For years I’ve looked at this behind the scenes photograph from Thunderbirds and tried to work out which episode/scene is being filmed. It’s been published in countless books, magazines, and websites over the years and I’ve never found a definitive answer. The puppet characters and the set being worked on are so brightly lit and generic that it’s difficult to make out any distinctive details to make it abundantly obvious which scene is being worked on. In the past I’ve seen some folks identify it as Pit of Peril, End of the Road, Edge of Impact, and a miriad of other alternatives – some of which seemed credible but didn’t quite sit right with me. So, I finally decided to undertake my own investigations. This article started life as an unpublished tweet that got out of hand. You folks know how I like to make a mountain out of a mole hill, so I’ve decided to convert my research into a blog post so that I’m not hampered by Twitter’s pesky character limits. But just like Twitter, the whole thing ended up turning into an argument…
Now, it’s worth establishing that the production history of Thunderbirds doesn’t exactly follow a perfect chronological order. It’s extremely haphazard because multiple units were working simultaneously, and episodes which were originally shot in a 25-minute format were having additional footage shot for them at the same time as other episodes being completed in the new 50-minute format. Combine that with the fact that the puppet stages were usually working ahead of the special effects department, and you’ve got a recipe for absolute confusion when it comes to figuring out a definitive production order for Thunderbirds‘ first series of 26 episodes.
Behind the scenes photographs and footage from the AP Films studios often complicate matters because a whole host of puppets and sets can be identified hanging around from various episodes which have either just been shot, are currently in production, or are waiting in the wings for the next installment.
Context is quite important when looking at these photographs, but certain details get lost or mistranslated over the years as the images circulate from publication to publication and memories start to fade. So, let’s start with the source for this image – issue 177 of the magazine, Look and Learn from 5th June 1965.
Look and Learn was an educational magazine for children published by Fleetway from 1962 until 1982. With the publication covering a whole range of topics in science, history, and beyond, Look and Learn‘s young readership would have been very familiar with the futuristic stories coming out of the AP Films studio at the time.
When this issue was published in June 1965, Stingray was a few weeks away from the end of its first transmission run across certain ITV regions in the UK. Promotion for the series had been surprisingly sparse for a number of reasons, one of which was the fact that production had long since wrapped on Stingray back in June 1964. According to Stingray: Adventures in Videcolor by Andrew Pixley, June 18 and 19, 1964 were Stingray‘s final days in front of the camera, with Alan Pattillo shooting linking material for a feature film compilation being presented to Japanese television executives, alongside some additional material for the episode Eastern Eclipse. By the time Stingray was well and truly in the can, Thunderbirds – or International Rescue as it was originally titled – was already months into pre-production. When Stingray‘s first episode debuted on British television in October 1964, filming on Thunderbirds was well underway, albeit still in a 25-minute episode format. As a result, staging publicity exercises for Stingray at the studio wasn’t exactly a priority during Thunderbirds‘ chaotic shooting schedule. Photoshoots for Stingray often took place in the shadow of its successor.
The columns of the Look and Learn article focus on the broader aspects of the Supermarionation puppets’ electronic lip-sync technology, educating children on the basic principles of how their favourite television shows are produced. But taking up much more real estate on the pages are the accompanying photographs. Black and white images of Stingray, Troy, Phones, Atlanta and Commander Shore surround the columns on the first page, and dominating the spread in glorious colour are seven photographs detailing various aspects of the Supermarionation production process which is being used on “Thunderbird [sic.], a new series with hour-long instalments instead of half-hour.”
On the back of that quotation, it’s worth highlighting that the decision was taken to switch Thunderbirds from a half-hour format to an hour-long format around December 1964 when the first 9 episodes were already complete (plus another 2 were still in production). So, by June 1965 when this article was published, work would have been underway to shoot 50-minute episodes in tandem with additional material for the earlier 25-minute episodes.
Let’s study each of the images provided on these pages individually and try to judge which episode(s) of Thunderbirds might have been in production on the day that the photographs were taken… assuming, of course, that they were all taken on the same day. What we know for sure is that the photographs were definitely taken during Thunderbirds‘ production, and at some point prior to publication in June 1965. That immediately rules out any second series episodes that were being shot alongside the feature film Thunderbirds Are Go in 1966. One also assumes that the photographs were taken after the switch from half-hour to one-hour episodes, since the shift in format is referenced in the article.
Firstly, we have several guest puppets (mostly heads) hanging up against the wall where puppets were often situated in between takes. The top row includes Stan from Edge of Impact; a headless body which likely belonged to either Johnny or Frank from Pit of Peril; Chuck from Day of Disaster, previously Chuck Taylor from End of the Road; a mustachioed chap seen as a guard in The Mighty Atom and The Impostors and as a police officer in Edge of Impact; Professor Borrender from The Perils of Penelope; behind him looks like the radar operator from Trapped In The Sky; Kenyon from 30 Minutes After Noon, also seen as Jenkins in The Impostors, the saboteur in Operation Crash-Dive, a police officer in Terror In New York City, and a road construction operative in End of the Road; up at the top we then have the disheveled camerman Joe from Terror In New York City; then an unidentifiable puppet in a flight helmet who might be the Interceptor One pilot from Trapped In The Sky; a grey-haired male that could have appeared in the audience of the Ned Cook Show in Terror In New York City; Alfred from The Perils of Penelope who was previously Colonel Harris from Sun Probe; Victor Gomez from Move – And You’re Dead who appears as an enemy lieutenant in The Cham-Cham, an enemy pilot in Edge of Impact, a spectator in The Impostors, and as an airline customer in The Duchess Assignment.
I’m not done yet.
On the bottom row we have the news reporter seen in Sun Probe, Operation Crash-Dive, in the background of The Mighty Atom, and as a film crew member in Martian Invasion; Bletcher from Martian Invasion who also appeared in the audience of the Ned Cook Show in Terror In New York City, and as both Maxie and the hotel receptionist in The Cham-Cham; Godber from The Perils of Penelope and another audience member at the Ned Cook Show from Terror In New York City; the Director of Photography from Martin Invasion also seen as Burroughs in Operation Crash-Dive, Asher in Sun Probe, a waiter in The Perils of Penelope, and a helijet pilot in both City of Fire and The Impostors; then a blonde head turned away from the camera who might be Frank from Day of Disaster; and finally the head that is presumably the other police officer from Terror In New York City.
Phew. What does all this tell us? We may have positively identified a lot of these guest characters but with so many of them making appearances in other episodes across the first series, it’s pretty darn tricky to use this image alone to pick out which episodes were in front of the cameras at the time. The general pattern I’m seeing, with some notable exceptions which might help us later, is that these are mostly characters who broadly appear in episodes 12 thru 16 in the commonly accepted Thunderbirds production order – The Perils of Penelope, Terror In New York City, End of the Road, Day of Disaster, and Edge of Impact. At least that provides us with a rough area to aim for.
Next, a much more straightforward photograph of legendary puppet maker John Blundall creating a new character. Without a wig or eyes it’s pretty difficult to identify who the character is going to be. We also don’t know whether this is the finished version of a character that actually appeared on-screen. If I had to take a wild guess, the rosey red cheeks and large hooked nose suggest General Bron from Edge of Impact, Professor Blakely from Desperate Intruder, Jeremiah Tuttle from The Impostors, or Ritter from The Man From MI.5. But that’s such a large stab in the dark, and I think it’s fairer to say that this image simply doesn’t tell us a whole lot.
Behold, the glorious organised chaos of the scene dock. There are far too many pieces of set from shows gone by to name them all individually. The focus of the image seems to be the yellow cockpit being carried in or out by members of the crew. There are two possibilities here – it’s either the puppet set for Tim Casey’s Skyhawk jet from Edge of Impact, or it’s Victor Gomez’s car from Move – And You’re Dead – the same set was used for both. The quality of the image leaves it open for debate, but I would argue that on the right-hand side of the set as it faces the camera, some red markings can be spotted which would match up with the ‘Skyhawk’ written on the side of Tim Casey’s jet. Since the set is being moved around in the scene dock, it’s fair to assume that it’s about to be used for filming, or was used recently.
This next image is doesn’t tell us a whole lot. It’s the lip-sync operator’s console, complete with the redundant head of former Stingray star, Troy Tempest now being used for testing… poor bloke…
Props, props, and more props. Far too many for to identify. You’ve got to admire the labels on the shelves providing the team with some way of navigating this veritable Aladdin’s cave of miniature items.
Now then, here’s an image which is very easy to identify. This is puppetry supervisor Christine Glanville and assistant director Ian Spurrier working on the puppet of Colonel Sweeney from the episode, Pit of Peril – supposedly the second episode of Thunderbirds to enter production. Colonel Sweeney’s head was also seen as Captain Hanson in Trapped In The Sky and Operation Crash-Dive. But the uniform on the puppet most definitely places him in his Colonel Sweeney guise. So, it’s safe to assume that scenes for Pit of Peril were being shot when these photographs were taken at the studio. That would also account for the headless puppet body we saw hanging up earlier that I mentioned was either Johnny or Frank from the same episode.
Hopping back to our main image, and there’s a bit of a problem with simply concluding that it’s Pit of Peril being shot here as well. That set isn’t recognisable as anything from Pit of Peril, nor can the two puppets be clearly identified because of the harsh lighting and whacky colour saturation of the photograph.
But Pit of Peril‘s director, Desmond Saunders, can be positively identified standing on the left of the set. A few other crew members can be identified in this photograph which might also provide some answers. In addition to Saunders, we can also clearly see Christine Glanville, who is credited as puppetry supervisor on roughly half of the Thunderbirds episodes produced, essentially heading up one of the two teams operating the puppets while Mary Turner managed the other. Next to her up on the bridge is Wanda Webb, who worked closely with Christine and is credited on all the same episodes as her. The man wearing the black jumper is assistant director and lip-sync operator Ian Spurrier whom we spotted earlier with Colonel Sweeney, while lighting cameraman Paddy Seale is on the far right of the shot, and camera operator Alan Perry is seated behind the camera. Cross-examining these names with the credits of all the episodes of Thunderbirds‘ first season, we can see that, for the most part, this crew worked together as one unit for a significant number of episodes – assuming the end credits are a vaguely reliable source for who worked on what.
But we’ve mentioned previously the absolutely chaotic filming schedule that was in play at the studio in order to bring the first eleven episodes produced as half-hours up to full length, without losing time on the rest of the series. So it’s entirely possible that in the previous photograph, Colonel Sweeney was being prepared to film additional material for Pit of Peril, long after principal photography on the initial half-hour version of the episode had been completed. This might explain why Christine Glanville was seen working on the puppet despite not being credited as working on that particular episode because people must have stepped in as and when required to keep up with the shooting schedule regardless of whether they worked on the episode originally. On a similar note, surviving diaries from Alan Pattillo suggest he was the original, uncredited director of the half-hour versions of Sun Probe and The Mighty Atom, not David Lane who presumably filmed the additional material for both while Alan Pattillo was being script editing, writing, and directing other episodes.
Anyway, we’ve pretty positively established that additional material for Pit of Peril was being worked on at the time these photographs were taken, but that it likely isn’t a scene from Pit of Peril being filmed in the main image because the particular set being shown isn’t seen in the final episode.
So, studying the episode credits again to find all the crew members identified in that image, it would seem that the following episodes from the first series were worked on together by Desmond Saunders, Christine Glanville, Wanda Webb, Alan Perry, and Paddy Seale (Ian Spurrier’s contributions to the series were uncredited): The Perils of Penelope, Edge of Impact, and The Impostors.
Armed with that information, I took a look at the episodes themselves to try and find a scene with a set which matches the one in the photograph, using the few details that are actually clearly visible under the bright lighting.
And I found this – Brains, Alan, and Braman in the laboratory during Edge of Impact. The instruments on the wall match what’s shown in the behind the scenes image, as does the rounded console that Alan is standing next to.
There aren’t a whole lot of features to be made out from the puppets because they’re so brightly lit, out of focus, and the image is in such a low resolution. But one might deduce that the puppet on the left is wearing glasses, making it Brains, and the one of the right may be wearing a scarf or cravat, making it Alan.
So, we have some potential on-screen evidence, plus we’ve positively identified that all of the crew present in the photograph were credited as working on the episode, plus there are other traces in the other images we’ve looked at such as the set for the Skyhawk jet being moved, and various guest puppet heads floating around in the studio. It’s almost certainly Edge of Impact, being filmed in that behind the scenes photograph, and it’s almost certainly the scene in Brains’ laboratory when Tim Casey’s plane is first spotted. Eureka!
But! Yes, there’s a but. When I shared this delightful discovery with fellow Thunderbirds enthusiast Andrew Clements, he wasn’t convinced. He conceded that the set was Brains’ laboratory as it appeared in Edge of Impact, but simply would not buy my assumption that the puppets shown were Alan and Brains. “They do appear to be wearing a hat,” said he. “B****cks,” thought I. “Brains wore a hat in Desperate Intruder so maybe it’s in preparation for that since it was the next episode in production,” whimpered I. “Desperate Intruder would have been filmed by a different puppet unit using a different Brains puppet,” whispered the demon on my shoulder.
Mr. Clements then presented me with Ralph and General Peters from Pit of Peril.
“You can make out Ralph’s glasses, belt and hat and General Peter’s hat and binoculars,” theorised Andrew, “and you can juuuust make out some sort of definition in the lip that indicates a moustache.”
So we have two fully grown men who should know better debating and scrutinising over a few pixels from a scan of a photograph printed as cheaply as possible with wildly distorted and over-saturated colours nearly 60 years ago. How the heck does any of this help?
Well, as it stands, I don’t know for sure who is right. I can totally see Andrew’s argument that this is Ralph and General Peters from Pit of Peril, and it makes sense seeing as we’ve clearly identified Sweeney from the same episode being worked on in another photograph from the same article. But the set is a perfect match for Brains’ laboratory as shown in Edge of Impact, and both the finished scene and the photograph feature two puppets which could be mistaken for Brains and Alan.
It’s at this point we get back into the realm of theory and speculation. What if it’s Ralph and Peters standing on the set of Brains’ laboratory? We’ve already established that additional material from Pit of Peril was in production at the same time as Edge of Impact, so it’s not out of the question. But what’s the reason for it? Is there a deleted scene from Pit of Peril which inexplicably featured Ralph and Peters in some kind of laboratory set? Were the puppets for Ralph and Peters standing in for Brains and Alan while lighting tests were being conducted and the puppets were in wardrobe? Did the photographer just want any old set of puppets to be present on the set for the sake of the photograph and Ralph and Peters just happened to be the nearest ones available at that moment? All these things are within the realms of possibility and line up with similar stories and examples from photographs of random stuff which defies logic and goes against what we can see in the final episodes.
So the short answer to my original question, “Which scene from Thunderbirds is being filmed in this photo?” is: something from Edge of Impact, Pit of Peril, or neither, or both depending on how you interpret the findings. It’s possible that it’s not a scene at all but a random setup staged for the sake of the photograph, or a test for an upcoming scene, or just two puppets hanging over a set while the crew discuss what they had for lunch.
The question you’re probably left with now is… Why did I go to that much effort and tedious detail just to prove which scene from a particular Thunderbirds episode was being photographed at a particular point in time when I couldn’t even land on a definitive answer?
Regular readers of this blog will know that I have an obsessive fascination with the day-to-day activities of the AP Films studios. Many different departments working on all sorts of marvellous puppetry masterpieces and special effects extravaganzas all at once. On Thunderbirds, the atmosphere was reported to be frantic because of the wild shooting schedule. But very little documentation actually survives which details what was being done by who and when. And on a show where sets, puppets, models, and props were constantly being recycled and redesigned to become something else, that makes it extremely difficult to track the development of the series. I love appreciating the little improvements that were being made to the whole Supermarionation production process as the AP Films team grew and refined their craft.
Look at all the small details added to the Thunderbird 1 cockpit between Trapped In The Sky on the left, and The Duchess Assignment on the right. Look at the subtle changes to the Scott puppet’s head to make him that little bit more handsome. Look at the disappearance of those silly International Rescue hats.
All those little changes add up to make a television series which, in my opinion, just becomes richer and stronger as it goes on. But very few of those choices and decisions were reliably written down as far as we know. Nobody probably had time to write everything down. Someone just did it because of a simple desire to keep making things better. So I adore the few behind the scenes insights we have into the making of Thunderbirds and the other Supermarionation shows because it serves as a glimpse into a process of innovation that would otherwise be lost to history.
If you enjoyed this in-depth nerdy analysis of one otherwise insignificant photograph from the production of Thunderbirds, then good news! I’ve reviewed the entire Thunderbirds series and feature films from start to finish in excrutiating detail, as well as it’s predecessor, Stingray! And if you agree or disagree with any of the findings of this particular article, feel free to comment below. My thanks to Andrew Clements for daring to question my intelligence… but let’s hope he doesn’t make a habit of it.
Yes, the secret is out. I’m co-writing a book with that wonderful chap, Chris Thompson, to continue Anderson Entertainment’s line of in-universe technical manuals. The subject: Joe 90.
The announcement was made during a Joe 90 live discussion about the series streamed on Friday, March 17 across all Official Gerry Anderson social media channels. David Munday was in the referee’s chair (I’m not a sporty person but I assume some referees might have a chair) while I (Jack Knoll, Joe 90 enthusiast and Troy Tempest head spotter) debated the strengths of the show’s premise with Jamie Anderson, famed Joe 90 critic and son of the show’s co-creator, Gerry Anderson.
I’ll leave you to determine who won the argument, but after the bickering became too tiresome, artist and genius Chris Thompson joined the stream to blow our socks off with the grand reveal of the new Joe 90 | Project 90 Technical Operations Manual. The audience was stunned by the surprise and we all felt pretty dang proud of ourselves for keeping it a secret for so long.
In the style of the previous UFO and Space: 1999 manuals produced by Chris Thompson and Andrew Clements, the Joe 90 manual will showcase the very best technology that W.I.N. has to offer. The book will have the feel of an official training resource that Shane Weston and Sam Loover would hand out to all their top cadets on day one at the W.I.N. academy.
The manual will be a beautifully illustrated hardback book featuring in-depth diagrams and explanations surrounding the BIG RAT, Mac’s Jet Air Car, Joe’s spy case, plus a whole host of guest vehicles and equipment from the world of Joe 90. My particular focus for the book has been on exploring the characters’ biographies with reference to original source material produced by the series’ writers, Tony Barwick and Shane Rimmer. I will also be sharing thorough case files from the vaults of W.I.N. which showcase the daring exploits of Joe 90, including a couple you won’t have seen in the television series!
On March 31st, 2023, you’ll be able to pre-order the book from the Gerry Anderson store, and you can sign up for notifications right now by visiting andr.sn/project90. And stay tuned for more news about the special edition release very soon!
At 7pm UK Time on Friday, March 17 2023, I’ll be joining Jamie Anderson and David Munday for a special live stream to talk about all things Joe 90!
Yes, it’s time to celebrate W.I.N.’s most special agent, and the sublime Supermarionation series in which he starred. With the BIG RAT and his special glasses, Joe tackled the most dangerous spy missions imaginable, despite being only 9-years-old.
Tune in to the live stream for a surprise announcement that you won’t want to miss…
Stingray‘s magnificent run of original episodes may have ended with Aquanaut of the Year, but that doesn’t mean I get to retire. Not yet anyway. I reckon I’ve got just one more article in me about this show before I collapse in a haze of fishy, submarine-based hallucinations. You see, there are these miscellaneous bits and pieces that came off the back of Stingray and they come in all different shapes and sizes. Some have a long and complicated history, while others are relatively straightforward pieces of spin-off merchandise. But for some of you they might just be integral to the way you experienced Stingray for the first time, and who am I to dismiss my readers’ nostalgia? Plus, the good folks at Network were good enough to include this material on their blu-ray release of the series, so I might as well get my money’s worth – since they ain’t paying me squat to talk about how wonderful their HD restoration of the series is.
This review is going to take a drastically different format to what has gone before due to the nature of the material being discussed. Three of these works draw heavily from episodes we’ve already reviewed in detail, and the other three items are entirely audio-based. So permit me to get a little creative with some of the imagery and structure used throughout. Don’t worry, we’ll still be over-analysing, sharing history lessons, and offering up some trademark Security Hazard witticisms along the way. Because I’m so darn witty I can’t stop myself.
Let’s start with what is probably the most convoluted item of the lot. You’re going to have to stick with me because discussing the history of the Japanese Linking Material and its transformation into The Reunion Party has driven folks to madness in the past. Some of this story is recorded fact, while some of it is unconfirmed but fairly likely based on the things we do know for sure.
In June 1964, after principal photography on Stingray‘s 39-episode series had been completed, Alan Pattillo was assigned to write and direct some short sequences to be used as linking material for a Japanese feature presentation of Stingray. The supposed aim was to present a number of Stingray‘s best episodes to an audience of Japanese visitors whom one assumes might have been executives interested in investing in ITC, AP Films, or had some other tie to the studio and its owners. Rather than simply screening a few episodes one after another, the decision was taken by someone (we don’t know exactly who commissioned the project) to frame the episodes with a story about Commander Shore and Admiral Denver watching old recordings of the Stingray crew’s missions while Atlanta and Marina are getting ready to attend some sort of reunion dinner with Troy and Phones. Around 4 minutes of material was shot on June 18 and 19 alongside various pickup shots required for the episode Eastern Eclipse. It’s unclear exactly when the character voices were recorded, but the material does feature Don Mason, Robert Easton, Lois Maxwell, Ray Barrett, and David Graham all reprising their roles so it probably formed part of a regular recording session for the main series.
There is no evidence to suggest that the entire feature presentation was ever assembled. In fact, the linking footage remained completely forgotten for almost 40 years. In December 2000, Jaz Wiseman was the film historian responsible for researching potential bonus material to include on Carlton’s upcoming release of Stingray on DVD. He came across a mystery listing in the unreliable computer records of the ITC archive which referenced a film reel entitled Stingray – Japanese Linking Material. Sure enough, the film reel did exist, and it contained all the scenes Pattillo had shot that had never been seen or heard of before by Stingray fans. The material was presented with no context whatsoever on the Stingray DVD boxset in 2001, and it remained an unusual, incomplete novelty. With me so far?
Fast forward to some time in 2007, and BBC Four was preparing to transmit an evening of Anderson-themed programming on January 2nd, 2008. BBC Wales and Granada International worked together to produce a “new” episode of Stingray using the previously unbroadcast Japanese Linking Material as a framework. It was called The Reunion Party and I remember vividly sitting down to watch it as a 12-year-old on BBC Four’s Thunderbirds Night. It had been publicised as a brand new episode, overseen by Gerry Anderson. I’d done my research beforehand and was aware it was basically going to be a clip show utilising some unseen archive material to tie it all together. I hadn’t seen the Japanese Linking Material on the DVD at that point – I was still collecting VHS tapes from car boot sales in those days. As for Gerry Anderson’s involvement, I think I was smart enough even at that time to know he’d likely given it a seal of approval and that was probably it for his input.
I remember feeling a little cheated by The Reunion Party. Not enraged or infuriated or demanding the BBC be defunded like a total moron. Just a twinge of disappointment. The chance to watch some of the rare linking footage was certainly the highlight, and it was a pretty decent selection of episodes that the compilation had used. But other aspects of The Reunion Party‘s presentation at the time just felt wrong to me. As soon as the standard Stingray opening titles kicked off, an enormous ‘BBC’ logo was plastered over the first shot – not a massive issue but it did feel a bit off.
Then there was the realisation that the 4:3 aspect ratio of the material had been deemed outdated, and everything was cropped to fill a 16:9 widescreen television. Even as a (weird) 12-year-old, I despised this approach to handling archive material, and you better believe I was furious about the cropped, 16:9 Thunderbirds blu-ray that came out in 2008 too. 4:3 is the way these shows were made and the way each shot was framed by their directors, and if you can’t handle black bars down the sides of your massive telly you need to get a grip. Cropping out nearly half the flippin’ picture is not a better way of watching archive material – it just isn’t.
As the episode progressed, I noticed some other little details that felt messy. The font for the title caption was so far away from what had been used in the original series that I assume someone just thought it was better to go with a completely different look, rather than track down something that was at least vaguely similar to what would have been used back in 1964. There was also the generally choppy nature of the editing. It was clear that The Reunion Party hadn’t had the same luxury as Aquanaut of the Year when it came to reducing the original episodes down to short flashbacks – specifically that The Reunion Party only had the completed versions of the episodes to work with in the edit, and not raw material that could have its music and SFX tracks altered as needed. This meant music from the original episodes would cut and change very suddenly in a way which just felt messy.
Over the Japanese Linking Material itself, the Barry Gray track March of the Oysters was playing over the soundtrack for… no reason whatsoever. That choice didn’t ruin anything exactly, but it was slightly distracting. The film clips had clearly not been restored and cleaned up beyond the minimum requirements. Then there was the obviously 2000s-feeling digital composition that was used to place the start of the flashbacks onto the projector screen – spoiling any illusion that this episode might have been produced in the more analogue days of film-making back in 1964. However, I may have to forgive that one because the original linking material very clearly shows the first scene of each episode on the projector screen, making those clips unusable in The Reunion Party because the flashbacks tended to start halfway through each story in order to reduce the duration.
Finally, the credits rolled with that same totally unsuitable font used, and a number of inaccuracies as to who exactly worked on the original material. At the end of the day, the limited time and resources of the project probably hadn’t allowed anyone to pay close attention to details in the credits.
Needless to say, I didn’t have all that much eagerness to watch the recording I’d made of The Reunion Party‘s broadcast again any time soon. It had been okay, but it wasn’t the polished celebration of the show I’d been expecting.
In later years I finally picked up Stingray on DVD, including the uncut Japanese linking footage, which allowed me to at least appreciate that part in full. Then, Network released the series on Blu-ray and included the restored, unedited linking material in HD, plus a new assembly of The Reunion Party. When I was planning these reviews I didn’t know how the heck I wanted to approach The Reunion Party because I know some people quite happily list it as a 40th episode like any other, while some discount it entirely despite it featuring material produced in 1964 alongside the rest of the series. So that’s how we got here – The Reunion Party wasn’t strong enough to stand on its own in a review, nor did it really deserve that level of recognition, but I didn’t want to ignore it entirely. And I also didn’t want to forget about the fact that not all of the surviving Japanese Linking Material was used in The Reunion Party, with all references to Raptures of the Deep cut, presumably for timing reasons. Then, I had to consider the issue that Network’s re-assembled version of The Reunion Party wasn’t an exact match for the BBC’s original. Network had elected to fix many of the issues that had bugged me about that 2008 broadcast. What was the truly authentic version that I could cover in a review? I essentially had three versions of the same thing, and none of them had actually been assembled in the way Alan Pattillo and AP Films had intended for them to be viewed in the first place. What’s a boy to do?!
So I watched all of them. Yup, I watched the 2008 broadcast version of The Reunion Party from an original recording, I watched Network’s 2022 version in high definition, and I watched the uncut film reel of the Japanese Linking Material as presented on the Blu-ray release. And I’ve gotta tell you… it was a bit of a waste of time. I mean, I’m a patient guy, but watching anything to do with The Reunion Party more than once still feels like a spectacularly bad use of an hour or so. But because of that tedium, it makes me appreciate the effort that Network have put into fixing the whole thing so much more. If it felt like a waste of time for me to watch it, I can’t imagine how anyone had the patience to sit down and re-assemble this largely forgotten and unappreciated piece of Stingray ephemera, and doing a pretty decent job of it too.
Presented in 4:3 and high defintion, the Network assembly of The Reunion Party is a much more faithful presentation that’s inkeeping with the original series. The opening titles are unaltered, the title caption is in a much more accurate font, the cuts are slightly cleaner (though unavoidably still imperfect), March of the Oysters isn’t inexplicably playing over the linking material, the projector composition effect is much tidier, and the end credits are a stunning re-creation which magically pulls together all the right names in all the right places in a manner which absolutely feels like it was made in 1964. Now, if I’d had a stronger sense of nostalgia for the 2008 assembly of The Reunion Party, I might have been upset that it wasn’t included on the Blu-ray set. But recordings of that first broadcast are readily available online (cough, cough, here ya go, cough, cough), and I’m okay with having a superior, more series-accurate version of the episode taking its place on this and any future releases of Stingray.
Finally, let’s get into the linking material itself. There are some highlights and some lowlights for me to flag. Let’s start with the whole premise of Shore and Denver sitting down to watch recordings of old missions. It doesn’t make any logical sense that the WASPs would have such vivid visual records of their operations, but you just sort of have to buy into the conceit, as one has to do with the framing device of any flashback episode. After all, people don’t naturalistically sit down and have flashbacks. Not without the help of hallucinogenic drugs, anyway.
It’s clear from the surviving footage of what was actually supposed to be shown on the projector screen, that the episodes were likely intended to play out in full during the feature presentation. So the fully assembled Japanese feature would have started with the pilot episode playing out in full, presumably complete with opening titles but minus the end credits, then cut to the first piece of linking material to lead us into An Echo of Danger without titles or credits, then Raptures of the Deep and Emergency Marineville also without titles or credits and linking material in between, and then the final piece of linking material leading into the end titles and Aqua Marina being the song Atlanta references in the dialogue. The only question is therefore whether Troy’s own rendition of Aqua Marina during the Raptures of the Deep dream sequence would have been retained or cut to avoid repetition (probably the former if I had to guess).
All of the action takes place inside the Shores’ apartment, which had really become the heart of the WASP family unit during latter episodes of the series, instead of the control tower. It’s also possible that the destruction of the control tower set during the filming of Eastern Eclipse might have influenced the decision to use the Shores’ apartment – but that’s pure conjecture.
Admiral Denver is portrayed in his usual brash and argumentative manner as we’d seen in Loch Ness Monster and Set Sail For Adventure. It’s consistent characterisation for him, but also a slightly odd choice considering neither of those episodes were used as part of the presentation, and therefore audiences of the Japanese feature compilation who’d never seen the series before would have had no context as to why Shore and Denver hated each other’s guts. Maybe that context isn’t necessary, but it is curious that Denver was used instead of literally any other visiting guest character. Perhaps Set Sail For Adventure had just planted the seed of Denver and Shore watching movies together and Alan Pattillo decided not to reinvent the wheel. The projector itself is the same real-life AEI 702 16mm projector that Professor Graham was using during In Search of the Tajmanon.
Shore is shown in his regular WASP uniform but not using his hoverchair, while Troy and Phones are in their standard-issue formal evening wear. Denver is wearing a slightly modified version of the Admiral uniform he wore in Set Sail For Adventure and Admiral Frendor borrowed in The Lighthouse Dwellers. Meanwhile, Marina has a modified version of her silver gown to wear, while Atlanta has an entirely new outfit and hairstyle which is heavily inspired by the traditional dress of Japanese geishas – no prizes for guessing why that choice was made. Commander Shore won’t let up on insulting the women for taking their time getting ready. I guess he’s supposed to be building up to the dramatic reveal of Atlanta and Marina’s outfits, but it’s a pretty clumsy bit of writing.
So, after all that, what do we have? Let’s just say the discovery of the Japanese Linking Material is probably more interesting than the material itself, or The Reunion Party which was ultimately assembled from it. The fact that unseen Stingray footage survived for almost 40 years without anyone noticing is a thrilling proposition, and the mysteries surrounding its existence are an intriguing insight into the way Stingray‘s marketing and distribution might have been handled. Could there be more material like it sitting in a vault somewhere? Or was this just a one-off surprise and there’s no other Supermarionation footage from the 1960s that hasn’t already been seen? It’s impossible to say for sure. As for the resulting creation of The Reunion Party – I admire the noble act of ensuring the unseen linking material was put to some practical use. The footage probably wasn’t juicy enough to deliver on the promise of a brand new, 40th episode of Stingray, but at least they tried. And thank goodness for Network being dedicated enough to fix some of the original version’s more glaring issues so that it could still form part of the Blu-ray collection, and make it feel just that little bit more complete and definitive.
Into Action With Troy Tempest (MA101)
Story by Alan Fennell
Produced by Desmond Saunders
Released in October 1965 by Century 21 Records
Now we’re into the terriroty of the mini-albums. Familiar to most Anderson fans, these records were released during the height of Supermarionation’s popularity in the 1960’s under the Century 21 Records label by Century 21 Merchandising. Some records included original stories featuring the cast of Fireball XL5, Stingray, Thunderbirds, and Captain Scarlet. Others were re-tellings of TV episodes, presentations of Barry Gray’s music, or tied to television products like Tingha and Tucker and Doctor Who which had nothing to do with the Andersons’ output beyond specific merchandising agreements held by Century 21.
Into Action With Troy Tempest was released as part of Century 21 Records’ debut range in October 1965 alongside the two other Stingray records A Trip To Marineville and Marina Speaks. The range also included Journey To The Moon with the Fireball XL5 team, TV 21 Themes featuring music linked to all your favourite comic strips from TV 21, and – perhaps most significantly – Introducing Thunderbirds – a prequel story for the brand new Thunderbirds series which had just started broadcasting at the time.
The sleeve for Into Action declares: “Here’s your opportunity to ride along with your favourite T.V. heroes TROY TEMPEST and ‘PHONES in real action adventures. This MINI-ALBUM has been specially recorded so that you YOURSELF can play the parts of TROY TEMPEST and ‘PHONES in these thrillings stories.”
So it’s an original story with a twist. The adventure begins with Fisher and Shore attempting to make contact with nuclear submarine ‘Sea Probe’ just as the vessel is destroyed in an explosion. Troy and Phones take to the seas in Stingray, with the launch sequence played out in full. Stingray switches to automatic bosun and waits to approach the investigation zone. Then things get weird. Commander Shore addresses the kids at home directly and offers to play back the whole sequence again without Troy’s dialogue. No, it isn’t my dream of Troy getting sacked coming true. Instead, the listener is supposed to use the resulting gaps in the dialogue to fill in for Troy and talk just like him when interacting with Phones and the commander. Apparently that’s something the kiddies at home will want to do.
That’s the selling point of the record, basically. You get to act out the parts of the characters yourself as if you’re really taking part in a mission for the WASPs. It’s a cute idea. I’m not an expert in children’s records so I couldn’t tell you whether similar formats existed at the time. Now sure, for listeners hoping for a story which expanded the universe of Stingray with a thrilling new adventure that one was never likely to see on television, disappointment was a certainty. If anyone adapted Into Action for television you’d pretty much have the pilot episode combined with Deep Heat and a lot of Subterranean Sea. A great deal of dialogue is lifted directly from the soundtrack of those episodes, perhaps even offering up some lines that might have been cut from the televised versions. Commander Shore invites you to immitate Troy’s dramatic performance once again as Stingray gets pulled down into an extinct volcano and crashes in a sea beneath the ocean.
The sequence of events continues as it does in Subterranean Sea (minus Marina’s involvement) with Troy and Phones investigating the desert they’re beached on, and then rushing back to Stingray as the sea’s tide turns dramatically. This time, the listener gets to adopt Phones’ Texas drawl, and is instructed by Shore to “look lively there” in the presence of Captain Troy Tempest. Don’t think I’ll be doing that. Of course, this all puts me in mind of young Barry Burn in A Christmas To Remember playfully immitating Troy as he helps to launch Stingray in Phones’ place. I guess all the cool kids are doing it.
Next, dialogue from the series is weaved together to create a brief battle with an enemy craft that didn’t appear in Subterranean Sea. Then the plot of Subterranean Sea continues with Troy and Phones searching for a way out to the surface. Commander Shore reports that this hostile element was later investigated by WASP forces, and a whole city was discovered which had organised the whirlpool that had drawn Stingray and Sea Probe down into the depths. Time is running out on the record, so we’re simply told that the city is destroyed and the problem’s solved. Easy as that. But there’s just time for one more opportunity to immitate Phones and relive the action. And then it just ends.
Needless to say, this record is more of a quirky novelty than anything else. One could adapt the story into something a little more unique fairly easily by embelishing some of the details about the underwater city and its plan to capture WASP crafts with the whirlpool, but you’d still end up with something pretty average as Stingray stories go. Ray Barrett’s performance as Shore and Fisher is quite charming, particularly the moments with Shore interacting with the kiddies listening at home. Like all the records produced by Century 21, I think they’re produced to a high standard and have the same feel as the television episodes.
A Trip To Marineville (MA102)
Story by Alan Fennell
Produced by Desmond Saunders
Released in October 1965 by Century 21 Records
Johnny, a little boy voiced by Sylvia Anderson, is dropped off by a helicopter pilot, also voiced by Sylvia Anderson, at the West Coast Heliport. Troy Tempest (Don Mason) turns up in his fast car to take Johnny to Marineville and give him a tour. Basically, this record is 21 minutes of exposition about Marineville. It’s not a million miles away from Introducing Thunderbirds.
We learn a lot of facts. The base is built twenty miles inland (not ten miles as the episode, The Big Gun, suggested previously). Troy’s car can drive at up to 350 mph but he doesn’t want to get caught by the WASP Highway Police, so does a much safer 100 mph. They arrive at the West Checkpoint, one of several security gates to check the passes of anyone who enters Marineville. Johnny’s pass has been specially organised by Commander Shore and Washington, and the Sergeant voiced by David Graham lets them through. Is it possible for your ears to glaze over?
As they drive through Marineville, Johnny marvels at the size of it. Troy explains that the place is a self-contained town with a hospital, theatres, shops, stores, emergency services, a power plant, and everything else you might need if something absolutely dreadful were to happen to the rest of the world… because, y’know, nuclear annihalation would have been on every child’s mind in the 1960s. I’m not kidding – it was the Cold War. That’s also why Troy goes on to demonstrate the launching of a hydromic missile. David Graham vaguely attempts to sound interested in the role of a missile operative over the loudspeaker. Johnny is offered glasses to protect him from the glare of the rocket… meaning we don’t get to hear his eyes burning out of his sockets. The hydromic missile successfully blows up its target. Huzzah. Consider me firmly sitting down no-where near the edge of my seat.
Next, the gruesome twosome drive past the airfield and Troy boasts about the 300 different aircraft at Marineville’s disposal. We certainly never see that many in the television series. Atlanta is apparently flying to Washington for an all-nations conference aboard a troop carrier, and Johnny is disappointed he won’t get to meet her. I’m sure the Andersons are thrilled they don’t have to pay Lois Maxwell for another voice over session. But she’s left Troy the keys to her house so Johnny can sniff around like a pervert. Marina will be there too. Phones won’t be though because he’s checking out one of the tracking stations, and definitely not because Robert Easton was also busy doing something else that day.
Troy explains that the WASPs have installations all over the world to keep tabs on incoming attacks from underwater enemies, and “they’re all linked together by laser beam and neutron radio transmitters.” Fascinating. They arrive at the Shores’ place and meet Marina inside, who contributes a great deal to this audio-only adventure as you might imagine. Johnny is overwhelmed by Marina’s beauty, as well as all the gadgets in Atlanta’s modern kitchen… I’m not kidding. Troy doesn’t know an ice box from a radio apparently, so Marina has to pour them all lemonade, which we hear her pouring out one glass at a time. Seriously, I said I’m not kidding. The topic of hamburger steaks is brought up, and Troy once again turns on a tape recorder by mistake instead of the cooker – an easy-listening piece of music from Thunderbirds plays as Side One of the record finishes. The business in the kitchen is definitely a low-point of the adventure. I guess it was an attempt to present an immersive, futuristic homelife full of new technology… but I think Marineville is exciting enough without focusing on that stuff, don’t you?
Fortunately Side Two gets off to a more invigorating start as Johnny and Troy drive to the control tower and ride the express elevator to the top via the main reception hall. Unfortunately, the elevator ride is played out in real time, thus re-creating the awkwardness of real elevator rides. Troy explains that in addition to the main control room, the tower contains apartments, restrooms, a recreation area and conference chambers, plus some secret spaces he can’t mention… like the missile planning department… which he definitely didn’t just mention anyway.
They reach the control room and although Commander Shore is there and working, he’s far too busy to talk to them… but Ray Barrett isn’t off the hook because the commander ends up being thrilled to meet Johnny and guides him around the technical gubbins such as the compass and the map in the control room, along with Lt. Fisher whom Ray Barrett is also contractually obliged to voice. Apparently there’s a special control operators school for learning how to use all the buttons for firing missiles and so on. Sign me up.
David Graham interrupts over the videophone from the power plant to announce that the Battle Stations drill is ready to start. But first, we learn the important detail that “P.W.O.R.” stands for “Proceeding With Orders Received.” Have you ever noticed that saying “Proceeding With Orders Received” uses eight syllables while “P.W.O.R.” uses six? I have. I guess the WASPs don’t have time for those extra two syllables. Anyway, Johnny gets to watch the daily Battle Stations drill take place… yes, daily… they test it daily.
As Marineville rises back to the surface following the successful drill, Johnny asks about Shore’s hoverchair and Troy tells the story of the accident which lost the commander the use of his legs, as shown in The Ghost of the Sea. It’s quite a sweet moment as Troy admits that despite Shore’s grumpy exterior, he’s the best commanding officer the WASPs could have… although he does have the added bonus of being able to play hide the sausage with the Commander’s daughter.
Johnny and Troy enjoy the comforts of the Standby Lounge. They’re not allowed to use the Injector Tubes apparently, so head for the handy elevator nearby to access Stingray’s enormous pen. I guess that answers my question from a review a few months ago about how Commander Shore accesses Stingray. Johnny has been waiting the whole trip to see Stingray, so he’s pleased to admire its impressive length. We’re told the craft is at least 40 feet long and 10 feet wide… which is a pretty low estimate considering what we’re shown in the series with the craft’s vast cabin, two bedrooms, missile ejector bays, and all the rest. Stingray is atomic powered and can reach speeds of 600 knots – which is all established in the series proper. We learn that Marineville’s scientists are constantly making improvements to Stingray such as strengthening the steel its made from – as per the end of The Big Gun.
Then, Troy answers a pretty important questions – what’s with the number ‘3’ marking on Stingray’s fin? He confirms that the current Stingray is the third iteration of the craft, and the other two were decommissioned when the new version was designed. So anyone who’s been curious about that can sleep safe in the knowledge that the WASPs genuinely don’t have another craft like Stingray tucked away somewhere, and they rely on that one submarine entirely to defend us from underwater threats…
Anyway, time on the record is running out so Troy decides that Stingray’s interior is classified, and Johnny gets taken back to the heliport with vague promises of a second visit to ride Stingray, with permission from Washington of course. A police escort is going to guide Troy’s car back to the heliport so that he can break his own rule about keeping the car to 100 mph. Yes, as well as being an egotist and a love rat, Troy’s also a boy racer. Charming.
A Trip To Marineville might be a trifle tedious and lacking in a plot, but for a 21 minute adventure it certainly packs in a lot of detail which is mostly faithful to what’s shown in the television series. Johnny is irritating of course, but he does ask some good questions. The most laughable part of the story is obviously the tour of the kitchen, and the fact that Marina is confined in there because she can’t contribute much to this audio-only story, (and probably also because she’s a woman).
Now if only someone could write a story in which Marina speaks…
Marina Speaks (MA104)
Story by Sylvia & Gerry Anderson
Produced by Desmond Saunders
Released in October 1965 by Century 21 Records
Gee, that’s handy. Yes, I’m going to spoil it right now and say that this is by far the highlight of the Century 21 Records range. Uniquely, the blurb on the disc label credits this story to “Sylvia & Gerry Anderson” instead of the usual “Gerry & Sylvia Anderson”. Why the switch-aroo? Well there’s no official reason for it, nor is it a particualrly critical observation, but considering Sylvia was the series’ official Dialogue & Characterisation Supervisor, and this is a very character-driven story that’s told entirely through dialogue and led by a female character who happens to be voiced by… well, you see my point – I think Sylvia’s name coming first for once was probably more than fair.
The story begins with Atlanta and Marina listening to the end of a jazz record. Marina seems upset, and Commander Shore supposes it might be because she hates the music (he clearly does!) or because Troy is away on Stingray without her. Atlanta dismisses that last claim rather furiously. Instead, she offers to take Marina home to bed, but gets interruped by Troy’s sudden return from patrol. Atlanta gets awfully shifty about wanting to take Marina home pretty sharpish now that Troy’s back – the flame of jealousy burning brighter than it ever has before. In the name of chivalry, Commander Shore and Troy agree that as the man Troy should be the one to take Marina home, not Atlanta. Once Troy and Marina leave, Atlanta is upset to the point of tears with her father’s interference – the commander quickly picking up on his daughter’s jealousy of Marina and Troy, apparently for the first time
As Atlanta sobs in her bedroom, I’m sure we’re all listening at home amazed by the rawness of the emotions on display. We’re really digging in to the love triangle here. By comparison, the television series only manages to touch upon the issue with the most delicate of touches, and pretty quickly switches up the dynamic by the mid-point of the series so that Atlanta is clearly Troy’s girlfriend, and Marina is practically written out of the show. Lois Maxwell certainly isn’t phoning it in for this record, and gives Atlanta’s heartache some genuine pain and anguish – probably the finest voice performance of the entire series. It’s a refreshing approach after Don Mason’s rather flat delivery in A Trip To Marineville – sorry, mate.
The commander comes to comfort his daughter and talk about the issue, Ray Barrett bringing great warmth to Shore’s gruff tones. He even brings up the topic of Atlanta’s mother, a beautiful woman whom he married six months after his love rival was killed in a submarine battle. Shore reveals for the first time, with a touch of vulnerability, the concerns he’d had about how their happy marriage might have turned out differently if the other man had lived. Atlanta is surprised to learn all this, just as Shore is surprised to learn about Atlanta’s feeling for
Troy. This is really heavy stuff, far outside the emotional range of the usual Supermarionation adventures seen on television. This is getting into soap opera territory, and I don’t mean that in a derrogatory way. I mentioned this during my review of The Man From The Navy, but I think good soap opera storytelling is pretty magical. It’s at its strongest when the characters are so strongly defined that the story and the choices they make become a pure expression of who that character is, the way they feel, and their approach to life. Good soap opera should allow us into a character’s life more intimately and more completely than most other forms of drama because of how much time we spend with them just talking and responding to a variety of situations and emotional states. That’s exactly what MarinaSpeaks is offering us at this moment.
Just as the Shores head to bed, they spot a file containing a manuscript, written by Marina. For some reason, this is the first time Marina communicates with the others by using writing, which would have made everyone’s lives a lot easier if she’d done that during the series. The revelation is made through Marina’s writng that she actually can speak, but is forced to remain silent after Titan placed a curse on her and her people. This is probably the single-most shocking revelation to be made in the entire Stingray canon. Marina’s silence has only ever been described in any sort of detail by Titan, who simply remarked in the pilot episode that, “none of her race know the luxury of words.” Otherwise, the assumption has just been that she’s incapable of speaking and/or doesn’t know how. To learn that Titan cursed Marina to eternal silence, but didn’t actually rob her of her voice, adds a whole new dimension to everything we’ve seen in regards to Titan’s influence, and Marina’s struggle to be understood by others at Marineville.
So, Marina’s manuscript continues with some back story, as she describes in her own words what her life was like before the WASPs and before Titan’s tyranny. The underwater races lived in peace and had yet to be discovered by terraineans. We hear about Aphony, Marina’s father, whom we met in the episodes Plant of Doom and Tune of Danger, but didn’t really get to know at all beyond him seeing like a learned, peaceful old man with affection for his daughter. He is the emperor of Pacifica, a civilisation living on the bed of the Pacific Ocean which began when a sea captain married a mermaid, and created a race of people sharing characteristics from the land and the sea. So that’s why Marina doesn’t have a tail but she can breathe underwater… in case you were wondering. Pacifica’s great palace is described in glorious detail and splendor, which Lois Maxwell reads beautifully.
The prose fades to dialogue for the second half of the mini-album. Marina’s voice is performed by Sylvia Anderson with more or less the same elegant transatlantic tones she used to portray the character in Troy’s dream sequence from Raptures of the Deep. David Graham voices Aphony, who sounds like a cross between Frank Lincoln from The Lighthouse Dwellers and Dr. Beaker from Supercar, but rather more grand. Marina is asked by her father to throw a very important banquet for 400 people. Gee, thanks dad. He details the menu: vintage seaweed wine, octopus soup, roast electric eels and seafood salad served in mother of pearl shells, followed by sea anemone cocktails and oyster liqueurs. No chicken nuggets and curly fries then. Titan has been invited as guest of honour in order to try and secure eternal peace among the underwater civilisations. Marina points out that Titan’s a complete and utter smeghead, but Aphony has to trust him.
Without very much fuss, Marina manages to lay on this incredibly ambitious event without issue, and there are apparently no parking problems for the hundreds of underwater vessels that arrive at Pacifica to attend the conference. Aphony offers up a speech to all the gathered delegates, who represent every single undersea civilisation within 10,000 marine miles of Pacifica… which might just be the same measurement as a nautical mile, I’m not sure, but either way it sounds impressive. A peace treaty has been signed by everyone except Titan, ruler of Titanica, who is then invited to address the conference. Oh, I wonder what that twerp might do…
Apparently Titanicans consider themselves a master race of the sea, which isn’t exactly a good start to the proceedings. Of course, we’ve never for sure seen any other members of Titan’s race. X20 and the giant gargan tamer from The Golden Sea may be from elsewhere. Despite his belief in racial purity, Titan agrees to sign the treaty, surprising all of us at home. Joy! The evening then descends into delegates getting hammered on the seaweed wine. But all is not well. An armarda of Titan’s “Terror Fish” approaches Pacifica – the first time that name has actually been used as an alternative to “Mechanical Fish” as they’re known in the series. The Aquaphibian crews are ordered to attack Pacifica. There are at least 28 in the fleet if Titan’s counting is accurate. The sounds of screaming and flooding dominate the soundtrack as the attack unfolds to create a scene which probably couldn’t have been achieved on-screen.
Aphony and Marina survive the attack because they can’t exactly drown, but they’re forced into hiding for months until Titan believes himself to be the ultimate victor and swans off to do something else. Pacifica is rebuilt by the survivors, and Aphony continues his peace mission by speechifying aplenty at other underwater cities. The game of politics going on in the background of all this is incredible. The rich detail of the underwater world and the way civilisations interact and govern is worthy of a whole franchise of novels. Of course, it was all explored through the pages of the sister comic to TV 21, entitled Lady Penelope. The Marina, Girl of the Sea strip introduces us to all the other undersea races that the people of Pacifica engage with, and ran for the first 23 issues of Lady Penelope, starting in January 1966.
Back in the mini-album, Marina’s hopes for a quiet life are wrecked when she spots a Terror Fish lurking outside her bedroom window. Aphony’s first minister, voiced by Ray Barrett, reveals that Titan has come for a meeting. He’s invited in, despite Marina’s fear of something ruddy awful happening. Sure enough, Titan has come to silence Aphony’s great speeches of hope. A wibbly-wobbly sound effect is used to signify the curse taking effect, and the first minister quickly dies when Aphony fails to stop speaking. Titan reveals that each time Aphony or Marina speaks, another Pacifican will lose their life. So, in order to protect themselves and their people, Marina and Aphony are sworn to silence forever, and Titan’s spell supposedly cannot be broken. That’s one heck of a curse. Of course, it rather suggests that Titan has magical powers, which doesn’t necessarily sit easily in the technologically advanced world of TV 21. But, y’know, the guy worships a fish god who can shine a light out of his mouth to turn plants toxic, so I guess anything’s possible.
Needless to say, I think this development in Marina’s back story is incredibly satisfying, and serves the character far beyond what she was given to do in the television series itself. What’s even better, is the particular detail that Marina doesn’t even know for sure if Titan’s curse is real, or whether the first minister’s death was a coincidence. Such a subtle nuance in the storytelling, but it makes so much difference to how we might interpret all those moments when Marina needed to speak but chose not to for the safety of her people. The only thing it makes a bit of a mess of is the plot of the episode Count Down. Why would Marina willingly go along to speaking lessons when she knows full well it won’t work? Maybe she’s just trying to keep Troy happy. Anyway, Marina finishes her manuscript with a reminder that the friendship of those at Marineville means a great deal to her, something which was made evident during the television series but now takes on a whole new meaning.
Atlanta and Commander Shore are gobsmacked by the story, and it strengthens their mission to make Marina’s life better and defeat Titan to save her from the vow of silence. Then the record ends. No apology from Atlanta to Marina, or an immediate counterattack launched by Shore on Titan. Just an acceptance of the reality of Marina’s life under this curse.
What a powerful piece of writing.
Had Marina Speaks been a fully fledged episode of the television series, it would have changed everything. It could have taken Stingray to the level of a political drama. I’d say that only the episode The Master Plan matches this record’s dark and grave tone. Of course, one of Stingray‘s usual strengths is its light and friendly touch, and I wouldn’t trade any of those fluffy comedy elements for added grit and suspense. But boy, a big-screen Stingray feature film produced by AP Films, based on the story of Marina Speaks, would have been a spectacle to behold, and really elevated Stingray‘s potential for dramatic storytelling to new heights.
Ah well, one can dream.
Anyway, here’s the next best thing as far as Stingray feature films go…
The Incredible Voyage of Stingray
Released in 1980
Compilation of Stingray, Plant of Doom, Count Down, and The Master Plan.
Explaining the Super Space Theater compilation films of Anderson shows to anyone who didn’t live through them is like trying to describe why fax machines exist. Somehow, Chris Dale manages it very succinctly yet thoroughly in his article on the subject for the official Gerry Anderson website. But it would be rude of me not to offer my dumbed down Security Hazard version so here goes:
Basically, everyone who was alive in 1977 wanted more Star Wars, so they tried to turn Space: 1999 episodes into Star Wars films by slapping episodes together, and cutting off the beginnings, endings, and some other bits to fit the 90-minute running time, then gave the result a new title. ITC’s Robert Mandell and project consultant David Hirsch kept on making these “movies” in order to sell the Anderson shows to satellite and cable channels in the United States that were desperately in need of cheap science fiction content. So episodes of Space: 1999, UFO, Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons, Joe 90, and, of course, Stingray received the “Super Space Theater” treatment to combine multiple episodes into one story.
Needless to say, the results were mixed since the likes of Thunderbirds and Stingray didn’t really have episodes which formed a continuous story over multiple installments. That’s where a certain amount of creativity came into the project to try and stitch things together and invent some uniformity. This could be as simple as adding a “Six Months Later” caption to the start of the Thunderbirds episode Operation Crash-Dive, following directly on from the conclusion of Trapped In The Sky in the compilation film Thunderbirds To The Rescue. In other cases, quite a few creative liberties were taken to try and mash together some sort of cohesive story. For example, the ending of the Captain Scarlet episode, Attack On Cloudbase, was drastically altered to suggest that the events of that installment didn’t take place in a dream sequence after all, ending the compilation film Captain Scarlet vs. The Mysterons on a much more bizarre note with the Mysterons seemingly having a change of heart…
Now, none of this would have been a problem but for one truly terrible decision being made regarding home video releases. During the 1980s and 90s the Anderson shows were being released on VHS, and someone decided to simply replace the original versions of the episodes with releases of the Super Space Theater compilation films instead. This meant that classic episodes such as Trapped In The Sky, Terror In New York City and many others were only available in a heavily modified format. Fortunately, sanity prevailed in the early 2000’s and the uncut episodes became available on video and DVD for the first time. The second that happened, Anderson fans put the compilation films into retirement after two decades of service, since they no longer served much use…
… Until Network came along and decided to re-release a few of them. In fact, in some cases, Network used their HD restorations of the Anderson shows to re-assemble the whole dang movies from scratch. Yes, the nostalgia value of these bizarre novelties has meant that both Stingray compilations, among several other Anderson compilations so far, have received a high definition blu-ray release from Network.
The Incredible Voyage of Stingray was the first of the Supermarionation compilations produced in the Super Space Theater range in 1980. Three versions have been re-built from scratch using the high defintion episode restorations for Network’s release:
Original Fullscreen With Stereo Movie Soundtrack
Original Fullscreen With Mono Episode Soundtrack
Extended Widescreen With Mono Episode Soundtrack
I’m spoilt for choice, but it sounds like the first version is the most authentic. I want to watch these movies just as I would have done on VHS as a little kid. I probably haven’t seen this in something like twenty years.
Ah… so maybe not quite a 100% faithful re-creation then. I did wonder how those truly horrific 1980s video effects from Dolphin Productions Inc would be accurately reproduced with up to date editing software. Instead, Kindred Productions Ltd who are behind this particular re-interpretation of The Incredible Voyage of Stingray have put together an approximation of the original titles using clean footage from the episodes. The notes from Kindred’s Tim Mallet on the sleeve of the blu-ray case reveal the difficulties involved in producing these compilations all over again, and explains why using the original titles was an impossibility. Thankfully, the original opening and closing titles have been included as a bonus feature so we can take a butchers at them in their fuzzy NTSC, VHS quality goodness:
The only thing that truly baffles me about these original titles is the weird, vaguely 3D viewing screen which is constructed out of laser beams and appears for no reason whatsoever at the end of the sequence. The rest of it is pretty average by the standards of Super Space Theater, and that gives them a heck of a lot of leeway.
Back to the high definition re-creation now and the first moments from the pilot episode play out as normal until… them laser beams. Yes, they may not have restored the original titles, but that’s only because those wizards at Kindred have had to dedicate all their efforts to adding the frickin’ lasers back in. The new effect is perfect – absolutely perfect. Why were lasers added to these films in the first place? DO I SOUND LIKE SOMEONE WHO CARES?! Nah, but for real, it’s probably because of Star Wars. What I can say on the subject is that I did have to google the question: “do laser beams work underwater?” I was surprised to learn that the answer is basically – yes. Now, could those laser beams blow up a submarine? I’ll leave that up to your imagination…
I won’t go through every single darn modification that’s been made to every single darn episode in these compilations because even I would consider that tedious. But Stingray’s launch sequence from the pilot episode is a perfect example of the kind of changes that were typical of the Super Space Theater compilations. Music, usually from Barry Gray and usually from elsewhere in the same series, is added to sequences that originally had none… which happens a lot. It’s almost annoying. Remember that this was the only version of these episodes available to buy for almost two decades. It also meant that for people like me who grew up on these VHS tapes, watching the uncut, unaltered original versions of the episodes later was quite a bizarre turn of events. Suddenly, scenes which I had experienced that were full of music in the compilation felt a little empty when watched in their proper form. I’m delighted to say that I got over it.
What’s considerably more surreal, and actually still gets me to this day, is the experience of scenes that were cut from the compilations suddenly popping up when I now sit down to watch the uncut versions of the episodes. Even now, something very subtle triggers in my head when Jeff, Alan, Scott, Tin-Tin, and that cheeky twerp Braman turn up to say thank you to Brains at the end of the Thunderbirds episode Sun Probe – because I’d spent years prior watching Thunderbirds In Outer Space over and over and over again with that scene completely removed. My plasticine brain got so used to those trimmed down versions of the episodes that I’m still in recovery twenty years later. How wild is that? Of course, today I’d pick the uncut versions of the episodes every time, so nobody needs to buy me a straight jacket just yet.
For The Incredible Voyage of Stingray, only some light trimming is required for the transition from the pilot episode into Plant of Doom. Marina’s final shot is cut a few seconds short to dodge the fade to black from the original episode, instead cutting straight to Titanica and Titan’s scene talking to his pet fish. Since the events of the pilot lead straight into Plant of Doom anyway, the join between the episodes is pretty seamless and they sit pretty dang well alongside each other to form a complete story. Needless to say, some of the joins between episodes in other Super Space Theater compilations are much more obvious. For example – Terror In New York City going straight into Atlantic Inferno made zero sense during the film Countdown To Disaster, particularly as the puppets completely changed appearance, Virgil switched to a new voice, and the Tracy Lounge was redecorated.
Stingray gets yellowish-green laser beams to replace its missiles. Yup, the bad guys have red lasers, the good guys have green. Ain’t that cute? Pretty sure they were more yellow originally but that’s a minor gripe. The smoking vapour trails of the original missiles can often be spotted hiding underneath the added laser effects – but on a fuzzy VHS tape I doubt anyone ever noticed that back in the day.
The most noticeable cuts from the original episodes are the sickly sweet piano-playing finale to Plant of Doom, and the nighttime scene in the control tower from the beginning of Count Down. I certainly don’t miss the cheery rendition of Chopsticks, but the discussion about the secret decorating plans is quite an unfortunate loss, seeing as Alan Pattillo put quite a lot of effort into the dark and moody direction of that scene. Instead, the transition between the episodes is handled by cutting straight from Atlanta acknowledging Troy’s negative views on Marina’s musical talent, to Titan calling up X20 to bark demands about destroying Marineville. It works well enough, and the secret plans still get a look-in during later scenes, so the subplot about Marina’s new apartment doesn’t suffer too much as a result of the scene being missing.
The rest of Count Down is intact, and the final shot of the episode leads straight into the first scene from The Master Plan. I have to give credit to The Incredible Voyage of Stingray for being relatively untampered-with compared to many of the other Super Space Theater compilation movies. I suspect that’s down to this being one of the earliest in the collection, and also because of simple mathematics. It would have been much easier to trim 4 x 25-minute episodes of Stingray down to a 90-minute compilation once the original opening and closing titles were removed, than it was to cut down, for example, 2 x 50-minute episodes of Thunderbirds. Cutting together fewer, longer episodes into a movie meant a more noticeable amount of material had to be lost from each story, and there was less opening and closing title flab to slice off from the two episodes as opposed to the four.
The restored movie ends with some new end credits (that’s the version on the left). Back in 1980, the original assembly of The Incredible Voyage of Stingray wasn’t able to faithfully re-create the graphics of the television series’ end titles, so basically didn’t bother and slapped black cards and a boring white font over the top of them (the version on the right). The sequence was also accompanied by a slower, commercial recording of Gary Miller performing Aqua Marina. For this 2022 restoration, technology has evolved and means that a look much closer to the original, original end title sequence can be achieved. It’s worth nothing that the 1980 white text on black card version of the sequence is pretty tame compared to some of the other Super Space Theater closing titles which usually preferred to saunter away from what was done in the television series and do their own thing entirely.
Overall, The Incredible Voyage of Stingray is quite a satisfying viewing experience. As discussed, very little from the original episodes is cut. As long as you can put up with the heavily over-compensating soundtrack and the laser beams, you’ve basically got a handy way of watching the pilot episode, Plant of Doom, Count Down, and The Master Plan in one convenient package.
The choice of episodes is pretty darn perfect, and they fit together nicely to tell the overarching story of how Marina came to Marineville, and her place in the story as a slave to Titan, a citizen of Pacifica, and now a member of the WASPs. It also serves up some of Titan’s boldest efforts to get revenge on Stingray, Marineville, and Troy Tempest for challenging his power. Count Down is perhaps slightly more of an outlier, in that it doesn’t directly reference Marina’s supposed betrayal of Titan from the pilot episode, but you could easily argue that X20’s plot to destroy Marineville is still egged on by Titan for the same reasons. It also helps that The Master Plan is pretty much the most epic showdown between Troy and Titan anyway, so it serves as a great climax to the movie.
Invaders From The Deep
Released in 1981
Compilation of Hostages of the Deep, Emergency Marineville, The Big Gun, and Deep Heat.
The year is 1981. The year of Charles and Diana, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Ronald Reagan. If none of that managed to get your blood pumping, then you had a fresh batch of Super Space Theater compilation movies to enjoy on some U.S. cable channel in the early hours of the morning. 1981 offered up what I would consider the staples of the collection: Thunderbirds In Outer Space, Captain Scarlet vs. The Mysterons, Revenge of the Mysterons From Mars, The Amazing Adventures of Joe 90 and, most importantly today – Invaders From The Deep. The premise, for want of a better word, which differentiates this movie from the last one is that instead of Titan battling the WASPs himself, he’s gotten all his other underwater alien buddies to go out and do it for him. More on that in a moment.
As with The Incredible Voyage of Stingray, the shiny new Network release of Invaders From The Deep features a plethora of viewing options, and I’m once again opting for the “Original Fullscreen with Stereo Movie Soundtrack” to get the most authentic experience.
Rather ambitiously, Invaders From The Deep opens with a somewhat original scene featuring Titan confiding with Teufel, great god of the sea (or the answer to the question: What if fish could eat lard?). Of course, it’s not a particularly original scene. Footage from Plant of Doom and The Master Plan is cut together with dialogue from Plant of Doom and Count Down slapped over the top to form some vaguely new material. The editing job is painfully obvious with the lip sync going totally bananas… and y’know, Supermarionation lip sync is generally pretty forgiving if you dub it with something else, so this is particularly bad. And quite why Teufel shines a bright light at us (which was even brighter in the original 1981 version of the movie), I can’t say. I guess it’s supposed to represent Teufel enlightening Titan with a new idea but that might be a bit of a stretch. Anyway, having complained to his pet fish for a bit, Titan then suddenly has a radio in his hand ordering all his subjects to destroy Marineville.
And that’s that. That’s the conceit for the whole movie set up. Instead of doing the dirty work himself, he’s called upon all his underlings to do it for him. Of course, it does play on the idea that Titan is in some way connected with at least some of the guest villains we see throughout the series, as hinted at in Troy’s dream from the episode Tom Thumb Tempest. So I guess that’s good. Anyway, this scene exists and Kindred have once again done the best they can to make it look and sound as bad as it did originally so I guess we can consider that a victory.
Just like The Incredible Voyage of Stingray, Kindred have produced new opening titles loosely inspired by the 1981 mess of video effects that made up the original opening titles. Call me a moron tainted by nostalgia, but I quite like the look of the original version.
The titles give way to the events of Hostages of the Deep, which play out pretty much as they do in the original episode, with one notable exception. Well, two if you count the relentless additional music. But the key issue is the removal of the scene featuring Troy and Phones pranking Atlanta with the toy fish. Instead, the movie cuts from the initial scene with Admiral Carson and Millie being threatened by Gadus, straight to Commander Shore’s briefing in the control room. Now sure, the fish prank is a pretty bizarre scene as shown in the episode, thanks to Troy, Phones and Atlanta’s not-quite-right smiler heads, and the fact the fish was possessed by the voice of Joe Pasquale. I don’t necessarily miss it from this compilation movie, but it does mean that Troy using the fish to check for bomb threats while investigating the island truly comes from out of no-where. Maybe we’re supposed to assume the toy fish is standard-issue equipment aboard all WASP vessels.
R.I.P. Francis The Fish – his family don’t even get paid royalties for Invaders From The Deep because his single line of dialogue got cut.
Music from the Thunderbirds episode, Terror In New York City is played quietly over this simple moment of Troy and Phones discussing what to do next. Yup… yup I can confirm it does confuse my brain. But if you think that’s bad, you won’t be prepared for the bold-as-brass musical choice that’s been made for the end credits… all in good time though.
For the transition between Hostages of the Deep and Emergency Marineville, the final exchange of dialogue, in which Phones attempts to squeeze some thanks from Marina for Troy saving her life, is cut. It’s a sweet moment, but I think we can afford to lose it. Slightly more critical is the cutting of the opening scene from Emergency Marineville showing the missile launching from the volcanic island. Instead, the missile’s approach is reported straight from the tracking station and the first we see of it is when it’s flying on course towards Marineville. This means that when Stingray spots the second missile being fired from the island, it comes as a complete surprise to the viewers as well as Troy, Phones and Marina. It just goes to show that even minor changes can have their influence on the viewing experience – in this case, probably telling a better story.
A slightly odd bit of editing from the original 1981 version of the movie has been retained for the new edition – the control tower appears to get stuck halfway through Battle Stations. Nice attention to detail from the re-creation, but why the dodgy editing happened in the first place back in 1981 I couldn’t say. Maybe the VHS machine got tired.
Thanks to Aqunaut of the Year, The Reunion Party, and Invaders From The Deep, in addition to covering it for my intial review – I’ve now watched bits of Emergency Marineville a stupid number of times over the past few weeks. It’s almost dirty how popular this episode was with writers/editors of Stingray compilations. Is it possible to slut shame an episode of a TV series? Cos Emergency Marineville sure gets around. I just wanted to get that thought out there.
The final scene from Emergency Marineville featuring Shore reprimanding Phones for his missing button is cut from this compilation. Again, it’s not a big loss, and it means Stingray’s laser-fuelled demolition of the island packs a bit more of a punch. Let’s be honest, Shore yelling at Phones for being improperly dressed would only actually be funny if Phones had his thingy out… and even then I probably wouldn’t laughing.
Speaking of thingies though, it’s time for The Big Gun. Sort of. The opening for this segment is quite different from the original episode because the scene featuring the WSP Commander briefing Shore, and part of the discussion with Atlanta which follows has been brought forward to come before Mauritimus blows up the target island. Maybe this was done to avoid the material of the island getting blown up from Emergency Marineville getting confused with the material of the island getting blown up from The Big Gun… in which case they probably should have just put the episodes in a different order… which they should have done anyway because The Big Gun was produced before Emergency Marineville, and usually the Super Space Theater films are decent enough to at least get that sort of thing the right way around. Anyway, then Mauritimus blows up the target installation and another scene is brought forward – Atlanta briefing Troy to investigate in Stingray before Mauritimus returns to Solarstar to meet with the Mighty Leader. Presumably this edit was made just to break up the hardcore Mauritimus action a little bit with a dash of familiar Stingray business.
After Stingray attacks the missile ejector and Mauritimus bails out, the scene featuring the Mighty Leader and Chorda discussing the attack has been removed completely. But then Atlanta is ordered to call for action stations, and a few shots have actually been added from elsewhere in order to show Troy, Phones, and Marina boarding Stingray before it launches again. All this scene restructuring is probably one of the more subtle yet significant alterations made to the episodes in the name of Super Space Theater… and I’m not entirely sure why they bothered. It certainly doesn’t save them much running time. Someone must have really felt there wasn’t enough Stingray in this particular episode.
The rest of The Big Gun plays out as normal apart from the final sentimental scene being cut, which originally featured Troy and Phones walking down a corridor at Marineville and discussing Marina. Instead, Commander Shore’s rousing speech about making improvements to Stingray’s ability to withstand deep waters immediately cuts to Deep Heat, and Shore discussing Sea Probe with Lt. Fisher while standing in another part of the control room. It’s a bit of a strange transition, in that there’s basically no transition at all. Why the opening moments of Deep Heat with the probe approaching the volcano for the first time were cut is beyond me, though I guess all we lose is the advantage of actually seeing Sea Probe before people start talking about it. It also means we don’t have to listen to that bloomin’ beeping sound for quite as long.
Stingray’s launch sequence from Deep Heat is given a quick trim with a few shots taken out to speed things up. Stingray’s been launched quite a few times now over the course of the movie so maybe the editors felt it was time to pick up the pace. Another minor cut also includes the removal of the fade to black for the episode’s commercial break, and the surrounding establishing shots, which is made very noticeable by the music starting to swell before cutting out suddenly.
I thought I would be safe from Troy’s mysterious new head rapidly appearing between shots, but apparently even the Super Space Theater films are trying to taunt me. In fact, this scene was the first time I spotted the phenomena back in my review of Deep Heat, so I guess we’ve come full circle… terrific.
Not a particularly important point, but the inclusion of material from both Emergency Marineville and Deep Heat in the same movie makes it even more apparent that Nucella and Chidora from the former, and Torata and Fragil from the latter, are the same puppets re-dressed. Also, I find Deep Heat a bit of an odd choice of story to include in a movie focussed on a variety of underwater aliens wanting to destroy the WASPs and Marineville. That isn’t really Torata and Fragil’s primary goal – they mostly just want to get out of their dumb volcano city. Killing Troy and Phones, and then snatching Stingray, is more of a bonus to their plan. But hey, maybe I’m missing the deeper subtleties of just how much thought went into picking which episodes to haphazardly slap together for these movies.
Other than those minor cuts mentioned earlier, the scenes from Deep Heat play out exactly as they did in the original episode, allowing the movie to end with Troy and the gang getting sloshed at the Blue Lagoon. Neat.
The end credits roll, and once again the visuals have been changed up in the new, 2022 version of the movie. But there was one aspect of the credits that was irreplacable, and it neatly sums up the absolutely lunacy of the Super Space Theater project. Inexplicably, the tune chosen to play out this Stingray movie is a mashup of the Thunderbirds March and Yellow Submarine by The Beatles. It’s a 1967 cover performed by Kapel Van De Koninklijke Luchtmacht and the Dutch Royal Air Force Band and its inclusion right at the end of Invaders From The Deep makes me feel like I’m having some kind of fever dream.
In fact, that’s pretty much how I’m feeling about this entire Super Space Theater experience. I’ll admit that the changes and alterations to the episodes were less dramatic than I had remembered, but in a way that makes the changes that are there even weirder to experience because they sneak up on you. I guess if I had to choose watching The Incredible Voyage of Stingray and Invaders From The Deep over not having the episodes available in any form at all, then I’d be okay with that, as I was during my VHS-collecting years. But now we have the full versions of the episodes available to watch whenever the heck we want, do these compilation films serve any purpose at all? Well, as mentioned, I think The Incredible Voyage of Stingray tells a neat, if not entirely coherent story about Marina’s alleigances and Titan’s plot for revenge against Marineville – so if you were short on time and really didn’t want to watch those 4 episodes with titles and credits, then sure, The Incredible Voyage of Stingray gets a pass. Invaders From The Deep on the other hand just messily throws some fairly unrelated episodes of Stingray together and lets the audience figure out why. I can’t really see any benefit to watching this particular compilation movie nowadays.
Of course, we musn’t forget that Invaders From The Deep (plus Revenge of the Mysterons from Mars and Cosmic Princess) played a role in the early days of Mystery Science Theater 3000 as some of the earliest movies to feature on the show. That’s arguably the most significant legacy that the Anderson Super Space Theater movies are likely to have.
So as we close this bizarre, luke warm chapter on Stingray‘s history, let’s take a moment to reflect on the six-ish experiences we’ve shared over the course of this article:
The Reunion Party: a bold claim to create another episode of Stingray out of some fairly uninspiring material, which basically succeeded as well as it was ever going to after a bit of tidying up from the Network team.
Into Action With Troy Tempest: definitely more of a gimmick than a story, this little curiosity has some charm to it but is basically a thinly veiled attempt to train kids for their Stingray games in the playground.
A Trip To Marineville: although delivered through the thoroughly irritating means of a little boy asking endless questions, A Trip To Marineville is actually quite a nice experience if you want all your Marineville facts consolidated down into twenty-one minutes. Quite a decent attempt has been made to make the record as immersive as possible and I enjoy it for that.
Marina Speaks: without question this is up there as the most significant mini-album of the entire range, and probably one of those impactful Stingray stories full stop. The performances are top tier, and a great deal of effort has gone into the production to make it feel just like a television episode, with the added bonus that audio allows for much grander ideas to be realised. Essential listening.
The Incredible Voyage of Stingray: mostly harmless.
Invaders From The Deep: I’ll need a very good reason to consider watching this again.
Now, this might be the moment that some of you eager beavers ask: “Hey Mr. Security Hazard, what about reviewing this Stingray comic strip?! Or that Stingray novel?!! Or those newer full-cast Stingray audio adventures from Anderson Entertainment?!!!” Well, first I congratulate all the beavers out there who have learned how to use the internet. Building dams is one thing, but building a high-speed WiFi infrastructure is something else. But secondly, I say in response: Of course there are a whole ton of other stories from Stingray‘s extended universe out there which offer up yet more thrilling adventures for the crew of our favourite WASP submarine. But I have to pull the plug somewhere or I’ll be talking about Stingray until I’m fish food. What I hope this article has achieved is to open up the toybox of weird and wonderful spin-off material that exists for Stingray and all the other Anderson shows. For some, the likes of the mini-albums and the compilation movies were how they experienced Stingray for the first time, so I wanted to pay hommage to that. I urge you to share your stories about these pieces of ephemera that formed a part of your appreciation for the show, and anything else you might recommend other readers try out.
It just remains for me to thank anyone who has offered their valuable support over the past eight months or so that I’ve been reviewing Stingray on a weekly basis. I do these reviews for my own enjoyment to learn more about the shows I love and share that knowledge in a fun way. I’ve been overwhelmed by the response from readers who have left kind messages about how much they’re enjoying this opportunity to revisit the series with me. The Security Hazard community is full of brilliant people and I’m immensely proud of that fact. It can be difficult in online fandom to find an audience who “gets” what you’re trying to do, and I’m glad that so many of you are now in on the joke as it were. At times, these reviews have been exhausting and frustrating. But what a treat for me to publish a new review each week and find people eager to read it. That makes the hours and hours and hours of work worthwhile.
Comments, messages, and social media shares do a heck of a lot to boost what I’m doing here at Security Hazard. If, however, you want to do more, I have a Ko-fi page where you can tip as much or as little money as you like, but please only do so if you can afford it. Otherwise, you can follow Security Hazard on Facebook, and on Twitter which is where I’m most active, and join in the bizarre and jolly discussions about all things Anderson. You can also subscribe for updates from the blog as soon as they happen.
Time to hear from those talking beavers again – “What will you be reviewing next?” Every single Anderson series has been considered in one form or another to get the Security Hazard episode review treatment. I can honestly say I haven’t landed on a final choice, and probably won’t for some time, but there is a top secret shortlist with shows that you’re probably expecting, and some shows you definitely won’t be expecting. But first, I need to detox a little bit after working on Stingray non-stop for so long. In the meantime, I want to spend some time working on other types of posts for the blog. Much like how this Tales From Marineville article mixed up the usual format a little, I’d like to try a few other experiments that will hopefully make future articles more accessible and multi-faceted. I have a new, one-off article on something Thunderbirds and slightly Stingray related that’s 90% completed and should be ready for publication in a couple of weeks. I’ve also been working on some other top secret scribblings that will be announced soon…
For now though, I leave you with this – a bingo card, designed by the brilliant @TypicalWatson on Twitter, which you can have some fun with the next time you’re reading through my Stingray reviews here on the Security Hazard blog.
But I’m afraid, whether you like it or not, this has got to be the end.
We’re going to do things a little differently for this week’s review. Unless you’ve been living on another planet that never transmitted Stingray (also known as hell), you’ll know that Aquanaut of the Year is a clip show, comprised of classic moments from earlier episodes from the series. There’s only a few minutes of new material for us to dissect. Ordinarily, I’d take the opportunity to put my feet up and enjoy only having to write a short review this week. Heck, you’d probably appreciate that too. Imagine a blissful week not having to endure my load of old waffle… well, tough because that’s not what you’re getting. Aquanaut of the Year is Stingray‘s final episode so it felt remiss of me to just end this 39-week odyssey of articles with a dramatically shorter piece than usual. Instead, once we’ve taken a look at Aquanaut of the Year in the usual manner, we’re going to hold our own award ceremony. Since the episode is all about prizes and trophies, I have a few of my own to hand out as a way of celebrating the series as a whole. Then, at the very end of the article, I’ll be revealing something special that I have in store to round off our Stingray adventures on the Security Hazard blog. So dress up, prepare your acceptance speeches, and get ready to party like it’s 1965!
Oh the smugness. So smug. So very, very smug. Yes, Troy Tempest – Marineville’s answer to the question, “can a man be so full of himself it makes his eyebrows go wonky?” – has been decorated with the jumped up title of “Aquanaut of the Year” – complete with a ceremony which apparently had him saluting in front of the US flag like George Washington riding an eagle while eating a hot dog. Remember that all-important American market Lew Grade needed to sell the series to? Well, I suppose this was Gerry & Sylvia Anderson’s last chance to butter them up. In the bottom right corner of the frame, you might notice someone sleeping – which is the correct reaction to Troy looking smug on your television screen. Of course, we do have to ignore the fact that there aren’t all that many aquanauts around to hand out the this particular award to – apart from Troy, Phones, and a trainee Lt. Fisher, we can’t have met more than a handful of other people capable of steering a submarine during the series. The “Aquanaut of the Year” concept was likely pinched from the Fireball XL5 episode, Space City Special, which saw Steve Zodiac decorated as “Astronaut of the Year.”
The newsreader seen previously in Tom Thumb Tempest, as well as the TV host in the aforementioned Space City Special, is conveying the news of Troy’s accomplishment in front of a world map. Said map just so happens to be showing the American continent and nothing else.
The sleeping individual is Commander Shore, who apparently has not lost his fondness for the Mr. Punch puppet he was wielding in The Cool Cave Man. The television report continues with the revelation that Troy threw a party last night to celebrate his achievement, which one assumes Shore is sleeping off right now. Apparently Commander Shore’s Punch and Judy shows are a huge hit at social gatherings.
Over at Troy’s apartment, things are messy. Real messy. From the top hat on the antique vase to the drinks all over the piano which previously belonged to the jazz band in Tune of Danger, it’s clear that things got out of hand last night. Personally, I’m just surprised Troy has so many friends.
Here’s a nice, weird moment. The camera tracks through to Troy’s bedroom by showing us the edge of the dividing wall between the two sets. It’s not uncommon for film and TV shows to do that for a satisfying transition between scenes – I just find it peels back the curtain a little too much.
Troy’s bedroom appears to have been obliterated by the party. Another top hat sits atop a decorative item, as does Professor Graham’s safari hat from In Search of the Tajmanon. I can’t help but notice that Troy and Phones are no longer sharing a bedroom, as shown in Marineville Traitor. There’s only one bed in the room, so it’s not just Phones choosing to spend the night in someone else’s company – he’s actually moved out, either to another bedroom or another apartment. Hope Troy and Phones are still buddies. Note that it’s 7 o’clock according to Troy’s bedside clock.
The kraken wakes. Troy is feeling rougher than my Aunty Muriel’s unshaven forehead. On his bedside table we see the clock which suddenly has no hands, a medal – presumably the big important one he received yesterday, some keys (one for the apartment, and one for Stingray’s ignition), a watch which almost certainly doesn’t contain a wrist radio, and a note under the clock labeled ‘URGENT’ which probably means it’s… well, urgent. Science has proven, however, that you can write a note in the biggest handwriting you like, it won’t have the power to wake someone up.
Troy finally picks up the note, which turns out to be a reminder from Atlanta to get up early for a surprise. Troy doesn’t sound thrilled, so it’s probably nothing kinky.
Meanwhile, the Shores are also getting up early. Apparently the commander isn’t used to being awake at the unearthly hour of 7 am which is, needless to say, quite surprising for a dedicated military man – hangover or not. Atlanta is serving coffee and not having any of her father’s whining, as she reminds him that the TV company asked them all to get up early for reasons unknown to them all. Well, actually they asked Atlanta to wake everyone up early because apparently she’s everyone’s mother now. Anyway, Commander Shore just wants to watch the news on the telly to start his day off right…
Meanwhile, Troy is keen to emphasise what an absolute state his apartment is in when the doorbell rings. He hopes it’s Atlanta coming to help clean up. Again, she’s everyone’s mother this week. Troy also complains that he’s having to “get up in the middle of the night” which I think we can universally agree is a bit melodramatic seeing as his clock still reads 7 am.
“They’re not my drugs, officer, I swear.”
Oh yes, Troy is such a big star now that he’s been selected to appear on This Is Your Life – the conceit which has been dreamt up to turn this episode into a clip show. It’s a truly bizarre clash of reality and fantasy and probably puts this one up there as the most surreal of all the Anderson clip shows. A quick history lesson – This Is Your Life was a television show in America which moved from radio to television in 1952 and was hosted by its creator, Ralph Edwards, until the end of its regular run in 1961. The basic premise was for each edition to feature an unknowing guest – usually a celebrity or person of interest – suddenly being presented with a look back on their lives with family members and friends from the honoree’s past making surprise appearances. The symbol for the series was the red book which hosts would read biographical details from – the redness of the book presumably not holding much significance until the advent of colour television, which is why the detail wasn’t carried over into Aquanaut of the Year. Across the pond in the United Kingdom, the British version of This is Your Life, hosted by Eammon Andrews and later Michael Aspel ran with great success from 1955 to 2003. Unfortunately for Stingray and Aquanaut of the Year‘s first broadcast, 1965 was one of the few years that This Is Your Life was off the air in the UK following its cancellation by the BBC, with the show not coming back until 1969, produced by Thames Television. Meanwhile, the US version of the show had ended a few years prior in 1961 and never quite managed to get going again after several attempts to reboot and revive the show by Ralph Edwards and others garnering varying levels of success. Nevertheless, the Andersons obviously felt the format was popular enough in the UK and the US to feature in Stingray. Anyone born after 1995 probably won’t have the slightest clue what’s going on.
One quirk of the show which I wasn’t aware of (as someone who was born right at the 1995 cutoff), is that it was originally broadcast live, as so much television was in the 1950s and 60s. I always assumed that in this case the television people were just being particularly cruel to Troy. Of course, why they were broadcasting live at 7 o’clock in the morning is a bit of a mystery. Notice that Barry Burn has left his model of Stingray behind on the Shores’ bookshelves, having been shipped back to the orphanage after the events of A Christmas To Remember so that he could be ground up and made into stew.
Atlanta couldn’t be more delighted that Troy has been honoured with his own This Is Your Life show. Shore can tell that Troy is less than enthused about it though, triggering Atlanta to go into mum mode once again and march over to Troy’s apartment to clean up.
So, broadcasting live from Troy’s trashed living room, the host begins to tell a story which he considers one of Troy’s most startling adventures – the events of Emergency Marineville.
You too can take this opportunity to re-live Emergency Marineville via my earlier review of the full episode. As stated in that post, it’s easy to see why Emergency Marineville was chosen to include in this and many other compilations of the series. It’s the story which probably most closely demonstrates the pure format of Stingray, and is packed with all the typical ingredients you might expect from one of the WASPs’ adventures. For Aquanaut of the Year, the story has been trimmed down considerably to focus on Stingray’s arrival under the island, the crew’s interrogation by Nucella and Chidora, Troy sabotaging the next missile, and the eventual destruction of the island. The gaps are filled by narration from the television host, while the only other modifications to the material are some tighter cuts to bring down the duration, a wipe transition following the rocket crash, and some altered musical cues to match the new edits.
Back in the apartment, it isn’t quite clear whether the viewers of This Is Your Life have just watched the same clips we’ve experienced, or whether the story has just been told to them by the host. Such is the crisis of the clip show format. Atlanta has made it over to Troy’s apartment during the Emergency Marineville segment to start cleaning up, but stands next to Troy in order to show her tray full of empty drinks from the night before on camera. Troy is asked to share his most unusual experience with the viewers. He decides to recite a dream sequence which is a bit of a cop out as far as unusual experiences go. Nevertheless, a wibbly-wobbly transition effect takes us into the events of Raptures of the Deep…
Yeah, I bet Troy couldn’t resist re-living this particular memory. Raptures of the Deep is another solid pick for inclusion in Aquanaut of the Year. It demonstrates the more fantastical aspects of Stingray and also allows for a close-up and personal examination of Troy’s character and his relationships. Sure, most of what we see is just a dream, but as a memorable moment from the series there’s none finer. At least there’s no pretence made about it not being a dream or anything like that. Troy narrates the sequence, but tells a big fat lie by saying he’d been sent to investigate the forest of gems – he hadn’t, he was actually sent to rescue Hepcat, which gets no mention in the flashback. We do, however, learn that the story took place close to the fictional Petroma trench. The focus is very much on Troy’s unconscious state and his dream palace getting destroyed by Aquaphibians during the episode’s thrilling climax. Troy’s rendition of Aqua Marina has been cut – make of that what you will. Again, various musical cues have been re-edited to match the faster cutting of the flashback.
Apparently Troy spent absolutely ages telling that last story because he’s managed to change into his uniform (on camera presumably), Atlanta has finished tidying the apartment, and Phones, Marina, and Commander Shore have all arrived to enjoy their 15 minutes of fame. Big smiles from Shore and Marina which is just plain cute. Attention now turns to the question that’s been on all our minds since the first episode… are Troy and Atlanta doing it? Yes, it’s no accident that Troy’s romantic endeavours have been a subplot to many episodes, and it falls to Atlanta to explain what they’ve been getting up to. Nevermind that her father and the girl Troy may or may not also fancy are sitting in the same room and this is all being televised, our host wants the gossip. The official line given is that they “have a lot of fun together” and that Troy’s “not the marrying type.” Funnily enough, Alan and Tin-Tin’s relationship is summed up in a similar sort of manner by Gerry & Sylvia Anderson in Thunderbird 6. Steve and Venus’ relationship in Fireball XL5 is also left fairly ambiguous, while Commander Zero and his wife Eleanor are left to demonstrate that married life isn’t exactly peachy all the time. I guess it was the 60’s, and our Supermarionation heroes would be more appealing to viewers as eligible bachelors who aren’t burdened with a traditional family life. After all, look at how Ed Straker’s relationship turned out in UFO. Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself. Atlanta wants to share an example of when a romantic notion of hers got fowled up by the pressures of serving in the WASPs – the holiday she missed due to the events of Subterranean Sea… yeah I’m not surprised she’s bitter about that one.
A decent amount of the story from Subterranean Sea story is recounted by Atlanta and Troy, probably because it’s a relatively simple episode. Wipe transitions are used to speed up the action and get us to the main thrust of the flashback which is Troy, Phones, and Marina exploring the desert/ocean. The purpose of this episode’s inclusion in Aquanaut of the Year is likely to demonstrate the other exciting ingredient in many Stingray stories which is the exploration of strange and unexplained undersea phenomena, as well as the whole bit about Atlanta getting left out of the holiday. It’s not a bad choice, but I might have preferred to see a story which either focused a little more on the Troy, Atlanta, Marina love triangle such as Treasure Down Below or Plant of Doom, or a story featuring Stingray’s overseas exploits which had heavily featured Atlanta – Loch Ness Monster or In Search of the Tajmanon. I guess Subterranean Sea is a happy medium.
Atlanta jokes, “You see what I mean!” See what? The story you just told specifically about you getting left behind while your mates go on holiday? Well yeah, we all saw it, that’s how a clip show works.
Troy is presented with his absolutely wafer thin This Is Your Life book. Seriously, has Troy achieved so little that it barely fills a pamphlet? But now it’s time for the most important moment of all – the thing that the entire series has really been building up to. Troy reflects on the question of his romance with Atlanta, and declares that the time is right to…
Battle stations and Lt. Fisher appearing on the TV crew’s monitor manage to interrupt Troy’s romantic gesture. Fisher’s short moment looks like it was filmed on the set of the conference room, rather than the control tower as you might expect – which is intriguing when you consider what I’ve mentioned previously about when exactly the destruction of the control tower for Eastern Eclipse might have fitted in the filming schedule. So Troy doesn’t get the chance to say whatever he was about to say. No mushy stuff allowed and his bachelor status is safe. It’s a tease towards a happy ending but it doesn’t happen. It appears that getting married just isn’t particularly cool in Gerry & Sylvia’s version of the future…
Right, let’s get this caption for Ralph Edwards out of the way. It’s a jolly unusual thing to see on a Supermarionation show. There simply wouldn’t have been the time or the space to squeeze Edwards’ credit into the usual end titles sequence, so putting up a special caption during the episode proper was probably the most time and cost effective way of making it happen. Either that or the caption’s prominence was a condition of the Andersons being allowed to use the This Is Your Life format. Or perhaps the Andersons just really wanted to show off the fact they knew an American celebrity.
But what we also have here is probably the most definitive actual ending to any of the Supermarionation series. It’s not much, but so many Supermarionation finales just conclude like any other episode because, after all, who the heck knows what order the series will end up being broadcast in. Endings just aren’t the done thing, regardless of the fact the show also had a future in the pages of TV21 comic. But Shore’s remark of “whether you like it or not, this has got to be the end,” feels like it has an enormous double or even triple meaning. Yes, he’s announcing the end of the This Is Your Life broadcast, and he’s also cleverly announcing the end of this particular episode of Stingray, but with Troy’s declaration of love getting cut short like that I’d be very definitely inclined to consider this final line a reference to the series ending as a whole. Could Gerry & Sylvia be apologising to their audience for a clip show serving as the series’ finale? Probably not, though I’m sure many would love to think so. I think it’s just meant as one last, cheeky sign-off. Nothing big, but just a quick goodbye included for the heck of it. By the time Stingray‘s last few episodes were being written, the Andersons already knew what they were going to be doing next with pre-production on International Rescue (the working title of Thunderbirds) already in its early stages. Stingray was soon to be a thing of the past. After Aquanaut of the Year was in the can with a simple two-day shoot on Tuesday 26th and Wednesday 27th May, 1964, only a few little bits and pieces were left for Alan Pattillo’s team to capture for the series during June before it would all be over – bits and pieces which we’ve discussed previously during reviews of Eastern Eclipse and A Christmas To Remember. It’s easy for modern viewers hooked on serialised dramas to forget that Stingray was just a family show with a commission for 39 episodes. Once those 39 episodes were done, having been screened in any order the broadcaster fancied, they were done. The Andersons certainly wouldn’t have felt much of an obligation to wrap the whole thing up in a satisfying finale. It was just business for the most part – show business, but business none the less.
To the folks who get upset about flashback episodes like Aquanaut of the Year serving as the final installments for so many Anderson shows, I understand your pain but I don’t agree with it. Yes, obviously the practical purpose of re-showing edited down versions of old episodes has been made redundant by home media allowing you to watch old episodes whenever you choose. But Stingray was repeated regularly across the various ITV regions so it was probably fairly redundant back in the 60’s too. The fact of the matter is, the AP Films team just needed a way of hitting their episode count when the punishing schedule had set them back and the budget was running a little low. And when you look at it like that, I’d say Aquanaut of the Year is rather good. The This Is Your Life framework is a little bit bizarre and outdated to today’s audiences, but it’s certainly good fun. Aquanaut of the Year still offers us a little slice of life with Troy’s wild party, and the fact he’s been decorated as the WASPs’ top aquanaut. We get to learn what Troy and Atlanta at least consider to be their most noteworthy adventures, and we even get tantalisingly close to Troy and Atlanta making their relationship official. That’s not a bad record for two cheap and cheerful days of filming on the puppet stages at AP Films.
But now, for your enjoyment…
Security Hazard, in association with the World Aquanaut Security Patrol, is proud to present…
Sorry, it was the best title I could come up with.
Anyway, as the Marineville team take their seats in the auditorium, allow me to introduce our show. For the rest of this article, we’ll be taking a look back at some of our favourite Stingray moments, characters, and more, and handing out awards in a variety of categories.
The worthy nominees and winners have been chosen by the sad twerp who’s been watching Stingray for the past 39 weeks and written far, far, far too much about the show – yes, he’s here tonight, Mr. Security Hazard himself – Jack Knoll! Don’t worry, you get used to the smell.
But, we have added an exciting twist to our awards ceremony, because this is going to be an interactive experience! Ooooo!
I didn’t hear you say “ooooo” at the back.
You see, as the nominees are announced, you, the readers of the Security Hazard blog will have the opportunity to decide if you agree with our selections! Beneath the image of each nominee, you will find an applause button asking you to clap for your chosen winner, adding your appreciation to the total for each nominee. We may find that there are some controversial arguments to be had in certain categories between Jack’s winner and the readership’s combined opinion! Why not try practicing your applause right now with the button below?
Got the hang of it? I knew you could do it! You can clap as much or as little as you your heart desires… it won’t change the result, but at least you’ll feel like you’ve contributed something, which might make you feel more accomplished… or remind you of the pointlessness of existence…
Don’t forget to stay tuned until the end of the article for an announcement about next week’s final, special chapter in the Security Hazard blog’s Stingray chronicles…
Now, without any further ado, let’s jump straight into the first category!
The Best Dressed
Elizabeth Coleman’s wardrobe department at the AP Films studio was responsible for every piece of costume worn by a Stingray puppet, and my word there were some spectacular pieces on display. From uniforms to formal outfits to casual wear to fancy dress costumes, there was no item of clothing that couldn’t be made for a Supermarionation puppet. The nominees are:
And the winner is…
Troy Tempest for his golden Ancient Greek/Roman ensemble from his own dream sequence in the episode, Raptures of the Deep!
Everyone looks fabulous in this episode, but Troy has to take home the prize for the outfit which reveals not only his legs, but also, his true colours.
The Best Recurring Moment
Stingray is famous for sprinkling every episode with a touch of drama and spetacle, and there are some moments which we just have to see again, and again, and again! This award is for those recurring moments that we just can’t get enough of. The nominations are:
And the winner is…
Battle Stations! A staple of the series which saw all the buildings and installations of Marineville descending below ground whenever they were threatened with an attack. A surprisingly useful trick for an organisation that mostly deals with attacks from under the ocean.
The Best Celebrity Guest
It’s not all life and death for Troy and the gang – the WASPs have dabbled with the glitz and glamour of show business on more than one ocassion with mixed results! This award is dedicated to the stars who shone the brightest during their stay at Marineville. The nominees are:
And the winner is…
“The WASPs” Jazz Band from Tune of Danger! A cooler collection of catfish you never did meet. Steigo and the gang are welcomed at WASP bases all over the world for their special brand of smooth jazz and easy-going banter. Be sure to get your tickets for their next show at Pacifica!
Their last manager was a fire-starter, but don’t let that put you off.
The Best Action Scene
Each week, Troy, Phones, and sometimes Marina, face increasingly dangerous situations which test their skills to the limit! These fast-paced action sequences are some of the best-remembered moments from the series, and we can only nominate three of them… it’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it! The nominations are:
And the winner is…
Stormy Seas from the episode, Set Sail For Adventure! Yes, there were many moments to choose between and I’m sure you all have your own favourites, but Admiral Denver’s disastrous voyage in an old-fashioned galleon has to be at the top of our list. The giant waves flood the ship as the rain pours down from the heavens to produce an apocalyptic sequence directed by David Elliott. Fisher, Phones, and Denver are desperately struggling for control of their ship while the elements punish them relentlessly. On the special effects stage, Derek Meddings and the team are close to flooding the studio with all the water splashing and sloshing around. It’s carnage and it’s spectacular to watch.
Anyone need a towel?
The Best Alien Ship
Obviously, Stingray is top of the tree as far as ships are concerned. And, also obviously, the Mechanical Fish from Titan’s fleet is a brilliant piece of design too. But what about all those other guest submarines that stole our hearts? The nominations are:
And the winner is…
The Solarstar Missile Ejectorfrom the episode, The Big Gun! Withstanding the pressure of the depths and crewed by the brave (and pompous) Mauritimus of Solarstar, this little sub packs a big punch. The missile ejector was capable of destroying entire landmasses with a single blast… until Stingray blew it up… twice…
I still think it looks like a thingy though…
The Best Comedy Scene
Stingray isn’t just a show about keeping tyrannical underwater aliens in their place – it’s also full of warmth and charm and good humour. These are some of the moments which gave us the most laughs over the course of the series. The nominations are:
And the winner is…
El Hudat and Ali Khali’sfight from Eastern Eclipse! If I could have nominated an entire episode for this category, it probably would have been Eastern Eclipse. From Ali Khali crashing into the control tower to X20 whacking people over the head with a club, this is a story full of hilarious comedy moments. However, they all culminate in the twin rulers of Hudatvia taking to the water for a final battle which ends with no winners except for the audience laughing along at home.
I will never claim to have a sophisticated sense of humour.
The Best Supporting Character
Some Stingray characters are destined for greatness, while others choose to stay out of the limelight and get on with the job without too much fuss. Well, actually they do make a lot of fuss but we just don’t see them very often because either the writers ran out of things for them to do, or they’d hi-jack the whole show given the opportunity. The nominees are:
And the winner is…
Admiral Jack Denver as seen in Loch Ness Monsterand Set Sail For Adventure – with an additional cameo appearance in The Cool Cave Man! Rude, self-important, and thick as a brick, the admiral uses his friendly rivalry with Commander Shore as an excuse to spend tax payer money on ludicrous adventures for the Stingray crew to endure. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.
I would invite Admiral Denver up on stage to say a few words, but I don’t want to accidentally sign myself up for an expedition to find the lost city of Atlantis.
The Best Guest Villain
One of the secrets to Stingray‘s success is its constantly rotating roster of underwater alien ne’er-do-wells who share a mission to obliterate Marineville, capture Stingray, and/or kill Troy Tempest. They might torture Phones and Marina too if you’re lucky. Why do they always come in pairs? Because it makes failing miserably at an evil scheme twice the fun. Here are the nominees:
And the winner is…
Grupa and Noctus from the episodes A Nut From Marinevilleand Trapped In The Depths! They were up against some stiff competition, but this pairing just have something special about them. Maybe it’s their widely set eyes, or the fins sticking out of their faces, or their receding bright green hairlines, but whatever it is, these guys like to think big. Their first plan to blow up Marineville from the comfort of their indestructible submarine may have suffered from some poor time management, but with the help of Professor Korda the second time around they successfully stole Stingray! They’re also the only undersea criminals to get clapped in irons for a spell in the Marineville Jail, and then come out the next week still fighting fit. Wonderful chaps, both of them.
Tall, silver cousins of the Oompa Loompas, perhaps?
The Baddie of the Year
Right folks, things are starting to get serious. We’ve had our fun with the joke categories, and the guest categories, and the categories which will probably be trimmed out of the broadcast version of this so we can maximise on advertising time, but now we’re on to the big ones. Some bad guys are more dedicated to the cause of wiping out all terrainean life than others. They come back, week after week, with a new plan to bring down the land-hugging brutes. I guess technically the winners of the last category should fit into this one but shuuuush… The nominees are:
And the winner is…
Surface Agent X20! X20’s commitment to the cause is pushed to the limits by the pressures of the job. Sure, Titan’s the guy in charge, but X20 is the one getting his hands dirty, dreaming up plans of the utmost nastiness, and being thwarted by the WASPs every single time. X20’s hobbies include classical music and dressing up as old men. He has a room that spins around in a creepy old house on an island. Disregarding his many, many failings for a moment, consider some of X20’s greatest victories. He kidnapped a famous pop star from under the WASPs’ noses in Titan Goes Pop. He smuggled himself into the heart of Marineville itself in Rescue From The Skies. He reduced an oil consist to a blazing inferno on Stingray’s watch during An Echo of Danger. X20 may be a comedy sidekick, but he’s also a capable villain in his own right. Robert Easton’s vocal performance has you hanging on his every snivelling word, and the Claude Rains-inspired face sculpted by Christine Glanville is a glorious caricature which perfectly crosses evil with wretched. In my books, X20 is quite possibly the best Supermarionation character of all time.
The man of a thousand very similar faces that the WASPs repeatedly fail to recognise.
The Other Aquanaut of the Year
Sure, we all know that Troy has been handed that so-called “Aquanaut of the Year” award. And sure, I guess he’s done some pretty brave and memorable deeds during his career dedicated to protecting humanity from underwater threats. But I would argue that Captain Troy Tempest would be nothing without his support network of friends and colleagues who work alongside him at Marineville to defend the land masses from Titan and his evil-doers. So, let’s dedicate our final award to the member of the World Aquanaut Security Patrol who should stand alongside Troy to receive some recognition for their valiant service over the course of the series. The nominees are:
And the winner is…
Good old Phones – Stingray’s hydrophone operator and Troy’s backup in just about every scrape they face together. He’s loyal, good-humoured, sharp, humble and heroic. Phones enjoys a simple, easy-going life away from Stingray and nobody has a bad word to say against him. Any time he faces a tough challenge, he trusts his friends and colleagues to pull him through. He respects authority and can always be relied upon in a crisis.
That isn’t to say that a lot of the other nominees don’t have some of those qualities. But I also wanted the winner of this award to reflect the hard work that went into developing the characters of Stingray, which I would consider the show’s finest achievement. Over the course of the series, viewers are truly invited in to the lives of these characters to observe the complexities of their relationships, loyalties, and personal challenges. When done right, the nuances of the characters become what drives the plot of each episode forward in a way that just feels proper.
The key to that is consistency, and Phones is the most consistent character out of the regular cast. At the end of the day, Fisher joined the game too late to make a big impression and, Marina was tragically faded out of the series when the writers shifted their attention elsewhere. The Shores were trickier to eliminate from this decision, since both grow a great deal as characters as the series evolves. They don’t have a lot to offer in the earliest installments because of how isolated they are in the control tower while Stingray is out on adventures. But then episodes like The Ghost of the Sea and Loch Ness Monster started to bring them into the fold, and suddenly all this depth emerged in Commander Shore and Atlanta which was built upon more and more as the show went on.
But Phones came ready-made from the word go. From the moment we catch sight of that cheeky Southern fella snoozing in the Standby Lounge during the pilot episode, we know we’re going to like this guy. But we also quickly find out that he isn’t just the comedy sidekick, but a capable hydrophone operator with an important role to play aboard Stingray. He also proves to be a loyal friend and colleague to Troy, Marina, and basically everyone else at Marineville. And every choice he makes for the rest of the series is built upon that foundation. Even when he makes bad choices like purchasing the treasure map in Treasure Down Below, or buying into X20’s trickery in An Echo of Danger, Phones comes out of those situations having learned something and his position is ultimately strengthened as a result. That’s the key to good storytelling and good characterisation in a nutshell.
Overall, he’s just a really nice guy.
And that my friends, was The WASPies. Hope you enjoyed the show! I thought about giving out an award to the best episode but I’ll be damned if I can figure that one out. Reviewingevery Stingray episode over the past 8+ months has taught me that, just like Phones’ characterisation, the overall quality of the series is incredibly consistent. Even the episodes which I shot down for their plot holes are still really strong in other areas such as characterisation or production design or a miriad of other factors. What’s more, the series stays fresh by mixing up the format aplenty while retaining the key ingredients that still make it Stingray. The characters are strong enough that they can guide us through some pretty surreal storylines, and we still get totally invested in the drama of it all. It amazes me that Stingray was able to confidently bring us (in no particular order) a Hollywood satire, a PTSD-triggered ghost story, a trek down the Nile, a global climate crisis, a love triangle, a swashbuckling sailing adventure, a hospital drama, a mental health inquiry, a Christmas special, and two fat blokes jumping in the ocean to slap each other silly. And they were all so, so good because they were led by characters we adored, and were produced by a film studio heading towards the top of its game with no signs of stopping.
The answer to the question about my favourite Anderson series essentially flickers back and forth between Thunderbirds and Stingray constantly. I’m drawn towards Thunderbirds because of how entwined it became with my childhood and with popular culture in general. I’m drawn towards Stingray because of its sharp writing and consistent production values. Essentially, I think it boils down to my heart loving Thunderbirds and my mind loving Stingray. Now that I’ve reviewed both series in such depth, I can see the messiness of Thunderbirds so clearly – all the excess flab of the run-time extension and the chaotic production schedule – it shows up really vividly to me when I watch it. I love that mess because, in a way, it’s a puzzle to solve. There’s stuff in there that shouldn’t work, but it does and that’s intriguing to us all at a high level. By comparison, Stingray is so neat and tidy in the way it toes the line between sticking to the format and daring to try something a bit different each week. It’s blindingly obvious why Stingray works, and that might be why it isn’t talked about so much. There’s no mystery to solve, and no secret to its magic. Stingray just has everything it needs to succeed from beginning to end and never drops the ball. Stingray is the AP Films team setting themselves ambitious goals across all departments and achieving them in a structured, well-oiled, collaborative environment. And they did it all in glorious colour.
Next week, Security Hazard presents Stingray: Tales From Marineville. We might have watched all 39 episodes of the television series together, but we’re not quite done yet. The Reunion Party. Into Action With Troy Tempest. A Trip To Marineville. Marina Speaks. The Incredible Voyage of Stingray. Invaders From The Deep. We’re covering all of them in a special review unlike anything that’s gone before. Well, someone’s probably reviewed something similiar in the same kind of way before… but not on the Security Hazard blog! Be sure to tune in at the same time next week for all that goodness!
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I have a casual fondness for lighthouses. Not in a, “I can name all the components of the whatchamacallit 7800 Fresnel lens” sort of a way, or even in a “I can probably name a few lighthouses” sort of a way. I just think they’re pretty neat. I enjoy the romanticised version of lighthouse-keeping, where a lone group of vaguely Victorian-type people are stuck out at sea on a stormy night, living and working in cosy conditions to guide ships home with their beacon of hope. Sounds nice doesn’t it? Anyway, I’m not actually sure what any of that has to do with The Lighthouse Dwellers and my opinion of it because, to be honest, I don’t think I’m particularly swayed one way or the other when it comes to initial opinions of this episode. As one of the last “new” episodes I ever saw, I don’t have particularly strong childhood nostalgia for it or anything like that. Right now, I would say my level of enthusiasm for The Lighthouse Dwellers is about the same as my enthusiasm for lighthouses in general – I’ll take a good long look at it if I come across it, but I won’t go out of my way to seek it out. So there’s a fairly banal observation for you. Not all my introductions to these reviews can be gold I’m afraid.
And here’s the lighthouse. A beautiful miniature filmed in the middle of a stormy sea with thunder and lightning all around. If I knew more about about lighthouses I could probably tell you which specific one(s) this model was based on. I can’t, so I won’t, but I do have some lighthouse related trivia for you which I came across in an unusual way. I was sitting in a waiting room here in Oregon, USA where I’ve lived for a number of years (in Oregon that is, not the waiting room), when I spotted a gorgeous old-timey looking map on the wall illustrating the lighthouses covering the coast of the Pacific Northwest. As I looked closer, I identified a place called Cape Arago which did indeed have its own lighthouse and was almost certainly the inspiration for the name of the Arago Rock lighthouse in this very episode. So I guess that’s my personal connection to The Lighthouse Dwellers. Pretty flimsy, ain’t it?
The interior set of the lighthouse is a general interpretation of the real thing, featuring this simplified version of a Fresnel lens lamp.
That silver piece of technical gubbins on the back wall started life as a Sooper Snooper periscope toy – the same items were used in the launch bay of Thunderbird 1 – and now you’ve noticed one you won’t stop seeing them for the rest of the episode. This chap, dressed up in a standard-issue woolly lighthouse keeper jumper is… well, he’s the lighthouse keeper… if the jumper didn’t give that away then the grey hair, beard, and the fact he’s currently keeping a lighthouse should have done. His name is Frank Lincoln and he’s about to be made homeless in the name of modernisation. How cheerful.
Frank has a thoroughly miserable chat with Commander Shore over at Marineville as he prepares to leave his home for the last time and shut off the lighthouse. As well as another Sooper Snooper, there’s also that framed set of “Regulations” seen most recently on the wall of the jail in Eastern Eclipse.
That’s a pretty spacious lighthouse Frank has there, as lighthouses go. The guy could quite happily squat in there after the light has been put out. Who the heck would come and bother him about it?
With a little help from a floor puppeteer, it’s time for Frank to shut off the power. This control panel with different labels on the levers was previously seen in Professor Kordo’s control room from Trapped In The Depths for operating the air lock and filter system.
Well, that’s that. I’m sure nothing bad will happen as a result of these events…
Right, here we go, time for me to kick off. Lovely plaque though it is, why the heck is it hanging up in the Marineville conference room? Are the WASPs in some way responsible for maintaining lighthouses at this point? Do they not have better things to be doing? And even if they are in some way involved with the lighthouse, shouldn’t the plaque be on the lighthouse itself? I don’t keep the plaque commemorating my collection of antique kitchen mops in the office at the kitchen mop factory – it stands proud next to all three of my mops… I’m a bit of an amateur collector but I like the plaque. Next up, the current year is established as 2065 – one hundred years after the episode was first broadcast in January 1965, and following the pattern established in the setting of Fireball XL5, Captain Scarlet, every issue of TV21 comic and yes, I’m going to say it, Thunderbirds – bite me 2026 die hards. Yes, I know 2026 is shown up on a wall in Thunderbirds just like 2065 is being shown up on a wall here in Stingray so I don’t have a leg to stand on but… no, no, I’m not getting into this. I retract my previous statement. Set Thunderbirds and any other Anderson show in whatever year you like. I don’t care. Space: 1999? Could be Space: 100,000 BC for all the weighty brown lumps I give.
Not that it particularly matters at this point but today we’re in the WSP conference room shown in the pilot episode as being in Washington, not Marineville, but its moved back and forth so much throughout the series I don’t know where the heck this scene is taking place. Our friendly little WASP family is decked out in medals, and Commander Shore has thrown those frilly epaulettes over his shoulders to make him look really snazzy. One-hit-wonder Admiral Frendor is giving a speech about the lighthouse which has been operating for 175 years. It’s probably time for some historical context. Starting in the 1960s through to the 1980s, a big push was made towards automating lighthouses so that they could continue operating as navigational beacons without a crew inside. Therefore, the notion of Frank Lincoln still being a lighthouse operatior living at Arago Rock in 2065 is a bit silly, but in the context of when the episode was first broadcast it makes sense. The real Cape Arago Lighthouse in Oregon (which was probably just selected by Alan Fennell for its name and nothing more) was first built in 1866, automated one hundred years later in 1966, and was then finally decomissioned in 2006. That’s a timeline typical of most lighthouses. At the time of writing, all lighthouses in the United States have been automated, with the sole exception of the Boston Light, which law dictates must have a keeper, and the incumbent since 2003 has been a woman named Sally Snowman.
Conversation in the conference room turns to paying tribute to Frank Lincoln for living and working at the lighthouse alone for 40 years. Atlanta is sympathetic to Frank having his livelihood taken away from him. Admiral Frendor, a puppet previously seen as Professor Graham in In Search of the Tajmanon, objects most strongly to keeping Frank happy. Charming. I’m paraphrasing but that’s basically what he says. Frendor and Phones explain for the benefit of the audience that the lighthouse has been shut off in order to prevent confusion for aircraft landing at the new Arago Point airbase constructed on the nearby coastline. Yeah you bet I’ve done my research (5 minutes of googling) on that assertion. So far I’ve not found any cases of real lighthouses being decommissioned because of nearby runways. That doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened, it just means I couldn’t find a real-life example. Airway beacons, or aerial lighthouses, were built in a similar manner to marine lighthouses during the 1920s and 30s but have since been shut down in favour of more useful navigational aids like radio signals. Now, I’m no pilot, but I would have thought quite a considerable amount of training would go into recognising runway lights, and even in poor weather the pilot would still have other navigational aids to fall back on like. So though it’s not impossible, it seems unlikely the Arago Rock Lighthouse would have caused all that much confusion to approaching aircraft. I think it’s far more likely that Frank’s lighthouse would have simply been automated like all the others. Or if the lighthouse had been decommissioned completely, there’s no reason Frank couldn’t have carried on living there – provided he didn’t mind living under a flight path. Anyway, instead Frank’s going to get a medal and a party and I’m sure he won’t be bitter about that at all.
A small miniature wooden boat is seen departing the lighthouse (a model which survives to this day), but on the puppet set Frank is being tossed about in the blue boat used previously by Admiral Denver in Loch Ness Monster and Thompson in Invisible Enemy. The reason for this mismatch is unclear, seeing as a miniature of the blue boat did exist and was used on those prior episodes. Frank mournfully says farewell to his lighthouse as the wind and rain howls around him. It’s a really great scene with the emotion of David Graham’s performance just getting sentimental enough without overdoing it, and combining nicely with the wild ride Frank is having to contend with as the waves crash against the boat.
The first aircraft approaches the air base. It’s the same model which previously portrayed the Supersonic 101 Airliner in the reference photographs viewed during Eastern Eclipse. It’s not the most interesting aircraft ever seen in an Anderson show, but it’s decent enough.
The pilot of Sky Eagle 127 is portrayed by the puppet of Lieutenant Misen from Marineville Traitor. The cockpit is the same set Troy was sat in for Rescue From The Skies. The pilot’s helmet was previously worn by the bomber pilot in Emergency Marineville and includes a round grille component which you might recognise as Braman’s speaking hole, as seen on Brains’ robotic pal in the Thunderbirds episodes Sun Probe and Edge of Impact. The pilot’s voice is Don Mason trying to swallow a walnut. Sorry.
But oh, flippin’, no! The lighthouse has mysteriously switched itself back on just as the aircraft is preparing to land. Frank immediately realises the danger and starts yelling frantically. David Elliott sure directs rain and storms good because the moment feels positively apocalyptic, as per his earlier episode, Set Sail For Adventure.
The pilot gets ever so confused when he’s told to land on the ‘B’ marker and decides that the light in the middle of the ocean must be it because he can’t see any other lights through the heavy rain. The air traffic controller doesn’t correct him or anything. Surely she has radar readings which she must be checking because otherwise what’s the point of being an air traffic controller? By the way, that’s Lois Maxwell getting to do a rare guest role in case that wasn’t obvious.
The sight of the plane hitting the rocks adjacent to the lighthouse is pretty spectacular as the lightning and the high winds continue the rage on.
Frank can only watch as the pilot crashes in the water. That yellow mac looks a bit cheery given the circumstances. We aren’t actually shown the very final moments of Sky Eagle 127, which perhaps adds some more pathos to the scene.
A flare goes up, suggesting that the pilot survived, so that’s something. Frank feels a duty to head back to the lighthouse to find out how the heck it got switched on again. I guarantee he won’t get paid extra for it, but sure, go be the hero, Frank.
Back at Marineville, the gang are discussing the incident and we learn that the pilot was indeed absolutely fine despite the crash. They’re all baffled by the light mysteriously switching itself on again, and assume that Frank is taking his sweet time getting back over there to sort it out. Have you guys seen the weather out there?! I’m not surprised it’s taking him a while. If I were Frank I’d still be at the harbour on the mainland enjoying a pint and a packet of crisps.
Lieutenant Fisher is attempting to radio the lighthouse with no success. It’s worth noting, after all the episode reviews we’ve been through together, that the microphone sticking up in front of Fisher is totally adjustable and is seen in a variety of positions on the console throughout the series. There’s probably a whole bunch of other changes that go on with the main control panel as the series progresses that I haven’t pointed out previously, but honestly, I won’t be losing sleep over it… unless you come to my house and kick me out of the bed to watch the series all over again with my nose pressed up to the screen to spot every dial and toothpaste cap that’s out of place… please don’t do that.
Frank’s boat, or rather the miniature that looks nothing like Frank’s boat, is moored back at the lighthouse which has a beautifully detailed concrete foundation and entrance.
Presumably those are the original stairs of the lighthouse…
But Frank has an elevator. In reality, the only lighthouse in the United States with an elevator is said to be the Charleston Light on Sullivan Island, South Carolina. Nevertheless, Frank’s lighthouse has one because Frank is: a) old. b) in a hurry. c) a puppet.
That back projection probably looks familiar to you because it’s actually the same footage which plays out behind the Stingray crew as they are lowered down the injector tubes, but obviously reversed to show Frank ascending instead of descending. It has the unfortunate side effect of basically making the lighthouse appear completely hollow inside with nothing but random gubbins between the ground floor and the light at the top.
The radio is chattering away but Frank doesn’t have time to talk to Marineville – he’s a man on a mission.
Is handholding too intimate for a first date?
It was at this moment that Frank realised it was truly the right time to retire from the lighthouse game.
Yes, making their third appearance in the series as “generic underwater alien race,” it’s the same puppets who portrayed Nucella & Chidora in Emergency Marineville and Torata & Fragil in Deep Heat. This bloke is one of their glittery green lighthouse dwelling cousins, known as Lorif.
Meanwhile, Shore, Troy and Phones get bored listening to Fisher endlessly yammering into the radio and so decide to go and investigate the lighthouse themselves.
The scene cuts off rather suddenly as it fades into the next, which could suggest some additional dialogue was trimmed during post production. If you have an original script for The Lighthouse Dwellers in your collection, please do share it publicly, along with those film cans full of missing Twizzle episodes which you’re no doubt using to prop up your shelves full of screen-used Four Feather Falls puppets.
With no fanfare whatsoever, Stingray has already been launched and arrives at the lighthouse with the storm still raging. Marina is joining the crew for this particular mission, having only been working part-time in recent weeks. She has, however, been relegated once again to watching the action from the comfort of Stingray while the boys go out to have all the fun.
So with Frank’s boat moored up and the big light still on, Troy volunteers himself to investigate because he’s such a swell guy. Marina stands up to wave goodbye… either that or she’s sat on a thumb tack.
A teeny tiny little figure of Troy in his grey uniform stands rigidly on Stingray’s deck while Phones attempts to get him over to the ladder. The water sure is sloshing about plenty!
Troy makes it across, although he’s now wearing a yellow mac that the miniature version of him didn’t appear to have. I won’t deduct points for that though.
Phones is asked to get clear but stay close in case Troy needs back up. You’ve gotta love good old, trusty, reliable Phones.
Troy enters through the front door as any polite guest should do… unless your name is Aunty Muriel in which case you’ll kick your way through the nailed up cat flap just to