Big Finish have been very busy making sure Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons gets the 50th anniversary celebration it deserves. There’s a lot of fantastic audio drama on offer, and we’ve been lucky enough to review the Captain Scarlet 50th Anniversary Box Set, and Spectrum File One. But here’s a full list of all the sets that are on offer and their contents:
Captain Scarlet 50th Anniversary Box Set
Introducing Captain Scarlet by Angus P Allan
Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons by Angus P Allan
Captain Scarlet is Indestructible by Richard O’Neill
Captain Scarlet of Spectrum by Angus P Allan
Captain Scarlet versus Captain Black by Richard O’Neill
Adapted TV stories
Big Ben Strikes Again by Tony Barwick
Manhunt by Tony Barwick
The Trap by Alan Patillo
Special Assignment by Tony Barwick
Heart of New York by Tony Barwick
Model Spy by Bill Hedley
Flight 104 by Tony Barwick
The Launching by Peter Curran and David Williams
Also includes a brand new sixty minute Captain Scarlet anniversary documentary.
Spectrum File One
An adaptation of the 1967 John Theydon novel, Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons narrated by David Graham and performed by Wayne Forester and Liz Morgan.
Spectrum File Two
An adaptation of the 1967 John Theydon novel, Captain Scarlet and the Silent Saboteur narrated by David Graham and performed by Wayne Forester and Liz Morgan.
Spectrum File Three
An adaptation of the 1967 John Theydon novel, The Angels and The Creeping Enemy narrated by David Graham and performed by Wayne Forester and Liz Morgan.
Needless to say it’s a pretty comprehensive set of releases diving full on into the Captain Scarlet phenomenon based on three formats, the original television episodes, the mini album adventures, and the novels.
Let’s kick off by exploring the Captain Scarlet 50th Anniversary Box Set.
The set opens with the five stories which were written and recorded especially for the Century 21 Mini Album records released back in the 1960’s. They are beautifully presented here. The source material that the Big Finish team had to work with would have been limited and no doubt varying wildly in quality. A lot of careful work has gone into making everything sound fantastic and like they were recorded yesterday.
The mini album adventures make for fascinating listening. The television series had the luxury of a particularly large voice cast, and spectacular special effects to accompany the stories. The cast was cut down somewhat for the recording of these which features some performances of guest characters from cast members who would normally stick strictly to their regular roles. Francis Matthews, Ed Bishop, and Donald Gray have rather distinctive voices, so hearing them in other roles here is somewhat amusing. There’s some rather unusual dialogue overall and some wonderfully over the top performances, with the cast attempting to make sure all of the drama that would normally be visible on screen is fully injected into the dialogue. The stories themselves range from being exactly the sort of thing you would see in the television series, to being a little more… bizarre. Said bizarreness surely culminates in the story Captain Scarlet versus Captain Black which sees Captain Black take two children hostage in an incredibly disturbing manner. The stories are presented in the order that they were released, and rather brilliantly we’re treated to the Lyon’s Maid and Kellogg’s adverts of the period between each episode for a really authentic 50th anniversary experience. The five mini album stories are a must-listen for Captain Scarlet fans to give you some extra stories featuring the original cast as you’ve never heard them before…
A little bit of Barry Gray goodness is slipped in at this point as we’re treated to the opening and closing themes in all of their forms, including some unused tracks.
The 50th Anniversary Box Set continues by presenting 8 original television episodes adapted for audio with linking material from the original cast. Some of these were released back in the 60’s, but many use material especially recorded by Ed Bishop in the 90’s and released for public listening for the first time. It’s a great selection of episodes spanning across the entire series and a thrilling variety of adventures. If you’ve ever wanted to enjoy a Captain Scarlet episode while you’re on the move, this is undoubtedly the best way to do it.
The set is wrapped up with a brand new documentary featuring members of the production team. Newly recorded interviews, rare archive material, and narration from Jamie Anderson definitively tell the story of Captain Scarlet. Mike Trim, Shane Rimmer, Alan Perry, Liz Morgan, Gerry Anderson, Mike Jones, Nick Williams, Mary Turner, Leo Eaton, Derek Meddings, Tony Barwick, Sylvia Anderson, Alan Shubrook, Peter Holmes, Crispin Merrell, Barry Gray, Ed Bishop, Mike Noble, and Lee Sullivan all offer their insights on the production and the legacy of the series.
The contributors give a full and frank overview of the series and what it was like to work on. The cancellation of Thunderbirds, the debate over the scale of the new Supermarionation puppets, and the darker tone of the series are all matters that are touched upon with opinions from both sides. Some great new stories come to light, particularly from the archive material provided by Susan Harman and the estate of Simon Archer (Gerry Anderson’s first official biographer). The intense workload at the studio is covered in depth. Century 21 were a well-oiled machine by this point and the schedule was relentless, and hearing about the lengths that were gone to in order to keep things moving are extraordinary.
The documentary is an excellent addition to the set and one of the highlights of the 50th Anniversary as a whole.
As if a big fat box set of classic adventures wasn’t enough, we have some newly recorded stories in the form of the Spectrum Files releases. Three novels published in the 1960s re-told as audio-books, narrated by Supermarionation veteran David Graham, and with character dialogue performed by Wayne Forester and Liz Morgan. This provides the listener with the detailed description of the novel, and the dramatic potential of the television series.
With so many of the original voice cast either unavailable or no longer with us, Wayne Forester takes on all of the male roles, while Liz Morgan performs all of the female characters. Wayne Forester played Captain Scarlet in Gerry Anderson’s New Captain Scarlet with a new and fresh approach, but his revival of Francis Matthews’ original Cary-Grant-esque interpretation captures the essence of the characterisation superbly. The same can be said for all of his re-creations of the original characters. Every voice has been carefully honed to the point that you instantly know which character he is playing, but his performances aren’t labored with the effort of trying to get every line pitch perfect. Forester sounds comfortable with every single one of the voices, an art that is often lost when one actor has to re-create a large number of impressions. In addition, he plays every guest character both in a starring role and in the tiniest of cameos, and each one has a distinct voice too.
Liz Morgan’s return to the roles of Destiny, Harmony, and Rhapsody Angels is very welcome indeed, and her re-creations of Symphony (originally performed by Janna Hill) and Melody (originally performed by Sylvia Anderson) are also of a great standard. She throws herself into the characters and gives some wonderful performances.
The narration provided by David Graham guides you through the story and the ever-changing locations with great charm and energy. He is not only a brilliant character actor, but it turns out a thoroughly engaging storyteller. It’s a pleasure to hear him read. Even though we know all about Cloudbase, the Spectrum organisation, and all other important aspects of the Captain Scarlet format, David Graham makes them sound fresh and original.
I don’t want to spoil the story of Spectrum File One too much, but let’s just say that it takes the epicness of the original series and turns it up to eleven. I’ve never been fortunate enough to read the original John Theydon Scarlet novels, but these audio-books certainly do develop upon the original format and do things that couldn’t have possibly been done in the television series. The locations are many and varied, taking us on a whirlwind adventure. The story is everything you could possibly want from a Captain Scarlet feature film and more.
The production of this release is of the usual stellar standard that we expect from Big Finish, with lots of special treats dotted about here and there. Original sound effects are put to great use, while re-imagined music reminds us that this is a new interpretation. The revamped staccato drum beat is a particular favourite of mine.
In short, the Captain Scarlet 50th Anniversary Box Set is a celebration of everything that the original series achieved, and the exciting stories that were told. The Spectrum Files releases are something bold and new, telling outstanding stories in a resourceful and exciting way, celebrating the legacy of Gerry & Sylvia Anderson’s classic format by daring to do something different with it.
Watch the trailer for Spectrum File One now!