Friday, May 7, 2010

Thunderbirds S1 Ep5: The Uninvited

It's fan-freakin'-tastic FAB FRIDAY people!

It's all things Gerry & Sylvia Anderson!

As I prepare to launch into entry five of our puppet heroes, known globally as International Rescue, there was an interesting quote from Chris Bentley's The Complete Book Of Classic Thunderbirds to share with you. I found the comparison to my efforts at filming short clips here for the blog entries to be quite appropriate. Doing anything like this with a steady hand is no easy task. I certainly fail when compared to the sheer talent of the crew behind Thunderbirds' models and make no comparisons in that capacity. "Flying a model convincingly on wires was a devil of a job. You're standing on the edge of a plank, hovering over the edge of a set, holding something out at arm's length. There was quite a sense of balance that you had to have and it was a case of shifting your weight from one foot to another without going up and down, while keeping your hand and body on the same plane. If you got a slight twitch in the hand, it was accentuated in the model." Amen brother, don't I know it. A twitch, a scratch, an itch, a tired arm and you are doomed! I feel their pain and I'm doing this for free, which may explain away my clipping imperfections. I give my best, but I don't dawdle or linger on it too much.

This could easily have been shot in my backyard sandbox with my own diecasts, but it wasn't! So thank you Gerry!

Thunderbirds is always a fun review and far less taxing on the mind. Space:1999 is a trip in entertainment, but it's also challenging. There's a lot to analyze in that program. A puppet program generated for children is a little less demanding. Nevertheless, Thunderbirds is as exciting as they come and certainly recommended for the young at heart. We continue with Thunderbirds, Series One, Episode 5, The Univited. Thunderbirds are go!

The first thing that hits me about the opening theme music and the introduction is how it always ends with Filmed In Videocolor And Supermarionation. This is superimposed over a model that literally ignites with an ongoing series of explosions. That's quite funny really. It's a signal to kids at home that things are going to blow up on this show. Things are going to blow up, blow up often and blow up real good. I laugh.

Scott is en route back to Tracy Island following a rescue mission. He is in Thunderbird 1 when he is suddenly shot down from the sky by three unidentified aircraft. He is taking "evasive action." He takes a major hit and plummets toward the ground plunging into a desert sand crash down. Several explosions ensue following the crash. T1 takes some major hits. The foreign pilots are speaking a foreign language and look slightly alien. Scott is bleeding and badly hurt as his head is crouched into his steering mechanism.

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I've always said, there's nothing like a great crash landing. I love them! The radio is smashed and Tracy Island can't reach Scott and Scott can't reach them. Scott peers outside the ship at the vast desert. Scott is suffering from blurred vision and head trauma then passes out. Thunderbird 2 preps for action with Pod 6. Virgil and Brains are en route. Tin Tin smokes a fag, but is really eager to go with the boys. Jeff Tracy relents allowing Tin Tin to join the rescue fun. Alan tells his father perhaps Scott was considered a spy when he was shot down.

In the desert, Scott still hangs unconscious out an exit window in T1. Two desert explorers, Wilson and Lindsey, on expedition, have been traversing the desert for fifteen days and looking to get out of it. The two are piloting a nifty little desert jeep rig with tank-like treads on the back end. Gerry Anderson, Derek Meddings and friends love tank treads. Me too. The two men spot T1, but suspect it's a mirage at first. The two men realize it's International Rescue. It's worth noting the detail put into the modelling and look of this particular desert episode. It really looks splendid. Scott snaps to life regaining consciousness. The two men approach Scott. They swap stories of what happened. The two men indicate they are on an expedition to locate the lost pyramid of Khamandides. Scott notes the locals don't appear to be "all that friendly." You could say that. I'm surprised Scott isn't squawking about the two men being in proximity to his precious T1. They are obviously exposed to high level top secret gadgetry. Scott does ask the men to contact International Rescue to let them know he is okay. The men ask what frequency they should use. Scott indicates any frequency will do. You have to love Thunderbird 5. It picks up anything from anywhere.

Note where the arm is bent. By God, Jeff's arm is missing!
John reports in from T5. Jeff reports the coordinates of Scott's location to Virgil. Brains looks dressed in attire comparable to some kind of safari expedition. I suppose the desert is close enough. You gotta love Brains. I really never fully appreciated Brains as a child. Who ever wanted to be like Brains? T2 lands at Scott's location. The effects applied to the landing of the Thunderbirds throughout the series are simply ingenious. They are remarkable to watch. Not only does the billowing white, hot smoke look cool coming out of the engines and thrusters, but they also serve a second purpose - masking the puppet strings attached to the Thunderbirds.

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The episode is shaping up to be a good dramatic effort on the part of the Anderson crew. It does a nice job of shaking things up from the normal rescue structure of the series. The story is slightly less predictable and more entertaining as a result. Jeff wonders who assailed T1 and Scott. I reckon a nice International Rescue Assault Team might be in order. Actually, that's a touch to aggressive in the world of Thunderbirds, but wouldn't a T6 strike craft have been brilliant with a vast array of weaponry. Brains fixes up the radio on T1. Tin Tin serves up a campfire for the night. Scott's appetite is returning. He would like more of Tin Tin's Apple pie after already having three helpings. I am so with Scott. I love pie! I love them! I even make a few of my own because I was tired of eating pies that tasted fake or store bought or like plastic garbage. I love Blueberry, Apple, Pumpkin and Banana Cream pies. I make a mean hot baked Apple and Blueberry pie, but Blueberry is definitely easier. I'm hungry. Brains makes a great point to the group, because I was thinking the same thing. "Considering the brutality of the attack I think you got off quite lucky Scott." Scott suspects International Rescue will be more prepared if those bozos attack again. I'm not sure why Scott would think that with a bandage clear around his head and no weaponry. He's clearly not right. Tin Tin is a babe. She and Lady Penelope are a real toss up for hottest, wooden super-babe. They are both babe-o-matic on those strings. The group retires into tents for the evening. Given the hostilities encountered by Scott, I would think the confines of T2 would have been a safer choice for a resting place.

Later, Scott returns with his family and friends to the safety of Tracy Island. Grandma Tracy makes her first official appearance on the series. She's fattening Scott up good. This guy can put down the desserts. Meanwhile, Wilson and Lindsey are still searching for the lost pyramid. Wilson and Lindsey are really at each other's throats after being together for so long. The men are driving too fast and lose their trailer hitch as it cascades down the side of a massive sand slope. The crashed unit includes gasoline and water and the men need it desperately. Suddenly, the entire trailer explodes. The men are on their own. The men have just three gallons of "juice" left. The plan to radio for help is foiled too when the men realize that device was destroyed in the explosion with the rest of the trailer. The men are mistaken and they spot their radio down the sand slope. The radio is inoperative after retrieving it. They will need it repaired.

Meanwhile, Tin Tin and Gordon are frolicking about the pool. Virgil is resting. Alan and Scott head out to T5. Thunderbird 3 is go! Back in the desert, the two men are in pretty dire straits. They have mapped out a watering hole and head in that direction. Everything in life is male-female connectors. Here's T3 docking inside T5.

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Alan relieves John on T5 for the next month. John informs Alan he's sensing some kind of signal from the Sahara area and to keep an eye on on that ban. Back in the desert, Wilson and Lindsey find their watering hole complete with a couple of palm trees. Unfortunately, the watering hole is dry as a bone. The men manage to call for help. "We need water. Dying." Alan contacts Tracy Island where T3 has returned. Alan contacts his father. He believes the call for help is coming from the Sahara. Alan plays back the transmission and Virgil recognizes the voice. Jeff tells Scott to get down to T1 and prep for lift off. Boy, they sure fixed up T1 in a hurry after that jarring crash in the desert. It looked in a bad way. How did they get it back home and up and running so fast? Scott is off.

It wouldn't be Gerry Anderson if there wasn't a vehicle with tank treads.
What began with a unique turn of events for some of our primary characters is beginning to evolve into a standard rescue mission after all. Nevertheless, things could get interesting. Wilson and Lindsey pray they got through to International Rescue before the radio quit. With a stroke of shocking luck, the men have found the lost pyramid. Now, how exactly is it their map has the markings for a watering hole, but no one has ever been able to find the massive pyramid right next to it? That's a slightly large plot hole to drive their desert jeep through I'd say. The men make their way to the pyramid. The men arrive at the pyramid overcome with joy. Too bad they may die and not live to tell the tale.

As the men begin looking over the pyramid, Lindsey reads hieroglyphics and indicates it is the great tomb of "the god of the eternal fountain." Wilson laughs, because he doesn't see fountains of any kind. A door opens. The men hear running water and enter without a thought. Heck, they're explorers, why not? The door seals behind them. Oh, never a good sign. The men note the classic you're-in-trouble-moment when they spot a skeleton leaning next to the door that just closed. That's always a bad. It's also a tradition. The skeleton scene can be seen in just about any pyramid or lost city story ever recorded including Lost In Space, Season One, Episode 4, There Were Giants In The Earth.

Scott comes whipping in at high speed in T1. Inside the tomb, the men find the eternal fountain. Scott finds their jeep and the tomb. Yeah, I'm sure no one ever spotted that pyramid, the watering hole yes, but not the pyramid. Lindsey and Wilson lap up the sweet water. Scott arrives and the entrance opens to lure him to his fate like the others. He doesn't think twice and goes inside. Hey Scott, you may want to peak over your shoulder at that skeletonized dead man behind you. What is up with these people walking into open pyramids? Have these people ever a lost tomb before?

Scott reports to Dad that he is trapped inside the pyramid. Wilson and Lindsey find a room filled to the rim with treasure. They are excited by these prospects, which aren't good for much since they are trapped inside a tomb with skeletons. Wilson exclaims, "We could buy the world!" It isn't long before he realizes their trapped. He's not the quickest rich guy in a sealed tomb. Wilson and Lindsey are sadly not the brightest of fellows. "We can't be, we're too rich to be trapped." I'm afraid so Lindsey. Scott finds the men and proclaims "International Rescue at your service." I'm not sure how much service they'll get with Scott trapped inside too. Lindsey has apparently gone off the deep end as he doesn't seem to recognize the man they just saved mere days ago. He suspects Scott is there to steal "our treasure." Yes, the treasure they were stealing that became THEIR treasure just moments ago. Lindsey has lost his mind. Maybe there was something in the water. He begins shooting at Scott and then Wilson. Lindsey and Scott proceed with a shootout. "You'll have to kill me before I let you have my treasure." What a moon bat! Lindsey is a helluva shot though for a crazy man. He shoots the gun straight out of Scott's hand. Lunatic Lindsey keeps shooting away and blows out the ankle of a statue. Scott is exposed with his hands up. "NOW YOU WILL DIE!," laughs Lindsey. He's a nutter.

Without warning a door opens and two men with strange gear and odd helmets with the letter Z enter the room with guns of their own. They shoot the gun from Lindsey's hand and he falls to the ground. They speak in a bizarre foreign tongue. Yes, these men are definitely uninvited by the Z-men. Wilson is back among the living. Scott and Wilson go with the two Z heads. Elsewhere, T2 is en route to the pyramid.

Inside the pyramid, Scott, Wilson and a disabled Lindsey are travelling inside a monorail-like car. From their high position, Scott discovers these beings are mining some kind of mineral that also emits a lethal, explosive gas. Scott deduces quite alot here. Hmmm. Scott sees the fighters that shot down his T1. The monorail system looks strikingly similar to the one found years later in The Spy Who Loved Me [1977]. The Z people speak very sternly and severely to one another. They all look like they are applying for the role of Flash Gordon's Ming The Merciless. The Z People spot T2 incoming and fire off their self-defense missiles. Seconds before, Scott and Wilson take action against the Z men and knock out their unsuspecting guard. They fire off a few rounds, but the missiles take flight.

Fortunately, the missiles explode just shy of T2 and Gordon and Virgil deduct Scott is behind their good fortunes. This is precisely why defense mechanisms should be in place on these Thunderbirds, if offensive measures are not an option. A real firefight is in play inside the Z-Men's base. Wilson gets the monorail tram moving and Scott and Wilson escape. Scott fires on a gas masked man inside the large mineral chamber and takes him out. Sirens sound. The man falls on a lever, which releases a potent gas. Things are getting dicey with the fumes. Hopefully Scott and Wilson will make it out of there or International Rescue may need some help of their own from ordinary rescue. Explosions begin igniting all over the place.

Elsewhere the strange sounding and strange looking Z men pass out from the fumes. I suppose they will die. I love this moment from Scott to Lindsey. It's just funny.

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One of the Z-men falls on another lever and the door to the pyramid reopens. What a stroke of good luck. How convenient kids. T2 comes in for a landing. Scott is yelling at Virgil to keep away from the pyramid because it's going to blow at any moment. It's so amusing, because it's obvious Scott, Wilson and Lindsey appear to be hanging around to die. Why aren't they running for their lives like Scott mentioned? Strange little puppet logic.

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I love how formal Scott is with Virgil initially. He identifies himself as "Scott Tracy". Is there any other Scott who might call out here in the middle of the desert operation? Then he tells him to "BEAT IT!" That's rich. T1 takes off and not a moment too soon. The lost pyramid is lost and now it's lost forever. I love the temperature gauge. They are so simple. Green good, CRAZY RED bad! The tomb goes sky high. Well, so ends another death-defying Thunderbirds' adventure. The Uninvited offered some different scenarios, which were refreshing. The original title for the episode was slated to have one of those snazzy rescue-styled titles, Desert Of Danger, but it was not to be. The Z-Men, as I've dubbed them are actually called Zombites, but you wouldn't know that because they don't speak English and they never mention that they are Zombites throughout the entire episode. Who the hell were the Zombites? They were like a cross between aliens and Arabs. Bizarre. It was your standard, solid Thunderbirds outing, but it's time to shake things up again with a new vehicle. There has been no sign of our old friend Thunderbird 4. We invite you to join us.

The Uninvited: B
*
Writer: Alan Fennell
Director: Desmond Saunders
*
Notable Thunderbirds: T1/ T2/ T3/ T5.

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