Monday, 3 December 2012

Captain Scarlet and The Mysterons

As you might expect from a programme about an interplanetary terrorist war where both of the main protagonists are dead, ‘Captain Scarlet and The Mysterons’ is a dark and nihilistic show, full of violence and mayhem, and with an absolutely enormous body count.
The first Gerry Anderson show to feature ‘realistic’ puppets rather than the big head caricatures of previous work (technology had moved on meaning that the lip sync devices could now be placed in the marionettes chests rather than their outsized bonces), ‘Scarlet’ is glossy, sexy and full of merchandising opportunities, but is somehow much less charming than ‘Thunderbirds’ and ‘Stingray’, not least because it is slow, somber and utterly devoid of humour. It's also fussy, too eager to create a puppet world comparable to the real one (interestingly, 'UFO' not only expanded on the theme of war between planets, but does the odd thing of having a live cast directed as if they were marionettes). That said, it's an amazing achievement and, as a kid, I found it unbelievably exciting.  
The Mysterons are great villains, sentient computers abandoned by the race who invented them – disembodied voices and artificial minds stretching their dread hands across the universe to wage endless war against the Earth – utterly malign, totally focused, tireless, ruthless and deadly and, happily for us, quite easily outwitted.
Their biggest mistake, I suppose, was in killing Captain Scarlet in the first place. It's never quite explained how his reanimated corpse retains the indestructibility of a Mysteron agent but the loyalty of a SPECTRUM officer but, in the end analysis, it doesn’t really matter - as long as Captain Scarlet keeps sacrificing himself to save the world and his twisted and broken or burned and disintegrated body keeps putting itself together to continue the war, we’ll be alright.   

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