Revamps in Captain Scarlet, Joe 90 and The Secret Service

Chris Bentley, Stephen Brown & Lynn Simpson

Leaving the disproportionate puppets of Stingray and Thunderbirds behind them, the Century 21 puppet workshop embarked upon the creation of a brand-new generation of Supermarionation puppets as production geared up in the Autumn of 1966 for the start of filming on Captain Scarlet And The Mysterons. For this spectacular new series – which, it was hoped, would emulate the success of Thunderbirds – a cast of over 60 marionettes had to be created to populate Captain Scarlet's 21st Century world, from doctors, pilots and army officers, to truck drivers, fashion designers and Delta Petrol attendants.

With the advent of home video a number of the more easily-recognisable revamp puppet characters have, to many fans of the Century 21 Supermarionation series, taken on an importance and identity on a par with that of the regular characters — so much so that a number of them can be individually named for their strongest 'performance' (Goddard, Kruger, Jason Smith, Kramer, Angela Davis and Reverend Shepherd to name just a few) and every fan knows exactly which puppet is being discussed. This recognition of revamp puppet characters was highlighted at the Sylvia Anderson puppet auction at Phillips in September 1995, where many of the 41 revamp puppet heads being offered sold for startlingly larger amounts of money than had been expected by the organisers.

As with the previous Supermarionation series, the main cast of Captain Scarlet puppet characters was supported by a large repertory puppet cast of 'revamp' marionettes: puppets who could be used and re-used as necessary according to the requirements of the each new script. With a costume change and, occasionally, a different coloured wig, each of these puppets could take on any variety of suitable roles, moving from episode to episode much as an actor would do in repertory theatre, assuming a different character each week. Just as if these puppets were Century 21's 'actors', so they were cast for their roles from a directory of photographs, the Supermarionation version of the actors' directory Spotlight. Many of these puppets went on to appear in the later Supermarionation productions, Joe 90 and The Secret Service, for which many new puppets were also created. Even the puppets who had been cast in the major 'regular' roles in Scarlet later went on to appear as different characters in those two series.

When production began on Joe 90, it made economic sense (in terms of both the budget and production schedule) to continue to use the Captain Scarlet puppets and, in time, supplement these with new puppets who would also go on to appear in the final Supermarionation series, The Secret Service. Two of the Captain Scarlet revamp puppets were given a complete make-over to appear as regular characters in Joe 90 ( Sam Loover and Shane Weston), while the other three regulars were newly created for the series.

Whereas the puppets portraying the main characters in the series had a variety of alternative heads created for them ('smiler', 'frowner', 'blinker' — Scarlet even had a 'grimace' head for that "I've just been shot" look in The Mysterons), all of which were duplicated to enable the simultaneous shooting of two separate episodes on the two Century 21 Studio puppet soundstages, the revamp puppets were mostly all one-offs, although a few did have 'blinker' heads created if their characters had to be seen opening/closing their eyes — otherwise, the appearance of being asleep or dead was achieved with Plasticine eyelids overlaid on the puppet's eyes.

However, as some of the Joe 90 revamp puppets had originally appeared as regular characters in Captain Scarlet (most notably Colonel White, Captain Ochre and Captain Grey), these puppets also had a variety of facial expressions available to the puppeteers — indeed, on at least two occasions, two different heads created for the same Captain Scarlet regular character, appear as two separate revamp characters in the same Joe 90 episode ( Lieutenant Green in King For A Day and Dr. Fawn in Viva Cordova).

A few new puppets were created for The Secret Service, most notably Father Stanley Unwin, The Bishop, Mrs. Appleby and Albert Hobson. Many lead characters from Captain Scarlet made appearances including Colonel White, Captains Scarlet, Blue, Ochre, Magenta, Grey, Black, Brown and Indigo as well as Dr. Fawn. For the rest of the cast the series relied heavily on the vast repertoire of Century 21 revamp puppets.

Although they were all originally identified by number (inscribed in the back of the puppet's head) during filming, we have assigned character names to the puppets according to the role for which they will be most familiar to viewers (which, in some cases, is a role from one of the later series, rather than Scarlet). We have compiled a complete list of each puppet's roles, so far as can be determined from what can be seen on screen and other photographic reference (some puppets are shrouded in darkness, have their backs to the camera in a number of the crowd scenes or are so out of focus that they cannot be identified).

Under individual headings for Regular Cast and Revamp Cast, the puppets are listed in order of appearance in the body of the episodes (i.e. not the title sequence). For certain puppets, this list is supplemented with additional information about subsequent notable appearances in other series, so as to help clarify the identity of the puppet.

Including the regular cast puppets, we have identified 63 different puppets used in Captain Scarlet, 70 different puppets in Joe 90, all but 17 of which had previously appeared in Captain Scarlet and 59 different puppets in The Secret Service.

The majority of these puppets made multiple appearances in the series. Three – listed in the catalogue under 4th Observer, French General and Colonel Johnson – could bring the tally to 62, but I’ve been unable to find an exact match with anyone else.

This page is based on material originally published in FAB issues #31, #34 and #59