Book Review: Doctor Who – The Indestructible Man

  • Title: The Indestructible Man
  • Series: BBC Books Past Doctor Adventures
  • Author: Simon Messingham
  • Characters:  Second Doctor, Zoë, Jamie, Gerry Anderson shows
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 2/23/2013

This novel is very, well, novel. As the photo-cover and title suggest, it really is a cross-over with all the Gerry Anderson stuff. Mostly it crosses Doctor Who (Second Doctor, Jamie, Zoë) with Captain Scarlet — the indestrcutible man, and with UFO, thus Zoë’s purple wig. But other Anderson shows make an appearance, including, Thunderbirds.

I was expecting, therefore, for this novel to be very funny, and it wasn’t, from what I remember it was actually kinda’ depressing. However, I did read it awhile ago, and it’s one of the Past Doctor Adventures I’d definitely read again.

Overall, definitely a book to read and add to your Doctor Who collection. It’s something to also recommend to the Gerry Anderson fan you know.

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.

Thunderbird 6

  • Title:  Thunderbird 6
  • Director:  David Lane
  • Date:  1968
  • Studio:  MGM, United Artists
  • Genre:  SF, Action, Children
  • Cast:  Peter Dyneley, Sylvia Anderson, Shane Rimmer, Jeremy Wilkin, Matt Zimmerman, David Graham
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

Thunderbird 6  is based on the Gerry Anderson Supermarionation series, Thunderbirds, and was made at the same time. For more information on the television series, see this post. The film opens with a secret meeting at the New World Aircraft Corporation, where the designer of the Thunderbirds, Mr. X, addresses the group. He suggests New World Aircraft should build an airship. The men at the meeting literally laugh at him, but build the ship anyway.

Once the ship is build, Alan Tracy and Tin Tin fly to England in an antique Tiger Moth Biplane to meet up with Lady Penelope and Parker. The four travel to the air field at New Word Aircraft. FAB 1, Lady Penelope’s pink Rolls Royce is loaded on the airship, and Alan, Tin Tin, Lady Penelope, and Parker, all go aboard the lighter-than-air craft for the around-the-world maiden voyage of Skyship One as it’s called.

However, all is not smooth sailing. Prior to the arrival of the International Rescue crew members, a group of men had gotten into the ship. These men kill the ship’s captain and the entire crew, and take their place. Skyship One is completely automated, and the crew is only there to serve the passengers and in case of emergencies.

With the International Rescue members aboard, and unaware that the crew isn’t the real crew – Skyship One lifts off, and begins it’s around-the-world cruise, stopping at many famous sites, and even making ports of call where the passengers can see the sights. They visit New York, the Grand Canyon, Los Angeles, Niagara Falls, Switzerland, the Pyramids, and other famous tourist locations.

Meanwhile, Jeff Tracy has told his engineer Brains (also the mysterious “Mr. X” who suggested that Skyship One be built in the opening scene of the film) that International Rescue needs a Thunderbird 6. Jeff gives no explanation of what he wants, nor does he explain why he thinks it’s so important. Throughout the film, Brains develops machines for Jeff, showing him various models, and Jeff rejects all of his designs and hard work. This becomes the “B plot” of the film, while the around the world tour on Skyship One is the “A plot”.

During the tour, Lady Penelope discovers she is being bugged. Alan, Parker, and Lady Penelope all investigate – and discover only Lady Penelope is being recorded. Meanwhile, it’s revealed that the substitute crew have written a message from Lady Penelope to Jeff Tracy at International Rescue – they plan on recording Lady Penelope saying all the words of the message, the re-arranging and editing together the words she says, so it sounds like she is sending the message herself. The message will then be sent, so Jeff hears it and thinks Penny sent it. Additionally, the message, which essentially sends Thunderbirds 1 and 2 to a disused airfield south of Casablanca, also tells Jeff to not acknowledge the message.

And that is exactly what happens – Alan, Parker, and Tin Tin discover recording equipment, and realize what is going on, but not before the message is sent. Penny calls Jeff directly using her compact-phone, only to find that Thunderbirds 1 and 2, and their pilots have been sent to the co-ordinates in the message. Lady Penelope warns Jeff it’s a trap. Jeff contacts his sons, and they blow the heck out of the buildings at the airfield, destroying everything with guns.

Meanwhile, in an attempt to round-up the false crew as the ship approachs Dover in the UK, there’s a gunfight in the “Gravity Compensation Room” (an impressive model set full of silver spinning things). The gravity compensaters are damaged, and the airship begins to slowly sink. Tin Tin, however, is taken hostage by one of the false crew and the International Rescue team is also taken hostage.

Meanwhile, Thunderbirds 1 and 2, fly to the location of Skyship One to find out what’s going on, and to rescue Lady Penelope, Tin Tin, and Alan.  As he gets close to where the airship should be, Scott has trouble finding it – then notices it is cruising at a much lower altitude than it should be. Skyship One then hits and becomes entangled in the Interceptor Towers at a missile base on the British coast. The ship is in a dangerous and precarious position. Scott has the missile base evacuated and in the meantime tries to effect a rescue of the people aboard Skyship One, with the help of Virgil in Thunderbird 2.

Unfortunately, because Skyship One is so light, and the tower isn’t steady, Thunderbirds 1 and 2 can’t get close without causing the ship to start tipping or crashing. They use lines to try to stabilize the ship but are unsure how to effect a rescue of the people. They contact Tracy Island Base for ideas.

Brains comes up with a solution – they will use the 2-seater Tiger Moth to rescue people from the Skyship one at a time. This would be difficult enough, but when the small biplane lands on the huge airship, Brains is quickly taken hostage – and Foster, the captain, tries to escape by himself, only.

However, Brains, Parker, Alan, and Tin Tin are able to overcome the false crew and get on the Tiger Moth. It isn’t straight forward though – other members of the substitute crew get on the Tiger Moth, there’s a gunfight, and eventually all of the false members are killed, including Foster who is in the pilot’s seat of the Biplane. Lady Penelope ends up in the forward seat of the Biplane, and Parker in it’s undercarriage – and the plane’s engine is shot and losing fuel. Lady Penelope is the only one of the group who doesn’t know how to fly a plane. Alan carefully moves along the exterior of the plane from where he had been hanging on the wing to the cockpit. He tries to talk Penny through a dead-stick landing but she can’t quite get the plane down. So Alan has her pull-up, roll the plane to get rid of Foster’s body, then gets into the second cockpit himself and eventually lands the plane (without fuel he ends up in a tree – but no one is hurt, not even Parker).

Meanwhile, once everyone has left Skyship One via Biplane, and the missile site is evacuated, Scott and Virgil let go of their lines supporting the doomed airship. It crashes into the missile base and there’s a series of really big explosions.

Later at Tracy Island, Brains introduces to Jeff the completely built and field-tested Thunderbird 6 – the Tiger Moth.

Thunderbird 6 does feel much more like an extended episode of the television series, and the plot holds-up together better than Thunderbirds Are Go. However, it’s still very slow moving. The world-wide cruise of Skyship One just seems to take forever. The film also has two problematic issues with it – first, it’s very violent, especially for Thunderbirds.  The entire crew of the airship (granted, its only four people, but still) is ruthlessly slaughtered. When Jeff tells Scott and Virgil that their rendezvous at the airfield south of Casablanca is a trap, the boys simply annihilate everything in sight. What if the Black Phantom’s cronies had taken people hostage at the airfield? I mean, sure, it was abandoned – but that doesn’t necessarily mean there’s no one there. And then, in the midst of the actual rescue, the entire substitute crew, who were, granted, up to no good – are killed. It’s remarkably violent for a kid’s movie. And the second issue is the film is pretty sexist. Of course, it’s Tin Tin who’s taken hostage. Of course, Lady Penelope can’t fly a plane or follow Alan’s instructions for landing it. I mean, yes, that would be difficult – but this is Lady Penelope!

Still, overall, the film is better than Thunderbirds Are Go, simply because the plot holds together better, even if the movie moves very slowly.

Recommendation: Recommended for fans of the original show only
Rating:  3 1/2 Stars out of 5
Next Film:  To Catch a Thief

Thunderbirds Are Go

  • Title:  Thunderbirds Are Go
  • Director:  David Lane
  • Date:  1966
  • Studio:  MGM/UA
  • Genre:  SF, Children
  • Cast:  Shane Rimmer, Peter Dyneley, Sylvia Anderson, Jeremy Wilkin, Matt Zimmerman
  • Format:  Technicolor, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“OK, boys, Thunderbirds are go!” – Jeff Tracy

“Well, clearly, there’s life on Mars. But I guess it’s not life as we know it.” – Jeff

Thunderbirds Are Go is based on the Gerry Anderson Supermarionation TV series, Thunderbirds and was made at the same time. The movie is very much like a bigger, more complex and meant to be more exciting episode of the series. And that is where the film falls down, unfortunately. The film opens  with the control center for the Zero X, a manned flight to Mars. A saboteur inside the vessel is able to sabotage it, and the ship crashes into the ocean. The crew, however ejects and is rescued by normal air/sea rescue.

Two years later, there is a discussion of the crash in the wake of a 800-plus page report detailing exactly what happened. The conclusion of the report – sabotage!  However, Earth is again in position to try for Mars. The proposal to do so meets with one negative vote. The captain of the previous mission asks that International Rescue be called in to provide security and be on-hand in case anything goes wrong. The head of the space organization isn’t happy about asking for help, and refuses to do so.

Meanwhile on Tracy Island, the boys are eagerly standing in front of Jeff Tracy’s desk. Though he points out that International Rescue does not normally respond until they receive a request for help, he tells them that rules are meant to be broken and sends Scott in Thunderbird 1 and Virgil in Thunderbird 2 to Glenn Field to monitor and assist. Alan is dispatched in Thunderbird 3 to monitor from space. John is of course, on Thunderbird 5, and will only monitor communications as normal. Gordon is left at home with nothing to do. Once the boys have left, Jeff calls Lady Penelope and asks IR’s London agent to also go to Glenn Field to investigate and route out any saboteurs.

Lady Penelope, undercover as a journalist, asks one of the scientists on the mission a question, then gives him a St. Christopher medal, with a transmitter/homing beacon inside. Later, once everyone is meant to be on the ship for takeoff – she runs a check and realises Dr. Grant is not on the ship. Scott goes to investigate and unmasks a phony and saboteur. Penny locates the real Dr. Grant who is unharmed and returned to the aircraft before it takes off. Penny and Parker also chase the saboteur in FAB 1, Lady Penelope’s pink Rolls Royce. The chase includes the car turning into a hydrofoil and continuing the chase on water, and finally bringing down the saboteur’s helicopter with machine gun fire.

Meanwhile, Zero X takes off as scheduled and without difficulty. Thunderbird 2 escorts it as far as rarefied atmosphere, where Thunderbird 3 takes over and sees that the ship safely leaves Earth’s atmosphere. Alan returns in Thunderbird 3 to Tracy Island. Meanwhile, rather than returning immediately to Tracy Island, Scott and Virgil join Lady Penelope at a new nightclub called the Swinging Star. The Thunderbirds are left under guard at Glenn Field.

Back at Tracy Island, Alan isn’t happy to have heard that Scott and Virgil are going out for a night on the town. He asks Jeff for permission to go to the mainland with Tin Tin, but Jeff refuses.

That night, Alan has a dream – Lady Penelope picks him up and takes him to the Swinging Star nightclub in space. There’s instrumental music and Alan wear’s a medium blue suit, while Lady Penelope wears a stunning blue dress with a white feather boa. After the first musical number, Cliff Richards Jr. and the Shadows come on and play an elaborate number which includes them playing on FAB 1 in space, and on a giant guitar and other effects. After his musical interlude, the dream gradually becomes slightly nightmarish and Alan is woken up by his father, after he falls out of bed.


Next, the boys, Jeff and Tin Tin are relaxing by the Tracy’s pool. Jeff notes the Zero X is now on Mars.

The film cuts to Mars, which is grey and rocky – like the moon. The Martian Excursion Vehicle rolls along the surface, while the scientists inside talk of collecting samples. The scientists and astronauts notice some unusual rock formations. They then decide to fire on one to break it down for easier collection.  This is a bad move, as the “coiled rocks” are living creatures. These “rock snakes” attack. The group in the MEV call for immediate pick-up and learn it will be a short time before the rest of the ship is in position for rendezvous. The MEV tries evasive maneuvers. Finally, the MEV takes off before the rendezvous check time. However, they safely reconnect with the ship.
On Tracy Island, Jeff and the boys discuss the amazing discovery on Mars and that the ship will return in six weeks.

Six weeks later the Zero X runs into trouble on it’s return journey.  International Rescue is called in. Not only is Zero X crashing, it’s heading for a small city, and access to the escape unit is jammed.

Scott heads to Glenn Field in Thunderbird 1 to oversee the rescue operation in Command and Control. Virgil, with Gordon and Alan, responds in Thunderbird 2. Once Thunberbird 2 gets closer to Zero X, Gordon oversees the rescue winch and Alan attempts to get aboard the Zero X to fix the escape unit system.  Brains, the engineer, reads a circuit diagram to explain to Alan what he needs to do.  Alan adds a transistor to the broken/burned out unit, and starts to re-wire it.  The pilot sends his co-pilot and navigator to the escape unit, but continues to fly the plane – such as it is, since it’s crashing.

Although Alan drops his screwdriver, and the ship is skimming the treetops, Alan’s able to re-wire the machinery. The pilot gets to the escape unit and the unit is safely ejected. Alan also ejects but isn’t able to get directly to Thunderbird 2. He is, however, safely lowered to the ground, where he’s picked-up by a waiting Lady Penelope in her pink Rolls Royce, with Parker acting as chauffeur. Lady Penelope promises to take him to the Swinging Star nightclub.

Meanwhile, the crew of Zero X are safe, including the pilot – who got into the escape unit at the last moment.  The plane itself, however, crashes into the city – presumably without harming anyone on the ground since the area was evacuated.

At the Swinging Star, Alan is wearing a fake mustache disguise. He soon learns that the rest of his family, including Jeff, are at the next table also in disguise. They congratulate Alan and toast him as an hero.

Thunderbirds Are Go has a few problems. First, for a movie that should be about a fantastic rescue – it isn’t really. The first Zero X goes down, but the crew are rescued by conventional means. When the Thunderbirds go to escort the second Zero X, other than routing out a saboteur, there’s no need for them to be there because the launch goes off perfectly. When the Zero X gets into trouble on Mars, they are too far away to call International Rescue – even Thunderbird 3, and they rescue themselves. And finally, the actual rescue at the end seems rushed. Alan does get to be the hero, but he’s also a seasoned professional (if anything Gordon and John get slighted in the story). Also, although the crew is rescued, always the most important thing for International Rescue – rescuing people; one really has to wonder about the wisdom of allowing a very large spaceship to crash into a city. I mean, Did they really think it would be completely evacuated?  And then there’s the fantasy dream sequence. The whole film is slow, clunky, and feels like two or more Thunderbirds TV episodes cobbled together.

The positives are of course the model work, which is really good, even though the models do scream that they are, in fact, models, and not something realistic. It’s worth noting that Derek Meddings, who did the model work for the series, this film, and many of Gerry Anderson’s other series; also worked on Doctor Who, the James Bond feature films, and had a distinguished career in special effects. I have this and Thunderbird 6 to round-out my collection of Thunderbirds DVDs. I also have the entire TV series. But other than as a collectible, it’s not really worth it.

Recommendation:  Skip it
Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars
Next Film:  Thunderbird 6


  • Title:  Thunderbirds
  • Director:  Jonathan Frakes
  • Date:  2004
  • Studio:  Working Title, Universal
  • Genre:  SF, Adventure, Action, Children
  • Cast:  Brady Corbet, Bill Paxton, Sophia Myles, Ron Cook, Ben Kingsley, Anthony Edwards, Genie Francis
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“Alan, This equipment’s only to be used in an emergency! [Tin Tin and Alan look at each other] I guess this qualifies.” – Fermat

“It’s the children. They have it.” – The Hood
“No way. They’re dead. No one could live through something like that.” – Mullion
“I did.” – The Hood

“Alan? He’s just a kid.” – Gordon Tracy
“He’s a Tracy.” – Jeff Tracy

Thunderbirds is a live-action children’s adventure film based on the ITV Gerry Anderson Supermarionation series of the same name. For more information on the original television series see this post. The film is an origin story of sorts, set early in the career of International Rescue and the Thunderbirds. Jeff is very much an active part of the organization, and Alan – the youngest Tracy, is still at school, attending Wharton Academy, an all-boys boarding school, with Fermat, Brains’ young son.

Alan dreams of the day he can leave school behind and join his brothers in International Rescue as a full Thunderbird.  In this film, the Thunderbirds are the pilots of the machines as well as the machines themselves. Alan’s at school when he’s caught daydreaming by a teacher – and is given an extra report to write during Spring Break. However, soon all the students are watching a news cast – the Thunderbirds respond to an fire at an oil rig in Russia and rescue the trapped men, despite heavy rain and other problems. Alan and Fermat watch with the other students, but Alan, far from being worried about his older brothers and father – mimes their actions and wishes to be with them.

Lady Penelope, the family’s London agent, arrives at Wharton and picks-up Alan to bring him home to Tracy Island, because the rest of the family is obviously busy. Not only does she arrive in her 6-wheeled pink Rolls Royce – but Lady Penelope’s entire wardrobe is pink. Once she, Alan, Fermat, and Parker have driven away from any traffic the car turns into a flying car – and Parker pilots it to the Island.

Unbeknowest to Scott Tracy, however, when he and Virgil drop off the rescuees at a local hospital, one of them shoots a tracking compound onto Thunderbird 1. Scott doesn’t notice. At dinner, Alan asks his father when he can become a Thunderbird, and Jeff rebukes him saying he’s too young.

Alan and Fermat sneak into Thunderbird 1 where they accidentally start the launch sequence. The sequence is stopped without incident, but Jeff is so mad at Alan’s behavior he doesn’t give Alan a chance to tell him about the tracking goo he and Fermat found. (At this point the children don’t realize what the goo is for.)

John’s on Thunderbird 5, a manned satellite and communications station. He reports to Jeff on a couple of minor problems but his report is it’s basically a quiet night. Then, suddenly, and without warning, The Hood (Ben Kingsley) fires a rocket into Thunderbird 5. The satellite is crippled and John is in trouble.  Jeff, Scott, Virgil, and Gordon take Thunderbird Three, the giant, red rocket ship into orbit to rescue John/fix the satellite.

Meanwhile, The Hood invades Tracy Island.  Alan, Fermat, and Tin Tin see his sub – but are unable to stop the attack on Thunderbird 5.

The Hood bursts into the house on the island, looking around he recognizes Jeff’s picture. The Hood’s vendetta seems personal. The Hood forces Brains to activate command and control. Jeff and his boys enter Thunderbird 5, but The Hood locks the door so they can’t get out.  Jeff handles the emergency on Thunderbird 5 well, and finds and cares for his injured son, John.  However, the five men are unable to escape the satellite because The Hood’s locked and jammed the door from Command and Control.

Alan, Fermat, and Tin Tin (Kyrano’s daughter) go the Thunderbird Silos – they use the Firefly and the Thunderizer to escape The Hood’s henchpeople, Mullion and Transom.  They slide down an exhaust pipe into the Ocean surrounding the Island, then get to shore. The three need to come up with a plan. They decide to cross the Island on foot, through the jungle to the Island’s satellite dish to try to contact Jeff on Thunderbird 5. After a few adventures, they make it.  They have some difficulty with the transmitter, but eventually get it working.  Alan asks what to do – but Jeff tells him to follow protocol and get to Lady Penelope.

Alan would rather have an more active role. He finds one of the family’s old hover-sleds, and builds a sidecar-like device so he can carry Tin Tin and Fermat as well behind them. They are chased by the Hood’s Henchpeople, Mullion and Transom.  Fermat and Tin Tin are caught, and put in a freezer with their fathers, Brains and Kyrano.

Meanwhile, Alan is still free, and he sees Lady Penelope and Parker arrive. He follows and sees them challenge and fight the henchpeople in the Tracys’ living room.  Although the British agents fight extremely well, they are no match for The Hood’s mind control – the are caught and put into the freezer with everyone else.

The Hood, Transom, and Mullion head off to the Bank of England in Thunderbird 2 – having gotten the guidance computer chip Fermat had taken out of the machine.

In the freezer, Parker remarks that he can open the lock if he had a small piece of wire. Lady Penelope offers him the underwire from her bra. Everyone had discretely turned away as she retrieved it.

The group manages to rescue Jeff and the boys on Thunderbird 5 just before the satellite burns up in a decaying orbit, as well as reversing the sabotage to the satellite airlock door to Thunderbird 3. Then, the group, including Lady Penelope take Thunderbird 1 to London.

The Hood lands Thunderbird 2 in Jubilee Gardens, near the London Eye.  They take the Mole and dig a route under the Thames towards the Bank of England, their route cuts the supports of the monorail – causing a disaster.

Meanwhile, Jeff and his boys head directly to London in Thunderbird 3.

Alan arrives in Thunderbird 1 – he lands and uses Thunderbird 4 (the yellow sub) to rescue the monorail car, with help from Tin Tin who secures the line around the monorail, which is then lifted by Thunderbird 1.

Jeff watches his youngest son in action, and is proud of how his handles himself. He lands Thunderbird 3 in Jubilee Gardens next to the other Thunderbirds.

Once the people from the monorail are safe, the Thunderbirds and Lady Penelope go to the Bank of England to stop The Hood.  Lady Penelope, thanks to The Hood’s special powers, and Jeff end-up locked in a vault.  Alan, with the help of Tin Tin’s use of her own special powers, defeats The Hood.

At a celebratory beach party, Jeff gives International Rescue pins to Fermat, Tin Tin, and Alan – and welcomes Alan officially into the family business.

Thunderbirds is a fun family movie. It always makes me smile whenever I watch it, from the opening animated sequence, to the ending credits theme tune by Busted, “No strings to hold them down,” indeed.  Yes, it’s a kids movie, and Jeff and the older Tracy sons are basically stuck in Thunderbird 5, completely helpless for the majority of the movie. The movie emphasizes Alan – and shows us his journey from teenager, to full-fledged International Rescue member. Jeff Tracy does come off as an, excuse the expression, bit of an hard-ass, but explanations are given. The Hood hates him because when International Rescue responded to the collapse of his illegal diamond mine – he wasn’t rescued, but stranded. Being trapped led him to develop his mental powers. When Alan asks if The Hood’s story is true – Jeff tells Alan, yes, it is, and that sometimes you can’t save everyone, even though International Rescue saved 600 people that day. Alan then asks, “What was Mom like?” To which Jeff replies, “She was like you.” Jeff had been inspired to start International Rescue after his wife was killed in an avalanche.

There are some notable differences from the TV show the movie is based on – one of the most notable is that the International Rescue members, that is, the Tracy boys who pilot the Thunderbird machines call themselves Thunderbirds as well. In the series, their organization was always International Rescue, the machines were Thunderbirds, and the pilots were the Tracys. Though, as it was a secret who IR was – I could easily see the public also calling the pilots Thunderbirds rather than members of International Rescue as they do in the TV show. Also, in the series, Alan is an adult – an astronaut who is also famous as a race car driver (which was almost a hobby for him). And Alan’s a competent member of International Rescue, and the pilot of Thunderbird 3 – who splits space monitor duty with John, aboard Thunderbird 5.  Jeff leads his boys from the ground as base commander. And Lady Penelope doesn’t wear so much pink. Though I must admit her wardrobe in the film, is fantastic.

Still, even with the shift of focus to Alan, Fermat (a new character for the film), and Tin Tin, the film is fun. It’s an excellent family film. And I always enjoy it every time I watch it.

Recommendation:  See It! Especially appropriate for families and pre-teens.
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Next Film:  Thunderbirds Are Go

Thunderbirds (British TV Series) Info and Review

This blog entry was originally published on my Live Journal on 2/14/2009.

Character and machines information sheet — Thunderbirds

Production info.

Thunderbirds  (ATV, British Independent TV, made for export). Export production co. ITC

Season 1 1964 (eps. 1-26) Color.

Season 2 1966 (eps. 27-32) Color

Arguably, Gerry Anderson’s most popular “Supermarionation” program.

The set up: After the death of his wife (we are given no information whatsoever about this — when she died, how, etc, is not spelled out, viewers don’t even know her name) American millionaire Jeff Tracy is left to raise his five sons alone. Well, with some help from his own mother. Jeff Tracy soon tires of running multi-national Tracy Enterprises and decides to gather his grown sons together. He buys an island, hires an engineer, and begins building the fantastic Thunderbird machines (yep, Anderson stole the name from an American air force base where his brother served). He then gets his boys to leave their careers and join him in founding International Rescue – a group dedicated to rescuing and helping people anywhere in the world who are beyond the abilities of normal rescue services to aid. The series starts with the five Thunderbirds up and running and the five boys experienced at piloting them. All five of Jeff’s boys are named after US astronauts and early space program people.

Characters – The Tracy Family

Jeff Tracy – Patriarch of the Tracy family.  Multi-millionaire founder and CEO of Tracy Enterprises, though he leaves day-to-day operations to his trusted advisors. He’s head of International Rescue.  Jeff  had also been an astronaut in his past and walked on the moon.

Scott Tracy – eldest of the Tracy boys. Pilot of Thunderbird One (see machines). Heads co-ordination and control on most rescues. (Scott is only NOT present on a rescue if there’s a good reason for it, such as in “The Uninvited” when he’s shot down and needs to be rescued himself). Jeff is obviously grooming Scott to replace himself as head of International Rescue (or IR). Scott was a US Air Force test pilot prior to retiring to join IR. Scott is brunette with blue eyes. Scott wears the standard IR uniform with a blue sash.

Virgil Tracy – Second oldest of the Tracy boys. He and Scott are also quite close, closer than perhaps any of the other boys (Though Alan and Gordon have been known to team-up to play practical jokes on their older siblings). Virgil is the pilot of Thunderbird Two. He also has an artistic soul – painting, playing the piano, and pursuing other such interests. Virgil has auburn/golden brown hair and hazel eyes. Virgil wears the standard IR uniform with a yellow sash. Virgil also has skills in practical engineering.

John Tracy – There is some dispute about where he fits in birth order – some sources list him as eldest (older than Scott) but it makes more sense if he’s in the middle. John was an astronaut prior to joining IR, and still has an interest in astronomy. He’s the de-facto space monitor aboard Thunderbird Five, though in the series it is often stated he splits this duty with Alan. John’s blonde, with blue eyes. John’s sash is lilac.

Gordon Tracy –  Fourth in birth order. Gordon’s an aquanaut, who served in the World Aquanaut Safety Patrol (from Gerry Anderson’s series Stingray) until his career was cut short by a hydrofoil accident that nearly killed him. This accident was several years before the series, but shook up the entire Tracy family. He did recover from the accident, but suffers occasional serious back pain. Gordon is the pilot of Thunderbird Four. Gordon has reddish-blond hair, and golden brown eyes. Gordon wears an orange sash on his uniform.  He also has a pressure suit that he wears when piloting TB 4 in deep water. Gordon’s the practical joker of the family – something he sometimes drags Alan into. Like Scott and Virgil; Alan and Gordon are especially close – in a close-knit family.

Alan Tracy – The youngest of the Tracy brothers, but still a quite competent member of IR. Alan’s passion before joining the family business was racing cars – now he brings his passion to rescuing people. Alan also, like John and Jeff, has a background as an astronaut. He’s the pilot of Thunderbird Three, and does occasional duty onThunderbird Five. Alan’s blond, with blue eyes. His sash is white. He’s also somewhat impetuous – and his older brothers occasionally have to rein him in.

Grandma Tracy – Jeff’s mother, she aids somewhat in looking after the family – cooking, cleaning, etc. (Hey, it was a 60s show, after all.) She knows all about International Rescue.

Characters – the Tracys’ Friends and Enemies

Brains – The engineer Jeff found to design and build the Thunderbird machines. According to the bio on the DVD set, his parents “died in a hurricane in Michigan” (yeah, right, tornado or water spout maybe, but hurricane?) and he was raised in foster care and orphanages – this left him with a stutter and extremely shy. He once used the name Hiram K. Hackenbacker, though he later claims it to be a made-up alias.

Lady Penelope – Think Joanna Lumley as a secret agent, oh wait, that’s The New Avengers. Anyway, the puppet and voice for “Lady P” has always reminded me of Joanna Lumley. Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward is IR’s London Agent. She’s also a love interest for Jeff, though it’s very low key. She’s upper crust British, and can get into places the boys couldn’t to check things out and prevent disasters before they happen. Also, called “Lady PEN-oh-lope” by her butler/driver, Parker. Jeff normally calls her “Penny”.

Parker – Lady Penelope’s butler, he’s as lower cast as she is upper – but they get on like a house on fire. Parker speaks with a thick East End / Cockney accent. He also was a jewel thief, safe-cracker, and black bag man before Lady P rescued him and employed him as her butler and driver. Parker used his unique skills in the aid of Lady Penelope and by extension, IR.

Tin Tin – a girl living on Tracy Island, and daughter of  Kyrano, Jeff’s Asian servant. Alan has a major thing for her, which she returns within limits. Tin Tin knows about International Rescue, but is seldom allowed on missions.

Kyrano – Quite possibly the strangest character on the series, he’s Jeff’s Malaysian servant. Jeff for some unknown reason trusts him completely. However, Kyrano has a half-brother, the Hood, who occasional takes mental control of him and tries to force him to sabotage IR. Kyrano knows about IR but has not revealed all the details he knows to the Hood.

The Hood – The enemy of IR — he simply wants their technology to use for nefarious purposes. He’s Asian, bald, and his eyes glow when he’s using his mental powers. He has the ability to control his half-brother Kyrano.  He can also hypnotize and control people at close range.

Ned Cook (occasional) – A reporter who originally tries to find out and reveal to the world who the men are who make up International Rescue. However, in “Terror in New York City” (One of my absolutely favorite episodes), IR rescues him, saving his life and the life of his cameraman, after that he reports on IR’s feats but carefully avoids revealing who IR is.

The Machines

Thunderbird One Grey with blue accents, she’s a super-sonic plane or jet, usually the first into the “danger zone” or rescue scene. TB 1 is a VTOL (Vertical Take-Off and Landing) craft, meaning that although she lifts off from Tracy Island like a rocket, the retros allow landing and taking off in a vertical position and from tight quarters. She is much smaller than either TB 2 or 3, but probably only slightly smaller than your average passenger jet. Thunderbird One’s great speed and maneuverability are often used on rescues. It also holds “command and control” the computerized center used to run communications during rescues. Scott commands TB 1 as well as being in charge on the scene during rescues.

Thunderbird Two A huge green transport jet, with yellow piping/accents, it’s the workhorse of International Rescue’s operations. TB 2 includes a pod bay with interchangeable pods that carry specialized rescue equipment. During operations TB 2 lands and raises on its hydraulic legs, exposing the pod. Pod 4, which houses Thunderbird Four can be dropped in water. Thunderbird Two is slightly slower than Thunderbird One, but still capable of high speeds.

Thunderbird Three The big red rocket (with white piping/accents) it’s main purpose is to ferry International Rescue staff back and forth to Thunderbird Five. However, it has been used in rescues in and of itself such as in the episodes “Sunprobe” and “Ricochet”.

Thunderbird Four  The tiniest Thunderbird — it’s a little mini-sub. And yes, it’s yellow, with red-orange accents/piping. Piloted by Gordon, it fits snugly into Pod 4 of Thunderbird Two, which normally carries it to the rescue area. However, in “Terror in New York City”, it is shown that there is an emergency launch from Tracy Island itself that TB 4 can use.

Thunderbird Five The Tracys’ private geostationary satellite. TB 5 monitors all radio frequencies for calls for help. The space monitor, usually John but sometimes Alan, sorts through the radio traffic (which is also coded by computer) to find the disaster to which International Rescue will respond.

The Firefly An unique craft (which fits into a pod carried by Thunderbird Two) used to fire fires, it includes a bulldozer like blade on the front, a pipe which allows spraying of accelerate for setting backfires, and a cab for the driver and rescuees.

The Mole A gigantic drilling machine.

Fab 1 – Lady Penelope’s pink Rolls Royce – it has six wheels, and has enough gadgets to make James Bond jealous. Among them — total remote control, oil slicks, fog/smoke banks, machine guns, bullet-proof glass and frame, etc.

The Tracys also have all sorts of specialized rescue equipment, besides the Thunderbirds themselves, usually each episode of the series has at least one special piece of equipment.

The Episodes — my personal favorites and key episodes

“Terror in New York City” – Begins with Scott and Virgil finishing up a rescue. Scott’s loading Command and Control back into Thunderbird One, as Virgil takes off in Thunderbird Two. Suddenly, TB1’s camera detector goes off. Scott tracks down the offending cameraman – reporter Ned Cook, looking for a scoop. Scott destroys the film, then leaves the former danger zone for Tracy Island. Meanwhile, a new Navy super air craft carrier on maneuvers detects Thunderbird 2 flying nearby and starts shooting at the Thunderbird. Two of four shots hit home before Scott (who’s caught up to Virgil by then) and Jeff convince the Navy that they are shooting at an IR craft. Scott must then talk Virgil through the flight over open ocean back to Tracy Island. Virgil crashes onto Tracy Island’s runway, but has only minor injuries. TB 2, however, is trashed and will take weeks to fix. Meanwhile, in New York City a plan to move the Empire State Building with hydraulics has gone disastrously wrong, trapping Ned Cook and his cameraman under ground in a cavern filling with water. Normally, TB 2 would take TB 4 to the site to rescue the two men (who can be reached by a network of underground rivers). However, with TB 2 out of commission IR has no way of getting there on time. Jeff then gets the idea to have the Navy help out, since they destroyed the Thunderbird in the first place. TB 4 is carried to the danger zone, and barely reaches Ned and his cameraman in time.

Why I like it: Just the scene of Scott encouraging Virgil and talking him through getting his Thunderbird home makes my h/c -loving heart flutter. (It’s a great scene, trust me). But the rescue itself, with the cavern slowing filling with water, and Gordon and Scott constantly calculating and re-calculating if they will be there on time – is also great.

“Danger at Ocean Deep” – One of the few times we ever really see John on a rescue. Giant ocean tanker transports are suddenly disappearing in the Mediterranean. Lady Penelope investigates what could be causing the disappearances. Meanwhile Scott, John, and Virgil head out to sea in Thunderbirds 1 & 2 to protect one of the tankers and find out what’s going on. Lady Penelope, with help from Brains discovers that the transports are carrying alsterine which reacts with a chemical grown in the sea for making pet food. The combination produces deadly heavy mists, and eventually the ship explodes. Scott, John, and Virgil, have discovered this the hard way, as the mists are taking over the ship they are trying to protect. They manage to get the skeleton crew off the ship and escape before it explodes.

Why I like it:  It’s a good rescue, with an unusual plot (Deadly dog food?). Also, it’s really nice to see John on an actual rescue for once, instead of stuck in Thunderbird 5 co-ordinating rescues from thousands of miles away.

“Atlantic Inferno” – Lady Penelope finally convinces Jeff to take a vacation with her. Scott is left in charge of IR base. Alan gets to pilot Thunderbird 1 and take control (with help from Virgil) on site in the danger zone. This arrangement proves to be a bit of a disaster, as Scott makes mistakes (such as refusing help to one reported disaster – then having to go in when things get much worse). Meanwhile, Alan is competent at his job, but Virgil keeps trying to take over. And Jeff, spends more time worrying about his boys and how IR is doing, than relaxing on Penelope’s sheep farm. Scott initially sends out IR (Gordon, Virgil and Alan) to cap a 200 foot gas jet that’s opened on the seabed (after a World Navy missile goes astray) near Seascape – a huge oil drilling rig. Jeff admonishes Scott for it – saying it was an unnecessary rescue. Then another crack opens, with gas jets, closer to Seascape and Scott first ignores it. When it gets worse, IR has to scramble to help.

Why I like it:  It’s nice to see Scott (and Virgil) as less than perfect. Alan comes more into his own, but his impetuous nature doesn’t suit command and control. And even Jeff, can’t relax because his mind is on International Rescue and his sons. Plus, it’s an “ocean” episode — something I always like.

“Move – and You’re Dead” –  Alan gets an invitation to race at Parola Sands, and accepts, going back to the world of racing for the first time in years. He wins the dangerous and long race, but angers a rival who was counting on winning to settle some debts. This rival follows Alan (and Grandma Tracy who Alan’s picked-up to take back to Tracy Island), and forces them off the road on to an uncompleted suspension bridge. Alan and Grandma Tracy are forced onto the bridge supports, high above a river. If that weren’t enough, a timed bomb is set below the bridge to destroy it, and a motion detector is set near Alan which will explode the bomb if he so much as twitches. And it’s getting hotter by the moment. Alan manages to raise his wrist-comm. and call IR. Scott and Virgil must race to get to their brother – before the bomb explodes, Alan or Grandma move setting off the bomb, or either falls to their death.

Why I like it: More brotherly smoochness. Also, the episode starts with Alan stuck on the bridge and calling IR, then explains how he got in the predicament in the first place as he talks to Scott explaining while Scott races to the scene in TB 1.

“Sunprobe” – Another Alan episode, though all the boys except Gordon are closely involved in the rescue. A rocket called Sunprobe launches a probe to “grab parts of the sun”, which is successful, but after retracting the probe the rocket is locked on a direct course for the sun and unable to fire retro-rockets to change course. After some deliberation, Jeff decides to launch a two pronged rescue attempt. Virgil and Brains take Thunderbird Two to a mountaintop with microwave transmitter to try to contact the rocket and change it’s course. Meanwhile, Alan, Scott and Tin Tin launch in Thunderbird Three to get closer to the rocket to attempt to fire its retros with a “safety beam” (apparently the transmitter on TB 3 is short range). Thunderbird Three makes two failed attempts to save the solar nauts, before Alan has the bright idea to cut the safeties and boast the power. This works, saving the rocket and solarnauts. However, TB 3 has gotten so close to the sun, Scott, Tin Tin and Alan have all collapsed and the ship itself is trapped on a direct course for the sun. The focus shifts to rescuing TB 3 and it’s crew. Virgil and Brains, with the help of Brains mobile computer/robot “Braiman” work out some complicated equations which allow them to fire TB 3’s retros and change it’s course – rescuing Scott, Alan and Tin Tin from certain death.

Why I like it: Although at first a bit slow, it’s a episode where most of IR is involved in the rescue and it works well.

“City of  Fire” – A new huge skyscraper / mall is opened, but when a car crashes in the underground parking ramp, the entire building is threatened with fire. Scott and Virgil are dispatched and try to cut through the fire doors to get to a family trapped in the basement/parking lot.  However, the doors are thick and they are running out of time, forcing the boys to use an experimental cutting gas that when tested knocked them both unconscious. They rescue the family. Brains then discovers that the heat of the actual fire vaporized the gas as it escaped, preventing the build-up that had knocked out Scott and Virgil during the test.

Why I like it: The idea of a huge skyscraper fire could have been really exciting (The Towering Inferno, anyone?), however, the focus quickly changes from the entire building to a single family (something Thunderbirds does a lot). Still, the interplay between Scott and Virgil is great, especially when Scott convinces Jeff that they have no choice but to try the cutting gas. Also, the scene at the beginning with the test of the cutting gas is well done, and has a high h/c quotient.

“Cry Wolf” – Two boys in the Australian Outback are playing “International Rescue” with real walkie-talkie radios. John picks up their transmissions, and when it sounds like real trouble – sends out a rescue. Scott arrives and discovers the boys are merely playing. He explains the importance of not making prank calls. Later, another call is received from the boys father. Thinking it to be another prank, Jeff at first ignores it. However, soon their father’s boss calls, saying the boys have been really trapped in a mine. Scott is dispatched in TB 1, and Virgil and Alan in TB 2. Virgil and Alan rescue the boys, while Scott rescues their father and discovers the Hood has been behind everything. He gives chase to the Hood who has photos from orbiting spy satellites.

Why I like it: This is one of the few episodes (along with “Atlantic Inferno”) that I clearly remembered watching as a child – maybe because it involves children (and children who Scott gives a personal tour of Tracy Island to, no less). Anyway, the story works better than you might think giving it revolving around children and the old fable of crying wolf. There’s a good rescue as well.

Vocabulary and Language

F.A.B – Doesn’t actually stand for anything, but used to signify agreement. Each letter is pronounced separately, not as a single word.

Thunderbirds Are Go – Jeff’s catch phrase when sending the boys on a mission.

Danger Zone – The area where the disaster has occurred. Often used with the estimated time of arrival or actual arrival, as in “I’m 10 minutes from danger zone”, or “Have arrived danger zone”.

Note – during disasters the boys are likely to speak in a clipped tone, ignoring things like pronouns.