Episode Eleven - "The Heart of New York"
Oh, er, a quote from the episode? Um…
"Inside an hour we will all be Mysterons!"
He doesn’t say it. Still, um… I mean, really. Look at him.
Contrary to what I said a little while ago, here’s another episode in which the Angels don’t pop up – not even in a background non-speaking capacity. Even Lieutenant Green only gets about one line.
"We’ve seen the greed and corruption of the world in which you live and will take our revenge upon it! We will destroy the heart of New York. We have not forgotten."
Yeah! The Mysterons are gonna’ get moral on yo’ sorry asses, mofos!
Or, ah… something along those lines.
Captains Scarlet and Blue are sent to investigate a robbery at a Spectrum Security Vault but find that, though the break in occurred most efficiently and with the minimum of effort, the entire contents of the vault have been ransacked, as if the criminals who did it didn’t know what they were looking for. However, before they can investigate matters further, the Colonel orders them to report to New York in view of the latest Mysteron threat.
Elsewhere, the three criminals, led by a man called Kruger, peer disconsolately at the assorted papers that they’ve stolen before one finds a report on the Mysteron menace and realises that they could turn it to their advantage! By making sure that they get witnessed "dying" in a car accident, followed by them coming back to menace said witness, they hope to spread a rumour that three Mysterons are going to attack the Second National Bank of New York. Then they can enter the perimeter of the city without suspicion as they reason Spectrum will be on the lookout for Mysterons, not ordinary guys just trying to get into the city. They can then rob the bank of all its wealth and sneak right out again… Spectrum is convinced that the story of the Mysterons attacking the bank is true and the Colonel orders all Spectrum officers to pull out of the area, deciding that a bank isn’t worth risking lives. But, with this in mind, what are the Mysterons actually up to?
And if none of that made any sense to you, you’re not alone. See "Additional Notes" where I analyse what must be the most convoluted and unbelievable plot in the entire series.
A new Mysteron ability and a weird one at that – at the culmination of a car chase, Captain Black and his car simply… disappear. Vanish. We see them teleporting into thin air, though, interestingly, his pursuers don’t see it happen. In fact, this strange ability remains a complete mystery to Spectrum for a good few episodes when somebody actually witnesses it for himself. It’s nice that there is a general sort of story being built up, a sense of progression. There’s precious little of it once you get past the halfway mark as by then there wasn’t really much more to learn but it was good whilst it lasted.
So Mysterons can duplicate dead people, can supposedly only be killed by electricity, can influence machines and vehicles from a distance (though often don’t) and can teleport. Nifty.
Quite a limited role for Scarlet, this one. He does a bit of investigating here and there but doesn’t need to do anything heroic, so doesn’t get to needlessly kill himself for the purposes of grandeur. Damn.
There’s another one of those Miscellaneous Spectrum Blokes standing guard at the Vaults. For a start he’s the only guy guarding the entire facility, which for a building named the "Security Vaults" seems a bit lax. And secondly the guard himself is incredibly feeble at his job; all the crooks do is stand in some foliage and throw a strange metal disc down at the ground in front of the security post. The device, which bleeps loudly and has a big red "Feck off, I’m dangerous" flashing light on top, is enough to make the guard open the gate, leave it unlocked and wander over to the device to take a look, where he stands still for approximately thirty seconds staring at the thing, which would have given the crooks ample time to have, say, shot him and nipped inside. Instead they don’t need to do anything so shrewd as the guard, having decided that he hasn’t got a clue what to do, abruptly bends down and hits the disc instead, releasing a gas cloud that knocks him out within three seconds. And that, my friends, is how to break into an important Spectrum security building in under two minutes.
Having said that, Spectrum manages to evacuate the entire city of New York remarkably quickly and effectively, which is good. They then utterly shoot themselves in the foot by investing the authority to let anybody in and out of the city via the only roadblock to… Captain Magenta. Of all people. Yes, it’s that man again and he’s better than ever! This is a man who has decided that it’s appropriate to secrete a communicator inside a pair of dark sunglasses, hoping nobody will get suspicious. A man who doesn’t twig the fact that the three men who’ve just pulled up in their saloon car could possibly have some link to the three Mysterons reported being seen earlier – even when one of them accidentally lets slip the knowledge that the Mysterons have supposedly decided to centre their attack on a bank when nobody else in the world knows that aside from Spectrum. Captain Ochre thinks they’re safe because his detector says they’re not Mysterons – fair enough. He doesn’t know any better. Captain Magenta practically gets a signed confession wafted in front of his face and waves them through.
And, of course, Captain Black blows up the bank and gets away with it. So Spectrum stuffed this one right up.
Six episodes in a row and Spectrum wins every time. Captain Magenta gets stationed somewhere and the Mysterons succeed. Co-incidence?
Spectrum: 8 Mysterons: 3
CROOK 1: "Enough to blow a whole city block to pieces!"
KRUGER: "Well all we plan to do is blow open one small safe."
CROOK 2: "Yes, but what a safe! The Head Office of the Second National Bank, New York! The gold reserve for the whole Eastern seaboard is held in there!"
Well, thank you for compensating for potential amnesia in your comrades, there, who may have forgotten what plan they were working towards. Well done.
The Miscellaneous Spectrum Bloke guarding the vault at the beginning of the episode has a riveting couple of lines: after introducing himself to whoever’s talking on the phone – "Spectrum Security Vaults, night guard here," – there’s a four second pause in which absolutely nothing happens before he then says rather brusquely "No, I’m sorry, there’s no-one else around!" as if his superior on the other end had said "Oh Christ, can’t I talk to anyone else?"
CROOK 1: "One little bang in the right place and she’s open!"
I’m sorry, but I have to say it again: the sight of Captain Magenta, trying to look cool in his thick sunglasses and Fonz style hair-do whilst dressed in a bright pink Spectrum suit is one of the most gloriously camp moments of the entire series. If not the campest. Please, scroll up and look at that picture again. It’s currently my favouritest thing in the world.
No terrible intended jokes. The episode’s silly enough without them.
Oh this one’s a keeper:
WHITE: "Now that the full story has emerged, we can see how the greed of three men resulted in their eventual death. The Mysterons also recognise the corruption and greed of man and have destroyed, as they said they would, the heart of New York: the Second National Bank. But surely these three men were not typical of mankind, whom I believe to be basically good. And because of this I am convinced of our eventual victory against the Mysterons!"
Yeah, right on, brother.
In the vault:
BLUE: "Do we know what was in the strong room?"
SCARLET: "Nothing but documentation and microfilm. All on the secret list, Grade A security."
… Yes, ladies and gents, in Spectrum "Grade A security" can constitute a single lowly guard. I suppose we ought to be grateful that the air conference in Scotland a few episodes back had two people looking after it. Oh, wait, crikey, that castle got blown up too…
SCARLET: "Yes, it’s obviously been done by professionals. But there’s something funny about it! I’ll report to Colonel White."
Who promptly says: "Well I’m not laughing."
No. Sorry. Actually, he says:
WHITE: "How is [the guard]?"
SCARLET: "Oh he’s fine… they used some kind of nerve gas but he’s fully recovered."
WHITE: "I’m glad to hear it."
And he’s not being sarcastic or anything. In fact the Colonel sounds like some kind of maiden aunt. Every episode so far he’s been yelling at everybody for walking too slowly or for showing concern for their friends or for treating his desk like a "rest centre", whatever in God’s name that is, so since when has he begun fussing over random incompetent guards who let assorted thugs get away with their grade A secret stuff? Is the Colonel on happy pills? Well, judging by the end-of-episode speech above, yes he is.
SCARLET: "That break-in at Spectrum Security Vaults… it’s still puzzling me. I can’t get it out of my mind."
BLUE: "I know what you mean."
"I often lie awake at night, fretting over break-ins at our security vaults…"
Kruger reads out a report on the Mysterons to his accomplices.
CROOK: "Very interesting material, but it doesn’t help us. Unless you’re thinking of writing a book!"
KRUGER: "Not a book… maybe a play… and we’ll all be in it!"
No, I haven’t got a clue what he’s on about either. Metaphors aren’t Kruger’s thing, apparently.
SCARLET: "How did they know about the Mysteron change of plan? That information was only circulated to Spectrum personnel."
MAGENTA: "… You’re right!"
Captains Scarlet and Blue are chasing after Black in their cars.
SCARLET: "We’re closing in on him. Warn the road block."
Good plan. You might be able to catch him!
BLUE: "Captain Magenta-"
Sorry, scratch that. You evidently want Black to win. I apologise.
Captains Scarlet and Blue are the only people we see patrolling New York’s empty streets, but Captains Ochre and Magenta are stationed at a road block with Mysteron detector gear. He’s a rigid conservative, and he’s a bleeding heart liberal – but when you get ‘em together, woaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah! Let’s watch.
Captain Black’s quite fiendish, waiting before the criminals are in the bank vault before locking them in and setting the explosives to detonate once he’s left. But once again we have the second instance of the Mysterons being for some reason terrified of roadblocks – back in episode 4 the Mysterons sent a psychic message to Black advising him to steer clear of a Spectrum roadblock in his path when he could just as easily smashed through it, and the same thing happens here. In fact the inanity is compounded here as the bloke on guard at the roadblock is of course Captain Magenta, who’d probably have let him through anyway.
Spectrum don’t lose any equipment, but they sure as Hell throw away a lot of dignity. The pain, the pain of it all.
The criminals’ plan to be witnessed getting "killed" involves convincing an outpost guard that they’re drunk before speeding off in their vehicle so that the guard keeps a look-out for them in his binoculars to see if they go over some of the sharp bends in the road. Which of course the car eventually does – minus its real occupants and holding three dummies – when it plunges itself quite neatly over a cliff edge. You know, I really didn’t think this sort of thing happened that often when I started this guide but I’ve been pleasantly surprised.
Three big explosions and two little ‘uns.
No first names.
The Colonel seems happier than usual, as mentioned already. And, oddly enough, so does Captain Black, who seems to be smiling throughout. I’m fairly sure it’s a different puppet…
And, erm, for the second time in a row the empty London street set crops up representing somewhere different from London, this time New York. I suppose it’s sad of me to notice these things but then again they got as much mileage out of that model set as they did out of Cloudbase.
The fact that the criminals splash whiskey about their car to add to their story that they’re drunk when fooling the outpost guard is quite a nice touch and faintly surprising in a kids’ show. Good stuff. And the "three criminals cobble together three dummies" thing is quite fun, given that, in practical terms, the makers had to make three figures that were meant to very obviously look like replicas in a fictional sense – so that it doesn’t look as if three other ordinary characters are in the car when it goes over the cliff – but had to make dummies of three puppets. So you’ve got three fake people and three even faker people…
Once again there’s a pleasing "Captain Black turns around when he realises the camera’s on him and smiles for the audience" bit.
In one shot Captains Scarlet and Blue seem to nearly run Captain Magenta over. This, however, could be intentional.
When Captain Scarlet drives past Captain Black, who’s travelling in the opposite direction in the criminals’ grey saloon, he spends about fifteen seconds talking to Captain Blue about the car and identifying the driver as Captain Black before actually swinging their car round to follow him. Why didn’t he turn round immediately?
And now the plot. And I warn you, it’s going to get ludicrous. If you find plot dissecting a kids’ show stupid, futile and something only for sad acts then time to skip forward to the Overall bit. This is your last chance.
Still here? OK. You wouldn’t be told so time to suit up.
Right. Let’s get cracking.
So, the criminal plan is thus: fool a bog standard outpost guard into believing that they’re Mysterons. They tell him that the Mysterons are going to destroy the Second National Bank of New York before knocking him out and proceeding to New York. The guard will then wake up, inform Spectrum that there are Mysterons on the way, and that’s that. The crooks reason that Spectrum will then be spending all its resources looking for Mysterons and won’t really care about three ordinary blokes trying to get into the city.
But, hang on: how the Hell does that work? How do the criminals know that any Spectrum guards would be able to distinguish between them and Mysterons? Captain Magenta at the roadblock has some Mysteron detector gear but how did they know it existed? Fair enough, maybe that was covered in the documents they nicked from the Security Vault – but would that matter? A guard tells Spectrum that three men have threatened to blow up a bank, so when three men turn up at a roadblock isn’t anybody going to get suspicious, even if they don’t check out as Mysterons? And why on Earth do the criminals tell the guard that the Mysterons are going to attack the Second National Bank, which is just the place that they intend to rob? Wouldn’t there be a good chance that Spectrum increases security around that place, thereby making it even more difficult to get into than before? Surely the whole point of pretending to be Mysterons is to throw Spectrum off the scent by making them guard a completely different target entirely, otherwise the whole "pretend to be Mysterons" plan has absolutely no point to it at all. Kruger’s got a "Government Agent Security Pass", so really all they needed to do was wander into the city flashing that to everybody and it’d made no difference at all to their plan. Apparently Spectrum is allowing people into the city with a caution that if they get into danger Spectrum can’t help them (which is vaguely unethical and flies in the face of evacuating the city in the first place) so Captain Magenta would have allowed anybody in anyway, providing they weren’t Mysterons. In fact, by doing the Mysteron bit they made it far more likely that their plan would fail, and so it’s therefore remarkable when it doesn’t. I mean, their plan could have been: drive up to roadblock, flash security pass, go in to city and rob bank. But no. No. Their entire scheme hinges on several whacking great coincidences that just happen to work in their favour:
That the outpost guard didn’t give any descriptions of these "Mysterons" to Spectrum, so that they didn’t get stopped at any time;
That the Mysterons have already vowed to destroy the heart of New York, so Colonel White decides that this could mean the Second National Bank that the fake Mysterons mentioned;
That Colonel White decides to withdraw all his men from the city once he learns that the bank is to be the target, instead of increasing security at that place so that Spectrum can try and catch some Mysterons (he says that he’s not willing to let lives be put at risk to save a bank);
That Captain Magenta is a spanner.
So, they get in and luckily for them Spectrum’s buggered off to leave them to it. But it then turns out that Captain Black is skulking about as well – and locks them in and blows them up. So, apparently the Mysterons were going to destroy the bank anyway. Can the Second National Bank really be considered the "heart" of New York? Seems a bit iffy, that. Plus the Mysterons must have some sort of foresight if the killing of the criminals was actually part of their plan. And why did the Mysterons want to kill them anyway? What point were they proving? What on Earth is going on?
And where in the seven sock drawers of the underworld did the crooks get another car from once they’d sent their first one careering off a cliff to oblivion?!
You may think that I’ve gone into too much detail, that I’m analysing this too much. You’re thinking, "Geez, it’s a kids’ show." I understand that. I fully agree with you. I’m not actually annoyed or anything, y’know. I just do this for fun. It’s the sort of wretch I am. Really. Sort of de-stresses me. Gives me a giggle. We’re living in a powderkeg and giving off the spark. In a moment I’m going to go away and read a book written in the 1800s, just to prove how well balanced and cultured I am. I might even have some cinnamon when I do it.
Well this one’s just a classic. The combination of the worst plot in the series, a happy Colonel White, some heavy handed moralising about greed and commerce shoehorned into the script from out of the blue, an actually grim ending when we cut from a Scarlet "The Mysterons have powers we cannot understand," speech to the bank exploding and killing the men inside it, that final pious speech of the episode and another slice of Captain Magenta’s patented wacky mayhem makes this one of the real guilty pleasures of the series. It’s a great laugh. It’s what I watch this show for, really.
He’s walking on sunshine. Wooo-ooo. Walking on – etc.
Captain Ochre appalled, yesterday. "I’m appalled," he was heard to report.
Well I can see a real sitcom situation brewing up here. Time to leave, boys and girls. We all have lives to lead.