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Vehicle spotlight – Spectrum hovercraft

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A Spectrum hovercraft is deployed from Koala Base in the episode Traitor.

The Spectrum hovercraft was the primary guest vehicle of the Captain Scarlet episode Traitor, in which Captains Scarlet and Blue investigated several hovercraft accidents at Spectrum’s Koala Base training facility in Australia.

This four-seater vehicle (two crew and two passengers) was shown being used by the base’s cadets for training exercises, although the episode did little to clearly establish the hovercraft’s wider role (if any) within the Spectrum organisation beyond its use as a cadet training craft. Presumably it was used to cover at great speed inhospitable terrain that would be inaccessible to other ground vehicles (such as the Australian outback as seen in the episode), but many of the craft’s features and its overall purpose remain the subject of fan conjecture.

After the Mysterons announced a traitor within Spectrum’s ranks, suspicion fell on the personnel of Koala Base due to three of their hovercraft going out of control and exploding within a period of six days – with lives being lost in at least one of those crashes. Thankfully Captain Scarlet was able to recover the black box recorder from hovercraft 4 before its destruction, and a subsequent investigation revealed the ‘traitor’ to be a valve from the vehicle’s hydraulic system which had mysteriously undergone some kind of change in its molecular structure that could only be put down to Mysteron interference. The valve would fail and cause the hovercraft to run out of control, leading to overheating, fuel spillage, and the craft’s eventual destruction. This batch of faulty valves was (hopefully) replaced, allowing the hovercraft to remain in service.

A Spectrum hovercraft is targeted by the Mysterons in issue 188 of TV21.

Designed in similar colours as the Zero-X, SPV and SPJ by Mike Trim (who may also have been responsible for the sketches of the vehicle seen behind Captains Scarlet and Blue during their lecture to the cadets of Koala Base) the hovercraft would not be seen again on television, although it did go on to make several appearances in strip stories within the pages of both the TV21 comic and Fleetway’s Captain Scarlet 1990s comic. Here it was deployed as a search and rescue craft to recover Captain Scarlet from the sea on more than one occasion, although its minimal defences proved fatally lacking when it came under torpedo fire from a Mysteronised U-boat. It has also been the focus of several cutaway drawings in various publications over the years, and has been realised in model form more than once (albeit only as limited edition releases).

A ‘Mark II’ Spectrum hovercraft on the cover of issue 9 of the Captain Scarlet comic.

Despite only appearing in one television episode (and receiving no corresponding counterpart in New Captain Scarlet) the Spectrum hovercraft is a vehicle that has continued to appeal to the show’s fans over the years, perhaps as much due to its lack of exposure as its appealing design. It provided an all too rare glimpse of the activities of the larger Spectrum organisation, and demonstrated that they had more vehicles in their arsenal than we were previously aware of – while also perfectly fitting in with the design aesthetics of the show’s already established world.

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