New Captain Scarlet (2005-6)
I’m not usually a big fan of “re-boots” and “re-imaginings” of classic material. There have been some successful examples in recent years, such as the Bond franchise and Doctor Who but many others have failed. Jonathan Frakes 2004 feature film Thunderbirds was the epitome of this. It total misjudged the target audience, completely failed to grasp the key aspects that made the original series so appealing and excluded the man himself, Gerry Anderson, from any involvement. It also failed to make use of any of Barry Grays sublime back catalogue of music, apart from the main theme. Conversely, the 2015 TV show Thunderbirds Are Go, managed to not only provide a suitable homage to the original show but successfully update the concept for a contemporary audience.
Yet Thunderbirds Are Go was not the first of Gerry Anderson’s shows to be remade. Anderson himself created New Captain Scarlet in 2005; a computer animated reworking of his original show Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons. Sadly, due to a catalogue of problems that occurred with the shows distribution, New Captain Scarlet is often overlooked. Twenty-six episodes where made in total and New Captain Scarlet premiered on ITV's children show The Ministry of Mayhem in February 2006. Despite Anderson's long business association with ITV, the programs were not treated with any semblance of respect. They were cut for violence (something Anderson has never shied away from) and each episode was split into three, seven minute segments, to be broadcast during The Ministry of Mayhem three hour running time. The end credits were also conspicuous by their absence. The viewers were not engaged and the critics simply passed on by.
Subsequently the series did not really get the attention or praise it deserved. I recently caught up with the seasons 1 & 2 on DVD and saw them as they were intended to be seen. The results are very good. The series holds true to the 1967 original. All the main members of Spectrum are present, although some such as Lieutenant Green have changed gender. Characters are expanded and their backstories are often quite adult. There are complex love triangles, moral dilemmas and as stated earlier, a surprising amount of violence. The stories are often morally ambiguous and do not always have a happy resolution. Each episode manages to cover a lot of ground in their twenty-five-minute running time. The iconic hardware from the original show has been updated obviously with an eye to the toy franchise. For example, the Spectrum Pursuit Vehicle has now become the Rhino.
My opinions on TV based computer animation are mainly based on the 1999 animated series Roughnecks:Starship Trooper Chronicles. That was a fine show for the times with very good graphics from Foundation Studios. Similarly, New Captain Scarlet, produced by British animators Indestructible Production Company, is also outstanding by the standards of the 2005. The main characters move fluidly due to the use of motion capture and are well rendered with a high level of detail. The action sequences are surprisingly good with a focus on hand to hand combat. Because of the current genre tastes, there is a propensity for the men to be somewhat buff and the female characters tend to be voluptuous. Terrain and lighting are also surprising detailed. As ever it is hair that is the major weakness. However, it is not obtrusive enough to spoil the proceedings.
There are a few negatives aspects to the show though. The contemporary soundtrack by Crispin Merrell is adequate but not in the league of the original iconic music by Barry Grey. This reduces the creepy ambience that made the 1967 series such a pleasure. There is also a lot more concessions made to the international market. As a result, there is a slight loss of “Britishness” from the proceedings. But these do not in any way out weight the positive aspects of New Captain Scarlet. All things considered, this is a very enjoyable production that maintains the style and substance of all Gerry Anderson's work. As with the original show the storylines are often a lot more adult than expected and there is a pleasingly dark tone to the narrative. At present New Captain Scarlet is only available on DVD, however the original masters for the show have recently been reclaimed and so fans remain hopeful of a full HD release on Blu-ray in the future.