Episode 08 Ė "Operation Time"

"As the Generalís doctor I demand that we go ahead - immediately!"

A strange episode in that all of the officers, and even Dr Fawn, are given speaking roles and yet the Angels do nothing at all. Destiny and Melody make cameos but thatís it. Certainly the one and only time itíd happen in the series.

"Our next act of retaliation will be to kill Time. We will kill Time."

Not the most frightening of threats. Brings to mind images of the Mysterons wandering around shopping centres and skipping stones along beaches just to fill up an afternoon. And it sounds just as silly when Captain Black repeats it twice at the ad-break cliffhanger.

A leading neurologist, Dr Magnus, has developed a revolutionary new way of performing brain surgery and intends to carry out just such an operation on the Commander of the Western Region World Defence systems, General Tiempo. However, shortly after leaving a London hospital Magnus is assassinated by Captain Black and replicated by the Mysterons. Persistently puzzled by the Mysteron threat until Captain Magenta finally points out that "Tiempo" is the Spanish word for Ďtimeí, Spectrum decides to transport the General to Cloudbase for his own safety but are convinced by the Magnus duplicate to let the operation proceed as plannedÖ

The writers really made things difficult for themselves by making the Mysterons able to influence mechanical parts and crash things from a distance, as whenever in an episode they donít do it Ė such as here Ė you wonder why it is that they donít just go down the easy route. Having Captain Black engage in a car chase with Magnus is great dramatically but doesnít exclude the fact that the Mysterons ought to be able to just destroy the car anyway. And thereís probably an easier way of killing somebody than by taking over that somebodyís doctor to kill him during surgery. Of course, things are far more interesting the way they are in this episode; Iíd rather watch an inventive menace than one that tried the same boring tricks day after day. It just underlines the fact that the Mysterons were given too many powers that really counted against them. In my mind they ought to only have been able to duplicate and reanimate dead matter Ė that would have been enough. Having them able to use their influence to destroy machines or blow up bombs or whatever really nullifies the tension or, conversely, makes them seem silly when they try more elaborate tactics instead.

This episode also does something new by actually introducing two Mysteron weaknesses, which would go on to be important on and off throughout the rest of the series. One is the fact that Mysteron agents are impervious to X-rays Ė when Magnusís hand is X-rayed the negative shows only his hand and not its bones; Colonel White ponders how this information can be put to practical use at the end of the episode (and indeed it becomes the focal point of the following one). The second weakness is that Mysteron agents can apparently be killed by electricity; Colonel White highlights this as their "Achilles Heal". However this would only make sense if we were ever to have seen a Mysteron impervious to bullets before this point, which we havenít; as far as we know Mysteron agents can be killed pretty easily anyway. Labelling electricity as the Mysteron flaw would be as arbitrary as saying that itís astonishingly easy to kill a small kitten with a landmine.

A PLOT SPOILER here, so Iíll leave a gap.

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There we go. Scarlet is killed on the operating table in Tiempoís place. However, Magnus doesnít know itís Scarlet, of course, though why nobody makes a move to stop Magnusís deadly surgery techniques Ė even when readings are off the scale - I donít know. His medical associates donít know that itís the indestructible Captain Scarlet under the cloth; from their point of view Magnus is very obviously killing his patient. I donít know about you but Iíd at least feel moved to make a formal objection if I were in the nurseís position at that moment.

Spectrum being brought to its knees via a single word of Spanish does not show them on one of their better days. The fact that it takes Captain Magenta to finally work it out is not exactly cause for celebration either.

And the Mysteron agent manages to knock Magenta unconscious with the very door that the officer is meant to be guarding. Sigh.

Despite themselves, Spectrum do actually succeed once again, widening the gap even further.

Spectrum: 6 Mysterons: 2

 

The two medical students at the beginning make a vague attempt at explaining whatís going on for the viewerís benefit.

"Heís introducing the electrodes to the frontal area..."

The problem comes when his fellow student answers with:

"This is the critical part."

Ö which just shows how their dialogue is exposition purely for us as both of the students appear to be telling each other things they already know. Still, itís not exposition of Timelash proportions.

"Heís about to apply the current!"

"One mistake now andÖ"

Yes, yes, thank you.

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Captain Magenta has to spell out the Mysteron plan in excruciatingly meticulous terms to the Colonel before he actually understands. "And Tiempo is the Spanish word for Ďtimeí! Kill Ďtimeí Ė kill Tiempo!" In fact the scene cuts away before we even hear the Colonelís reply. Itís quite probable that the conversation continued for at least another five minutes before Colonel White successfully grasped the concept of foreign languages.

No unintentional humourÖ

Ö and no bad jokes either. Though Magenta does come across as a comedy character. Heís not particularly Irish, though, despite what the DVD character bios may say.

"Well, Dr Magnus is dead. But we have learnt a little more about the MysteronsÖ"

Why thank you for summing it all up for us, Colonel. Though why you sound so profound when you exclaim "High voltage electricity can kill Mysterons as well as men!" I cannot fathom. Perhaps, sir, you are a sadist?

COLONEL WHITE: "TimeÖ kill timeÖ"

"MustÖ eatÖ brainsÖ"

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SCARLET: "The computer has compiled a list of anything associated with time held in the memory bank."

BLUE: "Yes, Colonel! But itís over 14 microfiles long!"

WHITE: "Well we cannot hope to cover even 1% of the possibilities!"

This conversation is just ludicrous in a way I canít really describe. What are they on about? Scarlet gets a list of clocks and Blue peers at some film? What? And whyís it called a microfile if itís so long? How long is a microfile anyway? And would it really take over 1400 microfiles to exhaust every time-related potential Mysteron assassination method? How many ways can you kill somebody with a clock anyway? Am I just being facetious? Who knows?

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Captain Magentaís first lines in the series are worth recording. Having not done anything until this point, you could say that heís a little keen to get noticed:

MAGENTA: "Iíve got it! Iíve got it! Colonel White, Iíve got it! I know what the Mysterons are going to do! Itís here in the paper! It came to me in a flash! I donít know why we didnít think of it before! Itís so obvious now, so obvious!"

His reply?

WHITE: "This is Colonel White. Is that you, Captain Magenta?"

Itís nice to be recognised.

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MAGENTA: (Threatening a doctor with a gun) "Hold it right there!"

DOCTOR: "Let me pass!"

MAGENTA: "Iíve got strict orders; no oneís to go in there!"

DOCTOR: "But Iíve got to stop the operation!"

MAGENTA: "I said no one!Ö And thatís final!"

He enjoys his work, does our Magenta. His over-zealousness makes him an icon for us all. Iíd feel chuffed to have him point a gun at me, I would.

 

Colonel White puts out a world-wide alert to try and ascertain what the Mysterons are actually planning to do, which apparently involves jetting off his officers to key installations. This means that Captain Scarlet faces the dull weather of London, Captain Blue risks getting mugged on the streets of New York, Captain Ochre has to freeze his boots off in Moscow, and Captain GreyÖ gets to jolly it up in Rio de Janeiro. Hum.

And Ė HUZZAH! Ė we get our first showcasing of the talents of Captain Magenta! Whether itís being able to use a Spanish/English dictionary or threatening the one man who could save the Mysteron target, Magenta brings joy and fuzzy warmth to one and all.

They kill of Magnus and almost cause a traffic accident but thatís it.

Iím getting rather tired of covering episodes in which Spectrum lose nothing of value. Once again they get away completely free in this one.

In a really quite suspenseful sequence, Captain Black pursues Dr Magnus in a car chase, shoots at him several times and then takes out one of the Magnusís tyres, causing his vehicle to fling itself off a cliff and explode at the bottom. Where the Hell are these mysterious cliff edges seemingly located around the perimeter of London?

Only one explosion in the episode, though the Mysteron death by electrocution is quite grizzly, featuring a rather arty fade-to-red.

No first names.

And the Colonel is still a grumpy sod. In many ways this is an episode of firsts, and yet in many others itís relentlessly typicalÖ

Thereís some good direction in the opening operation room sequence, with the near lack of music, the constant sound of the patientís breathing and the gradual increase of electronic sound effects managing to make the whole thing quite tense even though you donít yet know whatís going on. Thereís an unintentionally amusing shot, though, where two medical students in the viewing gallery both inch themselves forward for a closer look in such a way that it looks like somebody is standing behind them and tipping their chairs.

The hospital that Doctor Magnus leaves appears to be on the same street that the nuclear transporter trundled down in Big Ben Strikes Again. Indeed, in the world of Captain Scarlet London seems to consist of a single street, a cafť and an establishing shot of Big Ben.

A mere observation but Dr Magnus appears to be wearing a rather florid shirt underneath his Denim-y jacket. And his associate, Turner, appears to be none other than Blake Edwards in some comedy specs (see pictures, below).

Itís nice that for once in a Supermarionation programme we are given a Spanish character that doesnít have black hair and a massive moustache.

Colonel White so obviously loathes the over-eager Captain Magenta, which is a nice bit of characterisation if nothing else. When the poor officer is attempting to give White the details on the Mysteron plan the Colonel interrupts him twice, the second time actually saying "Get to the point!" in a rather brusque manner. Itís not as if heís actually busy with other things to do since prior to Magentaís call he was just staring out of the window, so itís simply that he just canít stand listening to the man.

And, to poke holes in the plot, since when have the Mysterons decided that attempting to baffle Spectrum through the obscuring of foreign languages was a decisive terror tactic? Why donít they just say "We will kill General Tiempo!" instead of buggering about with that "Kill Time!" malarkey? And why does Captain Black still refer to him as General "Time" when talking to the Magnus Mysteron agent? Is he attempting to baffle him as well?

An episode which relies more on suspense then spectacle and comes off better for it. The lack of explosions and the fact that Scarlet saves the day by sleeping on a bed make it a very atypical episode (indeed I think Scarlet himself only has about 10 lines of dialogue) and so itís not very representative of the series. I only say this as Operation Time was my second unsuccessful attempt to enjoy Captain Scarlet years ago, following my befuddlement resulting from viewing the first episode. I thought it was a very dull affair and didnít like it much at all, and it completely put me off the series until that fateful day my best friend bought the volume 1 DVD. However, I suspect you need to be well acquainted with the series in general to fully appreciate it, which explains why Operation Time is one of my favourite episodes.

 

"I love you!" "No, I love you!"

"Yíknow, Peter Sellers was nothing until he met me." "Iím Kubrick!" "OhÖ sorry."

"Nobody says Iím pinkÖ"

Asleep, or lying in wait for a mouse? Perhaps weíll never know.