Captain Scarlet – The Mysterons

Directed by Desmond Saunders

Teleplay by Gerry & Sylvia Anderson

First Broadcast – 29th September 1967

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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President probably getting a little more concerned now.

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

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Sleep tight kids.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Spectrum Passenger Jet sure is a pretty thing.

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

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

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

So, y’know, it could be an impostor…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6 thoughts on “Captain Scarlet – The Mysterons

  1. darkspine10

    Maybe the Rock Snakes in TB Are Go! were some kind of remote Mysteron defence system, to prevent discovery of their complex?

    I like the point you made about the Mysterons having no actual weapons, and having to rely on using Humans for their plans. It adds to the theme of Humanity’s act of agression sparking the whole war off in the first place.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Argyledaft

    Fantastic Review

    Still cant work out how the Delta Garage attendant could see Cap Blue had “expert ratings on SPV’s”, but I guess “you get used to it”

    The ejection sequences throughout the series are magnificent, Martin Baker Aircraft Company will be handing out a lot of ties!!! Also leaving an SPV or jet at 60 feet a second would compress Scarlet’s spine a bit though!

    Oh and I still don’t know what the numbers of the Angels are.. 737 is destroyed a few times

    Like

  3. Martin Smith

    A very good review. One thing of note, Captain Brown’s body is found at the scene of the crash, but no mention is made of Captain Scarlet. Was his body ever found, and if so, did he attend his own funeral? A dark assumption I know, but puzzling.

    Liked by 1 person

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