With Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons, Gerry Anderson fifth series, the art of Supermarionation took an expensive quantum leap forward in terms of sophistication.
Set in the year AD2068 as Earth's elite Spectrum force, operating from a floating control centre called Cloudbase, (another incarnation of Anderson's unified world security organisations), is bought into action when war is declared on the planet by the Mysterons following an ill conceived and unprovoked attack on one of their installations during an exploratory expedition on the planet Mars.
The invisible aliens would kill and then re-animate their victims as their own agents of death and destruction, their main champion being the leader of the Mars expedition, Captain Black. Only Captain Scarlet is impervious to their influence, this plus the fact that he is indestructible makes him Earth's best defence and the Mysterons immortal enemy.
As one might expect there was one eye heavily focused on merchandising, and along with their different coloured uniforms the Spectrum agents packed hardware aplenty. Spectrum Pursuit Vehicles, Maximum Security Vehicles and Angel Interceptors all found their way onto the toy shelves, with the SPV becoming Dinky's best seller of all time.
What differentiated Scarlet most from Anderson's earlier series was the decidedly darker tone of the scripts. The puppets were made to look like the actors who supplied their voices and were also given a full biographical background -both Lt. Green and Captain Grey had previously been assigned to WASP, the organisation that ran the Stingray project.
In many respects the underlying atmosphere was tinged with a degree of futility, as each new gambit in the Mysterons on-going "war of nerves" served to highlight their ultimate superiority over the much less advanced - and hardly blameless in the first place - humans. When the Anderson team formed the core for their first foray into live action television, UFO, they would recycle many of these elements.
Anderson overcame the 'big headed' look that had become the trademark of his puppets by placing the machinery that operated the eyes and mouth inside the body, thereby making them far better proportioned. In many respects far less dated than the mighty Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet continued to be indestructible thanks to occasional re-runs and the power of home video to the end of the millennium.
And then a whole new version, using state-of-the-art CGI graphics was produced for television for broadcast in early 2005. Almost forty years after his first encounter with the Mysterons, Captain Scarlet was reporting for duty once again. "S.I.G."
Published on December 3rd, 2018. SRH.