Captain Scarlet

Captain Scarlet – The Mysteron Files

The Zero-X MEV crew, under the command of Captain Black.

October 2068 saw a historic day; first contact between the human race and an extraterrestrial species. It could have been the beginning of a golden age of interplanetary friendship and cooperation – but instead, it led to the outbreak of war between the Earth and Mars.

Neither side came looking for conflict. A Zero-X Martian Exploration Vehicle under the command of Spectrum agent Captain Black was investigating the source of mysterious radio signals detected on Earth, and when they discovered the Mysteron complex its inhabitants appeared willing to receive them. “WE MUST WELCOME THEM,” declared the Voice of the Mysterons, before turning the city’s cameras on the MEV…

…but the MEV’s human occupants panicked, mistaking the camera for a weapon and opening fire on the city. Three shots demolished the complex, plunging the Earth into a War of Nerves with a terrifying alien foe which has so far claimed hundreds of lives and which shows no signs of ending any time soon.

Inside the Mysteron complex on Mars; a controlling computer, a hub of disembodied intelligences, or…what?

The Mysterons are one of the most deadly foes humanity has ever faced, and much of the threat they pose is due to just how little we really know about them. Many have speculated that the Mysteron complex is not inhabited by beings as such, but by the computers left behind by the Mysterons after they themselves departed Mars – although it must be pointed out that nothing in the Captain Scarlet television series directly supports this notion. It is however not inconsistent with the somewhat ritualistic approach taken to each of their attacks on Earth; making a public threat against (usually) a clearly identified target, using agents to achieve their aims, and so on. It could also partly account for their single-minded fixation on punishing the people of Earth for the destruction of the Martian complex – a complex that they could and did reconstruct intact and undamaged anyway. However, Mysteron logic is often difficult to follow, with their plans veering from sensible and practical to absurdly over-elaborate on a weekly basis.

Conmen Kramer and Steele are reborn as Mysteron agents, in Special Assignment.

The Mysterons have displayed many incredible abilities, but chief among these is the power of retrometabolism; the ability to reconstruct under their control any object or person that has been destroyed or killed. The ability was first demonstrated to the Zero-X MEV crew when the Mysteron complex miraculously restored itself after their attack, and has since been employed in almost every operation they have launched against the Earth. The first step often involves engineering the death or destruction of something or someone they feel can help them accomplish their objectives (while also occasionally taking advantage of fatal accidents). Once this is done two translucent green rings of light will pass over the body as the Mysterons scan their victim, and soon a reconstruction of them will appear close by – ready to carry out their instructions from the Mysterons. The body of the original victim or debris of the vehicle that has been reconstructed is rarely disposed of or well-hidden and is instead left behind for anyone to discover, often serving as a clue to aid Spectrum’s investigations. Once again it is difficult to conjecture what this says about their thinking; do they clear up these messes off-screen, or do they leave behind the evidence on purpose just to toy with Spectrum?

Mysteron agent Captain Brown explodes in an attempt to kill the World President.

How much (or how little) of the personality or memories of the original victim remain in the reconstruction is unclear; some Mysteron agents appear capable of operating as normal until they are discovered, while others seem unable to hide the fact that something has happened to them from the moment they are reborn. Occasionally when killed in vehicle accidents dead human beings are not physically reconstructed along with their machines, but instead only heard over the radio – as with the pilot of helicopter A-42 in The Mysterons, the Delta Tango 19 crew and passengers in Winged Assassin, and the SKR4 crew in Inferno. Mysteron agents rarely survive to see their missions completed, with only a handful escaping a second death (such as the garage mechanic in Special Assignment and the models Helga and Gabrielle in Model Spy). Most die in combat against Spectrum agents, although several have voluntarily self-destructed in an attempt to kill their target.

“I am sorry, Symphony Angel…”

The only agent the Mysterons seem determine to keep is the man who was ultimately responsible for starting the war between Earth and Mars; Spectrum agent Captain Black. Black does not appear to have been killed and reconstructed but instead possessed by some Mysteron force, evident in his physical transformation to his present gaunt and pallid appearance. Whether any part of the original personality of Spectrum agent Conrad Turner survives in Captain Black’s present form is unknown, as few who encounter him live to speak of it and all attempts to capture him have so far proven unsuccessful. The only evidence that suggests some part of his original personality still survives is in his treatment of Symphony Angel in the episode Manhunt, where he apologises for attempting to kill her and then claims that “the Mysterons also have compassion” before allowing her to escape in order to create a diversion to cover his own getaway. Such ‘compassion’ does not appear to be a consideration in his dealings with most other human beings, but it could just conceivably hint at Turner’s original personality fighting off their control long enough in order to protect a former colleague. It is notable however that, unlike other Mysteron agents, Black is not considered a disposable asset and has been teleported to safety on more than one occasion in order to prevent capture by Spectrum and live to fight another day.

From man to Mysteron; the transformation of Captain Black.
The Mysteron complex built in crater 101.

Other abilities demonstrated by the Mysterons include the power to remotely influence people and objects, in order to do everything from sabotaging equipment to rendering a person unconscious or dead. They are also not above conducting major operations without making an accompanying threat to clue Spectrum into their plans, as shown by the construction of a Mysteron complex in crater 101 in the Humboldt Sea on the Moon. This complex appears to have been constructed by robotic vehicles, and although Spectrum were able to infiltrate the base before it was destroyed the information they obtained revealed very little, particularly since the existence of the complex was later revealed to merely be part of a plot to destroy Cloudbase by overloading the complex’s captured power source.

Captain Scarlet field-tests the electrode rifle in Spectrum Strikes Back.

Despite the phenomenal powers of the Mysterons, they are not infallible. In Treble Cross we see them create a reconstruction of Major Gravener, yet when that agent is killed and substituted with the (resuscitated) original Gravener as part of a Spectrum counterplot they seem unable to tell the difference. Their attempt on the life of General Tiempo revealed that Mysteron agents are detectable by X-rays, and that electricity can permanently kill them. While conventional bullets had also been seen to do the job just as well, it is possible that an electrical charge permanently disrupts the Mysteron influence over their reconstructions – as seen in the episode Flight 104 when a Mysteron-controlled aircraft is freed from their influence after overflowing a power station. Perhaps this vital clue will provide crucial developments in Spectrum’s ongoing efforts to combat the Mysteron menace.

Attempts have been made to resolve the War of Nerves between the Earth and Mars, most notably following Spectrum’s acquisition of the power source from the Mysterons’ lunar complex, but so far these attempts have come to nothing. It seems that the Mysterons are unwilling or unable to understand humanity’s genuine desire for peace, and until the day comes when they finally do understand (or something happens to change their minds), Spectrum will forever remain on the alert to tackle the latest Mysteron threat – in whatever form it may take!

Written by
Chris Dale

Writer, editor & voice actor on Big Finish's Doctor Who, Terrahawks, Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet audio ranges. Host of the Randomiser on the Gerry Anderson Podcast.

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