The Mysterons

Marc J. Frattasio
Here is the MEV (Mars Exploration Vehicle) searching the surface of Mars for the source of radio signals detected from Earth. The MEV model was recycled from the Thunderbirds Are Go! film. It was made from balsa wood and featured motorized tracks. Note the large clouds of Fuller's Earth that are being kicked up by a Jetex Motor installed under the model. Fuller's Earth is a very fine powder that is commonly used by the plastics industry as a filler.
Mysteron City
The Mysteron City under the retro-metabolism ray. The city model was a collection of illuminated household shapes and colored translucent plastic. This shot was an interesting composite of multiple exposures. The retro-metabolism ray is a beam of white light that shown on the darkened set while talcum powder was sprinkled through it. Later, the film was rewound and the city set shot again under normal lighting conditions. Petroleum jelly on the camera lens caused the 'fog' effect.
The Cloudbase model was 10 to 12 feet long and made basically from wood. The model was hung on wires in front of a painted sky backdrop. Some of the clouds below the model were actually pieces of cotton to give a 3D effect.
Angel Jet
Here is one of the larger Angel Jet models (about 1/16th scale) on a large scale section of the Cloudbase flight deck. There were at least six Angel Jets made, three large and three small. They were all made from a combination of fiberglass castings and balsa wood. Some of these models were only finished on one side. The pilot figures were made from plasticine clay. The 'steam' that spurts up when the jets are launched was carbon dioxide or freon from a pressurized container held by a technician below the set.
Spectrum Patrol Car on Rolling Road
Here is a 1/24th scale Spectrum Patrol Car (SPC) on Derek Meddings' rolling road. This model vehicle is actually stationary. The road and backdrop are painted on endless belts moving on motorized rollers to simulate motion. The SPC is being held stationary on the rolling road by two technicians who are of course positioned out of the camera's field of view. Each technician is holding a pair of thin wires: one technician holding the front of the SPC, the other holding the rear.
Rear Projection
This is the puppet sized SPC set with under-control stringless) puppets of Captain Brown and Captain Scarlet. The puppeteers are operating these puppets from underneath the set using an array of control rods and wires. There is a rear-projection screen installed behind the set which is running motion picture film shot from a vehicle on a real highway to give the illusion of motion.
Here is a 1/24th scale Maximum Security Vehicle (MSV) moving down a miniature street. This MSV, like all the other Spectrum ground vehicles, was made of fiberglass castings pulled from plaster or rubber molds made from wooden masters. All of the model vehicles used in Captain Scarlet were provided with foam rubber suspensions. Some of the larger models were fitted with a device which made the front of the vehicle 'dip' to simulate the application of brakes at high speed.
Captain Brown
The Mysteron duplicate of Captain Brown is about to explode! The white smoke coming out around the Mysteron Captain Brown's neck is actually titanium tetra chloride, a very noxious and corrosive chemical substance which smokes when brought in contact with the air. Captain Brown's hair is British mohair. His eyes are plastic hemispheres with a reduced color photograph of an actual human eye pupil glued to the center. The Spectrum jacket is made from a very fine grade suede leather.
Maximum Security Building
The Spectrum Maximum Security Building explodes! Many of the model buildings in Captain Scarlet were made from gypsum board. Windows in skyscrapers were made using clear plastic toolboxes which could be furnished like miniature rooms. The clouds of black smoke are actually Fuller's Earth which has been stuffed into the building along with other junk to enhance the effect of the explosives. For an explosion like this, the model has been scored in strategic locations so that it breaks up realistically.
This scene is not what it appears to be. Captain Scarlet and the World President are not ejecting upwards from this Spectrum Passenger Jet, they are actually ejecting downwards. This model was filmed upside-down and the two miniature figures are falling downwards towards the floor of the set! The technique of filming models upside-down was introduced in later episodes of Thunderbirds (like Ricochet) so that rocket exhaust and smoke would appear to go straight down.
This is a panoramic view of a large scale roadway set. Note the 1/24 scale AMT automobile kit based car. This car is being pulled along the set from below by a technician holding a pin extending from the bottom of the model car and inserted into a thin slot in the roadway. The vegetation on this set is made from green tinted bath sponge and model railroad lichen.
Removals Van
This Swift Removals Van actually contains a Spectrum Pursuit Vehicle. The van model's moving panels are spring loaded and liberally sprinkled with Fuller's Earth to raise a cloud of dust. This sequence was filmed at 120 frames per second so that when the film was run at the much lower normal speed you can see every bump and bounce in the action. This van model, like most of the model guest vehicles' and trucks, is made mostly from balsa wood. The wheels are from some kind of toy truck.
Angel Jet Flyby
This smaller scale Angel Jet model is being pulled across the miniature set along a pair of parallel wires at high speed. Note once again the large black cloud of Fuller's Earth marking the exploding highway bridge. Derek Meddings found out early on that using Fuller's Earth to make clouds of smoke and dust was a cheap and safe way to make his explosions go a lot further. Less explosive power was required to create a much bigger visual effect.
This SPV is not going up the London CarVue ramp, it is actually going down! The model was secured to the roadway by means of a pin in a slot and permitted to roll downhill. When the film was reversed, it looks as if the SPV is going up the ramp at high speed!
Captain Scarlet and the President on the CarVue
Here is a very ambitious miniature shot which shows small (probably plasticine) models of Captain Scarlet and the World President, a 1/24th scale AMT model car, and three smaller scale Angel Jet models all in one shot. Note the curved cyclorama backdrop and the large scale section of the CarVue tower.
Spectrum Helicopter
The Spectrum Helicopter must have been very difficult to operate as it has a battery operated rotor which made it necessary to place the suspension wires at inconvenient locations on the model. The gyroscopic action of the rotor and the position of the wires caused this model to 'wobble' visibly on screen. The transparent cockpit canopy of this model was fixed using a large lump of plasticine so that crew figures could be added or removed as required. The floats were wrapped in black electrical tape.
Cockpit View
This unusual Angel Jet pilot's perspective of the CarVue and Mysteronized Spectrum Helicopter was accomplished by using a large cockpit canopy and instrument panel section that was placed on an articulated dolly in front of the camera.
Exploding Helicopter
This is a petrol gel explosion. Petrol gel, actually very similar to the napalm used for fire bombs, was used for explosions that required a lot of fire and comparatively little explosive power. Note once again the large clouds of black 'smoke' caused by packing the model CarVue tower with Fuller's Earth.
Captain Blue
Captain Blue on jet pack using the bulk of the CarVue tower to shield himself from the Mysteronized Captain Scarlet's gunfire. Note the painted bird droppings on the surface of the CarVue. Is that fine detail or what? Derek Meddings and his crew were a bunch of artistic geniuses. They didn't leave out anything!
The Big Fall
The Mysteronized Captain Scarlet falls to his 'death' from the top of the CarVue tower. This is a small plasticine figure dropped from the rafters of the studio on to a large miniature set. There are small Matchbox cars being pulled on wires along the 'streets' below to add to the realism of this scene. Naturally, this scene was shot at very high speed (120 frames per second) to make Captain Scarlet's fall much more realistic.
This page published originally at the Supermarionation sfx WebSite
text ©1996 Marc J. Frattasio; not for reproduction for profit without his express permission