EPISODE 14 – "MODEL SPY"
"Why on Earth would the Mysterons want to kill the owner of a French fashion house?"
After an extended bit of "It’s your fault we’re waging war against you, y’know," huffing, the Mysterons finally get to the point: "We are about to attack the House of Verdain. André Verdain will die."
Remember that threat, folks. You’ll know why I asked you to later.
Well, why would the Mysterons want to kill André Verdain, the owner of a French fashion house? Because he’s secretly in charge of the European Intelligence forces, that’s why! Gosh. Deciding that an undercover operation is called for, Colonel White sends a Spectrum detachment out to Monte Carlo to protect Verdain: Destiny and Symphony Angels in the guise of fashion models, and Captains Scarlet and Blue as public relations officers. Reports have come in that Captain Black has been in the area for some time, though even Captain Scarlet doesn’t know how close the enemy is – Verdain’s top models, Helga and Gabrielle, were killed in a train crash some time earlier and replicated, and now never leave his side. After a failed attempt on his life via an inferno in his yacht’s engine room, Verdain still affirms his decision to continue with an important fashion show, placing himself as the bait in a trap to capture Captain Black…
It’s quite strange that the Mysterons go to all the trouble of murdering and replicating the two models as eventually their cunning plan consists of getting Captain Black to descend the side of the building in a window cleaner’s pulley to shoot Verdain through the window. And if the Mysterons can influence a train to crash and explode why can’t they do the same to Verdain’s yacht – Gabrielle has to go and flood the engine room with fuel and set it alight. Whilst we’re on the topic, it’s also notable that Scarlet’s "nausea" ability, which was seen last episode, doesn’t occur here when he spends half the episode in the close proximity of the Mysteron agents.
We once again see the Mysteron’s ability to vanish into thin air, as Captain Black and Helga, and the car that they were travelling in, disappears in a tunnel – this time witnessed by Verdain himself who relays the information back to a stoic looking Captain Scarlet as the latter seemingly caresses his shoulders. Even at times like that Scarlet can’t resist a quick fondle.
Lots of opportunities for Scarlet to kill himself, though, remarkably, he never does. He’s the last to leave the burning yacht, sailing it as far from the mainland as he can before leaping off into the sea shortly before the yacht explodes – so he must be a pretty good swimmer if he can get all the way back to Monte Carlo for the next scene in the time it takes for a quick advert break. Later he crashes his car on a treacherous bit of road overlooking a cliff edge but luckily for him his car smacks into the mountain wall instead. He’s slightly shaken by the experience but happily continues the pursuit of Captain Black in Blue’s SPV.
Spectrum is once again extremely efficient in sorting everything out and doesn’t cause any major cock-ups. However I suppose Scarlet probably should have warned Verdain that it wasn’t a good idea for him to stand and give his speech with his back to an open window…
Spectrum: 11 Mysterons: 3
Right, here we go. The very first scene has a conversation between the two models which contains the most unnaturally stilted – and blatantly expository – dialogue ever heard up until this point. What follows is their first, unedited, exchange of chinwagging. They’re standing in the train, completely silent, when Helga suddenly perks up with:
HELGA: "I’m so looking forward to seeing Monte Carlo."
The sort of thing you decide to say when you’ve almost completed your journey, of course.
GABRIELLE: "I am very excited myself. Even after five years."
HELGA: "Five years… It’s a long time."
GABRIELLE: "Working for Monsieur Verdain, it does not seem so long. Each year there are new fashions. The spring collection, then the summer, then winter. Always there is something new!"
HELGA: "I am very lucky to be working for the House of Verdain."
Eh? He’s not in the compartment, love, you don’t need to suck up to the agency in a patented ‘Blandly happy’ advertising voice. Then Gabrielle decides to tell it like it is with:
GABRIELLE: "Yes. It is tiring being a fashion model, but there is the travelling and the clothes."
HELGA: "And the excitement."
GABRIELLE: "Ah yes. Always the excitement."
… all of which is said in the same tone and pitch that you’d normally reserve for when you were having your cat put down. They don’t sound particularly fussed when the train is jerking round and spinning out of control either, though, in the midst of a certain death situation, Helga finds the time to wryly comment that:
HELGA: "This is not the excitement I like!"
A natural thing to say, I’ll be bound. If ever I’m in a car that’s about to smash into the side of a bus and explode I’m going to comment that "I don’t like road accidents!" just before impact.
How do we find out that André Verdain is the chap in charge of the European Area Intelligence Service? Because:
SCARLET: "I’m sorry sir. We didn’t know that the House of Verdain is the cover for the European Area Intelligence Service!"
Well thank Heavens for that.
VERDAIN: "She can really move. I’ll open her up."
One of the Mysteron models, talking casually as Mysterons do, asks Symphony if she’s ever wanted to be a pilot. Symphony says no as she doesn’t think she’d have the head for heights. It’s funny, y’see, because Symphony actually is a pilot and… yeah.
And an actually amusing bit, here. I love Colonel White’s pointed retort to Scarlet and Blue’s whinging about the Mysteron threat: "That’s because you know nothing about it." Ha!
No stoic speech at all, from anybody. Instead the ending has that lounge lizard Verdain saying to the Angels, "Please accept these as a token of my appreciation," before opening a curtain to reveal… a woman in a elegant dress, some clothes dumped on a table, and a large ornate chair. "For the Angels!" Well they seem pleased, though what the Angels need with a big chair and their own French serving girl I haven’t a clue.
SCARLET: "Well it just doesn’t make sense to me."
BLUE: "I agree. From the photographs I’ve seen, André Verdain doesn’t appear of importance to anyone, least of all the Mysterons!"
"In fact I’d go so far as to say that he’s the most useless human being I’ve ever had the misfortune to know of…"
BLUE: "Have we any idea how the Mysterons might attack Verdain?"
WHITE: "We don’t know, of course, but Verdain is holding a fashion show in Monte Carlo next week. If the Mysterons are going to kill him, my guess is that’s where they’ll try."
Ah yes, the Mysterons, well known for cunningly assassinating their targets in front of huge groups of people, as opposed to doing it in secret as witnessed in every episode so far…
But, annoyingly, the Colonel turns out to be completely correct. Bugger.
WHITE: "I can’t remember an assignment where secrecy mattered so much."
It was four episodes ago. Called "Special Assignment". Where Scarlet had to pretend he a roulette addict. Blimey, I know you’re getting on a bit, but still…
VERDAIN: "I’m spending tomorrow on my cabin cruiser with some of the girls. I suggest you join the party."
SCARLET: "Don’t worry, Monsieur Verdain, we’re not letting you out of our sight."
"Girls scare us…"
None of the other Captains get a look-in, and I’m sure the Colonel only sends Destiny and Symphony along because Scarlet and Blue would look too conspicuous in dresses.
The Mysterons crash a monorail train in order to murder the two models but it’s doubtful that they were the only passengers slaughtered in the accident. At the very least there’s the poor driver to think of, rigidly stood like the Tin Man of Oz at the front of the conveyance.
Captain Scarlet writes off a convertible but who it belonged to I haven’t a clue.
Something special this week: we get a train plunging over a cliff! Result! Unfortunately it doesn’t explode. Boo!
As if to tease us further there’s a car chase at the end which takes place alongside some extremely twisty cliff edges – but nobody in fact goes over the side. Bah! Confound it all.
Two small explosions and one big one. It has to be said that the exploding yacht with copious flames is an extremely satisfying spectacle, though, almost making up for the non-exploding train.
"I’m Paul Metcalfe. This is Adam Svenson." Scarlet deciding that using their codenames would rather ruin the undercover aspect of their mission, there. However this doesn’t extend to the Angels themselves, for some reason, who are referred to by their piloting names throughout.
Ah, the Colonel White smiley head! How I’ve missed thee! Seen when the Colonel pervs a bit over Destiny and Symphony in Cloudbase control. "This is an official meeting, not the Folies Bergeres!" You suave dog, Colonel.
Bloody Hell, Helga looks frightening. And her mate’s an Auton, I’m sure of it.
There’s some great direction in this episode, starting with the crashing train that flies towards the camera. The shot following the crash is pretty snazzy also, with the camera zooming from the twisted metal back between the two Mysterons on the cliff overlooking the wreckage, giving us a nice POV moment which makes for the most disconcerting Mysteron reanimation scene so far. And then the evil Mysteron music fades into a twirly French composition that cuts into the secondary title sequence, another great touch.
Lieutenant Green is wearing his hat when on desk duty in his first scene, for reasons unknown. Presumably he whipped it off sharpish when the Colonel arrived as it’s gone in the next briefing scene.
Being a French fashion designer, André Verdain is rather camp. Nice to see Captain Scarlet breaking with tradition, there. Thunderbirds used the same cliché in one of its later episodes with an even camper French fashion designer who was being spied on by everybody in Paris. However, it is a nice touch that Verdain drops his outrageous oo-la-la accent when talking to Spectrum, talking in a far more natural French tone and in fact getting rid of his camp mannerisms, so at least the cliché is subverted slightly. And however he’s speaking his accent always sounds more realistic than Destiny Angel’s…
Apparently, without Verdain the "whole European [spy] network would fold." So how does the guy find the time to spy on anybody when he’s spending the majority of his hours cornering the market on fashion designing? Then again, there have been sillier things in TV land than a spy who’s also a fashion designer. A spy who’s also a countryside community vicar, for one (Gerry Anderson’s The Secret Service), and a spy who’s also a millionaire businessman and a high profile film actor (The Adventurer) for another. Not to mention a spy who’s also a squirrel. I might be clutching at straws there. Still, wasn’t Morocco Mole great?
Oh dear, Symphony’s got that whacking great blue tie again. And as for Destiny… dear oh dear. Are those clothes even meant to look fashionable? White, Scarlet and Blue seem to find them quite saucy, but I don’t think anybody else would agree. And Symphony’s hair has gone for a burton as well; it’s all curled up by her chin, making her look like a bizarre hybrid of all four of the 70s Beatles.
You know, whilst we’re on the subject, Symphony has a really big chin. She looks like she’s constantly gurning. Mmm. Shame, really, as she has a rather nice voice. Not that I lust after puppets or anything. No sir. My heart belongs to Betty Rubble.
This week, Captain Blue gets an SPV from a doorman at a casino, who instantly knows what Blue is talking about – does that place only have one doorman or what? What were the chances of finding the right one? What if Blue had talked to somebody who didn’t have a clue what he was on about?
And now the plot problems.
For a start, the Mysterons bloody well ought to recognise Scarlet and Blue by now, surely? And yet Helga and Gabrielle happily share a boat with them and two of the Angels without ever growing suspicious of them.
Why does Captain Black, stationed outside the hotel window, wait for Verdain to finish his speech and for somebody to actually notice him poking a rifle through the curtains before attempting to shoot his target?
And, finally, the biggest problem of all: the Mysterons forget their own threat. Yes, you read that correctly. Having spent the entire episode trying to kill Verdain they then kidnap him following the failed hotel assassination attempt and then spend ages trying to get away in a car, with the unconscious Verdain sprawled in the passenger seat. They could easily kill him there and then at any point – in fact it’s the best chance they’ve ever had of fulfilling a mission – but, no, they want to kidnap him instead. "We need Verdain alive!" No you don’t! What on Earth are you talking about? And then when they’re trapped by a French roadblock – "Get rid of Verdain!" Why?! You wanted to kill him, get on with it! That’s not even mentioning the complete hash Helga makes of pushing Verdain out of the car… because she doesn’t think of opening the car door first. Yes, she’s actually trying to squeeze him through the window. Remarkably she eventually succeeds, which leads to Verdain falling out of a moving car headfirst… and not dying. In fact, instead of suffering any form of concussion or having his neck shatter or anything grievous like that, all Verdain seems to receive is a slight bruising to his forehead, covered by a dinky first-aid plaster. Sigh. And it was going so well, too.
Once again, an episode that dares to be a bit different, contrasting nicely with the far more ordinary "Point 783". Unfortunately the plot completely falls apart towards the end, as described above, robbing it of one star – I don’t mind completely unlikely and wacky schemes so long as they’re internally consistent within the narrative. Here Captain Black has no excuse. Twit.
"Hee hee, I made a funny…"
Well… would you?
Cor! Get in there, my son! Or, er… no, don’t bother actually…