Captain Scarlet – White As Snow

Directed by Robert Lynn

Teleplay by Peter Curran & David Williams

First Broadcast – 3rd November 1967

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Now that really does look a bit rude.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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What’s that noise?

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Seems to be coming from the cupboard…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One thought on “Captain Scarlet – White As Snow

  1. Ian Luck

    The Angel Interceptors land at the rear of Cloudbase’s flight deck, because there you will find the ‘Spectrafan’. It’s a large fan which, when angled towards the already decelerating aircraft, slows it even further, until the ‘plane can be grabbed by electromagnets on the inclined retractable ramp. I’m remembering something from an old TV21 comic, from about 50 years back – so It might not be 100% correct, but a Japanese model of Cloudbase did have a moveable ‘Spectrafan’. All this fuss bothered me as a kid – why not just make the Angel Interceptors V.T.O.L. (Vertical Take Off and Landing). If, in ‘Thunderbirds’, Jeff Tracy had a small V.T.O.L. jet aircraft, why not here? And it’s not even as if the landing cycle was ever shown that often, either. I love the idea of Cloudbase, but am always reminded of it’s impracticality when reading ‘The Hitch Hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy’, where Douglas Adams describes Vogon Constructor ships as: ‘Hanging in the sky, the way bricks don’t.’

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