NEW CAPTAIN SCARLET – Crispin Merrell


Original Review by Alan Rogers

Back in 2005, Gerry Anderson (he of “Supermarionation” hits such as Thunderbirds) created a CGI animated TV serial reboot of the late sixties series Captain Scarlet and The Mysterons. Using “Hypermarionation” (a technique using CGI and motion capture), Gerry Anderson’s New Captain Scarlet (or more commonly New Captain Scarlet) was a show that turned out to be a bit grim and, to some, unsuitable for younger viewers though it did achieve some critical success. Unfortunately, the TV broadcasters chose to air the show erratically in the middle of a Saturday morning entertainment show, splitting the half-hour episodes into two parts and giving the audience no indication of when the parts would be shown. Although many of the features of the original incarnation were retained, Anderson decided not to retain any of Barry Gray’s original music. Instead he chose composer Crispin Merrell (who he had already used in his earlier series Space Precinct) and provide new music for the show.

Merrill’s approach to the main titles sequence is to score with small, brief motifs that reflects the titles montage rather than develop a memorable theme. In fact, the almost-frantic nature of the first track, “Captain Scarlet”, echoes the release of the characters from the stilted motions of the original puppets to an animation free of the marionette technology. Much of the score can be classed as “electronic soundscaping” or “ambient electronics” with sweeping washes of sounds (“Code Red”), alien soundscapes (“Alien Craft”) and darkly mysterious colourings (“Mysteron City”). These soundscapes are interspersed by passages that highlight Merrell’s solid use of electronic percussion effects that provide rhythm, driving the music on (“Battleship Proteus”) as well as giving a dramatic edge to the story (“Bison Battle”). An irregular rhythm percussion gives the beginning of “Dan Dares” a distinct Jerry Goldsmith feel to the score.

Any hint of an emotional heart to the score doesn’t surface until towards the end of the score with “I Know What You’re Thinking” where we hear, what amounts to for this score, a theme with a feel of sadness and regret. It’s these latter cues that are the most cinematic, eschewing the electronic ambience for something more akin to orchestral scoring.

Comparisons with Barry Gray’s music for the original series is unavoidable (but I have managed to keep it for the end of this review). Several reviews of the show at the time did comment that one of the let-downs of the reboot was the music, with one review specifically stating that it was a shame that Gray’s original theme was not retained. Personally, I think Gray’s music for Captain Scarlet and The Mysterons is a lesser effort the more iconic music he composed for the likes of Thunderbirds, U.F.O. and Joe 90. But listening to Gray’s original music again now it’s clear that re-using the theme would not have been appropriate for a “re-imagining” of Captain Scarlet and would have taken away from the “New” in New Captain Scarlet.

New Captain Scarlet is not an easy standalone listen as there’s more of an emphasis on atmosphere rather than thematic development but the score does highlight Merrell’s mastery of the sound libraries he had in his studio at the time. He doesn’t attempt to create an orchestral sounding score from samples – and risk it sounding cheap and cheesy. Merrell takes his arsenal of electronics and fashions an electronic score with accents of an orchestra with sampled strings and brass. And choosing this route, Merrell carves out his own place in the Gerry Anderson musical universe. At the time I first heard this score the composer was hopeful of an official release. But poor scheduling of the original show to a Saturday morning meant that it didn’t achieve the popular success Gerry Anderson was hoping for and this may have contributed to the fact that no release has been forthcoming to date.

Samples from this score as well as other compositions can be heard at the composer’s website.

Rating: **½

  1. Captain Scarlet (0:59)
  2. Into The Mine Doc (2:13)
  3. Mr Vista (1:23)
  4. Alien Craft (2:10)
  5. Battleship Proteus (2:20)
  6. Fallen Angels (1:14)
  7. Dan Dares (1:31)
  8. Code Red (1:01)
  9. Brawl of Confusion (1:11)
  10. Bison Battle (2:29)
  11. Dan Lloyd Trio and The Kiss of Death (0:55)
  12. Zucca (0:28)
  13. Mysteron City (1:16)
  14. Enter The Mainframe (2:05)
  15. Drone Attack (1:48)
  16. Global Truck (1:42)
  17. Hunted Down (1:13)
  18. Subterranean Chamber (2:26)
  19. Tranquillity (1:03)
  20. Vampire Dog Fight (0:59)
  21. Emergency (1:10)
  22. I Know What You’re Thinking (2:00)
  23. Ice Man (2:44)
  24. Lancaster Mission (1:07)
  25. We’ll Be Back (1:28)

Running Time: 39:07

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