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Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons (1967-68)

Courtesy of ITV Global Entertainment

Main image of Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons (1967-68)
ITC/Century 21 Productions for ITV
ABC (Midlands) 29/9/1967-14/5/1968; ATV (London) 1/10/1967-12/5/1968
32 x 30 min in two series, colour
Created byGerry Anderson
 Sylvia Anderson
Directors includeAlan Perry
 Ken Turner
Director Supervising SeriesDes Saunders
Writers includeTony Barwick
 David Williams
 Peter Curran

Voices: Francis Matthews (Captain Scarlet); Donald Gray (Captain White); Paul Maxwell (Captain Grey/The World President); Sylvia Anderson (Melody Angel); Donald Gray (Voice of The Mysterons)

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The indestructible Captain Scarlet and his Spectrum colleagues are all that stands in the way of the destruction of Earth by the vengeful Mysterons from Mars. But who is the double agent in their midst?

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Despite the success of Thunderbirds (ITV, 1965-66) in the UK and around most of the world, a vital US network deal failed to materialise and as a result producer Gerry Anderson was sent back to the drawing board to come up with a replacement 'Supermarionation' puppet show to woo American broadcasters. However, unlike his previous productions, the new show attempted to make the puppet characters 'real' rather than caricatures. Just as important, there would also be a more serious tone to Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons, in keeping with the programme's heightened realism.

The premise for Captain Scarlet is also more complex than in previous Anderson productions - a mistaken attack on the Mysteron city by humans exploring Mars throws humanity into an interplanetary war. Unfortunately, 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 to survive seemingly certain death. Barring all but the most extreme circumstances, Captain Scarlet is indestructible...

The Mysterons' 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 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. Another major problem is that the show's 30-minute format hampers its storytelling, with complex plots often being forced into an episode length that cannot contain them. As a result, subplots are rare, leaving a very linear story. There is also little time for character development.

Anderson's failure to make a more realistic puppet programme, combined with Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons' inability to match the success of Thunderbirds, marked the end of his achievements with marionettes. However, a move to live action production with UFO (ITV, 1969-70) and Space: 1999 (ITV, 1973-76) helped relaunch his career.

Anthony Clark

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Video Clips
Act of aggression (4:41)
Complete episode: 'The Mysterons' (26:59)
Children's Fantasy and SF
Gerry Anderson - Supermarionator