EPISODE 25 – "NOOSE OF ICE"

"The sea will begin to freeze!"

 

 

Interestingly, only Captain Black’s voice is heard, relaying instructions from the Mysterons to the agent as per usual; Black himself is never seen. The levels of telepathy that the Mysterons possess alter quite drastically depending on the requirements of the episode.

 

"Your much boasted new Space Fleet is doomed to failure. We will make certain you never return to our planet Mars."

Much boasted? We’ve never heard of it up till now.

 

General Rebus of the space programme administration informs Spectrum that, in order to cut transit time to Mars by a third, a new fuel formula is being worked on and tritonium alloy is quite vital. The alloy itself can only be found naturally in one place and is in the process of being mined by Hotspot Control, a tower complex partially submerged in the waters of the North Pole. The tower requires 100,000 volts in power from a nearby booster station to run the heating elements that keep the water from freezing. However, the Mysterons kill and duplicate a maintenance man named Neilson, who disconnects the power supply to the tower once Captain Scarlet and Captain Blue are sent there to investigate the situation. Without the lifts working it seems impossible for anybody to leave the tower and the water is already beginning to freeze, creating a noose of ice that will crush the complex to pieces…

 

We actually see a Mysteron killed by electricity, which is quite interesting. Sort of. Otherwise there’s nothing new or novel here.

 

Scarlet swims about in the freezing water under enormous physical pressure but barely elicits a groan of discomfort. When he gets to the booster station he stands around in plain sight for a long length of time with the armed Mysteron agent high up on a gantry – making us wonder why the Mysteron just doesn’t shoot him as soon as he enters – and then finally gets shot in the chest when he assaults the agent himself. He does, however, manage to reconnect the power system before "dying" and has, of course, miraculously recovered by the final scene.

 

Spectrum doesn’t put a foot wrong here.

 

The tower will be out of action for six months but the Mysterons haven’t halted the space programme, so:

Spectrum: 21 Mysterons: 4

 

 

 

NEILSON: "Am approaching Eskimo Booster Station."

Why do Eskimos need to be boosted? And by which way does one achieve such a thing?

___

REBUS: "We’ve found that only tritonium alloy can give 100% protection."

BLUE: "Tritonium? But that’s only made in the laboratory in minute amounts!"

Thank you, Captain Blue, I think it’s the General’s job to already know that.

___

SCIENTIST: "We’re perfectly safe."

SCARLET: "I wouldn’t bank on that."

BLUE: "Those pipelines and cables are the tower’s lifeline."

SCARLET: "And if they’re broken: no air, no power, no tritonium mine."

BLUE: "And no space programme."

The way this scene is directed it really seems as if Scarlet and Blue are actively threatening the poor bastard, as if they’re going to go outside and cut the cables themselves unless he pays them a ransom or makes them some coffee.

 

SCIENTIST: "Make it a thorough service and hurry it up!"

___

SCARLET: "It’ll be interesting to see how they do it."

BLUE: "I noticed a booster station and power line."

Ow. That sounds painful.

 

SCIENTIST: "Well, gentlemen, welcome to the Hotspot Mining Complex."

BLUE: "Complex seems the right word!"

Get out, Captain, just get out…

It’s followed later by Scarlet remarking, after an explanation of the science surrounding the set-up, "I can see what you mean about Eskimo Station!" What is it with these comments that only seem to have the vaguest link to what they’re meant to relate to?

 

Captain Scarlet steals the Colonel’s thunder with a bog-standard: "They’re a formidable adversary! But we must continue the fight." Yawn. Scarlet’s just not very good at these. He should leave it to a man who knows what he’s doing. Or, failing that, Colonel White.

 

GREEN: "I have the Space Administration C-in-C, General Rebus, sir."

WHITE: "I’m not surprised."

Why not? Does he often phone up for a quick chat? Is he dating Lieutenant Green? And as a Hancock fan I can’t let it go by without: "Rebus? They’re monkeys, aren’t they?!"

___

REBUS: "Colonel, we’ve got to stop the Mysterons this time!"

Because it was never important to do so before, obviously. Spectrum’s just there for everybody else’s amusement.

___

SCIENTIST: "The tower is under tremendous strain! It wasn’t built to take this sort of pressure!"

You know, I’d pinpoint that as a failing that ought to have been sorted out during the planning stages…

 

 

Once again, Colonel White decides to send his best and most reliable men out to deal with the situation – and then dispatches Captains Scarlet and Blue instead. Silly man.

 

The Mysteron death in this one is pure bollocks, to put it frankly. If you remember, episode 5, Avalanche, had an arctic maintenance chap having his vehicle forcibly crashed by the Mysterons, after which he got buried in snow, all of which was decidedly evil and the like. This episode is set in pretty much the same locale and concerns the same sort of victim – a mechanical engineer – yet doesn’t seem to care when it comes to creating a logical death scene. The poor sap gets out of his van, walks forward a few steps, cries out "I can’t see!", stands around for a bit as the snow whips around him, and then after approximately 35 seconds he inexplicably falls over and dies. Now what sense does that make? Killed by the cold? He’s wrapped up pretty snugly and he works out there for a living so he bloody well ought to be used to extreme temperatures. And if he was feeling a bit parky, why didn’t he just nip back to the van? Twit. The only good thing to say about this death is that it provides Captain Scarlet its only opportunity in the series to open a scene with some doom-laden music dubbed over a shot of a mitten. Seriously, it’s the most evil mitten in the Universe. It even leaves behind footprints. Mittens with feet: a deadly combination.

 

Though the space authorities probably lose some cash, Spectrum gets by without any losses.

 

No crashes or cliff edges.

 

Unusually, there are no explosions either. The later Mysteron electrocution – represented by flames and a quivering puppet – is either quite nasty or rather amusing depending on your mood.

 

No forenames. I can’t remember why I even bothered to create this section.

 

The Colonel’s hardly in it, either.

 

The episode description on the back of the DVD is rather slight yet immediately brings to mind some wonderful imagery: "The Mysterons attack the North Pole." That’s it. Makes you think that the Martians are going to knock off Mrs Claus and use her in some ungodly assassination attempt to take Santa’s life or something.

And whilst I’m talking about the DVDs, this episode is the first on Volume 5, probably the best volume overall regarding value for money. Whereas the first four volumes have six episodes each, this one contains eight as it’s the final volume in the set, and some of these rank among the most enjoyable instalments of the show (there’s at least three 5 star episodes in there by my reckoning). Also notable: each volume has a generic colour scheme to it, usually corresponding with the character whose head they stick on the DVD spine. So Volume 1 had a piccy of Scarlet and was red, Volume 2 had Captain Blue and was blue etc. Volumes 3 and 4 depicted Destiny Angel and Lieutenant Green. You’d expect the final volume to foreground Colonel White; after all, he’s one of the prime leading characters and all. However, quite wonderfully, Volume 5 instead showcases Captain Magenta, of all people, and the packaging’s got a tinge of purple to it! A bizarre choice but it’s strangely delightful that the chaps doing the cover art recognised the majesty of Magenta, even if the unfortunate man only popped up in a few episodes.

Space Administration HQ appears to be a tower block tilted at a 45-degree angle. It’s also a stock footage shot used throughout Thunderbirds and has been used before in this series as well. It’s generally used whenever a building that won’t get blown up later is required for an establishing shot. The reason it’s shot at such an inconceivable angle is because, I think, it was first used in a Thunderbirds episode called 30 Minutes After Noon in which the director was attempting lots of "interesting" directorial touches, making an already rubbish episode completely incomprehensible.

Ah, General Rebus. Once again we have one bloke who has an office the approximate size of a small supermarket. Scarlet and Blue are sat in chairs about six feet away from the desk, for Heaven’s sake!

There’s a strange bit when the Mysteron agent, Neilson, seems to be have been standing in the tower’s lift for ages, staring dumbly at the doors without thinking to actually leave the thing. The doors eventually open to let Scarlet and Blue in, whereupon the agent steps out, looking as suspicious as you like and seemingly attempting to draw the maximum amount of attention to himself. It’s also a bit silly that the conveyor belt that moves Scarlet and Blue through the security area takes them directly inside the lift itself – and automatically turns them 180-degrees so that they’re staring outwards again! – as if they were incapable of getting in by themselves.

Despite the scientist’s speech about keeping everything careful at the installation (with us only seeing two members of staff, and one of those is a desk duty sergeant), it’s notable that the entire tower and mine depends on a power station situated some distance away which hasn’t any security at all. We hear of aerial patrols but never see them and apparently there are some nuclear submarines in the waters – but if the power station was knocked out and the water froze, what use would the submarines be anyway? Indeed, when the water does freeze and almost destroys the mine, no mention is made of the submarines and their crews at all. Presumably they all perished. I’d have thought that the submarines would have exploded and destroyed the tower but I feel I’m putting more thought into the plot of this episode than the writer did originally, so I’ll be buggered if I’m going to do his work for him.

The entire complex is thrown into jeopardy at the flick of one switch – and the resulting removal of a couple of cables – in the power room. Shouldn’t there be safeguards or, indeed, anything at all that ought to prevent a disaster such as this?

Despite some lapses of logic in the plot, the special effects depicting the freezing water and the ice’s crushing of the tower and surrounding structures is first rate, with the heavy sound effects contributing to this a lot. The destruction of the bridge does, however, beg the question of how Captain Blue gets away from the tower to turn up at Cloudbase in the last scene. "Shall we take the lift or fly?" "Let’s not be ostentatious…"

 

What ought to be an average episode actually comes off far better, thanks mainly to an interesting locale and some good model-work. There’s little here we haven’t seen before but it’s all done with aplomb, despite the relative disappointment of few regulars cropping up.

 

I thought you’d like to see a piccy of the rather sweet snow buggy. If I was mistaken regarding your viewing pleasures then I apologise.

"Don’t touch me! Don’t come near me! This lamp is my constant companion and he’s all I need to get through the day!"

Dig the wicker, too. Not Alan Whicker, sadly enough.