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Category:    Home > Reviews > Science Fiction > SuperMarionation > TV > Captain Scarlet - The Complete Series (A&E U.S. DVD Set)

Captain Scarlet - The Complete Series


Picture: B-      Sound: B-     Extras: C+     Episodes Overall: B 



Captain Scarlet is the darker, more elaborate follow-up to The Thunderbirds, the most commercially successful of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson’s SuperMarionation series.  This time, the show advances in model detail, while the puppets inhabiting this new world are more human-like than the kid-ish puppets that go back to Supercar and Fireball XL-5. 


This is just about the best these shows could conceivably appear in the DVD format, as the Rank Labs Color looks so vibrant.   Fine prints of the show were pulled from the vaults (maybe restruck from the original negatives?) and offer exceptional fidelity for a full-screen production.


Each DVD contains three shows, except the fourth, which has four shows with a very slight but noticeable drop in quality.   This was not a problem on The Avengers or The Saint when A&E did this, so it is puzzling as to how and why this is a problem with this collection.  There is also no 5.1 mix for the “Attack On Cloudbase” episode, in part to make room for the commentary track.  The sound otherwise is fun, with nicely thought out 5.1 remixes that really add impact to the shows, and their complex model work.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono soundtracks are not as good as the mono A&E usually offers on their boxed sets, because there was likely no room for the higher 384 kilobits-per-second (kbps) they are used to offering.  The mono is passable, but only for die-hard purist fans of the show.


It should also be noted that older DVD machines might have a navigation problem with the menus, since they are denser than usual, but this can be overcome with chapter buttons or even switching from commentary to the actual episode soundtrack.  Problems will vary, so you will have to experiment in the rare case you run into this problem.


From the well-recorded commentary with producer Gerry Anderson on the first episode, Identified, you can tell how much of the original material for sound remains as the show plays in the background minus the dialogue on his track.  That indicates the original 3-track monophonic magnetic masters are still around.  No wonder they decided to do the show in stereo remixes.  They actually did 5.1 remixes for the even older Thunderbirds shows, so it is nice to see what happens when film and television preservation is done right.


After a mistaken invasion on Mars in 2068 of an alien world, the Spectrum team attacks that world ignorantly, the race known as The Mysterons vow to destroy the earth’s human civilization any way they can. This involves duplicating humans and their vehicles, or even buildings.  They make a major mistake when they take over the body of Captain Scarlet, make him indestructible, then loose control of him without realizing it.  Now he will be able to help Spectrum conquer the killing invaders. All 32 shows are as follows:


DVD One - The Mysterons, Winged Assassin, Big Ben Strikes, Renegade Rocket, Point 783, Manhunt, Operation Time, and White As Snow


DVD Two - Seek And Destroy, Spectrum Strikes Back, Avalanche, Shadow Of Fear, The Heart Of New York, Fire At Rig 15, The Launching, and Lunarville 7


DVD Three - The Trap, Model Spy, Dangerous Rendezvous, Special Assignment, Place Of Angels, Crater 101, Expo 2068, and Traitor


DVD Four - Flight 104, Noose Of Ice, Codename Europa, Flight To Atlantica, Treble Cross, Attack On Cloudbase, The Inquisition, and Inferno


Before commenting on the shows, there are these credits of note:


The show features the voices of Sylvia Anderson, Edward Bishop, Cy Grant, Donald Gray, Janna Hill, Francis Matthews, Paul Maxwell, Liz Morgan, Charles Tingwell, and Jeremy Wilkin; Directors include Desmond Saunders, Dave Lane, Brian Burgess, Robert Lynn, Alan Perry, Ken Turner, and Leo Eaton; Teleplays by Gerry Anderson, Sylvia Anderson, Tony Barwick (the series’ script editor), Ralph Hart, Peter Curran & David Williams, Richard Conway & Stephen J. Mattick, Shane Rimmer, Bryan Cooper, Alan Patillo, Bill Hedley, and Leo Eaton.


In other credits; Executive Producer: Gerry Anderson; Created by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson with Reg Hill; Edited by Harry Macdonald; Supervising Director of the Series: Des Saunders; Producer: Reg Hill; Music: Barry Gray; Directors of Photography: Paddy Seale, Julien Lugrin, Ted Catford, Derek Black, Bert Mason on Visual Effects plus Harry Oakes and Les Paul; Visual Effects Supervisor: Derek Meddings; Color by Rank Film Laboratories


The best shows to get an idea of the series with include the pilot “Mysterons” show, the mystery-wrapped “Big Ben Strikes Again,” the mixed-but-snowbound “White As Snow,”  “Avalanche,” “The Heart Of New York,” the hilarious “Model Spy,” “Codename Europa,” and the imaginative “Attack On Cloudbase.”   Most of the shows are really good, though some have the limits of recurring characters that are only going to be in so much jeopardy.  After all, they knew these shows would not be shown in a strict order, so some suspense is limited.  The last episodes are the darkest as the Mysterons get even more vicious, but that works very well.


The extras include stills on all four DVDs, the aforementioned Gerry Anderson commentaries on “The Mysterons” on DVD #1 & “Attack On Cloudbase” on DVD #3, a text introduction of the series on DVD #1, simple character biographies on DVD #2 & 3, Spectrum ID cards on DVD #3, and a vehicle guide in two sections on DVD #4.  You can see comic book diagrams of all the major vehicles on a section of the DVD, while the DVD-ROM adds additional sketch information.  When you get the screen, you can click on to one of six cars, which will give you additional information.  The exceptions are the vehicles on the right hand side.  The upper right hand vehicle will leads you to six more, while the lower right hand vehicle will give you more sketches than usual.  From the description, I expected all new graphics, but this is still not bad.  It is especially interesting, since most of the vehicles have the characters seated backwards, viewing a video screen while operating their vehicle!


To many, this may be the peak of the SuperMarionation shows, but even those who may disagree have to admit it is one of the best.  Whether the conclusion of the series is really satisfying is another story, but you’ll have to see for yourself.  Captain Scarlet is a classic of TV, puppeteering, science fiction, and adventure TV everyone has to see to believe.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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