Thunderbirds: The Perils of Penelope

December 31, 2015 in Cult TV, Guest Blogs by GuestBlogs

A Guest Blog by Hevy782


The show’s third episode certainly doesn’t feature a standard rescue operation for International Rescue but instead has their London agent, Lady Penelope, trying to unravel an international conspiracy. It begins with the launch of the Sun Probe rocket (which does make a return later in the series) where a new top secret fuel is being tested. Following this however, the scientist is kidnapped. Penelope and Parker’s investigations into the disappearance take them from Paris to Anderbad. While Parker takes the car, Penelope journeys on the train that goes through the Anderbad tunnel. However, when the train comes out the other side of the tunnel, Lady Penelope is nowhere to be found. Virgil, Gordon and Alan are then called in and the former two go down the tunnel to investigate while Alan waits with Parker. Halfway down the tunnel they find the nefarious blaggard who kidnapped the scientist and find that he is threatening Penelope’s life in order to get the formula. While Virgil frees Penelope, Gordon takes down the villain and rescues the scientist. With the world safe, they return to the café in Paris and watch the fireworks in the sky above.

Now before I share my thoughts on this I’m first going to go through some trivia about this episode as while it’s the third episode in broadcast order it was actually the twelfth episode to be produced and the twelfth episode chronologically as well. So why were they broadcast out of chronological order? Well all the episodes were pretty much standalone so it doesn’t make too much difference so only keen fans would notice the minor discrepancies here and there meaning that it didn’t affect things greatly. The reason behind it was probably to avoid having episodes that were similar to each other being broadcast too close together and whatnot but I’m not sure if anyone really knows the real reason behind it, I’m only guessing. Now admittedly what I just gave you was the simplified version as often two episodes would’ve been shot at the same time by different production teams and some of the earlier episodes in the production order required extra shooting to extend them from the planned twenty-five minutes to the full fifty-minutes that were order. No-one really knows exactly what happened because it was so long ago but what I do know is that The Perils of Penelope was a fantastic episode. Yep, I am finally talking about the episode itself and as I mentioned earlier, it’s as bit of a political thriller. That side to the story instantly got me on board and while it was rather simple compared to other political thrillers it’s easily forgiven as there’s not much you can do with that in fifty minutes without making it feel rushed. So I guess the best way to describe it would be as a bitesized political thriller with all the fun and spy genre hallmarks that that entails.

The title character herself, Penelope, is wonderful in this and she truly is a great character. It’s just a shame that she sort of gets reduced to the damsel in distress at the end and although she doesn’t scream or anything like that it does basically become her role in the narrative for the final ten minutes. In fact I didn’t really see much need for Virgil, Gordon and Alan to be called in at all other than the fact that it’s an episode of Thunderbirds and it would feel odd without a rescue in it. Not that it was bad or anything but it did feel a little contrived to me. Up until that point though the episode is more or less flawless and the sets look beautiful through and through. I normally wouldn’t talk about stuff like this in relation to most other shows but since it’s all models there’s just something that feels special about it. But anyway, where Penelope goes you’re to find Parker not far behind so let’s talk about him. He is of course a fan favourite and gets some very nice stuff to do in this. Although it is early days so the crew probably haven’t fully realised what a gem they have with Parker so for the most part he’s stuck in the background. He does have his moments though such as shooting Penelope’s poisoned drink.

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As I said before, it truly is a fantastic episode so let’s wrap up now by rating it a nine-out-of-ten once again. While it is only just my least favourite so far (mainly because of the final ten minutes) I still feel really enjoyed it so that’s three strikes in a row for Thunderbirds so far. Will Terror in New York City keep this up? Find out next time as Thunderbird 1 gets caught on camera, Thunderbird 2 comes under fire and Thunderbird 4 goes on a daring underwater rescue. It’s going to be a race against time but until then be sure to sound off your thoughts on the episode in the comments below.

Thunderbirds: Pit of Peril

December 12, 2015 in Cult TV, Guest Blogs by GuestBlogs

A Guest Blog by Hevy782


Thunderbirds reviews return at last and we’re back with Pit of Peril, the second episode of the classic series which features the first appearance of the Mole, the most famous of Thunderbird 2’s pod vehicles. Another famous vehicle in this episode is the Sidewinder which, ironically enough, winds up on it’s side after a sinkhole opens below it during a test run. It’s a US army vehicle built for getting troops where they’re need quickly during the bushfire wars which apparently keep breaking out, almost certainly a reflection of the Vietnam war which was raging while this was being made back in the sixties. So then, with the Sidewinder trapped in a blazing pit and three crewmembers trapped aboard it’s imperative that they are freed fast. The US army makes multiple attempts but without the right equipment they fail to make any breakthroughs. Eventually they call International Rescue for help and Jeff sends Scott, Virgil and Brains into the danger zone. After Scott assesses the situation, Brains comes up with a strategy. Virgil is lowered into the pit in a heat resistant suit to lay charges to clear a path for the Sidewinder. Scott then uses the Mole to get Virgil back up to the surface. Once there, he uses two recovery vehicles to pull the Siderwinder and crew out of the pit. When the crew awake they thank Scott and the whole of International Rescue for saving their lives. They are then sent to hospital to be treated for their injuries while Thunderbirds 1 and 2 return to base from another successful mission.

Now as good as Trapped in the Sky was there’s just something that makes me love this episode even more. Right from the start it has such an epic quality to it and it’s honestly one of my favourite openings ever. The music is genuinely fantastic and the model shots are mixed in very well with what is presumably stock footage of Peru. And then slowly we build to the reveal of the Sidewinder as the animals flee from it’s path of destruction (which funnily enough is the title of another episode but we’ll save that one for much later) as the giant feet stomp across the landscape and the claws uproot the trees. Then we finally get the full reveal and while I can’t deny it looks a bit top heavy it’s still a magnificent creation. Cut to a bit later there’s another wonderful shot of it in the pit the inferno is raging around it. To be honest this episode has so many beautiful shots that I could go on all day but, sadly, I can’t.

Instead I need to talk about the plot as this one certainly isn’t all flash and no substance as you could hopefully tell from the précis I wrote although I don’t believe I’ve done it justice. We start off with the focus not on International Rescue but instead on the members of the US army who are testing the Sidewinder. The characters are established very quickly and while we only really have a double act between General Peters and Lieutenant Ralph with a couple of other characters on the side but it’s never the less interesting to see these one of characters get such attention during the first half. It’s a testament to how much television has changed really as you’d never expect to see one-off characters getting such a great deal of attention these days. International Rescue themselves don’t really get involved until about halfway through and it’s at that point which the focus shifts to them and their rescue attempt. It’s a structure that may feel odd to a modern audience but it actually works really well with the key driving force being the rescue rather than the characters.

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Now with all that said I think we’ve reached a suitable point suitable point to rate this story and like last time I am giving it a nine-out-of-ten although it’s an even stronger one this time. What stopped it getting full marks? Just a few things here and there really. Especially a certain error in scale which probably annoys me way more than it should but anyway, out next stop is The Perils of Penelope where Lady Penelope and Parker must uncover an international conspiracy but until then be sure to sound off your thoughts on the episode in the comments below.

Thunderbirds: Trapped in the Sky

July 7, 2015 in Cult TV, Guest Blogs by GuestBlogs

A Guest Blog by Hevy782


So here we are at the first episode of a TV classic. If you’re not all that familiar with the world of Thunderbirds then I suggest you read the introduction post first. Now without any further adieu let’s talk about Trapped in the Sky. The basic storyline is that a criminal mastermind, The Hood, has placed a bomb aboard the Fireflash, a hypersonic airliner on it’s maiden voyage, in order to draw out International Rescue so that he can steal their secrets. If the Fireflash uses it’s landing gear then the bomb will go off but if they stay in the sky then the passengers and crew will all eventually receive fatal doses of radiation, meaning that it’s a race against time to save the Fireflash. After an attempt to remove the bomb fails Thunderbirds 1 and 2 arrive with a plan. While they put this into operation The Hood sneaks onboard Thunderbird 1 and takes pictures of the interior so he can recreate it. Scott and Virgil manage to get the plane down by using elevator cars as replacement landing gear. Meanwhile, Lady Penelope and Parker hunt down The Hood and destroy the pictures. With the bomb defused and the secrets of International Rescue safe, Scott and Virgil head back to Tracy Island with their first operation completed successfully. But The Hood isn’t defeated so easily and will return to plague International Rescue time and time again.

I’m going to start off by saying this straight away, I think that Trapped in the Sky is a very strong start to the series. It sets up most of what you need to know about the series and is also just a well made episode in it’s own right. More on that in a second but first I want to quickly talk about a line which is quite amusing in retrospect and that is when Kyrano says that Jeff Tracy was one of the first men on the moon. It’s a throwaway line and probably would’ve meant very little at the time it went out but looking back it’s rather interesting to see how some parts of society thought it would take a long time to reach the moon. Little did they know that five years after they made this episode man would indeed land on the moon. Since then we appear to have given up with space travel however and the world of George Orwell’s 1984 now seems like a more realistic future than that of Gerry Anderson’s Thunderbirds but anyway, I think that’s enough of my political views and now let’s shift focus back to the topic at hand, Trapped in the Sky.

Now if you’ve read some of my Blake’s 7 post you’ll probably have realised that I am a big fan of model shots and Thuderbirds has plenty of those, and some breathtaking ones at that. Now while the visuals here are rather simple compared to what will come later there are still quite a few nice sequences, namely the landing of Fireflash. It’s a wonderfully made sequence and the instantly recognisable music in the background just fits so perfectly. What’s also nice about this resolution is that it doesn’t work first time which just racks up the tension even more for the second attempt as there is no time for a third attempt. But it’s not the only well done sequence of the episode as there are plenty more such as the attempt to remove the bomb by hand. It was going so well until the man fell and it kind of makes you wonder why they didn’t try it again as it was fairly close to success the first time. Then there’s the scene where Lady Penelope and Parker chase down The Hood. It was a rather minimalistic chase but nevertheless it served it’s purpose and the shot of the car rolling down the side of the hill was nicely done. It’s also quite funny as you would not see roads like that that empty in England nowadays and I don’t imagine traffic is going to improve that much in the next half a century or so.

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Now we come to rating Trapped in the Sky and I think a nine-out-of-ten is a very fair rating for this story. Next up is Pit of Peril where a five-hundred ton US Army walker, the Sidewinder, ends up in need of rescue but until then be sure to sound off your thoughts on the episode in the comments below.

Thunderbirds: Introduction

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

A Guest Blog by Hevy782


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.

The Day of the Triffids – Episode 6

December 11, 2014 in Cult TV by Firebird


Spring, 6 years later. Bill returns to the farm from a foraging trip in London. He and Jo have a son, the other couple have a daughter and Susan is all grown up. They’ve built a triffid proof fence but the triffids congregate outside in ever larger numbers. Bill regularly clears them with a flame-thrower but they keep coming back, the last count was over a thousand.

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The Day of the Triffids – Episode 5

December 9, 2014 in Cult TV by Firebird


The footstep are not Jo. It’s Coaker, his group have fallen sick just as Bill’s did and he realises that Beadley was right after all. The two take trucks and set off to the location written on a blackboard at Beadley’s headquarters.

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The Day of the Triffids – Episode 4

December 4, 2014 in Cult TV by Firebird


As Bill struggles to free himself a blind man arrives with a cup of tea. He explains that Bill is tied up under the orders of Coaker, the man arguing at the gates the day before. The man himself soon arrives. He intends to force the sighted people he’s kidnapped to lead groups of the blind and he’s got Jo too. Bill is shipped off, handcuffed to his group.

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The Day of the Triffids – Episode 3

December 2, 2014 in Cult TV by Firebird


Bill and Jo escape the crowd, slipping out of the car and finding another. After collecting anti-Triffid gear and other essential supplies they spend the night in a ‘show flat’, nicely equipped but safely unoccupied. While they eat they discuss what to do next. Jo knows a place in Sussex, a farm with water and it’s own electricity supply. The perfect place. Bill is a little bit concerned that it might not be remote enough, but they leave that decision until later. Bill spots a flashing light on a distant building but says it’s not safe to investigate at night. It certainly isn’t safe. A blind man collecting veg from his garden is struck down by a hunting Triffid.

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The Day of the Triffids – Episode 2

November 25, 2014 in Cult TV by Firebird


In the hospital Bill soon discovers that everyone, patients, doctors and nurses have been blinded. The doctor he was talking to falls from a balcony and dies. Somewhere else in the city a young woman leaves her home and drives away. Not realising that the blindness is widespread when her car stops she’s captured by a knife wielding man who intends to use her to see for him.

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The Day of the Triffids – Episode 1

November 23, 2014 in Cult TV by Firebird


A BBC series first broadcast in 1981 this retelling of John Wyndham’s classic sci-fi story of man-eating plants is in six half hour episodes. Recovering from a triffid sting, Bill Masen wakes in hospital to an uncanny silence.

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