So, over to Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons, which went into production soon after the plug was pulled on Thunderbirds. Some people say that it’s their favorite of Gerry Anderson’s Supermarionation shows. It’s certainly the most grown-up of them; the reason I picked a picture of Captain Brown here is because he doesn’t make it out of this episode alive, so we won’t be seeing him again.
It’s also a million times zippier than Thunderbirds was. The pilot episode has to convey a huge amount of information, and much of it is completely bewildering, especially since this is curiously set in the same universe as the previous shows. This was standard practice with Anderson’s Supermarionation series, and, in the popular TV 21 comic book, these links would be underlined and adventures would occasionally cross over. Onscreen, the links were actually very tenuous, but they’re present. The show opens with the landing vehicle from Zero-X, as seen in the Thunderbirds are Go movie, making a second trip to Mars, this time under the command of Captain Black. He’s an agent of an international security organization called Spectrum, and he makes one downright dumb decision on Mars.
The exploration group finds a weird, colorful city that is inhabited by a formless intelligence, and they misinterpret a camera that looks at them as a weapon. They open fire, blasting the city to rubble. Then a weird ray starts rebuilding the destruction. The intelligence announces that it/they are the Mysterons, and they have the power to recreate or duplicate an exact likeness of any object or person that has been destroyed. Any person that they recreate is under Mysteron control. The duplicate Captain Black becomes the Mysterons’ principal agent on Earth, and, overreacting even more spectacularly than Black did when he thought a camera was a cannon, they decide to avenge the slight by destroying our planet.
Their first gambit is to kill Captains Scarlet and Brown in a car crash, create duplicates of them, and use them as additional agents. Brown is used as a human bomb, and Scarlet becomes the backup in a plan to abduct the World President. The episode is therefore very oddly constructed, as the Captain Scarlet that we see throughout almost the entire story is an evil duplicate under Mysteron control. He fails in his mission, plummeting to his death from a bizarre observation tower above London, and the World President is saved.
But then there’s this weird coda, in which we learn that Captain Scarlet is healing from his fatal injuries and, ummm, something something, isn’t under Mysteron control anymore. Conveniently. This is the most torturous, labored, and confusing origin that any invunerable, indestructible superhero has ever received. Couldn’t they have just had a lightning bolt detonate a shelf of chemicals or something? It’s not even his original body; the human Captain Scarlet is dead, and this is a duplicate.
So there’s an insane amount of stuff going on, and honestly, while Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons is a hugely entertaining show with lots of mayhem and weird conspiracies and cool cars and the terrific, fun agents and pilots of Spectrum, it would be an even better show without the “retro-metabolism” powers of the Mysterons and the indestructibility of Captain Scarlet. It’s taking a great premise and not merely confusing it, but burdening it.
Daniel wasn’t completely sure what to make of it, to be honest. Piling up all that backstory got in the way of the adventure, and the incredibly fast pace left him behind a bit. He liked a lot of what he saw, although he did get a little worried when a helicopter started shooting at Captain Blue, but I really don’t believe that he understood everything that went on. Hopefully the next episode will make a little more sense to him!