Throughout the 60's, Anderson developed a wide range of TV series using highly sophisticated marionettes and fancy scaled sets to create some truly astonishing entertainment, most of which holds up pretty well even today.
Easily the best-known of these shows was THUNDERBIRDS, but a close second would be CAPTAIN SCARLET AND THE MYSTERONS. This series was notable for being the first to use marionettes that had fairly close human proportions, rather than the large-headed characters from previous series. Technology had advanced enough so that the electronics in the heads that allowed the eyes and mouth to move could be small enough to create marionettes that were much closer to a normal human appearance.
CAPTAIN SCARLET AND THE MYSTERONS followed the adventures of Captain Scarlet, a man rendered indestructible by the mysterious alien Mysterons. Good thing, too, given the amount of trouble the man got into. Technically, Scarlet should've been an agent of the Mysterons, but he was able to break free of their control. Less fortunate in that respect was Captain Black, who remained a Mysteron agent.
The Mysterons were an unseen alien race determined to destroy the human race. Opposing them was the pseudo-military organization called SPECTRUM. Captain Scarlet was their best agent. He often worked with Captain Blue. Colonel White was the commanding officer. You can sort of see the pattern here. There was also a Lieutenant Green, Captain Magenta, Captain Ochre... SPECTRUM also used "Angel" pilots, all female, who flew the fighter craft of the SPECTRUM forces. The show, although never gaining the popularity of Thunderbirds, was quite the technological achievement for Anderson's "Supermarionation", and presented intelligent adventure stories that were hardly just for the kiddie crowd.
In the past year or so, the show was revived for airing in the United Kingdom. Although the story was pretty much the same as before, the program was done with some very impressive computer animation, which Anderson dubbed "Hypermarionation". It managed to capture the look of the original Captain Scarlet, updated things where necessary, and the CGI aspect of the show let the characters get away with things that the marionettes from decades past couldn't've pulled off very well without looking impossibly hokey. The original puppets were somewhat limited in their movements without giving themselves away. But CGI let the characters run, jump, have swordfights, you name it.
Unfortunately, despite a rabid fan following, THE NEW CAPTAIN SCARLET only lasted two short seasons. The reasons for its demise are varied, but suffice to say it became one more pop culture concept with a lot of potential that just wasn't handled as well as it should've been. Like we haven't heard THAT before, and far too often in recent years.
However, it did last long enough for a very decent action figure line to be produced, by Bandai, of all companies. Curious that a Japanese-based toy company would jump in on a concept that is barely known outside of England, but that's what happened. A while back, I reviewed CAPTAIN SCARLET, CAPTAIN BLUE, and CAPTAIN BLACK. Now let's complete the collection.
Colonel White is effectively the elder statesman of SPECTRUM. He's the tough, no-nonsense commanding officer of the forces fighting the Mysterons. If you want a clue into his personality, according to a book I own about the original series back in the 60's, his was the only marionette that didn't include an alternate head with a smiling face. That should tell you something right there.
Colonel White's personality has pretty much remained intact for the revival. A web site called Skybase Central at "www.spectrumheadquarters.com/skybase_central", an unofficial but very useful Web Site for the New Captain Scarlet, offers the following biographical data on Colonel White:
NAME: Sir Charles Grey
CURRENT AGE: 55
PLACE OF BIRTH: Gloucestershire, England, U.K.
MARITAL STATUS: Married
HEIGHT: 6 ft. 1 in.
QUALIFICATIONS: Studied at Oxford and Sandhurst
MILITARY: Former director of British Military Intelligence (MI6)
Knighted during his Directorship for service to the Nation.
Member of U.N. Security Development Committee.
NOTATIONS: Highly intelligent. Specialist in Ancient Military History. Champion Swordsman.
KNOWN FAMILY: Wife - Diana Grey, Chairman of Global Heritage Foundation.
Daughter - Victoria Grey, Student in Archeology
BACKGROUND DETAILS: Colonel White is the Supreme Spectrum Commander. Formerly of the Royal Marines and British Intelligence, Colonel White was also Spectrum's chief architect. From an English family with a military tradition much the same as the Svensons', his military career was marked by several awards for bravery, before he was recruited to MI6. After ten years in the secret service, culminating in the role as director, Sir Charles (as he was by then) was preparing for another career move into the diplomatic service when the United Nations asked him to work on its Security Development Committee, the creators of Spectrum.
Colonel White is a dedicated man who will not allow personal feelings to influence his strategic judgment. Oxford and Sandhurst educated and fiercely intelligent, he rarely leaves the Spectrum nerve centre of Central Control, but when he does relax (given that he can't indulge his love of fishing from the heights of Skybase) Colonel White spends his time playing chess (often with Scarlet, who is his only equal in the game there) or researching ancient military history. He also likes to keep fit by fencing in the gym, where his preferred partner is Destiny.
Although dedicated to defending Earth from the Mysterons, White also feels the loneliness of command on Skybase and hates being separated for months from his wife and family and their estate in Gloucestershire.
Heck of a bio for a cartoon character. Bandai has done a really nice job with these figures, even if it's evident they took a few shortcuts, but even the shortcuts are somewhat understandable. They came up with a common male figure body design, with snap-on vest armor, changing only the head. This worked for Captains Scarlet, Blue, Black, and of coruse, Colonel White. Fortunately, it's a very decent design. The figure stands just a little over 5" in height, and is articulated at the head, neck, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, wrists, legs, upper leg swivel, double- jointed knees, and ankles. About the only odd points to the articulation are the lack of waist articulation, and the fact that the neck articulation is situated somewhere between the collarbone and the chest, so that when any of these figures look "up" or "down", it's kind of creepy. That's just not a human movement.
Colonel White comes with a sidearm and a cap. The cap surprised me at first, since I didn't recall the original Colonel White ever wearing a traditional Spectrum cap, and I have only seen a couple of episodes of the new series. However, the picture included with the bio on the Web Site, taken directly from the series, does show White wearing a cap, so I guess he did have one.
Unfortunately, the cap shows evidence of the one thing that's annoying me more than anything else in the toy world right now -- the inevitably sloppy process of hand-painting details rather than spray-painting them through a stencil. I went back and checked the caps on Scarlet and Blue, and sure enough, the black trim around the top of their caps is also hand-painted.
Fortunately, Colonel White looks perfectly fine, if not a little better, without his cap, especially to those of us who recall the original series, so there's no real reason he absolutely has to be displayed with it. (And frankly, as I recall from my review of the first three figures, paint problems aside, those caps aren't the best fit in the world, either.) And he's otherwise an excellent figure, and certainly a prominent member of the concept. I'm pleased that he got this action figure.
The lone female figure in the collection. In a way it's surprising that she was made at all, but Bandai is a little more liberal about female action figures than some American-based toy companies tend to be, and certainly as a character, Destiny Angel was an important part of the show, and the most prominent of the pilots.
Here's her background information from the same Web Site from which I obtained Colonel White's:
NAME: Simone Giraudoux
CURRENT AGE: 29
PLACE OF BIRTH: Silicon Valley, California, U.S.A.
MARITAL STATUS: Single
HEIGHT: 5ft 9in.
QUALIFICATIONS: Mathematics, Princeton University
MILITARY TRAINING: Fighter pilot, Shuttle Mission Astronaut, I.S.A.
NOTATIONS: Excellent unarmed combat skills. Good communicator. Superior flight combat strategy.
KNOWN FAMILY: Father - Philippe Giraudoux, Silicon Valley Nano-Technology Research.
Mother - Emmanuelle Chiraqu Giraudoux, Silicon Valley Nano-Technology Research.
BACKGROUND DETAILS: Destiny is the leader of Spectrum's air defence squadron, the Angels. Born to French parents, but raised in California where her mother and father were leading Silicon Valley researchers in nanotechnologies, Destiny's life has always been dictated by her sense of adventure.
Happier in hiking boots than high heels in her teens, the devastatingly attractive Simone was more at home paragliding from a mountain top than hanging out listening to pop music. Her academic life at Princeton University was torture, but one she endured for social life/nightlife. At the end of it, however, she delighted her parents with a first class mathematics degree - then horrified them by using it to join the US Air Force and became a top gun fighter pilot. She went on to spend two years as an astronaut flying shuttle missions, but playing nursemaid to a craft flown by computers wasn't her kind of thrill ride so she became one of the first to volunteer for Spectrum.
Destiny is as tough as she is sexy. In her fighter cockpit or in unarmed combat, she's force to be reckoned with. But she is devastated by the death of her boyfriend Captain Black, and is struggling to deal with his reincarnation as an evil Mysteron agent. Although she finds strength in the comfort offered by Black's best friend, Scarlet, she is frightened by her growing feelings for him and feels perpetually haunted by the ghost of Black.
The figure of Destiny Angel is well-made, but obviously differs from the other four. The uniform is vastly different, for starters. Destiny Angel is wearing what looks as much as anything like an advanced but not implausible flight suit, with ridged areas running down the front. sides, and back. The uniform in form-fitting, a sort of metallic-pearl in color, and one can imagine that it has protective properties against the forces imposed by flying Spectrum's fighters.
Articulation is a little different. Destiny lacks the double-jointed knees and the weird neck articulation -- no great loss in the latter instance there. Her ankles aren't quite as articulated as the male figures, which are a "ball-and-socket" design. Destiny Angel's ankles are a peg design. Destiny also lacks the upper leg swivel of the male figures.
One weird feature to the paint work, something she shares with Captain Blue. Both figures are technically representing blonde characters, but their hair has been painted metallic gold. Granted, a straight yellow might not have been entirely appropriate, but this very distinctly metallic gold hair on both Captain Blue and Destiny Angel is just a tad strange.
Sadly, Destiny Angel couldn't escape the curse of hand-painted details. Her wristbands and the darn bands around her ankles are hand-painted, and in the latter case it's REALLY sloppy, rather obviously done after the figure was assembled, as the ankle joint isn't even entirely painted. Bend the foot and you can see where the paint leaves off. Now, I've had a few people say, "So, paint it yourself!" Yes, I could. That's not the point. I SHOULDN'T HAVE TO!
Still, it's hard to get too upset. I neither like nor am inclined to EVER accept this sort of shoddiness when it comes to paintwork, but it's difficult to complain about the overall quality of the figure. Good design, good likeness, and based on a cool show, even if it did get cut down too soon.
Destiny Angel also includes a sidearm and a flight helmet.
Overall, the NEW CAPTAIN SCARLET line was very impressive, and I'm pleased that I own them. I'm honestly not sure what their current availability is. The friend who sent me Colonel White and Destiny Angel recently (and the others a while back) commented that he hasn't seen them in the stores since, so tracking them down might not be easy.
But if you're any sort of fan of this cool British concept, it's definitely
worth your while to try to find them. The entire NEW CAPTAIN SCARLET
line, including Colonel White and Destiny Angel, gets my recommendation!