Captain ScarletNew Captain ScarletSpace PrecinctSpace: 1999

“It’s a g-g-g-ghost!” Top five Anderson ghost stories

It’s that time of year again! Halloween is upon us, and we’re in a mood to celebrate the scarier side of the Anderson universe – specifically, stories involving ghosts and hauntings! We’ve collected five of the spookiest ghost-related stories below – how many of these have haunted your dreams over the years?

#5 – The Lambda Factor

The haunting of John Koenig is one of several plot threads in this episode from Space:1999’s second season, and certainly the most successful. Writer Terrance Dicks cleverly returns to a moment of Koenig’s astronaut past mentioned in The Exiles; that of a Venus space station and its crew being quarantined in order to prevent a deadly plague from being taken back to Earth. Here we learn that among those left to die on the station were Koenig’s best friend Sam and his fiancée Tessa – and the “whirligig thing” (Tony Verdeschi’s words, not mine) space phenomenon of this episode is able to prey on his long-held feelings of guilt over that act.

Martin Landau upon seeing the gorilla costume that also appears in this episode.

Although the phantom Sam and Tessa only exist in Koenig’s own mind (with suitably gruesome makeup for actors Dallas Adams and Lucinda Curtis), their inescapable presence devastates him to the point of complete isolation in his quarters – but even there he cannot avoid their accusations that he left them to die. Martin Landau does a superb job throughout as the haunted Koenig, and the fact that this is all caused by guilt over a previously established incident is rewarding for long-time viewers of the series. We still don’t learn too much more about the Venus plague than we already knew, but revisiting its effects on the show’s main character lends much of The Lambda Factor an unsettling atmosphere that was all too often lacking from Space:1999’s final season.

#4 – Chance of a Ghost

The early Supermarionation shows tended to include at least one episode that referenced or ‘featured’ ghosts, yet there always turned out to be a more rational explanation for the true cause of these supposed hauntings. These included a man with a tape recorder (Phantom Piper), an underwater alien who had converted an old galleon into a submarine (The Ghost Ship) or space leprechauns with magnets (Ghosts of Space), to name just a few. Chance of a Ghost is no exception to that formula, yet makes this list because we know from the start exactly what we are dealing with; Pedro and Fernando with sheets over their heads trying to scare the residents of Four Feather Falls away from the silver mine.

Pedro and Fernando; criminal masterminds.

Yet that’s what makes the episode so much fun, as we’re in on their latest scam to begin with and get to enjoy various townsfolk running for their lives from these “g-g-g-ghosts!” – as well as the sight of Pedro and Fernando trying to go about their normal routine while dressed as such. It may not deliver anything in the way of genuine scares, but Chance of a Ghost offers a lot of the charm and humour that made the best episodes of Four Feather Falls so much fun.

#3 – Chiller

When Captain Scarlet is rushed back to Skybase after being killed in an explosion, his colleagues are horrified to discover that this time his powers of retrometabolism seem to have finally failed him! Unbeknownst to them however Scarlet’s spirit is still very much alive, disconnected from his physical body and unable to be seen – so how will he warn his friends of a traitor plotting to destroy the base?

Watching Scarlet trying to come to terms with the ghostly entity he has now become touches on many of the questions that long time fans of the original series had often pondered; if Scarlet cannot die, will he live forever? No conclusive answers are forthcoming here since nobody has any explanation for what happened, with even Scarlet retaining no memory of his time as a ghost upon returning to his body. It’s a rare story that leaves the viewer possessing more of the facts than any of its characters, and yet it does also include several memorable character moments – most notably the ghostly Scarlet vowing to always protect Destiny Angel no matter what.

Destiny and Scarlet watch this episode’s first broadcast on M.O.M..

Chiller stands among of the best episodes of the first half of New Captain Scarlet, for telling an exciting story that also touches on many unexplored aspects of Scarlet’s physical nature – and, in the best traditions of the series, raising more questions than it answered.

#2 – Predator and Prey

Predator and Prey mixes ghost, vampire and general bogeyman lore into a single story, with the result being one of Space Precinct’s finest hours. A suspected serial killer is draining the lifeforce from women in Demeter City, and it turns out to be the sole survivor of a race of energy vampires long thought destroyed; Enil Kmada, last of the Meki.

Instantly unsettling and visually striking (particularly when placed against the garish 80s-throwback colours of Demeter City’s nightlife scene) Kmada is established as a dangerous and unpredictable adversary with his stalking of officer Chloe Vincent near the beginning of the episode. It also helps that several of the show’s regular characters, including Took and Orrin, are already familiar with the legend of Kmada from their own upbringings. It not only fleshes out both the Tarn and Creon cultures (something that both races needed), but also really helps sell the notion that Kmada (and those like him) had been preying on unfortunate victims for centuries – as well as ruining the lives of the unfortunate host bodies they inhabit.

“Can I interview you for the Gerry Anderson Podcast?”

We also have to mention Richard James’ memorable performance as Kmada, freed from the animatronic confines of an alien head mask for the only time in the show’s run and delivering a chilling (and almost silent) performance that perfectly captures the age, malevolence, and predatory nature of the character…one that even today still gives those who saw this episode on first viewing the creeps!

#1 – The Troubled Spirit

What starts as a well-intentioned attempt to preserve Moonbase Alpha’s food supply soon becomes a nightmare, as botanist Dan Mateo unleashes a malevolent spirit during an attempt to telepathically communicate with plants – which eventually turns out to be that of his own future self, intent on avenging a death that has not yet occurred!

Director Ray Austin makes the clever decision to turn the familiar brightly lit corridors of Moonbase Alpha into something darker and more sinister as Mateo’s shadowy spirit stalks those it believed wronged him in life. The character remains mostly unseen until the command staff summon it at a séance, but the occasional glimpses of a shadowy figure or his mutilated hand about to take another life help to build the tension of the episode superbly – and once fully revealed, the ghost’s makeup is some of the most gruesome ever seen in the series. As with many of the best episodes of Space:1999 the story concludes with the Alphans struggling to grasp the full scope of what exactly has happened, summed up by Commander Koenig’s line “life after death; maybe, maybe not, but…to be haunted by your own ghost even before you die…what’s that all about?”

Makeup so gruesome it got a sweet cigarette card pulled from circulation!

The Alphans may never have the answers to that question, but it sums up this superbly crafted horror story perfectly. With a strong performance from guest actor Giancarlo Prete as both the tormented Mateo and his vengeful ghost, an unsettling soundtrack, and some eerie and downright terrifying moments, The Troubled Spirit is easily the strongest ghost story to carry the Anderson name.

That’s certainly a lot of ghoulish scares – but have we missed a ghost-related story that’s among your favourites? Let us know in the comments below!

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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