Last Thursday, September 29th, Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons celebrated the 49th anniversary of the first episode being broadcast back in 1967. That means we’re exactly one year away from the 50th anniversary of the show.
Similarly, Thunderbirds just celebrated its 51st anniversary – almost marking the end of the 50th anniversary celebrations. All sorts of things, good and not so good, have come out this landmark event.
With this in mind, I have had a bit of a think about what I would and wouldn’t like to see from the 50th anniversary celebrations of Captain Scarlet.
New episodes – Captain Scarlet 1967?
The Thunderbirds 1965 project produced three new episodes of Thunderbirds using Supermarionation techniques and the soundtracks of mini-albums recorded in the 60s. You can read my in-depth reviews of all three episodes here. While I think it’s fair to say new episodes of any Supermarionation show would be considered a treat, there are a number of reasons why a similar “Captain Scarlet 1967” project would not enjoy nearly the same level of success.
Part of the thrill of recapturing the charm of 1960s Thunderbirds was because it had some charm worth recapturing. Captain Scarlet with its more realistic puppets and somewhat slicker production values just wouldn’t be quite as fun to create all over again. And though I admit the Thunderbirds mini-albums weren’t the greatest source material to work from, the Captain Scarlet ones aren’t exactly top notch entertainment – they’re not bad but they have their oddities which would be harder to subdue than the oddities of the Thunderbirds recordings.
Aside from this, the Thunderbirds 1965 project relied on Kickstarter to raise funding having received approval from ITV. New Supermarionation episodes of Captain Scarlet would most likely rely on the same crowdfunding method – except the chances are more money would be required to make the episodes possible, and the audience from which the money would be raised would be smaller and probably less generous.
I’m not saying it couldn’t be done, but it would be much harder, less enjoyable to make, and probably not as satisfying as the triumphant Thunderbirds 1965 episodes were.
Captain Scarlet on Blu-ray
Yes, it would be wonderful to see the full series of Captain Scarlet released on blu-ray. With Thunderbirds, Space: 1999, Terrahawks, and soon UFO, seeing UK releases on blu-ray and looking much better for it, Captain Scarlet would certainly benefit from the same treatment. But let’s look at the recent releases of Captain Scarlet and Thunderbirds to work out what’s most likely to happen here.
For the 50th anniversary of Thunderbirds, the series was re-released on DVD along with Stingray and Captain Scarlet with some fairly impressive new box art. Everyone was pretty excited until it was discovered that the discs themselves were clones of earlier releases, using the copies of the shows remastered way back in 1999. As much as these digitally remastered episodes looked amazing back in the early 2000s, they’re looking more than a bit tired now. This is particularly the case with Thunderbirds which has enjoyed a super slick blu-ray release in Japan, the USA, and Germany. UK fans, however, are stuck with a blu-ray release from 2008 which has been cropped to widescreen, and looks rather grainy. I cannot fathom why the nice, shiny episodes cleaned up for releases in other countries haven’t been made available on a UK release yet – it’s what we were all hoping for from the 2015 DVD releases. A chance was completely missed for the 50th Anniversary to release Thunderbirds to UK viewers looking better than ever before on blu-ray with the excellent 4:3, almost flawless copies that had originally been made for the Japanese release – they could have charged a fortune for it and no-one probably would have minded. Click here to see a video comparing the new HD transfers to the DVDs.
So where does that leave the possibility of Captain Scarlet making it to blu-ray? Well seeing as Thunderbirds still hasn’t had a decent release on the format in the UK, I doubt it will happen for Scarlet any time soon. But if it did, we’d want it to match, or improve upon, the calibre of the episodes seen on Network’s Supermarionation boxset. This boxset included The Mysterons, Winged Assassin, Treble Cross and Noose of Ice along with new HD versions of episodes from Supercar, Fireball XL5, Stingray, Joe 90, and The Secret Service, as well as episodes from the aforementioned 4:3 HD Thunderbirds release, and Network’s previous HD release of the Four Feather Falls episode Gunfight on Main Street. So we do currently have 4 episodes of Scarlet available in HD – I’ll come to those later.
Ultimately, the cost of making new, shiny prints of Captain Scarlet would be big, and I’ll wager its a lot more than ITV would be willing to pay when they could just re-release the same standard definition prints again at a much lower cost. That was probably the thinking behind the last release of Thunderbirds in the UK and I have to say it stinks.
Captain Scarlet Screening Event?
One thing that might be a nice treat for fans, and would require no additional episodes to be given the HD treatment, is a screening event at somewhere like the BFI of the 4 episodes that were released on the Supermarionation Boxset. Yes it would be nice to see some different episodes in high definition, but realistically this might be a good compromise. It would celebrate the show and allow some fans to see it in a new way on the big screen. One could hold a Q&A with some of the surviving cast and crew from the series just to give it more appeal. It’s not a revolutionary idea, but at least it would be something a bit special.
So here’s the thing, the merchandise produced for the 50th anniversary of Thunderbirds was quite a mixed bag. There are some standout items such as the Modiphius board game which was a superb item made with love and care by people who know the show and know what they’re doing. It had to be crowdfunded to make it happen. The Thunderbirds 1965 project also produced some superb limited edition items as rewards for backers. This also had to be crowdfunded. There was also merchandise produced exclusively for the Gerry Anderson shop which was of a great quality – including some nicely designed t-shirts, posters and that type of thing. There have been some other decent items here and there from other manufacturers, many of which I was fortunate enough to review for the official Gerry Anderson shop. They weren’t perfect, but they had at least had some kind of good work put into them.
Then we get down to some of the other stuff which essentially stuck the same generic Thunderbirds images onto random items on the cheap by people who appear to know next to nothing about the series. Or there were some truly bizarre items that were so far off appealing to the target audience it was a bit laughable.
The pinnacle of low quality for me came in the form of the Corgi toys. New classic Thunderbirds toys should have been a huge hit. And Corgi are supposedly renowned for making high quality replicas of vehicles. So they re-released the same disproportionate FAB 1 that they made for the 40th anniversary, the same Thunderbirds 2 and 4 which lack detail, and then made a new Thunderbird 1 and 3 which look awful and poorly detailed. All this came several months later than scheduled – retailers that had been promised the items in January were left high and dry for a very long time.
The chances are Captain Scarlet would not fare any better from all this. Modiphius are contemplating making another board game based on Scarlet and I urge them to go ahead with it. You can fill out a survey about it on their website by clicking here. People will be desperately seeking some high quality merchandise to commemorate the anniversary, and there’s a good chance their board game would be at the top of people’s shopping lists based on the fantastic work they’ve done with Thunderbirds. I also strongly suggest that people support items that are exclusive to the Gerry Anderson shop. These products are made with care and love by people who know the show inside out. They work hard to bring out nicely designed items that people actually want. Like every other manufacturer they have to get a license from ITV to make their products, but unlike other manufacturers they really understand the target audience and know what they want.
So many items from the recent range of Thunderbirds merchandise have just been a complete misfire because they don’t seem to be aimed at the right people. Captain Scarlet lacks a lot of the pop culture appeal that Thunderbirds has, so one would hope that any merchandise that is produced will be aimed solely at fans who desire more specific, high quality items.
Or the opposite will happen, and in a desperate attempt to cash in on what remains of Captain Scarlet‘s pop culture status, even more tat will be produced to try to appeal to the general public, but without enough confidence or money behind it to actually make it any good. Even worse would be more of the bizarre products that don’t have any appeal to fans or the general public.
Of course, one reason that could be cited for the relatively low key wave of classic Thunderbirds merchandise is that anything more prevalent would have been in direct competition with merchandise for the new Thunderbirds Are Go series. Captain Scarlet won’t have this same competition, with its other closest competitors simply being the other Supermarionation show. This could mean more mainstream items will be available and marketed prominently. Or it might not – its a bit of an unknown.
But speaking of remakes, what about…
Gerry Anderson’s New Captain Scarlet?
The 2005 CGI remake of Captain Scarlet is now 11 years old. Fans desperately want the poorly promoted series to be re-released or even repeated to coincide with Thunderbirds Are Go. Recently something pretty exciting happened. The series was finally given a region 4 DVD release in Australia. This may not mean much to UK fans, but its the first time the series has made it out of the UK in a major way. With Anderson Entertainment at the helm, this could mean more is coming for New Captain Scarlet in the future.
The series itself still looks incredible. The CGI may not compete with big budget movies, but for a television series it stands out as very high quality. Would ITV bring it back next to Thunderbirds Are Go? That’s a bit complicated. For one thing New Captain Scarlet is aimed at a considerably more mature audience than Thunderbirds Are Go. The demographic of Thunderbirds Are Go is a little more set in stone than New Captain Scarlet, so the series would suffer a similar dilemma to the one it faced back in 2005. It’s a show with adult themes but lots of cool toys and gadgets flying around. Then there’s the question of comparing the look of the two shows. New Captain Scarlet aims for realism, Thunderbirds Are Go has developed its own visual style that has been tailored to appeal to children, while not completely alienating adult fans too by looking too cartoony. Either the CGI of New Captain Scarlet would be considered too dated to sit comfortably alongside Thunderbirds Are Go, or too good and could potentially make Thunderbirds Are Go look cheap. Despite both series using to CGI to remake two very popular Gerry Anderson series, they are extremely different products – but the comparison between them could either work in both their favour, or vastly against one or the other, or both, depending on who you are.
Overall then, what am I looking for from the 50th anniversary of Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons?
Against all odds I would love to see the series released in high defintion on a spectacular blu-ray boxset full of special features. I think that goes without seeing. Whether it will happen is another matter. If it did happen I hope people wouldn’t complain about the high price tag that comes with it.
I would love there to be some kind of event for fans and the general public to celebrate the series, be that a screening or even a convention that’s open to all – I can’t emphasise enough how important that last part is to growing the show’s popularity rather than letting it stagnate.
High quality merchandise. I don’t mind limited edition releases or a high price tag as long as the products are of a good quality and deliver something new that we haven’t seen before. Yes, Corgi could re-release their previous Captain Scarlet vehicles, charge a lot of money for it and probably do just fine – but what would excite much more is if they released some new vehicles that perhaps have never been made into toys or models before. It would cost them more money, but they could charge more for them as a result, and the fans who are actually prepared to part with the cash for this sort of stuff would go for it much quicker than a re-release. If they could avoid releasing them 6 months late as well, that would be a bonus…
Finally I would love to see New Captain Scarlet continuing to regain momentum in the way that it has been. It would be a real tribute to the late Gerry Anderson if his final television series could conquer the world in the way that it should have done originally. There’s no reason why the show couldn’t be a hit in the US and enjoy new success in the UK too.
Let me know your thoughts on this. What were your favourite and least favourite parts of the Thunderbirds 50th Anniversary that stand out for you, be they releases of the show, merchandise or events? What do you want to see for the 50th anniversary of Captain Scarlet? Post a comment below!