EPISODE 28 – "CODENAME EUROPA"
"This Mysteron agent is one of the most dangerous we have ever faced."
"We will destroy the Triumvirate of Europe. The Triumvirate of Europe will be destroyed."
Why do the Mysterons always create alternative permutations of the same sentence?
Professor G. A. Carney, renowned electronics expert, is killed and replicated by the Mysterons, who have announced their intentions to destroy John L Henderson, Conrad Olafson and Joseph Meccini. These are three joint Presidents who together head the Congress of Europe, and, after the World President, are the most powerful men on Earth. Conrad Olafson is relocated to a bunker 40ft underground of the Vandon maximum security Spectrum base, overseen by Captain Ochre. Carney rigs up an audio system in the forests surrounding the base and, by playing sound effects of gunfire and tank movements, makes the security team think that some military terrorist forces are attacking. In the confusion, Carney breaks through the electric fence and throws a bomb into an air vent. However, this bomb destroys the base itself but doesn’t manage to penetrate the bunker in which Olafson is sat. Though he is now safe – the Mysterons believe him to be dead – Spectrum still has to somehow protect the other two members of the Triumvirate and capture the Mysteron agent…
Mysteron Carney uses audio trickery to confuse the guards at Vandon base, as described above (and mocked mercilessly somewhere below). In his assault of the second base, to get at President Henderson, he flies a remote control toy biplane about which somehow jams all radio signals and broadcast wavelengths. How it does this I have no idea. I don’t think the writers had much of a clue either. Carney then destroys the power lines of the base with a small grenade and walks around in the dark wearing a night-watch visor. How he knows where Henderson’s office is situated is also another of the many, many, many mysteries inherent within this episode.
None of these are special powers but I couldn’t think of anywhere else to put all this stuff.
Captain Scarlet really doesn’t have much to do in this one – he’s barely in the first half at all, and all he does in the second half is rig up a tripwire and shoot Carney more times than is strictly necessary.
After Spectrum’s successes last week, it’s astonishing how absolutely inept they are here. The three Triumvirate members are all taken to places of maximum security and the Colonel confidently states that, "It will take something very special to break our protective plans." That might be considered true: one single assassin, dressed in a business suit, armed with a bomb, a toy plane, a tape player and some loudspeakers could certainly be deemed "special" but not in the way the Colonel’s thinking.
I mean, for all that’s good and holy… Carney, playing a tape of gunfire and tank engines hooked up to some loudspeakers, cons Captain Ochre and the entire military team at Vandon base into believing that they’re under attack. That goes beyond stupidity into pure farce. Never mind the fact that there are clearly no bullets actually being fired or any damage being made to the building, not to mention no immediate casualties; "I’d guess about a dozen men spread out over a hundred yards or so!" cries one of the Spectrum guards. What a plank. The guard even wanders out to the top of the building to meet his troops, saying "Keep down!"… whilst standing up, the easiest shot for a bullet you ever saw. All the guards rush over to the west side to fight their invisible assailants, leaving the east side of the fence clear for Carney to cut into and gain entry to the place with a bomb (carried in a brown suitcase, no less). And in the midst of all this confusion and potential carnage, Captain Ochre and the Mysteron target… continue to play a game of chess. Good leadership skills there. It’s only the report that tanks can be heard approaching the base that convinces Ochre to go upstairs and take a look, whereupon he orders the Angels to search and destroy. But, I mean, it’s not a jungle for God’s sake, it’s the English countryside: surely the Angels ought to be able to report back that there aren’t actually tanks about? I mean, you’d be able to see from up there in the sky. No, that would be too sensible. Destiny just starts firing missiles at the trees instead, after which Ochre decides that that will probably "have done the trick," and orders the guard captain to send in "a couple of men to investigate". A couple of men?!?!?
So, you think the base is being attacked by tanks. You can’t actually see the tanks. The Angels can’t see the tanks. Nobody can see these tanks. Nevertheless, you’re sure they’re there, and after a few wild missiles are fired, you think that "a couple of men" will be able to go in and capture the entire military squad that you think is out there.
And then, after all that, the base blows up.
Yes. It blows up. Because everybody panicked about a fake military attack and let one lone bloke in a suit walk in and throw a bomb down an air vent.
The security at the other base isn’t much good either. Carney cuts off all lighting to the base and a guard, upon hearing him approach, yells out: "Is that you, Joe? I can’t see a thing! Joe? Is that you? Joe? Joe? Joe?" At no point does he ever think to move or investigate this mysterious person who quite blatantly isn’t Joe. No, he just stands still and lets Carney walk on straight by.
And this isn’t even mentioning the fact that they resort to giving Captain Magenta an integral (off-screen) role to play during the first fifteen minutes and then leave him guarding the flimsiest roadblock you’ve ever seen in your life. And the roadblock isn’t even guarding anything as the nearest security base is miles and miles away. They’ve just dumped Magenta and his car in the middle of nowhere.
And yet, despite the above, the Mysterons fail! Absolutely and totally. None of the three Presidents are killed. In fact Carney doesn’t even have a chance to have a pop at the third one because he dies whilst trying to off the second. When your opponents are at their all time stupidest and you still can’t beat them you know you ought to give up.
Spectrum: 24 Mysterons: 4
At the climax to the first half, Vandon base blows up – but Olafson is still OK. The explanation we’re given is as follows:
WHITE: "…a bomb was placed in what appeared to be an air-vent to your underground room."
SCARLET: "In fact, it was a dummy inlet which went no deeper than ground level."
Oh come on. That’s pathetic. A dummy inlet?! Why the Hell would you think to have one? What possible use could you ever conceive such a thing to have?
No double entendres. The episode’s silly enough as it is.
The episode ends on some dialogue that, in fitting with the rest of the episode, makes little sense at all.
BLUE: "Well, he managed to get through all our electronic alarm systems, only to be foiled by a simple piece of tripwire."
SCARLET: "Put in the… right place, Captain."
It’s said as if it’s a joke but… it isn’t. And what’s he on about anyway? Tripwire is only generally used in one place – i.e. ankle level, hence "tripwire"! Did we miss a scene where Captain Blue suggested hanging the wire 5.6 feet off the ground so that they could cut Carney’s head off or something? What is it all about?
No speech – see above.
Colonel White, Captain Scarlet and Captain Blue discuss the threat against the Triumvirate.
BLUE: "So Plan XB to protect them is operational, Colonel?"
"No, I just thought we’d let them die for a change…"
OLAFSON: "Trouble, Captain?"
OCHRE: "I’m afraid so, sir, but don’t worry: you’re perfectly safe."
Ah, an official death sentence. Great stuff.
Imagine what Olafson must be thinking at that moment. He knows there are murderous aliens out to kill him, he’s sitting at the bottom of a 40ft shaft in a military bunker, the building seems to be under attack from a crack military elite squad and, on top of all this, Captain Ochre is beating him at chess. I’d be feeling suicidally depressed if I were him.
BLUE: "It’s strange that a man who was obviously an electronics expert should have been taken in by a dummy air-vent."
SCARLET: "Even an expert sometimes makes a simple mistake. It’s a point worth remembering."
Once again, Captain Scarlet tells it like it is.
He’s only saved from Blue and Ochre beating the snot out of him by Colonel White hurriedly sending a message for them to go out on another mission.
Yay! It’s Captain Ochre, dispatched to look after Conrad Olafson at the Vandon military base. It’s quite a surprise when Conrad looks up and Ochre sweeps into the room, as most episodes tend to have Scarlet and Blue sorting out everything, but Ochre carries most of the first half of this episode, with the main men flying about in a jet carrying out perimeter checks. This episode may be the weirdest and most inane of the series but at least it shares out the job responsibilities. In fact, Captain Ochre’s track record is better than Scarlet’s and Blue’s, mainly by virtue of the fact that nothing he’s ever been assigned to protect has ever been attacked before.
Even stranger is that a radio call Scarlet answers earlier on indicates that, whilst Ochre is protecting Conrad Olafson, the other two Mysteron targets have been left in the charge of Captain Magenta. Yup. He’s looking after both of them. On his own.
Captain Magenta himself is only seen briefly later on, guarding a roadblock that proves totally ineffective when Carney drives straight through it (the first time a Mysteron isn’t deterred by a Spectrum roadblock). Magenta spins round and fires wildly with a small handgun but to no effect. Poor guy. Though how on Earth he was meant to be protecting the other two Presidents from out there I haven’t a clue. Did he demote himself? He isn’t even asked to give chase in his car as the Colonel decides once again to give Scarlet and Blue the opportunity to do something important, despite the fact that they’re miles away in their SPV whilst Magenta could probably get into visual contact of Carney’s vehicle within seconds. Maybe Captain Magenta doesn’t have a driving license?
Captain Black shoots Carney with a sniper rifle as the latter steps out onto his patio to have a glass of wine. Strangely, Black isn’t actually hiding himself, he’s just standing out in the open. Sure, it’s night time so he’d be difficult to see but you’d think he’d put a bit more effort into it. And why does he bother to use a sniper rifle anyway? He’s standing all of twenty feet away and it’s not as if he needs to bother with stealth given that Carney appears to live on his own in the middle of nowhere – it’s not as if anybody else is going to see him. Carney’s staring right at him half the time as well but doesn’t think to run away from this mysterious stranger pointing a gun at him from a shrubbery. And added to this, Black, despite aiming for Carney’s chest, apparently shoots his wineglass instead, and, owing to a bizarre puppet substitution, Carney completely changes appearance when he’s actually killed.
Later, Carney destroys Vandon security base, killing all the soldiers on duty at the time. That’s a bit naughty.
Vandon base is completely demolished and the entire military team, barring Captain Ochre, was wiped out in the devastation. Colonel White doesn’t seem fussed at all. Ah, that stoic British stiff-upper-lipped pluck. How I admire it.
Captain Blue crashes his SPV but it drives into a forest rather than off a cliff.
Seven small explosions hither and thither, and one large one as Vandon base goes boom.
Gosh: no forename usage at all. Surprised you there.
The Colonel seems quite excited all the way through this one and takes the culling of a sizeable section of his men in his stride. Well, from behind his desk at any rate. The Colonel doesn’t stride anywhere. He sort of…ambles along.
The décor of Carney’s home is a bit of a mess. Bright purple floor, some orange Prisoner-esque chairs and, erm, several gigantic eggboxes strategically situated around the place for show.
I think the puppet used for Carney has played the most Mysteron agents in the series. I know it’s appeared loads of times and there are probably pictures of him in some of my earlier articles. For a start he was Captain Brown in episode 1 and was Major Reeves in Renegade Rocket. Not to mention the bloke who tried to destroy that North Pole mine three episodes ago. He does look pretty evil, I must admit, but he’s not as obviously menacing as Monkey Bastard. I hope Monkey Bastard turns up again but I doubt he will…
This episode again informs us that there’s a World President. The European Triumvirate are below him on the power scale. So who was that President we saw last week? Was he the American President? And, if so, why isn’t he as important as these three European types? In the far future does Europe supersede America as the ultimate continent?
Now this is just ludicrous: Carney apparently has, secreted in a compartment in his armchair, a set of numbered stats cards depicting the Triumvirate, presumably amongst other politicians. Who on Earth has a set of cards like that?! Why did the original Carney have them? Who releases a series of World Leaders Trading Cards? Why did he secrete them inside a chair armrest? And why does he have a video of the Triumvirate? Where did it he get it? Why does it only consist of a long piece of footage of the three sitting behind a desk and looking faintly bored? Was the real Carney possibly the saddest man on the planet? I expect so.
Vandon base explodes before the advert break and yet Captain Ochre and Conrad Olafson are all right and talking to the Colonel at Cloudbase in the next scene. How on Earth can they be all right?! Ochre was in the lift when the base blew up! Even if they didn’t get hurt by the explosion, seeing as they were 40ft down, how did they get out? They’d have been buried alive in the rubble from the base! And Captain Ochre says that, during the entire debacle, he felt: "worried".
More Mysteron pointlessness: why does Carney feel the need to write down a code referring to the order in which he’ll kill the Presidents? There are only three of them! Three! That’s not a hard number of Presidents to remember and I really don’t think it matters what order they’re killed in! Actually, this occurs after his attempt to assassinate Olafson which he thinks succeeded, so in effect he’s writing down a code to remember which of the two remaining Triumvirate members he ought to kill next. What’s the point? What’s it for? All it serves in plot terms is to enable Scarlet and Blue to break into his bungalow and find out who’s next in line to get killed: yes, after writing out this vitally important code, Carney leaves it behind anyway. And why do Spectrum need to know? They protected three people well enough without knowing who was the immediate target, so why do they need to know who’s next now that there’s only two in need of protection?
Carney has a device in his car that switches off the view screen in Scarlet’s SPV, causing it to crash. Again, why on Earth does this device exist? Why did he think he’d ever need it? There seem to be a lot of things in this episode that serve plot functions that you couldn’t really imagine ever existing. It also means that had Captain Magenta been allowed to follow in his saloon car he’d probably have been able to catch Carney, as an ordinary car wouldn’t be affected by technical gimmickry.
Why are the main power lines of the second security base located outside the perimeter of the base itself? Any passing delinquent could knock the base out – as Carney shows when he does just that. And why does nobody have a bloody torch?
Carney is eventually defeated when he walks into Henderson’s room, goes over a tripwire and then gets shot several times in the chest by Captain Scarlet, firing wildly as he can’t actually see. How did Scarlet know that it wasn’t going to be an ordinary guard, coming in to check up on the President or to ask for orders concerning the lack of light? Shoot first and apologise later?
And finally: what were the writers thinking?!
If I told you that it took me an hour and a half to view and write down notes for the first fifteen minutes of this episode, you may or may not be surprised. This is undoubtedly the most inane instalment of the series, competing only with The Heart of New York for the title of "most terribly plotted Captain Scarlet episode". However, I don’t rate TV and films on competence but on how much I enjoyed them; it’s what I do. And though this is technically terrible, it is hugely enjoyable. It’s nice to see a Spectrum officer other than Scarlet or Blue hold up the plot for a while, even if said plot is in danger of disintegrating at any moment, and we even have time for a Magenta cameo. Carney is the nuttiest Mysteron agent ever and you’re left with an expression of pure astonishment that grows with every passing minute. It’s the definitive "so bad it’s wonderful" Scarlet episode and I reckon it’s brilliant. It sure as Hell doesn’t deserve five stars but I’m going to give them to it anyway.
And if you fancy seeing some clips of it, Kinggodzillak has made a Doctor Who New Series style "Next Time" trailer which should be found here. Witness Ochre’s bravery, the Colonel’s melodrama and Vandon base going boom-boom!
Oh, you pink pussycat!
"Hey, Cindy? This is Ochy-baby here… and I’m not wearing any pants… Heh heh heh. I know how you – your Cindy’s father? Sorry, wrong number."
"It’s – the – eye of the tiger, it’s the thrill of the fight! Rising up to the challenge of your riiiiivallllll…"