Last month, writing about the hopeless episode 7, “Vault of Death,” I said that maybe a separate Lady Penelope series wouldn’t have been a good idea. But then there’s this episode, and it’s terrific. It might be the best of the first twelve.
Lew Grade’s company, ITC, had been making spy and action thrillers for a few years at this point, with shows like The Saint and… well, a whole lot of shows that were a lot like The Saint, until they started making shows that were a whole lot like The Avengers instead. Foreign intrigue, mysterious clues, hideous traps, and so on. “The Perils of Penelope” is exactly like one of those shows, written down a fair bit for younger viewers, but otherwise it’s a perfectly serviceable ITC thriller. Lady Penelope does end up needing a rescue from Virgil and Gordon in the end, but, with Parker and the able Sir Jeremy to assist, she’s a really great secret agent, with gadgets and guns and moxie.
The rescue and gunfight at the end is, no debate, completely awesome. It is an amazingly well-directed scene, with Gordon taking shots at the villain while Virgil gets Penelope out of the path of a runaway train. In a beautiful nod to the past, the train is a monorail – and you can forgive the reuse of the train model from the previous episode since they went to town on a Paris outdoor cafe set – and so to “tie the heroine to the tracks,” the baddies tie her to a ladder and lower it into the tunnel, high enough for the monorail to crash into her!
As much as I enjoyed this episode, however, it might have been Daniel’s least favorite so far! It’s awfully light on gadgets and vehicles, and he squirmed, restless for most of the hour. Perhaps he’ll come back to it one day in a different light, because it’s as F.A.B. as they come.
Incidentally, if you enjoy classic Thunderbirds, check out this amazing project by Stephen La Rivere on Kickstarter to celebrate the show’s 50th anniversary: New Episodes from 1960s Recordings. I’m a backer, and you should be, too!