Stingray – 11. Emergency Marineville

Directed by John Kelly

Teleplay by Alan Fennell

First UK Broadcast: 11th October 1964

Emergency Marineville was chosen as the second episode of Stingray to be broadcast. The episode also formed part of the Aquanaut of the Year clip show at the end of the series, and the linking material which later became The Reunion Party broadcast in 2008. It was weaved into the compilation film Invaders From The Deep released in 1981. It was also among the first episodes to receive a home media release of sorts in the 1960s with a silent 8mm home movie reel from Walton Films. Clearly, from the very beginning, Emergency Marineville was considered something special and it’s been wheeled out time and again to be the flagship of the entire series. So, what makes it so darn popular? Well let’s get on with it and try to figure that out…

An island, quite a bit more impressive than the one we saw in Hostages of the Deep, is home to a volcano that spits out rockets. It’s pretty obvious the rocket is actually being launched from behind the mountain instead of inside it, because smoke can just about be seen billowing out from the sides of it. As rockets go, its pretty much your bog standard threatening missile type of thing. Not too ornate, not too simple, just right. Anyway, we’re not wasting any time here, it’s pretty obvious that this is our threat of the week.

Shout out to the chaps at the Marineville Tracking Station who are heard but never seen. Maybe they don’t call in over the radio at all, but actually live in the ceiling. That would certainly be a novelty.

After the events of The Big Gun where they left things a little bit late, Shore is quick to engage battle stations straight away. One of the strengths of this episode, which probably contributes to its aforementioned re-use and re-showing in other forms, is that it contains quite a few of the standard set pieces we all associate with Stingray. Battle stations is a part of the furniutre at this point and its exciting no matter how many times you see it.

For reasons unknown, the familiar WASP interceptor rockets launched in The Big Gun and prominent in the opening titles are not used in this crisis. Instead, a hatch in the ground flops open and a missile which goes like the clappers hurries on its way to intercept. Bizarrely, the two rockets don’t actually get anywhere near each other before exploding.

The emergency may be over for now but Shore wants answers. The tracking station offers up somewhere in a 200 mile radius as the point of origin for the missile which is, frankly, a bit rubbish. That’s an area the size of Poland. You’re supposed to be a tracking station for goodness sake. But what can you expect from a bloke trapped in the ceiling?

Atlanta pushes a toothpase cap and it’s time for action stations, and then she pushes another toothpaste cap and it’s time for launch stations. Yes, the Stingray crew are on the case to try and locate the missile launch site. Oink won’t be joining them though – he’s hired a canal boat for the week and is crusing around the Midlands in an anorak.

Stingray hasn’t even launched yet and we’re already moving along to Shore telling the jet squadron to standby. It’s all happening today! These are the same aircraft seen briefly in the pilot and are commonly known as WASP Spearhead Bombers. The models started life as Revell Convair B-58 Hustler kits.

Stingray is launched and Troy is given his orders. The hoverchair ramp seen last week in The Ghost of the Sea has been removed from the floor of the cabin. The furniture in the rear of Stingray’s cabin is often rearranged to suit the scene, but its only just occurred to me that Marina’s chair from the injector tube is usually done away with by magic soon after launch because it takes up too much room. She probably stashes it behind that door at the back of the set.

The jets are ordered to scramble, which could be a very sparse breakfast menu, or could be a military command. These VTOL-capable craft elegantly rise up into the air before blasting their bloomin’ great engines and surging off at great speed. Curiously, the jets do fly past the red and white launch towers for the more familiar interceptor missiles, but the rockets themselves are missing. They weren’t used for the attack, so perhaps they’re down for maintenance this week… or Oink’s taken them with him on that canal holiday.

Yes, Marina has indeed shoved her chair out of the way and joined Troy and Phones at the controls. They’ve already arrived in the area and Phones starts to make sound scans. There’s not a lot of time for mucking about this week. It’s strictly business and driving through the plot as fast as possible. Some stories take quite a bit more setting up before they get going but, rather brilliantly, all the set up we needed happened in the very first shot of the episode – a missile being fired from an island set to threatening music. No exposition needed. We all know where we are.

Thanks to the wonders of high definition, we can see the wires which the WASP jets are being yanked along as fast as possible. The fact we can see these wires is not a bad thing as far as I’m concerned. I point these things out for the fun of it. I’ve heard criticism that Supermarionation shows shouldn’t be available in HD because of wires being so visible and apparently ruining it. I’ve never understood the correlation some people draw between the quality of the finished product, and how visible the wires are. Of course there are flippin’ wires, it’s how the flippin’ shows are made. Surely it only takes a split second to get over it and become absorbed in the story? And it’s only a few steps away from moaning about wires to saying, “oh I enjoyed that movie, but it’s a shame they used cameras to make it. If they hadn’t gone and filmed the bloomin’ thing it would have been much more believable.” And d’you know what? I can’t resist it any longer – here’s a quote from Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, one of the greatest television shows in the entire universe: “If you go to a Punch and Judy show and you’re only watching the wires – you’re a freak.” End of discussion.

Here’s a clever shot. Behind the island, two small models of the jets fly across screen from right to left. Then, two larger models of those same jets fly into the foreground from left to right. The forced perspective is maintained, and the viewer is left to imagine the aircraft making their turns just out of shot. Nowadays, the audience wouldn’t be trusted to use their imaginations like that and the pace of the whole thing would have to be slowed down by POV shots and wide shots and close-ups and fly-by shots all stitched together endlessly for maximum “drama” and just to convey that one simple movement. People who complain that the pace of television was too slow in the old days clearly don’t suffer the same pain I suffer sitting through these new-fangled streaming shows with unlimited running times where a single episode is allowed to out-stay its welcome for up to a couple of hours at a time. Stingray is an entire movie stuffed joyously into 25 minutes and there isn’t an ounce of fat to be trimmed. The show is a technical marvel with impressive and sumptuous visuals, but it also calls a spade, a spade and doesn’t make things complicated just for the sake of it. Speaking of things which go on for far too long… rant over.

The island is identified by Phones and so the Stingray crew surface to investigate. They apply that thorough technique of having Marina look out of the window to see if there just so happen to be any obvious missile launching sites strewn about on the beach.

Excuse me a minute while I dribble over how absolutely first class this shot is. Obviously the large Stingray model is a gorgeous specimen in itself, but combining that with the missile action going on in the background and you’ve got perfection. I will flag just one thing about the HD restoration which isn’t ideal, and that’s the strange green patches bleeding through on Stingray’s rear windows and next to the ‘STINGRAY’ lettering on the hull. Experts on film restoration who know far more about such things than me can explain what that’s all about.

Troy is quick to yell down the radio to Commander Shore about the next missile attack. Look at the rage and worry and heroism in that face.

The same footage is re-used again showing the WASP interceptor exploding miles away from the enemy missile.

Jolly upset that his lovely base is getting all these missiles thrown at it, Commander Shore orders Troy to cautiously investigate the island. I’m glad he advises caution because Troy is the sort of bloke to blunder into any situation all guns blazing and just sort of hope he and his crew don’t die in the process.

Sure enough, Troy’s first bright idea is to climb down the volcano and pray they don’t get hit by another missile on the way. Quickly realising how thick that would be, they decide instead to dive and look for an underground entrance to the hidden base. More of that trusty looking out of the window is put to good use.

Because this episode simply does not have time to waste, they find the cave entrance remarkably quickly. There’s a bit of continuity weirdness as Marina suddenly finds herself at the rear of the cabin and back in her original chair. And let’s take a moment to appreciate how handsome Troy looks this week. He’s been given a tan or been lit a certain way which is just working for him. The cave itself is almost certainly (though not definitely) assembled from bits and pieces of caves we’ve seen previously. It’s easy to take for granted but every rock and bit of vegetation has had to be made or sourced to look good and believable in miniature.

Time is so of the essence that not only are the Stingray crew straight out on the deck, Troy and Phones also already have their blinker heads on in readiness for the next scene – now that’s preparedness. The monocopters fly them over the very, very, very blue water towards a tunnel entrance. Said tunnel is guarded by a mysterious purple light which paralyses our heroes and knocks them out after much sweating and heavy eyelid action. This moment really stuck in my head as a kid. Just the concept of a paralyser ray seemed so brilliant to me. When I was playing with my Stingray toys, many was the adventure when Troy would encounter yet another bloomin’ paralyser ray. And all it took to capture my imagination was a purple light and a wibbly wobbly sound effect – oh and the voice acting, the direction, the editing, the puppeteering, and all the other departments that have to come together to make even the simplest concept work on screen.

As Troy passes out, the camera shifts out of focus before cutting to the next scene and one of those yellow plastic triangle thingies comes into focus. Seriously, those things get everywhere in this show and I have no idea what they are. I want to say ashtrays but I really couldn’t tell you. So after all that dramatic build up and non-stop action, we’ve now reached the meat and potatoes of the episode and we’re allowed to pause and take in some more of the motivation behind the story. The Stingray crew have been captured by Nucella and Chidora, representatives of an undersea race who, you guessed it, want to destroy Marineville. Simple as that really. Probably because this episode has been shown in so many different forms to represent the series over the years, I think it’s fair to say that Nucella and Chidora are probably among the most memorable guest villains of the entire series. They’re pretty standard issue Stingray aliens but they fit all the criteria. Voiced by David Graham and Ray Barrett – check. Identical but not quite identical twins – check. Two people representing an entire race – check. Flamboyant, fabulous outfits – check. Unusual headwear – big check.

Take a moment to appreciate this subtle bit of editing. As the torture chamber rotates (Numberwang anyone?), we cut to a close-up of Troy angrily reacting as Marina is revealed in the chair. Of course, we had to cut away because Marina’s control wires couldn’t have gone through the wall above. But one would want to have a cutaway like that anyway because the moment Troy realises Marina is in danger is just as important as the reveal itself.

So here’s the dastardly scheme – our villains will pump Marina with electricity until Troy reveals the frequency of Marineville’s interceptor missiles. If Troy tells them, Nucella and Chidora will be able to evade the interceptors and successfully destroy Marineville. If Troy doesn’t tell them, Marina dies. Sound simple? That’s because it is. It’s trope-tastic but by thunder does it work. The villains are being thoroughly evil. Marina is most definitely the damsel in distress. And Troy is the hero stuck in the middle trying to save everybody. That’s the core of Stingray right there spelled out so clearly that it’s no wonder this is the moment that made it into all the clip shows.

This is the type of scene we’ve all watched play out hundreds and hundreds of times before in film, television, and beyond, but there’s a real purity to it here that I love. It’s leaning into the trope unashamedly and the absolute conviction and seriousness with which the moment is treated just sells it completely. Marina is suffering, Phones and Troy are struggling to watch it, and Nucella and Chidora will stop at nothing to get their information. It’s balls to the wall drama. Incidentally, I don’t know how much a “marine-volt” is in regular volts, but a thousand of them sounds like a lot which I guess is the idea. There are more factors than voltage to consider when it comes to electrical injury, so I can’t really judge whether the numbers actually make any sense here – but in terms of dramatic effect it certainly works.

Troy gives in at the last possible moment before Marina receives the so-called fatal dose. He reads off some technical jargon which sounds credible enough. Of course, he could have – and probably should have – made all those numbers up, although that would have made the plot far more convoluted than it needed to be. And that brings us to the end of the first act. Boy is this one zipping along fast. Consider that in quite a few of the episodes reviewed so far, Stingray is only just being launched at this midway point. We’re already at the heart of the action this week!

Barry Gray knows what to do and is just pumping out the dramatic music as fast as possible with a quick piece to remind us all that things are as bad as they can get. Meanwhile the camera looms towards a prison cell and Chidora pointing a gun at us.

There’s something about the way Chidora says “your wonderful Marineville” that really makes me want to slap him for being so nasty and enjoying it so much.

No time to wallow in despair, we’re immediately onto the next part of the plot as Troy hatches an escape plan. Now you might argue it was incredibly thick of Chidora to leave the key on the table right in front of the cell. And yes, yes it was. But most villains are quite thick a lot of the time. That’s why they don’t win. We’re not redefining the genre or anything here, just playing to its strengths – one of those strengths is that the goodies are always smarter than the baddies. Phones is forced to tear up his uniform while Marina tears up a cushion. Cushions, ey? Quite a fancy prison cell then. Said prison cell uses the same wall as the prison cell seen in Treasure Down Below.

For some reason, I love these few shots of the rocket in the cave, and our villains riding the elevator from the bottom to the top. Consider, first of all, that full puppet size sets had to be built to show the bottom and the top of the rocket. Then there’s the operation of the elevator itself which would have had to be raised in perfect sync with the puppeteers also raising the controllers of their puppets so that neither of the characters moved unexpectedly and the lift went up.

As Nucella and Chidora babble technical nonsense back and forth to each other, Troy’s plan is well underway to get the key off of the table. Tension is given the opportunity to build without dragging the scene out as he tries and fails and tries again to achieve his objective.

The tension rises further still as Phones hears footsteps approaching. Good to know his ears work just as well without the hydrophone apparatus.

Yes, our foolish villains don’t notice that the key is missing from the table, or that the cushion they thoughtfully provided in the cell has been destroyed. Despite how quickly all this happens, it still feels like a real and credible threat that our heroes might fail. I for one am glad they managed to escape so quickly as I’m sure we weren’t far away from Phones relieving himself into that jug in the corner.

The shot of the Moon from The Ghost of the Sea is recycled here just to convey that night has indeed fallen. Troy and Phones quietly work away on the missile. Well, Troy does all the work while Phones complains about how long it’s taking. What does Troy know about interceptor warheads you ask? Enough to get the plot of this episode to where it’s going, and that’s all that matters.

Meanwhile, Marineville remains at battle stations. Despite the Stingray crew being away all day and all night, Atlanta and her father are only now beginning to worry about their whereabouts. But they’re going to wait two more hours though before starting a search. Rather different to Treasure Down Below when a full scale rescue operation was launched in reaction to Stingray failing to report in just once.

Dawn breaks, and as Troy and friends park themselves back in their cosy prison cell, Nucella and Chidora launch their beloved rocket. The set of their control room is glorious. Every panel is covered in lights and buttons and switches of various shapes and sizes and, most importantly, colours.

You know the drill by now. The tracking station reports in and Shore orders the launching of some more interceptors. This time, for good measure, two have been deployed. But uh-oh, they don’t work and fly straight past their target. The enemy rocket continues on course. Nice work Troy, way to doom us all.

The Shores realise that all is lost and Atlanta stands up to be near her father as their lives appear to be ending soon. That sure escalated quickly.

The Stingray crew have been called in to watch the destruction… well… sort of… they get to watch a little light on the screen go from one point to the other. Not quite the same thing but you get the idea.

Now that’s rather a haunting image. Atlanta clutches her father and closes her eyes as they prepare for total annihilation. Who says puppets can’t emote? There’s oodles of emotion here!

That is one fierce-looking missile.

A plume of dust and dirt but nothing more. If you look too closely, the hole in the set that the missile disappeared into is fairly apparent. But don’t think about that. Think about how everyone is still alive.

Shore gives the order over the loudspeakers for the missile to be investigated. It appears to have parked itself on the same street corner we saw in the opening moments of Count Down. Didn’t even scratch the fence. Guess Troy managed to do a good thing after all. What a guy.

This brief glimpse of the rocket squad at work is utterly charming. The little figures move by themselves. It looks like they have two giant water cannons on the right in case of a fire, a crane on the left balanced atop a modified Telsada Trans-continental Express toy, and an ambulance turns up in the foreground on the off-chance things go really wrong for somebody. There’s a little ‘DANGER’ sign hanging on the barricade too, just in case the giant missile sticking out of the ground wasn’t an obvious enough hazard.

Shore waits impatiently for news and, sure enough, Lt. Fisher immediately enters the scene with that news. Fisher knows how to get the best out of the rocket investigation squad. It usually involves bribing them with cupcakes. Troy has written the gang at Marineville a note because he’s just a romantic like that. According to the note, the place where the Stingray crew are being held prisoner is Vile Island… no idea whether I’m hearing that name correctly but whoever wrote the blu-ray subtitles agrees with me so let’s go with that. I mean, they’re not wrong, it is a pretty vile place to be.

Footage of the jets blasting off from earlier in the episode is reused as the rescue mission takes to the skies. It looks like Preston from Sea of Oil, heavily disguised under all that flight gear, is the pilot leading the attack.

Nucella and Chidora aren’t in the least bit frightened because they have the Stingray crew at their mercy. Also they have so many colourful knobs in front of them, that alone must be a delight to behold.

Troy is quick to remind the baddies of the WASP code that every member is prepared to lay down their life in the line of duty. It’s a nice callback to The Ghost Ship, particularly as Troy was so hesitant to follow the code in that episode. Come to think of it, he wasn’t exactly keen to follow it earlier when Marina was being tortured. He did technically sell out the entire population of Marineville just to save her life. Maybe he had that plan to save the day all along though. I’m sure he did. I’m sure he doesn’t dye his hair either and its just naturally that dark and luscious.

Time for some bangy-bangy-shooty-shooty-boom-boom action now as the bombers launch their attack on the island. Nucella and Chidora still won’t give in as their base collapses all around them. Troy just stands there like a Greek god declaring doom and despair for all. All that plaster falling from the ceiling is going to mess up his hair.

More shots fired, more explosions, more destruction, and the baddies decide to do a complete U-turn. They fold like a couple of deck chairs and surrender whole-heartedly to the WASPs. At least they gave the whole life of crime thing a bloomin’ good try. They must have spent a fortune kitting out that undergound base and launching three missiles in the space of two days. Hope their home insurance policy covers them against pure terrainean vengeance.

Yes, that shot of the planes flying around the back of the island and across the foreground is used all over again. Yes, I still think it’s really clever. Yes, the doctors do think I’m a special boy.

By means of some throwaway dialogue, we learn that Nucella and Chidora have been taken prisoner aboard Stingray to ensure proper justice be done. Just one thing left to do now…

The poor fish in the foreground get the fright of their lives when the first missile strikes the cave. The special effects team do not hold back and absolutely devastate the island with some of the biggest explosions the series has seen so far. The combination of fire and water makes for a spectacle of destructive glory on screen. Palm trees fly in all directions. It’s carnage and I love it.

Back at Marineville, Commander Shore has something to say to Phones to wrap the whole thing up…

Phones is missing a button on his uniform and that just won’t do. Oh my aching sides. Probably should have ended the episode on the big explosion because, frankly, ending with a gag that weak is a little bit rubbish for an epic episode like this.

Bad final scene aside, it should be pretty obvious why Emergency Marineville is held in high regard by just about everyone. It’s Stingray doing what it does best. If you could only show one episode of Stingray to anyone to sum up what the show is all about, you would likely show them Emergency Marineville because it just contains so many of the classic elements of the format. So many episodes of the series come down to X aliens (usually just a pair of them) have Y plan to destroy Troy Tempest and/or Stingray and/or Marineville. Emergency Marineville is the purest version of that formula and my goodness it works. The pace of it is unmatched by any episode so far. The plot is absolutely water tight. The special effects are incredible. It’s classic Stingray.

Next week, it’s time to go deeper than we’ve ever gone before as Stingray takes a voyage to the centre of the Earth! What are they going to find when they get down there? Why, a Subterranean Sea of course!

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Further reading: by Century 21 Films Ltd.

Filmed In Supermarionation by Stephen La Rivière. Third edition published in 2022 by Century 21 Films Ltd.

Stingray: Adventures In Videcolor by Andrew Pixley. First published in 2022 by Network Distributing.

Stingray – 10. The Ghost of the Sea

Directed by David Elliott

Teleplay by Alan Fennell

First UK Broadcast – 3rd January 1965

The Ghost of the Sea offers us that rarest of opportunities in a Supermarionation series – the chance to learn just a smidge about a character’s back story and their life before the events of the show began. Now that isn’t to say character development is lacking from the Supermarionation shows, in fact quite the opposite is true. We learn a heck of a lot about our heroes from the ways they interact with each other and respond to crisis after crisis. But the biographical history of characters is a subject rarely touched upon outside of a few throwaway lines of dialogue here and there… until now that is…

Footage from Sea of Oil showing the oil platform is re-used here to represent the cobalt mining platform. The hydro charges are being fired from a set also recycled from Sea of Oil. And, of course, the explosion is the same one we see in the opening titles in colour. So it’s a case of waste not, want not, I suppose.

In control of this operation are two chaps called Consin and Lorado. You may, if you’re a sad act like me, recognise the back of Lorado’s head from the audience of X20’s lecture in the previous episode Count Down.

As we stare at this random piece of control panel, let’s talk cobalt mining because it’s actually a topic of conversation in the real world at the time of writing. As electric vehicles become more commonplace, there’s an increasing demand for minerals like cobalt to produce the all-important batteries and other components. Sourcing that cobalt is a bit of a double-edged sword – either it needs to come from the Democratic Republic of the Congo where treatment of the environment and the people involved is less than ideal, or it needs to come from the deep waters of the Pacific where the environmental impacts are a bit of an unknown. One thing’s for sure though – they wouldn’t do it by blasting the water with massive explosives to loosen cobalt from reefs like we’ve just seen in this episode. However, all of this is just another example of how Stingray manages to point a spotlight at real industrial practices and scientific developments which were relevant in the 1960s and remain so today.

The set for the platform’s interior appears to have been heavily re-dressed and repainted since its appearance in Sea of Oil, but the large dial next to the window is still recognisable. Lorado and Consin aren’t exactly the prettiest new puppets that Stingray has seen, still favouring a few rather over the top features like the earlier Supermarionation characters. Consin has a cigar stuck to his lower lip throughout, but at least he’s considerate enough to stand by the window.

Lorado picks up a sounding on a slightly more primitive-looking version of the hydrophone aparatus used by Phones. It’s probably not good news.

The title caption quietly appears as a small submarine navigates around the ocean floor.

Consin doesn’t want to risk anything because of the value of the ore. Incidentally, I have no idea what “cobalt one-five” is compared to regular “cobalt” – either Alan Fennell made it up to sound cool, or my five minutes of googling the subject wasn’t quite thorough enough. So Lorado calls up the guard sub, under the command of a certain Captain Shore…

Unfortunately, the guard sub looks rather like what would happen if Supercar were built in a garden shed by your next door neighbour. I get that it’s supposed to be small and agile, but couldn’t the model have been a just little bit bigger so that we could at least see it?

Here’s Captain Shore at the controls! Now, maybe this was done deliberately because we’re supposed to being wondering whether this is a flashback or not, but I would have loved to see Shore looking a bit younger – perhaps with a few dabs of black boot polish in the hair or something. I know this only took place five years ago, but it’s a missed opportunity. The cabin of the sub, like the exterior, is small but functional.

The enemy sub is choosing its moment to strike. We’ll get a closer look at it later, but at first glance, I’m guessing it was built by an alien with a bumble bee fascination.

New shots of missiles striking the bottom of the rig are combined with more footage from Sea of Oil to show the mining platform getting totally annihalated. Strictly speaking, the final big boom with the tower collapsing isn’t used in Sea of Oil, but can instead be spotted in the opening titles of every episode.

Shore sets off to pursue the enemy while reporting in to the World Securty Patrol. The insignia seen on his left arm also confirms that Shore is a member of the WSP – presumably the WASP branch of the WSP has yet to be formed, or for some reason the WSP have their own aquanauts that work outside of the WASPs.

The enemy pulls off that sneakiest of manouevres – hiding behind a rock. The guard sub, marked as ‘GPS 5’, soon loses the suspect.

Not finished with blowing stuff up, the enemy opens fire on Shore and really does a number on the craft in a blinding explosion.

Shore’s vessel begins to collapse around him. He has those same hideous green blinds on the windows that I object to from the Stingray cabin.

With the guard sub now very much struggling to keep going, Shore declares that ramming is the only method of attack left open to him. Surrendering just wouldn’t do at all.

In close-up, Shore’s face is suddenly a lot grubbier than before. Perhaps an oil can exploded in his face when we weren’t looking to complete his run of bad luck.

Shore makes his dramatic final move. The escape hatch conveniently swings open as the impact occurs.

The guard sub is sent crashing spectacularly into some rocks. I’m not much of a chemist or explosives expert, but I’ll wager there’s some magnesium in there to make those brilliant white sparks.

The attack appears to have succeeded as the enemy vessel tumbles down to the sea bed, not exploding quite so much as Shore’s craft though.

Now that is a haunting image. I remember as a child watching this episode on a fuzzy, weirdly over-saturated VHS tape, and this moment really unnerved me, what with all the blood and the lifelessness from our beloved Commander Shore. And, of course, we still don’t know for sure that this is actually a flashback. For a moment, to a first-time audience, it really could be the end of Sam Shore.

Sweat across his brow, Shore wakes from his nightmare yelling his daughter’s name. Atlanta rushes into the room wearing a nightie that is to fashion what Henry VIII is to marital stability. The lighting in these scenes is excellent, very much capturing the atmosphere of waking up in your own bed but still feeling thoroughly on edge. On Shore’s bedroom wall is the painting of Stingray previously seen on the wall of the conference room in Sea of Oil. Either he’s been pinching things from HQ, or there are multiple copies of that painting. We learn that this has been a recurring nightmare recently. It’s clear that Shore is suffering from post-traumatic stress, which is quite a heavy topic for a children’s programme. It’s handled sensitively, at least until we get to the meat and potatoes of the plot and then the condition isn’t brought up again. Shore resists help and just wants to drop the matter entirely.

Atlanta knows the trauma could adversely affect her father’s health, so goes above his head and talks to Troy via the videophone in the lounge. Troy is all too happy to chat, despite sleeping peacefully and probably dreaming about Marina surfing atop a giant trifle or something. He keeps his uniform on a chair close by so that he can roll out of bed and report for duty with very, very little effort.

Shore objects most strongly to having his private nightmare interrupted by a man in such a hideous dressing gown and red slippers. There’s coffee available on a trolley as well as some sort of snack. The commander is already smoking. I think we can consider this a party. Rather pointedly, Shore requests that Troy stop acting like a doctor, which is probably who Atlanta should have actually called.

Eventually, Shore agrees to talk and we get some facts straight. It was indeed that encounter with the enemy submarine which lost Shore the use of his legs – something worth pointing out because we didn’t actually see him using his legs during the flashback. There’s also confirmation that the accident happened five years ago, which does raise some questions about his career path. In the space of five years, Shore went from being a captain in the WSP on guard duty, to the commanding officer at Marineville overseeing the entire operations of the World Aquanaut Security Patrol, all while getting over a life changing injury.

Troy theorises that a brand new cobalt mining stage starting work in the present day could be the reason Shore’s nightmare about his accident has returned. So Shore fills us all in on the rest of the story about the night of the accident. I can’t stress enough that this is the kind of character history we rarely get to see in a Supermarionation show. There’s a single line of dialogue in the Thunderbirds episode Cry Wolf which references the Tracy boys’ childhood. Joe 90 being adopted and his adoptive mother having passed away is a throwaway part of an argument in The Most Special Agent. And goodness knows how Captain Magenta ever made it into Spectrum. Of course, writers in other media have since expanded on the tiny fragments of information from the various television series and developed full biographies for the characters. That’s not a negative thing about the shows – I find it refreshing that the Supermarionation series aren’t inherently bogged down in their own lore. The chracters are well drawn without needing all that bumph. Writers can sometimes fall into the trap of replacing their characters’ personalities with a list of facts and history about them. Seeing these parts of Shore’s past in flashbacks doesn’t actually tell us a whole lot about him – the character development comes from the fact he’s resistant to share these memories with his closest family and friends because of the trauma involved. Yes, it’s interesting to see the accident, but it’s far more interesting to see the effect it has had on Shore and on his relationships with others.

By shooting this flashback at high speed, the motion of the water and the paddling of the mysterious stranger is slowed right down to give the scene a dreamy, feverish feeling. The ghost of the sea himself makes his first appearance on screen and he sure is an interesting fella – I’m mostly distracted by the fact his beard is shaped exactly like the Batman logo.

Shore drifts in and out of consciousness as the life raft is paddled towards the coast. The moonlight is excellently realised on screen, I can’t actually figure out how it’s been made to look so good. The high speed photography and spot-on lighting create this incredible ambience which is a little bit magical, a little bit unnerving, and very much like we’re watching a flashback.

The so-called ghost jumps from the boat and leaves Shore to float back to the land alone. It’s all ruddy mysterious and we don’t even know if this really happened or Shore is imagining the whole thing in his struggle with consciousness.

Spurred on by the vitality of the dawn, or some really strong coffee, Commander Shore decides to take Stingray out to the new mining zone in readiness for another appearance from the ghost. Troy’s up for anything so yes, I guess that’s what we’re doing this week!

Atlanta and Fisher are ready for action in the control room while Stingray gets underway. Once again the question of how Shore boards Stingray is raised when the stock footage shows only three injector tubes above the craft, despite four people being aboard. For this episode, a small wheelchair ramp has been installed on the step between the rear lounge area of the cabin and the hydrophone apparatus. Oink is absent again this week. He’s on a management training course.

Troy has the audacity to call Atlanta “honey” while on duty. That’s not professional at the best of times, but when Troy’s commanding officer, who also happens to be Atlanta’s father, is in earshot you have to wonder whether Troy gets a kick out of it. Maybe I’m over-reacting though. I’ll call my boss’ daughter “sweet cheeks” the next time we chat and we’ll see how that goes down.

So Stingray sets off on a so-called ghost hunt as we head into the commercial break. There’s been quite a lot to set up in this first half of the episode so I can understand why we’re only now getting going with the present day action. It’s impressive really just how much gets packed into such a relatively brief running time.

Stingray arrives in the area and it would appear that Troy and Shore are treating each other much more fairly than they did during The Ghost Ship. As they prepare to surface and take a look at the new mining platform (which after five years is identical to the old one), there’s a curious continuity issue where the shot showing Troy and Phones from the rear has clearly been borrowed from later in the episode. Troy is shown briefly wearing his diving suit and no hat, before we cut back to him again in full uniform.

Phones picks up a sounding almost immediately and identifies a small craft just out of range of their missiles. How inconvenient. And the Stingray crew didn’t even get a chance to look at the mining platform. In fact, before you know it, the enemy sub is opening fire once again.

As the missile strikes, Don Mason takes the opportunity to deliver the word “bombarded” will all the gusto you would hope for. Ray Barrett responds in kind by damn near reducing Shore to a panic as he relives his nightmare. Now, on another matter entirely, I’m looking at that control panel behind Commander Shore and I’m thinking it hasn’t actually been painted, no? It just looks a bit too much like plywood for my liking.

Now we get into the real action as the enemy vessel attacks again and Stingray immediately goes in pursuit. Surprisingly little time is spent worrying about the mining stage and the people aboard. The rest of the episode is focussed very much on the enemy sub and its occupant, with not one thought given to how many people might be drowning or on fire up on the surface. Of course, now we get one of those fantastic underwater chase sequences that the special effects team and the editors put together so well. There’s a bit of shooty-shooty-bang-bang good stuff as Stingray blows up the rock that the enemy has hidden behind. Take that!

With a bit of a bump, the camera races backwards from a close-up of Troy, to a two-shot of Phones launching another missile. This time, its a direct hit on the target. It wasn’t good enough though because the craft manages to go and hide in a cave. I like the design of that submarine, although now I’ve mentioned bumblebees I can’t stop seeing it and that’s pretty much all I can say on the matter. Said craft will pop up again in the episode Invisible Enemy, but that’s another story.

Stingray has once again found itself in a situation where its too big to fit inside a cave, and Troy has to leave Stingray in his underwater equipment. Curiously, while Shore is suggesting taking Marina along, a giant polystyrene boulder just floats along outside the rear window. I assume it’s intended to look like a rock that Stingray is travelling past, but unfortunately it looks suspiciously like its being waved around by a floor puppeteer who wasn’t fully invested in the illusion. If it convinced you, then I’m sorry for ruining it.

Shore indicates that this is a dangerous area full of giant, man-eating clams. They do look thoroughly intimidating and a great amount of detail has gone into making the clams look real and threatening. Just in case you thought such things were pure fantasy, I can assure you that giant, metre-wide, 200 kilo, 100 year old clams do exist – however, the stories of them eating or trapping poor unsuspecting people are complete tosh.

Stingray touches down on the ocean floor but for some reason its landing skids are not deployed. Instead its belly just rests straight on the ground. That can’t be good for the paintwork. That shiny fish in the foreground looks thoroughly bewildered by the whole thing.

Time for a glorious underwater swimming sequence where all the tricks of the trade are deployed. The puppets are filmed at high speed, and Marina has a fan blowing directly at her to get her hair to “float” in the “water.” There’s a gorgeous point of view shot as Troy and Marina approach the enemy vessel which is lit in a very alien shade of purple. Very well detailed little figures of Troy and Marina are then shown to enter, or rather disappear behind, a large model of the submarine’s hull.

The interior of the craft is pulled together from all sorts of bits and pieces such as control panels used in Maritimus’ missile ejector from The Big Gun. There also appear to be two small bicycle wheels with dinner plates glued to them. Troy and Marina are no more than a bit damp when they arrive, despite their swim. It soon becomes obvious that nobody is aboard and, well, the place spontaneously bursts into flames, so it’s probably time get a shift on. If there’s one thing Stingray does extremely well, it’s setting fire to the puppet sets in style.

The force of the eventual explosion sure feels powerful. Marina and Troy are knocked about by the shockwave in a manner which genuinely looks like they’re being hit by a giant current, rather than what’s actually happening which is two puppets being swung around a bit in a wind machine. In the hands of lesser talented artists, such a moment would look rubbish, but here we have another example of AP Films getting all the elements just right to achieve a totally convincing effect.

Troy and Marina make it back inside with Shore looming over them from the deck above. They’re soon off to go and find the crewman of the submarine again. All in all, that little venture outside turned out to be a bit of waste of time, but at least it demonstrated to us that this enemy, whoever the heck they are, is a bit of a wild card. That being said, I’ve always interpreted it as deliberate sabotage to attack the WASPs, but I suppose it could have just been a result of the damage from Stingray’s missile strike. What do you fine folks reckon?

Phones is quick to point out that the hydrophone equipment can’t pick up a solitary man in the depths of the ocean, which is Phones’ way of saying he can’t be bothered this week. Anyway, Troy quickly spots someone trapped in an enormous clam, whom Shore recognises as the bonafide “ghost of the sea.” He’s not a ghost, obviously, he’s just some dude in white wearing a very unconvincing toupee. You’d have to have a pretty high opinion of yourself to go out dressed like that.

Troy promises to venture outside and save the trapped stranger without Marina’s help. Of course, how Marina was supposed to help Troy navigate around some gigantic clams anyway is a bit of a mystery – I doubt Marina has some kind of hidden talent for detecting clams. All the same, not really sure why Troy insists on going out alone. Marina probably couldn’t care less either way. Now, another thing – the morals of this episode are a little bit confusing to me. Obviously the “ghost” saved Shore all those years ago and that’s swell, but it’s also heavily implied that he was at the controls of the sub which blew up both mining platforms and therefore killed several people. Sure, it’s honorable that Troy and Shore want to save the man’s life, but they don’t even discuss the fact that he happens to be a dangerous criminal and a murderer until later on. Believe me, we’ll come to that.

Troy exits Stingray alone. The background is exactly the same place that they were parked in a few minutes ago.

All the way along the route, clams large and small-ish slam shut in self defence. Clams don’t actually close that quickly in real life, hence why it’s very unlikely anyone would be stupid enough to get themselves trapped inside one. Nevertheless, Troy arrives to rescue a stupid person.

There’s a little bit of tension as Troy has to aim a dart at the so-called “constrictor muscle” without killing the so-called “ghost” who is so-called “trapped.” If you’re thinking this looks like a pointy stick jabbed into a piece of polystyrene, then you’ve been reading this blog for too long.

Troy is successful and the man goes swanning off with his garment soaked in what one assumes is blood. Quite how he’s able to swim with his legs in that state I don’t know, but if you’re a murderer being let off by a big softie like Troy, you’d probably scarper as fast as possible whatever state your legs were in.

Yes, Shore is absolutely furious that the saboteur has gotten away and that Troy just let it happen. Okay, good to know someone around here remembers what’s been going on and wants some justice.

Another one of those fake rocks wanders past the window and Marina is pretending she hasn’t noticed.

Okay, so let’s get this straight. Officially speaking, Shore believes that Troy should have taken the “ghost” prisoner for all the crimes he’s committed. But when Phones isn’t listening, Shore actually believes that Troy did the right thing by letting him go just because the man saved his life five years ago. Uh-huh.

Then Phones picks up a sounding, and Shore returns to the camp that this guy is going to attack again and shouldn’t have been given another chance. Uh-huh.

Then the guy turns up in another bumblebee sub and puts on a light show which is apparently a message in “international code.” By some miracle, or because the episode is running out of time, Shore decodes the message phenomenally quickly. He is genuinely able to interpret a few light flashes as meaningful sentences with very little effort. Apparently it’s a full and frank apology for attacking the mining stages and a request for peace. Uh-huh.

Troy and Shore are thrilled. Apparently, when you’ve committed acts of terrorism, all you have to do is flash a torch at someone politely and they’ll let you off. In some way the commander tries to take credit for the decision to let the blighter go, and Troy gets a bit sarcastic about it. Honestly, Troy, I’d let Shore have all the credit for that. After all, when the cobalt mining company and the World Security Patrol hear about all this, they’re not going to be happy in the slightest. The episode ends with the bumblebee sub and Stingray setting off together like a reunited pair of smitten lovers. You’ve earned yourself a fourth uh-huh.

As you can probably tell, I’m not entirely satisfied with the ending of what is otherwise a great episode. It’s very rushed, and needed the same level of detail and consideration that the opening sequence received. The whole issue could have been resolved if we had learnt about the “ghost’s” motivations for blowing up the mining platforms in the first place. If, like the aliens in Sea of Oil, we’d have discovered that his people were threatened by the mining operations, his actions might have been easier to understand and forgive. All that aside, I think the overall feel of The Ghost of the Sea is great, with the flashback sequences really standing out for their atmosphere and darkness. Of course, most praise has to be given for the fact we learn so much more about Commander Shore – a character who has really only come into the spotlight in the past couple of episodes. This is definitely his episode, and I’m glad an opportunity was given to tell his story.

Next week, Marineville is being bombarded by hostile rockets and Stingray has to put a stop to it! Troy, Phones, and Marina are on the case but are soon captured and imprisoned by the rotters responsible for the attacks! It’s time for Emergency Marineville to go under the microscope…

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Further reading: by Century 21 Films Ltd.

Filmed In Supermarionation by Stephen La Rivière. Third edition published in 2022 by Century 21 Films Ltd.

Stingray: Adventures In Videcolor by Andrew Pixley. First published in 2022 by Network Distributing.

Should The Cobalt For EVs Come From The Congo or The Seafloor? by David Schneider. Published in 2021 by IEEE Spectrum.

Your Next Car May Be Built With Ocean Rocks. Scientists Can’t Agree If That’s Good by Alexandra Gillespie. Publised in 2021 by NPR.

Giant Clams published by the Seattle Aquarium.

Stingray – 9. Count Down

Directed by Alan Pattillo

Teleplay by Dennis Spooner

First UK Broadcast – 9th May 1965

“Count Down” could be the secret service codeword for the Count from Sesame Street’s assassination. What? Oh yeah, Stingray. No, hang on a minute. Why is this episode called Count Down… surely it should be ‘Countdown’, as in the noun, referring to the countdown on the bomb at the end? To “count down” as two separate words suggests an instruction to somone just standing there reading off numbers as they descend. That would be much less exciting. Bloomin’ grammar. Anyway. What day is it? Half past two. Sorry the pills are still kicking in. Time for Stingray.

Marineville by night – just as pretty as it is during the day but on this ocassion things are all feeling a bit sinister. The control room is lit dimly as we spy on Atlanta from the outside. This is all a bit different to the norm. The control tower is normally a beacon of efficiency and hard work, none of this sneaky business. Colour me intrigued.

Now you may be thinking that this is just a freeze frame of a blank wall. And you’re right – it is. But when you watch this shot in motion as the camera moves past the windows of the control tower, you might just notice the shadow of the camera moving in the bottom of the frame. It’s very hard to spot in a freeze frame, so you’ll just have to trust me that it’s there. What’s that? I’m a sad twerp? Oh I know.

Some of those impressive and highly detailed puppet-scale venetian blinds that I was so fascinated by in Hostages of the Deep play a vital role here in the Shores’ secret shenanigans. Very lovely lighting here.

A noise is overheard and Shore nearly loses his damn mind he’s so worked up. He certainly seems to be having trouble with his lazy eye.

Bu what could be at the window? An enemy agent? An invasion force? Lt. Fisher standing on a street corner selling bandanas and counterfeit jewellery? Did I mention those lovely venetian blinds?

It turns out the sound of a car driving by is just that… the sound of a car driving by. Their lane positioning leaves a lot to be desired.

Atlanta has a secret. Now, if I were Titan and I came swanning into Marineville, the first thing I’d nick is the box file marked ‘SECRET’. So maybe the Shores should have a think about that.

A totally anticipated visitor is on their way in. The safe which we spotted at the end of The Ghost Ship last week is obviously where these secret files live. But just look at all the glue and grubby marks on the wall surrounding the retired 24 hour clock. They’ve had some right cowboys in to do that work.

Two shadowy figures appear at the door. They really are playing this cloak and dagger business for all its worth.

Oh, it’s just Troy and Phones. So was that Troy or Phones’ car we saw earlier? If so, it would explain the drunken lane positioning. Anyway, they’re in on the secret too. What’s the secret? Well we don’t know yet. Cos it’s a secret. Look, I get the joke that all this seriousness around something as trivial as Marina’s new apartment is a bit silly and that’s the whole point, but, to be honest, I’ve never really found it that engaging. On repeat viewings, once you know it isn’t some grand battle plan or the like that they’re trying to keep hush hush, all this business just feels like filler. And it’s filler that was cut out when this episode was included as part of The Incredible Voyage of Stingray compilation film.

Meanwhile, Titan’s on the blower with your friend and mine, X20. They’re having a professional disagreement about why the underwater people’s conquest of the land is performing so poorly. I like the ornate little clam flower bed underneath Titan’s screen. Just the cute sort of decor you expect to see in the lair of an underwater ruthless dictator.

The control panels either side of X20’s screen match the configuration they were seen in the last time X20 spoke to Titan in The Golden Sea, having hopped around a bit during that episode. I’m sure you’re all relieved.

We’re a quarter of the way through the series, and Titan has had enough of the WASPs, so it’s time for Marineville to be destroyed. Apparently X20’s the man for the job, which comes as an enormous surprise to X20 who doesn’t seem to have much confidence in his own abilities.

Titan objects to the word “but” and, inevitably, I snigger.

And just like that, the discussion is over. Stock footage from the pilot is played in reverse to show the communications hub turning back into X20’s dining room. Hence why it’s suddenly daytime, and X20 is holding a pair of binoculars.

You’ll also notice that the clock has now changed in an instant from reading about 11:35 to 7:20. Forget about the continuity errors though, X20 has some thinking to do!

It’s now 9:00 and apparently he’s been doing an awful lot of reading. X20 keeps a packed library on the subject of sabotaging top security installations. He’s cracked it though. In just over an hour and a half, he’s come up with his so-called master plan. Do master plans typically take just an hour and a half? That doesn’t seem particularly masterful. At the very least I would sleep on it and re-evaluate the pros and cons of the plan the next morning… maybe run it past my supervisor or manager for their thoughts…

Nope, okay, X20 is going with his gut and cracking straight on with it. I mean what could go wrong? So far he has a perfect track record. It was other people coming along and bungling the whole thing that put his excellent work to waste in the pilot, Plant of Doom and The Golden Sea. Will his luck hold out? Incidentally, Alan Pattillo and this episode’s lighting camerman Paddy Seale really know how to shoot these dark and menacing scenes. Also, it’s cute that X20 has a picture of some fish on the wall to remind him of home.

The whip pan transition between scenes later became a staple of Thunderbirds. Someone with a better memory than me can remind us all of whether it’s been used before in Fireball or earlier shows, but in any case this is its first use in Stingray.

So the letter that X20 was drafting has now made it to Commander Shore at Marineville. It’s from a fictional Professor Sanders who wants to lecture on teaching dumb people to speak. Now, obviously we have to point out that “dumb” is a term of medieval origin for people who are unable to speak and should be understood in the context of the 1960s when society was often far from kind to the disabled. I have several questions about this scene though. Why the heck is Marineville’s highest ranking officer the one approving the lecture schedule of all things? Has Atlanta heard of every professor on the planet? And why do neither of them immediately twig that this is very specifically targeted at the WASPs because of Marina’s inability to speak? Shore approves the lecture because apparently that’s something he doesn’t hire an administrative assistant to do.

Oof, now that’s a cool camera angle to shoot the Stingray cabin set from. Troy and Phones are heading back to Marineville after a very quiet patrol.

Marina has joined them for the patrol too and claps and smiles to indicate her delight at the prospect of going home. Oink is absent once again. He’s taking Italian classes. Troy shuts Phones up before he gives away the game away about Marina’s home. Dammit Phones, can’t you remember how SECRET that whole project is?! He finishes by wishing that Marina could talk because the signposts for the plot need to be nice a big this week.

This envelope makes interesting reading (not a sentence I ever thought I’d be writing). Firstly, X20’s assumed alias is written as “Saunders” even though everyone pronounces it as “Sanders.” The name of X20’s house is apparently something along the lines of “Rose Cottage.” The envelope does indeed bear a Marineville postal mark.

As X20 scans through the letter and mumbles to himself, his lower lip remains wide open for an alarmingly long time – perhaps indicating a limitation of the automatic lip sync technology. But the long and the short of it is that part one of his plan is a success and he’s off to Marineville to give a lecture. Huzzah. Also, I rather like his wallpaper.

For reasons that will become obvious later, a big deal is made out of Stingray’s return to its pen via the tunnel. Troy asks for permission to enter, Atlanta grants it, Atlanta asks the power plant to open the door, the door opens, Stingray enters, a light flashes on the control panel to indicate its position along the tunnel until it reaches the pen. Ya know, I’ve got a fancy garage door that opens with a remote control when I get near it. It’s pretty neat. Maybe I’ll write to Commander Shore and ask for permission to give a lecture at Marineville on garage door openers. Might save them some time.

Oh yeah, back to the subplot. Or is it the main plot? I’m not sure. The trouble with this being more of a slice of life type of episode is that it’s very hard to tell whether the action’s actually started or not. Apparently the big secret is Operation Decorate and it requires Shore to take Marina out to dinner. I’m sure Marina was champing at the bit to accept that invitation.

Night has fallen over the Marineville apartments… or rather, some stock footage has been darkened slightly. There’s some delightful and jaunty music playing so it must be time for the fun to start.

This whole scene plays out so much like an advert for colour television you’re going to struggle to convince me that wasn’t at least part of the reason for its inclusion in the episode. Bright red paint falls on top of some equally colourful designs. The chair next to Atlanta is very, very blue and Phones’ shirt is very, very ugly. Also, I don’t know about you, but I rarely wear my finest woolen knitwear when I’m doing a DIY project – especially when my colleague has a history of drinking on the job.

The hilarity continues as Atlanta looks very serious while scribbling on the wall, and Phones drops some wallpaper on Troy even though there’s no wallpaper being used. Atlanta poses next to her masterpiece in an ironic manner and Troy tells her the colour looks great… which is code for “buy a colour television set now, you scumbags at home” or “shame you have to wait five or so more years for ITV colour transmissions to start, ha ha ha.”

Troy leaves Phones to take a tumble because of course he does. Troy couldn’t care less about anybody’s safety. Why was Phones standing on the table anyway when there’s a perfectly good ladder next to him? And why is he painting the ceiling yellow when he was painting it bright red earlier? What manner of disgusting artwork is he concocting up there?!

Who on earth brings a whole cooked GIANT turkey in a picnic hamper to an interior design party but then DOESN’T EAT IT? And don’t get me started on the footprints on the presumably brand new floors! Sweet merciful Teufel, someone call DIY SOS!

Yes, I will keep going. THERE’S STRAW ALL OVER THE FLIPPING FLOOR. It’s an apartment not a BARNYARD you ANIMALS.

Oh what’s that Troy? You’re LEAVING?! You think this is a job WELL DONE and you’re CALLING IT A NIGHT?!! Actually, just go, get out of my sight.

This here is the main security checkpoint of Marineville. Sorry “check point” according to that sign on the building. Apparently we’re splitting all the portmanteau words up today. Why have Troy and Phones changed back into their uniforms? Are they back on duty? I thought they were going to bed.

Among the rather sparse display on the H.Q. noticeboard is a delightful 3D sculpture of the WASP logo.

We’ll look at the main attraction on the noticeboard in a second. Look at the piece of paper to the left of Professor Sanders’ poster. The ‘KEY TO NUMBERED PARTS’ label and the layout of the block of text below appears to have been taken straight out of a cutaway drawing such as those seen in the Eagle Comics – an indiciation of the literature readily available to the art department at the time. Now, the main poster itself reads:






Thursday evening at 20 00 hrs


This poster was never intended to be read so I must say bravo to the set dressers who put this together. Let’s pull them up on a few points though. Can Professor Sanders be celebrated when, by the nature of him being a made up person, nobody has ever heard of him? Secondly – nobody has said anything about a “series of lectures.” All the dialogue in the episode indicates just one lecture – and I doubt X20 would have ever signed himself up for more than that since he actually knows diddly squat on the subject. Thirdly, that whole “results speak for themselves” pun is a despicable stroke of genius. Then, finally, there’s this “extra mural studies group.” Now, I admit I did have to google what that meant and apparently it’s “(of a course of study) arranged for people who are not full-time members of a university or other educational establishment.” So the people too thick to get into the university, basically. But do the WASPs have a university, then? I guess we do learn later in the series that they have their own training program/academy, so it’s probably an offshoot of that. Anyway, THAT is how you spend an excessive amount of time analysing a throwaway piece of set dressing.

Sure enough, Troy and Phones work out that this could be a path towards their desire to get Marina talking. Thanks guys, the rest of us worked that out several minutes ago. Of course, Marina hasn’t really expressed a desire one way or the other to start talking, but if that’s what Troy and Phones want, they’ll get what’s coming to them!

The time is 7:20 (again) or 5:30 depending on whether we’re looking at the clock in close-up or long shot.

A bookcase slides back to reveal a brand new part of X20’s house that we’ve never seen before. His own little costume and makeup department. Brilliant.

Now there is a LOT of stuff in this room which has no doubt been pulled out of the Supermarionation prop store. Amogn the obvious items, that skull which we spotted on the wall of Idotee’s ship in The Ghost Ship last week. Rather alarmingly, X20 also has a mask which looks suspiciously like Bill Gibson from Supercar. There are so many items to pick out in this room but I’ll have a go at a few. The brown sculpture on the top shelf can be spotted in Dr. Beaker’s laboratory in Supercar (see episodes such as Phantom Piper) while that top hat was probably the same one used by Commander Zero in the Fireball XL5 episode Flying Zodiac. Those bagpipes almost certainly belonged to Jock Campbell in the XL5 episode Space City Special, and I’ll also wager that the double bass was played by Lt. Ninety in the finale of Space City Special too. The hideous dressing gown next to the bass used to belong to Steve Zodiac in the episode Ghosts of Space. The yellow sombrero on X20’s makeup table might have belonged to Fernando from Four Feather Falls and/or a random extra on the Western street of the XL5 episode 1875, but frankly I’m clutching at straws now so I’ll stop before I embarrass myself.

So X20 claims to have made his “green skin” flesh-coloured. Would we say X20’s skin was green? It’s silver isn’t it? Anyway, he does his best Hamlet impression to rehearse his so-called lecture because there’s no holding back on the comedy at this point.

Now look, if I start trying to analyse every bloomin’ frame of a whip pan transition we’ll be here all night, but I’m pretty sure that the red and green smudge seen in the bottom right of this snapshot is part of the Stingray cabin set. This suggests, rather amusingly, these transitions were achieved by just wildly swinging the camera around in front of any old set that happened to be on the stage that day.

Wow, we are all about the recycling today at the AP Films studio. This theatre set is the same one seen in Space City Special and characters including Commander Zero and Professor Mattic are pinched straight from Fireball too in full uniform. Other audience members include Commander Shore (obviously), Chuck from The Golden Sea sat to Mattic’s left, and perhaps Lieutenant Ninety to his right although that one’s questionable. We aren’t treated to the actual content of X20’s lecture because it was always going to be complete nonsense, and anyone with some vague intelligence would have realised he knew nothing about the subject.

Not Troy and Phones though! They lap it up despite not understanding a word of it. The puppeteers do an amazing job getting them to clap convincingly and in a regular rhythm.

Our dynamic duo confront the professor at the main security gate like a pair of muggers coming at him from out of the shadows.

X20 absolutely relishes playing hard to get and eventually gives in to seeing Marina at his practice. Even the card he hands over has “Professor Sanders” scrawled on it. The prop makers really weren’t holding back on the detail this week!

The absolute lad cannot contain his pleasure, chuckling away maniacally as he walks away. Phones is convinced they’re going to make Marina happy with the help of this guy. Heck, why didn’t Marina just come to the lecture with them and decide for herself what she wanted? And now that we’re on the subject, why are they decorating her home without asking her? Does Marina get any influence over any aspect of her life?

1657 Western Avenue – the most American-sounding address Dennis Spooner could come up with. Are we still within the confines of Marineville? I have no idea. How did X20 get this fake practice set up so quickly? Couldn’t tell you. Was this set used in Fireball XL5 at some point too? Probably, but I can’t put my finger on exactly where so answers on a postcard, please.

Now Marina doesn’t look all that enthusiastic at first, but she soon perks up at the possibility of a week away from Troy and Phones. Troy can’t contain his excitement either. I suppose it’s rather sweet really that he wants to hear her speak so badly.

Calling International Rescue…

So the idea is that Troy and Phones record their own voices to help Marina find her a voice for herself, and X20 suggests they very specifically stick to what they typically say in order to gain access to Marineville after a patrol. There’s not a hint of suspicion from the boys who put on a whole play for Marina to listen to later.

Oh don’t mind the prof, he’s just standing there looking evil while all this is going on.

Yup – Troy and Phones get kicked out immediately, Marina is threatened, and X20 has everything he needs to destroy Marineville. Once again, our super surface agent has succeeded. But then again, our heroes are all walking around with their heads full of sawdust this week so it’s less about X20 being extremely competent, and more that the WASPs aren’t paying the slightest bit of attention. Regardless, it’s a great cliffhanger going into the commercial break.

Later, aboard Stingray, Alan Pattillo is going above and beyond with the camera work as the camera takes one fluid movement from the front of Stingray’s cabin to the back. Marina has been replaced with a big green cushion. Troy and Phones do miss having her around though, which is quite lovely.

Of course Marina’s been tied up again. Heck, at this point she probably brings her own rope and would be happy to offer advice on knot technique. X20 is now supremely confident of his success. I must say, it has all gone remarkably smoothly for him up to this point.

Aboard Stingray, Phones is singing and Troy hates it so much he wants to chuck in the patrol and go home. Most of the cabin’s ceiling is on display here except, presumably, for the tiny bit just above Troy and Phones head where you’ll likely find the puppeteer’s bridge.

So while Stingray is seen turning around via some stock footage, X20’s sub makes an appearance. There hasn’t been an awful lot for the special effects team to do in this episode in terms of new model shots.

The tiny cabin of the craft is awfully crowded today with the inclusion of Marina, the tape recorder, and the bomb all squeezed in. So it becomes clear that Marina will be destroyed alongside Marineville. I feel like in some episodes Titan wants her back as a slave, and in others he wants her dead – it just depends on his mood.

The bomb itself… well… looks like a bomb, I suppose. It’s not a prop that stands up well to close inspection.

The plan is to try and enter Marineville ten minutes before Stingray returns from patrol. Apparently Titan has been told not to stir up trouble so that Troy doesn’t have to call base too often. I’m sure that conversation went down well – “Hey boss, X20 here, your man with a master plan. Would you mind not blowing the heck out of the terraneans for the next hour or so? I’m kind of in the middle of something. Cheers. Kisses.”

Meanwhile, Troy and Phones are enjoying some real purdy shells. They’re going to go and collect them instead of going home early. Y’know, for the sake of the plot.

Time for X20 to put the next part of his plan into action, and its by far the most risky. If Marineville control diverts from the standard, scripted procedure one little bit, the whole scheme goes out the window. Atlanta and the Commander aren’t too pleased that Stingray is coming home early but don’t bother to question it over the radio. Marina despairs at her idiotic colleagues.

The ocean door has been specially re-staged just for this shot. It’s actually a brand new piece of rock face compared to what we see in the stock shots of Stingray coming and going from the tunnel. The matte painting in front of the camera is also no longer in use.

Even X20 must be a little bit surprised by how well this plan is working out. There were so many ways that the WASPs could have tripped him up along the way, and they somehow managed to give all of those ways an extremely wide berth. Now, we do have to keep in mind that CCTV wasn’t exactly commonplace when this episode was in production, but obviously a couple of cameras in the launch tunnel would have thwarted this whole scheme.

The set for Stingray’s pen from the pilot and standard stock footage has been re-erected for this scene. It’s surprisingly unchanged. The only major difference is that part of the roof has been removed, as seen in the top right of this frame – one less thing for X20 to blow up.

X20 delights in his victory, and finishes up by being really properly nasty and sinister as he leaves Marina to her fate. Some really nice shots here of the light reflecting off the water to make things even more menacing.