Friday, February 12, 2010

Thunderbirds S1 Ep3: City Of Fire

I'm not quite sure about the scaling of those figures and hoverbikes against The Mole. Questionable, but thank you Gerry Anderson for your incredible worlds.

It's FAB Tab Gerry & Sylvia Anderson Friday Folks!
That's one heck of a skyscraper. Sky Of Fire may be more like it.
We go straight from the frying pan that was the Pit of PERIL into the fire in City Of FIRE! How can you not have an absolute blast with the titles awarded to each episode of Thunderbirds. Someone was definitely sitting around that table determining the cataclysmic word of the week. You'll find there is a significant pattern when it comes the use of descriptive words of absolute and utter disaster. Terror, destruction, attack, death [you know how I feel about that] and disaster itself. There is no breathing room for the boys to men of International Rescue. So it's time to save the world once again [or at least a city]. There's no time to waste. Welcome to Thunderbirds, Series One, Episode 3, City Of Fire. 5-4-3-2-1, Thunderbirds Are Go!
Thunderbirds is all about the disaster of the week and this installment is no exception. This entry in particular reminds me of The Towering Inferno [1974] [produced and partially directed by Irwin Allen, the man behind Lost In Space]. Yet, this Thunderbirds concept, despite the puppets, clearly predates the live action The Towering Inferno by nearly a decade.

A helijet crew reports on the newly completed Thompson Tower. The initial shot of the tower indicates it shoots straight above the clouds. It is a giant store, "a self-contained city," and every commercial item in the world can be obtained within the building. It has 350 floors. A person could live a whole year in just one of the rooms in the tower. Really? How much is rent? It is 2 miles deep and .5 miles wide. The sub-basement has room for ten thousand cars. A monorail, 4 miles long, runs through it linking the parking to the building. I'm not entirely convinced of the math on that. Anyway, the point is this is a true feat of engineering excellence.
Forget the tower, is there room on Tracy Island? What a paradise.
Meanwhile, over at Tracy Island, Brains is working on a new experimental gas mixture with Jeff Tracy and Tin Tin in tow capable of melting metal. The boys are testing it on some steel. Brains is uncertain of the effects the gas will have on its operators. So, if the Tracy boys keel over and die it's 'oh well, it was worth learning more about it.' Okay. I mean gee whiz do you have a few hamsters handy first? I suspect it will be employed on the city of FIRE! Brains is optimistic as it begins penetrating the metal. Unfortunately Brain's mixture begins influencing the boys. Virgil is the first to be adversely affected. Just the same, Scott and Virgil are happy blasting away at the metal with their gas torches. Virgil's blood pressure drops and down he goes in a heap of puppet wood. Watch those flames puppet boy. Scott drops next and the boys are dangerously close to becoming a kindling fire of minute puppet proportions.

Jeff inquires with Brains on the status of his boys. Don't let that studder fool you, Brains is brilliant. The reason cited by creators in Chris Bentley's The Complete Book Of Classic Thunderbirds has something to do with Brain's intellect moving more rapidly than his physical ability to put a thought into words. There are great many reasons for stuttering or stammering so it's certainly plausible.

Virgil and Scott are alright. The kids are alright! Brains needs to get back to work. Scott welcomes a chance to get back to work with Tin Tin. She's a cutie as puppets go. I suspect she's in hot demand with female puppets in short supply on Tracy Island.
Note the driver appears to be thrown clear of the vehicle.
Elsewhere, a family enters Thompson Tower for a little shopping. A few short minutes later, an old biddy enters the tower who can't drive if her life depended on it, and it does. Unfortunately her husband is with her. She drives straight through the ticket booth at top speed and into a group of cars in the garage. A large explosion occurs. There's an odd moment from the editing department here. In the crash sequence both the husband and wife are clearly thrown from the vehicle and should be dead. There's no question about it. These people would have been toast. Instead the next framed close-up has the couple in the car engulfed by flames and in a hurry to escape. Seconds later a number of explosions result and the garage becomes a blazing inferno. Inside the building, the family, a husband, wife and child, smell smoke caused by this negligent female driver. Minutes earlier, the patriarch of the family had passed her on the road calling her a menace to society. He didn't know the half of it until now. How right he was.
Nearby in a security tower, alarms indicate there is a problem inside Thompson Tower. Sprinklers are not responding in the sub-basement. Security personnel shut down all corridors in the garage to seal off the fire. The men are clearly doing their best to C.T.A. [Cover Their Asses] and placing less emphasis on genuine safety. It's "vital not to scare anyone." It would clearly be bad for business especially during this critical grand opening. The men are still closing off corridors. Meanwhile, the world's smartest family still can't seem to find the monorail and are still lost in the sub-basement. By the way, did anyone notice this Thompson Tower seems awful desolate for a grand opening? There's not another soul in throwing distance for the love of God. Business can't be good.
As our clueless family is busy playing a little game of hide and seek, corridors are shutting down all over the joint and cars are exploding like popcorn just beyond their location. It may not be a city of fire or even a building of fire yet, but it is certainly a Garage Of FIRE! The Security crew can't work the vent system and flames are spreading up through the building. The plan is to send in the fire brigade to put out the flames. One security fellow is more concerned for the people's fears. How does burning to death sound? Is that a better option? Get the bleedin' toy fire trucks rolling will ya jack! For cryin' out loud man, I hate stupid puppet people! In fact, come to think of it, Thunderbirds may be about the only puppet entertainment I enjoy and fully embrace. Most puppets are scary and I don't care much for ventriloquists either. I'll take in a muppet now and again [not in my house, but on TV], but most puppets no. I can even handle muppets integrated into live action programming like Farscape or The Muppet Show. I can honestly say I have little interest in looking into Gerry Anderson's other puppet shows outside of Thunderbirds. Like Space:1999 though, I do have UFO on my radar. So, Thunderbirds is indeed a special series to me, humor aside, or you wouldn't see me within five feet of a TV puppet.
City Of Fire or Building Of Fire?
The building is now clearly engulfed in flames thanks to the negligence of the Security crew for not acting swiftly. Yeah, they took the let's-stand-by-and-see-what-happens-with-the-fire approach. That just doesn't work. The "sea of windows" is shattering as fire and smoke begin to overtake the building. Fire apparatus is spraying water and doing its very best, but it's too late. "It's going up like match wood," proclaims the security guy. Maybe that's because the model IS actually made of match wood. Meanwhile, the poor, lost family is beginning to succumb to the early stages of smoke inhalation. The Security crew spots the trapped family standing in the hall on camera monitor [moments ago they were sitting on a couch- editing snafu]. They are trapped in B50. Security is paralyzed. They don't know what to do to help them. Thunderbirds perhaps? Just thinking.
You wouldn't want to be diving off that diving board at the wrong time.
On Tracy Island, the boys rest and relax with a glass of wine and a paper by the pool. Tin Tin is swimming in the pool. She invites Alan in to swim with her. She totally wants Alan. Alan declines. WHAT?! You are an idiot puppet! You can't turn that smokin' hot puppet babe down brother. She wants you to swim with her in the worst way. No, no, Alan has to prepare to relieve John in Thunderbird 5. Good Lord man, use some of that God-given wood will ya!? Alan awaits his departure, while the Thompson Tower Security group reaches out for help from International Rescue. The Tracy family gets the details. "It's simple," says the caller. He explains there is a fire and three people trapped. That's about the size of it. You've royally screwed this one Security puppets.
T5 contacts Tracy Island about Thompson Tower. Jeff Tracy reaches out to the Security tower for the situation. Um, I think that was just covered Jeff. Fire, three trapped - get moving! Thunderbird 1 go! Thunderbird 2 go! We get the standard launch procedure of the vehicles, but the routines are not given quite the same level of detail and time and thus are edited versions of the lengthier launch procedures as portrayed in Trapped In The Sky and Pit Of Peril. Perhaps the creators felt the kids didn't require all that repetition. In the tower, it's getting grave for the family. The smoke is getting thick. Things are going from bad to worse as the tower is on FIRE!
Thunderbird 1 lands essentially roasting two police cars with its landing thrusters. No kidding.
T1 arrives and Scott informs Virgil he has killed two officers. Just kidding. Scott needs to get to the tower pronto, F.A.B., A.S.A.P. and touch base with F.A.G. Alan! Okay, enough silly stuff. Things aren't good. Virgil notifies Scott things could be tough due to "wind variation." Anyway Scott lands T1 vertically and I had to laugh a little, because as he comes in hot his fiery thrusters literally hail down upon two police cars. If anyone was alive inside those cars they wouldn't be now, because they would be charcoaled chunks of carbon.
"She's breaking up." Security control tells all fire apparatus to abandon the area, because it is now a towering inferno, which actually would have been a more appropriate title for this entry! The fire tenders leave in their vehicles. The tower succumbs and falls to the ground in a blazing heap. Down below in the sub-basement the family struggles to hang in there. Strange, not another single soul was found to be in the tower? Oddly, once the building is down there isn't a single sign of another building, vehicle or puppet life form in the area. This is a bizarre, miniature puppet adventure.
Scott and Virgil discuss their only option to save the only three people in the city. I just can't let that go. You guessed it! Brain's gas! Well, not his personal methane gas, but rather his experimental gas formula. There was no passing of rear human gas during the making of this episode. The situation could have been far too combustible. Virgil does mention that small point about the gas being untested and that prolonged exposure could be fatal. It's a minor gripe, but this is International Rescue and their lives are always on the line to aid even stupid people. I've been subject to deadly, toxic gas via my Boy Wonder and let me tell you I understand Virgil's concerns. This stuff is lethal. There have been a few times I was seemingly knocking on death's door to escape that gas swamp. Listen, there is no underestimating what's at stake amidst a colorless, odorless, flammable air mass comprised of decomposing organic matter. It's nasty stuff. Scott and Virgil talk it over and Virgil admits if lives depend on it they must take the risk. Why does something tell me this will be a risk Virgil takes? We shall see. If Scott is sitting pretty behind a console I am going to reach through that television screen and throttle that little puppet manipulator. I kind of chuckled as I listened to this and considered Brain's gas to be quite possibly, well, his own methane.

Scott informs Virgil this is a job for The Mole. First, Virgil will need to clear the fiery rubble with The Firefly. He tells Virgil to be careful because the rubble is "white hot." Did Scott have to tell Virgil that one? I'm not sure he needed that reminder. Scott tells him he'll be with him as soon as he can. Scott is always there to send Virgil into the lion's den first. Still, all humor aside, each Tracy has their respective role. By the way, so far, I have seen one building on fire and it is now gone. Where is the City Of FIRE! I haven't seen any cities on fire yet. Perhaps the title is misleading. Trapped In The Sky was deadly accurate. Pit Of Peril was perfectly perilous. City Of Fire? Not so much. Well, I've seen a few model trees and shrubs and no signs of life or other city landmarks. City Of Fire is beginning to make me wonder if it shouldn't have been titled Building Of Fire or Towering Inferno for sure.
The family is disturbed about their situation. "This place is gonna collapse soon." Actually, it already did collapse. Their son falls unconscious. This is a job for Thunderbirds! The Firefly is off. This is The Firefly before there was Firefly. It is also our first introduction to the little fella. Virgil is in his fire gear. One thing I noticed about the Thunderbirds, they certainly generate alot of black and dirty smoke. They certainly aren't environmentalists at this stage of the game. The would never go over well in today's politically correct world. I have to tell you I do love the smoke effects created by the effects team. It is splendid work. The Firefly starts clearing a path through the rubble. "How's it going Virgil?" inquires Scott. Virgil is working his tail off while Scott asks questions. Virgil utilizes the Firefly cannon to explode some of the debris so it can be removed. Wow! This Firefly has everything.

Scott finally gets in on the action. He drives his car over to Pod 3 to get The Mole. Scott seems to be the premiere Mole driver. The Firefly exits the fire and gives way to The Mole for take over. The Security Crew is impressed with the International Rescue equipment. Yes, we're all impressed. The Mole is in position.

The Mole penetrates and Scott and Virgil grab their gear, Brain's gas mixture and the newly introduced Hoverbikes. Those Hoverbikes are nifty. Scott and Virgil are cutting through the metal corridors. Will they falter and become a liability themselves? Will everyone die as a result? Fear not, Thunderbirds are go! The lost family's father at first starts talking out loud that "they're finished." That's not exactly how you want to inspire confidence in your family in the dirty end. Fortunately the entire family is unconscious anyway. The man passes out next. Scott and Virgil gather up the family and exit in a nick of time as the roof caves in. Folks, still no sign of the City Of FIRE!!!
The Security crew reckons International Rescue was brave, but in the end have merely sacrificed their lives. Wrong again Security boys! The Mole exits backwards onto its vehicle base and all ends well once again in the reality of Thunderbirds. Back at Tracy Island Brains explains that the heat within the building must have worked in their favor. Apparently, the vapors from Brain's mixture enters the pores and attacks the blood cells, but the heat must have vaporized the gas emissions before settling into the pores. Convenient. Thank God the Tracy boys were inside a blazing inferno I guess, otherwise the experimental gas created by Brains would have killed them. It's another series of lucky strokes for the boys.
In the end, the female driver who started the fire is out roving the roads still with her husband. WOW, like that would happen. I fancy a cell might be in order for that menace. Lucky for her not a soul was around at Thompson Tower for the grand opening. Happy music even kicks in. The moral of our story: You can burn down a skyscraper and be out perusing the streets for the next shopping center with no fear of penalty. Ah, isn't life grand in the world of Thunderbirds?
City Of Fire: C
Writer: Alan Fennell
Director: David Elliot
Notable Thunderbirds Craft: T1/ T2/ T5/ Pod 3/ The Mole/ The Firefly/ Helijet/ Hoverbikes.
Important Player In The Thunderbirds Universe: Reg Hill [1914-1999]. Associate Producer. I can relate to Reg Hill in my own small way, because I am a behind-the-scenes kind of guy. Hill was exactly that to Supermarionation genius Gerry Anderson. Hill was critical to the operations of AP Films as its Deputy Managing Director and as Associate Producer. He made things happen. He worked on Stingray and Thunderbirds and became full Producer for the final six episodes of Thunderbirds dubbed Series Two. He was also producer on UFO. Gerry Anderson felt he never got his due in large part because he was behind-the-scenes. Anderson had many kind words regarding Hill for Chris Bentley's book, The Complete Book Of Classic Thunderbirds. "Reg was always there with the answer." He was able to fix technical problems better than anyone. "He was a perfectionist and whatever he did, he did brilliantly." Hill backed Derek Meddings and just about any department in need to get things done with little to none of the glory. "He never received the recognition he deserved." Without this man Thunderbirds would have been severely lacking. In other words, Thunderbirds would not be go! Hill resigned following Year Two of the wonderful Space:1999. Hill passed away in 1999.

Tracy Island: I've been reading Author Chris Bentley's The Complete Gerry Anderson: The Authorized Episode Guide and it is THE complete guide to Gerry Anderson folks. It doesn't have the kind of wonderful analysis found in John Kenneth Muir's Exploring Space:1999, but it's not meant to be a critical guide either. It offers anything and everything you need to know about the world of Gerry Anderson and every series he's ever touched. It is a thorough guide to be sure. Bentley knows his Anderson. Anyway, the uninitiated need a little more on the background of Tracy Island.
The year is 2065. Millionaire Jeff Tracy, a former astronaut, has invested his time and money into International Rescue. Tracy Island operates covertly somewhere in the South Pacific on an uncharted island. He lives there with his five sons, a genius scientist called Brains, Grandma Tracy, Kyrano and his daughter Tin Tin. It is home to Thunderbird 1, 2, 3 and 4 as well as a host of other auxilliary rescue craft. Thunderbird 1 travels at a maximum speed of 15,000 mph. Thunderbird 2 travels at a maximum speed of 5,000 mph. The family is assisted externally by London agent Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward and her ultra cool butler Parker.


Anonymous said...

The title refers to the tower itself, which is described, as you say yourself, as a 'self-contained city'.

SFF said...

My gosh, sometimes it's like a forest for the trees.

Right there in front of me. I knew it and still it glazed right by me.

Must have been paying too much attention to the details and not the big picture. I do that sometimes.

Thank you.

All the best