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Series / Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons

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"The Mysterons. Sworn enemies of Earth. Possessing the ability to recreate an exact likeness of an object or person. But first, they must destroy...
Leading the fight, one man fate has made indestructible. His name: Captain Scarlet."

Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons, set 20 Minutes into the Future, tells the story of a "war of nerves" between humanity and a race of Martians called the Mysterons.

The aliens were never seen in person and would attack Earth by killing prominent humans and replacing them with superpowered duplicates who would attempt to perform terrorist attacks. Their primary agent is Captain Black, a former Spectrum agent who was turned after accidentally starting the war by panicking and attacking them first.

Opposing them were the Spectrum organisation, an international defence force whose best agent, Captain Scarlet, is killed and cloned in the first episode. He regains his humanity through Heroic Willpower and a convenient building collapse/jolt of electricity (depending on which version you watch). However, he still has the clone body's powers of Nigh Invulnerability.

Like the earlier Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet was produced by animatronics expert Gerry Anderson. The difference here is that the puppeteers used an upgraded design that places the internal mechanisms in the chest area of the puppets as opposed to the head. This change allowed the creation of puppets to forgo the characteristic oversized heads of previous super-marionettes for more realistic proportions. As a result, the show looks a bit like the old 12" G.I. Joe action figures have come to life, which Anderson later noted made them feel less lifelike as a result.

Followed by Joe 90. For the 2005 CGI Remake, see Gerry Anderson's New Captain Scarlet. See also UFO (1970), the series' Darker and Edgier Spiritual Successor.

Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons provides examples of:

  • 13 Is Unlucky:
    • An early episode features Big Ben striking 13 times, which is a key plot point. If one is about a third of a mile from Big Ben with a radio tuned to a local station, the real chimes will be one "bong" behind those on the radio, giving the impression that the 12 chimes of midnight are actually 13. After Scarlet learns this, he says he'll consider it his "lucky number" from that point on.
    • In the episode where Scarlet gets fired, the reason why was because he lost all his money playing roulette, his last act being to put it all on red — the ball lands on 13 (black). And it's red vs black again. Fridge Brilliance: Scarlet was trying to lose money as part of an undercover op, so he put it all on his lucky number.invoked
  • Ace Pilot: The Angels.
  • Achilles' Heel: In "Operation Time", Spectrum discovers two weaknesses in Mysteron-created doubles;
    1. As part of their invulnerability, they are radiation-opaque. This means they can be detected by x-ray photography. Prior to this discovery, Scarlet himself was their only method of detecting infiltration via a vague "sense", which is why he in general and Spectrum in particular was always sent to investigate Mysteron activity.
    2. Their indestructibility does not include electricity — it just takes enough voltage to vaporize a normal human.
  • Airborne Aircraft Carrier: The Cloudbase. Only the second such vehicle in fiction, after S.H.I.E.L.D.'s Helicarrier.
  • All There in the Manual:
    • The weekly magazine TV 21 ran strips and such based on the series (a related publication, TV Tornado, fleshed out the Mysterons' backstory), and the "annuals" (hard-backed yearly comic collections) would print cutaway diagrams of, say, the Spectrum Pursuit Vehicle or Captain Scarlet's car.
    • Spectrum's final victory took place in the comics after the series ended.
  • Almost Out of Oxygen: In "Avalanche," a network of missile complexes is attacked, and those inside are killed by what at first appears to be some sort of poison. The team sent in to investigate scans for all manner of poisonous gasses, but finds nothing. Then one of them takes off his breathing mask, and quickly discovers that all the oxygen has been removed.
  • Amazon Brigade: The Angels, an all-female squadron of fighter pilots.
  • And Starring: After the first scene of each episode of the original version, the main characters are billed on screen "With Captain Blue" first. Also included: Destiny Angel, Colonel White, Symphony, Melody, Rhapsody and Harmony Angel, and "Mysteron Agent Captain Black".
  • Atrocious Alias: "Why I gotta be Captain Magenta?"
  • Awesome, but Impractical: Well, more mildly clever and innovative but impractical in the case of the aforementioned SPV's camera system, which was combined with rear-facing seats. It might reduce the likelihood of injury in the event of a collision, but how anyone drove one for more than five minutes without having to pull over and throw up is a mystery for the ages. And also there was one time a Mysteron agent jammed the camera resulting in the SPV crashing. All of which is probably why the revival did away with this, allowing drivers of the SPV's successor, the Rhino, to face the right way.

    It was somewhat downplayed in the series but the SPV was supposedly an extremely heavily armored vehicle. Tank crews can be very seriously injured in a crash, as the hull does nothing to absorb or lessen the G-forces. Considering the SPV is a high-speed vehicle, the heavy bumper and rearward-facing seats are probably absolutely necessary. "Winged Assassin" shows that an SPV can plow through a brick building without sustaining great damage, but it will kill the driver in the process. The Rhino may have more advanced crash protection systems that make rearward-facing seats redundant.
  • The Bad Guys Win: In numerous episodes, including one of the very earliest ones, just to establish that yes, Spectrum can lose. The Mysterons succeed in "Winged Assassin", "The Heart of New York", "Shadow of Fear" and "Inferno". They also get a partial victory in "Noose of Ice".
  • Batman Cold Open: Each episode starts with an unknown gunman sneaking up on Captain Scarlet and unloading an entire magazine into him from a submachine gun to no effect, before Captain Scarlet shoots him.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The first episode ends with the day saved and Captain Scarlet a hero again. Or more accurately, Captain Scarlet's alien duplicate that he was murdered to give birth to becomes a hero. The original human Scarlet, a man just as brave, heroic and friendly as this one, is still dead.
  • Blessed with Suck: Scarlet. Indestructibility's all very well and good, but when it means that every other mission you do ends in your death or injury, it's not so great.
  • Bragging Theme Tune: The ending theme.
    They smash him, but they know he'll return... to live again!
  • The Captain: Colonel White
  • Catchphrase:
    • "S.I.G." — "Spectrum Is Green." Used to mean "acknowledged" or "Roger". The alternative warning-code, "S.I.R." — "Spectrum Is Red", was only mentioned in a couple of episodes. This sort of thing is an "Andersonism" dating back at least to his earlier series Stingray.
      • The Latin-American dubbing replaced the acronyms with Spectrum verde or Spectrum rojo for SIG and SIR respectively.
    • Also the above "voice of the Mysterons" quote.
  • Clones Are People, Too: Captain Scarlet is readily accepted by his colleagues, and he shows nary a hint of angst about being a copy.
  • Code Name: All of the main Spectrum agents were assigned code-names based on colors — Captain Blue, Lieutenant Green, Colonel White, and so forth. The Angels are code-named Destiny, Rhapsody, Melody, Harmony and Symphony. Long before the home computer era, this show introduced kids to the colour name "magenta". Who says kids' TV isn't educational?
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Captain Scarlet is the good guy, Captain Black is The Dragon.
  • Compilation Movie: Two, from 1980-1981, kick-starting the Super Space Theater project, in which episodes of other Gerry Anderson-produced series went through this.
    • Captain Scarlet vs. the Mysterons, featuring the episodes "The Mysterons", "Winged Assassin", "Seek and Destroy" and "Attack on Cloudbase". Aired in 1980.
    • Revenge of the Mysterons from Mars, featuring the episodes "Shadow of Fear", "Lunarville 7", "Crater 101" and "Dangerous Rendezvous." Aired in 1981. Notable for being the focus of the second-ever episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000.
    • One of these films is notable for a tacked-on ending that suggests the entire series was simply a dream!
  • Cool Car: Lots of them. This is Gerry Anderson we're talking about.
  • Cool Plane: Lots, but especially the Angels' Falcon interceptors.
  • Criminal Mind Games: The Mysterons would always announce their next target in advance (sometimes in very cryptic fashion).
  • Crystal Dragon Jesus: Colonel White represents God, surrounded by his angels in his base in the clouds. Captain Scarlet is Jesus due to his willingness to sacrifice his own life to save others, and Captain Black is his Evil Counterpart the Devil.
  • Darker and Edgier: Than the other Supermarionation series, partly due to the opening titles and partly due to the fact that the good guys sometimes lost. Captain Black has several close shaves with Spectrum but is never actually caught, for example. Not to mention the deaths; Thunderbirds would hardly have an innocent getting murdered through crushing.
    • And it doesn't just end with crushing. Other grisly deaths include a sailor being chained to a submarine - fully conscious by the way - as it dives into the sea. In another episode, Captain Black murders a gas station attendant by running over him backwards with his car. You even get to hear his bloodcurdling screams the whole time. How the series got past the British censors is bewildering.
  • Dead Person Impersonation: While pretty much every episode qualifies, "Treble Cross" has the Mysterons' victim of the week (Col. Gravener) be seemingly killed and cloned, but he's found in time and revived, and when the clone is destroyed, the real Gravener agrees to impersonate the double. It works, and the Mysteron plot is foiled.
  • Descending Ceiling: The episode "Spectrum Strikes Back" has White, Blue, and other Spectrum personnel face possible death due to the floor of a building above them slowly descending and threatening to crush them.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: The Mysterons have reason to be angry since Captain Black destroyed their city, but since they could instantly rebuild it and there's no hint any Mysterons died, they seem to be rather irrational in their desire to destroy all life on Earth in retribution. When Spectrum apologises on behalf of mankind and asks for peace, the Mysterons pretend to be ready to negotiate so they can set a trap, but actually never even consider making peace. They state explicitly they are not capable of forgiveness.
  • Do Not Adjust Your Set: Each episode starts with the Mysterons broadcasting a threat via radio.
  • Do Not Try This at Home: A version of the opening titles included the statement "Captain Scarlet is indestructible. You are not. Remember this, do not try to imitate him."
  • Dutch Angle: Contemporary with the 1960s' Batman.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: "Spectrum Strikes Back," the heroes have a demonstration of new equipment they dearly hope can give some counter to the Mysterons' abilities. Despite being infiltrated and nearly killed by the Mysterons' agents, the President notes that however trying the day was, it was also a most satisfying one with a spectacularly successful field test that gives Earth a new hope to defend itself.
  • Ejection Seat: The good-guys always eject just in time.
  • Energy Beings: The Mysterons, who are only seen as rings of moving light.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Captain Black has stated on a few occasions that the Mysterons “are not without compassion”, actually releasing an Angel he had trapped in a chamber that would have been flooded with radiation. A spin-off tale also sees Black inform Blue that he has set the satellite Blue and Scarlet are on to explode so they won’t suffer the more drawn-out death of falling into the Sun (which gives Blue time to find another way out). These at least suggest that the Mysterons don’t get any sense of sadistic pleasure from killing, and it is notable that even their more extreme plans such as destroying London, or even blowing up most of North America, would have killed most of their potential victims relatively quickly.
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: Almost every death involving a car crash of some sort will have the car(s) in the crash explode.
  • Evil Brit: Both the Mysterons and their Dragon, Captain Black — although both were voiced by Donald Gray, who was actually South-African.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: Ooooooh, yeah...
  • Expository Theme Tune: The ending credits theme, after the original instrumental version was replaced. It runs down the main character, his power of indestructibility, his allies, his villains, and their plan to conquer Earth. The opening has No Theme Tune as such, although it does have musical backing.
  • Family-Unfriendly Death: Amongst a series where people are shot on-screen and blown-up, one Mysteron agent gets graphically electrocuted to the point he catches fire.
  • Faux Action Girl: To some extent, all the Angels.
  • The Faceless: The Mysterons don't appear in person; all we see of them is the circles of their possession rays.
  • The Federation: The UN seems to function as a world federation of nations.
  • Forgotten Phlebotinum: It's established in the first episode that Mysteron copies are indestructible, but with the exception of Captain Scarlet, this was inconsistently applied throughout the series.
  • Foreshadowing: During "Attack on Cloudbase", there are a few hints hints that the attack isn't actually real. Captain Scarlet actually dying and Captain Black appearing as Doctor Fawn's assistant to deliver the news to Captain Blue, who doesn't react in the slightest to Black.
  • Fun with Acronyms: S.I.D., which stands for Space Intruder Detector.
  • Glamor Failure: Mysteron invulnerability extends to being entirely opaque to X-rays, which allows Spectrum to develop a 'Mysteron detector' in the form of an X-ray camera that produces normal photographs of Mysterons (and Captain Scarlet) and X-rays of humans.
  • Going Down with the Ship: Colonel White's last transmission to Spectrum Headquarters, London in "Attack on Cloudbase" stated his intention to "go down with [his] command".
  • Gone Horribly Wrong: In "The Heart Of New York," three criminals use the Mysterons to their advantage by pretending to be Mysteronised in a plot to rob the Second National Bank while the city's been evacuated. Unfortunately that's the very place the Mysterons are targeting — and they're trapped in the bank when it's blown up.
  • Healing Factor: The nature of Captain Scarlet's indestructibility. Interestingly, the opening credits imply that it works instantly, able to effortlessly tank a machine gun at point blank range without feeling it. The first episode flies in the face of that completely by having him killed by a single bullet to the chest with visible agony on his face. The ending credits give a much more realistic interpretation of how his powers work. The rest of the Mysteron duplicates also never seem to have as strong a healing factor as Scarlet does even though they share the same weaknesses, implying that they decided it was too much of a risk in case anyone else switched sides and toned it down.
  • Heroic Willpower: Captain Scarlet's sense of duty and force of will allowed him to regain control and personality when the Mysterons withdrew their mind control ray.
  • Honor Before Reason: Bluntly put, the best explanation for why Blue so often has to be explicitly ordered to let Scarlet do something on his own even when he knows that Scarlet will survive such an attack where he can't.
  • Idiot Ball: "Uh-ey, Goise. let's send only two police cars to defend a truck containing an atomic bomb in the middle of London." Yeah, nothing can go wrong with that...
  • Implacable Man: Captain Scarlet himself.
  • Improbable Piloting Skills
  • An Insert: Just like in Thunderbirds closeups of hands were depicted with actors wearing prosthetics to look like puppets instead of the puppets themselves. Inserts were also used for whenever the Mysterion-controlled vehicles needed closeups of the controls moving.
  • It's the Principle of the Thing: After Spectrum mistakenly attacks the Mysteron city, they managed to near instantly regenerate it, but are still angry enough about being turned on that they declare war on all mankind.
  • Kill and Replace: "The Mysterons, sworn enemies of Earth, [possess] the ability to recreate an exact likeness of an object or person. But first, they must destroy."
  • Machine Monotone: Lunarville 7's main computer, Speech Intelligence Decoder (SID) that identifies humans via recognition disks.
  • Medium Blending: Live-action closeups were sometimes used when they needed to show something complicated that required finer manipulation than offered by the puppets, like setting a timer or interacting with control panels.
  • Men Are the Expendable Gender: Women are only killed and reconstructed as Mysteron agents twice, and only one of them was shown being killed again.
  • Musical Theme Naming: Apart from their leader Destiny, all the Angels have musical code names: Harmony, Melody, Symphony and Rhapsody.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: The whole War of Nerves starts when Captain Black and his co-pilot mistake the Mysterons' scanners for weapons and react by blasting their city into pieces, arousing their wrath.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: In the episode Spectrum Strikes Back, all the Mysterons accomplish trying to interfere with the presentation of new anti-Mysteron equipment is provide a spectacularly successful field demonstration of those gadgets.
  • No OSHA Compliance: the episode Spectrum Strikes Back features a house that lowers in its entirety to reach the basement conference room, which as demonstrated in the episode, has the potential to crush anyone unfortunate enough to be working below if someone removes the key as there are no emergency cut-offs of any kind. Bonus points in that there is a perfectly functioning elevator... that shuts itself down once the house is in motion, preventing escape.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: The Mysterons were never seen on-screen, represented visually by twin rings of green light that they cast onto the scenes of murder and destruction from which their facsimiles emerge.
  • Odd Name Out: Destiny Angel, the only Angel not named after a musical term.
  • Offscreen Teleportation: Mysteron replacements appear this way, and Captain Black seems to be able to utilize Behind the Black as well.
  • Phlebotinum Rebel: Captain Scarlet
  • Principles Zealot: Though the attack was under mistaken assumption, and they could instantly repair the damage, the Mysterons are outraged enough by Spectrum's open fire on their city that they maintain a steadfast open war on all mankind. They reject attempts at apologies and negotiations, and by the end of the series their war has likely caused a far greater damage count on both sides than the initial attack on them did.
  • Rasputinian Death: In his original, Mysteron-controlled form, Captain Scarlet is shot by Captain Blue and falls off a high-rise car park, which then collapses on him due to damage from a helicopter crash.
  • Real Men Wear Pink: Captain Magenta
  • Recurring Riff: The kettle drum "bom-bom-bom bombombom bom!" that opened and closed the episodes, and was used in the distinctive back-and-forth Smash Cut scene changes.
  • Rings of Activation: The Mysterons can create copies of their murder victims by casting twin green rings of light over their corpses.
  • Scary Dogmatic Aliens: The Mysterons.
  • So Much for Stealth: In the opening titles, the viewpoint character stalking Scarlet startles a cat which fatally alerts Scarlet to his presence.
  • They Killed Kenny Again: Scarlet, thanks to his indestructibility, dies Once an Episode.
  • Title Theme Tune: In one version thereof, "Captain Scarlet" is the only lyric. As a bonus, the later theme — the one with the lyrics — was sung by a group called The Spectrum (which was not created for the series).
  • To the Batpole!: Anderson's puppet characters couldn't be made to walk convincingly, so typically moved around on chutes, conveyor-belts etc.
  • Unexplained Recovery: Scarlet, in almost every episode (albeit 'unexplained' from the perspective of anyone who isn't in Spectrum; most of the time outsiders are either allowed to assume that Scarlet's dead or he just shows up and lets them assume he got out somehow, depending on whether Scarlet's likely to encounter them again).
  • Villain Ball: Possibly averted. The Mysterons announce their plans in advance, albeit in riddles. However, there's some speculation that they do this because they just enjoy tormenting the humans. At least once, the Mysterons stated point-blank that they were engaged in a "war of nerves" with Earth. They wanted to terrify us into self-destructive paranoia. A reason once mentioned was that the Mysteron Martian complex is an entertainment device (like the Shoreleave World of Star Trek), but for aliens with other priorities. Occasionally the clues were a Xanatos Gambit, where SPECTRUM winning turned out to further the Mysterons' plan in some other way.
  • Voice of the Legion: The Mysterons.
  • The Walls Are Closing In: Although it was never shown in the series itself due to the limitations of puppets, one of the paintings forming the backdrop to the Closing Credits showed the title hero in a corridor, with the spiked walls closing in.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: In "White as Snow", Scarlet tells White that he pulled rank on Green to obtain the colonel's whereabouts, used his Spectrum ID to get through navy security and stowed away on the submarine before it left its base. White sentences Scarlet to death for gross insubordination but immediately grants him a reprieve, ruefully noting that the captain's indestructibility would make his execution pointless.
  • Why Am I Ticking?: The Mysterons use their control over matter to explode a clone of Captain Brown.

Remember, Captain Scarlet is indestructible. You are not. Do not copy him.


Video Example(s):


Seal all exits!

Having had his recognition disk swapped by Captain Scarlet, the Lunar Controller finds himself no longer recognized by SID with his response eventually culminating in destroying SID.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / VillainousBreakdown

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