the success of
the UK and around most of the globe, the vital US network
deal failed to materialise and as a result Gerry Anderson
was sent back to the drawing board to come up with a replacement
product in an attempt to woo the US broadcasters. Anthony
Clark looks back at Anderson's involvement with Captain
Scarlet and the Mysterons...
Anderson's previous productions, Captain Scarlet and the
Mysterons attempted to make the puppet characters "real"
rather than caricatures. Just as important, there would also
be a more serious tone to the new show which was in keeping
with the programme's heightened realism.
premise for Captain Scarlet is also more complex than
in previous Anderson productions with the cataclysmic mistake
by Captain Black ofattacking the Mysteron base throwing humanity
into an inter-planetary war. But the odds are far from equal.
On one side, an invisible enemy with their seemingly supernatural
power to raise the dead, on the other, the all-too frail human
aggressors. But thanks to a Mysteron blunder, Earth has a
secret weapon in the form of Captain Scarlet - a Mysteron
duplicate who regains his humanity while retaining the Martian's
power of retro-metabolism - the ability survive seemingly
certain death. Barring
all but the most extreme circumstances Captain Scarlet is
Mysteron's replacements were originally conceived as robots
but it was felt that this would make it difficult for audiences
to relate to Captain Scarlet after slipping out from under
his alien control. It was also clear early on in pre-production
that the new puppets were not quite as human as had been expected
and that making them move realistically on screen was harder
than ever. As
a result, much of the show looks very static as even minor
movements, especially walking, made the puppet characters
appear very wobbly.
still wonder about the wisdom of our decision to change the
puppets," explained Gerry Anderson many years later. "The
heads were reduced in size to make them in proportion with
the rest of their bodies, but the problem was that exact and
precise movements became even more vital than ever and that
caused us terrible difficulties."
fight against the Mysteron's "war of nerves" is masterminded
by Spectrum although it is never made clear what the organisation's
role was before the onset of the alien threat. However,
what is certain is that it is an international and highly
secretive force with extensive resources around the world
that answers directly to the World President and that celebrates
its first year of operation in Flight to Atlantica with Mysteronised
show has a good many strengths, principally its strong designs
and excellent special effects. However, continuity is shaky
(which was not helped by the randomised transmission order)
and the lack of any humour often makes it a dry offering.
This is further compounded by some very weak characterisation
with the Spectrum team of Captains never gaining the recognisable
individuality of the Tracy brothers.
Tony Barwick, the show's script editor admits: "There was
no deep characterisation." The 30 minute format also hampers
the story telling with complex plots being forced into an
episode length that all too often cannot contain them. As
a result, subplots are rare which results in a linear narrative
said, the Mysteron rings, the hidden SPVs, the disembodied
Mysteron voice and Cloudbase (a flying Tracy island?) are
all highly memorable. It's just a shame that so many other
elements within Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons fail
to live up to their promise. "I think it was really formalised
writing," explained Barwick. "You have the hero figure, Captain
Scarlet, and then you have the coloured guy, Lieutenant Green.
You've got Colonel White, who's the head guy, very authoritative,
Captain Blue's the foil, the nice guy, and then the girls,
the Angels, are from all sorts of backgrounds: one's oriental,
one's English, one's American, and so on. It was all par to
the American market and to that extent there was no deep characterisation."
only the show had lived up to the ITC press information booklet:
"Remarkable new techniques are used to bring vivid realism
to the animated Supermarionation figures and to the fast-moving
action, with a depth never achieved in this fascinating sphere
of film production."The
show's lacklustre feel is undoubtedly the result of many factors.
However, an overall lack of control may have contributed more
than most to Captain Scarlet's failure to fulfil its
press hype. "We were making Thunderbird 6 at the same
time as Captain Scarlet and it is in my nature that
if the left hand side of the studio is working on a television
series and the right hand side is working on a feature film,
then that is where my heart would have been," explained Anderson.
"Consequently, I wasn't as closely involved in Scarlet
as I might otherwise have been."