Avalanche (Captain Scarlet)
|Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons episode|
|Episode no.||Episode 05|
|Directed by||Brian Burgess|
|Written by||Shane Rimmer|
|Cinematography by||Paddy Seale|
|Editing by||Harry MacDonald|
|Original air date||27 October 1967|
"Avalanche" is the fifth episode of Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons, a British 1960s Supermarionation television series co-created by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson. Written by Shane Rimmer and directed by Brian Burgess, it was first broadcast on 27 October 1967 on ATV Midlands. In this episode, the Mysterons kill and reconstruct a maintenance engineer to cripple the Frost Line Outer Space Defence System.
The Frost Line Outer Space Defence System is a network of missile complexes stretching 3,000 miles across Northern Canada, tasked with protecting Earth against extraterrestrial threats. After the Mysterons vow to destroy major Frost Line bases, maintenance engineer Eddie is killed when the Mysteron influence engineers the crash of his snowcat, and is reconstructed as an agent in their service. The duplicate of Eddie deceives security at both Red Deer and Cariboo Bases and places devices inside the ventilation systems that render the air unbreathable, killing 250 personnel at Red Deer followed by 70 at Cariboo. General Ward, the belligerent Frost Line commander, warns Spectrum Cloudbase that he will target Mars if other bases are attacked – an action that will undoubtedly trigger a violent response from the Mysterons. A despairing Colonel White (voiced by Donald Gray) orders Captain Scarlet (Francis Matthews) and Lieutenant Green (Cy Grant) to investigate Red Deer; there, the officers discover that the inhabitants have suffocated due not to the introduction of toxic gas into the base's artificial atmosphere, but the removal of all its oxygen.
Requisitioning a Spectrum Pursuit Vehicle from a trapper, Scarlet and Green speed to Big Bear, the next outpost, only to learn that "Eddie" has already departed and that the next and last stop is Frost Line Command Centre. After knocking out an officious sentry barring access to the base, Green extracts the Mysteron agent's oxygen-depletion device from the ventilation system before the air is adversely affected. Meanwhile, Scarlet pursues the reconstruction of Eddie. The snowcat is carrying liquid oxygen, which the duplicate drains onto Scarlet's path to force the SPV off the ridge road. Realising that the duplicate will deliberately crash the vehicle into the Command Centre in a devastating fireball, Scarlet empties his handgun into the snow-covered slope running parallel to the snowcat; this produces an avalanche that pushes the vehicle over the side. Plunging down the rock face, the Mysteron reconstruction is killed in the liquid oxygen explosion. With the Command Centre saved, Ward, no less arrogant than before, radios Cloudbase to make peace with White.
Impressed by Shane Rimmer's narration on the two-part, syndicated Thunderbirds broadcasts in the United States, series co-creators Gerry and Sylvia Anderson decided to commission the actor (who had provided the voice of Scott Tracy) to write an episode for their new production. Rimmer immediately agreed to the offer when telephoned by Sylvia, and received a call from Tony Barwick the next day; the Captain Scarlet script editor informed him that a bike courier would "'drop the storyline over to you in about an hour. Take today and tomorrow and see how you'd go about filling it in.'" Resigning from his job at a sheet metal factory to concentrate on the episode, which had already been titled "Avalanche", Rimmer completed a basic treatment over the following 24 hours; he found the characters and plot elements a "heavy mix to juggle with", but managed to incorporate "one or two workable story developments that avoided stepping on the toes of the series concept or any of the main characters." Rimmer and Barwick revised the draft two days later. After several weeks, by which time the "Avalanche" script had been finalised, Rimmer was preparing treatments for the episodes "Expo 2068" and "Inferno" – tasks that, in his words, "took care of '67".
The script opened with a detailed description of the Frost Line Command Centre, which is stated to comprise several domed structures: "Deep snow surrounds the plexiglas domes ... From the large central dome acting as a hub, avenues run off in eight directions. At the end of each spoke at varying distances from the centre are smaller domes. Each dome is airtight and serviced by an artificial atmosphere from an air-conditioning dome." The snowcat driven by Eddie was designed by Mike Trim, who had had an interest in the vehicles since childhood and adapted a caterpillar-track truck concept that he had produced for the Thunderbirds episode "End of the Road". His creativity was limited by a requirement that the cab of the scale filming model reflect the construction of that used on the larger puppet set, "which gave the final model a more upright look than I had hoped for."
An orchestra of 15 instrumentalists, under the direction of series composer Barry Gray, recorded the incidental music for "Avalanche" on 11 June 1967 in a four-hour session at Gray's private studio. Music for "Spectrum Strikes Back", the episode that directly preceded "Avalanche" in the series' order of production, originated from the same session. The principal tracks for "Avalanche" are "Mountain Pass" (which plays during the scene leading up to the death of the human Eddie) and "Deadly Mist and Mountain Chase" (which accompanies Scarlet's pursuit of the Mysteron duplicate towards the episode's conclusion).
James Stansfield of the entertainment website Den of Geek judges "Avalanche" to be the seventh best Captain Scarlet episode. He observes that it is one of several instalments to incorporate a theme concerning the imperfection of humanity, whose "flaws and ineptitude [are] of a bigger danger than the Mysterons'". He comments that the "impatient" General Ward effectively constitutes Spectrum's secondary antagonist. Geoff Willmetts of Sfcrowsnest offers a similar view of Ward's threat of unilateral action, suggesting that Captain Scarlet exposes the militaristic and belligerent aspects of mankind: "This Earth's reality is clearly far too aggressive compared to our own". Reviewing the episode for FAB magazine in 1993, Ian Fryer praised Rimmer for "cleverly" introducing, in the shape of Ward, "a second layer of military as a repository for misgivings about the armed services."
"Avalanche" marks one of a limited number of occasions in the series when Lieutenant Green plays a major part in a Spectrum operation (substituting for Captain Blue, who assumes Green's role as Cloudbase communications officer). Rimmer's use of the character of Green is praised by Stansfield, as well as Chris Drake and Graeme Bassett. Stansfield compliments the "exciting" climax involving the pursuit of the reconstructed Eddie's snowcat; Chris Bentley, writer of The Complete Gerry Anderson: The Authorised Episode Guide, suggests that not all of Rimmer's introductory descriptions were transferred fully from script to final edit.
Fryer argues that the number of deaths seen or reported in "Avalanche" (321, not including the demise of the human Eddie) "must surely be a record for an Anderson series", pointing out that despite the high total, the episode received a U certificate from the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC). Stansfield, who comments on the violence of the original Eddie's death, argues that the figure is "easily ... the highest body count of the series" and "a pretty large number for any TV show, let alone one for youngsters".
- The size and location of the Frost Line Outer Space Defence System are stated in the initial description in Shane Rimmer's script: "[The Frost Line Outer Space Defence System] stretches in a number of similar bases three thousand miles across Northern Canada." (Bentley 2008, p. 126.)
- Rimmer 2010, p. 80.
- Rimmer 2010, p. 81.
- Rimmer 2010, p. 82.
- Rimmer 2010, p. 83.
- Rimmer 2010, p. 84.
- Bentley, Chris (2008) . The Complete Gerry Anderson: The Authorised Episode Guide (4th ed.). London: Reynolds & Hearn. p. 126. ISBN 978-1-905287-74-1.
- Taylor, Anthony; Trim, Mike (2006). The Future Was FAB: The Art of Mike Trim. Neshannock, Pennsylvania: Hermes Press. p. 41. ISBN 978-1-932563-82-5.
- de Klerk, Theo (25 December 2003). "Complete Studio-Recording List of Barry Gray". tvcentury21.com. Archived from the original on 1 March 2010. Retrieved 17 March 2010.
- "Captain Scarlet Music CD Release Information". soundtrack-express.com. Archived from the original on 9 May 2006. Retrieved 17 March 2010.
- Stansfield, James (6 September 2012). "Top 10 Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons Episodes". Den of Geek. London: Dennis Publishing. Archived from the original on 25 October 2012. Retrieved 8 March 2014.
- Willmetts, Geoff (January 2002). "The Mysteron Menace". Sfcrowsnest. Archived from the original on 22 October 2007. Retrieved 8 March 2014.
- Fryer, Ian (1993). FAB. Bradford, UK: Fanderson (66): 28. Missing or empty
- Drake, Chris; Bassett, Graeme (1993). Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons. London: Boxtree. p. 55. ISBN 978-1-85283-403-6.