There’s a pretty good whodunnit within this episode, but sadly running time that could have been spent developing the mystery is instead spent on a very long flashback to the climax of episode one. It’s all right, but I think it should have been a lot better. But Daniel really enjoyed it, telling us that all the action was awesome. He loved the Spectrum hovercraft, a couple of which get blown up real good as the story goes on.
We’re going to take a short break from Captain Scarlet to finish up the episodes of Thunderbirds that we haven’t seen yet. Hopefully when we resume this show in a month or so, we’ll get to see more from the Spectrum captains who never get to go out on missions anymore. (sadface for poor Ochre, Gray, and Magenta.)
In 1967, when this episode was made, Montreal hosted a World’s Fair, called Expo 67. This episode features a hijacked nuclear reactor, its safety protocols removed, being flown by a remote-controlled helicopter in a great big crate over the giant construction site of Expo 2068, somewhere in eastern Canada. The Mysterons’ plan is to annihilate the expo before it can begin, wounding our society’s prestige, or pride, or something like that.
The climax comes when Captain Scarlet has cut his way into the crate to shut down the reactor, which is overheating. Captain Black has shot the pilot dead, so the helicopter is slowly lurching this way and that, about to crash into an elevated parking deck. At one point, it takes a dive and all the heavy machinery crashes into Captain Scarlet, trapping him against the inside wall of the crate. I was waiting for Thunderbird 2 to show up and lend a hand, honestly.
Hmmm. I’m disappointed in Timeless, who put this DVD set together. These are definitely out of order; this episode takes place prior to “Dangerous Rendezvous”, which we watched a couple of weeks ago, in which they use a crystal extracted from the Mysterons’ base on the moon to contact them. I had figured that some Lunarville personnel had collected it between stories, but this is the tale of how it was collected.
Well, however this bonehead move was managed, the episode is a really great one. Daniel was most impressed by the great big explosion of the base – as always, Gerry Anderson’s team executed some amazing explosions – but I was most impressed by the fantastic interior of the Mysteron base. It’s beautifully psychedelic and weird, with colorful polygons and lights. Should you watch this episode, you’ll be possessed by a desire to run around and play in it yourself, and slightly aggravated that the actual model is far too small for people to actually visit!
The last installment, Daniel told us, was the worst of the series, but this one, in his book, was “the greatest episode ever!” It’s about a worldwide manhunt for a Mysteron agent who has stolen a dangerous biological agent that could kill ten million people. You’d think the world authorities would put a kibosh on this kind of research while the world’s at war.
I really liked the attention to detail in this one. The lab, located outside Manchester, is full of computers and glass vials and those little spiral things to pour colored liquid down, and a separate safe room to manipulate chemicals and test tubes with clamps. The Boulder dam set is onscreen for less than a minute in several establishing shots, but it looks fantastic. The team put a lot of work into this one, and it shows.
If you’re over the age of four, it’s pretty obvious that Captain Scarlet is undercover, pretending to go bad, racking up gambling losses, and drinking heavily. It’s especially obvious when, in the scene right before we see Scarlet losing at an Arizona roulette table, Colonel White flat out tells him “I have a special assignment for you.”
If you’re four, however, this is half an hour of bad things happening to the hero, and the revelation that all was planned doesn’t assuage the feelings of frustration and worry. “That was the terriblest episode ever,” said Daniel, and he said no more.
Shucks! What a missed opportunity this one is. Daniel really enjoyed it, especially the exciting finale, in which Captain Scarlet has to drive like a maniac across the barren, isolated tundra of Greenland to get a message to Cloudbase that there’s a Mysteron bomb on board, but I was left a little unsatisfied because we came so close to a good confrontation between Scarlet and Black, and didn’t get it.
For some reason, the baddie’s on the other side of a wall to set a tape player going. The Mysteron powers never really make sense, but it doesn’t seem like Black has any reason to be there. So it was a small letdown, but the episode does have some good character moments, and continuity – it follows up the moonbase incident from episode 16 – and Captain Ochre gets to save the day, which is nice. There’s also an astonishing turnaround in reusing puppets from earlier stories. One of the models from the previous episode is retrofitted to make a brief appearance as Dr. Kurnitz’s secretary. It’s only been a few days, guys. We noticed.
Ah, the sixties. I mean, the twenty-sixties, when this show’s supposed to take place. Everything old is new again, huh?
Daniel was really baffled by this episode, and we chose to pause it halfway through and recap it. We hadn’t considered that Daniel has no idea what a model or a fashion house is, and so this story, in which a fashion designer is actually a spy working under deep cover and is targeted for assassination, would be a bit over his head. So Scarlet, Blue, Destiny, and Symphony all go undercover to protect the designer/spy. Daniel still found this more complicated than what he is used to, and most enjoyed Captain Black using his weird teleportation power to transport himself, another Mysteron duplicate, and a car away. Strangely, this power does not seem to work if an Earthman is in the car with them.
Speaking of powers, I remembered the other day that, early in the series, Captain Scarlet would become queasy and ill whenever Mysterons were around. They dropped this quite soon into the show, choosing instead to have Mysteron detector gadgets. Then the writers had to engineer ways to disable the gadgets or blow them up or wait for the Angels to bring them to Monte Carlo.
I mentioned to Marie afterward that this sort of spy adventure could be easily stripped of the science fiction trappings and done as a conventional ITC action show. Gerry Anderson seemed to have a desire to either make these, or at least just prove to Lew Grade at ITC that he could. We’d seen a couple of disaster-free spy episodes of Thunderbirds. “The Duchess Assignment” and “The Man from MI-5” could have easily been reworked into a contemporary drama, as could this. They’re all dry runs, in their own way, for Anderson’s later work producing The Protectors in 1972-74. (If you’ve never seen The Protectors, the first episode is on YouTube. Patrick Troughton shows up seven minutes into it, which is certainly a selling point.)
Hey, it’s the Robert Mitchum puppet again, shown here with Symphony Angel. He’s appeared on at least one other instance since we first saw him, too. It’s kind of cute the way they reused puppet heads on this show. The commodore in this episode was also in episode 13 in a different role. It’s almost like a little repertory company of actors coming in for different parts each week.
This is a really exciting episode, with a great finale. The Mysteron duplicate of the commodore has a great big machine gun on the battlements of a castle in remote Scotland, ready to shoot down a “magnacopter” full of important bigwigs as soon as it takes off. Captain Scarlet goes after the guy while wearing a jetpack. Daniel got really excited during this scene, with good reason. It’s huge fun.
My only complaint about this fun episode is that Colonel White showed off his lousy leadership skills again. The most important conference ever is going on, and he’s lost contact with Captain Scarlet and Symphony Angel, who are meant to be providing security, and he finally figures out that the Mysterons plan to murder all the delegates. So he sends everybody, right? He launches all four angels and all four captains on base, and starts moving Cloudbase to Scotland, yeah? No, he sends Captain Blue. Alone. Who has to pick up an SPV at the Auld Lang Syne factory first. No rush. This isn’t that important.