Friday, January 8, 2010

Thunderbirds S1 Ep1: Trapped In The Sky

Welcome to FAB Fridays with International Rescue and Thunderbirds and all things Gerry & Sylvia Anderson!

This is the first entry in the ephemeral Thunderbirds series. Thunderbirds was in production for just two series: Series One and Series Two. Series One was comprised of 26 episodes, while Series Two just 6 episodes. To make things easy, we'll run the episodes in consecutive order for thirty-two straight entries. While short-lived, Thunderbirds has certainly endured in much the same way classics like Star Trek and Lost In Space have endured. They have their fanbases and they continue to find new fans with each passing year. It speaks to the quality of work these enterprises set forth.
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Author John Kenneth Muir says it best in Exploring Space:1999, "Each of these programs was shot without human actors in what the Andersons termed Supermarionation, using complex, highly-articulated puppets that moved convincingly about on extraordinarily detailed miniature sets. Though puppets may sound childish to some, the script quality, special effects work and characters are so consistently strong in each of the now-classic productions that the viewer soon forgets that puppets are doing all the emoting." It's true, and you'll forget too.
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Off to Tracy Island with Thunderbirds, Series One, Episode 1, Trapped In The Sky. Thunderbirds Are Go! This one, thanks to the supersonic jet miniature Fireflash, has always been burned in the old memory banks. There are some classic moments in this debut episode and loads of firsts. I'd like to think there may be more video clips than normal in this first one. The first character/ puppet we meet is the evil Hood. The first words he utters on screen: "International Rescue." That's right. Fear them evil one! The Hood speaks at a statue of his distant brother, Kyrano. They appear to be in a dysfunctional relationship like many of us. It is dysfunctional because The Hood just doesn't know the secrets of the Tracy family yet and his dear distant brother Kyrano works for directly for them. Kyrano is the good brother. Tin Tin Kyrano is Kyrano's daughter. It must drive The Hood crazy because Kyrano is loyal to the Tracy family. The Hood is powerful and has some kind of psychic control over Kyrano via his buddha-like statue.
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I have to report that the puppet strings are all over the freakin' place. How great is that!? I love the puppet strings! It's bloody fantastic I tell ya! We no need no stinkin' CGI here brother. The One To Be Pitied believes I like the puppet strings more than I like the show. Maybe. It's also worth noting the miniature sets and details into all things miniature are absolutely stunning. It's truly a feast for the eyes throughout each installment of Thunderbirds. Thank God for Gerry Anderson!
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Tin Tin prepares for departure on an experimental supersonic jet dubbed Fireflash. Unfortunately for her The Hood plans to lure International Rescue out of hiding by placing an auto-bomb and detonator device near to the jet's nuclear engine, but located on the landing gear of the craft. The Fireflash lifts off. It is set to detonate upon landing. London tower is informed and they in turn inform the Fireflash personnel to return to London immediately.

So, not only is trouble in store for the Fireflash on its maiden trip from London to Tokyo, but International Rescue is also about to take on its first official maiden mission of staring down the evil Hood's plans. Before long the episode cuts to some beautiful "real life" footage of a tropical island before cutting to the Tracy Island miniature set. Both are so beautiful I would happily live at either location with my puppet friends.
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Diggin' the groovy blue boots John. Brother, is that a pink sash too?
Kyrano and Jeff Tracy talk briefly and Kyrano indicates Jeff was one of the first to walk on the moon in his conversation. Did I mention I wasn't going to do a play by play? It's a sickness. I know. I can't seem to help myself. It's just too much damn fun. Meanwhile, the Fireflash flies in low to London tower so they are able to take a few images of its underbelly and the landing gear. The images prove ominous. My Boy Wonder strolls in and makes one of the funniest remarks because I hadn't really thought of it. He says, "Why is the bomb labelled?" HA! A labelled bomb! Classic! Okay, so he doesn't fully appreciate the delicate nuances of our Thunderbirds. The images offer evidence the jet cannot land without exploding on impact. London tower orders immediate evac within a five mile radius implementing code RH [Radiation Hazard]. The jet is ordered to stay in the air. Interesting factoid: The Fireflash can stay in the air for six months thanks to its atomic motors. Okay, but the anti-radiation shields will need attention in hours or the passengers will be exposed to radiation. So much for the six month engine if you're going to die a slow death from radiation poisioning. And what about food up there for six months?
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Things look bleak for London Tower and especially for the pilots of the Fireflash. Options are slim to none at this point. They're looking for a minor miracle. John Tracy is monitoring from Thunderbird 5 just beyond the planet's atmosphere. He reports to his father that the Fireflash needs help. It's the first Thunderbirds' assignment. Jeff pays kudos to Brains as the brains behind the operation. He's so smart he's referred to as Brains plural. Jeff sends his boys out on their first mission. We see the pool pull back in preparation for Thunderbird 1's lift off. Here's the official first lift off and horizontal flight maneuver. This is one of those firsts.

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Scott requests heavy rescue and that's a job for Virgil and Thunderbird 2. I always loved how Virgil slid down a slide to get into his vehicle. Not only does Virgil get to pilot one of the world's grooviest green spacecrafts that just happens to look like a turtle, but he gets to slide his way into it. WTF!? I don't have near as much fun getting to work every day! I love Virgil and Thunderbird 2. They were always two of my favorites.

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Fantastic is right! How's that for a rockin' get up and go. He doesn't lift a bloody finger and he's in the cockpit of Thunderbird Turtle before you know it. Virgil grabs Pod 3 for the journey to London from Tracy Island. Love it when those palm trees fold down! Splendid touch! So our Thunderbird heroes are off! All systems go and everything going swimmingly. Thunderbirds are go!
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London Tower sends the TX 204 to the Fireflash. The TX 204 will attempt to harness a man and drop him onto the Fireflash to remove the bomb via some winch lines. It's actually quite comical and quite ludicrous. It could never happen. Not to mention that puppet would be flailing in the wind like a plastic blow up doll. I couldn't stop laughing at one point. No chance. I remember the tower informing the man, Meddings [named for Special Effects Director Derek Meddings], the mission was dangerous. That's an understatement. A couple of observations struck me as funny. The pilot informs passengers to remain calm and Tin Tin is as chill as they get. She's just chillaxin cool as a cucumber!
So Meddings is aboard the Fireflash. He spots the Auto-Bomb Explosive Unit. Unfortunately he falls from the jet and parachutes to safety. Meanwhile Thunderbird 1 approaches at 7.5 thousand miles per hour. Now that's some airspeed. International Rescue approaches requesting to help. Scott lands vertically. Here is the landing and the ever so insane sticking point demanded by the Tracy family always [like it could ever happen] that no photographs ever be taken. WHAT!?

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The police protect the Thunderbird 1 craft per Scott's demands. Scott has a ton of requests and even has his own special International Rescue console equipment. He should have his own roadie crew. He's a demanding prick. The venomous Hood is disguised as one of the policeman on scene. He commences photo taking opportunities.
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Fireflash is running out of time. Thirty minutes remaining. Thunderbird 2 arriving. Scott directs Virgil to the desired location. "F.A.B.!" Scott orders Fireflash to land with gear up. The Hood is on board Thunderbird 1 snappin' away his pictures like crazy. He's like the Uber-papparazzi guy! Scott notices his "Photo-Alert" signal going off and absolutely blows a blood vessel. He goes ballistic. He wants the man caught, strung up and quartered! He is taking a picture damn it! Stop him! This is probably one of the funniest things about the episode dating it a bit, but damn it is funny! Those bloody photo takers are presenting a real risk! Damn! How the hell is International Rescue suppose to operate with giant space vehicles and rescue people and work in highly volatile situations with all this BLOODY PHOTO TAKING! Good grief! They may want to rethink that plan.
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Thunderbird 2 lands and preps Pod 3. On board are three supercool Master Elevator Cars.

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Penelope, like Tin Tin, is ultra hot [for a wooden puppet of course]. Sylvia Anderson serves up some sultry pipes to match those gorgeous eyes! You've heard of Puppy Love. This is Puppet Love.
Scott is informed the photographer hoodlum has gotten away. Scott reaches out to his London agent. His agent is the strikingly lovely, always pink, Lady Penelope. She is voiced and given genuine grace and elegance by one and only series co-creator Sylvia Anderson. Penelope summons the always fantastic, terse butler extraordinaire Parker. She is on the case to clean up the photo-taking mess on the ground.
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And now the rescue. Virgil, who is apparently operating from the master car, spots a problem with Car 3, but it clears. That can't be good. The Master Elevator Cars are some of the coolest miniatures complete with really plump, juicy, fatty tires. Each car is complete with a total of 12 tires each! Holy Good Year! Again, here's that exciting rescue. Phase 1 doesn't go so well thanks to Car 3.

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Here is phase 2 of the rescue. A fourth car enters the runway to replace the destroyed third car. Now that's what I call a solid back up plan from Thunderbird 2. Sweet! There's a hell of a lot of pressure placed on these three vehicles. There's also a lot of pressure on Virgil who is clearly controlling all three units by remote from his ship. Good grief. The man is a multi-tasker extraordinaire. He's a kind of puppet master-type puppet.

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Thank God for maximum breaks and a little luck. I mean holy mackerel Andy! Well, all's well that ends well including an unharmed Virgil. Scott informs the London tower that the Thunderbirds and International Rescue are a top secret organization. He expects no tracking and all aircraft to be clear of the area for their departure. Scott really is a bit of a pushy prick. He demands secrecy. Okay already, and no cameras we got it woody. I always did like Virgil best. He's the calm, cool, collected type.
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Lady Penelope and Parker catch up to The Hood and open fire on "a clear stretch of road" so as not to "create a scene." This is too bloody good to pass on, because Penelope is ultra cool and about as cool as secret agents come.

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Everyone returns to Tracy Island for a bit of rest and relaxation. I always did worry about those boys still living with their father and no love interests. Well, not really, but it's a bit troubling. I mean what's wrong with this family? I mean when you really think about it right? It doesn't seem completely normal. A doctor arrives. The father pushes a button calling it Operation Cover Up. And it's a bit odd to see portraits of all the boys on the wall and not much else. Suddenly the portaits of the International Rescue boys is replaced by portraits of the boys in civilian attire. In fact, the only babe in the house is Tin Tin. I'm not sure who is getting that action, but she definitely has her pick of the litter. I like Tin Tin. She's hot, for a puppet! Virgil is a bit of a piano player by the way. The Doctor mentions the International Rescue headlines and that wonderful rescue story. It's so "cloaked in mystery." Nevermind the fact the doctor had to fly to this exclusive Tracy Island by plane populated by boy-men. Nice money if you can get it.
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The episode is a beauty and a terrific introduction to the fun that is Thunderbirds. It also looks terrific for a series over forty years old. So stay tuned for more FAB Fridays excitement and fun next week with all things Gerry Anderson.
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Trapped In The Sky: B+
Writer: Gerry & Sylvia Anderson
Director: Alan Pattillo
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Notable Thunderbirds Craft:
Fireflash/ Thunderbird 5/ Thunderbird 1/ Thunderbird 2/ TX-204/ Pod 3: 4 Master Elevator Cars/ Lady Penelope's Fab 1.
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Characters:
Scott Tracy [Pilot Thunderbird 1]
John Tracy [Space Monitor: Thunderbird 5]
Virgil Tracy [Pilot Thunderbird 2]
Gordon Tracy [Aquanaut Thunderbird 4]
Alan Tracy [Pilot Thunderbird 3]
Brains [Engineer]
Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward [London Agent]
Jeff Tracy
Tin Tin Kyrano
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Voice Cast:
Shane Rimmer [1932-present] [Scott Tracy]
Ray Barrett [1927-2009] [John Tracy/ The Hood]
David Holliday [1937-1999] [Virgil Tracy]
David Graham [Gordon Tracy/ Brains/ Aloysius 'Nosey' Parker/ Kyrano]
Matt Zimmerman [Alan Tracy]
Sylvia Anderson [1937-] [Lady Penelope]
Christine Finn [1929-2007] [Tin Tin Kyrano/ Grandma Tracy]
Peter Dyneley [1921-1977] [Jeff Tracy]
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Interesting facts: Shane Rimmer appears in Space:1999 episode Space Brain. He has appeared in Batman Begins [2005] and several James Bond films such as The Spy Who Loved Me [1977]. His voice is the most distinctive to me and I would notice him anywhere. I've placed a clip of the actor below from James Bond's The Spy Who Loved Me opposite Barbara Bach. Bach is and always will be one of the most sultry hot women I have ever seen in my life. GULP!

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He has also appeared in a number of other 007 films. Matt Zimmerman appeared in an episode of Space:1999. David Graham appeared in Doctor Who's The City Of Death [1979] opposite Tom Baker. And some day Musings Of A Sci-Fi Fanatics will be a complete cross-referencing dictionary for all of this great information. Rome wasn't built in a day.
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One small confession. I thought these Thunderbirds episodes were going to be cute, little, 30 minute puppet adventures. Well, I was wrong, they are a full 50 minutes of puppet-thumping excitement. Unfortunately the work going into the entry will take a little longer than I expected each week, but we will do our best to stand by FAB Fridays and hope to meet those Friday deadlines! Thunderbirds are go!

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Cool,I used to watch when I was young !!! :),Have you seen Avatar yet?,I have heard from people that Have and they say it is the most Awsome movie they have ever seen. :)

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Still haven't seen Avatar, but hope to soon. Yeah, love the puppet strings. : )

Jcamts said...

That was really good.

I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Thanks for swining by Jcamts! I appreciate the input. Long live Supermarionation. ")