Just like a London bus, you wait 50 years for a new episode of Thunderbirds and then three come along at once. I’ve just been watching the fruits of a project that took an archaeological approach to recreating the adventures of International Rescue. Time warp telly at its best.
Gerry Anderson’s iconic show has enjoyed a fizzy CGI make over in the last year, but Thunderbirds 1965 aimed to recreate the Sixties style of the original show. It deliberately used the same Supermarination techniques and cinematic structure that characterised Anderson’s creations. That means real puppets, though I’m not sure they made as much effort to hide the strings as the original crew.Producer Stephen La Riviere previously experienced the Supermarianation method filming linking segments for a documentary about Anderson’s shows. That led to the idea of taking three original cast audio adventures produced in the Sixties and filming the necessary visuals to create brand new episodes. A Kickstarter campaign generated around £200,000 in three days. Once more Thunderbirds were go.
There are three Penny-centric episodes, Introducing Thunderbirds, The Abominable Snowman and The Stately Home Robberies .
The first, written by the late Alan Fennell, does what it says on the tin. In a sequence that dovetails Fennell’s work on the Thunderbirds strip that appeared in TV Century 21, the patriarchal Jeff Tracy introduces Lady Penelope to their secret island base. Cue take offs for the Thunderbird craft (and yes, a Pod is still the big green container that Virgil drops in the water to let Gordon out to play).
The second starts in more pyrotechnic fashion with Scott and Virgil rescuing workers at Meddings Uranium Plant. Virgil gets to have a scowly-face head. The accompanying “making of” documentary reveals that many of the pyrotechnics used in the Sixties are no longer legal. “You wouldn’t want to breathe them.”
Meanwhile in orbit, John is picking up alarm calls about Abominable Snowman attacks. Penny is redirected from Deli to Everest to investigate. The Hood has stolen Peter Capaldi’s eyebrows to try and corner the uranium market.
One of the puppets in this sequence is modeled on actor Sanjeev Bhaskar, although the voice is David Graham who also played Parker. There are trademark cuts to a human foot with pink nail varnish when Penelope twists her ankle. Penny also finds herself in a perilous position with a Goldfinger style laser.
The third episode is probably the best, directed by David Elliot who worked on the original series. It’s a little caper about stealing the Crown Jewels, but I’m not sure who defuses the bomb left in Lady P’s mansion. Also Penny doesn’t want her stolen vases broken but is more cavalier about blowing up the jewels stolen from the Tower of London.
I’m not not sure if they re-filmed the opening titles or utilised remastered versions of the original, but it hits the right beats which helps the experience. The only problem now is that I want more. Maybe in another 50 years.