While the live action science fiction shows created by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson in the seventies were conspicuously set in the then-relatively-near-future, UFO in 1980 and Space: 1999 opening with the lunar disaster of September 19th of the titular year, their many and varied puppet shows of the sixties had always been set considerably further into the future.
Launched in September 1967, we are now exactly midway between the original broadcast of Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons and the time period when it takes place, as many years passed as are yet to come until the existential threat discovered on Mars is realised upon the Earth, and come the day it will be necessary to be prepared.
To that end, the popular publisher Haynes, who have been producing practical repair manuals since 1960, the same time Gerry Anderson was working on Torchy the Battery Boy and Four Feather Falls, have now created the Spectrum Agents’ Manual, compiled by Sam Denham and illustrated by Graham Bleathman who previously collaborated on the International Rescue Thunderbirds Agents’ Manual.
Offering a portrait of a utopia we can only dream of, it details the world of 2068 and the formation of the World Government and the “highly progressive elite force that would provide a rapid response to deal with any incidents requiring immediate and expert attention.”
The name Spectrum reflecting the wide-ranging scope of their activities, the unexpected threat of the Mysterons required a refocusing of the global operation solely for the purpose of defending the Earth in that ongoing “war of nerves,” utilising a variety of advanced vehicles detailed here in pictures and cutaway diagrams, Angel Interceptors, Spectrum Pursuit Vehicles, Spectrum Helicopters and much more, and of course Cloudbase itself.
With inferences drawn from lines of dialogue and secondary technologies demonstrated in the episodes as well as the input and assistance of Anderson Entertainment and Fanderson, the detail and insight is fascinating, from the introduction by Colonel White, perfectly capturing his style and phrasing, to the biographical details of key Spectrum personnel.
For example, both Bradley Holden and Seymour Griffiths served with the World Aquanaut Security Patrol prior to recruitment by Spectrum and adoption of the codenames Captain Grey and Lieutenant Green, while Diane Simms worked alongside the legendary Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward in the Federal Agents Bureau before her skills took flight as Rhapsody Angel.
The first Zero-X mission having only encountered the rock snakes of Mars, more recently recalled in a different guise in the Gemini Force One novels, Conrad Turner was a veteran of the experimental XL3 programme of the World Space Patrol before, as Captain Black, he led the third Zero-X mission to Mars which discovered the Mysteron base and led to the disastrous first contact between humanity and that ethereal force.
Denham proposing a theory as to why that experienced officer acted so rashly and out of character, acknowledgement is also made of the sometimes counter-intuitive methods employed by the Mysterons when their demonstrated powers would allow them a swift and catastrophic victory over Earth if that was actually their goal, though understandably no solution to the ambiguity is offered.
Running for thirty two episodes, Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons was a significant step forward in technical terms even by the superlative standards of all Anderson productions, following on from the groundbreaking inclusion of a disabled military leader in 1964’s Stingray it also featured the most diverse and multi-ethnic cast of any Supermarionation show, one of the many reasons it remains so well-regarded.
Too often dismissed as a children’s show it is actually surprising in its anniversary year how adult it is, with frequent smoking and drinking and casual violence in every episode, characters gunned down, blown up, drowned, thrown off dams, reversed over by cars or electrocuted, the latter being a particular weakness of Mysteron duplicates.
While some of written sections could have demonstrated more brevity or variety and the incident guide oddly follows neither the production, broadcast or “preferred” order of the episodes, the Spectrum Agents’ Manual is an enjoyable read which will be appreciated by the generations fans who grew up understanding that Spectrum is Green.
The Spectrum Agents’ Manual is available now from Haynes