Set in 2068,[e 1] the series charts the hostilities between Earth and a race of Martians known as the Mysterons. After a misunderstanding causes human astronauts to destroy their settlement, the vengeful Mysterons declare war on Earth,[e 1] initiating a succession of return attacks which are countered by Spectrum, an international security organisation. Spectrum boasts the remarkable abilities of its top agent, Captain Scarlet, who comes to possess the Mysteron healing power of "retro-metabolism". This ability to return to life after suffering fatal injury essentially makes Scarlet "indestructible".[e 2] Captain Scarlet, the eighth of ten puppet series that the Andersons produced in the 1950s and 60s, was immediately preceded by Thunderbirds and led to Joe 90 and the little-seen The Secret Service. In terms of visual aesthetic, the series represents a departure from the style of Thunderbirds due to its use of non-caricatured marionette puppets of realistic bodily proportions. Re-run a number of times on British television and purchased by the BBC in 1993, the series has been the foundation of merchandising campaigns since its first appearance, leading to the release of items such as toy dolls and other associated media, including novels and comic strips in the Anderson-related children's magazine, TV Century 21. Compared to its antecedents, Captain Scarlet continues to be recognised as much "darker" in tone and less orientated towards child audiences due to increased levels of violence and themes of extraterrestrial malevolence and interplanetary conflict. The transition in the puppet design has polarised commentators and former production personnel, although the series has been praised for its depiction of a multinational and multiethnic cast of characters against a backdrop of a utopian future Earth. Deciding to revive Captain Scarlet in the late 1990s, Gerry Anderson supervised the production of a computer-animated reboot series, Gerry Anderson's New Captain Scarlet, which commenced broadcast in the United Kingdom in 2005.
In the pilot episode, a team of Zero-X[n 1] MEV astronauts investigate the surface of Mars in 2068 after unidentified radio signals emanating from the planet are detected on Earth.[e 1] The source is discovered to be an extraterrestrial settlement, which is attacked and destroyed when the explorers mistake a harmless sensor device for a weapon.[e 1] The inhabitants of the settlement, the Mysterons, are sentient computers which form a collective consciousness and possess partial control over matter. The Mysterons use their power of "reversing matter" to reconstruct their complex and declare that they will seek revenge on humankind for the unwarranted aggression.[e 1] Reversing matter, or "retro-metabolism",[e 2] enables the Mysterons to replicate and control any person or object once the original has been killed or destroyed. This ability is used to conduct a "war of nerves" against Earth, which entails issuing threats against specific targets (from world leaders and military installations to cities and continents) and then destroying and reconstructing whatever instruments are required (whether human or machine) to execute their plans. The presence of the Mysterons is indicated by two circles of green light (the "Mysteron rings") which trail over scenes of destruction and reconstruction. Although the Mysterons do on occasion manipulate events from Mars, their actions on Earth are usually performed by their replicated intermediaries. The leading "Mysteron agent", Zero-X mission leader Captain Black, was killed and reconstructed in the service of the Mysterons immediately after the incident on Mars and disappeared when Zero-X returned to Earth.[e 1] Spectrum, an international security organisation, created in 2067,[e 3] in which Black was a senior officer, mobilises all its personnel, vehicles[n 2] and other resources against the Mysterons. With supreme command maintained from Cloudbase, an airborne headquarters hovering at a height of 40,000 feet (12,000 m) above the Earth's surface,[e 4] Spectrum has outposts in all major cities. It employs operatives of many nationalities, the most senior of which hold military ranks, are stationed on Cloudbase and answer to the commander-in-chief of Spectrum, Colonel White.[n 3] While Cloudbase is defended by the "Angels" interceptor aircraft squadron, the organisation also boasts a fleet of Spectrum Pursuit Vehicles ("SPVs") hidden in secret locations all over the world.
Captain Scarlet becomes Spectrum's principal weapon in its battle against the Mysterons after the events of the pilot, in which the Mysterons threaten to assassinate the World President[n 4] as their first act of retaliation.[e 1] The human Scarlet is killed in a car accident engineered by the Mysterons[n 5] and replaced with a reconstruction under their control.[e 1] However, when the duplicate is shot by Captain Blue and falls to its death from a tall structure, it returns to life with Scarlet's consciousness restored and is thereafter free from the Mysteron influence.[n 6][e 1] Scarlet's ex-Mysteron body has two remarkable abilities: he is able to sense the presence of other Mysteron duplicates in his vicinity,[n 7] and if he is injured or killed, retro-metabolism will restore him to a state of perfect health. Now able to use suicidally reckless tactics to thwart Mysteron threats, Scarlet repeatedly braves the pain of death in the knowledge that he will recover to face the Mysterons once more.[n 8] As Scarlet and Spectrum defend Earth against the threat from Mars, it is found that Mysteron reconstructions are particularly vulnerable to electricity[e 5] and that they are detectable on X-rays, to which their biology is impervious.[e 5] Consequently, two anti-Mysteron devices, the "Mysteron Gun"[n 9] and the "Mysteron Detector", are developed to aid Spectrum in their fight.[e 6] A three-episode story arc covers the discovery of a second Mysteron city under construction on the Moon,[e 7] its destruction by Spectrum,[e 8] and efforts to negotiate with the Mysterons on Mars via a crystal power source, salvaged from the complex, which has communicational capabilities.[e 4] A failed attempt at satellite surveillance of the Martian surface,[e 9] aborted military conferences[e 10][e 11] and the sabotaged construction of a new space fleet[e 12] hinder Spectrum's plans to return to Mars, and the organisation is unsuccessful on two occasions in apprehending Captain Black.[e 13][e 14] The penultimate episode of the series includes an all-out Mysteron assault on Cloudbase with the use of armed spacecraft, which is ultimately revealed to be a nightmare dreamt by one of the Angel pilots.[e 15] The final episode is a clip show which ends inconclusively with regards to the war between Earth and Mars and fate of Spectrum and the Mysterons
When talks to find an American broadcaster for Thunderbirds fell through in the July 1966, production for the series' second season ended with the completion of just six episodes at the behest of ITC financier Lew Grade. Having overseen Gerry Anderson's work since the creation of Supercar in 1960 before going on to buy his production company, AP Films, during the making of Fireball XL5, Grade was keen for Anderson's programmes to be transmitted abroad and decided that a new concept would do more to attract potential bidders than a second season of Thunderbirds. As a result of the cancellation, Anderson was required to come up with an idea for another Supermarionation series. He had once been inspired by the thought of creating a live-action police drama in which the hero would have unexpectedly been murdered halfway through the series and replaced by a new lead character. Now giving fresh consideration to this idea, Anderson resolved that a selling point for his new series could be a character that can be killed at the end of each episode and resurrected by the beginning of the next. This, coupled with contemporary theories about the possibility of life on Mars, led to the idea of an interplanetary war raging between Earth and its neighbour and a worldwide security organisation being called on to defend human civilisation. After further thought, Anderson decided that "Scarlet" would make an unusual codename for this organisation's "indestructible" agent who can come back to life, while "Blue" could be his partner's designation. From this, Anderson reasoned that all the personnel should have colours for names to form the whole "Spectrum" of colours, and decided that someone called "White" should be the leader of the Spectrum Organisation much in the same way that white light is composed of, and can be broken down into, the colours of the spectrum. Intrigued by the often-heard phrase "life as we know it", Anderson wanted to set the aliens of his new series apart from the conventional extraterrestrials of 1960s television and cinema. He therefore worked from a basis of "life as we don't know it", and made the Mysterons that were to feature in the series a race of sentient computers as opposed to organic lifeforms. Although this is not explicitly stated in the television episodes, the early intention was that the original Mysteron civilisation came from another galaxy. Having established a settlement on Mars in the distant past, they fled the planet centuries later, abandoning their computer complex. Contemporary recollections of the Second World War proved to be an inspiration for a number of design aspects. For instance, Anderson recalled that RAF pilots had found it difficult to counter German attacks during the Battle of Britain, since taking off from the ground meant that it took considerable time to intercept the enemy. He therefore made Spectrum's headquarters an airborne aircraft carrier called "Cloudbase". The Mysteron rings were inspired by an advertisement for the Oxo range of food products, which included an image of the brand name sliding over a frying pan and the outline of a woman's body.
CAPTAIN SCARLET : WINGED ASSASATION
GERRY ANDERSON (1967)
CENTURY 21 PRODUCTIONS