Thunderbirds: Introduction

July 6, 2015 in Cult TV, Guest Blogs by GuestBlogs

A Guest Blog by Hevy782

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Not too long ago now a new series called Thunderbirds Are Go premiere and so I thought now would be the perfect time to take a step back fifty years and look at the original series simply titled Thunderbirds, a series that was a big part of my childhood. While I wasn’t around during the sixties to watch them on first transmission I practically grew up on VHS copies of the episodes and reruns on some channel which I’ve forgotten the name of and probably isn’t around now anyway. So this will probably mean that as I review each of the episodes I will undoubtedly end up doing so through rose-tinted specs because the nostalgia will be too great. Apologies in advance for that. But anyway, let’s now talk about the series itself which was created by Gerry Anderson and his wife, Sylvia Anderson, and aired thirty-two fifty-minute episodes between September 1965 to December 1966. It is widely considered their most popular and successful series and, like many of their other TV shows, has gained a strong cult following. The series was made using a combination of marionette puppets and model shots, a process known as Supermarionation. The series was so popular that two films were also made during the sixties using the same techniques as the TV series and then a less than successful live-action film was later released in 2004. Finally there’s the previously mentioned series Thunderbirds Are Go which was released earlier this year and is made through a combination of CGI and model shots. But for now we’re going to stick to the original TV series so let’s move away from what went on behind the camera and instead focus on what was in front.

The series is set in 2065 and follows the adventures of International Rescue, a top secret organisation run from Tracy Island and founded by American ex-astronaut Jeff Tracy, a widower and father of five sons, Scott, John, Virgil, Gordon and Alan. Each of his son’s pilots one of the Thunderbird machines, vehicles designed to help save people in almost any situation. The Thunderbirds were created and maintained by the engineer Brains who is also the inventor of practically every piece of technology you’ll see on Tracy Island. Jeff’s mum, more commonly referred to as Grandma Tracy, also resides there along with Malaysian man-servant Kyrano and his daughter Tin-Tin. Tin-Tin also serves the role of the love-interest of the youngest Tracy brother, Alan.

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International Rescue’s London agent is Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward, an English aristocrat who helps International Rescue to track down dangerous criminals. She travels about in a modified Rolls-Royce (modified by Brains of course) with her butler Parker who is a fan favourite character with an instantly recognisable voice. So as you can see it really is an international organisation with members from many different nationalities. International Rescue’s most dangerous and persistent foe is a mysterious criminal known only as The Hood. He is Kyrano’s half brother and through the use of hypnosis and dark magic he uses Kyrano to steal try and steal the secrets of International Rescue. Now onto the Thunderbirds themselves.

Thunderbird 1 is piloted by the eldest of the Tracy brothers, Scott, and is a hypersonic rocket plane designed to arrive first on the scene no matter what the situation is. Now if I remember correctly Scott was my favourite when I first watched it all those years ago. Not so sure if it’s the same now though. Virgil Tracy is the pilot of Thunderbird 2, a heavy duty transporter that carries vehicles and equipment into disaster areas. These are carried in detachable capsules known as pods and the most popular of these vehicles in the Mole which is designed to drill underground. Unfortunately there are so many vehicles inside the pods that I can’t go through them all so let’s instead quickly talk about Virgil who was Scott’s only competition when it came to my favourite character. And here’s a little bit of trivia for you, he and Scott are the only two Tracy brothers to appear in all thirty-two episodes of the series. Now onto Thunderbird 3 which is piloted by the youngest of the Tracy brothers, Alan. It is a space rescue vehicle and is unique in that it is a reusable spacecraft, meaning that it does no have to jettison any hardware to get into orbit. Scott also occasionally co-pilots Thunderbird 3. Thunderbird 4 is next up and it is piloted by Gordon Tracy. It is the smallest of the Thunderbirds and is used for underwater rescues. It is so small in fact that it is typically launched from Thunderbird 2’s Pod 4. Finally there’s John Tracy who is the space monitor aboard International Rescue’s space station Thunderbird 5. It receives all emergency calls from around the globe and then reports to Tracy Island. When John is on leave Alan takes over as space monitor.

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So there’s your introduction to the world of Thunderbirds and now we shall begin looking at the series episode by episode. Tomorrow we’ll be taking a look at the first episode, Trapped in the Sky, where the Hood sabotages a new aircraft called The Fireflash so he can draw out International Rescue and steal their secrets. So then, have you ever watched Thunderbirds? Have you ever even heard of Thunderbirds before now? Whatever your response be sure be sure to sound off your thoughts on the episode in the comments below.