On the 29th September 1967, Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons first aired on British television. Though the original series ran for less than a year, it’s still talked about half a century later.
The latest project of Supermarionation from the mind of Gerry Anderson and the Century 21 team, the series became a mainstay of children’s television in the 1960s. As with similar shows of that era, like Doctor Who, merchandising and nostalgia kept the memory alive. As well as a short-lived reboot in 2005, the series has been turned into toys, original novels and, crucially, audio plays.
So, with the 50th anniversary just gone, it’s no surprise that Big Finish got in on the action to honour the series. We’ll be looking at their two releases in this bumper edition review – the 50th Anniversary release and three Spectrum Files box sets.
Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons 50th Anniversary
For this lavish 50th Anniversary set, Big Finish and ITV have trawled through the archives and dug up just about every piece of archive material possible. And we mean every piece.
The first gem we are graced with are the five Century 21 mini-albums. Back in the 60s, these were mini-vinyl records with a total runtime of just over 20 minutes. Century 21 released nearly five dozen of these records, ranging from original stories to television adaptations to music releases. Near the end of these records, four original stories and one adaptation from the series of Captain Scarlet were released.
Introducing Captain Scarlet
The first was the adaptation Introducing Captain Scarlet, adapted by Angus P Allan from the Andersons’ original script. The main difference is that the audio has a framing device of a classified security meeting, observing the “footage” of the episode’s events. This enables a vast majority of clips from the original episode whilst having enough new material to be unique. It even integrates elements from Gerry and Sylvia’s original pilot draft.
The remaining original stories consist of Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons, also by Allan, where the Martian force takes over a powerful aircraft. Spectrum must stop it crashing into a populated airport. Captain Scarlet Is Indestructible, by Richard O’Neill, where the World Cultural Council is under threat from the Mysterons and a funfair becomes a battleground. Allan’s Captain Scarlet Of Spectrum sees an Earth exploratory vehicle hijacked by the Mysterons and threatening the moon. Finally, Captain Scarlet Versus Captain Black, by O’Neill, where the sinister Captain Black gets his mitts on a Mysteron destroyer gun. In this explosive finale, Scarlet must stop Black before hostages are caught in the crossfire.
These five tales are authentic tales of Captain Scarlet only without the visuals. As a series that relied so heavily on sets and puppets, these audios prove the strength of the stories at work. From the superb writing of the Andersons, Allan and O’Neill, to the tremendous voice work of Francis Matthews, Ed Bishop and the rest of the cast. The superb sound work and Barry Gray’s immortal music. These tales can transport any listener, old or young, to the fantastical world of 2068. We are also treated to eight full TV episode soundtracks, with liking narration from Captain Blue himself, the late Ed Bishop. Included is a mix of true fan favourites such as Tony Barwick’s Big Ben Strikes Back, Manhunt and Flight 104, among many others.
As well as 13 stories, we’re also treated to some stellar bonus features. Including classic Captain Scarlet adverts and high quality recordings of both end theme tunes. Not to mention unused themes and clean title sequence audios. But the jewel in the crown is a fantastic documentary looking back at the creation, history and life of this fantastic series. Featuring brand new interviews, and classic conversations. Those who bought the physical copy get a lavish hardback book with even more visual goodies.
But what sets it apart is the remastered sound courtesy of Big Finish sound designer Benji Clifford. With this set, he has proven himself not only as a brilliant sound designer and musician but also for bringing old classics back to life. ‘Survivors‘ and ‘Doom Coalition‘ may have proven his artistic abilities, but this has shown us his ease with restoring audio recorded old-school.
Under the direction of Jamie Anderson, Big Finish has resurrected some audio gems and polished them for future generations. These will live on for future fans who want to hear more Captain Scarlet. Above all, this set has given us the grand golden anniversary celebration that a series like this deserves.
Blogtor Rating – 10/10
The Spectrum Files
So we’ve seen Big Finish restore Captain Scarlet audio stories to their proper glory. But they were also given a chance to breathe new life into three stories that, unless you owned them in 1968, many Captain Scarlet fans would probably never have experienced.
Originally published as novels in 1967 and 1968, these stories were written by John William Jennison under the pen-name “John Theydon”. Big Finish have turned them into enhanced audiobooks. The Spectrum Files have the scope and scale of Captain Scarlet if it was envisioned as a feature film. From the grand scale of the disasters, to the protagonists hopping all over the planet to stop the alien menace. Even going into space at one point!
But as these are audiobooks, we are in need of readers. The three performers that bring us these stories all hail from the history of Century 21. Taking up main narration duties is the always brilliant David Graham and it’s always a delight to hear him speak. Joining him is the brilliant Wayne Forrester (the New Captain Scarlet) taking on the Agents of Spectrum. As well as Liz Morgan (the original Destiny and Rhapsody Angel) taking on all five of the Angels. The two actors excel at the opportunity they’re given here, giving each character a distinct voice. Under Jamie Anderson’s direction, hearing these two bring the characters of Spectrum life is always a win.
As well as voice work, we’re given stellar sound work from Richard Fox and Lauren Yason. They render every detail from Theydon’s novels perfectly, complimenting Graham’s top notch narration. And then there’s the music! Benji Clifford’s incredible skill set returns to give us a soundtrack that is both new and yet sounds like it’s been ripped straight from the TV series. Clifford evokes the feel of Barry Gray’s original soundtrack whilst updating it at the same time.
For those of us who want new epic adventures from the world of Captain Scarlet, this is the perfect choice. With an excellent cast, brilliant sound work and authentic soundtrack, these are some adventures not to be missed.