01/07/2012. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts
an examination by: GF Willmetts. The Powers Are Champion – a look back at the 1967 TV series and the source of the three Nemesis agents' superhuman powers.
Until recently, I hadn’t put much thought into how three seriously injured Nemesis agents, Craig Sterling, Richard Barratt and Sharron Macready, were put back together in the space of a single day when they crashed in Kaluna, Tibet in the Himalayas in the 1967 ITV series ‘The Champions’, let alone become superhuman as a result.
If anything, the hidden civilisation there did the equivalent of a scientific marvel without a need to addressing how it was done to the viewer. I doubt if that was the point of the story and there was little focus on it, other than them following the old man’s advice that their powers would only develop with practice. Physically, they were already stronger and faster with endurance to low and high temperatures from the start. Their senses were also enhanced and shared a visual telepathic and empathic sharing when any of them was in pain. When they would be able to share a pleasurable moment was never explored except once when Barratt projected the emotion to Sterling in ‘The Gilded Cage’. Anything else was just refinement and experiment to see just what they could do.
It’s often quoted from Arthur C. Clarke that superior science can look like magic. Would that be the case with ‘The Champions’? Also, would these people from this hidden civilisation give a similar treatment to anyone in trouble or had they realised the importance of getting these three people back to their own civilisation with the bacteria to prevent actions by Red China at the time? Could they repair people and make them just normal or in their cases, superhuman, of anyone who literally dropped in on them injured? The evidence given seems to also have indicated a nexus of events coming together.
In some respects, it might have felt drawn to that point in time. Sharron Macready confessed to Richard Barratt that she had felt drawn to her job at Nemesis as if she had been waiting for something to happen after the death of her husband. The fact that she had spotted the hidden city from the air but Sterling didn’t must have swayed his decision to crash-land there than continue any further. The old man from the hidden city arrived as if was expecting this particular event to happen. Whether it was because they were aware of the Nemesis agents or their cargo or just of the crash is uncertain. The fact that they had a waiting medical team does somewhat speak for itself.
It’s a shame really that we don’t see more of the people from this hidden civilisation and whether they caused or acted within such an event. All we have is the old man seemingly immune to the cold himself and his disappearing act when he left Richard Barratt could be more a passing through a holographic field than teleporting, becoming invisible or intangible. Saying that, there was no such thing as a hologram field back in the 1960s. Looking at the pilot episode, ‘The Beginning’, again with current century eyes, a holographic field could also be added to the list of choices. The indication of such advancement would go hand in hand with any medical treatment they gave the three Nemesis agents.
There are two basic clues to all of this from the series to support a 21st century interpretation of the key event of how three agents were repaired in under a day. The golden scars each of the agents had and were assured would disappear after a couple days was also where they were severely injured and that in ‘The Mission’, they had a unique blood type which Craig Sterling passes off as the results of an inoculation, which isn’t that far off the truth. The fact that their recovery rate from injuries since the accident was also accelerated would support this. Even Barratt’s head trauma which should have killed him from the fall in ‘The Happening’, just gave him limited amnesia for a time.
If ‘The Champions’ was created today, I doubt if anyone would blink if it was suggested their powers were sourced by nanotechnology. Back in the 1960s, that wasn’t even a topic for Science Fiction, let alone in the real world, but would fit what we know today. Suddenly, the hidden civilisation isn’t employing a form of magic but something that was over fifty years into our own future that we’re only just discovering. To get it to work so effectively to keep them not only alive but superhuman is far beyond what could even be dreamt of shows a really superior civilisation.
There are some similarities to Shangri-La with this hidden civilisation, only with superior science if you like. Were they naïve to restore the three Nemesis agents or were assured they would keep their secret. Considering the fact that they discovered early on that they were superhuman and no doubt did not want to become laboratory guinea pigs ensured this was kept, even to the point of Barratt and Macready keeping silence in Sterling’s ordeal in ‘The Interrogation’. If anything, it made them all aware that their supervisor, W.L. Tremayne, was curious about their success rate against impossible odds. However, he dismissed his interrogator, when he realised he was unlikely to learn anything. Mind you, considering the evidence of Sterling breaking open a door by removing its hinges, you would have thought there would have been suspicion of superior strength, let alone his ability to resist mind-bending drugs, unless as Tremayne surmised, he had nothing to hide. There are some advantages in being superhuman.
Even so, their activities weren’t entirely unnoticed. Doctors Glind and Margaret Daniels when selecting agents with superior reactions as their test subjects for ‘The Experiment’ to create super-humans by electro-stimulation drew the conclusion that the three Nemesis agents were already capable of what they were about to achieve and saw them as their biggest rivals if not opponents. Quite why they didn’t reveal their findings and force the agents to become public was probably an ego thing as Glind wanted to ensure that his creations were unstoppable for his own purposes. Glind and Daniels took blood samples from Macready, you would have thought that they might have spotted any irregularity there. However, as pointed out earlier, nanotechnology was not known back then, let alone recognise what they might have seen in their blood if they had. You would need more than a standard microscope to see nanotechnology let alone isolate it anyway.
Of course, not having access to or even recognising nanotechnology gave Glind a disadvantage from the start but his guinea pigs were probably the most dangerous opponents the Nemesis agents ever faced. They were super-fast by brain electro-stimulation but lacked physical strength and superior senses which was probably why his computer opted for knives as the weapon of choice to avoid getting too close to Sterling and Barratt where they would have obviously been outmatched. Even so, they were still formidable and had the advantage, not because Sterling or Barratt underestimated them, but simply because they’ve never faced anyone let alone four people who could match some of their abilities before.
As to the nature of the nanotechnology involved, its introduction had several actions. The chief one was to restore the damage caused in the crash. Although all three were returned to the plane unconscious, Barratt and Macready remained that way until Sterling revived them. Apart from concealing the whereabouts of the city, there may have been a thought that they’d awaken thinking they had a lucky escape and not suspect their enhancements. If that was the case, then the hidden people underestimated the agents’ ability to remember or the strength of the enhancement, let alone Barratt’s determination to find them.
I doubt if such nanotechnology would have been that overtly specialised. A generic version would ensure that bone and muscle were kept at peak, in a similar way to their senses. This peak would be above normal to ensure their survival and what raised them to superhuman levels could well have been a side-effect of their recovery. As the old man pointed out, this did not make them immortal or invulnerable and he might have been curious as to how powerful it would make them. They were still susceptible to drugs, albeit in higher doses and brainwashing as demonstrated in ‘Autokill’, although Barratt’s recovery was much faster than that of Tremayne. The innate telepathic link between the three agents could have been the nanotech resonating between the three of them. The old man indicated that this was not always the case which suggests that not even they knew the extent this could develop.
One of the problems with the agents’ mental connections to each other is whether they would suffer trauma should any of their number be killed. With ‘The Happening’ episode, Richard Barratt was either dead or catatonic after being bitten by a poisonous Australian snake. Whether Macready realised that or not is uncertain but her sympathetic connection induced Barratt’s heart to start beating again. In ‘Reply Box No. 666’, Sterling himself survives a fall from an aircraft into the ocean. Barratt and Macready had an awareness of water and possible death but their own training took over to complete the mission. Had Sterling truly died, they might have felt the sympathetic pain but there must be some cut-off point to allow themselves to function independently. Ergo, they would survive if any one of their number died.
It’s a shame that we never really see how far the Nemesis agents’ abilities develop beyond what is shown in their first year. There is no way of seeing how far their telepathic link develops beyond visual information. Their strength and speed, however, might actually be at their superhuman limits.
Could their abilities be caused by anything other than nanotechnology? The problem is that single day. Even if cybernetics were used, such a treatment would take more than twenty-four hours, let alone look normal to most medical tests. The same would be the case for replacement clone bodies which would be perfect and not show the damage they had in the plane crash. It is the anomaly in the blood which tends to point to nanotech.
Would a blood transfusion from any of them grant their superhuman abilities to other people? That is debatable. One would have to assume the person was injured which would have to be a similar trigger to why it worked on them. However, nanotech may be body specific and not transferable. Although the hidden race may believe the Nemesis agents would keep their secret, there would have to be a time when the use of their blood to save someone might come up. This might well work but not endow anyone else with their abilities. As pointed out earlier, their unusual blood probably made them incompatible to normal humans.
In the meantime, re-watch ‘The Champions’ and see if you can figure out any other way for their superpowers to function.
© GF Willmetts 2012
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