Captain Scarlet

From Academic Kids

Missing image
CaptainScarletDVD.jpg
North American DVD release of the series.

Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons, often referred to in shorthand as simply Captain Scarlet, is a science fiction television series produced by the Century 21 Television company of Sylvia and Gerry Anderson and first shown in Britain (originally on ATV Midlands, but later the whole of the UK) between September 1967 and April 1968. It used puppetry (Supermarionation) and scale model special effects.

The series was one of several of imaginative and popular science-fiction TV adventure series the Andersons produced in the 1960s, beginning with Supercar and followed by Fireball XL5, Stingray, Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet, Joe 90, and the little-seen The Secret Service. Scarlet was the first series made after the international success of Thunderbirds in 1964-66, which included two series of the TV show and two feature films.

Contents

The story

The basic premise, played out over 32 episodes, was that a special International group, Spectrum, defends the Earth from the insidious plans of the alien Mysterons.

On a mission to Mars in 2068, a Mysteron 'city' was destroyed by Captain Black, leading the Mysterons to declare a "War of Nerves" on Earth. The Mysterons have the ability to replicate and then control any person they kill or anything they destroy, through their power of retro-metabolism. They use this power to conduct a war of terror against Earth—primarily aimed at the world leaders, major cities, industrial and defence establishments, and, of course, "Spectrum" and its airborne Cloudbase headquarters. The Mysterons are never seen; their presence is indicated by two circles of light tracking across the scene. Their actions on Earth are always through their replicated intermediaries—often Captain Black, who the Mysterons killed and then revived as their first agent.

Captain Scarlet, already one of Spectrum's top agents, becomes their secret weapon after the events of the first episode, The Mysterons. In that episode, Scarlet (whose real name is Paul Metcalfe) is one of two Spectrum agents killed by the Mysterons and then replaced with a duplicate under their control; for reasons never explained in or out of the series, however, when the duplicate falls 800 feet from a tower the personality of Paul Metcalfe reasserts itself in the duplicate, who is immune thereafter to Mysteron control. Not only that, but Scarlet's new body has two new powers: it allows him to sense the presence of other Mysteron duplicates nearby, and if he should be injured or even killed, retro-metabolism will re-create him as good as before. ('Self-repairing' might be a more accurate way to describe this than the 'indestructible' that the series uses, since it is established that Scarlet feels all the pain associated with any injuries he suffers.) For obvious reasons, this advantage is kept secret outside Spectrum, and even Captain Blue is often heard saying "But Captain, you'll be killed!" (Later in the series, the Mysteron duplicates are discovered to be vulnerable to high-voltage electricity, meaning that the same could permanently destroy Scarlet.)

Characters

Spectrum personnel have military ranks and colour based code names (hence Captain Scarlet), headed by Colonel White. Other characters include Captains Blue, Ochre, Grey, and Magenta, Lieutenant Green, and the five female fighter pilots, who have a different collective codename—the Angels—and are individually Destiny, Symphony, Melody, Rhapsody, and Harmony.

  • Captain Scarlet - Real name Paul Metcalfe
  • Captain Blue - Real name Adam Svenson
  • Colonel White - Real name Charles Grey
  • Lieutenant Green - Real name Seymour Griffiths
  • Doctor Fawn - Real name Edward Wilkie
  • Captain Black - Real name Conrad Turner
  • Captain Ochre - Real name Richard Fraser
  • Captain Magenta - Real name Patrick Donaghue
  • Captain Grey - Real name Bradley Holden
  • Captain Brown - Real name
  • Captain Indigo - Real name
  • Captain Yellow - Real name
  • Destiny Angel - Real name Juliette Pontoin
  • Symphony Angel - Rean name Karen Wainwright
  • Melody Angel - Real name Magnolia Jones
  • Rhapsody Angel - Real name Dianne Simms
  • Harmony Angel - Real name Chan Kwan

Note: with the exception of Captain Scarlet and Captain Blue, none of the above real names were actually mentioned on screen. They originate from various licensed spin-off publications. As such, it is debatable whether these names are actually canon.

Puppets

Whether the puppets of the various Anderson series were modelled on real people, and who those real people were, is the subject of some question. Gerry and Sylvia Anderson have claimed that they asked the puppet designers to give the puppets rough resemblances to specific celebrities of the day. Some of the puppets, however, appear to be quite clearly modelled instead on the actors who provided their voices; chief puppet artist Mary Turner admitted that Thunderbirds' Lady Penelope was modelled after Sylvia, a relevation the latter claimed came as a surprise. On Captain Scarlet, Captain Blue and Colonel White were said to particularly resemble their voice actors, Ed Bishop and Donald Gray respectively. (Ironically, although many fans believe the resemblance of Captain Blue and Ed Bishop to be particularly strong, based on Ed Bishop's appearance in Anderson's live-action series UFO, the blonde hair that Bishop's UFO character Straker shares with Captain Blue is Bishop's brunette hair bleached blonde in the first episode, and a wig in subsequent episodes of the series.) The Captain Scarlet character has been said at various times to have been modelled on Cary Grant, Roger Moore, and on Scarlet's voice actor Francis Matthews; while no definite answer appears to be forthcoming, Matthews says that Gerry Anderson went to great lengths to get him to sign on to the production because of his skilled Cary Grant impression.

As in the Andersons' previous puppet series, the characters' eyes and mouths were operated electronically, but in Captain Scarlet the control mechanism was placed in the puppets' chests rather than their heads. This meant that the puppets no longer needed oversized heads to accommodate the mechanisms and could be built with normal proportions for the first time. In order to enhance the sense of realism further, the puppets were never seen walking, as it was impossible to make their legs move realistically. For this reason characters are often seen standing on moving walkways or even sitting at moving desks, and there are of course any number of futuristic land, sea, air, and space vehicles for them to ride in, such as the Spectrum Pursuit Vehicle (SPV), the bright-red Spectrum Patrol Car (also referred to as the Spectrum Saloon, the Spectrum Passenger Jet (SPJ), and the streamlined Angel Interceptor aircraft, armed with missile guns, all of them courtesy of special effects director Derek Meddings and his miniatures unit.
SPVs were located around the world, hidden in public or commercial buildings. Upon meeting the staff of a building, a Spectrum agent would show his identification and the SPV would either be moved out for use, or the camouflage which had concealed it (a shack, or a goods container) would collapse to reveal it.

Later productions

In 1980, Incorporated Television Company (ITC), which produced many Anderson projects, combined several episodes of the original show to release a TV movie version titled Captain Scarlet vs. the Mysterons. This was later used for the second episode of KTMA version of Mystery Science Theater 3000, shown on Thanksgiving Day (24 November) 1988 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA, and retitled as Revenge of the Mysterons from Mars.

A new version of the series, entitled Gerry Anderson's New Captain Scarlet, began broadcast on ITV on 12 February 2005. The series, produced by Anderson and backed by Sony Pictures Television, uses computer-generated imagery (CGI) instead of puppetry, although as a nod to Supermarionation, the show is promoted as being produced in "Hypermarionation".

Original novels

Several novels based upon the series were published in the late 1960s:

  • Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons, John Theydon (pseudonym for John W. Jennison), 1967
  • Captain Scarlet and the Silent Saboteur, Theydon, 1967
  • The Angels and the Creeping Enemy, Theydon, 1968 (not published under the Captain Scarlet series title)

In 1993, Corgi Books published four episode novelizations for young readers based upon the episodes "The Mysterons", "Noose of Ice", "Lunarville 7", and "The Launching".

Trivia

The mid-1980s musical duo Scarlett & Black took their name from the characters of Captain Scarlet and Captain Black.

The Zero-X mission seen and referred to in the pilot episode ("The Mysterons") involved the same spacecraft seen in the feature film "Thunderbirds Are Go".

The oft-repeated expression "S.I.G." in the series stands for "Spectrum is Green"; i.e., the situation is good. The corresponding "S.I.R." ("Spectrum is Red"), meaning the situation is bad, is heard less often. These catch phrases are a common Anderson-ism, like the Thunderbirds' "F.A.B."

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