Category Archives: thunderbirds

Thunderbirds 1.26 – Security Hazard

Here is one of many, many examples in children’s television of a production run ending with a clip show because there’s no money left. At least they were able to go back into production after a break of a couple of months and make six more episodes after this.

Clip shows in a half-hour episode feel long. This one feels agonizing. During the four very long clips, we get quite a few desperate people shouting some variation of “We’re not going to make it!” at least three times.

Daniel didn’t mind. The format meant that he got to see all the machines in action and hear lots of thrilling music. He didn’t object at all to seeing them again. He’s rewatched many of the episodes several times already. One more won’t hurt. Neither will ten or eleven, probably.

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Thunderbirds 1.25 – The Cham-Cham

Back again to Thunderbirds for the last five of the episodes that we obtained. This one’s another of the Lady Penelope spy-centered episodes, and it’s terrific fun. The plot does not make a lick of sense, and the evil baddies who are shooting down US Air Force transport planes could not have come up with a more complicated scheme if they tried, but man, it’s fun.

Honestly, it requires the most popular group in the world performing their new hit single, “Dangerous Game,” live from the Swiss hotel where they’re performing a residency via a worldwide broadcast on Radio Maxwell every night with a slightly different arrangement that contains a secret code that the baddies can translate to find the location of the USAF plane DURING the broadcast. But the plot doesn’t matter; the show is just too entertaining and fun for that.

One of the things that impressed me the most is how well paced it is. Naturally, the spy episodes are light on the mayhem that four year-old boys love the most, but darned if this one doesn’t have a perfectly-placed moment of huge slapstick levity at exactly the right moment. You could set your watch by it. At the very second that our son Daniel started to get restless and squirm because nothing had happened for too long, Parker topples a would-be assassin out of a car atop a snowy hill, and, Hanna-Barbera-style, the two go barreling down the mountain into a giant snowball. Daniel howled. I’m sure that had I seen this as a too-serious teenager, I would have cringed, loudly, but that’s gold for a kid his age. It completely brought him back into it.

The grown-ups in the room weren’t squirming. From a production standpoint, this episode is just amazing. There are several “how’d they do that?!” shots in the scenes of Tintin and Lady Penelope skiing, and there’s an amazing bit where some butterflies are dancing around her garden, completely unnecessary to the scene, just there for brilliant color. Lady Penelope even dances as she sings with the band, and it looks great. They did a truly fantastic job making this episode.

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Thunderbirds 1.18 – 30 Minutes After Noon

Many years ago, I read a book about The Muppet Show which had some fascinating behind-the-scenes shots. I had never realized how much forced perspective was required to make puppets interact with humans. “30 Minutes After Noon” has lots of really neat, really clever shots and camera tricks. None of it’s strictly necessary; it’s just the director wondering whether he can make the episode more interesting to watch. It works. Apart from the use of a human hand in place of a puppet’s, pictured above, there’s a really cool tracking shot through a couple of doors before the action on the puppet stage.

This is one of the fastest-paced Thunderbirds episodes, because it’s broken into two halves, two separate emergencies several days apart thanks to the action of a criminal gang. It means there’s nowhere near the padding that other episodes have, with lots of excitement. It’s a very good, very entertaining episode, although Daniel surprised us by saying his favorite part was Lady Penelope and Parker arriving in the nick of time and blasting the bad guys’ helicopter out of the sky. After all the neat stuff on display, that was it? Well, he giggled and wowed and loved it to pieces, which was the important thing.

We still have five episodes of Thunderbirds to watch, but we’re going to take a break and come back to those in a few weeks. And then, I hear, we’ll have three brand new episodes as well. Stay tuned!

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Thunderbirds 1.17 – Desperate Intruder

WOW. This episode is AMAZING. The Hood is back, but he’s not the comedy wonk-wonk-wonk barely competent Hood that we sometimes see. This time, he ambushes and hypnotizes Brains and Tintin, beats their professor friend unconscious (offscreen, of course), and buries Brains in the desert sand up to his neck, demanding to know where the underwater treasure they’re seeking can be found. He is pure angry evil, not played for laughs at all, and he scared the absolute bejesus out of Daniel.

Daniel spent more than a couple of minutes either behind the sofa or in the library, and we weren’t surprised. This is an uncommonly intense episode, and, as we often see with his reactions watching Batman when Robin is endangered, he reacts badly when characters who are less able to defend themselves get in trouble.

In a really neat development, Scott, Virgil, and Gordon all choose to stay overnight with their craft to protect the others while waiting for the professor to be evacuated in a medical copter. Brains, rescued but feeling terrible for being a burden, goes out to find the treasure, dives back underwater and the Hood ambushes him AGAIN. Daniel ran for the hills.

The attention to detail in this episode is wild. Sure, there are problems with the plot as there always are, but the intensity of the situation covers up most of them, and the really neat production covers the rest. Brains spends most of the episode with chapped and inflamed lips after his morning trapped in the sun, and Scott and Virgil didn’t have time to shave before rescuing him the second time and the puppets have morning stubble!

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Thunderbirds 1.16 – Edge of Impact

Hooray, the Hood is back! Amusingly, the villain’s never actually named in the show, and so it wasn’t until we watched the 2004 film that we learned his name. And by “we,” I mean Daniel, because I know that’s his name. But this gave me the first opportunity to tell Daniel, “Oh, no! It’s the Hood again!”

And this time he has strings. Lots of strings. You know, normally, I can just ignore all the strings in these shows, but somebody was asleep at the wheel this week. Even the experimental Red Arrow fighter jet has a whacking great unavoidable hole cut in the top of the cockpit for strings about as big around a cowboy’s lasso to waggle the pilot’s head around. Quit interfering with my suspension of disbelief, strings!

Well, if you can ignore the strings, this is a fun one, especially if you enjoy family life on Tracy Island, because this has lots of good moments. It’s a good rescue, too, with two technicians stuck atop a TV transmission tower after the jet has crashed into it. Daniel had his usual blast watching it, and he seemed to like the Hood driving over a dismantled bridge and dropping into a river best.

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Thunderbirds 1.15 – Day of Disaster

Well, some episodes of Thunderbirds are better than others. This is one of the others.

Daniel got a huge kick out of it. He enjoys Lady Penelope and Parker, and Thunderbird 4, and this has all of them in a big rescue. A bridge has collapsed while a space rocket was being driven across it to its launch site. The rocket is manned and full of fuel, which probably increased its weight a whole heck of a lot, and the countdown to ignition starts when it hits the bottom of the river, which is up there with “I said ‘lunch,’ not ‘launch’!” in the dumb astronaut sweepstakes.

But Thunderbirds has the most calming effect on him, no matter how wild and crazy he is beforehand, and today he was so full of energy that I was afraid he was going to pop. He sat patiently and wide-eyed, asking understandable questions about the show, and asking us what certain words on the screen said, and was completely wowed by the whole experience.

This show was made for kids, and not adults, and while every so often they contrived a completely ridiculous situation, and filled the story with incredibly dumb characters – the same “the bridge can’t possibly collapse!” guy turns into “we don’t need International Rescue!” guy, making him doubly tedious – but we can forgive missteps so dopey when they’re so exciting to their young fans.

Weird symmetry department: Remember how, in the last episode of Batman that we watched, two nights ago, we had a wacky German psychiatrist diagnosing Bruce Wayne because of his “planning to marry a cute crook” issues? Well, Brains spent seven or so hours in the company of “we don’t need International Rescue!” guy, talking to the Tracys via his wristwatch, and somehow once the day gets saved, Brains ends up on the couch of some wacky German psychiatrist because of his “talking to his watch” issues, until Lady Penelope rescues him. It doesn’t make any sense, just go with it…

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Thunderbirds 1.14 – End of the Road

One thing this particular episode really drives home is how lonely the Tracys’ lives can be. Alan spends the entire series quietly pining for Tintin, but in this episode, he has a rival. An old friend in the construction business, Eddie Houseman, shows up unannounced on their island to woo her for a couple of days, and Alan, with all the one-note sadness of a character who’s appearing in a TV show that will get broadcast in random order on stations across the world and can’t actually develop, pouts about it. But it also shows that they can’t have guests, other than Lady Penelope, since they can’t launch a mission if anybody’s on their island.

The mission this time is rescuing Houseman himself, because he’s an impetuous blowhard who will risk his life to save his company. He gets in a ridiculous scrape and is trapped in a genuine cliffhanger that reminded me of the end of the movie The Italian Job, with added explosives. When Eddie’s vehicle is lifted by Thunderbird 2 via a magnetic clamp, and starts to slip, Daniel had to hide under his blanket because it was so exciting.

The production is absolutely first-rate, but our older daughter Ivy, who’s seventeen, joined us and raised an eyebrow about how dated it appears to her jaded teen eyes. Hmph! I’d like to know what show from 1966 was willing to film the wild things this series did. At one point, the Eddie puppet is halfway up a mountain, jackhammering into it to plant explosives while being pelted by artificial rain. All in a day’s work for the Supermarionation crew!

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Thunderbirds 1.13 – Terror in New York City

Hooray! We’re back for more Thunderbirds, which Daniel will happily tell you is the very best show ever.

Ages ago, A&E Home Video released Thunderbirds in six silly-priced box sets. I bought four of the six at slightly more sensible prices, but, having made the investment, I didn’t feel like double-dipping when Shout Factory/Timeless put out a much, much more sensibly-priced eight-DVD box set. So extra special thanks to our Fire-Breathing buddy Matt for finding used copies of the missing A&E sets 3 and 5 for practically pennies at the excellent McKay Books‘ Chattanooga location.

(Incidentally, in October, we dropped by 2nd & Charles in Kennesaw, which keeps disappointing me. I brought a small stack of old books to trade in, maybe thirteen in all, and they offered me the princely sum of $11.49 in credit. I kept the books, took them to McKay the Sunday after Thanksgiving, and received literally four times that amount. This is why Atlanta book lovers include McKay in their Chattanooga itinerary.)

Anyway, skipping from episode 12 to episode 19 like we did, I sort of felt that we were getting a little more of the secret agent and comedy stuff and not enough mayhem. “Terror in New York City” is one disaster after another, a situation that starts bad, with Thunderbird 2 being knocked out of commission when a trigger-happy naval commander mistakes it for a hostile craft, and then the jawdropping events in New York that happen.

The world of Thunderbirds is one where generals and criminals and titans of industry come up with great big ridiculous plans without ever once considering whether their idea is actually a good one. This time, some bozos decided to redevelop all the area around the Empire State Building, and move the building – just pick it up and MOVE IT – two hundred yards. This doesn’t work. The ground gives way and the Empire State Building is destroyed. It’s just amazing. The whole building and the enormous super-contraption they made to move it goes down into pebbles and matchsticks.

Daniel was edge-of-his-seat thrilled. He loved it to pieces, especially since Gordon and Thunderbird 4 get lots of screen time, navigating the underground river to find the two missing newsmen. When a second building gets ready to topple over onto the crash site, his eyes were as big as dinner plates, his blanket was in his mouth, and he was curled up in Mommy’s lap, holding on for dear life.

Captain Scarlet is good, but it isn’t this good!

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