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Captain Scarlet
and the Mysterons

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From Cult Times #73

The Premise:
Trigger-happy Human astronauts visiting Mars blow up the Mysteron city when they accidentally mistake the inhabitants’ telescope for a gun. But the unseen aliens, with the power to recreate matter, rebuild their city in an instant and threaten slow reprisals against Mankind until all life on Earth is extinguished. Clearly, the ‘peaceful’ Mysterons were just itching for a fight…

Converting a few members of a world police force called Spectrum into indestructible agents, the Mysterons are a bit put out when one of them, Captain Scarlet, switches his allegiances back to the good side after a crack on the head – following a fall from an unfeasibly tall car park. He becomes the Humans’ best asset in their defence against the Mysterons.

Background:
Money-man Lew Grade forced Thunderbirds creators Gerry and Sylvia Anderson to abandon their worldwide hit after only two series in favour of a darker show. Perfectly-proportioned puppets in a war story replaced the family show about international rescues. The hardware was still impressive – Cloudbase, the Angel interceptors, the Spectrum Pursuit Vehicles and a myriad magnificent machines soon sabotaged by the reactionary Mysterons – but the series, trying so hard to be realistic, might just as well have employed live actors. Anderson did so two years later with UFO.

First Run:
The first and only season began on September 29th 1967.

Number of Episodes: 32 half-hours. There may soon be more. Gerry Anderson has produced a brief computer-generated pilot for a proposed new series.

Red and Yellow and... :
…fortunately no pink, but we had Captains Magenta and Ochre. As there were agents all over the world, Captains Lilac and Primrose weren’t entirely out of the question. Snazzy uniforms all round, though…

Not Quite Black and White:
Captain Black represented the bad guy and Colonel White the leader of the good guys. Political incorrectness aside, the Andersons happily made a black guy the second-in-command, Lieutenant Green, and five women into the Angels, crack pilots of the interceptor fighter jets. Spectrum’s Angels were first, Charlie!

And Isn’t That...
...the voice of Cary Grant as the indestructible Captain Scarlet? Not exactly. It’s the voice of British actor Francis Matthews doing an impression of Tony Curtis impersonating Cary Grant in Some Like it Hot. The clipped humourless accent perfectly complemented the rigid puppets and the serious scripts: this was, after all, a show about zombie Human facsimiles wreaking destruction on behalf of a miffed alien civilization.

Dead Giveaways:
And the Mysterons might have succeeded more often if they had rebuilt and re-used the destroyed matter instead of making copies and leaving the originals lying about for our heroes to discover….

Captain Scarlet: smug but cool
Primary colours

Winged Assassin
A mighty airliner is usurped by the Martians to devastating effect. The Mysterons win this week

Big Ben Strikes Again
Spectrum only just manages to save London from nuclear destruction. Derek Meddings’ miniature cityscapes and special effects are superb.

More Anderson hardware: the SPV
Muted hues

Spectrum Strikes Back
Colonel White and co are trapped in an underground bunker beneath a ridiculously slow-descending floor mechanism.

 
 

BBC2 LogoCaptain Scarlet and the Mysterons: Mondays, 18.20 BBC2

 
 
Captain Scarlet DVD Review here (from Ultimate DVD)
Blackstar

Mike Fillis

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Feature © Visual Imagination 2001. Not for reproduction.