Thunderbirds 1.1 – Trapped in the Sky

Back to September 1965 and the charming naivete of Gerry Anderson’s Thunderbirds for the last of our initial three programs of the Fire-Breathing Dimetrodon experience. I saved this for last because Thunderbirds really does feel long and glacially paced, and I didn’t think that our son would be able to stay attentive for a full hour.

Boy, did he ever prove us wrong. This is, by leagues, his favorite of the first three shows. He didn’t budge from the sofa, asking only a few questions, and shouting “Oh, no!” when a mid-air rescue attempt fails. He loved it completely, and his favorite part was when Elevator Car # 3 lost control and crashed. Edge of your seat? You bet.

One of the unintentionally fun bits of Thunderbirds is noting the incredible laundry list of things the producers got wrong about the far-flung future of 2065. My favorite is dating the moon landing to sometime in the 2030s. My least favorite is the unbelievable secrecy around International Rescue, all that silly business about not allowing photographs of their machines, and the notion that the sixty-eleven gajillion contractors who must have been employed to build Tracy Island’s hangars and all of its vehicles never breathed a word about what they were building in the south Pacific. Maybe Jeff Tracy had them all buried at sea… for the greater good, you know.

I did think it was weird that the supervillain, The Hood, is never named onscreen. I thought it was especially weird that Lady Penelope and Parker seem to casually murder the guy in an explosion – he escapes, but they don’t even stop to check. Lady Penelope, Parker, and her six-wheeled pink Rolls Royce were already known to the readers of the weekly comic TV Century 21 when this debuted. The comic, which began in January 1965 and was built around Anderson’s “Supermarionation” shows Stingray, Supercar, and Fireball XL-5, had been featuring a Lady Penelope comic since the first issue.

Many of the stories in TV Century 21 have been repackaged and republished over the years, but there’s never been a comprehensive reprint, so I’ve always wondered how the eight or nine months of the comic, which fleshed out her secret agent credentials, built up to her supporting role in the show.

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