Although Masterspy and Zarin (and to a lesser extent Harper and Judd) could always be relied upon to be a consistent thorn in the side of the Supercar team, there were many other villains and antagonists who only had one appearance in the series! Here is a top five (ish) selection of our favourite one-off Supercar baddies!
#5 – Professor Karloff (Calling Charlie Queen)
We start this list off with one of the show’s strangest, but also most sinister villains; Professor Karloff has devised a shrinking serum with which he intends to miniaturise the population of various American cities after introducing it into the city’s water supply! His first target for miniaturisation is his assistant Hopkins, followed by the unfortunate Mike Mercury, Doctor Beaker and Mitch the monkey when they respond to Hopkins’ distress call and get invited in for ‘tea’ at the Professor’s foreboding home.
The sight of Karloff looming large over our heroes does much to increase the sense of threat the character presents, as does Cyril Shaps’ subdued performance and the somewhat unsettling appearance of the puppet. His actions also introduced, for better or worse, a mainstay story idea of the Supermarionation shows that would ultimately see entire productions based around it; the so-called ‘shrinking episode’, in which puppet characters were reduced to puppet-size within their own universe and seen to interact with live action characters or full size environments. Thankfully, Calling Charlie Queen is so weird and atmospherically shot that this unusual story gets this particular Supermarionation trope off to a good start – even if the science isn’t perhaps the show’s greatest!
#4 – Professor Watkins (The Lost City)
Another mad Professor in the fourth place slot, again nursing dreams of domination of America via a somewhat different method. Having constructed himself a complex beneath the remains of a lost city in the Amazon basin, Professor Watkins has also built an army of thirty robots programmed to help him carry out his diabolical aim of firing an atomic missile directly at Washington!
Gerry and Sylvia Anderson’s script for The Lost City pushes Supercar closer towards pulp sci-fi than ever before, and yet the results proves that the series was capable of reaching for greater heights of action and adventure than it had perhaps been doing until this point. Accordingly, Watkins himself is a more melodramatic figure prone to berating his hapless robot henchmen at length, although his motivations for attacking Washington are never explored. David Graham’s performance of the character however is so delightfully over the top that it more than makes up for that, as does the boggle-eyed look of the puppet itself. The robots themselves are also a fun design, and would reappear several times in Fireball XL5.
Unlike the other villains on this list, Professor Watkins is one of the few Supercar characters for whom defeat also means death, as when his missile is diverted from a course to Washington back to its point of origin he is destroyed along with his compound (and robot army).
#3 – Herman Gredenski and Miss Devenish (Supercar Take One)
The two masterminds of the Satellite Films production company based in New York, Herman Gredenski and Miss Devenish also function as an international spy ring using the company as a way of circulating their covert films and documents undetected – until a mix-up at the developing lab switches Doctor Beaker’s film about Supercar for footage of a U.S. naval warship! Although both Gredenski and Devenish spend much of their time sat behind desks plotting rather than actively doing anything, this early foray into the world of international espionage is another attempt by the Andersons to widen the scope of Supercar’s storytelling potential.
Upon Beaker’s arrival at Satellite Films the pair decide to resolve the problem of the mixed up film cans with an attempted murder; locking both Beaker and Mike in a concealed room and pumping in gas. Sylvia Anderson’s Miss Devenish is a particular delight, as the heavily made-up secretary considers how she’ll spend her earnings from their latest operation and delights over using the concealed trap door to capture both Mike and Beaker – but her enjoyment is short-lived upon the arrival of one very angry Mitch the Monkey!
#2 – Steindorf & Jody Mellon (A Little Art)
Proving that Supercar understood its antagonists need not necessarily be overtly villainous to be effective, A Little Art gives us art gallery owner Steindorf and his criminal accomplice Jody Mellon. Freshly released from prison, Jody is now looking to recover a pair of counterfeit plates buried in the desert by the forger Bud Hassler. The only clue to the location of these plates lies in ‘Mexican Plain’, a painting created by Hassler showing their exact position – which naturally Steindorf has just sold to Doctor Beaker!
After breaking into the Black Rock lab to steal the painting back, Steindorf and Mellon set out for the desert, trying (and ultimately failing) to locate the plates. The pair have a nice chemistry, with Mellon’s frustration at Steindorf’s incompetence and Steindorf’s keenness to please both being a particular highlight, and Graydon Gould and David Graham’s performances spark off each other just as entertainingly as they always did as Mike Mercury and Doctor Beaker. Unusually, Steindorf and Mellon never actually come face to face with the Supercar team during the course of the episode, with their only interactions being conducted either off-screen or over the telephone!
#1 – Black Morgan (Pirate Plunder)
Henry Morgan, alias Black Morgan, has been attacking and plundering pleasure yachts in the Pacific aboard the Cuttlefish, a boat so fast and so heavily armed that the authorities are unable to intercept him before he can make his getaway. Thankfully the Supercar team decide to intervene, in the hopes of finally bringing this modern day pirate to justice! Black Morgan makes a dramatic entrance into the series from the opening moments of Pirate Plunder, although cleverly (aside from in a photo) his face is concealed from the viewer until the middle of the episode. When he does finally appear in full his appearance is suitably sinister, and George Murcell’s performance of the character helps create a villainous and at times slightly unhinged persona who genuinely feels like a credible (and dangerous) threat to our heroes.
Although he only appeared in one episode, Supercar fans have long wondered what a rematch between the Supercar team and Black Morgan might have looked like – particularly as the would-be pirate was genuinely impressed by the capabilities of Mike Mercury and the “Marvel of the Age” at the conclusion of Pirate Plunder!
With thirty-nine episodes of Supercar to choose from there’s a chance we may have missed your favourite one-episode guest villain off this list – so if we have, please let us know in the comments below!