Directed by John Kelly
Teleplay by Alan Fennell
First UK Broadcast: 11th October 1964
Emergency Marineville was chosen as the second episode of Stingray to be broadcast. The episode also formed part of the Aquanaut of the Year clip show at the end of the series, and the linking material which later became The Reunion Party broadcast in 2008. It was weaved into the compilation film Invaders From The Deep released in 1981. It was also among the first episodes to receive a home media release of sorts in the 1960s with a silent 8mm home movie reel from Walton Films. Clearly, from the very beginning, Emergency Marineville was considered something special and it’s been wheeled out time and again to be the flagship of the entire series. So, what makes it so darn popular? Well let’s get on with it and try to figure that out…
An island, quite a bit more impressive than the one we saw in Hostages of the Deep, is home to a volcano that spits out rockets. It’s pretty obvious the rocket is actually being launched from behind the mountain instead of inside it, because smoke can just about be seen billowing out from the sides of it. As rockets go, its pretty much your bog standard threatening missile type of thing. Not too ornate, not too simple, just right. Anyway, we’re not wasting any time here, it’s pretty obvious that this is our threat of the week.
Shout out to the chaps at the Marineville Tracking Station who are heard but never seen. Maybe they don’t call in over the radio at all, but actually live in the ceiling. That would certainly be a novelty.
After the events of The Big Gun where they left things a little bit late, Shore is quick to engage battle stations straight away. One of the strengths of this episode, which probably contributes to its aforementioned re-use and re-showing in other forms, is that it contains quite a few of the standard set pieces we all associate with Stingray. Battle stations is a part of the furniutre at this point and its exciting no matter how many times you see it.
For reasons unknown, the familiar WASP interceptor rockets launched in The Big Gun and prominent in the opening titles are not used in this crisis. Instead, a hatch in the ground flops open and a missile which goes like the clappers hurries on its way to intercept. Bizarrely, the two rockets don’t actually get anywhere near each other before exploding.
The emergency may be over for now but Shore wants answers. The tracking station offers up somewhere in a 200 mile radius as the point of origin for the missile which is, frankly, a bit rubbish. That’s an area the size of Poland. You’re supposed to be a tracking station for goodness sake. But what can you expect from a bloke trapped in the ceiling?
Atlanta pushes a toothpase cap and it’s time for action stations, and then she pushes another toothpaste cap and it’s time for launch stations. Yes, the Stingray crew are on the case to try and locate the missile launch site. Oink won’t be joining them though – he’s hired a canal boat for the week and is crusing around the Midlands in an anorak.
Stingray hasn’t even launched yet and we’re already moving along to Shore telling the jet squadron to standby. It’s all happening today! These are the same aircraft seen briefly in the pilot and are commonly known as WASP Spearhead Bombers. The models started life as Revell Convair B-58 Hustler kits.
Stingray is launched and Troy is given his orders. The hoverchair ramp seen last week in The Ghost of the Sea has been removed from the floor of the cabin. The furniture in the rear of Stingray’s cabin is often rearranged to suit the scene, but its only just occurred to me that Marina’s chair from the injector tube is usually done away with by magic soon after launch because it takes up too much room. She probably stashes it behind that door at the back of the set.
The jets are ordered to scramble, which could be a very sparse breakfast menu, or could be a military command. These VTOL-capable craft elegantly rise up into the air before blasting their bloomin’ great engines and surging off at great speed. Curiously, the jets do fly past the red and white launch towers for the more familiar interceptor missiles, but the rockets themselves are missing. They weren’t used for the attack, so perhaps they’re down for maintenance this week… or Oink’s taken them with him on that canal holiday.
Yes, Marina has indeed shoved her chair out of the way and joined Troy and Phones at the controls. They’ve already arrived in the area and Phones starts to make sound scans. There’s not a lot of time for mucking about this week. It’s strictly business and driving through the plot as fast as possible. Some stories take quite a bit more setting up before they get going but, rather brilliantly, all the set up we needed happened in the very first shot of the episode – a missile being fired from an island set to threatening music. No exposition needed. We all know where we are.
Thanks to the wonders of high definition, we can see the wires which the WASP jets are being yanked along as fast as possible. The fact we can see these wires is not a bad thing as far as I’m concerned. I point these things out for the fun of it. I’ve heard criticism that Supermarionation shows shouldn’t be available in HD because of wires being so visible and apparently ruining it. I’ve never understood the correlation some people draw between the quality of the finished product, and how visible the wires are. Of course there are flippin’ wires, it’s how the flippin’ shows are made. Surely it only takes a split second to get over it and become absorbed in the story? And it’s only a few steps away from moaning about wires to saying, “oh I enjoyed that movie, but it’s a shame they used cameras to make it. If they hadn’t gone and filmed the bloomin’ thing it would have been much more believable.” And d’you know what? I can’t resist it any longer – here’s a quote from Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, one of the greatest television shows in the entire universe: “If you go to a Punch and Judy show and you’re only watching the wires – you’re a freak.” End of discussion.
Here’s a clever shot. Behind the island, two small models of the jets fly across screen from right to left. Then, two larger models of those same jets fly into the foreground from left to right. The forced perspective is maintained, and the viewer is left to imagine the aircraft making their turns just out of shot. Nowadays, the audience wouldn’t be trusted to use their imaginations like that and the pace of the whole thing would have to be slowed down by POV shots and wide shots and close-ups and fly-by shots all stitched together endlessly for maximum “drama” and just to convey that one simple movement. People who complain that the pace of television was too slow in the old days clearly don’t suffer the same pain I suffer sitting through these new-fangled streaming shows with unlimited running times where a single episode is allowed to out-stay its welcome for up to a couple of hours at a time. Stingray is an entire movie stuffed joyously into 25 minutes and there isn’t an ounce of fat to be trimmed. The show is a technical marvel with impressive and sumptuous visuals, but it also calls a spade, a spade and doesn’t make things complicated just for the sake of it. Speaking of things which go on for far too long… rant over.
The island is identified by Phones and so the Stingray crew surface to investigate. They apply that thorough technique of having Marina look out of the window to see if there just so happen to be any obvious missile launching sites strewn about on the beach.
Excuse me a minute while I dribble over how absolutely first class this shot is. Obviously the large Stingray model is a gorgeous specimen in itself, but combining that with the missile action going on in the background and you’ve got perfection. I will flag just one thing about the HD restoration which isn’t ideal, and that’s the strange green patches bleeding through on Stingray’s rear windows and next to the ‘STINGRAY’ lettering on the hull. Experts on film restoration who know far more about such things than me can explain what that’s all about.
Troy is quick to yell down the radio to Commander Shore about the next missile attack. Look at the rage and worry and heroism in that face.
The same footage is re-used again showing the WASP interceptor exploding miles away from the enemy missile.
Jolly upset that his lovely base is getting all these missiles thrown at it, Commander Shore orders Troy to cautiously investigate the island. I’m glad he advises caution because Troy is the sort of bloke to blunder into any situation all guns blazing and just sort of hope he and his crew don’t die in the process.
Sure enough, Troy’s first bright idea is to climb down the volcano and pray they don’t get hit by another missile on the way. Quickly realising how thick that would be, they decide instead to dive and look for an underground entrance to the hidden base. More of that trusty looking out of the window is put to good use.
Because this episode simply does not have time to waste, they find the cave entrance remarkably quickly. There’s a bit of continuity weirdness as Marina suddenly finds herself at the rear of the cabin and back in her original chair. And let’s take a moment to appreciate how handsome Troy looks this week. He’s been given a tan or been lit a certain way which is just working for him. The cave itself is almost certainly (though not definitely) assembled from bits and pieces of caves we’ve seen previously. It’s easy to take for granted but every rock and bit of vegetation has had to be made or sourced to look good and believable in miniature.
Time is so of the essence that not only are the Stingray crew straight out on the deck, Troy and Phones also already have their blinker heads on in readiness for the next scene – now that’s preparedness. The monocopters fly them over the very, very, very blue water towards a tunnel entrance. Said tunnel is guarded by a mysterious purple light which paralyses our heroes and knocks them out after much sweating and heavy eyelid action. This moment really stuck in my head as a kid. Just the concept of a paralyser ray seemed so brilliant to me. When I was playing with my Stingray toys, many was the adventure when Troy would encounter yet another bloomin’ paralyser ray. And all it took to capture my imagination was a purple light and a wibbly wobbly sound effect – oh and the voice acting, the direction, the editing, the puppeteering, and all the other departments that have to come together to make even the simplest concept work on screen.
As Troy passes out, the camera shifts out of focus before cutting to the next scene and one of those yellow plastic triangle thingies comes into focus. Seriously, those things get everywhere in this show and I have no idea what they are. I want to say ashtrays but I really couldn’t tell you. So after all that dramatic build up and non-stop action, we’ve now reached the meat and potatoes of the episode and we’re allowed to pause and take in some more of the motivation behind the story. The Stingray crew have been captured by Nucella and Chidora, representatives of an undersea race who, you guessed it, want to destroy Marineville. Simple as that really. Probably because this episode has been shown in so many different forms to represent the series over the years, I think it’s fair to say that Nucella and Chidora are probably among the most memorable guest villains of the entire series. They’re pretty standard issue Stingray aliens but they fit all the criteria. Voiced by David Graham and Ray Barrett – check. Identical but not quite identical twins – check. Two people representing an entire race – check. Flamboyant, fabulous outfits – check. Unusual headwear – big check.
Take a moment to appreciate this subtle bit of editing. As the torture chamber rotates (Numberwang anyone?), we cut to a close-up of Troy angrily reacting as Marina is revealed in the chair. Of course, we had to cut away because Marina’s control wires couldn’t have gone through the wall above. But one would want to have a cutaway like that anyway because the moment Troy realises Marina is in danger is just as important as the reveal itself.
So here’s the dastardly scheme – our villains will pump Marina with electricity until Troy reveals the frequency of Marineville’s interceptor missiles. If Troy tells them, Nucella and Chidora will be able to evade the interceptors and successfully destroy Marineville. If Troy doesn’t tell them, Marina dies. Sound simple? That’s because it is. It’s trope-tastic but by thunder does it work. The villains are being thoroughly evil. Marina is most definitely the damsel in distress. And Troy is the hero stuck in the middle trying to save everybody. That’s the core of Stingray right there spelled out so clearly that it’s no wonder this is the moment that made it into all the clip shows.
This is the type of scene we’ve all watched play out hundreds and hundreds of times before in film, television, and beyond, but there’s a real purity to it here that I love. It’s leaning into the trope unashamedly and the absolute conviction and seriousness with which the moment is treated just sells it completely. Marina is suffering, Phones and Troy are struggling to watch it, and Nucella and Chidora will stop at nothing to get their information. It’s balls to the wall drama. Incidentally, I don’t know how much a “marine-volt” is in regular volts, but a thousand of them sounds like a lot which I guess is the idea. There are more factors than voltage to consider when it comes to electrical injury, so I can’t really judge whether the numbers actually make any sense here – but in terms of dramatic effect it certainly works.
Troy gives in at the last possible moment before Marina receives the so-called fatal dose. He reads off some technical jargon which sounds credible enough. Of course, he could have – and probably should have – made all those numbers up, although that would have made the plot far more convoluted than it needed to be. And that brings us to the end of the first act. Boy is this one zipping along fast. Consider that in quite a few of the episodes reviewed so far, Stingray is only just being launched at this midway point. We’re already at the heart of the action this week!
Barry Gray knows what to do and is just pumping out the dramatic music as fast as possible with a quick piece to remind us all that things are as bad as they can get. Meanwhile the camera looms towards a prison cell and Chidora pointing a gun at us.
There’s something about the way Chidora says “your wonderful Marineville” that really makes me want to slap him for being so nasty and enjoying it so much.
No time to wallow in despair, we’re immediately onto the next part of the plot as Troy hatches an escape plan. Now you might argue it was incredibly thick of Chidora to leave the key on the table right in front of the cell. And yes, yes it was. But most villains are quite thick a lot of the time. That’s why they don’t win. We’re not redefining the genre or anything here, just playing to its strengths – one of those strengths is that the goodies are always smarter than the baddies. Phones is forced to tear up his uniform while Marina tears up a cushion. Cushions, ey? Quite a fancy prison cell then. Said prison cell uses the same wall as the prison cell seen in Treasure Down Below.
For some reason, I love these few shots of the rocket in the cave, and our villains riding the elevator from the bottom to the top. Consider, first of all, that full puppet size sets had to be built to show the bottom and the top of the rocket. Then there’s the operation of the elevator itself which would have had to be raised in perfect sync with the puppeteers also raising the controllers of their puppets so that neither of the characters moved unexpectedly and the lift went up.
As Nucella and Chidora babble technical nonsense back and forth to each other, Troy’s plan is well underway to get the key off of the table. Tension is given the opportunity to build without dragging the scene out as he tries and fails and tries again to achieve his objective.
The tension rises further still as Phones hears footsteps approaching. Good to know his ears work just as well without the hydrophone apparatus.
Yes, our foolish villains don’t notice that the key is missing from the table, or that the cushion they thoughtfully provided in the cell has been destroyed. Despite how quickly all this happens, it still feels like a real and credible threat that our heroes might fail. I for one am glad they managed to escape so quickly as I’m sure we weren’t far away from Phones relieving himself into that jug in the corner.
The shot of the Moon from The Ghost of the Sea is recycled here just to convey that night has indeed fallen. Troy and Phones quietly work away on the missile. Well, Troy does all the work while Phones complains about how long it’s taking. What does Troy know about interceptor warheads you ask? Enough to get the plot of this episode to where it’s going, and that’s all that matters.
Meanwhile, Marineville remains at battle stations. Despite the Stingray crew being away all day and all night, Atlanta and her father are only now beginning to worry about their whereabouts. But they’re going to wait two more hours though before starting a search. Rather different to Treasure Down Below when a full scale rescue operation was launched in reaction to Stingray failing to report in just once.
Dawn breaks, and as Troy and friends park themselves back in their cosy prison cell, Nucella and Chidora launch their beloved rocket. The set of their control room is glorious. Every panel is covered in lights and buttons and switches of various shapes and sizes and, most importantly, colours.
You know the drill by now. The tracking station reports in and Shore orders the launching of some more interceptors. This time, for good measure, two have been deployed. But uh-oh, they don’t work and fly straight past their target. The enemy rocket continues on course. Nice work Troy, way to doom us all.
The Shores realise that all is lost and Atlanta stands up to be near her father as their lives appear to be ending soon. That sure escalated quickly.
The Stingray crew have been called in to watch the destruction… well… sort of… they get to watch a little light on the screen go from one point to the other. Not quite the same thing but you get the idea.
Now that’s rather a haunting image. Atlanta clutches her father and closes her eyes as they prepare for total annihilation. Who says puppets can’t emote? There’s oodles of emotion here!
That is one fierce-looking missile.
A plume of dust and dirt but nothing more. If you look too closely, the hole in the set that the missile disappeared into is fairly apparent. But don’t think about that. Think about how everyone is still alive.
Shore gives the order over the loudspeakers for the missile to be investigated. It appears to have parked itself on the same street corner we saw in the opening moments of Count Down. Didn’t even scratch the fence. Guess Troy managed to do a good thing after all. What a guy.
This brief glimpse of the rocket squad at work is utterly charming. The little figures move by themselves. It looks like they have two giant water cannons on the right in case of a fire, a crane on the left balanced atop a modified Telsada Trans-continental Express toy, and an ambulance turns up in the foreground on the off-chance things go really wrong for somebody. There’s a little ‘DANGER’ sign hanging on the barricade too, just in case the giant missile sticking out of the ground wasn’t an obvious enough hazard.
Shore waits impatiently for news and, sure enough, Lt. Fisher immediately enters the scene with that news. Fisher knows how to get the best out of the rocket investigation squad. It usually involves bribing them with cupcakes. Troy has written the gang at Marineville a note because he’s just a romantic like that. According to the note, the place where the Stingray crew are being held prisoner is Vile Island… no idea whether I’m hearing that name correctly but whoever wrote the blu-ray subtitles agrees with me so let’s go with that. I mean, they’re not wrong, it is a pretty vile place to be.
Footage of the jets blasting off from earlier in the episode is reused as the rescue mission takes to the skies. It looks like Preston from Sea of Oil, heavily disguised under all that flight gear, is the pilot leading the attack.
Nucella and Chidora aren’t in the least bit frightened because they have the Stingray crew at their mercy. Also they have so many colourful knobs in front of them, that alone must be a delight to behold.
Troy is quick to remind the baddies of the WASP code that every member is prepared to lay down their life in the line of duty. It’s a nice callback to The Ghost Ship, particularly as Troy was so hesitant to follow the code in that episode. Come to think of it, he wasn’t exactly keen to follow it earlier when Marina was being tortured. He did technically sell out the entire population of Marineville just to save her life. Maybe he had that plan to save the day all along though. I’m sure he did. I’m sure he doesn’t dye his hair either and its just naturally that dark and luscious.
Time for some bangy-bangy-shooty-shooty-boom-boom action now as the bombers launch their attack on the island. Nucella and Chidora still won’t give in as their base collapses all around them. Troy just stands there like a Greek god declaring doom and despair for all. All that plaster falling from the ceiling is going to mess up his hair.
More shots fired, more explosions, more destruction, and the baddies decide to do a complete U-turn. They fold like a couple of deck chairs and surrender whole-heartedly to the WASPs. At least they gave the whole life of crime thing a bloomin’ good try. They must have spent a fortune kitting out that undergound base and launching three missiles in the space of two days. Hope their home insurance policy covers them against pure terrainean vengeance.
Yes, that shot of the planes flying around the back of the island and across the foreground is used all over again. Yes, I still think it’s really clever. Yes, the doctors do think I’m a special boy.
By means of some throwaway dialogue, we learn that Nucella and Chidora have been taken prisoner aboard Stingray to ensure proper justice be done. Just one thing left to do now…
The poor fish in the foreground get the fright of their lives when the first missile strikes the cave. The special effects team do not hold back and absolutely devastate the island with some of the biggest explosions the series has seen so far. The combination of fire and water makes for a spectacle of destructive glory on screen. Palm trees fly in all directions. It’s carnage and I love it.
Back at Marineville, Commander Shore has something to say to Phones to wrap the whole thing up…
Phones is missing a button on his uniform and that just won’t do. Oh my aching sides. Probably should have ended the episode on the big explosion because, frankly, ending with a gag that weak is a little bit rubbish for an epic episode like this.
Bad final scene aside, it should be pretty obvious why Emergency Marineville is held in high regard by just about everyone. It’s Stingray doing what it does best. If you could only show one episode of Stingray to anyone to sum up what the show is all about, you would likely show them Emergency Marineville because it just contains so many of the classic elements of the format. So many episodes of the series come down to X aliens (usually just a pair of them) have Y plan to destroy Troy Tempest and/or Stingray and/or Marineville. Emergency Marineville is the purest version of that formula and my goodness it works. The pace of it is unmatched by any episode so far. The plot is absolutely water tight. The special effects are incredible. It’s classic Stingray.
Next week, it’s time to go deeper than we’ve ever gone before as Stingray takes a voyage to the centre of the Earth! What are they going to find when they get down there? Why, a Subterranean Sea of course!
www.filmedinsupermarionation.com by Century 21 Films Ltd.
Filmed In Supermarionation by Stephen La Rivière. Third edition published in 2022 by Century 21 Films Ltd.
Stingray: Adventures In Videcolor by Andrew Pixley. First published in 2022 by Network Distributing.