The third season of Thunderbirds are Go will actually be starting this weekend in the UK, so I suppose we’d better watch a few more of these since we might have a new DVD set this summer. Briefly then, this episode, which was written by Amy Wolfram, is a badly-needed star outing for Grandma Tracy. It’s a great character piece set around a very neat pair of rescues in the middle of a powerful sandstorm. She may not bake the tastiest cookies, and her tracksuits might not be all that fashionable, but anybody who can drive the Mole that well has my respect!
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Earlier this evening, my son did the same thing he did about a year ago when Amazon UK sent the DVD of part one of Thunderbirds are Go‘s second series. Part two arrived today and he had the package in hand, knowing what was in it. He met me at the door, because he wanted that box opened immediately.
Because I’m ridiculous when it comes to scheduling, I’d calendared all this stuff we’re going to watch together over the next several months and wasn’t expecting this set until April, when something I’ve preordered ships, and then Amazon said I could have it early. Weird timing; these twelve episodes, along with an additional one that’s been omitted from the package, just debuted on Amazon Prime in the US this past weekend. I asked myself: do I want to stick to my meticulous and borderline insane spreadsheet of TV to watch, or do I want to make my kid happy? Blasted youngun wins out again.
Here we go with “Volcano!,” written by Benjamin Townsend. These episodes ran from September to December of last year, and this one’s mainly a solo outing for Brains, with his loyal robot Max. Mark Gatiss guest stars as Professor Quentin Questa, who’s convinced that a volcano in Iceland is finally going to erupt after several years of false predictions, and forces Brains to check it out by way of a scientist honor code called Newton’s Fourth Law.
Of course, this wouldn’t be Thunderbirds if Questa was wrong, and so Thunderbird 2 gets to bring two Moles for twice the drilling fun to vent some escape shafts. The present-day multi-use machines are smaller, you certainly couldn’t fit two of the giant Moles from the original series in Thunderbird 2’s cargo pod. Moles and lava: two of my son’s favorite things.
It really has been a heck of a long time between batches of episodes. They’re already promoting the third series in the UK, or at least the first thirteen episodes from it. It’s great that we’ve got so much of this show to enjoy, and we’ll sprinkle these twelve here and there in our rotation over the next couple of months.
Some things never change. Old show or new, the Mole is still my favorite Thunderbirds vehicle.
Daniel really enjoyed the revelation that Thunderbird 2 can electrify its hull! The Tracys need to activate this because they run afoul of a new colonel in charge of the Global Defense Force. This is something that really did, however, change between series. It instantly handles all the credibility questions that our changing world, with its heightened security, created about the original series: how in the world International Rescue operates. In this version, they have full permission and clearance to do so. It makes perfect sense and allows the show to just get on with it, occasionally using the GDF for a platform to launch stories.
This one, however, is honestly one of the weakest ones of the first batch. The grouchy new colonel is so broad-brush evil that he simply can’t be anybody other than (a) the Hood or (b) somebody in the Hood’s employ. Flip a coin; the answer is revealed in the episode’s final scene.
Daniel was not quite on the edge of his seat with tonight’s episode; he kept hopping off it, excited beyond belief as Scott rescued a woman from an abandoned uranium mine. As if this one wasn’t thrilling enough, Virgil unpacked the Mole, their great big drilling machine, for its first appearance in the new show. I love the Mole. It sure is a lot faster in this show than on the original, though!
I don’t have much to add beyond that this time. Everybody involved in this show is doing a terrific job coming up with wild scenarios and the show moves incredibly quickly, with an exciting, thrilling urgency. The little bits of character development, again making fun of Grandma’s awful cooking, are done as zippy little punctuations to the characters updating each other on what they need to do. This is a great show.
This series will be available for streaming to Amazon Prime members from April 22.
I figured that there would sometimes be an episode about which I have nothing to say. This is one of those. At least Lady Penelope’s outfit is completely fab.
Daniel enjoyed it more than I thought he would. I had to walk him through some of the talky bits in the casino, explaining what roulette was and how the baddies are cheating the duchess with a rigged game, and we enjoyed the utterly irrelevant padding involving an air show demonstration of a fighter jet being able to land on a slightly larger fighter jet. Scott and Virgil break out the Mole to rescue the Duchess, which is always entertaining. Overall, though, I thought this one was pretty forgettable. Better luck next time!
The more excited Daniel gets, the more insufferable he gets. Kind of like a lot of four year-olds that way. He buzzed all afternoon upon hearing that we were watching Thunderbirds tonight, and this was 48 minutes of one question after another. He had a question about everything this evening. We had to pause and explain that the family trapped in the corridor was in an underground car park twice. Five minutes later he asked “Why are they underground?” And so on.
This isn’t an episode to show kids learning about fire safety. The trapped family does everything wrong. We had to remind Daniel that in the event of a real fire, get down on the ground, and in the event the ceiling starts collapsing, get underneath the furniture, don’t sit on it breathing in the smoke.
About which, a great deal of leniency must be given for the unreality of television, but in the time it takes Thunderbirds 1 and 2 to cross the Pacific, the Firefly to move the rubble of a collapsed 370-story building, the Mole to dig down to the underground corridors, and Scott and Virgil to cut through three (three!!!) blast doors, I’m afraid those poor people inhaled an amazing amount of smoke.
“It’s okay, guys! Thunderbird 1 is coming!”
It’s safe to say that Thunderbirds is Daniel’s runaway favorite among these three shows, although it was really funny tonight, since the other shows are causing mild frights, seeing him demand to have something to send him behind the sofa. Three-quarters into the episode, which has had a fiery pit present in the narrative since about the six-minute mark, he shouted “I’m afraid of the fire!” and he hid behind the sofa for about seven seconds. Then he realized he’d be missing something exciting and popped his head up again.
Several Thunderbirds episodes were in the can, filmed as half-hour shows, before ITC’s director, Lew Grade, sat down to watch a couple and decided that he could sell it to an American network if it was a one-hour show. So some of the early episodes went back to be retooled and new footage shot to pad them out. “Pit of Peril” really feels like it must be one of these. About half of the episode deals with the nine soldiers in the African jungle, three of their number in a “Sidewinder” walking vehicle that’s fallen three hundred feet down an old mine pit where a fire has been burning for eighty years. Kind of like Centralia,_Pennsylvania. There’s also quite a lot of stock footage of wild animals.
Anyway, International Rescue only hovers on the fringes of the story for its first half, and then there’s the repetition, as we’ll see constantly, of the overly-complicated – but completely glorious and awesomely cool – Thunderbird 2 launch sequence. Nobody minds watching this footage again and again. It may be padding, but it’s the coolest padding ever filmed.
But whether “Pit of Peril” went back to the studio for additional filming or not, the script by Alan Fennell, who would write almost all of the Thunderbirds comic in TV Century 21 never feels bloated even though Scott, Virgil, and Brains have just about fifteen minutes of action in the story. Daniel was at the edge of his seat as every rescue attempt was tried, and he was jumping up and down during the physics-defying climax, as two little tanks drag a 500-ton machine 300 feet up the side of the mine inside three minutes.
This is the first episode to feature the drilling machine “The Mole.” If International Rescue would let me borrow that thing for an afternoon, I would love to do something about suburban Atlanta’s traffic problem. I daydream about it from time to time when I am not moving.