Captain Scarlet And The Mysterons Spectrum Agents’ Manual by Sam Denham and illustrated by Graham Bleathman (book review).

It’s hard to believe that the original ‘Captain Scarlet And The Mysterons’ TV series is now 50 years old. If anything, I’m surprised it’s taken so long for Haynes to do the ‘Captain Scarlet And The Mysterons Spectrum Agents’ Manual’.

It would hardly be remiss of me to remind people that much of the history of Spectrum was in the 1967 Captain Scarlet And The Mysterons Annual’ which is still seen as the bible of the show’s characters and vehicles. About the only difference is with artist Graham Bleathman adding an anti-gravity generator to Cloudbase although he has commented in the past he had problems with justifying how some things are done in ‘Thunderbirds’ and with this series. Even so, if such a device was available back then, its application would surely have been used elsewhere, like moving the Empire State Building. Equally, writer Sam Denham puts it down to a machine of Doctor Fawn’s for removing the Mysteron control from the duplicate Captain Scarlet. If such a device was possible, it wouldn’t have taken long to make a portable version and stopped all mysteronised people in their tracks. I think I prefer my own explanation that the Mysterons cannot maintain control for too long and any of the later duplicates have only a limited life-span.

It’s interesting going over the manner in which the Spectrum agents were recruited and I’m sure the military forces must have been upset that their elite were taken from them. Considering the secrecy around the transport and machinery that Spectrum has, it is rather contradictory that they all have uniforms that make them stand out a mile making them easy targets. Reading this now, I do have to wonder how anyone ever gets promoted as they are assigned ranks.

Looking at the vehicles themselves, I looked at the specs this time with the view of how could I stop them, purely in the nature of in case they are taken over, although the Mysterons can control mechanised devices without their agents. The Spectrum Pursuit Vehicle (SPV) relies on cameras at the front and in the headlights to guide the driver who is facing the opposite direction. Spraying these with paint and they’d have no way to drive. There’s only room for two people inside which limits any response they do. Although it’s shown that the SPV has auxiliary power sources when the main one is taken out to power the one man jet-thruster, losing half its power could also be seen as a weakness.

Something that isn’t really addressed is just how does the Angel on stand-by on Cloudbase’s main deck runway get up there. The Amber Room access is only ever shown for the two pilots in her wing. Presumably, there is a third seat access there as well. The ‘Angel Launch System’ hints at some of it but you do have to wonder what would happen if the lead Angel leader is on the 4 hour switch when trouble is alerted.

Obviously, there is a look at the Zero-X because this is the vehicle that went to Mars with an exploratory team led by Captain Black to track down the signals they were receiving from the red planet. If anything, this one detail brings this series into the same reality where International Rescue exists and is compounded by references to the WASPs and, oddly, the World Space Patrol, even if the later XL-5 series of spacecraft has to come much, much later. It’ll be interesting to see if both organisations are going to be covered in later books.

It does look like someone’s been paying attention to my 2002 article (that long ago and still on-line in our own archive and the Spectrum Headquarters website) about Captain Black only being controlled than being a duplicate by inferred here. Previously, Black had always been noted as being ‘mysteronised’.

I did wonder if some of the other locations should have been covered but I suspect there would have to have been a pause not to over-crowd information away from the Spectrum organisation details. At least there was no speculation about the various functions of the Mysteron city on Mars.

This book will make you think and left me pondering why Spectrum never had any sea-going craft. Granted, although not shown, the SPV can go in water but it’s not designed to go far out to sea, I doubt if it would have had the speed for fast pursuit. Shame the Mysterons hadn’t considered that.

Anyway, queue the drum beat, the Mysterons are out there. Spectrum Is Green for this book.

GF Willmetts

November 2017

(pub: Haynes. 127 page illustrated large softcover. Price: £14.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-78521-143-0)

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Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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