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.

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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.

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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…

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This is Orson, he’s a bit of a creep.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?).

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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.

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… 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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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?”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The journey back will probably be a bit awkward now.

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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.

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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…

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GOOD NIGHT ORSON!

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UUUUGGGHH!!!

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

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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?

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

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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.

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

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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…

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

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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.

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

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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…

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

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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…

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Either Blue is waving goodbye or…

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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SID is sorry…

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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“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.

One thought on “Captain Scarlet – Lunarville 7

  1. Richard

    The recognition disks are not very well thought out in this episode. At the start it’s explained that SID uses them to recognize people but when captain scarlet gets up in the middle of the night and visits SID the computer asks captain scarlet to identify himself (even though Scarlet is quite clearly wearing his disk). Later, like you mentioned, SID announces that “captain scarlet” has returned in the moon mobile even though Scarlet swapped disks with the lunar controller. And while Scarlet was away SID would have assumed that the lunar controller was captain scarlet, but didn’t the lunar controller notice this (SID seems quite chatty and would probably have said hello to who he thought was “captain scarlet”).

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