Investigating The Investigator

One of the key purposes of a pilot episode is to answer questions that viewers (and financiers) may have about the format of the series. It can set up a few mysteries to engage the viewers for the rest of the series, but for the most part, a pilot  should intelligently impart exposition through an exciting and intriguing plot. The Investigator, Gerry Anderson’s 1973 return to mixing Supermarionation with live action, has baffled fans for years. It’s a bizarre concept filmed in an equally bizarre way. We previously reviewed the film in full (which you can read here) and essentially concluded that it raises more questions than it answers.

PDVD_029

If you are not familiar, The Investigator is a benevolent, omnipresent, omnipotent, and omniscient alien being who has come to Earth from an unknown planet in the future. He wants to help humanity learn from its mistakes and make bad people repent for their crimes. In order to assist him “more easily”, The Investigator miniaturises a boy and a girl, John and Julie, and gives them a special car and boat to get around the island of Malta. The pilot film sees John and Julie pursuing Stavros Karanti, an art connoisseur who is attempting to steal a precious 14th Century masterpiece.

It’s quite a head-scratcher, and the questions which the pilot episode raises point to flaws in the format, or areas which needed further development. If this series had gone ahead, would those questions have been answered? Let’s explore those questions and plot-holes in order to speculate what could have happened if The Investigator became a full series.

I should preface by saying that had The Investigator been commissioned, I have a very strong feeling that a new “first episode” would have been produced. Lessons were learned during the disastrous production of the pilot which more than likely would have encouraged Gerry and co. to want to start all over again. With a healthy budget, one would assume that the series would have been more studio-based rather than facing the problems of taking the puppets on location again. The shoot in Malta had proved very difficult, but for the purposes of this article let’s assume that the series would continue to be set in glamorous Malta. My first question would therefore have to be:

Why did The Investigator come to Malta?

Malta is a very small country and in the grand scheme of things does not have a major crime problem. Yet The Investigator decided to make a small cave on the coast his hideout while John and Julie ran around the island to chase an art thief. From a production point of view, the location was chosen because Gerry was impressed with the island during filming of The Protectors. But surely an alien destined to fix all the wrongs in the world would want to focus on countries where crime poses a bigger risk to the population of the planet?

Maybe Malta was just a practice run for him and he had bigger plans to visit countries all over the world the right wrongs. This would have been extremely ambitious for the series but would have given the show the international flavour that 1970’s action adventure shows were desperately seeking.

Or, what if The Investigator was seeking out John and Julie specifically and thus came to Malta to track them down? If The Investigator did have plans to take his mission global, would John and Julie have gone travelling with him, or would new agents be chosen in each country? This brings us to a bigger question about the pilot episode:

Who were John and Julie and why did The Investigator choose them?

PDVD_091

It’s difficult to like John and Julie because we learn next to nothing about them in the pilot film. They are a boy and girl who inexplicably have matching blue jumpsuits. That’s about it. Are they brother and sister? Are they friends? Are they in a relationship? Do they live in Malta? Are they just there on holiday? Do they have a family? Are they children, teenagers, or young adults? Consider what we learn about the Tracy family in Trapped In The Sky. We may not learn much about the individual characters’ quirks and personalities, but we at least get a grasp of the family dynamic and what they are doing.

One must assume that John and Julie were going to remain as the main stars of the series. A new first episode would desperately need to show how John and Julie became involved with The Investigator in the first place. The Investigator pilot film should have established all this but instead tried to show what a typical episode would be like, leaving all of us wondering how any of this came to be in the first place.

Let’s assume that The Investigator went looking for John and Julie specifically to help him because of their strong moral fibre and instinct for fighting injustice. But in the pilot they don’t sound especially excited to be doing all of this. In fact they seem to be doing it against their will and are thoroughly unprepared and scared by what’s going on. This isn’t helped by the fact that John and Julie are one-third their normal size. Which leads me to…

Why were John and Julie miniaturised?

The Investigator claims that John and Julie will be able to assist him more easily now that they are two-foot-tall. But it’s clearly a hindrance and for every moment that being tiny helps them out, there’s another which demonstrates how ruddy inconvenient it is. Maybe over the course of the series, John and Julie would have learnt how best to use their reduced stature while on missions. Future episodes could have put them in situations where being small actually gives them an advantage.

Are they going to be two-foot-tall forever now? We assume that it is only a temporary affliction but there’s no confirmation of that fact given. Maybe they were only miniaturised for this one episode, and future episodes would have seen them given different powers and abilities for fighting crime, although I get the feeling that this was supposed to be the main gimmick of the series and would probably have been worked into every episode.

Why Stavros Karanti?

PDVD_068

Of all the horrible people in the world, why did The Investigator decide to go after an art thief who basically doesn’t harm anyone except a church? He also wasn’t a particularly hardened criminal and probably could have been broken with an egg spoon. Maybe The Investigator was trying to make John and Julie’s first mission an easy one, or maybe Shane Rimmer and Sylvia Anderson couldn’t think of anything else that would possibly happen in Malta when they were writing the script.

So yes, catching an art thief is something that two inexperienced and miniaturised teenagers could conceivably manage with The Investigator’s help. If, however, The Investigator really wants to stop humanity’s greed and injustice he should probably recruit some real secret agents who know a thing or two about capturing criminals. That ultimately would make for a much more exciting series – a special division of the CIA or MI.6 who use The Investigator’s powers to tackle seriously bad stuff going on in the world.

PDVD_225

Ultimately, The Investigator as a character had a huge amount of potential and was a rather exciting idea. Unfortunately it was forced into a mediocre plot with a couple of mediocre characters. If The Investigator were ever revived as a series, one would essentially have to strip out every element of the original pilot film and just leave the title character. A secret service organisation receiving the assistance of an all-powerful alien being has exciting possibilities and a lot of dramatic potential. Based on Joe 90 and The Secret Service, I’m actually astounded that the Andersons didn’t do something more like that, rather than the bizarre story that we ended up with…

Read our full review of The Investigator here!

A Terrahawks Christmas Carol | NEW FAN-MADE AUDIO ADVENTURE

The Security Hazard team have been hard at work to bring you something special this Christmas. Have you ever thought that there might be a likeness between the classic literary figure of Ebenezer Scrooge, and evil alien android Zelda from Terrahawks? Well wonder no more as we bring you a specially written and performed Terrahawks Christmas special which puts a Terrahawks spin on the famous Dickens tale of A Christmas Carol.

Listen now to this audio episode performed by Jack Knoll, Andrew Clements, and Chris Dale.

We hope you enjoy, and stay tuned for more exciting Gerry Anderson fun from the Security Hazard blog in the new year. Thank you all so much for your patience and I can’t wait to share with you some very special bits and pieces in 2018.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

 

Captain Scarlet – 50th Anniversary Sets From Big Finish!

Big Finish have been very busy making sure Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons gets the 50th anniversary celebration it deserves. There’s a lot of fantastic audio drama on offer, and we’ve been lucky enough to review the Captain Scarlet 50th Anniversary Box Set, and Spectrum File One. But here’s a full list of all the sets that are on offer and their contents:

Captain Scarlet 50th Anniversary Box Set

Mini albums

Introducing Captain Scarlet by Angus P Allan
Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons by Angus P Allan
Captain Scarlet is Indestructible by Richard O’Neill
Captain Scarlet of Spectrum by Angus P Allan
Captain Scarlet versus Captain Black by Richard O’Neill

Adapted TV stories

Big Ben Strikes Again by Tony Barwick
Manhunt by Tony Barwick
The Trap by Alan Patillo
Special Assignment by Tony Barwick
Heart of New York by Tony Barwick
Model Spy by Bill Hedley
Flight 104 by Tony Barwick
The Launching by Peter Curran and David Williams

Also includes a brand new sixty minute Captain Scarlet anniversary documentary.

Spectrum File One

An adaptation of the 1967 John Theydon novel, Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons narrated by David Graham and performed by Wayne Forester and Liz Morgan.

Spectrum File Two

An adaptation of the 1967 John Theydon novel, Captain Scarlet and the Silent Saboteur narrated by David Graham and performed by Wayne Forester and Liz Morgan.

Spectrum File Three

An adaptation of the 1967 John Theydon novel, The Angels and The Creeping Enemy narrated by David Graham and performed by Wayne Forester and Liz Morgan.

Needless to say it’s a pretty comprehensive set of releases diving full on into the Captain Scarlet phenomenon based on three formats, the original television episodes, the mini album adventures, and the novels.

Let’s kick off by exploring the Captain Scarlet 50th Anniversary Box Set.

captain_scarlet_cover

The set opens with the five stories which were written and recorded especially for the Century 21 Mini Album records released back in the 1960’s. They are beautifully presented here. The source material that the Big Finish team had to work with would have been limited and no doubt varying wildly in quality. A lot of careful work has gone into making everything sound fantastic and like they were recorded yesterday.

The mini album adventures make for fascinating listening. The television series had the luxury of a particularly large voice cast, and spectacular special effects to accompany the stories. The cast was cut down somewhat for the recording of these which features some performances of guest characters from cast members who would normally stick strictly to their regular roles. Francis Matthews, Ed Bishop, and Donald Gray have rather distinctive voices, so hearing them in other roles here is somewhat amusing. There’s some rather unusual dialogue overall and some wonderfully over the top performances, with the cast attempting to make sure all of the drama that would normally be visible on screen is fully injected into the dialogue. The stories themselves range from being exactly the sort of thing you would see in the television series, to being a little more… bizarre. Said bizarreness surely culminates in the story Captain Scarlet versus Captain Black which sees Captain Black take two children hostage in an incredibly disturbing manner. The stories are presented in the order that they were released, and rather brilliantly we’re treated to the Lyon’s Maid and Kellogg’s adverts of the period between each episode for a really authentic 50th anniversary experience. The five mini album stories are a must-listen for Captain Scarlet fans to give you some extra stories featuring the original cast as you’ve never heard them before…

A little bit of Barry Gray goodness is slipped in at this point as we’re treated to the opening and closing themes in all of their forms, including some unused tracks.

The 50th Anniversary Box Set continues by presenting 8 original television episodes adapted for audio with linking material from the original cast. Some of these were released back in the 60’s, but many use material especially recorded by Ed Bishop in the 90’s and released for public listening for the first time. It’s a great selection of episodes spanning across the entire series and a thrilling variety of adventures. If you’ve ever wanted to enjoy a Captain Scarlet episode while you’re on the move, this is undoubtedly the best way to do it.

The set is wrapped up with a brand new documentary featuring members of the production team. Newly recorded interviews, rare archive material, and narration from Jamie Anderson definitively tell the story of Captain Scarlet. Mike Trim, Shane Rimmer, Alan Perry, Liz Morgan, Gerry Anderson, Mike Jones, Nick Williams, Mary Turner, Leo Eaton, Derek Meddings, Tony Barwick, Sylvia Anderson, Alan Shubrook, Peter Holmes, Crispin Merrell, Barry Gray, Ed Bishop, Mike Noble, and Lee Sullivan all offer their insights on the production and the legacy of the series.

The contributors give a full and frank overview of the series and what it was like to work on. The cancellation of Thunderbirds, the debate over the scale of the new Supermarionation puppets, and the darker tone of the series are all matters that are touched upon with opinions from both sides. Some great new stories come to light, particularly from the archive material provided by Susan Harman and the estate of Simon Archer (Gerry Anderson’s first official biographer). The intense workload at the studio is covered in depth. Century 21 were a well-oiled machine by this point and the schedule was relentless, and hearing about the lengths that were gone to in order to keep things moving are extraordinary.

The documentary is an excellent addition to the set and one of the highlights of the 50th Anniversary as a whole.

As if a big fat box set of classic adventures wasn’t enough, we have some newly recorded stories in the form of the Spectrum Files releases. Three novels published in the 1960s re-told as audio-books, narrated by Supermarionation veteran David Graham, and with character dialogue performed by Wayne Forester and Liz Morgan. This provides the listener with the detailed description of the novel, and the dramatic potential of the television series.

20170913130040capsc50sf01_spectrumfile1_1417_cover_large

With so many of the original voice cast either unavailable or no longer with us, Wayne Forester takes on all of the male roles, while Liz Morgan performs all of the female characters. Wayne Forester played Captain Scarlet in Gerry Anderson’s New Captain Scarlet with a new and fresh approach, but his revival of Francis Matthews’ original Cary-Grant-esque interpretation captures the essence of the characterisation superbly. The same can be said for all of his re-creations of the original characters. Every voice has been carefully honed to the point that you instantly know which character he is playing, but his performances aren’t labored with the effort of trying to get every line pitch perfect. Forester sounds comfortable with every single one of the voices, an art that is often lost when one actor has to re-create a large number of impressions. In addition, he plays every guest character both in a starring role and in the tiniest of cameos, and each one has a distinct voice too.

Liz Morgan’s return to the roles of Destiny, Harmony, and Rhapsody Angels is very welcome indeed, and her re-creations of Symphony (originally performed by Janna Hill) and Melody (originally performed by Sylvia Anderson) are also of a great standard. She throws herself into the characters and gives some wonderful performances.

The narration provided by David Graham guides you through the story and the ever-changing locations with great charm and energy. He is not only a brilliant character actor, but it turns out a thoroughly engaging storyteller. It’s a pleasure to hear him read. Even though we know all about Cloudbase, the Spectrum organisation, and all other important aspects of the Captain Scarlet format, David Graham makes them sound fresh and original.

I don’t want to spoil the story of Spectrum File One too much, but let’s just say that it takes the epicness of the original series and turns it up to eleven. I’ve never been fortunate enough to read the original John Theydon Scarlet novels, but these audio-books certainly do develop upon the original format and do things that couldn’t have possibly been done in the television series. The locations are many and varied, taking us on a whirlwind adventure. The story is everything you could possibly want from a Captain Scarlet feature film and more.

The production of this release is of the usual stellar standard that we expect from Big Finish, with lots of special treats dotted about here and there. Original sound effects are put to great use, while re-imagined music reminds us that this is a new interpretation. The revamped staccato drum beat is a particular favourite of mine.

In short, the Captain Scarlet 50th Anniversary Box Set is a celebration of everything that the original series achieved, and the exciting stories that were told. The Spectrum Files releases are something bold and new, telling outstanding stories in a resourceful and exciting way, celebrating the legacy of Gerry & Sylvia Anderson’s classic format by daring to do something different with it.

All of the Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons releases from Big Finish are available online as CD box sets, or digital downloads! Visit The Gerry Anderson Shop or BigFinish.com

Watch the trailer for Spectrum File One now!

Captain Scarlet – Attack On Cloudbase

Directed by Ken Turner

Teleplay by Tony Barwick

First Broadcast – 5th May 1968

There is one thing that Supermarionation series are notoriously bad at by today’s standards – ending. There isn’t a single final episode of a Supermarionation series that draws anything to a conclusion, or does anything to particularly stand out. In the early days this was quite simply because Gerry Anderson and the team were always planning to make more. A third series of Supercar was on the cards for many years after the second series ended. The shows were also episodic and only had the most minimal over-arching story-lines, so there wasn’t necessarily that much to wrap up anyway. It also allowed the shows to have a life beyond television for many years afterwards in the form of comic strips and merchandise. It was also great for overseas distribution because it meant episodes could pretty much be shown in any order anyone fancied, and stop at anytime without missing the grand finale.

Clip shows became a chosen method to save the budget and the schedule as the production on each series was coming to an end, and it made an adequate ending to the series to simply reflect upon past adventures. The Inquisition was Captain Scarlet‘s swan song clip show. As clip shows go, it’s pretty intriguing, though it still does little to satisfy viewers who want to find out who the victor is in the long and grueling war of nerves between Earth and Mars. Fortunately, we have Attack On Cloudbase to depict the final battle between Spectrum and the Mysterons. It would appear that it was never intended to be an ending, and anyone who has put themselves through the pain of watching it until the very end will know why that is. Despite that I heartily recommend saving this one for the end of your marathon… just be sure to turn it off after precisely 22 minutes and 45 seconds…

As the sun beats down over a remote desert, Symphony Angel is returning to base after completing a patrol. Presumably she’s just hunting for wild Mysterons. We haven’t seen Symphony much over the course of these reviews but she’s risen in the ranks somewhat and become the go-to Angel, often stealing the limelight away from Destiny. Partway through the series she was given a dramatic new hairstyle which perhaps was intended to make her seem a little less like a damsel in distress, and more of a dynamic agent for Spectrum… although that is rather a lot to read into a hairstyle…

AttackOnCloudbase00024.jpg

A strange humming and whooshing noise ensues before the rear end of the craft just explodes. The source of the noise and the explosion remains a mystery but we must assume it to be the work of the Mysterons… for some reason… Symphony keeps her cool remarkably well and gives her position which Lieutenant Green identifies. Looks like this is just your bog-standard run of the mill crash landing really.

AttackOnCloudbase00056.jpg

Symphony ejects from the aircraft. Has anybody kept a tally of how many Angel aircraft have been lost over the course of the series? I feel like it’s a lot… This emphasises a point I made in my first review that the vehicles are very much treated like tools and facilities rather than the stars of the show. In Thunderbirds it was a big deal when Thunderbirds 1 and 2 got shot down. An Angel aircraft getting shot down in Scarlet is just par for the course…

Symphony watches as her aircraft ploughs straight into the desert below. The model set is filmed from above with a handheld camera to create the point of view perspective very effectively. Barry Gray’s sombre music combined with the POV shot makes this a rather unsettling moment as it soon becomes apparent that Symphony is completely isolated and will be stuck in the desert for some time. Gray’s score for this episode is particularly superb.

AttackOnCloudbase00091.jpg

The aircraft goes up one more time just to really hammer the nail into the coffin.

AttackOnCloudbase00104

In a rather silly move, Symphony has decided to abandon her seat and her flight helmet which Lieutenant Green is still trying to communicate with her on… I can only assume that it’s very hot but all the same, what a silly thing to do.

AttackOnCloudbase00124

Symphony is rather regretting wasting all of her energy on that jaunt across the dunes. The punishing sun starts to make her feel faint. You have to appreciate the delicate craftsmanship that goes into these tiny puppet heads when they’re filmed up close.

Soon enough she’s passed out next to an ex-cow…

AttackOnCloudbase00153.jpg

The Mysterons have made their threat, and it’s a biggy – they will spare no effort to ensure that Cloudbase is totally destroyed. As Scarlet remarks, it was pretty inevitable that this would happen, but nobody mentions that this has been threatened before in Dangerous Rendezvous and they got ruddy close to succeeding. But there’s a very real sense that this is the big one… Oh and by the way the search for Symphony has begun…

AttackOnCloudbase00168.jpg

The Colonel is somehow looking more stern than usual. He outlines the precautions that are being taken. Cloudbase will be sealed from all external contact, and any plane coming within a 100 miles will be “warned off” which is a polite way of saying threatened with violence. The radar watch will be doubled which basically just means people are paying extra close attention to the radar, and the crew’s shifts are altered to 4 hours on duty, 2 hours off, around the clock… which means everyone’s going to be ruddy tired soon.

AttackOnCloudbase00224.jpg

Meanwhile, Symphony wakes up just in time to watch one of her comrades fly straight past her at a very low altitude. I mean, why bother searching if you’re not even paying attention, Destiny? It’s always a thrill to see a model on the same set as a puppet. It just stitches the whole thing together rather nicely.

AttackOnCloudbase00249.jpg

Symphony is a tad disappointed. It is eerie sometimes just how realistic and correctly proportioned these puppets are, and full length shots like this one really show them off at their best.

AttackOnCloudbase00252.jpg

Nothing to report, Destiny? Nothing at all? Tut tut…

AttackOnCloudbase00258.jpg

Colonel White gives the order to recall Destiny Angel. If you look really carefully in this shot, his lip starts moving before he actually says anything.

AttackOnCloudbase00262.jpg

Green points out that it’s a bit silly to leave someone stranded in the middle of the desert just because Destiny couldn’t be bothered to look out of the window. But alas, his case is not heard and he has to give the order for Destiny to give up the search. It’s worth noting that the Lieutenant Green puppet head seen here has different coloured eyes to that seen in earlier episodes, among other slightly different facial features. Voice artist Cy Grant is brilliant at giving this fairly one-dimensional character a good deal of charisma.

And so the Angel aircraft turns around to head back to Cloudbase, leaving Symphony to have a little snooze.

AttackOnCloudbase00285.jpg

Despite the fact that Blue is supposed to be worried and concerned about Symphony in this scene, his body language suggests otherwise. When I’m worried about the survival of  someone close to me, I tend not to put my feet up and read a blank document…

AttackOnCloudbase00292.jpg

Captain Magenta is manning the radar watch… I know… The original script for the episode actually specified that a new character called Lieutenant Sienna (some sources suggest they were in fact a Captain) was watching the radar. However, the cost of producing a brand new Spectrum uniform so late in the series was deemed unnecessary and the role went to Captain Magenta.

AttackOnCloudbase00298.jpg

Scarlet and Blue barge in to keep an eye on Magenta, who does refer to Scarlet as ‘sir’, which could possibly have been left from the original script which had Sienna as a lower rank to the other officers. Magenta claims that everything is fine and nobody has come within range except for Destiny. Blue is now thoroughly cheesed off.

AttackOnCloudbase00336.jpg

This is how cheesed off he is.

AttackOnCloudbase00366.jpg

He demands an explanation from Colonel White as to why Destiny has been recalled. This leads to much wailing and gnashing of teeth between the two. It’s an opportunity to get some emotion out of these characters who are often criticised for being too flat and militaristic. Indeed, the best Captain Scarlet episodes are those that give the regular characters some personality, and fortunately there are quite a few that do so. It’s worth noting that this is the only episode not to feature any guest characters, and the cast is limited to seven voice artists, for the most part just playing their one main role. I feel it makes their performances that little bit more dynamic and theatrical. More than any other episode, the recording session would have probably run just like a play. I could even be bold enough to say that the photo below was taken during the recording of this particular episode:

cast

Left to right: Janna Hill (Symphony Angel), Ed Bishop (Captain Blue), Francis Matthews (Captain Scarlet), Donald Grey (Colonel White and Voice of the Mysterons), Gary Files (Captain Magenta), Cy Grant (Lieutenant Green), and Liz Morgan (Destiny and Rhapsody Angels). As regular players such as Jeremy Wilkin or David Healy don’t feature in this photograph, and also don’t feature in this episode, I would assume that Attack On Cloudbase is the script they are performing. It’s a lovely photo and a rare opportunity to actually see the conditions that the shows were recorded in.

AttackOnCloudbase00403.jpg

Anyway, Colonel White reports that Spectrum Ground Forces are out looking for Symphony now, and Captain Blue wants to join them. More yelling ensues. Here’s a wonderful bit of dialogue: “What’s the matter with you man, are you in love with the girl?”

AttackOnCloudbase00407.jpg

“I suppose I am. Yes, I am.” The blossoming romance between Blue and Symphony is rather underplayed throughout the series so it really hits one on the nose here. It’s rather an interesting move actually to make Blue the romantic male lead of the series while Scarlet is the lead with all the action. In New Captain Scarlet the role is entirely diverted to Scarlet so that he’s entangled with Destiny and simultaneously fighting Mysterons. Destiny does identify Scarlet’s body in The Mysterons, but beyond that, there’s little implication that the two are that close in this series. John Theydon suggests an attraction between Scarlet and Rhapsody Angel in his 1967 novel, Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons.

AttackOnCloudbase00433.jpg

During Symphony’s slumber, she utters the word, “Adam.” Can’t think why she would be doing that…

AttackOnCloudbase00440.jpg

Night has fallen and things are ultra tense.

AttackOnCloudbase00442.jpg

Colonel White waits in the observation tube. Lieutenant Green just gawps at him.

AttackOnCloudbase00453.jpg

Magenta continues to look more important than he has any right to.

AttackOnCloudbase00460.jpg

Scarlet is nomming on a sausage. He doesn’t seem worried at all. The puppets are intentionally not shown trying to eat very often because it does spoil the illusion somewhat. We know they can’t do it, and seeing Scarlet’s mouth open to eat the sausage just looks silly.

AttackOnCloudbase00462

The Angels are all in uniform and waiting on standby. Rhapsody is up on deck in Angel 1.

AttackOnCloudbase00471.jpg

Colonel White is beginning to despair. It’s been 14 hours and there’s been no sign of any dodgy Mysteron activity.

AttackOnCloudbase00496.jpg

Then it begins.

AttackOnCloudbase00500

When looking up close, one can clearly make out that the lines on the radar screen are drawn on with marker pen, and the radar blip is simply a small flashlight being operated behind the screen.

AttackOnCloudbase00525.jpg

Magenta claims that the unidentified craft is flying at Mach 4! He also says that it’s 47 miles away, even though it’s at the very edge of the screen. So I guess the exclusion zone was actually a 100 mile diameter of Cloudbase rather than radius… either that or the radar screen isn’t big enough.

AttackOnCloudbase00542.jpg

Green is nervous, wishing that the craft were something else. But as the craft hovers near the base, Colonel White accepts the inevitable and sounds action stations.

AttackOnCloudbase00572.jpg

Scarlet is just about to mush a tomato into his fiberglass head when a terrific siren sounds. It’s a shame there aren’t moments like this in the rest of the series because it’s very exciting to have everyone scrambling.

AttackOnCloudbase00583.jpg

Destiny is frantic while Melody and Harmony can only just be bothered to stand up.

AttackOnCloudbase00596.jpg

Angel 1 takes off. I believe this is the first time we see a launching at night.

AttackOnCloudbase00622.jpg

Rhapsody Angel, who sadly doesn’t have a very prominent role in the series, is about to take on the unidentified flying object…

AttackOnCloudbase00624.jpg

With a lump in his throat, Green tells Rhapsody to take care. I think someone might have a little crush of their own…

AttackOnCloudbase00644.jpg

Rhapsody can’t believe what she sees.

AttackOnCloudbase00647.jpg

A flying saucer. An actual, proper flying saucer which flickers with light in the darkness. Rather deliberately, there isn’t a lot of detail to these Mysteron ships. Who knows whether there are actual Mysterons aboard, or if these are just remote controlled drones. It takes the viewer completely by surprise because I think the last thing we ever expected to see was a totally conventional attack from the air by physical Mysteron ships. That isn’t their style at all, but it does mean things are serious. It’s a fantastic revelation.

Rhapsody is warned to pull away by the Colonel and does so. But a strange noise, the same one we heard before Symphony’s crash earlier, starts to get louder and louder…

AttackOnCloudbase00700

With a terrific bang, the aircraft is consumed by a mysterious red smoke which probably has lots of ruddy dangerous chemicals in it.

AttackOnCloudbase00706

Rhapsody is blasted out of the sky. She’s dead now. She’s the first major character to die since the first episode and it has an incredible impact. It indicates that this episode is going to be an absolute bloodbath.

Green is on the verge of tears. White declares that the Mysterons themselves, not just their agents but actual Mysteron beings, have come to wreak total annihilation. Heavy stuff.

AttackOnCloudbase00774

An emergency meeting is called with everyone on Cloudbase in attendance except for Captain Grey who is presumably manning the radar in place of Magenta. But don’t worry, we’ll see Grey a bit later. This is one of only two episodes which feature the entirety of the regular cast – the other is Flight To Atlantica. Cloudbase has made a move to the Himalayas, one of the rare instances where Cloudbase’s ability to go anywhere in the world is actually mentioned.

At the end of the briefing, White and Scarlet share a strangely intimate moment. Everything seems to be leading up to the Colonel telling Scarlet that he’s in love with him. He ends up just asking him to get a haircut. But what was he going to tell him?? Maybe White is Scarlet’s real father…

Scarlet remarks to Blue that the Colonel is a wonderful man… there’s definitely some sort of undertone here but I can’t quite detect what it’s supposed to be. It certainly throws the multi-faceted relationship between Scarlet and White into perspective – sometimes they hated each other, sometimes there was a lot of respect on display from both. Through it all, it looks a lot like a hidden romance may have blossomed…

AttackOnCloudbase00859.jpg

Symphony is still snoozing in the desert. Pretty sure she’d be dead by now.

AttackOnCloudbase00872.jpg

Now everyone is just waiting for the next move. Captain Blue has forgotten how to sit in a chair but Grey and Ochre are too polite to say anything.

AttackOnCloudbase00894.jpg

Magenta is in charge of monitoring the one flashing light on the screen. I think even he can manage that.

AttackOnCloudbase00900.jpg

Green is becoming impatient, desperate for the carnage to begin… It’s wonderful to see him impassioned about something for once.

AttackOnCloudbase00919.jpg

White calms him down, an indication of the father and son type relationship that the two have developed.

AttackOnCloudbase00930.jpg

Here come the troops…

AttackOnCloudbase00936.jpg

Magenta struggles to count them because of course he does.

AttackOnCloudbase00959.jpg

Colonel White is ready to launch another Angel but Scarlet volunteers to take them on.

AttackOnCloudbase00976.jpg

Destiny is ruddy fuming about it, either because she wants to avenge Rhapsody’s death, or she loves killing Mysterons, or because she doesn’t want to risk Scarlet’s life. Answers on a postcard please.

AttackOnCloudbase01002.jpg

There were a limited number of Mysteron ship models for the effects team to work with so you might notice that the one in the background of this shot is rather less detailed than the other two.

AttackOnCloudbase01008.jpg

Scarlet 1 is ready for launch. This is the only time that somebody other than an Angel pilot flies one of their aircraft (aside from the Mysterons in Seek and Destroy). Scarlet’s flight helmet is the same one that he last wore in Expo 2068.

Scarlet 1 is given launch clearance. Green makes a wonderfully catty remark about the fact Scarlet’s indestructibility makes him nothing more than a big girl’s blouse. It’s a valid point in some  respects, but I suppose the drama in each episode comes more from the audience wondering whether Scarlet really will survive this particular stunt. His indestructibility relies entirely on unproven science so could give up on him at any moment.

AttackOnCloudbase01064.jpg

Scarlet approaches the squadron. It’s apt that the Mysteron spacecraft have no distinctive external features. It makes them more intriguing and alien.

AttackOnCloudbase01085

The Angel aircraft soon suffers the same fate as Rhapsody’s. There’s no sign at all of anything being fired from the spacecraft. It’s as if the Mysterons have an aura which just triggers complete destruction.

Scarlet attempts to steer the aircraft back to Cloudbase but it ends with a rather disastrous landing.

All of this is just so bizarre and out of the ordinary. To see a failed landing on the deck of Cloudbase, and Scarlet out of action already, is really unsettling. There’s no question that this episode is very out of the ordinary indeed.

AttackOnCloudbase01162.jpg

Doctor Fawn is quietly minding his own business getting the sick bay ready. Of course, much like Paul Maxwell, Charles Tingwell left the series at quite an early stage and thus we haven’t heard Doctor Fawn speak since the sixth episode, Operation Time. Meanwhile, Captain Blue and his team are rescuing Scarlet. All this while the Mysteron ships advance towards Cloudbase.

AttackOnCloudbase01194.jpg

Their first attack on the base strikes the sick bay, quietly killed Doctor Fawn. Nobody notices for a little while yet though.

AttackOnCloudbase01214.jpg

Smoke billows from the slightly smaller Cloudbase model as the ships gather to launch their full assault. Barry Gray’s score for this sequence is unique. Gerry Anderson felt that this episode needed something special to suit the hopeless, devastating mood.

AttackOnCloudbase01216.jpg

The radar implies an enormous number of ships. In actuality I think we only see three fully built models of the Mysteron ships in total.

AttackOnCloudbase01227.jpg

Magenta is asked to count all of the ships… time to nip out for a coffee…

AttackOnCloudbase01234.jpg

Another enormous hole is punched in the deck of Cloudbase. This is all starting to feel very final. While the three models hover in the foreground, we can see flashing lights in the distance to represent the other ships.

AttackOnCloudbase01252.jpg

In the sick bay, Blue announces the death of Doctor Fawn rather matter-of-fact-ly. Not only that, but Fawn’s assistant whom we have never ever heard about or seen before is qualified enough to determine that Captain Scarlet himself is dead.

AttackOnCloudbase01258.jpg

White struggles to come to terms with the loss. It’s a proper gut-punching moment.

AttackOnCloudbase01275.jpg

The assistant is revealed to be none other than Captain Black. It seems more than appropriate that in all the chaos and destruction, the Spectrum agent turned Mysteron has come to haunt his former colleagues. At this point one has to assume that Blue is just so delirious and traumatised he doesn’t notice that it’s Captain Black… right?

AttackOnCloudbase01302.jpg

Green has to comfort the Colonel. The emotion is piled high!

AttackOnCloudbase01329.jpg

Magenta interrupts the somber moment to deliver his counting report. White treats him like a complete moron… which he sort of is…

Before the radar room gets wiped out and Magenta is forced to cease counting, we’re treated to some gorgeous shots of the Mysterons surrounding Cloudbase and blowing it up.

AttackOnCloudbase01396.jpg

White mourns Magenta with a scathing comment about his eagerness and nothing more… what a git.

AttackOnCloudbase01417

Cloudbase struggles to maintain altitude, causing the Angel aircraft to slip off the deck. This really has to be one of the most dramatic sequences in all of Supermarionation history.

AttackOnCloudbase01436.jpg

With the engines almost entirely knocked out, Cloudbase solemnly descends through the cloud layer… the Mysterons are victorious… blimey…

AttackOnCloudbase01446.jpg

The Amber Room is hit next, killing the remaining Angels. Despite the entire base being tipped at an angle, everything stays exactly where it should be on the tables and furniture as if it was all glued down in preparation for the attack…

AttackOnCloudbase01467

Cloudbase will crash in 2 minutes… that is what is going to happen. Everyone is either dead or about to die. This is absolutely horrific.

AttackOnCloudbase01478.jpg

As the base falls, one Mysteron ships come in for a really close shot. Without the mysterious glare that the lighting of the other ships have, this one does look suspiciously like a retro saucepan lid…

AttackOnCloudbase01492.jpg

Lieutenant Green announces that everyone else is dead… before being killed himself…

As the smoke clears, Colonel White is left alone with Captain Blue who has broken his arm. Green’s body remains slumped over the control panel. The only option left is for them to put on a power-jet-pack and abandon Cloudbase. But Blue is too injured. The end is nigh.

White takes one last moment to consult his medals. Will he go down with his ship and all those who have served him so loyally? Or will he take a chance and escape to carry on Spectrum’s work? He ultimately decides to remain with his command.

AttackOnCloudbase01607.jpg

Colonel White reports to Spectrum Headquarters London for the last time.

AttackOnCloudbase01633.jpg

The Mysterons have won.

AttackOnCloudbase01650.jpg

With military dignity, Colonel White prepares for the end…

AttackOnCloudbase01682.jpg

AttackOnCloudbase01708.jpg

AttackOnCloudbase01744.jpg

… nope…

I mean… that… no, I’m sorry, it doesn’t matter how many times I watch this episode I cannot accept that ending. Why does it all have to be a dream? Yes, it’s not the end of the series but it ruddy well should have been because that crash sequence was the perfect finale. How bold would it have been to just polish off all of the main characters, let the Mysterons win, and stop there? It would be held in higher esteem than any other moment from the entirety of Gerry Anderson’s career.

The problem is that the majority of the episode is just too well done for us to accept that the whole thing was a dream. Dream episodes are a Supermarionation staple, but most of them deal with something totally fantastical happening and we accept the fun and fiction of it all fairly on. It doesn’t work when you pose a very probable scenario and let is play out in a very emotional and, for the most part, realistic way. And hey, if you still wanted to make it a completely fictional scenario, do something original with it. Maybe the Mysterons could have been planning their attack and watching it play out in their mind’s eye, or in the case of the re-edit for the compilation film Captain Scarlet vs. The Mysterons, time was reversed at the end so that it did really happen but the Mysterons showed some mercy. “It was all a dream,” is such a horrendous cliché I’m still baffled that any of the creative team thought it was a good idea.

Anyway, aside from that ending this episode is pretty much perfection. The drama, the tension, the sheer emotion that is on display is unbeatable and puts Attack On Cloudbase far above the rest of the series in my opinion. It’s everything you would want to see in the ending to such a dark and grim story about an intelligence taking revenge for the destruction of their own people in a long and bitter war. The characters are all on top form thanks to beautiful humanisation in the writing from Tony Barwick, and brilliant performances from the voice artists. The grave tone and the strangeness of the Mysterons is visualised in the most extraordinary ways by Ken Turner and the team working in the effects and puppet departments. The story fits the running time perfectly, with a lot of action squeezed in, but plenty of time for quieter characters moments which all built up the tension superbly.

This brings us to the end of our month celebrating the 50th anniversary of Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons. I hope you’ve enjoyed analysing these fan-selected episodes with me and take this opportunity to appreciate the series as a whole in a new way. It’s a fantastic show with a great deal of depth to it and endless possibilities. From a technical and a writing standpoint it has aged very well indeed, possibly better than any of the other Supermarionation series.

But stay tuned for more Captain Scarlet goodness. Coming very soon to the Security Hazard blog we have been given the opportunity to review the brand new Captain Scarlet 50th Anniversary Box Set and Spectrum File One from Big Finish! Audio adventures galore with these incredible releases which celebrate 50 years of Captain Scarlet superbly! Spectrum Is Gold!

Captain Scarlet – Lunarville 7

Directed by Robert Lynn

Teleplay by Tony Barwick

First Broadcast – 15th December 1967

We’ve previously established that most Captain Scarlet episodes fall into one of two categories – either someone is going to be assassinated, or something is going to be destroyed. Well it’s time for me to eat those words because Lunarville 7 doesn’t conform to either of those trends specifically. In fact there is no clear threat from the Mysterons whatsoever. Instead, Spectrum are thrown into a very delicate diplomatic incident, the results of which are extraordinary. There’s no doubt that Lunarville 7 is a classic because it does something rather different from most Scarlet episodes. It’s the first part of an exciting trilogy which sees Spectrum come closer than ever before to learning the secrets of the Mysterons. On top of this, most of the episode takes place off-world which is surprisingly unusual for a show about vengeful space aliens from Mars. There’s lots of fantastical tech on display, some of which is very different from the norm. The regular and guest cast are kept to a minimum, creating a tight plot which sees the key Spectrum personnel isolated in an extremely volatile situation.

Lunarville700004.jpg

David Healy had recently joined the voice cast, most likely to step into Paul Maxwell’s shoes. The Lunar Controller is undoubtedly one of his most fondly remembered Captain Scarlet roles before he went on to play Shane Weston in Joe 90. The Controller establishes that man’s first successful landing on the Moon was in the 1970’s. Production of this episode pre-dates the first Moon landing in July 1969 by some years, but the plan was certainly in place that man would reach the Moon by the end of the decade so I’m not entirely certain why the writer, Tony Barwick, assumed that it would take a little longer. Anyway, come 2068, mankind have achieved an awful lot in 100 years of Moon colonisation.

Lunarville700013.jpg

This is Lunarville 7, one of the many bases on the lunar surface which houses some of the 4000 people who now live and work on the Moon. Lunar habitation is a concept which Gerry Anderson would come back to time and again throughout his career. In many ways, the Lunarville installations are some of the more realistic and modest interpretations of a moonbase that we see. UFO’s SHADO Moonbase, and Space: 1999‘s Moonbase Alpha are rather more grand than the simple domes (which look suspiciously like colanders) that we see here.

The control room is dominated by a device which looks like a Dalek mated with a computer bank. The big, round windows look out on the lunar surface… or at least a fairly good painting of it. The Lunar Controller drops a number of bombshells. He announces that the Moon is not going to play any part in the fight against the Mysterons. He’s a bit late in the game for that I would have thought. Similarly to the setup in UFO, I would have thought Spectrum would immediately try and occupy the Moon  in some capacity, and that Lunarville would play a key part in monitoring Mars. He then announces that he has been able to contact the Mysterons and negotiate a peace treaty. That one certainly comes as quite a surprise. Presumably the folks on Earth have been working on trying to speak to the Mysterons directly ever since the first attack. Rather curiously the Controller then says that the Moon does not take sides, but basically they’ve taken the Mysterons’ side on this… I think it’s fair to say he’s not a very nice chap and that there’s something very fishy going on. Cuts from this speech which feature in Barwick’s original script include the Controller’s hopes that people will one day live, work, and die on the Moon without ever leaving…

Lunarville700032

This is Orson, he’s a bit of a creep.

Lunarville700055

The Controller asks SID about the transmission. With a very computery voice, SID responds. This all seems phenomenally retro now but an intelligent computer that can talk is basically as futuristic as you can get in the realms of Supermarionation. There is speculation that SID is voiced by Gerry Anderson himself, seeing as he provided the robotic voice of Robert in Fireball XL5 a few years earlier. It’s a charming theory, but I doubt it very much.

Lunarville700064.jpg

Naturally, Spectrum are befuddled by the Controller’s announcement. Colonel White starts with the fact the Lunar Controller has effectively declared the Moon’s independence. He didn’t really state that outright, so maybe the concept was more clearly determined in the original script. Captain Scarlet immediately questions whether the Lunar Controller can actually do that. White isn’t bothered but someone probably should be. I mean a Mayor or Member of Parliament for a particular constituency can’t just say, “Nah, we’re out mate,” at the drop of a hat. Does the Lunar Controller even have any political power over the Moon? Was he democratically elected? Is the Lunar Controller effectively the Moon equivalent of the World President? If so, the World President was a bit thick to sign away that power.

Lunarville700081.jpg

Anyway, the focus of this mission is going to be less about overthrowing the Lunar Controller’s rebellion, and more to do with his supposed contact with the Mysterons. Scarlet immediately speculates that he could very well be a Mysteron Agent and that the Moon is now basically under Mysteron control. The Mysterons don’t take control of people in serious power very often, but it does make for a fascinating concept. What if the ruler of a country was killed and reconstructed by the Mysterons? An entire nation faced with the propaganda of the Mysterons could become a very powerful weapon indeed. Infiltrating the very heart of the World Government and throwing it into disarray would be unbelievably intriguing. Unlike previous Supermarionation series, you can really dive into the politics of Captain Scarlet and speculate just how the world functions, giving it that more realistic and mature edge.

Lunarville700120.jpg

Colonel White is sending his men to the Moon. Their purpose will be to find out whether the Lunar Controller really has made contact with the Mysterons. It’s certainly a prickly situation.

Lunarville700128

This is your standard issue Moon rocket. It bears a very close resemblance to the Saturn V rocket which was about to undertake its first mission at the time.

Despite XK3 being written clearly on the outside, the astronaut refers to it as XK5… which is just the level of competence you want from the bloke who’s going to take you to the Moon. The astronaut himself wears a hat similar to those worn by Spectrum officers, but the emblem states SP (Space Patrol?).

Lunarville700151

The rocket soon blasts off and three beautiful jets of smoke stream downwards. This indicates that the model was filmed upside down in order to achieve a more convincing effect. In no time at all they’re leaving the Earth’s atmosphere and heading for the Moon. Very little fuss or bother behind this simple rocket launch. It’s just a run of the mill commute in the world of Captain Scarlet.

Lunarville700165

… Was this really the only person you could get to fill in for Lieutenant Green? Skippy the Spectrum Dog would make a better assistant than Captain Magenta. In every respect, Captain Magenta is the most colourful member of the cast and thoroughly entertaining in most cases. He’s a bit goofy but is relentlessly loyal and eager… far too eager. Still at least he refers to the rocket by its proper name.

Colonel White delivers his final briefing. You’ll notice that the astronaut has swanned off… somehow… and has left Lieutenant Green in charge of flying the rocket. He mentions that the Lunar Controller has banned personal radios. Is it not crystal clear by this point that something very bad and fishy is going on? White also drops the bombshell that an unauthorised complex is being constructed in the Humboldt Sea on the far side of the Moon. Bad and fishy doesn’t even cover it now.

Lunarville700208

Orson and the Lunar Controller prepare for Spectrum’s arrival. It’s their first visit to the Moon… and potentially their last. With no direct Mysteron threat outlined, one could assume that their plan is to kill Captain Scarlet, Captain Blue and Lieutenant Green. Now you may wonder why it would be necessary to bring them all the way to the Moon in order to do that. Well the isolation and radio silence is probably a major benefit. But they still don’t try terribly hard to actually kill them, and to be fair, the Controller only says it “could” be their last visit so maybe that isn’t the plan at all. If I have one criticism of this episode it’s that the Mysterons lack a clear plan of action.

Lunarville700223

The XK3 touches down. Captain Scarlet continued the practice of dressing the models and sets with random kit pieces, and you’ll recognise some of the pieces surrounding the landing pad as the little square bits stuck to the front of each Thunderbird 2 pod.

Lunarville700231

Orson arrives to take the Spectrum team to the Lunar Controller. The creep.

Lunarville700241

He passes them some recognition discs. How convenient that three objects that are programmed to be completely unique should also happen to look totally identical. I’ve often pondered what the ‘L’ arrow is supposed to mean. I think it just indicates which is the left side of the disc. Orson also has some Moon dirt under his thumbnail.

Lunarville700248

While Orson stands in the background guard the space mailbox, the Spectrum lads gang up on the Lunar Controller. He introduces us properly to SID…

Lunarville700263

Speech Intelligence Decoder… which is a pretty meaningless acronym but sounds clever. SID would later be the acronym for Space Intruder Detector in UFO. This SID is basically an Alexa or a Google Home but with a much cooler voice. He identifies people via their recognition discs which is a pretty neat system.

Lunarville700285

The Controller boasts that SID “controls everything in Lunarville…” So SID controls Lunarville… or to put it another way, SID’s the Lunar Controller… there’s food for thought. Anyway, Green decides to taunt the Lunar Controller by pointing out that brilliant as SID is, he was designed and developed on Earth. Oh he won’t like that much.

Lunarville700299

Old grumpy guts can’t contain his lunar pride like some kind of over-zealous racist and puts Green in his place. The Lunar Controller is rather fond of the Moon, like an axe-murderer is rather fond of the sound of chainsaw on skull. He does, however, claim that the Moon is now democratic and free. So people did actually vote for him as their leader presumably which is a bit worrying. Still, crazier people have made it into office without being manipulated by the Mysterons… we assume…

Lunarville700311

Scarlet looks at the Controller like he’s the last rotten potato in the vegetable patch. Despite his obvious insanity, the meeting with the Lunar Controller has to continue as if nothing has happened. Scarlet hands over a letter from the World President which probably says something along the lines of, “If you love the Moon so much why don’t you marry it?”

Lunarville700339.jpg

Anyway, Orson has offered to take the Spectrum team out for a trip in this funny contraption, the moon mobile. It’s almost a certainty that this vehicle formed the basis of the moon mobiles seen in UFO. The boarding tube detaches from the rear in a slightly suggestive manner.

Lunarville700343

Orson’s chair in the cabin is recognisable as the pilot’s chair of Thunderbird 2 from the second series of Thunderbirds. Scarlet and Blue’s seats can be seen as the pilots’ chairs in the Angel aircraft. Green probably got his chair from a jumble sale.

Lunarville700365

The craft hops across the lunar surface. The sequence is filmed with the camera running at an incredibly high speed to slow the motion down as much as possible. This is partly to simulate the low gravity, and partly to eliminate the amount of wobbling this rather lightweight model appears to be doing. It certainly looks like a vomit-inducing ride.

Lunarville700395

Lunarville 4 is spotted during the trip. This is where most of the food is grown, using water forged from the hydrogen and oxygen which is present on the Moon… don’t ask me how, I’m a Supermarionation reviewer, not a chemical engineer.

Lunarville700412.jpg

Orson refuses to take Scarlet and the gang to the Humboldt Sea, and does so by raising as much suspicion as he possibly can. Scarlet says that the Humboldt Sea is on the far side of the Moon and is never visible from Earth, and while the far side is indeed hidden from view, part of Mare Humboldtianum is just about visible from Earth part of the time. Either way, Orson turns the moon mobile around and claims that it’s time to head back, even though they’ve only just left.

Lunarville700438.jpg

The journey back will probably be a bit awkward now.

Lunarville700449.jpg

The Spectrum officers are introduced to their spacious sleeping quarters. We don’t actually see them walking into the room because the puppet wires couldn’t possibly get across the threshold.

Lunarville700487.jpg

Scarlet immediately suspects that the place is bugged so encourages Blue and Green to make some really lame small talk.

Sure enough, creepy Orson is listening in on his creepy headphones. Scarlet soon fines the microphone and has a rather splendid scheme in mind.

Orson is intrigued by the sudden silence. Here comes some of the finest dialogue ever written for Captain Scarlet…

Lunarville700526.jpg

GOOD NIGHT ORSON!

Lunarville700528.jpg

UUUUGGGHH!!!

Lunarville700534.jpg

Beautiful stuff, and no matter how many times I see it I still laugh out loud. Scarlet yanks out the microphone.

Lunarville700553

The Lunar Controller manages to resist slapping Orson over the head for being such a useless twerp. He has tightened the net, programming SID to seal all exits and only obey his instructions. It’s deliciously evil stuff.

Blue sleeps with the same magazine next to his bed that Alan Tracy can be seen reading in the Thunderbirds episode, Day of Disaster. Scarlet is restless and has headed straight for the control room to interrogate SID.

Lunarville700622

Scarlet requests a moon mobile but is denied permission, what with the present state of emergency that has been declared. It turns out that all of Lunarville 7 has been evacuated. There are several thousand people living on the Moon, and a fair number of them must presumably inhabit Lunarville 7, so how did Scarlet, Blue and Green not notice that everyone had swanned off. It would also probably have had more impact if we’d actually seen any of these people wandering around at some point.

Lunarville700668.jpg

Scarlet wakes up Blue and they pretty much agree with little doubt that the Lunar Controller must be a Mysteron. Then Scarlet reckons that “the answer” may be found in the Humboldt Sea… the answer to what exactly? Why the Lunar Controller is a Mysteron and being all Mysterony about everything?

Lunarville700679.jpg

Scarlet pops into the Lunar Controller’s room to borrow his recognition disc. It does tell us one thing about the Mysterons – they do need to sleep.

They’ve soon acquired a moon mobile and Blue is confident enough to take control. Green is navigating using a schoolboy’s map of the Moon. Curiously, Scarlet and Green swap seat-belts for one particular shot. One does wonder why the moon mobiles were even fitted with different coloured seat-belts in the first place. It’s apparently going to take them two hours to reach the Humboldt Sea. Two hours of bouncing up and down constantly… anyone else queasy?

Lunarville700752.jpg

The moon mobile looks like an angry Bulldog in sunglasses in this pose.

Lunarville700784.jpg

Just before giving up, Green spots a light coming from a distant crater, Crater 101. No idea what the words ‘Gobi Delta’ are supposed to refer to but it sounds like somebody in the art department just made up a lunar landmark.

Lunarville700788.jpg

The effects team did a beautiful job rendering the lunar landscapes for this episode. They look incredible.

Lunarville700814.jpg

Scarlet orders Blue to stop the moon mobile just before they fall straight into the crater. They have a good long look at their findings.

As I’m sure we all suspected, a Mysteron complex is being constructed within the crater. It’s another fascinating insight into how the Mysterons work. Robots and pre-programmed machines are needed to carry out the task of building the complex. It raises many, many questions. Why do the Mysterons need a second complex? Why do they need robots to build it? What are all the component parts of the complex for? To see them hiding away in a crater quietly constructing and growing stronger makes them synonymous with insects or pests building a nest. Is the complex simply there way of putting their stamp on a location? Maybe Mars wasn’t their first home…  Blue says it’s “exactly as the film from the MEV on Mars showed it.” It still baffles me that Captain Black was able to just disappear when he brought the Zero-X back to Earth…

Lunarville700857

The Lunar Controller has woken up and he’s ruddy fuming that Spectrum have escaped.

Lunarville700872.jpg

SID announces the arrival of the moon mobile, even though his little red light doesn’t flash when he speaks on this occasion. Curiously SID manages to identify that Captain Scarlet has entered Lunarville 7, even though he’s still wearing the Lunar Controller’s recognition disc.

Lunarville700886.jpg

Scarlet and the lads arrive looking very tough and ready for a rumble. They are authorised to arrest the Lunar Controller.

Lunarville700900.jpg

He uses the words “Earth men” which is a pretty tell-tale sign that he’s a Mysteron. The Controller then states that once the Mysterons have finished taking over the Moon, they will come to take over the Earth. That’s a curious change of tactic. The Mysterons have never really expressed any desire to inhabit the Earth, they just wanted to wreak terror and avenge the attack on the Martian complex. Suddenly they’re planning some kind of conquest. Anyway, Scarlet says the complex will be destroyed… because that went so well last time…

Lunarville700910.jpg

Scarlet demands a lunar rocket from SID who gladly accepts the request.

Lunarville700937.jpg

The Controller is more than a little baffled. He orders Orson to “seize them.” Oh this will be good. One P.A. against three Spectrum officers…

Lunarville700942.jpg

Either Blue is waving goodbye or…

Lunarville700944.jpg

Oh dear. In live action shows it’s never convincing when a hero karate chops the villain unconscious, but in the realms of Supermarionation it’s even more laughable.

Lunarville700963.jpg

When he learns the truth about losing his recognition disc, the Lunar Controller has a bit of a funny turn. The music indicates that many marbles have been lost as he starts to yell at the computer.

Lunarville700986.jpg

Then he threatens SID with a pointy finger… well I don’t know about you but I’m ruddy terrified now that the Controller’s pulled his finger out…

Lunarville701014.jpg

Because the finger didn’t end up doing much for him, the Controller ends up pulling out his gun and threatens SID with it, as if the computer will suddenly change its mind. So the Controller opens fire like a complete moron.

Lunarville701021.jpg

SID is sorry…

Lunarville701035.jpg

The base starts to shake for some reason. The lads head for the rocket as fast as possible, sensing that complete destruction is on the horizon.

Lunarville701062

SID is soooorry. The loud wailing noise which plays over this moment is brilliant. It signals the deterioration of the base, the deterioration of the Lunar Controller’s mental health, and the deterioration of the Mysterons’ plan.

Lunarville701076.jpg

In the next shot of SID exploding, the Controller has mysteriously vanished. One is supposed to assume that he is dead on the floor, but you never know with the Mysterons…

Lunarville701112

The destruction of SID has triggered the destruction of the entire base. That’s quite a bad safety feature. What happens if you accidentally spill a glass of water down SID’s speaker grille? The XK3 is back on the launch pad ready for lift off. Presumably the main lunar rocket is in orbit ready to dock.

Lunarville701176.jpg

The gang blast off just in time before Lunarville 7 is completely wiped out. The detonation is ruddy big and ruddy marvellous. Good thing everyone has already been evacuated.

Lunarville701202.jpg

The team is back on Cloudbase safe and sound. Colonel White sounds rather jolly when he announces that Lunarville 7 is totally destroyed… even though that’s an awful lot of money down the pan. He proceeds to read a note from the World President who wishes to convey his thanks to Captain Scarlet and “the other members of Spectrum.” Wow, I’m sure Captain Blue and Lieutenant Green are feeling so warm and fuzzy inside.

Lunarville701235.jpg

“We have won the round, but not the fight.” In other words, there’s more still to come! As we’re not reviewing Crater 101 or Dangerous Rendezvous let me just say that it makes a very good trilogy indeed. Spectrum’s perilous mission to discover more about the Mysterons is full of danger and excitement. Dangerous Rendezvous suffers from a little bit of random padding in the middle of it, but other than that it’s a solid story arc with tons of drama.

But looking at Lunarville 7 specifically, it’s a brilliant teaser to bring us into the second half of the series. The Mysterons are stepping up their game with a much bigger and more devastating plan than ever before. Their Mysteron agents are some of the smartest we’ve seen so far. The stakes are huge in this episode, and maybe some of that gets lost because of the limited 25 minute running time, and the amount of time we have to spend watching moon mobiles slowly hop up and down – that being said they are pretty cool. In fact all of the special effects are very nicely done.

The claustrophobic atmosphere of this story is prevalent, and while there isn’t too much of a sense that the Spectrum team are in too much danger, you still get a strong feeling that they are completed isolated and the only ones who can save the Moon from Mysteron domination. Naturally they succeed thanks to Captain Scarlet’s quick-thinking and the Lunar Controller’s complete insanity. His instability is great for keeping us on our toes and I’m glad we get to see a Mysteron agent with a bit of passion behind him for a change.

Next week, the Mysterons themselves have come to Earth to annihilate Spectrum once and for all. Who will win the final battle? Stay tuned for our review of the utterly incredible Attack On Cloudbase.

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…

WhiteAsSnow00001.jpg

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

WhiteAsSnow00002

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.

WhiteAsSnow00003.jpg

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

WhiteAsSnow00004.jpg

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.

WhiteAsSnow00031.jpg

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.

WhiteAsSnow00068.jpg

Now that really does look a bit rude.

WhiteAsSnow00069.jpg

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.

WhiteAsSnow00090.jpg

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.

WhiteAsSnow00098.jpg

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.

WhiteAsSnow00142.jpg

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.

WhiteAsSnow00151.jpg

“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.

WhiteAsSnow00175.jpg

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.

WhiteAsSnow00180.jpg

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

WhiteAsSnow00186.jpg

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

WhiteAsSnow00194

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!

WhiteAsSnow00227.jpg

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.

WhiteAsSnow00265.jpg

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.

WhiteAsSnow00374.jpg

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.

WhiteAsSnow00419.jpg

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.

WhiteAsSnow00432.jpg

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

WhiteAsSnow00433.jpg

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.

WhiteAsSnow00487.jpg

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

WhiteAsSnow00495.jpg

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…

WhiteAsSnow00589

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.

WhiteAsSnow00613.jpg

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

WhiteAsSnow00627.jpg

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.

WhiteAsSnow00637.jpg

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!

WhiteAsSnow00695.jpg

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.

WhiteAsSnow00740.jpg

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.

WhiteAsSnow00821

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.

WhiteAsSnow00833.jpg

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…

WhiteAsSnow00851.jpg

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.

WhiteAsSnow00887.jpg

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!

WhiteAsSnow00917.jpg

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.

WhiteAsSnow00928.jpg

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.

WhiteAsSnow00938.jpg

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.

WhiteAsSnow00977.jpg

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…

WhiteAsSnow00992

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

WhiteAsSnow01013.jpg

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

WhiteAsSnow01022.jpg

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…

WhiteAsSnow01030.jpg

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…

WhiteAsSnow01036.jpg

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?

WhiteAsSnow01051.jpg

What’s that noise?

WhiteAsSnow01055.jpg

Seems to be coming from the cupboard…

WhiteAsSnow01061.jpg

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?

WhiteAsSnow01066.jpg

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

WhiteAsSnow01088.jpg

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.

WhiteAsSnow01112.jpg

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

WhiteAsSnow01125.jpg

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.

WhiteAsSnow01147.jpg

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.

WhiteAsSnow01165.jpg

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…

WhiteAsSnow01168

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…

WhiteAsSnow01186.jpg

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.

BigBenStrikesAgain00003.jpg

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.

BigBenStrikesAgain00007.jpg

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

BigBenStrikesAgain00011

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.

BigBenStrikesAgain00014.jpg

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.

BigBenStrikesAgain00018.jpg

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.

BigBenStrikesAgain00025.jpg

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.

BigBenStrikesAgain00034.jpg

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.

BigBenStrikesAgain00066.jpg

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.

BigBenStrikesAgain00073.jpg

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.

BigBenStrikesAgain00106.jpg

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.

BigBenStrikesAgain00155

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.

BigBenStrikesAgain00165.jpg

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.

BigBenStrikesAgain00197.jpg

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…

BigBenStrikesAgain00310

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.

BigBenStrikesAgain00311.jpg

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.

BigBenStrikesAgain00312.jpg

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…

BigBenStrikesAgain00355.jpg

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.

BigBenStrikesAgain00377

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

BigBenStrikesAgain00390.jpg

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.

BigBenStrikesAgain00472.jpg

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.

BigBenStrikesAgain00529.jpg

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…

BigBenStrikesAgain00536.jpg

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.

BigBenStrikesAgain00568.jpg

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.

BigBenStrikesAgain00591

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.

BigBenStrikesAgain00615.jpg

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.

BigBenStrikesAgain00644.jpg

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!

BigBenStrikesAgain00667

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.

BigBenStrikesAgain00677.jpg

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

BigBenStrikesAgain00690.jpg

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.

BigBenStrikesAgain00710

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…

BigBenStrikesAgain00718.jpg

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.

BigBenStrikesAgain00782.jpg

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.

BigBenStrikesAgain00807.jpg

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.

BigBenStrikesAgain00812.jpg

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.

BigBenStrikesAgain00858

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.

BigBenStrikesAgain00863.jpg

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

BigBenStrikesAgain00877.jpg

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.

BigBenStrikesAgain00885.jpg

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!

BigBenStrikesAgain00896.jpg

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.

BigBenStrikesAgain00930.jpg

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…

BigBenStrikesAgain00938.jpg

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…

BigBenStrikesAgain00981.jpg

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.

BigBenStrikesAgain00992.jpg

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…

BigBenStrikesAgain01048.jpg

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

BigBenStrikesAgain01057.jpg

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…

BigBenStrikesAgain01101.jpg

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

BigBenStrikesAgain01120.jpg

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…

BigBenStrikesAgain01136.jpg

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.

BigBenStrikesAgain01213.jpg

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.