Lieutenant Green

Lieutenant Green in Captain Scarlet & the Mysterons!

Used with the permission of Dee Anderson and ITV Global Entertainment (c) ITV 2016

“As an actor I voiced the puppet character Lieutenant Green in Gerry Anderson’s sci-fi series, Captain Scarlet & the Mysterons!”

This is all good schoolboy stuff – an allegorical tale of the forces of good over evil at a time when our world was under threat of nuclear warfare. School children have followed the series over three decades now and have been impressed when they discovered my role as Lt. Green.

Synchronistic or not, there are some extraordinary meaningful coincidences involved regarding my appearances on TV. I believe that my regular appearances on the BBC Tonight programme singing the news in calypso, in the late 1950s may have influenced Anderson when he decided to cast me, a very visible black actor at the time. He could not have possibly known about my service record; that I had in real life been a Navigator of Lancaster bomber in WWII, giving flight directions to my pilot. Now I was to be cast in a similar role in a sci-fi TV series! Why me?

I was to learn that Anderson had also served in the RAF, albeit as part of National Service after the War, passing out at the rank of Leading Aircraftsman. His brother, Lionel, had been lost in the War over Holland [where I was shot down], flying one of the many Mosquitos which acted as homing beacons for British bombers and decoys for enemy radar systems.

Anderson’s whole concept seemed to have religious connotations, the forces of good against evil: Colonel White (the Supreme Being) and Captain Scarlet (His son?) who is killed each time, but miraculously survives death because he is a Mysteron creation and therefore not actually mortal, whilst Captain Black is the Devil incarnate. Was it just coincidence that the actor who voiced Captain Black was a white South African at the time of Apartheid and Ian Smith’s Rhodesia? That actor, Donald Gray, a charming man no doubt, had a sticker on his car with the words ‘Support Rhodesia’ which I recall I queried at the time, much to his chagrin.

 

Captain Scarlet’s Lieutenant Green finds something menacing on the moon

Used with the permission of Dee Anderson and ITV Global Entertainment (c) ITV 2016

Used with the permission of Dee Anderson and ITV Global Entertainment (c) ITV 2016

Used with the permission of Dee Anderson and ITV Global Entertainment (c) ITV 2016

Was it also pure coincidence that both my surname and that of the puppet character I voiced began with the letters ‘GR’ – GRANT/ GREEN, or that the actor who voiced Captain Scarlet mimicked the voice of Cary Grant?

The BBC programme Tonight begun with me, a black actor, singing the news in calypso – communicating the daily news. The effect that both series had on black people watching TV in Britain was significant – for the very first time there was a positive image of someone they could relate to with pride.

Was it that the black presence in Britain could have a healing potential for society – that Britain was being forced to acknowledge its shadow, its past history of racism and slavery? 1967 was also the year that Enoch Powell made his ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech that brought the shadow into the open? Was the struggle between good and evil that the series seems to represent also prompting us to know each other and so reconstruct the way in which we make our reality?

The Civil Rights Movement in America had given impetus to the Women’s Rights Movement. Captain Scarlet’s Cloudbase was itself defended by female fighter pilots called Angels, one of whom, Melody, was black. Both Captain Scarlet and its American counterpart, Star Trek, came out about the same time, both series in which women as well as ethnic minorities were cast in meaningful roles. This was a powerful message for the young at the time and no doubt led to the changes in racial attitudes that are slowly healing our society. Both series captured the imagination of the younger generations thus creating a climate for a change of consciousness.

Again, the name SPECTRUM – the organisation with its Headquarters at Cloudbase – was a plausible representation of Heaven, where Colonel White, and his colour spectrum of Officers were based, protecting the world from the evil Mysterons on Mars (Hades). Captain Black (Satan) was an Archangel who had ‘fallen from grace’, a former Spectrum agent who was possessed by the Mysterons and who acted as their agent on earth. In the opening sequences he wears his black Spectrum uniform and is pictured standing outside a cemetery, thereby emphasising his connection with the dark forces. In two of my books, Ring of Steel, and Blackness and the Dreaming Soul, I compare the significance of the colour spectrum to that of the rainbow of sound, the laws of the physics of sound – the overtone series. The colour white incorporates all other colours as a single note in music, the fundamental, containing all the natural overtones or harmonics.

One perceptive scholar* has observed that Lt. Green is a Western archetype of the African trickster god, Legba, messenger of and spokesman for the other Orishas. Legba is the keeper of the crossroads between the worlds, the messenger between human and divine worlds. He understands all languages (including that of the Mysterons), and acts as an interpreter for the Gods and opens the door to the spirit world. It is only through him that the other orishas (SPECTRUM agents of change) can be contacted.

*Terrence Brathwaithe, S. lecturer, Coventry University.

In a recent Essay of mine, Awake in the Dream, I suggested that the title, ‘Only Connecting’, of a Concord brochure seemed to imply that there is a guiding principle which operates beyond one’s volition. I had run Concord Multicultural Festivals during the 1980s in all the major cities in Britain. This was one of a number of staging posts in my long career – starting with my life as an RAF officer, then an actor/singer, cultural activist, and a writer – which had unwittingly pointed to the fact that a new CONSCIOUSNESS is dawning, that we have to reconnect not only with the fact that there is a spiritual dimension to life but that this is essentially a holistic, non-dual reappraisal of the prevailing paradigm and our need to reconnect with our evolutionary journey out of Africa, our roots, our Mitochondrial Eve.

We had seen way back in the 80s, the importance for celebrating our Multicultural World – Unity in Diversity. Now I can see that the process of making this connection has been the main driving force of my life and still remains so. It’s not about massaging one’s ego I hope, but my life purpose!

 

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