Directed by David Elliott
Teleplay by Alan Fennell
First UK Broadcast – 28th March 1965
Let’s have a very quick lesson about a panic that was going on in a small section of the scientific (and not so scientific) community in the mid-20th century – its name was global cooling. Yes, instead of climate change causing the planet to heat up, there were those who believed the Earth was dangerously close to heading for its next ice age. Most of the reporting and investigation into global cooling did not emerge until the 1970s, but in the decades prior there were already rumblings that temperatures were dropping year after year, and everything from aerosols in the atmosphere to Cold War concerns of a nuclear winter were going to trigger a big freeze. Of course, most of us acknowledge that global warming is the reality we are now facing. Nevertheless, the concept of global cooling was obviously a theme on Alan Fennell’s mind when he was writing both Pink Ice, and the earlier Fireball XL5 episode, The Day The Earth Froze. Whether he actually believed the global cooling theories is neither here nor there, but the predicted doom of another ice age was probably the perfect influence for a science fiction tale of global catastrophe, with more than a little room for some alien interference to trigger the disaster.
So the episode gets straight into it with no mucking about. The Atlantic Ocean is already completely frozen and nobody has any idea why. That’s where we’re starting from apparently without any build up or warning. We aren’t shown the Atlantic Ocean or anything. We just have to accept that this has happened because our main characters say so. It’s a bit of a bizarre way to start the show. The scene simultaneously gives us very little information, and is also completely unnecessary because we’re about to get a lengthy presentation of the Pacific Ocean freezing. I suppose this initial bit of dialogue helps to explain what the heck we’re about to watch.
Familiar stock footage is used to indicate that we are now looking at the Pacific Ocean which, as Fisher just pointed out, is still free of ice. Sailing through shot is one of those old freighters from The Disappearing Ships with a few modifications. Under the water, a strange little submarine moves into position. It’s a fantastically alien-looking craft. When compared to some of the enemy vessels from early episodes, it’s clear that the model makers had upped their game by this point in the series with some great detailing on most of the guest craft.
I say “most”, because this thing here is obviously just a ball with some pipes stuck to it. But that’s okay because that’s all it really had to be, and anything more conspicuous probably would have spoiled the aliens’ plan. The mysterious ball which has been released from the alien craft starts pumping pink liquid into the water. Any theories what that could be? Strawberry milkshake? Tubby custard? The contents of a poultry farm shoved through a blender? We’ll find out in a minute, but presumably when this scene was over, the entire water tank had to be drained and re-filled to remove the pink dye. Incidentally, the tinkling sound effect of the liquid entering the water sounds like it might have been recorded in a gents toilet…
What follows is a very, very, very drawn out sequence of the pink ice building up and covering the ocean, while the freighter continues sailing forward to meet its doom. Little bits of clear plastic wrap are used at first to suggest that the water is starting to freeze before big chunks of pink polystyrene (a new and exciting product in the 1960s) start to appear. Now look, here’s the thing – if we hadn’t already seen the episode title caption for Pink Ice, and had a quick scene at Marineville explaining that one of the oceans is already covered in ice, I don’t think I necessarily would have assumed that this was ice that we’re looking at. That’s not to say the special effects team did a bad job. I don’t think they could have made it look any more like ice than it does. I just don’t think it’s immediately obvious what’s happening. However, I also don’t think we necessarily needed to know exactly what was happening at this point. This sequence probably would have been more effective as a mysterious opening to the episode if we hadn’t just had that bit of exposition in the prior scene. It easily could have come afterwards to explain what we’d just seen. Perhaps there were other scenes that were cut or rearranged which made it essential to place those moments in that particular order, but for me this assembly just doesn’t quite pack the right punch. Anyway, point is, there’s now ice in the Pacific and the Atlantic. And it’s being brought about by a machine, rather than a freak of nature.
And just in case you hadn’t picked up on the geography of the situation, we have Troy Tempest standing in front of a map explaining to everyone that all the oceans have now been affected. Don Mason can once again be relied upon to milk the drama of the situation for all its worth in his delivery of the dialogue. Atlanta points out that it’s serious. Troy rants and raves about it being a disastrous, world-ending catastrophe. Of course, all these hysterics are necessary to represent the immense scale of the situation, which is really where the episode struggles for me. We’re told over and over again exactly where the ice is and how it’s a global crisis, but all we’ve actually seen so far is one boat getting stuck. We don’t see anybody else even vaguely in danger as a result of all this, and that makes the threat feel… well… not very threatening. Dialogue about the graveness of the situation can only take a viewer so far. In fact, the dialogue doesn’t even get into specifics about exactly how the world is being troubled by the ice, just that it’s very, very bad.
Don’t worry, a meeting of top brass is going on at World Security Patrol H.Q. Although the set hasn’t particularly changed since it’s last appearance in Marineville Traitor you can bet money that the WSP Commander has switched voices again – this time he’s turned French and is voiced by David Graham. The other puppets are those that we saw in the pilot episode, and yes, they’ve switched voices too. So, it’s a global climate emergency and four old geezers have gathered together to point out the obvious, namely that another ice age is starting without any warning and that there are several unanswered questions. A few questions of my own leap to mind. Why are there only four people at this meeting? And why is the World Security Patrol the only organisation taking part in the investigation? Surely a meteorologist or two would need to be involved? Perhaps a single scientist who can use long words every so often? It brings me back to a point from an earlier review that what Stingray really lacks sometimes compared to other Supermarionation series is some kind of recurring boffin character who can at least make the heroes appear to know what they’re doing half the time. The WASPs seem horrendously out of their depth in situations like these because scientists are no-where to be found. Then, to pad out the running time a little bit more because the script has bitten off far more than it can chew with this plot, Commander Shore asks to fly all the way back to Marineville to brief his team in person. He could have just called them, but no, better to waste valuable time flying Shore back and forth for half the episode.
Shore arrives at Marineville with a fighter escort. He is presumably flying in the Spearhead Bomber seen previously in episodes such as Emergency Marineville, while the escort craft are Arrowhead Interceptors which would go on to appear in Rescue From The Skies and The Cool Cave Man and are built from Aurora Northrop F-5 ‘Freedom Fighter’ kits.
If you look at the bottom of this frame you’ll see the very wooden edge of the set for a split second. Shore is apparently coming to his apartment to brief the team. Fisher hasn’t been invited along because someone has to watch the control room I suppose. I can’t help but wonder why Shore is going to deliver an official briefing from his living room. Surely the control tower would have been a more appropriate setting? Maybe he wanted an informal, casual setting to tell everyone about the end of the world.
An ever-so-slightly modified WASP helicopter takes off from an ever-so-slightly modified airstrip when compared to a similar shot from Marineville Traitor.
There’s a brief bit of dialogue between Troy and Phones confirming that they will be involved in handling this crisis in some capacity. That’s something of a given considering the series is called Stingray, not Some Other Submarine. Shore’s helicopter lands on the roof of the apartment block which is both very interesting and completely superfluous to the plot. This is all feeling like padding with the sole purpose of making the disaster feel more important without actually showing any of it. Shore is accompanied to the ramp by the familiar WASP security guard portrayed by Chuck from The Golden Sea. Shore then boards an elevator which takes him from the roof directly to his living room. There’s a television aerial visible just to make it clear that this is the roof. Presumably the elevator shaft is situated inside the very, very narrow support column which connects the roof structure to the rest of the building.
Shore has 30 minutes to deliver his briefing. Marina looks utterly bewildered that the commander has turned up to do this in person.
Oh. Okay, I thought this was going to be the moment when we, the audience, get some details about the multi-pronged operation which is underway to tackle this crisis from all of the global emergency services. Nope, a clock wipe transition is just used to demonstrate the passage of time. To be fair, none of us needed to watch 25 minutes of Troy panicking and Phones asking how ice is made while Marina despairs about being stuck with these morons.
So just like that, the opportunity for any proper exposition is over. All we’ve learned is that the commander has given it to them straight, and that the survival of the whole world could depend on the Stingray crew… so, no big multi-pronged operation then? Just Troy, Phones, and Marina up against an entire planet covered in ice? Shore makes his dramatic exit, with the assistance of a floor puppeteer whose hand can be seen in the bottom right of frame swinging his chair around.
Troy confidently declares that they’re going to get Stingray out there. You can tell he hasn’t got a clue what he’s going to do, but you’ve got to admire Troy’s gusto.
Stingray is launched, and Atlanta and Fisher confirm that it’s heading for the investigation zone. Where else would it be going? Down the corner shop? So much of the dialogue this week is rather lifeless and unnecessary. Shore is back at HQ and Fisher reports that there is no ice around Marineville, something which they apparently weren’t aware of until they launched Stingray to check… blimey, everyone is being supremely thick today, aren’t they? Never mind the fact that the WASPs have a collection of weather stations dotted around the ocean, as seen in The Invaders, but why didn’t someone just go for a walk down to the nearest beach and have a look at the water? Or look out of a window at the horizon? We’re being told that the future of the world is at stake here, but it feels like the minimum amount of effort is being put into fixing the problem, I suppose because that would risk overshadowing Troy and Stingray in their own show.
The WSP Commander specifically hopes that Stingray can tell them how long the coast of Marineville will remain free of ice. Everything is hinging on Stingray here. Which makes sense for the format of the show – Stingray is supposed to be the star. But it’s painfully obvious that the scale of the situation and the plot just cannot be carried by one submarine and its crew, so the details of the issue are left as vague as possible so the audience doesn’t spend too much time thinking about how underwhelming the plan is.
Stingray arrives in the area and the order is given to surface. Phones notices that the water temperature is decreasing. Troy suggests it’s probably because of the giant sheet of ice above them. Wow, ice makes the water cold? Stop the flippin’ press. Back projection is used once again to show the ice through the windows.
Troy’s plan for surfacing is to smash through the ice as hard as possible with Stingray’s bow. Bonkers as it is, I actually do think the underside of the ice with the hanging icicles looks pretty good. Interestingly, underwater icicles or ‘brinicles’ are a genuine phenomena caused by the salt exuded by freezing sea water. So there you go, this episode isn’t complete nonsense.
Because they failed to break through the ice the first time, the thicky twins try again. Their seats shudder as Stingray takes another battering. So instead, Troy decides to descend. These shots of Stingray under the ice would have been quite hard to achieve, seeing as the control wires would have normally hung down from above. The camera is carefully positioned to enable the Stingray model to hang in front of the ice sheet, but at a forced perspective to look like it’s directly underneath.
Phones is using soundings to try and detect a break in the ice large enough for Stingray to surface through. Troy uses the Surface Video Scan to double check because apparently nobody is capable of looking out of a window this week. Marina is so bored by all this she’s reading a pamphlet. Once again, all this business is tremedously padded out in order to avoid dealing with the actual plot. They finally spot an opening. Thank goodness for that.
Eventually, Stingray reaches the surface, surrounded by the pink ice. It’s quite a striking image, I’ll give them that!
Lovely little figures of Troy and Phones stand on top of Stingray, spinning around and surveying the situation.
Marina, for no reason whatsoever, has been left inside Stingray. Apparently she has absolutely nothing to contribute to this investigation. This is another one of those episodes when writing for Marina simply was not a consideration.
The boys are kitted out in the WASP arctic gear. The gloves look especially cosy and definitely not like the hands have been ripped off a teddy bear… Anyway, armed with a single clipboard and pen, they prepare to start their investigation of the ice. Hopefully they at least have a Geography GCSE to share between them or something.
The puppet set of the ice field is very pretty, despite being very simply achieved by covering pink blocks of foam in plastic sheeting. Our wise old experts conclude that it looks like ice, and it feels like ice…
Then, in probably the most unintentionally hilarious moment in the entire series, Troy and Phones start to lick the ice. A combination of the licking sound effects, the lower lip vaguely opening to suggest tasting is happening, or Troy’s immediate “ugh” response makes it so incredibly funny to me. Puppets with immovable jaws can’t eat. That’s just a fact. You can sit them around a dinner table and have them raise forks to their mouths, but anyone with any common sense would never suggest that they stand there and lick something with their non-existent tongues. It simply does not work and it’s a rare moment where the limitations of the puppets are placed front and centre.
However, thanks to their taste test, Troy is able to deduce that the ice has been produced chemically, explaining why it’s bright pink. Ordinarily I would be sarcastically calling Troy a right Sherlock Holmes because obviously pink ice isn’t a natural occurence, but I’ll hold my horses and I’ll tell you for why: Pink ice (or watermelon snow as it’s delightfully known) can occur naturally thanks to the presence of a species of algae called Chlamydomonas nivalis, which grow in snowfall during the Spring months because of the increased light and meltwater. Isn’t that neat? I’m sure Troy and Phones had that nugget of information at the top of their minds when they were licking random chunks of ice a second ago.
Troy predicts some more doom and gloom and just before the commercial break, we see this shot of Stingray positively enveloped in the ice… even though we haven’t gotten to that bit of the plot yet…
Back at World Security Patrol H.Q., news has reached them that the ice is artificial, and so foul play is suspected. Lt. Misen, the villain of Marineville Traitor, appears to be out of jail and working in the operations room of the WSP. Next to him is the red tape console which was also last seen in Marineville Traitor as a part of the tracking station set.
This pompous twit demands that whatever is responsible for this has got to be stopped. Thanks buddy, great contribution. You just carry on chewing that cigarette.
Time now for an absolutely mind-numbing geography lesson from Commander Shore as he tries to figure out the order in which everything happened. I would really hope a special map isn’t a requirement when it comes to explaining to high ranking members of the World Security Patrol where various oceans are, and what the difference is between North and South. We learn that the ice issue started in the North Atlantic, then the South Atlantic, then the South Pacific, and then the Northwest Pacific. Each time Shore taps the map with his special pointy stick, an area lights up in pink. This effect is very clearly achieved by the entire map being back-lit in pink, with blue sheets of card covering each zone that are then pulled away as fast as possible. It’s a neat idea, it’s just fairly obvious that someone is behind the screen removing the pieces of card by hand. Anyway, the conclusion is reached that a craft must be touring the world generating the ice. In a crowning moment for pointing out the painfully obvious, Shore explains to one of his incredibly dense colleagues that the Northeast Pacific hasn’t been impacted at this time because the craft hasn’t gotten there yet. And then, just to put a cherry on top of this appalling piece of exposition, Shore points out that Marineville is free of ice because it too is located in the Northeast Pacific. Thanks, Sam. I think we all had that one pretty well figured out. Oh, and just in case you’ve been watching the episode wearing a blindfold and with your fingers in your ears, Shore suggests that the Northeast Pacific will be the next area to be frozen… I passionately dislike this scene so much because, yet again, we’re having the issue explained to us in vague, dumbed down terms instead of just showing us the action as it happens. Meanwhile, the episode is trying to give us a board room drama without any drama, just pointless exposition.
A whip pan transition is used to move us to the next scene. In this one, you can make oute that the camera is whizzing past the set of the Marineville control room.
Atlanta relays instructions to Stingray that they are to head for position north-north-west 2000 reference 2, and watch out for an alien craft. Now I’m not a navigator, but considering they’re supposed to be heading for the Northeast Pacific to catch the ice-maker in the act, why is the position reference given as north-north-west. Probably because it’s meaningless technobabble that I’m not supposed to pay any attention to.
So Stingray rushes to the other end of the Pacific at rate 6, making it there in under 2 hours. Sorry to disappoint you folks, but even at its maximum speed of 600 knots, Stingray couldn’t get from one coast of the Pacific to the other in 2 hours. Never mind, that’s the last of this episode’s problems. Some of the old favourites in the Stingray stock footage library are wheeled out to show the dazzling speed. When the craft surfaces, the shot has been flipped back to front judging by the number ‘3’ on Stingray’s tail fin. Troy reminds us that there’s no ice here because of course he has to flippin’ do that.
Right on cue, the mysterious vessel releases its big ice-making ball while Troy and Phones stand on Stingray’s deck playing at being meteorologists. They’ve kept their fur-lined boots on just in case things turn chilly. Troy suggests that there are “no white horses” to be seen. And just before you suggest he’s off his trolley, “white horses” is a term to describe the white and foamy crest of a wave. It’s also slang for cocaine. I don’t think Troy was looking for cocaine.
Troy spots that the water is turning pink and before there’s time for any more padding, it becomes all too clear that Stingray is about to get trapped in the clutches of the ice. Hopefully Phones has a hairdryer onboard that they can use to ward it off.
Don’t worry, Troy has a plan. It even has a name – Operation Ice Blast. Sounds like another Anderson-themed lolly from Lyons Maid.
Atlanta is horrified to learn that the plan involves firing hydromic missiles at the area Stingray is currently trapped in. Yup, another award-winning Troy Tempest suicide plan there.
Troy cannot be bothered to continue the conversation and naffs off.
Atlanta is in an ethical pickle, but the ever-dutiful Fisher reminds her to obey orders and just try to not launch a missile directly at Stingray. The problem is, the missiles are only accurate enough to target a 5-mile area, and therefore missing Stingray is not a guarantee. Now I don’t know much about missiles, but if I fired one and it landed five miles away from its target, I’d ask for my money back. I get it though, there needed to be some kind of tension generated in this plot because frankly the global ice crisis has been reduced to something as uninteresting as X20’s lecture on the ethics of fish people eating fish.
Atlanta phones up her father for some guidance. Weirdly, they both talk about this Operation Ice Blast as if it’s some scheme that Troy has just dreamt up. If that were the case, why the heck did Troy talk about it like a pre-established plan that they were reverting to and give it such a cool name? Anyway, Shore trusts Troy’s judgement and orders that the missile strike go forward. I mean, flying a helicopter out to the site is probably an option too. Stingray’s trapped in some ice, not heading for imminent destruction. The Stingray crew can afford to wait around to be picked up. Or the WASPs could, y’know, send out another submarine to track down the alien craft and destroy it. They do have other submarines, right?
Atlanta remains hesitant, but a reassuring nod from Fisher convinces her to launch the missiles. It’s actually a pretty nice moment. Fisher seems to be the level-headed dependable chap at Marineville. It’s only in future episodes that he’s developed more into the over-enthusiastic young apprentice with much to prove to his superiors. The missiles blast off in shots very reminiscient of a Saturn rocket launch.
Sure hope Commander Shore remembered to explain to Atlanta the difference between North and South…
Here’s a really good shot. The Stingray model is sitting at the back of the puppet set, while Phones, Troy and Marina, along with their monocopters, are positioned in the foreground. It’s an excellent use of false perspective. I think the vastness of the ice field is actually conveyed quite well throughout the episode, so that’s a positive too. I tell you what though – once you see all that plastic wrap over the ice boulders, you can’t unsee it. Still, at least Marina’s been allowed to leave Stingray this time.
Atlanta has to keep yelling at the tracking station to keep the missiles on course. Surely that would be a priority in any missile attack situation? The guy at the tracking station only switches on maximum control about halfway through the flight. Sounds like he can’t really be bothered. Atlanta, and specifically Lois Maxwell’s performance, finally starts to add some emotional weight to the episode as she agonises over this situation and feels great responsibility for risking the lives of the Stingray crew.
There’s a moment of calm and quiet while the crew wait for the missiles. It’s another nice moment because it builds the tension quite well and actually does sell the enormous danger they’re in by being in the missiles’ line of fire.
When the missiles finally hit, there are a couple of lovely explosions in the background, far enough away from Stingray to ensure everyone is safe. The ice begins to break up, as you would expect when you throw a couple of warheads into the mix.
Atlanta passes along the good news that everyone is okay. The WSP Commander praises Shore’s “boys” for being on the ball. Never mind the fact that Marina was also there and Atlanta was the one taking command of the missile launch. Sure, Troy had the idea to blow up the ice, but it was Atlanta who made it happen. Anyway, Shore reckons the Stingray crew are the greatest in the business and the only ones capable of solving this mystery… which is jolly convenient because it doesn’t seem like anyone else is all that fussed about this ice problem to be honest.
So Phones and Troy begin their hunt for the enemy craft. They don’t even take a moment to change out of their arctic weather gear. That’s dedication right there. Either that or Troy doesn’t want to reveal his terrible hat hair.
Those gloves sure do look cumbersome… warm, but cumbersome…
It doesn’t take long for Stingray to catch up to the submarine. There’s a shot of the vessel from behind which doesn’t really do the model many favours. That doesn’t really matter though because, of course, Stingray attacks first. Seriously, Troy’s all about shooting first and asking questions later.
It’s a glorious explosion which completely disintegrates the craft. Well, that takes care of that I suppose.
Back in the conference room, the gang are looking a little worse for wear. Nobody has shaved and plasticine eyelids have been applied to make everyone look terribly tired. I don’t blame them. Shore’s geography lessons are enough to put anyone to sleep. The cigars have been passed around and one bloke is handing out drinks… I’d say they’ve had enough already. They’re celebrating the completion of “Operation De-Freeze” which is apparently the banner under which this whole plan was carried out. Operation Ice Blast was just a sub-plan I guess. But yes, apparently there was a plan. It consisted of sending Stingray out there, hoping they’d figure something they could do to put a stop to it, and then waiting for the ice to melt on its own. Never mind all the pink chemicals which are dribbling into the oceans of the world, that won’t be a problem.
Oh please don’t…
It’s a cocktail called ‘pink ice’ and Commander Shore says it’s “cool, real cool.” Excuse me while I stitch up my splitting sides with a rusty nail and some telephone cable.
Look, I think it’s fair to say I’ve been harsh on Pink Ice. If you allow the episode to just wash over you and don’t pay too much attention it’s fine. There’s a good amount of action and the central premise has a lot of pontential. But there are some fundamental issues with the episode’s script which hold it back. The structure and pacing is a problem with too much time spent on things that don’t impact the plot, and not enough time spent on things that matter. The global catastrophe just isn’t sold for all it’s worth but because all these important people are gathered at the World Security Patrol H.Q. there is only a suggestion of how seriously the ice is being treated. Apart from trapping boats, the ice doesn’t do anything, and the impacts aren’t seen at all on land. A trick is missed by Marineville not being surrounded by ice. That would have added some genuine drama to things because characters at an organisation we care about would have been directly impacted. We could have watched temperatures drop at Marineville and Stingray racing against time to solve the crisis before all essential systems shut down. Apart from Stingray getting trapped in the ice, there was no sense of iminent danger. But it’s not like that danger was swapped out for heavy scientific exposition or interesting character moments. People just explained what was about to happen next in the story, which ended up being the only thing driving that story forward because the risk and tension were so minimal. But despite a lackluster script, I think the episode looks great with the special effects team doing a fine job for the most part. And the pink ice gimmick is certainly memorable. So it isn’t all bad.
Next week, Titan has finally decided to take matters into his own hands and plots his ultimate revenge on Troy Tempest and attempts to recapture Marina. But will The Master Plan succeed? Find out soon!
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www.filmedinsupermarionation.com by Century 21 Films Ltd.
Filmed In Supermarionation by Stephen La Rivière. Third edition published in 2022 by Century 21 Films Ltd.
Stingray: Adventures In Videcolor by Andrew Pixley. First published in 2022 by Network Distributing.
The Myth of the 1970s Global Cooling Scientific Consensus by Thomas C. Peterson, William M. Connolley, and John Fleck. Published in 2008 by the American Meteorlogical Society.
Natural Wonders: Underwater Icicle by Kristine De Abreu. Published in 2021 by Explorersweb.
What is Watermelon Snow? by Emily Brauner. Published in 2020 by Ocean Conservancy.
4 thoughts on “Stingray – 22. Pink Ice”
This was pretty average, none the less I’m looking forward to ‘The Master Plan’ next week as it’s my favourite episode.
Not a bad episode, this one. It is nice to see Atlanta and Fisher getting the chance to command Marineville by themselves and it’s also great to see Troy, Phones and Marina actually being stuck in the ice and having to be lasted out with a chance of them being in danger. I do wonder how long this disaster goes on since Command Shore and the other WSP commanders seem to have ever growing shadows/ facial hair.
This was the first episode of Stingray that I saw on VHS Channel 5 volume 8 so it holds a place of nostalgia in my mind and heart and was a favourite. Sure, you have to suspend disbelief in a number of places such as the lack of other worried or affected characters (I complain of a similar issue in Joe 90s Trial at Sea as you never see the other threatened passengers – unlike Trapped in the Sky in Thunderbirds where some of the other passengers under threat are seen). The enemy craft always reminded me of a child’s rattle with ski legs added! There are nice touches though: the forced perspective of foreground puppets with craft in background is used a few times in the series to great effect while the stubble on the WSP Commanders gives that sense of time and weariness. As the episode is so dear I cannot help but like it!
What is the funny piece of music used at the end of the episode (also heard at the end of The Invaders and Star of the East plus others)? Where does it originate from? It’s also heard at the end of various Thunderbirds episodes (Danger at Ocean Deep, The Duchess Assignment, Attack of the Alligators!…). Doesn’t fit the tone of Captain Scarlet, which is why it was never heard in the series.