I’m not a big fan of the current vogue for “re-boots” and “re-imaginings” of classic material. There have been some successful examples, such as the Bond franchise but many others have failed. Jonathan Frakes 2004 feature film Thunderbirds was the epitome of this. It totally 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 Gray’s sublime back catalogue of music, apart from the main theme.
A a direct response to this, Gerry Anderson created during 2005-6 New Captain Scarlet. being an update of the classic series, rendered in computer animation. 26 episodes where made in total and the show premiered on ITV’s chidren show “The Ministry of Mayhem” in February 2006. Despite Anderson’s long business association with ITV, the programs were not treated with respect. They were cut for violence (something Anderson has never shied away from) and split into 3 seven minute segments, to be broadcast during “MoM’s” 3 hour running time. The end credits were also conspicuous by their absence.
Subsequently the series did not really get the attention or praise it deserved. I recently caught up with both seasons and saw them as they were intended to be seen. The results are very good. The series holds true very much 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 quite adult. There are complex relationships, moral dilemmas and as stated earlier, a surprising amount of violence. All of this is presented in bite size chunks of 25 minutes. The hardware has been updated obviously with an eye to the toy franchise. The SPV has now become the Rhino for example.
Now I’m not an expert on computer animation and my opinions 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. New Captain Scarlet is produced by British animators “Indestructible Production Company” and their work is of a very high standard. The main characters move fluidly due to the use of motion capture and are well rendered with a high level of detail. Because of the current genre tastes, there is a propensity for the men to be buff and the women to have large breast and well rounded posteriors. Terrain and lighting are also very well done with surprising detail.
There are a few negatives though. The contemporary soundtrack is adequate but not in the league of the original. This reduces the “creepy” factor that made the 1967 series such a pleasure. There is also a lot more concessions to the international market and this results in a loss of “Britishness”. These minor criticisms do not in anyway out weight the shows good points. All things considered, this is a very enjoyable production that maintains the style and substance of all Gerry Anderson’s previous work. Hopefully, Carlton will release a Blu-ray set of this in the future.