Released in May 2021, Thunderbirds: Terror From The Stars is a full cast audio book based on John Theydon’s 1966 novel ‘Thunderbirds‘. Is it a remake? Is it a reimagining? Is it an attempt to throw out the original series and start again? Nope. Of course not. That would be silly. In short, Terror From The Stars is a new 1960s Thunderbirds episode, expertly produced to transport your ears back to the original series.
Perhaps the most critical element for Anderson Entertainment and Big Finish Productions to get right was the forming of a new cast. The voices of the original Thunderbirds television series are instantly recognisable, easily distinguished, and drive so much of the action, charm, and sheer class of every episode. In Terror From The Stars, an enormous effort has clearly been undertaken to research and respect the talents of the original actors. Making up the new cast are:
Jon Culshaw (Jeff Tracy / Parker)
Justin T Lee (Scott Tracy / John Tracy / The Hood / Kyrano)
Joe Jameson (Alan Tracy / Gordon Tracy)
Wayne Forester (Virgil Tracy / Brains / Narrator)
Genevieve Gaunt (Lady Penelope / Grandma Tracy)
Anna Leong Brophy (Tin-Tin / Sphere)
The ensemble pull off the difficult task of bringing these characters to life better than I could have dreamt of. They aren’t struggling in their attempts to impersonate the voices of the television series. Each actor inhabits their characters effortlessly, which is truly impressive considering how carefully they deliver performances which echo those of their 1965 counterparts. It’s pure magic to hear Genevieve Gaunt and Jon Culshaw’s chemistry flourish as Lady Penelope and Parker. Justin T Lee, Joe Jameson, and Wayne Forrester successfully achieve that so-challenging of tasks making the voices of the five Tracy brothers distinctive from one another, while also remaining accurate to the original performances. Anna Leong Brophy successfully reinvents Tin-Tin without losing the sweetness and charm of Christine Finn’s take on the character. And, of course, Jon Culshaw’s Jeff Tracy is nothing short of FAB!
In short, the Thunderbirds characters we know and love are alive and well with this talented new cast as their custodians.
The music of Thunderbirds is the stuff of legend, and fans can breathe a sigh of relief because Joe Kraemer’s soundtrack for this adventure is a real treat. Kraemer has truly captured the essence of Barry Gray’s score from the television series. The music of this new production is respectful of the original, but dares to do something new and exciting with those familiar Barry Gray motifs. It works magnificently. I’m no musician so can’t accurately describe why Joe Kraemer’s take on the music of Thunderbirds is so good – you’ll just have to hear it to believe it.
Polished off with a carefully curated mix of classic and new sound effects, Terror From The Stars maintains the stellar production values of Big Finish’s universally renowned output. Such high standards don’t happen by accident. The production team have clearly studied the original series thoroughly to extract those sound effects and use them in the right places. The new effects are not jarring, and serve to build this audio world of Thunderbirds still further.
Now I can’t claim to be intimiately familiar with the original novel by John Theydon upon which Terror From The Stars is based. I started reading it once, but, to be honest, something about it was just a bit off. The way the characters spoke just didn’t quite feel like the television series. Fortunately, all-round Anderson expert Andrew Clements was given the task of adapting the novel into a script and, sure enough, successfully transformed the adventure into an exciting audio drama which does captures the spirit of the television series we know and love. The adapted script respects the source material and elevates it beautifully. Combined with Samuel Clemens’ glorious direction, we have a production which is authentically Thunderbirds, and could have come straight from the Slough Trading Estate in 1965, but with the benefits of 2021 audio engineering.
To conclude, Terror From The Stars is nothing short of a miracle. There are so many things that could have gone wrong – voices that just didn’t sound right, music that strayed too far from Barry Gray’s work, modern sound design which washed out the charm of the original series. The finished product, however, is a thoroughly researched and respectful production which culminates in an utterly thrilling adventure, transporting listeners back to the Thunderbirds we all know and love.