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!
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.
I’m afraid I have to say that I wasn’t all that thrilled by Rob Hoegee’s “Power Play.” That’s okay. Our son was crazy about it. The Mechanic and the Hood butt heads again, this time over a power source for “Project Sentinel.” They’d worked on it together, but now the Mechanic plans to carry it out by himself. The baddies squabble while our heroes try to keep a hydroelectric dam from bursting. Just not a lot in this one to appeal to grownups, I guess, but he was in heaven.
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!
One thing’s definitely changed for the better in entertainment in the fifty years since Thunderbirds first took to the skies: series build toward big conclusions. Well, I say that, but when the show screws the landing – like Doctor Who does almost every stinking year – it really does make me want to smack my face into a wall, repeatedly.
Here? Not only did Rob Hoegee and the producers almost succeed in completely thrilling us across 26 half-hours, they wrapped it up wonderfully. This was a great, great episode that builds on all of the hidden secrets of Kayo and the Hood, and is built around, inevitably, the Hood’s invasion of Tracy Island. It ends with some questions being restated and others answered, and if Kayo spent much of episodes 1-23 being underused, they made up for it over the last three stories. This was terrific.
It was also one of the most exciting things our son has ever watched. He was a mess! When things looked really bad for the Tracys, he retreated with his security blanket behind the sofa, and the climax had him a babbling, gabbling explosion of jumping and half-dancing. This was a fine, fine little bit of television.
So that’s it for Thunderbirds are Go for now. The next batch of episodes – probably 13 – is believed to launching in the UK in the next month or so. We’ll definitely pick those up when they’re released on DVD and tell you all about them, probably in the winter. But these 13 are only the beginning; 52 have actually been ordered, bringing the total to at least 78 episodes. There’s a lot more action and excitement to come!
I get the feeling that Thunderbirds are Go was actually at a pretty advanced stage of pre-production before they decided that Tintin needed to be upgraded to Kayo, International Rescue’s head of security, and then they had some trouble deciding what exactly that meant, and what to do with her. So for the previous 23 episodes, she’s an awesome, incredibly cool character, but often on the sidelines and not even spotlighted with a launch sequence for her VTOL jet with its converts-to-a-motorcycle cockpit.
That all changes with this episode, and it’s completely awesome, one of the two or three best of the run. It’s written by Jim Krieg, another veteran of American action cartoons like Ben 10 and the terrific Batman: The Brave and the Bold. It’s packed with attempted rescues falling apart around the Tracys’ ears, convoluted criminal plans, and friction at home. Scott doesn’t agree with Kayo going out in the field and taking down terrorists and criminals, because that’s the job of the police and the GDF. Kayo counters that she’s preventing the sort of disasters that International Rescue normally has to clear up.
When John calls in with a situation, we finally get to see Thunderbird Shadow’s launch sequence, and it’s almost as much fun as the others, with her jet rolling up a track to a point inside one of the mountains. This section of the wall rotates outward, leaving Thunderbird Shadow parked on the exterior side of the mountain, ready to disengage and launch straight up. Daniel thought that was pretty amazingly cool. I agree.
However, the seat-of-your-pants excitement almost proved too much for him, especially when Kayo looks to be doomed in a high-altitude crash. He just barely made it through Scott pulling somebody out of a crashing airplane in the last possible second; when Thunderbird Shadow starts plummeting to the ground, he whimpered and covered his head and whined “I don’t want to watch this show!!” That’s often how we tell he’s having the best possible time.
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.
This is a fun episode, one of the best to use the Hood so far. I’m not going to complain about overusing the character this time out since the Tracys know from the outset that he’s gunning for the mcguffin of the week, and also since a teaser for series two emerged a few days ago that strongly hints at new baddies coming soon.
This installment is the first written by Peter Briggs, who was one of the writers behind the excellent Hellboy a decade ago. I hope the producers use him again, because it’s a great concept – robbing an underwater maglev train – and I love the one-after-another obstacles thrown at International Rescue and Lady Penelope. I also liked that they brought back Professor Moffat – Brains’ old flame from “Heavy Metal” – and hope that we’ll see her again.
So how’d the kid enjoy it? Well, normally we watch our programs together after dinner, but since we have plans tonight, I mentioned at breakfast that we’d be watching Thunderbirds are Go later this morning. The kid put his bowl away and went straight to the sofa, because he was ready to watch immediately. It didn’t disappoint him. I don’t think that any episode of either this show or the original that features Thunderbird 4, his favorite of the vehicles, has ever disappointed him.
(Note: I can play them, but I’m not presently able to get screencaps from Region 2 DVDs, so many of these entries will just have a photo of the set to illustrate it. Click the image to purchase it from Amazon UK.)