Carmen Sandiego Wiki
This article is about a previous incarnation of the character. You may be looking for the character from the 2019 animated series.

"Retribution will be mine, Carmen Sandiego… As I first humiliate you, then crash your reputation, and finally see you imprisoned for the rest of your natural life...!"
―Dr. Maelstrom

Dr. Gunnar Maelstrom (pronounced "Goonar") is a former marine biologist and explorer-turned-criminal mastermind, and the main antagonist of the "Retribution" three-parter of the Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego? cartoon. He was one of the greatest criminals of his time, known for his violent tendencies, and was caught by then-ACME Agent Carmen Sandiego and the C.H.I.E.F., swearing revenge on her. He was voiced by Tim Curry.



Maelstrom was a former marine biologist from an unknown part of Europe (strongly hinted to be Norway), who turned to thievery during some point of his life. By the 1980s, he had an established criminal empire and reputation as a master criminal, which immediately had the attention of a then-minor ACME Detective Agency and its rising star agent, Carmen Sandiego. Together with her new robotic partner, the Computerized Holographic Imaging Educational Facilitator (C.H.I.E.F.), they managed to stop Maelstrom's plan of raising the wreckage of the RMS Titanic, a day before the actual discovery of the ship on September 1, 1985. Arrested, he promised to take revenge on Carmen, claiming they were not so different many times before.


Years later, Sandiego left ACME to become a master criminal herself, with ACME Detectives Zack and Ivy, along with the Chief, trying to stop her, while her old foe stayed in jail, sentenced to life at Folsom State Prison in northern California. However, he uses an explosion to fake his own death and escape, once again getting ACME's attention. After being told of his previous capture by the Chief, the detectives soon discover that Maelstrom left behind a clue of his plan for Carmen, which she misses as she runs off with his prison cap. The clue, followed by Zack and Ivy, lead them to a near-death encounter with Maelstrom and his henchman Bilge, who successfully steal the Key Largo Underwater Hotel in Florida to use as temporary headquarters.

Meanwhile, Carmen orders some of her VILE criminals to steal a single postcard and lumber from Norway to build a Viking ship, intended to give the doctor a symbolic proper burial, only for him to appear and try to kill both her and the agents at the actual maelstrom outside of the Lofoten Islands, escaping afterwards to Virginia to lure Carmen into a trap to further humiliate her, making it clear that his plan is to destroy her credibility as a criminal and send her to jail himself. As he escapes, it is revealed he's stolen the musical score sheet for the opera Carmen by George Brizet.

After dealing with the authorities, they continue to track the doctor based on his clues, eventually discovering his ultimate plan: detonate a missile at Mount Ararat, Turkey, in order to find the missing ark of Noah and claim it for himself. After a long struggle and several near-death experiences with his goons, Carmen and the detectives manage to divert the missile while CHIEF, in his old robot body, tramples down Maelstrom before he escapes, managing to get him arrested yet again, while Carmen herself escapes yet again.


Maelstrom is a vicious, impetuous master criminal, and serves as a more cynical foil to Carmen's idealized perception of thievery. While her thefts are centered around the mental challenges and geographical trivia, the doctor makes it clear that he does it "to take what others have" and not be impeded by anyone.

In terms of character, he is not too different from his "spiritual successor" Lee Jordan, being violent and brutish in his methods, preferring a hands-on approach as opposed to Carmen's graceful trickster impulses, exploding his way into buildings through bombs and torpedoes, and uncaring of the harm that may come to historical landmarks in the process, shown when he nearly destroys the original sheets for the opera Carmen with a giant fan. However, while Jordan uses far more cunning and underhanded methods, preferring an indirect approach, Maelstrom is sudden and abrasive, facing many of his opponents by himself through sheer strength and numbers.


Maelstrom Tattoo

A close-up of Maelstrom's hand tattoo

  • As explained during the Retribution arc, a "maelstrom" is essentially a more dangerous form of whirlpool, usually formed from a storm over the open sea, reflecting on the doctor's violent and destructive nature.
  • Maelstrom has a tattoo of a red stingray on his right hand.