After labelling my personal top ten lists of episodes of Stingray and Thunderbirds, I’m now going to share what I think are the ten best episodes of Captain Scarlet & The Mysterons.
Some people say that shows like this have dated, mainly due to the puppetry, but I wouldn’t say that exactly. Captain Scarlet was based on the terrors of the Cold War, but if it was being made now, it would most likely relate to the terrors of Al Qaeda. Alas, not many children watch shows in that format. This is why I call this show so underrated. With that said, there was a CG animated remake sometime in the mid-2000s. That show’s okay, minus certain sex-changes.
As some of you know, Francis Matthews, the original voice actor of the protagonist, passed on at the age of 86 due to a short illness. This list is therefore dedicated to his memory and of course Gerry Anderson’s.
10. The Launching
This episode goes to show how thankful we are that nowadays, we have stewards and security officers patrolling public events in case anything goes wrong. We’ve had the Hillsborough stadium disaster in 1989, we’ve had the torture of the German Jewish athletes in 1972, and most recently, the terrorist shootings at the gig in Paris.
The Launching in question happens to take place at an American seaport where a ship is being launched and the Mysterons plan to sabotage the event, which could involve claiming lives of many innocent visitors. The mysteron is a reporter for a newspaper who was killed in a jet whilst en route to a press conference held by President Roberts. After hearing the mysteron threat, Captain Scarlet is assigned to protect the president and ensure he’s out of the mysterons’ range, despite the president’s objections. But then he discovers that it’s the ship, which is labelled ‘President Roberts’, the mysterons want to destroy and not the president himself.
One of the things I enjoy about this episode is how we get to know the back-story (even if it’s brief) of one of the minor members of Spectrum. This take place through a rather amusing interrogation between Harmony Angel and Melvin Brand (the mysteron). He sweet-talks to her and she warns him that she obtains a black belt in judo and apparently taught her dad. I also enjoy the suspension and the way Brand reacts. For instance, when Captains Blue and Ochre are on patrol, Brand stops his car and waits a while, causing Blue to suspect something and take a closer look, next moment; Brand drives off, nearly killing Blue, Ochre saves him with no time to photograph Brand and check if he was a mysteron.
I also like how Captain Scarlet does his very best to keep Roberts out of trouble and Roberts’ arrogance and beliefs that the mysterons won’t get away with it. It shows that Scarlet really does care about people’s lives and being a mysteron himself, his paranoia is understandable. But the greatest thing about The Launching is the finale; the clue that the mysterons mentioned they would destroy President Roberts confuses Spectrum at first, but then they realise they’re referring to the ship and as soon as Scarlet ensures the event is evacuated, it leads to a showdown between him and Brand and without giving anything away, it’s like; the champagne bottle’s released, “ohh, almost, it’s coming back!” BOOM!
Take a look, you’ll see what I mean.
9. Dangerous Rendezvous
This is where Spectrum attempt to convince the Mysterons that the destruction of their headquarters on Mars was a misunderstanding and that they’d do anything to make peace. Of course, it can often be quite difficult to negotiate with terrorist organisations, i.e. Al-Qaeda and ISIS and this episode demonstrates so.
The Mysterons finally do ‘negotiate’ and ask Spectrum for one of the officers to report to Greenland, unarmed. Captain Scarlet, the obvious choice, volunteers. But as he arrives, he realises the Mysterons have betrayed Spectrum and are about to demolish Cloudbase if the officers don’t act soon.
Some reviewers call this episode one of the worst in the series. Personally I find Dangerous Rendezvous a misunderstood and underrated episode. And there are a variety of reasons why. As I said before, this is an episode about negotiating with a terrorist organisation and proposing peace, as demonstrated when Colonel White records his message to the Mysterons and the flashback in which Captain Black destroyed the mysterons’ base and got ‘mysteronised’ himself, starting the Mysterons’ proposal to begin the war of nerves, which makes me feel that it was in fact Black’s fault the war started in the first place, and yet he’s sided with the aliens.
The greatest thing about this episode is the drama; the fact that it nears the deadline when the Mysterons begin the destruction. But then, two hours before the deadline, Spectrum finally receive a message from the mysterons; bring one of the agents to Greenland, unarmed and carrying no communication devices. Wow, imagine if you was in a dangerous situation like that. Captain Scarlet volunteers. But as he gets to Greenland, he notices that Captain Black has left a recording and Scarlet finds the pulsator which is set to destroy Cloudbase.
I should also point out this is probably Captain Ochre’s most important role. Most missions are carried out by Captains Scarlet and Blue, and keeping in mind that Scarlet is never absent as stated by the show’s title, hence the rendezvous in Greenland. With that said, this episode does in fact make way for another Spectrum agent, so the viewers can get to know a bit more about ’em. Ochre, in this case, proves how dedicated he is to Spectrum, despite lacking school grades and previous military experience (though it’s not mentioned in the series, it does say so on this website http://www.spectrum-headquarters.com/). Near the start, we see him escorting Scarlet and Dr Kurnitz via the VIP transporter. Then during the fast-paced finale, he takes care of the pulsator seconds before its destruction.
8. Place Of Angels
“We will destroy the place of the angels”
(thinks) The place of the angels. Could that possibly mean one of the angels’ home-towns? Well, Spectrum reckons so at first. As you probably guessed, the Mysterons plan to destroy what they refer to as the place of the angels. It takes time for Captains Scarlet and Blue to figure out what the Mysterons are on about. As the Mysterons’ first part of the plan, they recreate an assistant of a scientist, Judith Chapman. She is assigned to use a synthetic virus known as K14 to destroy that Place, leading to Captain Scarlet to figure out the exact Place and enter a final confrontation with Chapman.
I totally enjoy how Spectrum figure out what the Mysterons mean by the ‘place of the angels’. At one point, Captains Scarlet and Blue receive a report from a biological research station near Manchester, England, and Blue is like; “didn’t Rhapsody Angel once live there” and Scarlet says yes, but doesn’t believe that Manchester could possibly be referred to as the ‘place of the angels’. It of course takes a while to figure out the actual place. Finally they discover that Chapman’s heading for Los Angeles, which of course is Spanish for the Angels. Even Scarlet points that out, and that’s why I call this good quality scripting!
The violence in this episode is awesome! One scene I love is when Chapman uses the grabbing tools, originally used to carry the phial, to strangle one of the scientists. Ya know, for kids! I know the strangling ain’t exactly on-screen, but the fact that she presses the buttons and you hear choking sounds most certainly give the hint. And then there’s the thrilling finale. Again without giving the ending away, it’s the situation where Scarlet must stay conscious before Chapman drops the phial down the dam. We know he’s indestructible, but often when he gets shot, blown up or something, he looses his consciousness. He does receive one shot from Chapman, but luckily it’s in the shoulder-blade.
Fantastic episode, another recommendation.
7. The Mysterons
Some of the greatest TV shows had begun with awesome pilots and Captain Scarlet is without a doubt no exception. This pilot in particular is the ultimate back-story of how Spectrum fell into battle with the Mysterons.
(Classic opening) It begins with Captain Black, who at the time was still one of Spectrum’s senior officers, exploring the Mysterons’ headquarters on Mars, following reports that Earth has received unidentified radio signals. He mistakes a harmless sensor device for a weapon and thus attacks the base. As a result, the extraterrestrials reconstruct the base and swear vengeance; in a truly dark and haunting moment, they kill Captain Black and reconstruct him, meaning that he’s under Mysteron control, and declare a war of nerves on Earth. Their first act of terrorism; to assassinate the World President.
Next, we’re introduced to some of the rest of Spectrum; Captain Scarlet, Colonel White, Lieutenant Green, etc. Captain Scarlet, joined by Captain Brown, is assigned to escort the president to their maximum security building in New York. Unfortunately, the Mysterons destroy their car and both men reach their fate, leading them to join the Mysterons’ race. As they do manage to escort the president, Captain Brown begins his attempt to kill the president by suicide-bombing the building. As the Nostalgia Critic would say, “ya know, for kids!” Captain Scarlet then escorts the president, but then through a report of the car crash, Col. White discovers that Scarlet is under the control of the mysterons and dispatches Scarlet’s then-future sidekick Captain Blue to rescue the president and deal with Scarlet.
As I said, The Mysterons is one of the greatest pilot-TV episodes of all time! In fact, it both received praise and caused some controversy. Apparently, Reg Hill, the producer, got concerned after its production and was like “Oh my god, what have we done? We’ve made a series no children are going to watch”. And it frightened Francis Matthews’ sons. I suppose it’s understandable, because both the pilot and the show are considered less child-friendly compared to Gerry’s previous shows i.e. Stingray and Thunderbirds. Captain Scarlet however has led an impact on children over the years and it’s a shame that nowadays, television in general doesn’t tend to make shows like this. Don’t get me wrong, there are shows about war and terrorism and that such as the forever awesome Ultimate Force, but not many shows aimed at children focus on such themes.
The episode is indeed horrifyingly awesome! The introduction will send chills down to the spine and as I mentioned when I talked about Dangerous Rendezvous, Captain Black is more than just a traditional villain. He becomes a mysteron in this episode and he attacked the mysterons in the first place. The mysterons start off as friendly and curious and then Black gets so paranoid that he’s like “oh my god, they’re gonna attack us. Quick, fire the missiles before we die!” If ever there was a Captain Scarlet movie, this would make a great theme. Some of you may remember when Tony Blair sent an army on a senseless mission to Iraq to locate the ‘weapons of mass destruction’ and they caused great destruction to the country, killing some innocents. It’s no wonder Britain then had the 7/7 attacks. That’s kind of what the intro to the episode is like.
The crash of Captains Scarlet and Brown’s car, badass! Brown’s suicide-demolition, badass! Captain Blue’s fight with Scarlet, you guessed it, badass!
The Mysterons is an incredible introduction to the show.
6. Spectrum Strikes Back
Another underrated episode, one that many reviewers are cynical about.
What’s the story? Captains Scarlet and Blue and Colonel White attend a secret underground conference hosted by the Spectrum Intelligence at a hunting lodge somewhere in Africa. They meet the World President, who marks his second appearance in the series, and Captain Indigo, who is working undercover as the lodge’s bartender. In this episode, we’re introduced to the new anti-mysteron devices, including a gun that fires electron beams (Mysteron Gun) and a Mysteron Detector, which is an x-ray camera that can distinguish mysterons from humans. Meanwhile Captain Indigo is murdered by Captain Black and then cloned. But the rest of the staff do not know about that until the Detector is tested. Indigo sabotages the conference by activating the lodge’s control panel and seizing the key, leaving the delegates to be crushed by the building which is slowly lowering on them. It then falls to Scarlet to pursue Indigo and retrieve the key back in time to save the delegates.
Spectrum Strikes Back is the episode I probably watched the most times out of all the others from the series. I had this one on VHS, but I don’t know what happened to it. However, we have thrown most of our VHSes out, due to them wearing out. I have nostalgic memories of this episode.
The conference on the new anti-mysteron items really interested me. We got to see more of the Detector in later episodes, though not much of the Gun. It’s understandable why, because that gun looks rather delicate to use frequently. When Dr Giadello tested the Detector on White, the President and Scarlet, it made my eyes open wide as soon as he said “let’s say these are the suspects”, then when White and President get x-rayed, it’s like “that’s a relief” (“the x-ray demonstrates a negative response”). Of course , I wasn’t so much concerned about Scarlet, because we all know he is a partial mysteron.
The finale is my favourite part of the episode. Here, we have Scarlet pursuing Indigo and the rest of the staff can’t use the elevator while the building is lowering, which means Scarlet must hurry before the staff are crushed to death. And speaking of getting crushed to death, seeing Blue, White and company under the lowering ceiling is one of the most cringe-worthy moments in the series. Seriously, my mom used to have nightmares about being in a situation like that. It puts us into a real heart-pounding position and makes us hope that Scarlet does not get shot by Indigo in case he falls unconscious, which he has no time for, because if he does, the staff will die with no one to help them. Notice how Scarlet ducks each time Indigo fires at him, whilst holding the Mysteron Gun. Good job he dodges with that, because as I say, it does look delicate and he does need to us it.
This episode also contains some unintentional humour; Scarlet, Blue and White using animal-related aliases, Misters Panther, Bear and Tiger, to gain access to the lodge. I dunno why that scene’s so funny, but the humour is quite subtle. Plus, there’s an incredibly hilarious scene towards the end where the Spectrum staff are having roast duck for dinner and one of them photographs the duck to check if it’s a mysteron.
5. White As Snow
This episode made me laugh, especially the connection between Captain Scarlet and Colonel White and White’s authority with his agents. However, it also shows that even though White is a huge authority figure, the Spectrum members do truly care about him.
You’re probably guessing that in White As Snow, the mysteron threat involves him. Bang on! The mysterons plot to kill Col. White, who’s concerned that any attack made against him could involve other members on Cloudbase and so leaves for a secret destination, putting Captain Blue in charge. Scarlet is annoyed, because White ordered destruction of a satellite heading for collision cause on Cloudbase and it could have contained many innocent people on board. However Lieutenant Green informs him that it was ‘mysteronised’, leading Scarlet to really worry about White.
As I said, White As Snow is one of the funniest episodes. If you don’t believe me, check out the scene where the satellite heads for Cloudbase and most of the crew are listening to the loud music coming from the ship and relaxing, including Scarlet who is resting in White’s position, with his feet on the control panel, lol. Some of White’s dialogue is also amusing (“this is a Spectrum base, not a rest centre). Even the ending burst some laughs.
The conflict between Scarlet and White is very well executed! We can understand how frustrated Scarlet is claiming that White may not have knowledge about the satellite and whether it had anything to do with their enemies, when in fact White does have knowledge, but doesn’t say so. L.T. Green is also aware, but then is stuck in the middle of the conflict. He does have a sympathetic side to both of them, thus eventually dispatching Scarlet to locate White. At first, he does obey White’s authority to remain silent, but he does understand the situation. You could say Scarlet’s doing it to make it up to White in regards to his attitude. He is after all dedicated to his job and being that he’s indestructible, could be considered a superhero.
Speaking of which, before White does depart, he asks Scarlet if he could take White’s place. After Scarlet turns him down, still annoyed with him for the satellite’s destruction, Blue takes the role. That scene stuck with me, because logically speaking, Scarlet was right not to accept the role. The reason is because he’s the only guy who’s indestructible and the rest of the personnel are not. If there was a dangerous mission to be taken, he would be the obvious choice to take the role, but then he would not be allowed to leave the base. Get what I mean?
4. Flight To Atlantica
Flight To Atlantica is without a doubt one of the most hilarious episodes of Captain Scarlet I’ve ever seen.
Spectrum are celebrating their first anniversary. Captain Scarlet presents what is believed to be non-alcoholic champagne, apparently delivered by a well-wisher. However, they are unaware that the ‘well-wisher’ is one of the mysterons who has drugged the drink. As a result, all the personnel except Scarlet and Col. White, who have had no time to taste the champagne, get soused. But Scarlet and White don’t realise that until sometime after Captains Blue and Ochre are dispatched to patrol a world navy base on the Atlantic Ocean, unaware that they’re carrying the wrong instructions!
White As Snow gave me some laughs, but Flight To Atlantica is one to cackle along to. As I said before, the humour in Captain Scarlet is mostly unintentional, but at least it’s not like The Office where it tries to be funny (yeah, unfortunately I ain’t a personal fan of The Office). We can tell that Blue and Ochre are clearly drunk by the conversations they’re having on their plane and that they’re seeming to enjoy bombing Atlantica; in their defence of course, they’re following the instructions, unaware that Captain Black has switched them over. Most of the other drunk officers end up relaxing (feet on the table/desks, etc) or, whilst in vehicles, joy riding.
But it isn’t just the humour that turns me on about this episode. We’re all aware on the effects that drinking alcohol can have on us. It’s quite rare in a kids’ show that it would demonstrate awareness in alcohol abuse, especially in a British show aimed for children, with the possible exception of Grange Hill and Byker Grove. The American kids shows, if The Simpsons counts, demonstrate the themes effectively, but it’s rare on British TV. Captain Scarlet demonstrates this sort of thing really well. It shows that alcohol consumption can lower your concentrations and thinking skills, hence the Angels joyriding, L.T. Green’s relaxing and Blue and Ochre’s slow talking. We can understand Col. White’s objections to the staff members drinking the champagne; “Drinking on duty is a serious offence”. We can also consider ourselves lucky that Scarlet’s drinking glass broke before he could taste it. I do occasionally drink myself, but I always ensure I don’t consume too much alcohol everyday.
Message to viewers; always mind what you drink and if it’s alcoholic, how much you consume.
3. Heart Of New York
This one sees a group of crooks who pretend to be Mysterons, so they can rob a bank. That sounds such a dangerous move. And this episode proves exactly so!
So the mysterons plot to destroy the “Heart of New York”. This leads Spectrum to order the whole city to be evacuated. Meanwhile, three criminals; Carl, Kruger and Doig have robbed the Spectrum Security Vaults and, inspired by the war between Earth and Mars, aim to get the mysterons to work for them, so they can rob the Second National Bank. They fake their deaths by using dummies and disposing their car. Then they trick Captain Magenta, who has created a roadblock on the entrance to the city, into believing that they’re FBI agents and are allowed access. However Captain Ochre detects them as negative and Captains Scarlet and Blue rush to the city to arrest the thieves, who have meanwhile been betrayed by Captain Black.
Committing a crime would always get one into deep trouble. The Heart Of New York is one very neatly scripted episode and quite different to previous episodes. It demonstrates what a dumb move the three thieves pull; disguising themselves as alien zombies, when the real mysterons are not stupid. Black is certainly smart enough to know that the thieves are really ‘earth-men’. The silence of the now-evacuated city is extremely sinister and provides the feel that something explosive is about to happen.
During the finale, we see Scarlet and Blue attempting to teach the thieves a lesson, but Black distracts them leading to a hugely exciting car chase. Then we get Black’s car vanishing, which is a purely magical and quite frankly sinister picture. The cool sound effect says it all. Then Scarlet and Blue attempt to rescue the robbers. First it gets strangely quiet, and then frantic and then explosive.
The Heart Of New York is one of the coolest episodes which sees the mysterons winning one of their battles.
2. Lunarville 7
In this one, the mysterons attempt to take over a different world; the Moon. Captains Scarlet and Blue and Lieutenant Green are assigned to travel to Lunarville 7 on the moon after hearing the Lunar Controller’s message. His message is that the moon is neutral in the war between Earth and Mars and he refuses to side with either world. Soon Scarlet, Blue and Green smell a rat.
Lunarville 7 is one such episode which features a very small cast of the Spectrum Personnel and where it gets quiet at first and then tension builds up. The way the Lunar Controller raises his voice and nearly snaps at the senior officers of Spectrum also raises suspicions. We find out soon that he is in fact a mysteron, but it leaves us wondering how he became one in the first place. The finale is also excellent and we partake in an amusing, yet quite sad, finale, where he orders his computer Speech Intelligence Decoder (SID for short) to seal all exits, but SID refuses, because Scarlet has switched identity badges with the Controller and thus his recognition does not authorise the action. As a result, and before I say so, I would like to warn all children that shooting your own computer is an extremely stupid thing to do, and that is what we see the Controller doing. The next result; see for yourself! And that’s among the things I love about this episode.
The gadgets on this episode are incredible. The Moonmobile, for instance, is a badass design for a space vehicle. Seeing it float in space and then land on the ground of the moon slowly, I often feel like I want to drive one of them things. It’s like going on tour around the moon. Then there’s SID who is well designed and voiced. Even the design of the moon-bases are incredible.
Oh and did I mention the bit where Scarlet wishes Orson goodnight? Gee, that scene cracks me up!
1. Attack On Cloudbase
I know what some of you are thinking. But I have to say I found this episode the most dramatic of the whole show. In fact, I think this should’ve been the last episode to be broadcast, rather than some clip-related episode, but we’ll get to that later.
Okay here’s the story; during a regular patrol, Symphony Angel’s interceptor is attack and she is forced to eject into the Sahara Desert. Due to the high heat, she passes out before she can make contact to Spectrum. Meanwhile, the rest of the personnel are having huge problems of their own; the mysterons are preparing to destroy Cloudbase!
Attack On Cloudbase is a very unique episode and the most dramatic one of Captain Scarlet & The Mysterons I’ve ever seen. The acting is badass as well. After Col. White orders Destiny Angel to cancel her search for Symphony due to the mysterons’ threat, we come across a rather nasty argument between White and Blue, the latter who confesses that he has romantic feelings for Symphony and asks to join the ground forces who are searching for Symphony which he is then refused. It also becomes quiet with sometimes only the dramatic music playing and the staff waiting for the mysterons’ arrival.
I can honestly say this; the part where Rhapsody Angel investigates one of the flying saucers and then gets blown up, I was in tears. Even during the aftermath where L.T. Green emotionally begs for Rhapsody to respond, my emotions raised. And speaking of emotions, tensions rise as further attacks are made and through Captain Magenta’s eccentric reports of the UFO sightings and when Destiny Angel insists on taking on the saucers before Scarlet volunteers to take the role, which then leads him to grave danger. Seeing the attacks pounds my heart and raises my emotions further, i.e. when Green gets hit himself and we then see a shot of his corpse lying on his control panel and Blue in an injured state.
The conflict between Blue and White is great. I’ve mentioned the argument already. But near the end where they become the only survivors on Cloudbase, I like how White states to Blue; “Adam, isn’t it?”, because he knows they don’t have any longer to live before the base crashes to the ground. I also find it ironic that Scarlet and Blue are the only characters who have ever been addressed by their first names and not the others. This would make an incredible movie version, where this time, there’s more first-name addressing, for nowadays it’s quite common. Anyway back to the Blue and White negotiation, it’s also heart-breaking when we see White delivering his final reports to Spectrum Headquarters, London and intending to go down with his command.
This is why Attack On Cloudbase would’ve made a great final episode, but it just had to be The Inquisition, a clip-related episode, but there was a bit of a story to that. But oh well. The ‘it was only a dream’ tactic maybe clichéd, but surely it can’t stop us from admiring this episode and the show in general.
So that was my personal top ten list of episodes from Captain Scarlet & The Mysterons. Readers are welcome to post opinions. Some of you may agree with this list, some may not. But I will leave you some honourable mentions;
Seek & Destroy