When Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons entered production in 1966 it brought with it a revolution in the style of puppetry that Gerry Anderson and his team had been using up to that point. Gone for good were the larger-headed slightly caricatured puppets of the earlier shows, and in came realistically-proportioned marionettes that better suited the darker more serious tone that Anderson was hoping for in this new series.
On previous shows the puppets came in two categories; regular characters and guest characters. That may sound like an obvious distinction for any television series, but the faces of the guest characters in Thunderbirds were usually created in plasticine moulded onto a plastic skull and then painted. As a result, they tended to be very fragile and easily damaged on set by everything from heat from the studio lights to chopping their noses off with their own wires.
At the start of production on Captain Scarlet the decision was made that the new show’s guest characters should now be produced to the same level of quality as its main characters. To this end, a vast cast of dozens of background characters was created for Captain Scarlet forming a puppet ‘repertory company’ from which the show’s directors could cast their story’s various guest and supporting roles. Many of these puppets are now just as recognisable to Anderson fans as any of the lead characters, and part of the fun of watching these shows comes in noticing that this week’s guest villain played a doctor or politician in last week’s and so on.
After Captain Scarlet completed production the show’s regular characters were then added to the repertory company for Century 21’s next series Joe 90, with almost all of them making return appearances throughout both that series and its successor The Secret Service. In the first of a two-part feature here’s a complete guide to the Spectrum team’s various appearances in those two series, starting with Joe 90.
Colonel White gained a mustache when he appeared as Sam Loover’s father Willie in the episode Relative Danger, after which the puppet’s familiar white hair was re-wigged black for subsequent appearances. In perhaps the only example of typecasting among the Century 21 repertory company, the Colonel White puppet always played short-tempered men in positions of power.
Lieutenant Green’s post-Captain Scarlet career was extremely brief. Two Green puppets appeared without hair as palace guards in the Joe 90 episode King for a Day, but as far as we know he made no further appearances after that.
Captain Ochre enjoyed perhaps the most successful career post-Scarlet, appearing in numerous episodes of Joe 90 and The Secret Service and always in speaking roles. His appearance remained largely unchanged throughout both shows, with the only notable difference being slightly darker skin for the episode Viva Cordova. Ochre’s ‘blinker’ head, only seen in Scarlet during Flight to Atlantica, is seen again when he is shot dead in Attack of the Tiger. His role as the High Priest in Child of the Sun God ends with the character falling to his death during which the magnetic plate covering the back of the puppet’s skull can be seen to come away as he strikes a rock, giving us the briefest of looks inside his head.
Captain Magenta’s appearances after Captain Scarlet were limited to background characters and occasional minor speaking roles. In The Fortress he plays a guard that gets shot down by Joe, although given that this is Captain Magenta it could be equally likely that he just tripped over his own feet.
Much like Captain Magenta Captain Grey was destined to spend most of Joe 90 in non-speaking background roles, but enjoyed a more substantial run of appearances in The Secret Service. His only three speaking roles in Joe 90 were as Lieutenant Burns in The Race, as Hawkins in Mission X-41, and a W.I.N. technician in Trial at Sea.
Doctor Fawn appeared as various non-speaking soldiers in several episodes, before gaining a mustache to play pilot Fearless Foley in the episode Attack of the Tiger. His ‘frowner’ face, which was built for but never used in Captain Scarlet, is seen for the first time when he plays a frogman in Viva Cordova. His regular face, now without the mustache, can also be seen earlier in the same episode in the crowd of onlookers at the election.
Destiny’s familiar long blonde hair became a beehive for a non-speaking appearance alongside Captain Grey in International Concerto. She was then re-wigged as a brunette for her only post-Scarlet speaking role in King for a Day.
Rhapsody Angel’s familiar long red hair was shortened for her two Joe 90 appearances, both of which took place in hospitals.
This puppet was re-wigged with black hair for her appearances in Joe 90. She was mostly kept in the background but did have a speaking role as an air stewardess in the episode Operation McClaine, when she cheerfully informed passengers on a plane flying through a thunderstorm that it would likely “pass very quickly” – and thus instantly doomed herself and almost everyone on the plane to certain death by the following scene. For her appearance in Colonel McClaine (and possibly also Double Agent) the puppet was once again wearing the same blue outfit with long blue tie that Symphony wore in several episodes of Captain Scarlet (most notably Model Spy).
Admittedly we’re not 100% sure on this one, but the bespectacled reporter lady poking her head in at the bottom of this shot certainly looks an awful lot like Melody Angel.
Despite being instantly recognisable to anybody who’s ever seen a single episode of Captain Scarlet Captain Black appeared as the villainous General Valdes in Viva Cordova, the final episode of Joe 90 to be made. There’s a certain irony somewhere in the fact that the very last shot of the very last episode of Joe 90 features the Captain Black puppet being escorted to prison in handcuffs – that’s something Spectrum never managed to achieve!
As you may have noticed throughout this article Viva Cordova is probably the best Joe 90 episode in which to spot former members of Spectrum, with appearances from Colonel White, Captain Black, Captain Ochre, Captain Grey and two Doctor Fawns. Next time we take a look at the Captain Scarlet cast’s appearances in The Secret Service – but in the meantime if you have noticed any Joe 90 appearances from Spectrum personnel that we’ve neglected to mention here, please let us know in the comments below!