CAPTAIN SCARLET AND THE MYSTERONS
The year is 2068. On an exploration of the Martian landscape, SPECTRUM agent Captain Black mistakenly fires on and decimates a Martian city. The residents of the city are the Mysterons. An invisible race that now declares war on the inhabitants of Earth. After they destroy Captain Black and his team, the Mysterons use their powers to re-create Captain Black and set out to lay waste to mankind. The Mysterons are able to recreate anyone and everything they destroy. Their first target is the President of the World Government. Captains Scarlet and Brown, agents of the Global protection agency SPECTRUM are en route to provide protection for the President, but before they arrive, they are killed by the Mysterons. Their perfect replacements pick up where they left off and escort the President to the World Government HQ. Once there Captain Brown attempts to kill the President but to no avail. Captain Scarlet also tries but is shot by Captain Blue and plummets 800 feet to what is sure to be his death. Amazingly, Captain Scarlet recovers from his injuries and becomes Spectrum's most valuable agent in the fight against the Mysterons!
September of 1967 saw the introduction of Gerry Anderson's most adult oriented and easily most ambitious series to date. Unlike Stingray and The Thunderbirds Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons introduced graphic violent content including the deaths of several characters in each episode. Anderson has been a staple of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) for almost 40 years. In that time he has produced twenty series, five of which made it to American Television (XL5 in 1963, Thunderbirds in 1994 and Space 1999, UFO and Captain Scarlet in the 1970's). One of the hallmarks of Anderson's series was the use of something called "Supermarionation". Essentially, the coolest puppets in the world coupled with the coolest miniature sets, made children's imaginations run wild, not too mention bringing their wildest dreams to life. In the Stingray, and the Thunderbirds series, the heads of the marionettes were clearly out of proportion to their bodies, which while not distracting did give a more fanciful look to the production. In Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons the process of Supermarionation was perfected in that the heads of the puppets could now be made proportionally correct as the solenoid chips (computer controlling elements that controlled the synchronization of the mouths of the puppets with the dialogue) that were once housed in the heads of the puppets were now small enough to fit in the chest cavity of each marionette. Given the current improvements the puppets were now 1/3rd human scale.
Newer problems however, arose, as these new "stringless" puppets controlled from the bottom of the stage as opposed to the ceiling could not be made to walk convincingly. The problem was fixed by the incorporation of moving sidewalks, differing camera angles and the addition of sounds of movement. I.E. shoes "clicking" on pavement. Supermarionation was a resounding success and Captain Scarlet went on to become one of Anderson's highest rated entries. A&E has again put together a fabulous multi-disc (four) entry. Available in the U.K. for some time, on PAL encoded VHS and recently DVD, Captain Scarlet has finally made it to America and in the best shape since its original run.
The original soundtrack for Captain Scarlet is included as well as a beefed up DD5.1 platform. The 5.1 presentation is on par with that of the platform for the Thunderbirds. The surrounds are used for both atmospheric and directional movement and the sub tends to be very active. The dialog is all very clear and easily understood. There are two commentary tracks provided by series creator Gerry Anderson. The first is on the pilot episode "The Mysterons" and the second is on the 30th episode entitled "Attack on Cloudbase". The commentaries sound scripted and tend to fall on the dry side. They're informative but not very interesting.
The video is presented in its original 1:33.1 full frame. The colors are all rich and vibrant. Black levels are good and saturation levels are good. There are a few moments of artifacting throughout the series but they don't at all detract from the visual presentation.
The extras included on the discs are photo galleries, character bios, vehicle guides and SPECTRUM ID cards for all of the Spectrum agents including Captain Black and DVD-ROM interactive vehicle diagrams. 32 episodes in all, Captain Scarlet has been never before been made available on this side of the pond. The "truest treat", if you will, is this domestic release of the entire series.
As a kid this was always my favorite TV show. Now that they have finally landed in Region 1 in a most handsome 4-DVD set, I am ecstatic! While there is word that Captain Scarlet is being brought into the 21st century via a new CGI series, it will be hard pressed to equal the sheer joy and delight these programs have offered. The storylines are cohesive and the presentation makes for wonderful viewing!
The MSRP is a bit steep at $90 but for the kind of quality given this much beloved childhood entry, it hardly seems enough.