Thunderbirds Are Go Season 1 Vol. 2 Review

  • Series Title: Thunderbirds Are Go
  • Season: 1 Vol. 2
  • Episodes: 13
  • Discs: 2
  • Network: ITV
  • Cast: Rasmus Hardiker, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, David Menkin, Kayvan Novak, Rosamund Pike, David Graham, Sandra Dickinson, Angel Coulby, Andres Williams
  • DVD: Widescreen DVD (R2, PAL)

Thunderbirds Are Go is a modern animated take on the Classic Supermarionation series by Gerry Anderson. This DVD set is the second half of the season. The series uses CGI animation and models, with model work by Weta Workshop in New Zealand, supervised by Richard Taylor. Vol. 2 starts off intense and never stops going. The first mission, “Falling Skies” involves all the boys and vehicles – with subsequent episodes focusing on individual characters, even the poor guy with bad luck from the first set (and his pet geranium Gladys) return for a story.

The CGI animation, and Richard Taylor’s updated model work let the stories do a lot more than Anderson and Derek Meddings (the Oscar-winning model specialist who went on to work on the James Bond films and Christopher Reeve’s Superman films) could do in the 1960s, even at ITV. And this is an action-packed series. It’s the type of show where I’d sit down to watch one or two, three at the most, and suddenly end-up watching most of the disc. The animation is beautiful, even though it does have the tendency that I see in CGI animated series all the time of people looking a bit plastic, and in this series, clothes looking more like clay than real fabrics (hair also has a very clay-like appearance).

Thunderbirds Are Go is an action-packed thrill ride, and it’s completely suitable for children aged 7 to 13. Adults can enjoy the series as well – I certainly did. I did find that with the running time reduced to about 22 minutes, rather than the hour (50 minutes) of the original Supermarionation series, there is less characterization. The back half of the season includes three episodes focusing on Lady Penelope and Parker, and Kayo gets to be center stage in the last couple of episodes. There’s an episode where Virgil is miffed no one seems to remember his birthday – then misses his own surprise party because the simple “hour or two” rescue John had sent him on turned into anything but simple. So there are some character moments. But I miss the strong characterization that made the original series work so well.

Set in the future, Thunderbirds Are Go, keeps the premise of everything being bigger – and the use of technology and science to help humans. When things go wrong, it’s often because of greed, violations of law, or more often than not – some scheme by the Hood which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense but it’s fun to watch. The Hood, and his “evil laugh” – should be annoying, but he isn’t because he just reminds us, well, me anyway, of the classic almost mustache-twisting villain. And while he isn’t actually tying Lady Penelope to a track track – he’s just a traditional-style of villain. That surprisingly works better than the Hood of the original series – who always made me very uncomfortable. Oddly enough, this Hood reminds me of a combination of Roger Delgado’s Master from Doctor Who, and Lex Luthor – with maybe a little bit of Dr. Evil thrown in. Given that combination – you can’t not like the guy, he isn’t really meant to be taken that seriously. And it’s a children’s series.

Another aspect of Thunderbirds Are Go it keeps from the original series is that the Tracys are simply there to help. When things go wrong – International Rescue is there. And IR’s mission is always to help people – not things, objects, whatever – but to rescue people. In the final few episodes of the season, conflict erupts between Kayo who would like to be more proactive – catching criminals to prevent disasters from happening, and Scott – who insists that’s the job of the GDF – the Global Defense Force. It’s an interesting and valid conflict, and it gives the final episodes a bit more depth.

I would love to see more of this series. It’s fun to watch, full of action, has a large ensemble cast, and although the characterization is a bit thin – it’s still there. The characters do act like their counterparts from the original series. This animated series honors the original and that is precisely as it should be.

Highly recommended especially for children.

Thunderbirds Are Go Review

  • Series Title: Thunderbirds Are Go
  • Season: 1 (DVD set is Vol. 1)
  • Episodes:  13
  • Discs:  2
  • Network:  ITV
  • Cast:  Rasmus Hardiker, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, David Menkin, Kayvan Novak, Rosamund Pike, David Graham, Sandra Dickinson, Angel Coulby, Andres Williams
  • DVD: Widescreen DVD (R2, PAL)

ITV has created an updated children’s series based on the original Gerry Anderson Supermarionation TV series. This version includes half-hour (22-minute) CGI animated episodes. But there is plenty of action in those 22 minutes! The episodes seem so very short because they are jam-packed with action and story. Often either a rescue begins to go wrong, or the first planned rescue attempt doesn’t work then Tracy boys need to come up with a new plan on the fly. Fortunately, coming up with ways to rescue people in impossible situations is exactly what the Tracys do best. The series keeps the five boys, their five Thunderbird machines, and the extra characters of Grandma Tracy, London agent Lady Penelope and her chauffeur Parker (she is also now given a small dog, named Sherbet as well), and Kayo (and updating of Tin Tin – now IR’s “covert ops” agent, pilot of Thunderbird S (Shadow), and sometimes co-pilot of Thunderbird 3), and even the villainous Hood. Another regular is the GDF (Global Defense Force), basically global cops and military. Mention is also made of local rescue efforts handling smaller disasters. At the beginning of this new series we’re told Jeff (Tracy the boys’ father) is missing.

ITV’s new Thunderbirds series is bright and colorful. It’s clearly aimed at kids. However, it doesn’t talk down to its audience, and I found the show to be fun, amusing, well-written, and action-packed. The stories are inventive, and well-realised. The use of CGI animation means they can do things in the plots the original series never could do. I loved seeing how Thunderbird 4 got back into the pod of Thunderbird 2, for example. I also liked seeing the industrial robots assembling needed rescue equipment on the fly with a single pod base (OK, yes, that does sound like “giant Japanese Robot assemble!” but trust me – it makes sense when you see it.)  The direction is much better than you’d expect in a children’s series. There’s a pan-up and over Tracy Island that’s not only beautiful, but clearly shows the film-makers love for Thunderbirds – original and new. And in “Runaway”, the demolishing of a geranium’s flower will make you feel sorry for a plant. Fortunately she returns as Gladys, a “pet” plant belonging to a poor guy who needs rescuing not only in “Slingshot” but also in “Under Pressure”.

The CGI at times is very good, as is the updated model work. But at other times, at least to me, characters look incredibly plastic – and clothing (and hair) looks like it’s made from thinly-rolled sheets or sculpted pieces of modeling clay (or even the fondant used to decorate cakes). As the series progressed, though, I became more accustomed to it. The light and coloring on the eyes was particularly good.

OK, now to the changes and the – definitely not bad, but the, let’s call it, for some areas “needs improvement”.  The Thunderbirds themselves have been slightly updated (especially Thunderbird 2 which is much more boxy in shape; and Thunderbird 3’s been given grappling arms which make sense given her space-bound duty.)  The changes do end-up looking like improvements, and modernization (the entire show has a futuristic look).  The Tracy sashes have been completely changed – now instead of matching the contrast or piping color of the corresponding Thunderbird – they match the main color of the Thunderbird (except John) and the sashes are really bright. The new color scheme is:

  • Scott – Grey sash (silver)
  • John – Gold Sash
  • Virgil – Green Sash (bright toxic green)
  • Gordon – Yellow Sash
  • Alan – Bright red sash

And the hats are gone! Though, in truth the Tracys only seemed to wear them on formal occasions and not during heavy rescues in the original series.

Second, due to the shorter running time – there’s a lot less characterization. There is witty banter, and the banter is actually witty – not something that would set your teeth on edge, or make one squirm with it’s inappropriateness. We see some concern amongst the brothers for each other, but it tends to be downplayed. However, in “Tunnels of Time”, Scott loses his cool completely when a greedy archaeologist seems more concerned with treasure than the safety of Gordon, Lady Penelope, and Parker. Also, the entire family is concerned about Alan in “Slingshot”. However, there’s nothing, so far, like the family concern in some of my favorite episodes of the original Thunderbirds series (click the link for info).

The speaking voices of the Tracys are far more natural and less clipped than the original series – this adds to the modern feel. I also liked the implication than 2060 is a pretty nice place to live. The show is relentlessly optimistic – like it’s original series inspiration. The Tracys are great characters.The rescues are fantastic – and I found myself concerned about the characters and the people they were rescuing more than once.

Overall, highly recommended – I cannot wait to see more in the near future.

Disappointingly, the DVD set has no special features whatsoever.

Trivia:  Thomas Brodie-Sangster also played Jojen Reed in Game of Thrones. Also, Richard Taylor (Lord of the Rings) is in charge of the model work for Thunderbirds Are Go, and the models and some special effects work are done by Weta Workshop.