"Big Ben Strikes Again!" is the third instalment of the Supermarionation television series Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons. It was first broadcast in the UK on October 13th, 1967, on ATV Midlands, written by Tony Barwick and directed by Brian Burgess. In this episode, the Mysterons attempt to destroy London after hijacking a transporter carrying an atomic device.
Like that of "Winged Assassin," the previous instalment, the plot of "Big Ben Strikes Again!" was similar enough to the 11 September attacks in the United States to cause the instalment to be held back when Captain Scarlet And The Mysterons was re-transmitted on BBC Two in 2001. Footage from "Big Ben Strikes Again" is used in the clip show instalment titled "The Inquisition" as a flashback.
The Mysterons announce a threat to destroy London and use their powers to hijack a transporter carrying an atomic device through the city at night. They seal the vehicle and its driver, Macey, in the underground Park View car park. Macey, who was knocked unconscious during the journey and does not know his location, awakes in time to hear Big Ben strike midnight both through the air and over his radio, but he hears thirteen chimes, NOT twelve! The Mysterons use their influence to start the device's twelve-hour detonation countdown, knocking Macey out again and dumping him in aside street.
Since the disappearance of the atomic device, Spectrum has been put on red alert. Captain Scarlet discovers Macey while surveying the streets in a Spectrum Saloon and the driver is flown to Cloudbase to relate his ordeal. There are over 2,000 London car parks fitting Macey's description of Park View, but remembering the driver's claim that Big Ben struck thirteen, Captain Blue deduces that the car park must be within a mile of Big Ben. It is found that Jupiter Way and Park View are the only likely car parks within this distance.
With less than an hour until detonation, Captain Scarlet and Captain Blue immediately fly out to London. Jupiter Way is discounted and the officers locate the transporter at Park View in their Spectrum Pursuit Vehicle. With too little time remaining to carry out the defusing procedure, Colonel White instead orders Captain Scarlet and Captain Blue to drive to a construction site outside the city, which was Macey's intended destination anyway, to leave the device to detonate in a prepared excavation. Arriving with only minutes remaining, Captain Blue lowers the transporter, which Captain Scarlet is driving, underground in a lift. Abandoning the vehicle, Captain Scarlet ascends, but the lift shaft is damaged by the atomic explosion. Captain Scarlet subsequently recovers from fatal injuries, and his body decontaminates itself of radiation poisoning, using his retro-metabolic powers.
Later, Captain Blue explains how he discovered Park View's location and how Macey seemed to hear Big Ben strike thirteen. Because he was within a mile of Big Ben with his radio on, Macey was hearing two sets of chimes. However, the chimes issuing directly from the Big Ben were delayed due to the distance travelled, so the "thirteenth" chime was a repeat of the twelfth that Macey heard just before over the radio. Captain Scarlet declares that he will make thirteen his lucky number.
- Paul Maxwell - (1st Police Officer)
- Charles Tingwell - (Macey)
- Martin King - (2nd Police Officer)
- Jeremy Wilkin - (3rd Police Officer, 5th Police Officer, Radio Announcer)
- Neil McCallum (4th Police Officer) (uncredited)
A number of short scenes were scripted but unfilmed. Set immediately after Colonel White orders the red alert, these would have introduced Spectrum captains codenamed Yellow and Purple and shown Captain Scarlet resting in Cloudbase's "Room of Sleep", which is mentioned but unseen in later episodes. The script describes the Room of Sleep as containing "special couches" that enable users to condense a full night's sleep into one hour.
This episode's scale model work included the construction of entire miniature streets, a task that could not have been accomplished without the larger budget that episodes of Captain Scarlet enjoyed compared to those of earlier Supermarionation series. It was on the street sets that the transporter hi-jacking was filmed – a scene that Derek Meddings, the series' special effects director, remembered for its atmosphere. The sets were redecorated and reorganised several times to make it appear that Macey's transporter covers more ground. The transporter model, which re-appears in "Expo 2068", was designed by Meddings' assistant, Mike Trim.
The incidental music for "Big Ben Strikes Again" was recorded on 16 April 1967 in a four-hour session held at series composer Barry Gray's private studio, where it was performed by an ensemble of 14 instrumentalists. It 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 midnight chimes. Music for the following episode, "Manhunt", was recorded on the same day.
When a digitally-remastered re-run of Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons began in the United Kingdom in September 2001, "Big Ben Strikes Again" was originally going to be broadcast as the third episode, but was postponed from its intended BBC Two transmission date due to parallels between the plot, with its depiction of the threat posed by an atomic device, and the 11 September attacks which occurred the same month. This coincided with Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons pages on the Carlton website being taken offline. Eventually, the instalment was re-transmitted, but later in the line-up.
Historian Nicholas J. Cull groups "Big Ben Strikes Again" with the later Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons instalments "Treble Cross" and "Expo 2068" as examples of scriptwriter Tony Barwick's partiality to plotlines showcasing the dangers of nuclear technology. Cull concludes that the instalment's plot of an atomic device being hi-jacked by the Mysterons is an example of this "favourite device" used by Barwick.