast. They are all superb performers.

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The Wrong Clone Number brings Terry Adlam’s signature comedy writing back to the series. A particular highlight of the episode pokes fun at the villainous Mysterons of Captain Scarlet. The Terrahawks audio stories have always made affectionate nods to other classic Gerry Anderson shows, and this series is no exception. Zelda is back with another truly bonkers plan which involves taking over Buckingham Palace to become the Queen of England… yes, really. It wouldn’t be Terrahawks without some absolute nuttiness thrown in – and Yungstar getting nibbled on by the Queen’s corgis is certainly rather nutty. The audio adventures have gained a satirical edge which is utilised very nicely in this episode.

Named after the classic Stingray episode, episode 3 – Set Sail For Mis-Adventure by David Hirsch, sees the Terrahawks called upon to escort Professor Otto Maddox on a cruise across the Atlantic Ocean. David Graham’s characters have entertained generations of fans, and in the role of Maddox, one is taken right back to the magic of his Supermarionation performances. The energy he gives to the part of Maddox is quite delightful and plays particularly well against Jeremy Hitchen’s Sixstein. This nautical episode also sees the return of Captain Goat, one of the more unusual villains of the television series, and the addition of a new vehicle to the Terrahawks fleet – Seahawk – specially designed by Chris Thompson.

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Episode 4, You-Foe, opens with a loving dig at Gerry Anderson’s first live action series, UFO, and leads to the return of Zelda’s alter ego, Grandma Buggins, for some devious trickery – a wonderful contribution from Denise Bryer. This episode takes a slower pace as Zelda and her family carefully manipulate Threestein, the final clone, into doing their bidding. The episode, and indeed much of the series, makes for an interesting study of what makes the character of Tiger a strong leader despite being thoroughly unlikeable at times. For my money, it’s his unpredictability, cold logic, and willingness to  be the bad guy at times which make him an engaging Anderson hero – but this series provides an exploration into what changing up the Ninestein character would change about the series’ format.

Living Legend brings David Graham back for another role as space explorer, Elias Crick – David’s great versatility as a voice artist still being put to great use. This episode also features a cameo from one of David Graham’s lesser-loved characters from Fireball XL5, but all is forgiven because one can’t but help but be grateful that Terrahawks is a weird enough show to be able to include such a character! Meanwhile, it’s time for a certain furry napoleon to depart, escaping the clutches of Zelda for good…

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And so we come to episode 6, The Prisoner of Zelda, and this is one I’ve really been looking forward to. Terrahawks meets Patrick McGoohan’s cult classic, The Prisoner. Zelda’s most chilling monster of all is back while Threestein and Lois Price (a character introduced in volume 1 and brought to life splendidly by Beth Chalmers) are transported to The Community. The blend of Terrahawks bonkersness with classic elements of The Prisoner is just great fun. Chris Dale’s script also offers plenty of woooonderful and obscure references to other Anderson shows and beyond. The story soon takes on a more serious and emotional tone as the truth behind MOID’s tragic existence unravels before him…

Mark Woollard’s Star Crossed sees Threestein facing a shortcoming never encountered by his predecessor – a little thing called love. Of course, nothing is as it seems. There is no doubt that these characters have evolved a great deal from their television series counterparts with some outstanding depth. Jeremy Hitchen and Beth Chalmers are incredible in this episode and take Terrahawks to an emotional level I never would have thought possible.

Jamie Anderson brings the series to a close with Enemies, Negotiations and Deceit – a simple tale which sees both Tiger and Zelda choosing to negotiate a peace treaty – really truly actually. Every character is given the opportunity to shine. The episode opens with an overwhelming sense of optimism, with Mary and Tiger even set to overcome their will-they-won’t-they courtliness. But of course it wouldn’t be Terrahawks if there wasn’t a nasty twist, and there’s no chance you’ll guess this one. It’s an emotional rollercoaster, climaxing with an outstanding rendition of the Terrahawks theme like you’ve never heard it before.

The final moments of the series are the greatest testimony to the achievements of Big Finish’s Terrahawks audio adventures. They have taken the show in directions that no-one could have possibly imagined, trying all sorts of new and exciting format experiments to produce stories which not only break the mould of Terrahawks, but break the mould of what you can expect from a classic Gerry Anderson formula. If you like Terrahawks, you will love the Big Finish audios. If you were perhaps underwhelmed by Terrahawks upon first viewing, the audio stories do everything to make amends. But frankly, having just finished listening to this incredible box set, there’s nothing I yearn to do more than to start watching the original series from the very beginning.

Terrahawks: Stay On This Channel! This is a must have for any Gerry Anderson fan!

Available now from Big Finish.

The Security Hazard Podcast #4! – Anderson In The Classroom

Jack and Andrew are back for another exciting podcast, this time exploring an interview originally published on the Official Gerry Anderson website with a teacher who introduced his students to the Worlds of Gerry Anderson! You can read the full article here. Sit back and enjoy our nattering about how we would be Anderson into the classroom.

Coming to SoundCloud soon!