EPISODE 19 – "SHADOW OF FEAR"

"Gentlemen, we’re about to obtain the best close-up shots of Mars ever taken by man!"

 

 

During a Colonel White briefing scene, Destiny, Harmony, Symphony, Captain Ochre and Captain Magenta are seen lounging around Cloudbase (as are Melody and Captain Grey, but they get off their backsides and do something later – and nothing like that, you dirty devils).

 

"The eye that dares to look upon our planet has been destroyed! You will never succeed! You will never discover the secret of the Mysterons! We will be avenged!"

Woah! Calm down, dear, it’s only Spectrum. The Mysteron voice sounds a lot higher pitched this week too.

 

The K14 observatory, positioned on the side of a mountain in the Himalayas, is tracking satellites sent to Mars, hoping to be able to obtain good quality close-up photographs of the surface of the planet. Whilst one satellite is detected by the Mysterons and destroyed, this is anticipated and so Colonel White gives the go-ahead for the continuation of the exercise, part of the mysterious "Operation: Sword." A second satellite is launched which this time orbits in such a way that it keeps the Martian moon, Phobos, between itself and Mars, managing to land seemingly undetected on the surface of the Moon, from which it’ll be able to take one photograph every seven seconds, the photos to be relayed back to Earth at 3am. Spectrum is pleased with the success of the operation – including Captains Scarlet and Blue, overseeing things at the observatory – but when Dr Breck, one of the leading scientists, goes missing it seems that the Mysterons are going to throw a spanner in the works… almost literally…

 

The Mysteron murder in this episode defies explanation. Dr Breck is looking through his telescope at Mars when the planet suddenly seems to start glowing really brightly, fluctuating light so dazzlingly that Breck is forced to remark: "The light… it’s so… intense!" Then he just… dies. Looks at a bright light for too long, falls over and dies. I’m guessing the writer’s idea here was that the Mysterons were somehow reflecting the Sun’s rays into Breck’s eyes, eventually killing him that way, but we’re never really told what happened. Added to that, Breck’s body is then seen being jerkily dragged across the floor, right past the Mysteron duplicate – so who’s doing the dragging?! Possibly the same unseen force that jerkily dragged Captain Scarlet’s body underneath a small bush back in episode 1.

And, once again, a Mysteron agent is seen being dispatched by a bullet, rather than electricity. Does this series have any sense of continuity?

 

Scarlet has a brief gunfight but gets through it quite easily.

 

Captain Blue goes to get a Mysteron detector from the SPV after they find out who the Mysteron agent is. If that isn’t inept thinking, the fact that he doesn’t retrieve the anti-Mysteron gun at the same time surely is.

However, the main problem here is that Spectrum allows the observatory to be completely destroyed by the Mysterons: occupants, building and all. Having rushed out into the snow to take out the Mysteron agent, you can only imagine Scarlet and Blue slowly looking over their shoulders in dumb dismay as the entire building explodes and collapses in pieces down the side of the mountain. Ironically enough, the Mysterons leave the picture-taking satellite on Phobos alone, allowing it to beam out images that nobody’s alive to pick up.

 

Good Lord! A pure, unbridled Mysteron success! First time we’ve really had one: Manhunt doesn’t really count as they didn’t have any plan, and the other two occurrences – Winged Assassin and The Heart of New York – were either down to complete luck or Spectrum deciding to give up and letting the Mysterons get on with it.

Spectrum: 15 Mysterons: 4

 

 

There’s a lot of basically meaningless technobabble phrases being thrown about in the control room scenes that are far too intelligent for me to understand: "Signal to noise ratio: 0124dB…" "Beam width and flux density…" … Um… "Check video…"

In fact, one bloke seems very insistent that his friends "check video" every few seconds. Makes it seem like he’s urgently taping Eastenders because the experiment’s making him miss out on it.

SCIENTIST: "Check video…"

DR BRECK: "I just did it."

SCIENTIST: "Well do it again!"

___

BLUE: "Close ups of Mars… forty-three million miles across space to that screen!"

Oh, the wonders of technology in the year… um… 2068.

___

SCARLET: "Let’s hope the Mysterons don’t detect this one!"

BLUE: "Well, we’re tracking it by infrared reflection of the Sun’s rays from the satellite’s shell. At least there’s no transmission for them to pick up."

I think he knows that.

___

SCARLET: "It was a brilliant idea to soft-land the Minisat on Phobos."

I think he-

DR BRECK: "Yes. Its course was carefully plotted so that Phobos always shielded the satellite from Mars."

You’re already tol-

SCARLET: "That’s why the Mysterons didn’t locate it."

Sweet Mother of Pearl, everybody knows all this already!!! Shut up about it! Seriously, they tell us what the plan was after the event twice within the space of five minutes! If they could have devoted some of that time to telling us how Breck bit the bullet we’d be fine!

 

SCARLET: "Have we done it?"

SCIENTIST: "We won’t know for nearly four minutes."

___

BLUE: "I’ll relieve you at midnight."

Well, it sounds vaguely naughty.

___

When Scarlet’s asking the scientists where Dr Breck has got to, Captain Blue says "His bed hasn’t been slept in…" whilst leaning in the doorway in a faintly alarming manner.

 

No jokes. They’re living in the shadow of fear, after all.

 

"In Greek mythology, Phobos was the attendant of Mars. It means ‘fear’. The name is appropriate. Because of the Mysterons, the whole world lives in the shadow of fear…"

Colonel White shows us that, yes, he took Classics at University. However, I’m a bit baffled by this "Operation: Sword" business.

"Operation: Sword... In spite of everything, Lieutenant, that goes ahead as scheduled!"

I can’t remember whether it refers to events in the next episode, which concludes the Lunarville trilogy, or whether he’s talking about the general intelligence gathering on the Mysterons, or whether – as per usual – he hasn’t got a clue what he’s muttering about.

SCARLET: "The Mysterons have destroyed the satellite. Phase One complete according to plan!"

Oh my God, he’s gone rogue! Somebody stop him!

___

DR BRECK: "You might say we worked in the shadow of fear…"

… Or then again you might not.

 

 

Whilst Captains Scarlet and Blue are already at the observatory, everybody else is just sitting around Cloudbase. When the entire base begins to float towards the Himalayas, Captain Grey gets the taxing task of… looking out of the window. "Well, looks like we’re under way!" Thanks for that. Do you often talk to yourself, soldier?

Once above the Himalayas, the Angels are dispatched to do nothing at all and Melody and Captain Grey flit about in a helicopter looking for the Mysteron Dr Breck. It’s Captain Grey who actually finds the man for Scarlet and Blue, displaying the only bit of military competency anybody in the organisation shows in this episode.

I’ve also learnt that the reason Captain Grey has all but disappeared from the series by this point is because the voice artist (Paul Maxwell) left after having done 12 episodes – in fact, Shadow of Fear (filmed 12th but broadcast as the 19th) was the chap’s last one. It was also the last episode with characters voiced by Charles Tingwell, who also voiced the elusive Dr Fawn, which answers my occasional outbursts of "Where the Hell is that guy?" In fact, Dr Fawn is due to appear in a handful of episodes later on; the poor chap turned up in more episodes when he didn’t have somebody to voice him than when he did. I’ve also just worked out that Tingwell is the same man who plays the weary police inspector in the four Margaret Rutherford Miss Marple films! Yay!

 

The Mysterons kill everybody in the observatory, which appears to amount to… three people.

 

Presumably Scarlet and Blue’s SPV, seen on the parking ramp at the observatory, was written off in the explosion.

 

No car crashes.

 

One small explosion when the Mysterons destroy the first satellite and three larger ones when the observatory is sabotaged. The base’s destruction is curiously low on explosions and flames, though there’s a pleasing amount of footage of the various girders and pieces of metal flying about and bouncing down the mountainside. We hadn’t seen stuff like that since Thunderbirds. Ah, nostalgia.

 

No first names.

 

The Colonel doesn’t appear often but I’m fairly sure he’s drunk.

 

Mars is said to be 43 million miles away. I haven’t a clue how accurate that is but I’m betting that it’s not very.

The first five minutes are quite strange: a tensely directed and scored scene of the scientists waiting to see whether the satellite has been sabotaged by the Mysterons or not, whereas the audience has already witnessed the satellite blowing up about four minutes before the characters find out.

"As K.14 observatory is at present beyond the range of the Angel aircraft, Cloudbase will travel immediately to a position 50 miles west of the observatory in the Himalayas." In this episode we see Cloudbase itself going on a journey, moving slowly across the skies towards it destination. I’m not sure how often it happens in the series but it’s not particularly exciting anyway, so I wouldn’t worry. Amusingly, when the Colonel says, "Start horizontal jets!" we see Lieutenant Green zooming along on his chair to the relevant control panel, making it seem as if the esteemed horizontal jets are tied to his seat…

Some surprisingly poor model work makes it appear that Phobos is exactly the same width of the mini-satellite. By my estimation Phobos also seems to be travelling at a rough orbiting speed of one orbit per 20-30 seconds, as opposed to the 7 hours 40 minutes that the scientists are talking about. Either way is wrong as apparently Phobos orbits Mars about twice a day, roughly every 11 hours or so. Yes, I’m doing a smidgen of research for once. I’m just as surprised as you are.

The very strange lunar musical score and sound effects make it sound as if Phobos is inhabited by the Clangers.

Despite Dr Breck giving us the old " Red Planet" chestnut, his vantage point with the telescope seems to be indicating that the planet is a blazing white.

There’s also some uncharacteristically poor puppet work as well later on during Scarlet and Blue’s gunfight with the Mysteron Breck: when Breck fires at them, Scarlet dodges to the side as usual whereas Captain Blue just tips over.

 

Despite the fact that the Mysterons win, Shadow of Fear is a fairly rum episode. We never actually feel as if the operation is particularly important, especially from a modern viewpoint, and so we’re not too fussed whether the Mysterons succeed or not. There’s very little proper dialogue, either, with a lot of technical readings and characters repeating things over and over to each other ("Check video!" "The shadow of fear…") Ultimately it’s OK but I wouldn’t be pleased if somebody broke into my home to make me watch it all over again at gunpoint. In fact I’d be quite upset.

 

 

 

Is that satellite smiling at me?

Dr Breck: the ultimate peeping tom. "Yeah, Destiny, take it OFF!!!"

"Captain Scarlet Saves Christmas!" This winter on PBS!

"And now it’s… Panorama. I’m David Dimbleby."