Big Ben Strikes Again
|"Big Ben Strikes Again"|
|Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons episode|
|Episode no.||Episode 03|
|Directed by||Brian Burgess|
|Written by||Tony Barwick|
|Cinematography by||Paddy Seale|
|Editing by||John Beaton|
|Original air date||13 October 1967|
"Big Ben Strikes Again" is the third episode of Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons, a British 1960s Supermarionation television series co-created by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson. Written by Tony Barwick and directed by Brian Burgess, it was first broadcast on 13 October 1967 on ATV Midlands. In this episode, the Mysterons attempt to destroy London by hi-jacking a transporter carrying an atomic device.
As with the previous instalment, "Winged Assassin", perceived parallels between the episode's plot and the September 11 attacks caused "Big Ben Strikes Again" to be postponed briefly when Captain Scarlet was repeated on BBC Two in 2001. Footage from "Big Ben Strikes Again" is used as a flashback in the clip show episode, "The Inquisition".
The Mysterons plan to destroy London, and with the aid of Captain Black, remotely hi-jack a transporter carrying an atomic device through the night-time city streets. Both the vehicle and its driver, Macey, are sealed inside the underground car park, Park View. Macey, who was struck unconscious during the unexpected detour and no longer knows his location, awakes in time to listen to Big Ben strike midnight both through the air and over his radio; he is astonished to hear 13 chimes instead of 12. Immediately after, the Mysterons use their powers to start the atomic device's 12-hour detonation countdown, again knock out Macey, and dump the driver in a side street.
Since the disappearance of the device, Spectrum has been put on red alert. Captain Scarlet (voiced by Francis Matthews) discovers Macey while on patrol in a Spectrum Saloon Car and, later that morning, the driver is flown to Cloudbase to recount his ordeal. The Cloudbase computer calculates that over 2,000 London car parks fit Macey's description of Park View; remembering the driver's claim that Big Ben struck 13, Captain Blue (Ed Bishop) eliminates all but two candidates by deducing that the target car park must be within one mile of Big Ben.
With less than an hour until detonation, Scarlet and Blue fly to London and speed to Park View in a Spectrum Pursuit Vehicle. The Jupiter Way car park is discounted by the investigations of Captain Ochre (Jeremy Wilkin), and the officers locate the transporter. With insufficient time remaining to perform the defusing procedure, Scarlet and Blue are ordered by Colonel White (Donald Gray) to drive to a construction site – Macey's intended destination – and allow the detonation to occur in a specially-prepared excavation. Arriving with only minutes to spare, Blue activates an industrial lift that lowers the transporter, driven by Scarlet, two miles underground. Abandoning the vehicle, Scarlet starts his ascent back to ground level, but seconds later the device explodes, damaging the lift shaft. Scarlet is fatally injured but recovers using his retro-metabolic powers.
While dining at a restaurant with Scarlet and Destiny (Liz Morgan) and Melody Angels, Blue explains how he knew of the car park's approximate location and why Macey seemed to hear Big Ben strike 13. Because he was near to the tower with a vehicle radio switched on, Macey was hearing two sets of chimes: however, those issuing from Big Ben itself were delayed due to the distance travelled, with the result that the "13th" chime, heard through the air, was simply a duplicate of the 12th that had sounded over the radio. Scarlet declares that he will make 13 his lucky number.
Tony Barwick's script contained a number of brief scenes that were ultimately unfilmed. In these sequences, viewers would have been introduced to Spectrum agents codenamed Yellow and Purple and also Cloudbase's "Room of Sleep", which is in the episodes "Spectrum Strikes Back" and "Place of Angels". Incidental music for "Big Ben Strikes Again" was recorded with an orchestra of 14 instrumentalists in a four-hour studio session conducted on 16 April 1967 at series composer Barry Gray's private studio. The music, produced alongside that for the next episode, "Manhunt", includes a light jazz track, "Until Midnight", which can be heard playing on the transporter radio in the scene leading up to Big Ben's aberrant midnight chimes.
Scale model work for "Big Ben Strikes Again" included the construction of whole miniature streets, a task that could not have been accomplished without the larger budget allocated to Captain Scarlet episodes. It was on these sets that the Mysterons' seizure of the atomic device was filmed, a sequence that Derek Meddings, the series' special effects director, remembered for its atmosphere. The transporter, which re-appears in the episode "Expo 2068", was designed by Meddings' assistant, Mike Trim.
At the start of a digitally-remastered UK re-run of Captain Scarlet in September 2001, "Big Ben Strikes Again" was initially due to be broadcast as the third episode, reflecting the order of production. However, the BBC Two transmission was postponed due to similarities between the plot, which centres on the dangers posed by an errant nuclear device, and the September 11 attacks that had occurred earlier that month. At the same time, the Captain Scarlet section on the Carlton website was temporarily removed. "Big Ben Strikes Again" was ultimately broadcast several weeks after its original, intended air date.
Mike Fillis of Cult Times considers "Big Ben Strikes Again" to be a highlight of the series, and praises the miniature model work as "superb". Cultural historian Nicholas J. Cull groups "Big Ben Strikes Again" with the subsequent episodes "Treble Cross" and "Expo 2068" as examples of scriptwriter Tony Barwick's partiality to storylines demonstrating the dangers of nuclear technology. Cull considers the plot concerning the lost atomic weapon to be an employment of Barwick's "favourite device".
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