Thunderbirds 2.2 – Path of Destruction (take seven hundred)

I wasn’t planning on writing a blog post tonight. I wasn’t even planning on leaving Atlanta at all until about right now. I took our son for a long, long delayed trip today, but he had a terrible time and so we left about seven hours early. How bad was it? He needed some comfort TV. The hour that provides him the most security and comfort, in all of television, is, bizarrely, this utterly, utterly ridiculous hour of Thunderbirds. We first watched it together more than five years ago, in this blog’s earliest days. He has watched it seven hundred times since.

I may exaggerate, but I’m pretty sure I’ve seen this episode, in whole or in part, more times than I have watched anything else that Gerry Anderson ever produced, combined. There have been days where he has watched it “again and again” like a toddler transfixed by Teletubbies. Now sure, it truly has been a while. Most recently, his poison is Star Wars: The Clone Wars. He got stuck into that for three and a half hours yesterday. Tonight we suggested that he pick whatever he wanted for family TV time, and we’d have sat through a couple more Clone Wars, but he immediately said “the Crablogger episode…?” Or any other episode of Thunderbirds or Thunderbirds are Go or Captain Scarlet…? “Nah, I just want to watch ‘Path of Destruction’ again.”

I love the fact that our son has his go-tos among all his desires to sample things that he doesn’t remember well. Another one is the MacGyver installment “Three For the Road”. Whenever he’s bored or indecisive and we make suggestions about something he might want to revisit, I might glance at the shelf and say “Well, we’ve got Kolchak, Land of the Lost, Logan’s Run, MacGyver…” and he’ll reply “Oooh, yeah! ‘Three For the Road’!” I might then reply “You know, there are about eighty episodes of MacGyver that we didn’t watch, you wanna try…” Nope. Never.

Like tonight. “Say, we haven’t seen ‘Attack of the Alligators’ in a while…” Nope. The kid needs his comfort TV.

Thunderbirds always got a lot of mileage from the breathtaking, unnecessary complexity of everything. This time, the crew of a runaway super-machine have been given the worst case of food poisoning on the planet by Sancho and his “wery special” concoctions from his rat-filled kitchen, and the runaway super-machine doesn’t have doors or an off switch. They’re sealed in, unconscious, while Lady Penelope and Parker get the shutdown code for the runaway super-machine’s reactor from a sleeping man while convincing him that he’s dreaming. Everything is desperately urgent but done as slowly as possible. They don’t even get the guy to give his explanation to Virgil and Brains live; they record him, go outside, and then play the tape.

Seven hundred times I have watched this tomfoolery, brilliantly made tomfoolery though it may be, and it never occurred to me before tonight that somehow it’s the middle of the night in Britain and noon in South America.

Thunderbirds are Go 2.26 – Brains vs. Brawn

It’s the wildest, funniest, most amazing game of “pass the parcel” ever, when the parcel is being passed between four aircraft and a submarine, and the parcel is a rescue pod containing the Hood, and when they’re all keeping the parcel away from the Mechanic, who’s gunning for him with a solar-powered laser satellite.

So it’s the end of the show’s second season, and once again they go out with a bang and a slight change to the status quo, including the arrival of a couple of new characters right at the end. The third season’s already started in the UK and so I know who these newcomers are, but our son will have to wait several months to meet them. We’ll catch International Rescue again down the line, when the complete DVD set of season three, with all 26 episodes, is released. In the meantime, stay tuned for more classic TV at your favorite fire-breathing blog!

Thunderbirds are Go 2.24 – Rigged For Disaster

What I was saying last time about the suspension of disbelief being completely tabled? We hadn’t seen anything yet!

If only our kid had a big oil drilling platform to split in half in the bathtub, he’d have all kinds of fun recreating this episode with his Thunderbird 2 and Thunderbird Shadow. Maybe we can find him one before he gets too old for toys in the tub…

Thunderbirds are Go 2.21 – Home on the Range

This is a very fun little change of pace episode written by Rob Hoegee and Patrick Rieger. Once a year, our heroes decamp to an isolated ranch once owned by the Tracy boys’ mother’s family for training and relaxation. Somebody has snuck on the property and needs rescue, and somebody else has snuck on the property and disabled their tech. Fortunately, there’s some much older tech gathering dust in a storage locker. We’d seen these sort of hoverbikes once or twice on the original series, most notably in “Attack of the Alligators!”, but “sleds” like these were common in the earlier Supermarionation shows like Stingray and Fireball XL5 as well. I do love these little winks to the past.

Our son enjoyed everything about this one, but his favorite bit came, again, right at the end, when Gordon and Alan up their sibling rivalry and insist on sitting in the same chair. He often tries much the same trick whenever his mother gets off the sofa for any reason or length of time.

Thunderbirds are Go 2.20 – The Man From TB5

We took a few weeks off from Thunderbirds are Go, but resumed tonight with an incredibly entertaining episode written by Paul Giacoppo. John gets pulled out of Thunderbird 5 for a night schmoozing and socializing, wearing a tuxedo custom-designed by Brains for spy missions, which everybody assures him this isn’t. John doesn’t do well with crowds.

Of course, it turns into a mission. Wouldn’t be Thunderbirds if it didn’t, really. There’s another evil scheme by the Hood, a completely terrific midair fight between Kayo and some criminals with jetpacks over an altogether ridiculous landscape, and Brains’ silly tux-gadgets, all of which, bizarrely, manage to come in handy. Huge fun from start to finish.

Thunderbirds are Go 2.19 – Clean Sweep

I’m really not a dog person, but Sherbet, Lady Penelope’s pug, is growing on me.

Briefly, David Baddiel’s “Clean Sweep” is a complete hoot. It’s another story where things just keep going wrong and obstacles just keep piling up. The outcome’s never in doubt, but rather than the usual television question of “how will they solve this problem,” the question is “good grief, what next?” It’s very, very fun!

Oh, mustn’t forget our son’s contribution. The Tracys grouse that the dangerous technology of the week – big and ungainly floating turbines that suck pollution from the atmosphere – should have been junked years ago. Our kid picked that up as though the notion was his, and repeated it several times as the rescue got more and more complicated. Sadly, it’s kind of hard to convince us that your line’s an original one when we’ve already heard the characters use it!

Thunderbirds are Go 2.16 – Bolt from the Blue

There’s a very, very fun midair rescue in tonight’s episode of Thunderbirds are Go, written by Elly Brewer. Up in orbit, Lady Penelope and Parker are hearing a sales pitch by the remarkably obnoxious Miss Edmonds, voiced by comedian Ruby Wax, when the satellite, which is meant to be sending a beam of focused solar energy to Earth, goes haywire. A transport plane that’s carrying a giant panda gets hit by a plasma blast and is going down in the Pacific. There’s a tradition of the Thunderbirds franchise making predictions of the future that are totally wrong in every way, but we certainly hope there are still giant pandas a hundred years from now!

Gordon lets everybody know that he’s always wanted to see a giant panda up close. Our son took this as gospel, like it’s been an integral part of the character since he was created and he’s been stymied in seeing giant pandas in countless hours of entertainment. He doesn’t get his wish. In fact, the animators found a pretty novel way to get around the challenge and the expense of designing a big hairy animal for any length of time. As Pixar’s people could probably tell you about bringing Sully in Monsters Inc. to life, building a giant panda in the computer would be incredibly challenging for a world like this one for maybe a minute of screen time. So the animal stays in the crate during the whole ordeal!

Thunderbirds are Go 2.13 – Escape Proof

The first half of series two comes to an end, unsurprisingly, with another big fight with the Mechanic, this time involving the Hood as well. It’s kind of low on shocks and wows; most of Rich Fogel’s story is FAB 1 driving down a gigantic tunnel that the Mechanic has dug, and driving back very fast as his big new device reverses direction. Meanwhile, Virgil and Gordon carry out a very meticulous rescue. I was pleased that they made the choice to pay attention to something so laborious and repetitive instead of the usual edge-of-your-seat bit of grabbing somebody at full speed in the nick of time. Nice change.

Our son loved it, full stop, and asked questions about the Mechanic’s weird technology and wires that are plugged into his back. The episode ends with our heroes left more than a little wrong-footed, setting up some more stories with these villains when series two resumes later this year. About which… I haven’t seen a date for when it’s due back. Probably in September, I imagine, and we’ll write about it here as soon as ITV Studios gets a DVD in the shops!

Thunderbirds are Go 2.11 – Weather or Not

Langstrom Fischler’s back again for more ill-planned and unsafe scientific stupidity. I’m really enjoying series two more than the first because it has all these recurring… well, even “antagonists” is a little strong. If series one had a flaw, it’s that the only villain in the show was the Hood. This time out, the Mechanic has shown up three times, and Fischler and Lemaire twice each. It’s really fun getting to say “him again!” each time these very different thorns in our heroes’ sides show up.

Fischler’s latest scheme is using drones to generate storms to bring needed rains to desert areas. Everything goes haywire because he cuts corners and doesn’t understand his own tech. The script by Len Uhley keeps the character as obnoxious as ever, while Parker and Lady Penelope manage to steal the show without stepping out of FAB 1 until the show’s over.

Our son was a ball of energy, loving the all the ships and drones chasing each other and throwing lightning everywhere. This is a really fast-paced episode, even for this show, and he was the most excited kid in the state tonight, watching the aerial dogfights and rescues.

Thunderbirds are Go 2.8 – Lost Kingdom

Interesting timing. We watched Journey to the Center of the Earth just two weeks ago, and here we are in Atlantis again, with Francois Lemaire, the reckless trillionaire adventurer we met in the series one episode “Comet Chasers,” splashing around the geologically dangerous site in his mini-sub, the Jules Verne. Brains wants a good look at the place as well; there’s allegedly an ancient steampunk supercomputer to be found. Lemaire just wants to prove that Atlantis was populated by mermaids.

This is the first script for this series from Elly Brewer, who has been writing for several British children’s series over the last quarter century. It maybe puts Francois Lemaire as too much of the center of attention at the expense of our heroes, but all his talk of mermaids had our son laughing out loud at him, so it seems like it was the right decision.

Thunderbirds are Go 2.7 – Up from the Depths (part two)

Well, that was ridiculously fun. As Thunderbird 3 gets into a punch-up in outer space, our son was hopping up and down and applauding, and I don’t mind saying that even your cynical and jaded writer let out an exclamation of very pleasant surprise when Kayo finds somebody to put her boot into.

While admitting to being swept up in the edge-of-your-seat thrills, Mommy briefly questioned just how plausible the Mechanic’s crazy technology really is, even in the far-flung future of the 2060s. She did have a less Dr. Science point toward the end, though. The cameras in the original series lingered on all the guest vehicles long enough for kids to really get a grip on what they look like, and they certainly didn’t keep unfolding to reveal new weapons, gadgets, and telescoping arms. It’s probable that big things like the Crablogger in “Path of Destruction” will inspire far more drawings and Lego reconstructions than anything the Mechanic will build. But as for the visceral thrill of seeing these amazing events unfold, I think they do just fine.