All of the television shows and movies that bear the name ‘Gerry Anderson’ share some common DNA. After all, Gerry was involved in making all of them– but some shows are more closely related than others. Torchy the Battery Boy doesn’t share many similarities with Thunderbirds, for example, but Stingray and Fireball XL5 could be brothers!
July 10th is a day to celebrate the fifth show to bear the words “Filmed in Supermarionation”– Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons! But the tenth of the month is also a day we are recognizing the 40th anniversary of Terrahawks, Gerry Anderson’s 1980s comeback. So why not take this opportunity to have a look at what these two titans of television have in common? There’s a lot to choose from, but let’s start with a top three!
While many of Gerry’s shows take place mainly or entirely on our own world, Captain Scarlet and Terrahawks share a common connection to the red planet. The principal antagonists of both series call Mars home.
In Captain Scarlet, the Mysterons are the native Martians. A Zero-X survey mission, commanded by Captain Black, discovers these otherworldly beings. Mistaking a telescope for a weapon, Black opens fire on the Mysteron city and destroys it completely– only to watch it rematerialize before his eyes! It seems the Mysterons have uncovered the power of retrometabolism… a power they will use to destroy Captain Black and remake him into an agent of evil.
Although made nearly fifteen years later, Terrahawks is set in 2020, forty-eight years before the events of Captain Scarlet. This version of Mars is much redder without the gray landscape depicted in Scarlet and in Thunderbirds Are Go (1966). Although Mars was unexplored in the year 2068, in 2020 there is already a human base established there and no mention is made of the Mysteron threat. Everything changes when Zelda, an extraterrestrial android, arrives with an armada of spaceships. Destroying the human outpost, Zelda claims Mars for herself. Now Earth is faced with an inhuman threat that uses Mars as a base, just as they will be in Captain Scarlet!
Although Captain Scarlet is indestructible, originally his powers were meant to be more mechanical than metabolic! In the brainstorming phase, Gerry and his team considered making the red Captain a machine instead of a man. In this version, the Mysterons make android duplicates of their victims instead of biological ones. Although this idea didn’t make it to the screen in the 60s, it definitely influenced the tone of Captain Scarlet. Lacking some of the warmth and charm of the show that preceded it– Thunderbirds– this series is colder, darker, and more robotic. The idea of organic beings swapping out parts like machines would soon play a key role in the story of UFO (1970).
Fast forward to the 80s, and Gerry Anderson decided to bring back the idea of mechanical beings for Terrahawks. Zelda and her family (including Yungstar, Cy-star, and It-star) were all androids and the first mechanical main characters in an Anderson show since Robert the Robot in Fireball XL5. Unlike the Mysterons, Zelda had no plans to rebuild the Earthlings into android duplicates. Her main goal was conquest and destruction.
It is also interesting to note that the hero of Terrahawks, Dr. Tiger Ninestein, was himself one of nine clones. In an emergency, any of those clones could be called up to have their minds wiped and replaced with the brain patterns of Tiger. He may not have been indestructible, but he was a man with nine lives! The lighter feel of Terrahawks prevented the writers from diving into the moral and ethical questions surrounding this brain wiping practice, but the Terrahawks audio series produced in collaboration between Big Finish Productions and Anderson Entertainment explored this issue in full!
One of Gerry Anderson’s longest serving collaborators was the writer Tony Barwick. Barwick joined the Century 21 team during Thunderbirds to which he contributed the episodes Lord Parker’s ‘Oliday and Ricochet. He got on so well with Gerry and Sylvia that he was soon promoted to script editor on Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons, and subsequently Joe 90, UFO, and, yes, Terrahawks.
Tony Barwick is the strongest link between Captain Scarlet and Terrahawks. He wrote more episodes of both series than anyone else and it’s not hard to spot what they have in common. In addition to his tendency to tell darker stories that featured alien adversaries, Barwick was also noted for his quirky sense of humour, which only occasionally sneaks into Captain Scarlet but is on full display in Terrahawks. Here are just a few of the ‘echoes’ you can find in Tony Barwick stories from Scarlet to Terrahawks!
Utilising the central theme of Captain Scarlet, Barwick wrote the Terrahawks episode Close Call. The World Government chose to hide the existence of Zelda from the general public but journalist Mark Darrel threatens to reveal the threat as well as the top secret world security force Terrahawks, which is set up to combat her. When Ninestein confronts the reporter, he discovers that Zelda has turned him into an android duplicate in a truly Mysteron worthy move.
In the Captain Scarlet episode The Inquisition, Spectrum agent Captain Blue is being investigated by Spectrum security aboard Cloudbase, only to realise he is actually in a warehouse and his interrogators are Mysteron agents. This theme resurfaces in the Terrahawks episode Runaway. When Yungstar, Zelda’s dimwitted son, runs away from home, Zelda and It-star recognize he will be quickly captured and taken to Hawknest; the Terrahawks’ base. They plant a tracking device on him but Ninestein smells a rat, and recreates Hawknest in an abandoned film studio. Zelda’s attack only succeeds in demolishing the old buildings and (temporarily) killing Yungstar.
One of Terrahawks’ most successful vehicles was the Overlander. A supply delivery system operated mostly on autopilot, it makes regular rendezvous with Battlehawk in order to provide Hawknest with much needed food and equipment… plus Tiger’s favourite treat: lobster claws. Zelda exploits this weakness on no less than three separate occasions (Close Call, Thunder Path, and Zero’s Finest Hour– all penned by Barwick) to try and defeat the “accursed clone” Dr. Ninestein. If this sounds familiar, it’s because Spectrum also encountered their enemy through their supply line. In the Barwick authored Captain Scarlet episode Flight to Atlantica, the Mysterons infiltrate Cloudbase’s store of champagne and drug it, wreaking havoc among Spectrum. Two more scripts edited by Barwick feature the Mysterons attacking Spectrum’s supply of oil (Fire at Rig 15) and the supply of aircraft (Seek and Destroy).
Overall, the essential voice of both Captain Scarlet and Terrahawks was none other than Tony Barwick. He frequently managed to sneak today’s date into his scripts. Why? July 10th was Tony’s birthday!
So while you enjoy the Captain Scarlet festivities today (check out the spiffy new Scarlet products in the Gerry Anderson store and don’t forget our free livestream at 7pm UK time) why not raise a glass in honour of Mr. Barwick, who brought us so many wonderful adventures?