VOTING CLOSED: Captain Scarlet September Reviews!

To celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the indestructible Captain Scarlet, every Friday on the Security Hazard blog throughout the month of September we will be reviewing your favourite episodes of the classic Supermarionation series.

Five episodes will be poked, prodded, analysed and laughed at (probably) starting on Friday, September 1st and continuing every Friday for the rest of September.

But how will the five episodes be chosen? That responsibility falls to you, earthman. Select the five episodes from the series that you would like us to get to work on! The five episodes with the most votes will be featured here on the Security Hazard blog – voting closes on August 20th.

 

Terrahawks Gets A Big Finish! – Volume 3 Review

Terrahawks is back for a third series of audio adventures from Big Finish. Since the television series began in 1983, the show was always in a state of change – daring to try new and whacky ideas to keep the audience on their toes. The show shifted from serious and chilling, to downright hilarious and bizarre – and often mixing the two tones into a terrifying yet tongue-in-cheek blend of something which made Terrahawks a very unique and entertaining piece of television, and a stand-out Gerry Anderson production.

Fast forward 30 years, and the Terrahawks formula has been given new life by Jamie Anderson, cast members old and new, some special guest voice artists, and a talented team behind the scenes dedicated to recapturing the old magic, while also creating something special and unique all over again.

When the announcement was made at Andercon 2014 that Terrahawks would be returning as an audio series, the very notion of it was as near perfect as you could get. Jeremy Hitchen, Robbie Stevens, and Denise Bryer were all set to return to their original roles, with Hitchen filling in superbly for the retired Windsor Davies as Sgt. Major Zero, and newcomer Beth Chalmers faithfully bringing back Captain Kate Kestrel and Cystar, characters originally voiced by the late Anne Ridler. The colourful characters of the original television series were driven by strong and distinctive performances from the voice artists, making the characters easily transferable into audio stories.

Now to be frank, if there’s one thing that the original Terrahawks series needed, it was more money behind it. The limited budget meant that the format was never quite able to reach its full potential on television – and so the audio adventures picked up where the series left off. Across the three audio series, the writers have developed the characters and built upon the Terrahawks format in ways the original series simply couldn’t have done. There’s a newfound maturity to the formula which presents the characters at their best, while also offering some of that quirky humour which makes Terrahawks unique.

Volume 3 picks up from the dramatic conclusion of Volume 2 which saw the Terrahawks team and Zelda’s forces pushed to the limits of destruction by the twisted Prince Zegar of Guk. Take a look and listen to the trailer:

*SPOILER WARNING – A few minor plot details are hinted at in the following comments on each episode*

Episode 1, No Second Chances, written by Jamie Anderson, sees the surviving Terrahawks slowly picking themselves up after the devastating battle. After the conclusion of Series 2 it was certainly going to be a challenge for both sides to get back on their feet, but through some clever twists in fate, Mary is able to take command and continue the fight against Zelda who is soon back in full force. It’s a thrill to have Terrahawks treated to mature, complex storytelling with some genuinely intriguing resolutions and shocking moments. The characters retain their amusing quirks while also facing some very real drama including the love and loss felt between Ninestein and Mary at the climax of the story.

The quality of the performances in this episode, and across the entire box set is stellar. The cast give it their all with both the drama and the comedy. The team are clearly having a ball recording these scripts while also working extremely hard to deliver performances consistent with the characters they brought to life over 30 years ago. The audio adventures have injected the characters with some raw emotion which was previously lacking from the television series, and is now played upon to full effect by the cast. They are all superb performers.

The Wrong Clone Number

The Wrong Clone Number brings Terry Adlam’s signature comedy writing back to the series. A particular highlight of the episode pokes fun at the villainous Mysterons of Captain Scarlet. The Terrahawks audio stories have always made affectionate nods to other classic Gerry Anderson shows, and this series is no exception. Zelda is back with another truly bonkers plan which involves taking over Buckingham Palace to become the Queen of England… yes, really. It wouldn’t be Terrahawks without some absolute nuttiness thrown in – and Yungstar getting nibbled on by the Queen’s corgis is certainly rather nutty. The audio adventures have gained a satirical edge which is utilised very nicely in this episode.

Named after the classic Stingray episode, episode 3 – Set Sail For Mis-Adventure by David Hirsch, sees the Terrahawks called upon to escort Professor Otto Maddox on a cruise across the Atlantic Ocean. David Graham’s characters have entertained generations of fans, and in the role of Maddox, one is taken right back to the magic of his Supermarionation performances. The energy he gives to the part of Maddox is quite delightful and plays particularly well against Jeremy Hitchen’s Sixstein. This nautical episode also sees the return of Captain Goat, one of the more unusual villains of the television series, and the addition of a new vehicle to the Terrahawks fleet – Seahawk – specially designed by Chris Thompson.

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Episode 4, You-Foe, opens with a loving dig at Gerry Anderson’s first live action series, UFO, and leads to the return of Zelda’s alter ego, Grandma Buggins, for some devious trickery – a wonderful contribution from Denise Bryer. This episode takes a slower pace as Zelda and her family carefully manipulate Threestein, the final clone, into doing their bidding. The episode, and indeed much of the series, makes for an interesting study of what makes the character of Tiger a strong leader despite being thoroughly unlikeable at times. For my money, it’s his unpredictability, cold logic, and willingness to  be the bad guy at times which make him an engaging Anderson hero – but this series provides an exploration into what changing up the Ninestein character would change about the series’ format.

Living Legend brings David Graham back for another role as space explorer, Elias Crick – David’s great versatility as a voice artist still being put to great use. This episode also features a cameo from one of David Graham’s lesser-loved characters from Fireball XL5, but all is forgiven because one can’t but help but be grateful that Terrahawks is a weird enough show to be able to include such a character! Meanwhile, it’s time for a certain furry napoleon to depart, escaping the clutches of Zelda for good…

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And so we come to episode 6, The Prisoner of Zelda, and this is one I’ve really been looking forward to. Terrahawks meets Patrick McGoohan’s cult classic, The Prisoner. Zelda’s most chilling monster of all is back while Threestein and Lois Price (a character introduced in volume 1 and brought to life splendidly by Beth Chalmers) are transported to The Community. The blend of Terrahawks bonkersness with classic elements of The Prisoner is just great fun. Chris Dale’s script also offers plenty of woooonderful and obscure references to other Anderson shows and beyond. The story soon takes on a more serious and emotional tone as the truth behind MOID’s tragic existence unravels before him…

Mark Woollard’s Star Crossed sees Threestein facing a shortcoming never encountered by his predecessor – a little thing called love. Of course, nothing is as it seems. There is no doubt that these characters have evolved a great deal from their television series counterparts with some outstanding depth. Jeremy Hitchen and Beth Chalmers are incredible in this episode and take Terrahawks to an emotional level I never would have thought possible.

Jamie Anderson brings the series to a close with Enemies, Negotiations and Deceit – a simple tale which sees both Tiger and Zelda choosing to negotiate a peace treaty – really truly actually. Every character is given the opportunity to shine. The episode opens with an overwhelming sense of optimism, with Mary and Tiger even set to overcome their will-they-won’t-they courtliness. But of course it wouldn’t be Terrahawks if there wasn’t a nasty twist, and there’s no chance you’ll guess this one. It’s an emotional rollercoaster, climaxing with an outstanding rendition of the Terrahawks theme like you’ve never heard it before.

The final moments of the series are the greatest testimony to the achievements of Big Finish’s Terrahawks audio adventures. They have taken the show in directions that no-one could have possibly imagined, trying all sorts of new and exciting format experiments to produce stories which not only break the mould of Terrahawks, but break the mould of what you can expect from a classic Gerry Anderson formula. If you like Terrahawks, you will love the Big Finish audios. If you were perhaps underwhelmed by Terrahawks upon first viewing, the audio stories do everything to make amends. But frankly, having just finished listening to this incredible box set, there’s nothing I yearn to do more than to start watching the original series from the very beginning.

Terrahawks: Stay On This Channel! This is a must have for any Gerry Anderson fan!

Available now from Big Finish.

The Security Hazard Podcast #4! – Anderson In The Classroom

Jack and Andrew are back for another exciting podcast, this time exploring an interview originally published on the Official Gerry Anderson website with a teacher who introduced his students to the Worlds of Gerry Anderson! You can read the full article here. Sit back and enjoy our nattering about how we would be Anderson into the classroom.

Coming to SoundCloud soon!

The Security Hazard Podcast – Episode 2 – Goodbye Stirling Road

In the latest edition of the Security Hazard Podcast, Jack and Andrew discuss their fond memories of the Century 21 Studios at Stirling Road on the Slough Trading Estate, following the area’s recent demolition. The pair also share their thoughts on Gerry Anderson’s New Captain Scarlet and the exciting news that the series is being given new life thanks to an upcoming release on blu-ray! All this and more on the Security Hazard Podcast. You can listen on YouTube, or download from SoundCloud to enjoy the show where ever you are!

New Security Hazard Videos and Podcasts!

Exciting changes are happening here at Security Hazard HQ! Some exciting new regular features are going into action and you can enjoy the humble beginnings of these projects right now:

Security Hazard Unwrapped

A new video series which sees me diving into the uncharted depths of my collection of Gerry Anderson memorabilia. After a recent move across the Atlantic Ocean, my assortment of models, games, toys, books, and much more currently reside in boxes wrapped up in newspaper. It seemed only fitting that I would open up these surprise goodies on camera for your enjoyment. Take a trip back in time, or feast your eyes on pieces of merchandise from the worlds of Gerry Anderson that you may have never seen.

You can watch the first episode by clicking here.

The Security Hazard Podcast

Join Gerry Anderson blogger Andrew Clements and myself on an exciting adventure into the unknown. The Security Hazard Podcast sees two Thunder-Nerds talk about all things Anderson. Need something to listen to at work or on your commute? Give this a go!

Listen to the first episode on YouTube or download on SoundCloud!

We hope you enjoy these exciting new projects, and don’t worry, we’ll still be writing articles and reviews right here on the blog!

Security Hazard: 2017

Happy New Year to you all! Welcome to the first post on this blog for 2017. It’s going to be something a little bit different. As well as taking a personal reflection on everything the Security Hazard blog has achieved since it launched in May of 2016, I would also like to take this opportunity to look forward and let you in on what to expect from this little corner of the internet in 2017 – things are changing, but we’ll get to that later.

Last Friday marked this blog’s 50th post since I began writing on May 26th, 2016. I never thought it would get this far. I had no plan for what I was going to do, I just knew that I would need an outlet for all my Gerry Anderson ramblings after moving from the UK to the USA and leaving behind the wonderful Official Gerry Anderson blog (although I’m still involved in the background here and there.)

There have been so many highlights. I was inundated with kind comments when I reviewed the three Thunderbirds 1965 episodes. They remain a popular source of information for people who haven’t had a chance to see the episodes. I’m grateful to the Pod 4 Films team for allowing me to explore their work in such detail and for supporting me in doing so.

These reviews led to my utterly bonkers idea to analyse every single classic episode of Thunderbirds in the same intense level of detail every week. I have been publishing reviews for 19 weeks solidly every Friday and am enjoying the experience a great deal. I have learnt so much about the production of the original series just from analysing the episodes closely and putting pieces of the jigsaw together. It’s certainly been a challenge to write several thousand words every week about my favourite show, but the process is incredibly rewarding and has managed to change my way of looking at a number of episodes that I didn’t originally have a high opinion of. I’m still learning, but 19 weeks in I think I’m beginning to work out what makes this very imperfect series so incredibly good.

Along with those reviews have been the articles published every Monday which have ranged from being incredibly silly to being very insightful about various other Gerry Anderson works. Highlights have included achieving my dream of reviewing the lost pilot show The Investigator and having people actually read it, exploring my hopes for the 50th Anniversary of Captain Scarlet (and learning that some of them might just happen), and creating some fiendishly difficult quizzes for you all to enjoy. I also recently experimented with putting a Gerry Anderson themed gaming video together for the blog which seems to have gone down a treat.

So with 2017 now upon us, will anything be changing? For one very simple reason I have to say that it will. The day after this post goes up, I will be starting a new full time job. It came about very suddenly after Christmas, leaving me with very little time to make any plans. I am excited about the opportunity this job will bring to make life for my family a little more comfortable. But it also means that I just don’t have as much time on my hands as I used to. The time has come to prioritise and fine tune this blog to make sure I can cope with the workload and keep up the good quality writing that I believe I have created so far.

For the moment, therefore, I will cease regularly posting weekly articles on Mondays about general topics. The weekly Thunderbirds reviews on Fridays will, however, continue as before. The Thunderbirds reviews are the real heart and soul of this blog and it would be wrong to abandon or slow up on them now. That is not to say that writing about any other topic is out of the question – new blog posts may come out from time to time when special events occur, but I would not want people to expect them regularly. What I can try to promise is that the Thunderbirds reviews will continue to be published every week. Of course, assuming that happens, in around 3 months time I’ll be looking for something new and produced by Gerry Anderson to explore. Start submitting your ideas now for what you might like to see, and if you’re really lucky I might just be mad enough to do it.

I’m also considering doing more special videos ocassionally. You see, as well as bringing myself to the U.S. several months ago I also shipped over my enormous collection of Gerry Anderson memorabillia from across the years which need to be unboxed. Let me know if that’s something you would be interested in seeing in a video series!

Thank you all so much for supporting the Security Hazard blog during 2016. It has grown into something better than I had ever anticipated and it wouldn’t have continued if it hadn’t been for those of you who come back and read my musings every week. I hope you continue to enjoy what this blog has to offer as we blast into 2017!

Robert Vaughn – The Man From The Protectors

Actor Robert Vaughn, best known in Gerry Anderson circles as the star of The Protectors, passed away on Friday, aged 83. He had been suffering from leukaemia for a short time and was surrounded by his family when he died.

The Man From UNCLE gave him his most well-remembered role as secret agent Napoleon Solo, but his career as a Hollywood star was long and illustrious. He was a big name by the time he came to England to make The Protectors in 1972. It’s fair to say that expectations about how the production would go were not met for Vaughn, or for producer Gerry Anderson.

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The basic premise for the series was devised not by Anderson but Lew Grade who gave it to the newly formed Group Three Productions to develop. The Protectors was a traditional ITC action-adventure series which saw three wealthy heroes travel all over Europe to protect innocents from criminal activity. Certainly not the usual science fiction or fantasy escapades of a typical Gerry Anderson production. Grade even had a part in casting two of the three leads, one of whom was Robert Vaughn as the main protector, Harry Rule.

Production on the series required constant travel throughout Europe, something which Anderson had not co-ordinated since his days working with Nicholas Parsons on the travel documentary Blue Skies Ahead in 1960. The travel schedule for The Protectors was, however, much more punishing and chaotic.  So high was the cost of all this location shooting that the decision was taken to shoot on 16mm film rather than 35mm, reducing the quality of the series from the pristine standard set by previous Anderson series.

There was friction behind the scenes between Robert Vaughn and those running the show including Gerry Anderson and Lew Grade. Robert Vaughn’s business partner, Sherwood Price, was part of the problem, but Vaughn had openly voiced his dissatisfaction with the crew, almost leading to Gerry and ATV sueing him, and Vaughn threatening to return to California. A later interview revealed that he was particularly unhappy about the slow pace of shooting and the union rules which governed how much work could be done in a day. Anderson thought Vaughn acted like a Hollywood prima donna, refusing to get along with the other actors. Eventually the tension eased and work was able to continue. Along with many a stressful situation, there were also some happy times during the production as the cast and crew travelled across Europe to complete the glamorous series.

The writing of the show was very restricted by the fact that episodes were only half an hour long, often making the plots very simple and stripped of complex storytelling or characterisation. Vaughn later said that The Protectors was “tasteless junk.” Indeed, the series was very much a case of style over substance, and if you’re not too keen on the 1970’s kitsch style then there isn’t much left to appeal.

Despite all this, The Protectors was very popular and earned itself a second season giving the series a total of 52 episodes broadcast between 1972-1974.

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Like many other Anderson fans, I must admit to previously giving the series a wide berth. I only recently got hold of the series on DVD but haven’t gotten around to watching it particularly attentively. When the news of broke of Robert Vaughn’s passing I decided to watch a few carefully selected episodes. The first episode, 2000ft to Die; The First Circle guest-starring Ed Bishop ;  … With A Little Help From My Friends penned by Sylvia Anderson and her only major contribution to the series;  It Could Be Practically Anywhere On The Island  directed by Robert Vaughn himself; and Zeke’s Blues which was written by and guest starred Shane Rimmer.

1972_television_the_protectors_nyree_dawn_porter_robert_vaughnIt was certainly a varied bunch with all sorts of different antics going on, some of them thrilling, some of them a bit nonsensical, and one of them complete and utter rubbish. In all cases Robert Vaughn appears to give the best performance that he possibly can given the material. Had the episodes been twice as long they probably would have been able to offer complex stories and bold style. The latter was chosen over the former in most cases. Vaughn does, however, play the part of Harry Rule well and tries where he can to give him some personality and depth when the scripts allow. I can understand Vaughn’s disappointment with the show. The Protectors was his chance to make a name for himself globally as an absolute superstar. He was ready to come over to Europe and work hard on a series that would enable him to demonstrate his acting ability to an even wider audience. Instead he was with a crew that he perhaps felt didn’t work as hard as they should and scripts that didn’t give him much of a chance to shine. And that’s the thing, when the scripts are good and give him plenty to work with, you can tell he’s really engaged in giving a good performance, putting ego aside to work hard and do a decent job.

Then you have the likes of the episode It Could Be Practically Anywhere On The Island which is about nothing but ego, and not just Vaughn’s. He may have directed the episode but it was clearly orchestrated very heavily by his apparently tasteless business partner, Sherwood Price with whom Gerry Anderson and many others took issue with during the production. The episode is complete garbage from beginning to end and is a reflection of how bad things could have gotten if Gerry Anderson and Lew Grade hadn’t kept firm control over the series. It Could Be Practically Anywhere On The Island is not a fair representation of what The Protectors was about or trying to achieve. Robert Vaughn was undeniably the star of the show and the best episodes of the series allow him to do with that without a lot of fuss. His co-stars, Nyree Dawn Porter and Tony Anholt supported him well and gave Vaughn the strength of being the star, but also allowed him to shine as part of an ensemble.

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Many years later, starting in 2004, Robert Vaughn worked in the UK on the BBC series Hustle, playing experienced grifter Albert Stroller with many other talented British actors forming a team of con-artists. If you haven’t seen this show before, I heartily recommend you take a look at it. It’s an ITC series for the 21st Century, wrapped up in fantastic plots, great characters, strong performances, and plenty of thrilling intrigue and humour. Vaughn is wonderful as the loveable Albert and gives the character such authority and charm that you can’t take your eyes off him. Hustle is an absolute gem and gave Vaughn the scripts that he deserved. Like The Protectors, it gave him an ensemble that he worked extremely well with.

You may love, loathe, or be completely indifferent to The Protectors, but Robert Vaughn certainly had a great presence on screen and was able to carry the show well despite some of its flaws. His charisma was apparent in so much of his work, and the fact that he kept working until the very end of his life demonstrates his passion for film and television and striving to keep working hard.