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Know Your Enemy: The Mysterons

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The Mysterons – sworn enemies of Earth. Possessing the ability to recreate an exact likeness of an object or person. But first, they must destroy…

It has been 49 years since the Mysterons issued their first threats from our televisions. Originally conceived as a standard villain for the show, Gerry Anderson decided to try something different to give the series a more unique feel. Thus the Mysterons became a malevolent, non corporeal force that could turn our own people and technology against us.

Over the course of Captain Scarlet and The Mysterons and later Gerry Anderson’s New Captain Scarlet, we see two very different sides of the same foe. With the announcement of New Captain Scarlet’s upcoming release in Australia, now is a great time to examine and compare The Mysterons in each series.

Captain Scarlet and The Mysterons

Our first encounter with the Mysterons is a turbulent one when their attempts to examine the Zero-X Martian Excursion Vehicle are misinterpreted as an attack (though in fairness, had they appeared as a group of adorable puppies waving white flags, the Zero-X crew would probably still have blown them up, given Earth’s track record). The Mysterons reverse the destruction of their own complex with effortless ease and take over Captain Black, vowing revenge and the death of the World President.

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Captain Brown, are you alright?

Throughout their first engagement with Spectrum, we get a showcase of many of the powers that the Mysterons possess. They cause the wheel of a Spectrum Patrol Car to explode, killing Captains Scarlet and Brown. They use their powers of Retro-metabolism™ to recreate them and manipulate them on a microscopic level. Captain Brown becomes an extremely powerful bomb and only just fails to assassinate the President. Scarlet rather inexplicably tries to capture him instead, leading to a final battle atop the London Car Vu, from which Scarlet falls to his death (his second of many). The Mysterons also are able to take over a Spectrum helicopter, which is destroyed by Destiny Angel.

The manner of Scarlet’s death seems to free him from Mysteron control, while also retaining the power to retro-metabolise himself in the event of catastrophic injury or death.

As the show goes on the Mysterons continue to wage their “War of Nerves” against humanity, ignoring all attempts to negotiate or communicate. We learn more about them as the story progresses. Mysteron replicants are impervious to x-rays and electricity can weaken Mysteron powers and potentially kill Scarlet. They are not as omnipotent as they seem, as they mistakenly replicate someone who is still alive and are later unable to differentiate between their replicant and the original template.

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This is Captain Black, relaying instructions from the Mysterons.

Captain Black also repeatedly turns up, overseeing plans and causing mayhem. Unlike the other replicants, Black is practically a zombie with none of his original personality remaining.

The Mysterons also exhibit some unusual eccentricities.

They always broadcast a cryptic message about their plans in advance, they only target one thing at a time and they always drop their plans if their attempt fails, usually when one or all of their replicants are killed.

They are also inexplicably discerning in the way that they choose to use their powers. They have no problem disabling aircraft engines or changing the molecular structure of machine parts, yet they never try this against blatantly obvious targets, namely Cloudbase.

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Delta Tango 19 and the TVR-17 Satellite – both victims of deadly Mysteron Schemes.

A theory into their unusual behaviour may lie in the shows original plans. Originally, the idea was that the Mysterons would have been machines and the retro-metabolism powers would have been replacing their victims with robotic duplicates. The comics bear this out with Scarlet actually meeting the central Mysteron computer. If the Mysterons are in fact the remnants of a long dead alien race, then this could potentially explain the very slow and methodical way they wage their conflict against the people of Earth.

The Mysterons in New Captain Scarlet on the other hand are a different story.

Gerry Anderson’s New Captain Scarlet

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Our first view of Mysteron Reconstruction.

The set up is pretty much the same as in the original series. Scarlet and Black are taken over, Scarlet is released from his control after trying to destroy Skybase by falling through a power conduit. Black is sent out into the world to cause mayhem and destruction.

These Mysterons act in a very different manner to their classic counterparts however.

From the get go there is malice in their words, they clearly view humanity as a lower life-form to be exterminated and they pull no punches. After their attempt to destroy Skybase, they bring together nuclear material in an attempt to cause an explosion that would destroy the world. They use their powers to alter rain water to induce paranoid psychosis, create walking plague carriers, manipulate swarms of robots, even cause the crew of Skybase to hallucinate.

The replicants themselves act very differently, they operate in cells, undertaking terrorist-like missions, they can be identified by a DNA test and when their job is done they simply vanish.

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Captain Black, moments after his resurrection.

Black himself, instead of a zombie-like figure, is now a twisted version of his former self, with his old flare and humour still present, there is an impression that the old Conrad is very much still in there.

The Mysteron behaviour is easier to explain here as it is discussed in the show itself. In the episode The Achilles Messenger, a Mysteron replicant claims to be from a separate faction inside the Mysteron consciousness. A “good” faction that disagrees with the war of nerves. This could explain again, why the Mysterons don’t just annihilate us using the most basic of their powers, if there are two opposing factions holding the full force of their powers back.

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A Vampire Squadron is taken over by the Mysterons.

Either way it is clear that the Mysterons are an iconic foe that have stood the test of time. We brought them back ourselves last year for a fun little video, you can check that out here!

What are your favourite Mysteron threats? Let us know in the comments!

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A freelance Artist and Film-maker based on a not so secret island in the East Atlantic. Grew up up on the Anderson series reruns in the 90s and have always strived to create works that are as interesting and exciting.

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  • Troy Tempest

    There is a slightly irritating trend these days – about the last twenty years – to dust down old classics and make a mess of them, witness Judge Dredd, Planet Of The Apes and a few Marvel/DC characters. Recent Apes movies have needed a heap of dialogue…the original movie was straightforward and thus much more impactful with much less chatter explaining everything. Anyway…I have felt for years and years and years that the great Captain Scarlet could well have been turned into an excellent live action movie. I still think it could be done and would look fabulous on a huge screen. His inability to be killed could be a nuisance for writers, but a challenge! Oh, and what has happened to the latest attempt to put UFO on the big screen? That seems to have fallen by the wayside again, what a pity. Or maybe a godsend? Perhaps it’s a lack of funding? Or maybe the original UFO-TV people stumbled upon the truth..? Perhaps GA and his team uncovered too much of the reality of the situation… conspiracy theories abound. As ever…

    • Phillip Atcliffe

      A good Captain Scarlet movie would be great, but in today’s pop culture, the chances of one are so small as to be non-existent. You’ve picked up on part of the problem, but the things standing in the way of it happening are worse than that. You say that Scarlet’s indestructibility could be a challenge for writers, but these days, writers — or their bosses — don’t like challenges. I suppose it’s because it’s possible to fail a challenge, and with the big bucks involved in movie-making, the studio bosses don’t want to take risks, so the writers either fall back on cliches and widely-used tropes or they can’t get their scripts used. Of course, if you actually know the material, Scarlet’s indestructibility is not that hard to work around: he has the same weakness to electricity as any other Mysteron agent, and John Theydon’s novels came up with several other ways to kill him off or remove him from the storyline. As well as that, he can be injured and/or incapacitated just like anyone else, so the drama can be there, All it takes is a little imagination and the will to not fall into the usual cliches because the character is that bit different.

      Having said that, the real difficulty with a CS movie is that it would, and should, go against a most insidious, incredibly wide-spread meme of modern media, namely that there’s no such thing as a hero any more: instead, the “good guys” are either not good or ineffectual; their primary reason for existing is to suffer while the villains run riot and get away with it — e.g., the Christian Bale Batman, the Harry Potter books, and virtually all modern comics. Scarlet is a hero in the old-fashioned mould, and that is complete anathema to modern-day writers and film-makers, so what we’d probably end up with is a version of Scarlet who spends most of his time in an inner battle with the Mysterons (like Jean-Luc Picard with the Borg in Star Trek: First Contact, only much more so) while their agents wipe out half the planet before someone manages to stop them (this time) by sheer luck. Spectrum would be useless and primarily there to be decimated and show how outmatched they are; the idea that they could succeed would go directly against the basic meme.

      All of which means that I am not confident that a CS movie would have any resemblance to the original. What was planned for the UFO movies looked pretty dire, so I shan’t miss them if they never eventuate, and a CS movie along similar lines would be just as bad, if not worse. I’m afraid that, as far as modern movies go, I’ve learned to expect the worst while hoping for something better, but the batting average for having those hopes realised is pretty darn low. I think I’d rather not have a CS movie than have one like that.

      • Troy Tempest

        An excellent response, packed with bits I had known and others written in a far better way than I’d be capable of conveying. I read a few Theydons, (TB and Joe, but only one CS) but was about seven and so cannot comment, but yes, was aware of the other ways of removing Scarlet from the movie for ninety minutes, hahaha, although this then rather makes it a Spectrum – less Scarlet – movie! Your comment though about the death of the hero in modern times is sadly accurate, although I have no problem with any existential struggle that our main character might have to deal with, having leapt out of a mortal and into a virtually immortal body. Perhaps the film could began just prior to the Martian expedition, perhaps focusing on the buddy nature between Scarlet, Blue and Black. One final thing, I had high hopes for a marvellously barren, slow, meaningful Silver Surfer tale when I heard he was to go big screen, What a pity the resulting movie appearance was so far removed from the reality of the cosmic nomad, And as for the proposed UFO, yes…you are so right. It is quite often better to remember things, leave them as they were to begin with. Which really was where I came in. I will not buy the second series of Space 1999 on DVD for that very reason, it threatened even at the time to destroy the integrity of its far superior predecessor.

  • Phillip Atcliffe

    One thing about NCS that kind of bothered me was the fact that the Mysterons didn’t give warnings any more. This meant that Spectrum finding out about a Mysteron plot was more by luck than anything else, and after the first few episodes, this started to wear pretty thin. The original Mysteron warnings were a challenge to the “Earthmen” to stop them, all part of the war of nerves that they were conducting. The NCS Mysterons seem to have lost that psychological aspect, and that was a shame. Spectrum stumbling across their latest plot in time to stop it, again and again, made them look rather incompetent despite their nastier attitude. Dunno why the warnings were left out, but IMO the show suffered for it.

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