Stingray – 25. An Echo of Danger

Directed by Alan Pattillo

Teleplay by Dennis Spooner

First UK Broadcast – 22nd November 1964

Let’s talk about Phones. He’s been right at the heart of the action with the heroic Captain Troy Tempest on so many occasions. Dependable and good-humoured, Phones could be seen by many as the series’ second lead. But outside of a few amusing moments, and some broad character traits which could apply to most of the regular characters, we actually know very little about Phones. We don’t even know his real name. “It’s George Lee Sheridan,” I hear you cry! But no such name is ever mentioned on screen, only in spin-off material. Over the course of the series, characters in need of richer development have received spotlight episodes – Marina had Plant of Doom to establish her home at Pacifica; The Ghost of the Sea and Marineville Traitor offered an insight into Commander Shore’s career and some more personal moments; Loch Ness Monster gave Atlanta the opportunity to step out of the control room and voyage to her ancestral homeland, plus she’s had ample opportunity in several episodes to wear her heart on her sleeve and show her devotion to friends and family. Phones has yet to receive the same treatment. There are moments in episodes like Treasure Down Below or Loch Ness Monster which offer a glimpse of his personality – he’s shown to be somewhat naive and a bit of a dreamer. For the most part though, his role is to go along with Troy’s latest dangerous plan, and save his friends when they get themselves into trouble. So, does An Echo of Danger finally give Phones the spotlight episode he deserves, and shed any light on Stingray’s trusty hydrophone operator?

The episode opens on the Island of Lemoy and a cheeky look through X20’s window, reminiscent of the pilot episode. For a brief second, the top of the set is visible in the background.

It turns out, our beloved surface agent has treated himself to a new piano. Previously, the corner of the room had been occupied by an old upright piano which dates all the way back to the saloon of Four Feather Falls. This new grand piano prop has a lot in common with the piano seen previously in Plant of Doom (which in turn made appearances in Supercar and Fireball XL5), but has a varnished wood finish rather than being painted. Note all the piano wires which have been painted inside. It’s a beautiful prop, but compare it to the exquisitely detailed concert grand shown in the Joe 90 episode, International Concerto, and you’ll see that this is just one step on the ladder towards the expert craftsmanship the AP Films team were heading towards. I also just love the notion that X20 is the sort of character to indulge himself in such a purchase, and become so engrossed in the fantasy of playing alongside a taped orchestra that he completely ignores a call from his boss. It speaks to the high opinion he has of himself, but also hints that he has talents which would be better suited to a creative, thoughtful, introverted lifestyle, rather than as an audacious master criminal. And best of all, I’ve made all those high and mighty deducations without a word of dialogue being spoken.

X20 shuts off his tape player – a prop we’ve seen so many times in so many places I’m convinced everyone and their grandmother owns one. Subtle hints are being dropped around some of the themes of this week’s episode. After all, the sound of the orchestra was all an illusion…

The incredible volume of the music is contrasted with total silence as we look out at the depths of the ocean. We’re snapped out of X20’s heady fantasies of playing at the Royal Albert Hall and back to reality.

Titan waits impatiently for his call to be answered. If I may, I want to keep banging on about X20’s piano-playing, and the utter silence of this scene in the throne room by comparison. I get the sense that culture isn’t a big priority of Titan’s. We’ve learned previously that Pacifica, not Titanica, is the cultural capital of all the underwater cities. We’ve also just seen that X20 is a talented piano player, whose music is interrupted by his duty to Titan. Then there’s the fact Titan chooses to live surrounded only by Aquaphibians, who wouldn’t know culture if it jumped up and down in front of them playing Beethoven’s 5th Symphony on a kazoo. Fast forwarding to Titan Goes Pop, it’s also made clear that Titan doesn’t even understand the concept of popular music or its purpose. So what does all this add up to? Nothing much, but I like the idea that among Titan’s worst character traits, he happens to be a complete philistine.

With X20 firmly brought back down to reality, it’s time for Titan to declare his next great and glorious plan to gain vengeance on the World Aquanaut Security Patrol. He admits to bungling the destruction of Stingray, and is therefore thinking ahead to weakening the craft’s efficiency by sabotaging the crew. I like Titan’s outside-of-the-box thinking. The fact he’s approaching the problem from a different angle continues to prove that he is a devious and ruthless villain, rather than a fool trying the same trick over and over again to no avail. Having said that, he refuses to give X20 any guidance whatsoever on how to accomplish this scheme, which is thoroughly unhelpful.

When the call ends, X20 laments his position as Titan’s errand boy. Earlier in the series, X20 was a faithful servant, but more recently he has started to question Titan’s authority, and it’s clear from this scene that he’d much rather being doing something else, like revelling in his music. I adore this extra dimension in the relationship between the two characters. It makes X20 in particular feel much more relatable. How many of us can understand the struggle of working in a job you don’t appreciate or respect, but being stuck with it because your boss is the emperor of the sea who would have you executed or imprisoned without a second thought? It’s all too common…

Meanwhile, at Marineville, it’s time for the WASPs to undertake another mission. Commander Shore has pulled out his big table map to explain that Stingray will be escorting a crude oil transporter. There are plenty of adorable little models of various ships which Shore probably loves to play with in the bath when nobody’s looking. He’s also borrowed the little models of Stingray and the Mechanical Fish which were seen on Titan’s big table map previously in The Master Plan. I’m not entirely sure what the Mechanical Fish is doing there but let’s assume they were planning for trouble. Shore explains that just one small ship is being used to transport millions of gallons of oil because it will be towing a long tube made of a new material. We’ll have a history lesson in a few moments on the transportation of oil by sea, don’t worry.

Shore is startled by the unexpected arrival of a window cleaner. Yes, Marineville subcontracts out its window cleaning requirements to a firm called ‘Kleen-U-Quick’, although you might recognise the chap doing the washing. Yes, it’s another of X20’s cunning disguises which enable him to wander into Marineville without question… even though it’s exactly the same wig he wore for his Professor Sanders disguise in Count Down with a dodgy moustache added… so really the security guards should have spotted him immediately and made an arrest… ah well. X20’s brilliant plan is to look through the window and see what everyone’s up to. Lucky for him, Shore has laid out the entire plan on a big table for everyone to see, so X20 doesn’t need long to get a sense of things before…

… Things go horribly wrong. Yes, X20 forgets that the number one rule of cleaning windows is to never get distracted by manical laughter without checking your ropes are secure first. He falls with a pathetic moan and a crash. It’s rather funny, but goodness me that must have been a long way down.

Enjoy these magnificent shots of the oil transporter passing through set to Barry Gray’s score while I deliver my hurriedly thrown together lecture. Transporting oil by boat had been a thing since the mid-19th century. To keep up with the demand for oil as the world became more and more mechanised, particularly during the World Wars, the most efficient way to transport oil was to build larger and larger ships and more of them. By 1962, the 106,000 long ton vessel, the SS Manhattan had been built in the United States – the largest ocean-going vessel ever constructed at that time. Transporting oil in large, powered tankers had its inherent dangers. If the load leaked, either into the water or into the engines, there was potential for explosive and environmental disasters. Then there was the issue of developing a hull strong enough to contain so much liquid which was prone to sloshing about during transport and could cause the ship to capsize. The solution which Dennis Spooner has run with in his script was inspired by the Dracone barge developed in 1956 by Professor William Hawthorne. Just like we see in the episode, Hawthorne’s concept uses a single, small vessel to tow a flexible tube containing the liquid cargo. This idea was developed further more recently into the ‘Spragg Bag’ which held the primary aim of transporting fresh water to areas with limited access, using long trains of waterbags connected by zippers for seemingly endless transport possibilities. The Dracone Barge is still used today, not as a primary means of transporting fuel around the world, but as an important aid to cleaning up oil spills from larger tankers, and for moving smaller loads for military purposes.

Troy is able to report in to Marineville that everything is going extraordinarily well. Honestly, Troy hasn’t had a job this easy since he was made chairman of the Troy Tempest Appreciation Society.

Things are going so smoothly that Phones can afford to kick back and relax by playing a game of checkers with himself. He baits his opponent with tough talk. It’s a charming window into Phones’ approach to life. He’s almost always got a sense of humour, and isn’t afraid to laugh at himself or take things too seriously. Of course, there is an underlying implication here that Phones is a tad unconventional and mentally unfit for his responsibilities, which is played upon further as the episode develops.

I’ve never played checkers, so couldn’t tell you whether these moves make any sense. Phones wins though, which I guess was pretty inevitable.

Troy brings his colleague back down to earth with news that a routine scan of the surrounding ocean is required. Phones reckons there’s nobody around for 10 miles, by which he means there’s no bloomin’ need to interrupt his fun with the checkers board, and Troy should naff off and bother somebody else. Speaking of which, Marina is absent for this mission, because otherwise Phones would have someone to play with and that would upset the point of this scene.

Contrary to Phones’ suggestion, it turns out that X20 is floating around nearby…

The interior of the craft has undergone some minor modifications including a replacement cone-thing on the back wall and a new control panel which was pinched from Mauritimus’ missile ejector craft as seen in The Big Gun.

Now, you may think that this an upturned yoghurt pot glued to a piece of MDF which was painted silver with a bottle cap glued on the top, but you, my friend, need to buck up your ideas. This is a remote controlled echo transmitter. X20 suggests that this is an “old plan” which means it’s time for another quick history lesson. Sonar decoys were first fitted to U-Boats during World War II, and consisted of a small cannister filled with calcium hydride, which produced a gas when mixed with sea water. An inexperienced sonar operator might mistake the large cloud of hydrogen bubbles for a German submarine, thus creating a false target while the real submarine was elsewhere. X20’s device is electronic in nature but is essentially trying to achieve the same thing of creating a false echo which Phones might mistake for a real submarine much larger than the device itself.

X20 has a handy and elegantly labeled tube for dropping the device out of his craft and onto the ocean floor. The model used to represent the bottom of his submarine is the same bit of hull used to represent the yellow alien craft from The Ghost of the Sea, but painted green this time.

Although the device sits motionless on the sea bed, one has to assume that in order to deceive Phones, a highly experienced technician, the unit must be capable of producing a signal which is large and appears to be in motion somewhere in the water. Otherwise, it would be pretty obvious that the sounding is a fake.

Stingray submerges but finds nothing. This shot of the sonar decoy in the foreground and Stingray in the background does a marvellous job of playing around with scale and perspective.

It becomes apparent that Phones has made a blunder. Troy is a little put out and miffed by the error. Phones has always been the reliable one of the pair. While Troy makes errors of judgement all the time about everything from his air supply to his treatment of French naval officers, Phones rarely puts a foot wrong.

X20 uses a periscope to observe the consist. Previously, in The Golden Sea, he was able to observe the goings-on above the water on a screen.

Things are about to get explosive…

Very quickly, X20 is able to cause some serious damage and loves every minute of it. This is how he gets his job satisfaction. Playing piano may be his hobby, but obscene amounts of terrorism is his true passion.

As X20 switches off the sounder, news reaches Stingray of the disaster. How they failed to notice the explosive shockwave rippling through the water I don’t know. Here’s an interesting thing – on the Blu-ray release the close-up shot of the speaker grille (which has been used previously in the series), is double exposed and blurry. This wasn’t an issue on the earlier DVD releases. So is this an issue with the original negatives which was fixed for the DVDs but not here, or just an issue with the Blu-ray transfer? Anyway, more importantly, Troy and Phones now have to go and deal with this ruddy great fire.

The tow vessel is absolutely overwhelmed by the inferno. There’s no doubt that this is one of the finest special effects sequences we’ve seen so far. The explosions are absolutely terrific and definitely look like the real deal, rather than miniature pops and bangs. It’s an uncontrollable storm of fire which cannot be stopped.

All Troy and Phones can do is surface through the thick smoke and watch in horror. Back projection is used to show the view through the cabin windows. Phones is speechless, no doubt already realising that it was his false sounding which drew Stingray away from its duty. Popping on the characters’ frowner heads probably would have been appropriate at this point – Phones’ default face in particular is a little too smiley for a disaster of this magnitude.

Commander Shore is understandbly cross with the Stingray crew. He keeps it professional but boy are there going to be some consequences for this.

We don’t see it on-screen, but dialogue suggests that the crew of the tow vessel are abandoning ship to be picked up by Stingray. It might have been nice and dramatic to see the people dashing about, dodging the oil and fire raining down upon them, but the fire on the model set is plenty to get across how bad things are. For the grand finale, the towing vessel itself blows up spectacularly, with the entire ship somersaulting through the air. I think it’s fair to say the tub is a write-off.

I think this might be a new establishing shot of Marineville, but I haven’t done a great job of keeping track. They use the same shots a lot.

Phones is sat in a corridor feeling sorry for himself while two photographers gather in front of him. One of them is portrayed by the Jacques Jordan puppet from The Man From The Navy, while the other is the news reporter last seen in Tom Thumb Tempest.

A sign has appeared on the door to point out that there is a meeting going on which Phones hasn’t been allowed into. Something tells me this isn’t just a gathering of that Troy Tempest Appreciation Society I mentioned earlier.

The conference room is the same one used in Star of the East. The attendees chattering away include Shore, Atlanta, Troy and Fisher, along with the three WSP commanders also seen at the El Hudat meeting last week, plus Lieutenant Misen who really is pushing his luck, and also a new face that we probably haven’t seen before – unless it’s Zero Red from Marineville Traitor but who can be sure of that? Marina is absent. She clearly had more important things to be doing this week.

Shore calls for order like he’s working in a crowded burger joint. The camera dramatically tracks down the table to look at all the attendees, a familiar device for making board room scenes feel more tense. The focus shifts from what is being said to how it is being received by everyone else in the scene. The conference scene in the feature film Thunderbirds Are Go also uses this technique to great effect.

Troy and the commander wave at each other but it isn’t for a cheery greeting. They’re butting heads because Troy is objecting in the strongest possible terms to Phones being accused of fault unjustly. Shore is quick to point out that they merely need to establish that Phones is fit for duty.

The finding of the inquiry is that Phones should be relieved of duty until he successfully passes a thorough medical examination. It’s treated with the utmost severity, and Shore clearly makes the declaration with a heavy heart. One could argue that all of this might have been a bit more intriguing for the audience if we didn’t already know that X20 had planted the sound device. But I would argue that the tension here comes from the fact that we know X20’s plan is succeeding right now, and the very grave feeling comes from the fact that they might never discover who is behind all this, leaving Phones out of the WASPs, and Stingray weakened as a result.

The photographers snap some shots of Phones as the music swells towards the close of this first act. I think the press interest is supposed to suggest that there’s some sort of scandal going on here. There’s a sense of shame around an upstanding member of the WASPs making an error of judgement, and potentially being too unwell to maintain his position. It helps to add some higher stakes to the proceedings. Phones’ life and career is hanging in the balance, ready to be turned upside down if X20 gets his way, and the world is watching closely.

Down in Titanica, Titan is receiving an update from X20, which means we’re all getting brought up to speed on the next part of the plot too. X20 has whipped up another award-winning disguise in order to act as Phones’ psychiatrist, thus giving him control over the findings of his medical check. From window cleaning to psychiatry, X20 sure is keeping busy this week! He’s going to run out of wigs at this rate.

While Troy gazes thoughtfully out of the window, it’s time for Shore to open up. It’s a nice little moment for making peace after the grand display put on by the pair of them at the inquiry. So, Shore drops a hint that maybe Troy should unofficially go and find some new evidence which will clear Phones’ name. Apparently that would be breaking the rules. I would have thought a thorough investigation of the area was a requirement given how the oil consist just burst into flames while Stingray was looking elsewhere. I can’t say why it would be forbidden for Troy to go out and look into it further. They’re a security organisation after all, so this type of thing is supposed to be bang up their alley.

On the other side of the control room, Phones is making an appointment with his psychiatrist. Not sure why he can’t do this in the privacy of his apartment using a telephone, but I guess this works. X20 appears to be doing an uncanny impression of UFO‘s Vladek Sheybal, although he was probably aiming for Sigmund Freud. Phones is informed that the practice is on the Island of Lemoy which apparently doesn’t concern him at all, despite all the suspicious activity which has gone on there previously. X20’s disguise will need to be pretty darn good because Phones met him at the house in Stand By For Action, but dressed as a fairly similar-looking old man. Meanwhile, Troy has come over to reassure Phones that he’s going to take Stingray out to try and uncover the truth. He seems pretty confident of his success, I guess just because of how much respect he has for Phones. That’s nice.

Well Troy sure moved on quick.

Yes, rather than bringing Marina along, Troy is taking Fisher out for the first time in Stingray. It’s quite sweet really, and it’s the beginning of Fisher’s journey towards a promotion – similar to the training which Lt. Ninety underwent in Fireball XL5. Troy meets Fisher’s enthusiasm with an insistence that he doesn’t touch anything. Remember that really satisfying missile launching switch I was obsessed with last week? Well forget about that. Don’t even think about going anywhere near it. No ear-pleasing clicky-clunky feelings for us today.

Atlanta says they have about six hours. Until what? Presumably Phones’ medical check, but I would have thought any evidence they find would still be valid after all that.

Stingray is launched. I have nothing to add. I just like saying, “Stingray is launched.”

And now, Mr. Robert Easton will give a class on how to deliver a two-hand scene completely solo. Yes, not only does the voice artist have the challenge of playing Phones and X20 in the same scene, but he also has to voice X20 as if he were impersonating someone else. There’s a reason why Robert Easton marketed himself as “the dialect doctor,” and, “the Henry Higgins of Hollywood.”

The disguise is essentially a cross between Sigmund Freud and Albert Einstein. It manages to fool Phones. Keep in mind, Phones not only encountered X20 in disguise in Stand By For Action, but also as himself during the Titanica gun fight in The Master Plan. It’s obviously a bit of a parody of psychiatrists in general, with psychoanalysis and psychiatry coming under quite a bit of criticism during the 1960s.

So the grand scheme is to reintroduce the tape player seen at the beginning of the episode, and play the music at a deafening volume so that when Phones closes his eyes to relax, he can’t hear the whirring and buzzing of X20’s front room turning into a control centre. Obviously it’s a silly idea if you think on it too hard, but Phones is just naive enough (as previously established by his purchase of treasure maps and belief in ghosts and monsters) that I think all this is just about credible. Phones may be very capable of doing his job but he’s never been known to be especially bright. He’s always relied upon Troy’s quick thinking to get them out of danger. Phones is a practical sort of guy, who calls a spade a spade…

So when Phones sees that the room has changed, but his doctor denies it, the immediate assumption is that he must be hallucinating. It’s a really big stretch, and quite a crude depiction of how mental disorders might work, but does use the gimmick of X20’s room transforming in quite a clever way. Actually using this bizarre quirk of the series as a plot device is ingenious.

Just after Phones says, “I could have sworn the room was different before,” one of the paintings is seen moving because of the way the stock footage has been recycled.

Also a bit of an error is the fact that the fish painting is still in place behind X20’s head when it should have been replaced by the control panel.

Phones is ordered to close his eyes again and relax while the room is changed back to the way it was before. Footage of the room spinning around is simply played in reverse, since the process of the control centre changing back was never captured on film originally.

Phones is terrified of opening his eyes, and his worst fears are realised when he discovers that the room is back to its original state, but according to his doctor there was never any change. And with that, Phones just accepts that he’s very sick and must follow advice to leave the WASPs immediately. I told you that everything was rather black and white in Phones’ world. There’s no doubt in his mind, and no request for more testing, and no questions about how all this started in the first place. He just takes the vague diagnosis, and then immediately just complains about wasting Troy’s time. X20 struggles to hide his concern that Stingray is on the hunt for more evidence.

Troy and Fisher arrive in the area just a stone’s throw away from the sonar decoy. Gosh that large Stingray model is glorious.

Captain Tempest is getting ready to pop outside, and denies the inexperienced Fisher’s request to use the hydrophone gear. Troy is probably just defensive of Phones’ namesake. Apparently there’s a possibility of Fisher joining the crew on a more routine basis, again hinting that he might be ready to move up in the world.

X20 has quickly discarded his disguise and is back in the water to intercept Stingray. Titan appreciates his initiative, and sends his Aquaphibians to join the party. The communication station that Titan is using has been modified ever so slightly since its last appearance in The Master Plan. Presumably those are some new guards he has too, seeing as the last pair were shot to death by Troy and Phones.

Troy surveys the area, the sea bed covered in beautiful plants and coral which the peasants watching in black and white at home won’t be able to enjoy.

Phones is waiting in his apartment playing solitaire and staring at two pints of whiskey on the table outside. That’s probably what caused the hallucinations. The glass doors, balcony and curtains are borrowed from Commander Shore’s bedroom, the desk is from the Standby Lounge, and the table is from the Shores’ dining room.

Atlanta is attempting to build a replica of Space City out of playing cards.

Fisher continuing to use the steering wheel while Stingray is parked and stationary is such a child-like thing to do. He’s reminding Troy how much time he has left outside which is very important because Troy tends to forget about these things.

Fisher disobeys orders and reaches for the headphones. He’s learning from Troy how to be a naughty little boy.

Phones has given up the cards and the four cups of coffee, and has switched to smoking endless cigarettes. Lots of healthy life choices going on today.

Proving his usefulness immediately, Fisher detects X20’s sub and reports it to Troy. He willingly admits to disobeying Troy which I think actually tickles the captain a little bit. Sure enough, things really start to unfold when Troy spots the two Aquaphibians sent by Titan. They made it here jolly fast!

The race back to Stingray is thrilling! I love to imagine the puppeteers running up and down the bridge whilst trying to keep the motion smooth. Troy dives through Stingray’s hatch with great agility.

Just to let us know they’re the tough guys, an Aquaphibian opens fire and scorches some of Stingray’s lovely paintwork. What a mean old bean.

Ding-dong… Avon calling!

X20 gets the fright of his life as Stingray looms into view. Fisher is on the equivalent of his first driving lesson, so hitting parked vehicles is an inevitability.

Fisher is ready to attack, but for once Troy is the one to hold back and suggest investigating further. Blimey, he must be really out of sorts since Phones left.

In a final effort to avoid total destruction, X20 switches on the sonar decoy again. Troy smells a rat and decides to let X20 go so that they can turn around and have a look. I must say, Troy is thinking very clearly and methodically today. It makes me feel icky.

Just as the large Stingray model is finished being lowered into shot, keen viewers might be able to spot a small loop of black wire dangling down in the top left corner of the frame, likely from the rig being held by the operator to “fly” the model.

We’re back at the Blue Lagoon, the gang’s favored night spot after the Shores got fed up of hosting dinner parties every evening. This time, Chick Kingsland from Secret of the Giant Oyster, who was also a patron of the bar in Stand By For Action, is serving drinks. Marina makes her first and only appearance in the episode. Has she been sat in the bar the entire time? In the foreground is the original grand piano prop which was used by Atlanta in Plant of Doom as well as Fireball XL5 and Supercar. Everyone is celebrating Phones’ return to duty. Note that Shore is holding a walking stick and his chair is not in the room, perhaps suggesting he hasn’t entirely lost the use of his legs.

The whip pan transition which throws us into the next scene doesn’t give us much to look at this time around. I normally like to examine these things for rare glimpses at the studio or sets. This dark smudge could be a person, I suppose?

One final bit of comedy as things come back around to haunt X20. His room won’t stop spinning round from all the overuse, and he can’t fathom why he still works for Titan. All that job satisfaction he had from dressing up and starting fires has melted away, and once again he just wishes he could play his music and let his troubles float off into insignificance… fat chance.

A good amount of stuff is packed into this episode. We get action from the tow ship fire and the final chase sequences. We get drama from the boardroom and Phones’ suspected delusions. And we get comedy from X20’s various unfortunate mishaps. As an examination of Phones’ character I suppose An Echo of Danger doesn’t offer us more than we already knew. However, it also drives me to conclude that there wasn’t much more to know anyway. What you see is what you get with Phones. This episode proves to us that he doesn’t have any inner demons or dark moments. He’s a happy-go-lucky guy who accepts everything at face value. His idea of a good time is playing checkers with himself and goofing around. Not all characters need to be deeply flawed or have a tragic back story. Phones is just a dependable guy who can crack a joke or make you smile every once in a while, and that’s just fine. Maybe he could have benefitted from having more depth, but I don’t think it’s detrimental to the series that we don’t find out much more about him. Leave all the internal reflection to Troy and just let Phones be the guy who gets things done.

Next week, there’s something spooky happening when an Invisible Enemy comes to Marineville! Is anyone safe from the hypnotic trance of the mysterious visitor?! Tune in to find out!

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Further Reading by Century 21 Films Ltd.

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

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

The Dracone Barge a truly flexible bulk liquid transport solution. Published by Virtual Expo Group on

History of the oil tanker From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Last edited on 13 October 2022.

Spragg BagTM Waterbag Demonstration Voyage published on YouTube by Robert Tulip on 28 February 2008.

Sonar Decoys. Published by Uboataces.

Stingray – 24. Star of the East

Directed by Desmond Saunders

Teleplay by Alan Fennell

First UK Broadcast – 14th February 1965

I can’t skirt around the fact that I’ve been looking forward to writing about this particular episode since the start of this series of reviews. Star of the East is an episode I remember fondly from my childhood, and have continued to enjoy again and again up until the present day. It is a firm favourite of mine, and there is a very simple reason for that. I think El Hudat is one of the greatest guest characters that Supermarionation has ever brought to the screen. He is a force of nature, driving the plot of not just this episode, but an unprecedented follow-up episode in Eastern Eclipse. El Hudat, egotistical maniac that he is, makes this episode all about him. It’s almost difficult to talk about any other aspect of Star of the East because the character just dominates so much, coming into Marineville and turning the lives of our heroes upside down by doing what he does best – looking after number one.

It’s not a proven fact, but I’d say you know an episode is going to be good when it kicks off with some explosive action. Wadi is an impressive gunboat, and proves its power pretty explicitly by blowing up a freighter ship, one of the same models seen in The Disappearing Ships but repainted for its appearance here. The shots of the guns themselves are reminiscent of footage from the Second World War. The moment where the cannon fires at the boat in the distance uses forced perspective very effectively.

A second attack completely annihilates the target vessel. There can be no doubt that Derek Meddings and his team have really refined their pyrotechnics now and understand how best to film them. I can’t help but watch certain special effects shots in Fireball XL5 and wonder whether anyone had any idea just how big the bangs were going to be when they lit the fuse and rolled camera. Here, the effects look more controlled, but ultimately more impressive as a result because they have been tailored to what looks best on screen.

Here’s a slightly perculiar moment which you can’t unsee once you notice it. As the Wadi makes its turn, it appears to suddenly vanish before the planes fly through shot. Of course, these are two separate shots, but because they are filmed in exactly the same part of the water tank with the sky backdrop in an identical position, the two shots don’t cut together properly. It’s a rare mistake for the effects team and editors, who normally take great care to assemble sequences which flow perfectly.

The Wadi’s anti-aircraft guns make quick work of the target planes. Check out that masking tape in the bottom left corner holding the Wadi’s hull together – clearly El Hudat didn’t hire the best ship builders. Incidentally, the word ‘wadi’ refers to a valley which remains dry except in the rainy season. Doesn’t seem like a particularly good name for a boat. Is the vessel indestructible except for when it rains?

Apparently the Stingray crew are quite happy to sit and watch this carnage unfold. Maybe it’s a Bank Holiday?

With cushions, deck chairs, and a selection of drinks and snacks available, I’d say this is certainly more of a party than a warzone.

The destruction keeps on coming as Wadi launches a torpedo and wipes out another vessel named M.N. 112. The bottom of said vessel is noticeably wooden as the debris is flown in all directions.

I absolutely adore the combination of puppets and models in this shot to really sell the idea that the spectators are watching the Wadi from the middle of the ocean.

Right then, this is El Hudat. The puppet uses Masterspy from Supercar as its basis, and the head is known to survive to this day. The character immediately stands out because of his unique shape and caricatured features. Hudat is the ruler of a country which we later learn in Eastern Eclipse is named after him, Hudatvia. He’s spent $500,000,000 on building Wadi, and is now presenting it as a “little gesture” to the World Security Patrol in exchange for membership. From what we come to know of El Hudat, it’s safe to say that this extravagant expense, and this desire to join the WSP is purely an opportunity to flex his enormous ego. The character is driven purely by an incredibly high opinion of himself. Hudatvia’s exact location is never specified, but it’s fairly clear that El Hudat originates from a cultural mish-mash of the Middle East and Africa. He’s more than a bit of a stereotype of the dictators one might find running a country in that region in the mid-20th Century, using enormous spending and military might to climb the ladder of global politics. Such countries with unstable leaders ruling from unstable positions, were often the butt of the joke in Western media, including other Anderson series – see the Supercar episodes Island Incident and Hi-Jack, or the Joe 90 episodes King for a Day and Viva Cordova. Politics dogged by murder, coups, double-dealing, and acts of war were a constant source of weird and wonderful plots for action-adventure shows in the West. It all sounded so exotic and exciting and ridiculous to the British and American viewers, enjoying the show from the apparent safety and security of their respective democracies. Now, you may think that making tyrants into comic figures is insensitive, or you might think it’s justly deserved, but the fact a show like Stingray, a puppet sci-fi series made primarily for children, can present such a character without hesitation, is just a fascinating notion to me. Satire is everywhere and can take the most surprising forms.

I don’t need to begin to point out the immense symbolism behind the raising and lowering of the Hudatvian flag throughout the episode. It’s presented on screen nestled directly in between the flags of the big Western powers of the United States and the United Kingdom – which also serves Stingray‘s agenda of appealing to the American market without alienating British viewers. Far in the background we also have the flags of Pakistan (which is missing its white band and has too many stars), Sweden (which is noticeably too pale), the USSR (which rather dates the show), and a red and white striped flag which is completely unidentifiable and doesn’t appear to belong to any real country from the time. I think all that is a fair indicator that all the background flags were purely chosen to represent a variety of flags designs to look interesting on screen, and one shouldn’t read too much into the politics of it. The episode title, Star of the East, coupled with El Hudat’s initials being emblazened on his country’s flag either side of a gigantic star tell us pretty clearly that Hudat is both the star of the show, and the star of his own little world. “The East” is a pretty generic term to suggest that all you really need to know is that Hudatvia is far, far away – probably too far away for Western leaders to take seriously. See countless essays on orientalism and colonialism which I probably should have paid more attention to at university…

This conference room is a new set but there are many familiar elements. Shore’s chair at the head of the table is pinched straight from the WSP conference room last seen in Pink Ice. The chandelier was last seen in Zero-Red’s office in Marineville Traitor, as were various knick-knacks like the globe, the bust, and the eagle ashtray. Apparently all it takes to induct Hudatvia into the WSP is a gathering of those three blokes we saw at H.Q. in the pilot episode and Pink Ice, plus all the regular cast. Not sure whether the likes of Phones or Marina would really have much of an official role at proceedings like this but it must be nice for them to feel so important.

El Hudat is pleased as punch, wondering how they have managed for so long without his personal support. Just in case it needed emphasising again, El Hudat sees this as him joining the service, not his country. This is all about him. Atlanta and Troy immediately smell a rat and shoot each other some knowing glances.

Here’s a glorious little bit. Just before Shore can get the necessary signature, Fisher rushes in with the tiniest of little notes and whispers incomprehensibly in the commander’s ear. It’s a fantastically understated moment. It gives us a little insight into Shore and Fisher’s relationship, with Fisher quietly not wanting to make a nuissance of himself, while Shore is quietly put out by the interruption. Then there’s the fact that the grandeur of the whole event is being spoiled with this tiny bit of business, something which visibly puts out El Hudat and dents his ego. Finally, there’s the simple fact that this is such a polite, civilised, westernised way of delivering news of a major political incident. Decorum and manners must be maintained, even when the person involved is sitting a few feet away. There’s a genuine sense of embarrassment around the whole thing. Coups and forceful takeovers simply aren’t the done thing in the West – it’s too impolite – so Shore and Fisher need to discuss it in hushed tones.

El Hudat’s reaction to the news is far less restrained…

For the sake of symbolism more than anything else, the flag of Hudatvia is immediately lowered. I suppose when it comes to flags, everything is about symbolism really. Barry Gray’s “wah-wah-wah” music says it all. This whole incident is deeply embarrassing for all concerned.

We soon learn that El Hudat has been deposed by his own brother. It’s another plot point borrowed straight from Supercar‘s Island Incident, and it’s one which will be expanded upon much further when we get to Eastern Eclipse. This Shakespearean fascination with family members and close alliances overthrowing their own flesh and blood obviously has great storytelling potential, even if the real world examples are few and far between.

After pleading that the whole thing must be a lie, Hudat then turns to his associate, Abu, to point the finger of blame. Abu’s exact role is unclear, but basically he’s here to be a comedy sidekick and that’s okay by me. His outfit was previously worn by the cafe owner in Treasure Down Below. The script is very keen push Hudat’s stereotypical Middle-Eastern heritage and vernacular with most insults making comparisons to creatures found in the desert, from camels to scorpions. Apparently Hudat’s brother was previously in jail to prevent this precise incident from happening, but it was Hudat who had him released, basically making all of this his fault. But no, it’s time for the finger of blame to be pointed at someone else…

“The people around this table!” There’s no doubt that David Graham is having an absolute ball performing this character, with line deliveries which deservedly chew up the scenery and spit it out. With nobody else to blame, Hudat assumes that the WSP themselves sponsored the revolt in order to take his gunboat, but otherwise want to hang the fearless leader out to dry. Troy and Atlanta object to this notion, and continue to respectfully refer to Hudat as “your excellency.” Again, all of this is terribly embarrassing, and this outpouring of upset from El Hudat just isn’t proper.

Atlanta claims that the service sympathises with Hudat’s government, and then refuses to maintain eye contact with him. I’m not sure she has the authority to make such an important diplomatic claim, but sure, let’s all play at being an ambassador today. While they deny any involvement in the revolt, I do love the idea that in a twisted, underhand way, the WSP might have interfered just to snatch up some of Hudatvia’s resources like the gunboat, without having to deal with the people at the top anymore – it wouldn’t be the first time a predominantly Western power has done such a thing. But wait, this is supposed to be the World Security Patrol, representing the security interests of nations all over the world, so the fact every character in a position of authority here is American is purely an accident, honest… No, sadly, the world hadn’t quite caught up to the Andersons’ vision of a truly international group of people working together, so we’re stuck with these all-white, all-American heroes for a while longer. Captain Scarlet was the first series to truly make strides towards resolving this contradiction in ideals. Anyway, Hudat calls Atlanta a “sphinx of a thousand starless nights,” implying she is a treacherous, human-eating monster lurking in the dark. That’s nice, isn’t it?

Needless to say, this is taken as a bit of an insult and Shore visibly loses his cool. The niceties of diplomacy are starting to break down.

“You are the small toe, as well as the large, of a camel’s left foot,” is another award-winning insult from Hudat. Obviously, this dialogue was written before the toe of a camel took on an entirely different symbolic meaning… unless El Hudat really is going there! Camels only have two toes on each foot, perhaps suggesting that Shore is lacking in certain faculties compared to others. The choice of a camel’s “left foot” is probably significant too, tying in with the term “left-footer”, while the “toe” might also be derived from the term “toe-rag” to mean scrounger. There sure is a lot of poetry in these insults! They actually make El Hudat seem quite erudite. He certainly wouldn’t be the first leader to compensate for his lack of ability with grand, flowery language.

Marina protests in the only polite way she can, by shaking her heads with great conviction. I like that. She easily could have sat quietly and stayed out of the argument, but instead she stands up for the World Security Patrol.

Troy leaps to Marina’s defense when it becomes clear that El Hudat has plans to drown her in dribble. Yes, like so many powerful, unattractive, rich men, El Hudat treats Marina like a piece of property and has aspirations of taking her home with him like a souvenir. It’s the least surprising character trait found in anyone since Lady Penelope revealed she quite liked tea.

Hudat is ordered to leave Marineville. Not immediately, of course, that would be impolite, but first thing in the morning. He takes the opportunity to announce his plans for revenge to the entire room. The desk in the foreground is also borrowed from Zero-Red’s office in Marneville Traitor. Also note that the familiar red and white launch tower for the WASP interceptor rockets is visible through the window.

Hudat laughs off the threat of Stingray hunting him down. To be fair to him, Troy and co. haven’t exactly done a terrific job of taking down Titan, tyrant of the sea and their primary target in the ongoing war with the underwater races. Hudat finishes by calling himself a “great big toe.” I’m struggling to find the poetry behind that one since toe was used as an insult a few seconds ago and now apparently it’s a good thing. Maybe the bigger the toe, the better the person? Perhaps he just has a bit of a thing for feet. Curiously, this conference room joins on to a corridor which uses the back wall of the WSP conference room last seen in Pink Ice, proudly declaring that this is the WSP H.Q. which we’ve seen many times is based in Washington, not Marineville – but I’m fairly confident we’re supposed to be at Marineville what with the aforementioned view from the window, the presence of the entire Stingray crew and control tower team, and all the flag pole business going on outside.

Guess what? Do you need me to say it? Does it even need mentioning at this point? … oh go on then, I’m enough of a pedant to bring it up yet again… the WSP Commander’s voice has changed! He’s still voiced by David Graham as he was in Pink Ice but this time he’s dropped his French accent because, hey, why the heck not?!

The contract which El Hudat was getting ready to sign is difficult to read, but appears to have the heading ‘MINIATURE FRAMES’ and is signed ‘MADE IN ENGLAND’ which rather suggests the props team had to put this paperwork together using whatever they had to hand in the workshop.

The guest quarters are represented by footage of the Shores’ and Marina’s apartment block seen in multiple episodes. The car parked outside is Jacques Jordan’s from The Man From The Navy.

El Hudat is feeling terribly sorry for himself, being forced to share his evening with an entire lobster, chicken, and ham, plus a stack of sandwiches and whatever that meaty stick in his left hand is supposed to be. Abu is either trying to fan him or dust him. The set for the guest quarters is simply a modified version of the Shores’ living room, with the flooring borrowed from Atlanta’s bedroom. Furnishings have been added to give the room a Middle-Eastern flavour, representing El Hudat’s insistence on living in luxury and making himself at home.

Hudat is sweaty and covered in meat drippings. He clearly has a weakness for food, and his gluttony is put on full display for comic effect. Abu appears to be a genuinely faithful servant, at least for the time being. Hudat begins to delight in the possibility of using his mighty gunship to have his revenge on the WSP.

First though, he has to bring down Stingray. And to do that, he needs to bring down Troy Tempest. And to do that, he’s going to slap Tempest in the nuts. Nah, not really, though that would be amusing. He’s threatening to break Troy’s heart. Might I suggest feeding him an entire lobster, chicken, and ham, and letting cholesterol do the rest?

The camera looks away as Hudat and Abu start plotting. Again, it would be impolite for us to listen in on such a conversation. The music is an Eastern theme composed for the first series of Supercar. I’m not suggesting that a deliberate choice was made to associate the East with devious scheming… actually, no, that is what I’m suggesting. There’s no getting around the fact that there are moments in this episode that are unkind to Eastern civilisations in general. Yes, El Hudat is a flawed and unsympathetic character in his own right, but his Eastern background is directly linked to those flaws at times by the way he is presented, such as when heavily Eastern-themed music plays when he’s up to no good.

In order to keep the pace of the episode moving, we cut straight to the next morning with a well-placed music cue to establish danger, and the news that Marina has disappeared. Phones is too busy using the vending machine to care about any of this, but Troy immediately has his suspicions that El Hudat has kidnapped her. Shore wouldn’t dare to leap to such a conclusion straight away and insists that Marineville be searched thoroughly in case she went off on her own. In fairness, that’s exactly what she did last week in The Master Plan so it’s not a bad suggestion.

Meanwhile, Wadi is zipping away from Marineville as fast as possible. Can you guess who might be aboard?

Who knows how they did it, but somehow Marina was snatched by Abu and Hudat. It’s quite a subtle thing, but Hudat has already made his mark on her as a piece of his own property by dressing Marina in a Middle-Eastern garment. A few close-up shots of Marina for this episode are filmed with the background in soft focus to offer her the angelic glow that many a glamorous Hollywood actress would also be photographed in at that time. Hudat plans to take Marina to Monte Carlo in order to “show her off,” which pretty much says it all, really.

As Hudat looms over Marina to talk about how brilliant he is, Marina leans back and looks to the camera for some sympathy. No words at all, but the character is still able to say so much. Studying a portrait of himself, Hudat remarks on how his people and even the oil beneath his land would worship him. And I thought Troy had a high opinion of himself. But despite citing bravery and good looks as the reasoning behind his rise to power, Hudat does also indicate that it was the choice of the people to make him President, suggesting a democratic election process… or at least an election process that El Hudat considers to be democratic enough as long as it goes in his favour.

Once again for the series, a clock wipe transition is used over a clock to suggest a dramatic passage of time while Hudat bangs on about his handsome face.

El Hudat is back to eating but is also smoking hookah to really drive home all the Middle-Eastern tropes. Abu is quick to point out that the oil made Hudatvia rich, not the President, but he’s careful to make the observation in the form of a question so as to appear ignorant rather than disrespectful. Marina is having an absolutely ghastly time, and her day gets worse when news reaches them that a remote controlled World Security Patrol freighter aircraft is overhead and within range of Wadi’s guns…

Now if we’re going to be precise, it’s actually just a regular WASP Spearhead Bomber, but most people at home probably wouldn’t notice because it’s completely destroyed within a matter of seconds.

Let’s just say that Hudat is feeling pleased with himself, and requests more food in order to celebrate. He’s surrounded by fruit, but let’s be real, his diet is primarily fueled by meat, butter, and regular trips to Greggs.

So now that one of their planes has been blown up, Shore decides that this is the time to get Stingray into action. Oh, and Marina’s still missing so I guess they should help her out too.

Stingray is launched, but Troy can’t even be bothered to sit down and help with the steering this week.

Meanwhile, El Hudat is having a conversation with Marina’s chest.

Abu has come to report another ship sighting, but this time it’s a passenger craft. Hudat doesn’t want to get caught up in mass slaughter and chooses to let it go free because he’s such a top bloke. Despite how gosh darn nice he is, Marina still backs away nervously whenever he puts his massive face near hers.

The fury with which he talks about Stingray is superb. The whole puppet shakes with rage. I don’t see how he can infer that Troy insulted him, but I also doubt El Hudat’s sensitive ego can put up with much criticism at all, so sure, let’s say that Troy insulted him by suggesting he couldn’t have what he wanted.

Troy and Phones attempt to come up with something vaguely resembling a plan. They don’t want to open fire on the Wadi with Marina aboard, which means peaceful negotiation is the only option. That’s not exactly Troy’s specialty but I have faith.

I’ll say this for El Hudat, he sure designs a nice-looking tub. And of course he would want a warship that looks more like a pleasure yacht. Rarely for a special effects shot, I think the film might have been sped up, rather than slowed down. Those of you familiar with the Thunderbirds behind the scenes film taken by Parade will recognise this model as the one which is blown up for a special effects demonstration during the shooting of Day of Disaster.

Another day, another one of those remote controlled freighters from The Disappearing Ships for El Hudat to destroy for no good reason. It’s quite a pretty explosion mind you – nice pink dust clouds.

To close out the first act, Hudat reminds us all that he’s going to destroy Stingray. Sure you will, buddy. Now you’re wearing big boy pants you can achieve anything you set your mind to.

Stingray has successfully caught up with Wadi and elegantly cruises through the water before coming to a stop. Phones is sitting in Troy’s seat! Things must be desperate. Troy does his best impression of a diplomat in order to get El Hudat back to Marineville without bloodshed.

It doesn’t take long for Troy to suggest violence, though, once again citing the WASP regulation that means Marina is apparently quite willing to sacrifice herself. I wouldn’t have thought El Hudat was worth dying over, but hey, maybe I’m not as brave as Marina.

Abu reckons they’re pretty stuffed by this point, but Hudat has a little more faith in Wadi’s destructive capabilities. Troy is patiently counting down in order to give the criminals time to surrender, his fingers twitching over the missile switch. Ooo I bet those switches get flicked with a satisfying click and a firm clunk up and down. I’d be firing sting missiles all day long just to enjoy the sensation of moving those switches around. Regulations should require weapon control systems be as unpleasant to touch as possible just to avoid freaks like me sitting down and fiddling with buttons and switches at every opportunity.

Within 30 seconds, the order is given for Wadi to open fire on Stingray. Footage from earlier of the torpedo launching is flipped to suggest it’s going in the other direction.

There’s a terrific explosion while Phones slams Stingray into reverse gear.

Troy dashes back to his seat as if someone’s left a box of Milk Tray on there for him to scoff… except Phones is still sitting in Troy’s chair, so he’s actually running towards Phones’ chair… which means the Milk Tray was put there for both of them? Or one of them? Who delivered the Milk Tray? What’s it doing on a submarine? Wait, what? No, you’re the one who’s losing it.

Footage of Stingray caught in a whirlpool is reused from Treasure Down Below to suggest the submarine is going through a turbulent dive.

While Marina sobs at the possibility of Troy and Phones’ demise, El Hudat has declared himself master of the sea… there’s a shiny green twit in Titanica who might have something to say about that. The set of Wadi’s deck was last seen as the freighter in The Disappearing Ships, and previously in the Supercar episode, Pirate Plunder.

Despite El Hudat’s unshakeable self confidence, it turns out that all is well aboard Stingray. Well, Phones and Troy are still sat in the wrong seats which hurts my brain, but otherwise everything is fine. So, having faked their own deaths, Troy and Phones are now going to follow the Wadi underwater until nightfall. Then Troy will reveal his little surprise. I sincerely hope he keeps his trousers on.

El Hudat sleeps in a little nest of cushions aboard the Wadi. The bowl of fruit next to his bed is purely decorative. He is wearing the dressing gown which was last seen hanging in X20’s disguise room in Count Down, but also previously worn by Steve Zodiac in Fireball XL5. By contrast, Abu is sleeping somewhere that doesn’t provide adequate blanket coverage for his little toes. Marina is left to wallow in the main living space. So this $500,000,000 ship only has the one proper bedroom then?

The bridge is crewed by one chap in a vaguely militaristic uniform. The set is made up of all sorts of bits and pieces previously seen in Treasure Down Below, The Disappearing Ships, the Mechanical Fish, and even Fireball XL5’s central control room.

Troy is climbing up the ladder, with the aid of a very well hidden floor puppeteer.

Through sheer luck, he happens to stumble upon where Marina is sleeping first. She is unbelievably happy to see Troy who offers reassurement that everything will be fine. No violence from Troy yet, but you can bet it’s coming!

Troy starts faffing about in the shadows of the bridge to lure the attention of this nice man who just wants to fire missiles pointlessly all day long. That’s a handsome beard he’s sporting.

Troy has a devilish look in his eyes which suggests he’s about to do unspeakable things to this man.

Something tells me that Troy has done all this before, as he locks the door with extreme efficiency and without stirring the other passengers.

Troy can steer any boat he’s put in front of, so it doesn’t take him long to turn the Wadi around. Phones is ordered to continue following until the morning. The ship races towards us at alarming speed. Has Troy been drinking? Stupid question.

It’s time for breakfast and Hudat is once again tucking into a chicken while surrounded by mountains of fruit. The day is ruined when Troy calls Hudat a fatso over the radio and reveals they are heading back to Marineville. Once again, Abu gets the blame for the oversight because how else do powerful people stay powerful if they’re not passing the buck?

Instead of storming over to the bridge and threatening to shoot Tempest, poor El Hudat just decides to have a childish sulk for the rest of the trip. Either that or he’s too full of chicken to move.

Marina is saved once again and jolly pleased about it. I’m glad she’s had a little more to do in the past couple of episodes but, frankly, I would like to think she could have done all this without Troy’s help. We know she can navigate boats because she successfully steers Stingray onto a new course in Treasure Down Below. Maybe she would have lacked Troy’s bloodlust when the time came to beat up the captain, but still, it’s odd that she’s left to her own devices all night and didn’t do anything to help herself out. Perhaps her faith in Troy is so strong at this point she just knows he’ll be along to rescue her, even though she seemed pretty convinced he was dead… Or, maybe, she was just starting to come around to the idea of a new life in Monte Carlo with a millionaire tyrant and didn’t want to make a fuss.

Back in the conference room, Shore is throwing the book at El Hudat, with mention of a trial at the World High Court.

The true hero of the hour, Lt. Fisher, steps in with another well-timed interruption. What could it be about this time? Peace with Titanica? The death of a respected admiral? The results of the Marineville badminton tournament?

Nope, none of those things. Apparently El Hudat’s brother is a terrible political force with less staying power than a British prime minister in 2022. There has been a counter-revolution in Hudatvia and El Hudat is back in power. Somewhat prematurely, the flag of Hudatvia is raised once again.

For some reason, Hudat is now insistent on signing up for membership of the World Security Patrol. I don’t think he can remember what he actually wanted it for in the first place, but he signs on the dotted line. The page that is signed by the live action hand double is in fact taken straight from the Stingray Specification for Scriptwriters, Art Department, Special Effects & Film Directors.

Commander Shore’s delight is to be feared.

Just before El Hudat is able to sack the entire staff with the new power he almost certainly doesn’t have, Shore uses a classic bit of small print to take the wind out of his sails. As a new member of the World Security Patrol, Hudat must abide by all of their laws, which means his attempts to blow up Stingray must immediately be met with a five year prison sentence. Not sure whether that sentence also includes kidnapping a WASP crew member but let’s hope that it does, otherwise Marina deserves some justice too. Needless to say, El Hudat isn’t too pleased.

The Marineville Jail is looking considerably more medieval than it did the last time it appeared in Marineville Traitor. It seems that Abu, knowingly or otherwise, is going to make El Hudat’s life a nightmare by constantly using knowledge and logic to point out that El Hudat is the reason they’re in prison, and he likely won’t be President anymore by the time he gets out.

Because it’s the only way to end these things, El Hudat stands at the bars and begs for release. Don’t worry, we’ll be seeing him again soon…

Whether you like this episode or not really depends on one factor – whether you find El Hudat entertaining or not. I can see that he might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but for me I think they just about make the right balance between him being a silly pantomime villain, and being a credible threat. He does have a powerful boat built for war, and he does use it to blow things up without too much thought. He is crazy enough to think he can get away with murder and when he fails to do so it is incredibly satisfying. Some themes from this episode do draw upon negative racial stereotypes – and now more than ever I think you could have replaced Hudat with an egotistical Western leader and gotten the same results. The impact would have been more horrifying, and in the 1960s probably would have been considered much more disrespectful. Still, it’s an interesting thought. Because El Hudat dominates so much of this episode, everyone else is reduced to minor roles. Phones and Atlanta hardly have any dialogue, while Troy nipping aboard the Wadi at the end to turn the ship around might be considered a bit of an anti-climax. Frankly, I don’t think the episode could have gone any other way though. El Hudat is just too big of a presence to share his screen time with too many other elements. Of course, later on in the series, he’ll have to do just that. But we have many more adventures to enjoy until we get there.

Next week, the trusty and reliable Phones is left fighting for his career when Titan and X20 hatch a plan to weaken Stingray’s effectiveness. How will Troy prove his friend’s loyalty and credibility? And what else does X20 have up his sleeve? Find out in An Echo of Danger

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Further Reading by Century 21 Films Ltd.

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

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

Stingray – 23. The Master Plan

Directed by John Kelly

Teleplay by Alan Fennell

First UK Broadcast – 30th May 1965

For the past few weeks, we’ve seen episodes of Stingray which have stretched and explored the format of the show in a variety of new ways. From wild dream sequences, to serious character pieces, to world-changing disasters, it’s been an opportunity to look at the show and its heroes in a different light. Staying fresh and experimenting with new types of story to tell can be vital to keeping a television series popular. But, it’s just as important to remember a show’s core values and the foundation upon which all the characters and familiar scenarios have been built – rewarding long-time viewers with a development in the ideas established during the early days of the series. The Master Plan takes us right back to the thing which kicked off the many adventures of Stingray, and the WASPs’ battle with the villainous undersea aliens – it’s about Titan and gaining revenge on the team which dared to challenge his reputation as ruler of the ocean. A classic battle of good versus evil, Troy versus Titan, and Marina’s position in the centre of it all. This episode is Stingray getting back to its roots and raising the stakes surrounding the conflict which has hooked loyal viewers from the beginning…

We’re back at Titanica. We haven’t actually been here properly for a long while, with Titan only making a few short appearances on video screens and such since his last major role in the The Golden Sea. So as the episode title suggests, it’s time for a big comeback… a masterful comeback…

The Aquaphibians stand guard in Titan’s throne room. Funny how we only ever see two of them at a time. X20 has joined us. Having failed multiple times to kill Troy Tempest, capture Stingray, destroy Marineville and such like things, X20’s role is pretty much reduced to bumbling comedy sidekick now. I’m okay with that. He attempts to advise his maniacal boss that maybe the enslaved races under Titan’s control haven’t gotten over Marina’s escape from captivity. It gives us a small insight into how Titan operates and rules over his unwilling kingdom. Interestingly, it looks like the eyes on the X20 puppet have been repositioned in their sockets to look up at Titan. It’s not a technique which I’ve spotted before in any Supermarionation productions. I can imagine it was probably quite fiddly to alter the position of the eye mechanism inside the head for just a couple of shots. It’s very effective though, and gives the character more of a condescending air about him. However, Titan decides that X20 is completely useless and begins to come up with a plan to recapture Marina all by himself. If you want a job doing properly, do it yourself.

Meanwhile, Stingray is launched, and it seems to be a pretty routine patrol. Commander Shore gives orders for Stingray to keep an eye on Titan’s territory. With a knowing glance at Marina, Troy predicts trouble. Marina is happy playing chess against herself. Considering she’s been a part of the Stingray crew for quite a while by this point, surely she should have a more useful function aboard the craft by now. Is there not a piece of equipment she can sit next to and monitor or a really important lever she can keep a hold of?

Titan has gotten his toys out and is playing with them on his trademark evil villain map. X20, whose eyes are now back in their normal position, demands more details of the plan, but Titan is playing his cards close to his chest and relishing every moment of it. If I had a very important plan that I was trying to carry out, I probably wouldn’t mention it to X20 either. It would only increase the probability of a blunder. The monitor on the wall is the same one watched by Titan and Sculpin in The Golden Sea, suggesting we are in the same part of Titan’s base. I point this out purely because, for its size, we don’t see an awful lot of Titanica over the course of the series so it’s important to keep track of everything that we do see.

The gruesome twosome watch on an entirely different monitor as Stingray enters the patrol zone. This is the same screen which X20 is seen on in Count Down but in a different position. As the Mechanical Fish emerges from cover, music and footage from the pilot is re-used. Indeed, a lot of this episode is reminiscent of the pilot with the return appearance of so many familiar elements like Titan and the Mechanical Fish which have otherwise seen relatively little action since that first episode, despite feeling like large staples of the show.

In a classic bit of Stingray action, Phones picks up the Mechanical Fish on the hydrophones and evasive action is taken immediately. The villains open fire and land a direct hit on Stingray’s stern. Just your average Tuesday in the WASPs basically. All of this business feels so familiar, despite most of the episodes up to this point not even featuring the Mechanical Fish, such is the strength of that pilot episode and the opening titles.

Thanks to some textbook quick-thinking, Stingray manages to come to rest on the ocean floor in a suitable position to launch a missile. That’s jolly convenient. Said missile manages to track down the Mechanical Fish, and the regularly seen shot of the thing getting blown to bits from the opening titles is put to use once again. It’s a triumph for Stingray!

X20 declares failure. He knows it when he sees it. But Titan’s plan isn’t over yet. He couldn’t give a hoot whether his craft has been written off. The important thing now is that Troy will have to leave Stingray to repair the damage dealt by the initial attack. Titan’s learning! He is well aware that Stingray would win in a straight dogfight so has come up with a strategy to use this fact to his advantage. It’s very satisfying to watch our characters getting smarter, and learning from each defeat. It suggests growth and change and a raising of the stakes which is so important in a series focused on a continuing feud. Even though this episode is re-treading ideas from the pilot, it’s also taking them a step further and bringing them into more dangerous territory.

Apparently the damage to Stingray isn’t too serious. Yeah holes in the side of a submarine aren’t usually a big deal. Nothing to make a fuss about.

Andy the Aquaphibian is out for his afternoon swim. It’s unclear whether he’s survived the destruction of the Mechanical Fish, or if he just wasn’t a part of that particular suicide mission. Either way, I’m glad to see he’s keeping well. The fish in the water tank are looking particularly well-fed today too.

This handheld, point-of-view shot of the Aquaphibian approaching Troy is great and just sets us up nicely with a looming sense of danger.

Andy launches his cunning attack! It’s a cloud of purple liquid… a cloud of bullets might have done the job quicker but okay. Maybe he’s a Prince fan? Troy certainly doesn’t know what to make of it as he flails around uselessly.

Bye Andy. Another stellar contribution.

Troy doesn’t understand what just happened. He would have preferred a gunshot wound just to avoid the puzzle he now has to solve. His laundry bill is going to be quite steep too. Stingray’s hull has also been sprayed purple, although the peasants watching in black and white at home probably wouldn’t have noticed that.

As Troy returns to Stingray, X20 remains baffled that Titan completely screwed up the perfect opportunity to destroy Troy Tempest and Stingray. After all, who needs a multi-million dollar film project or a bogus lecture tour if you can just swim up to the enemy and shoot them in the face? But Titan is thinking of the bigger picture, plotting to not only kill Troy but also to recapture Marina. Presumably Marina’s enslavement is quite an important status symbol because of her position as a princess of Pacifica. It’s been established in Plant of Doom that Aphony, Marina’s father and ruler of Pacifica, is a respected figure among the other undersea races. What I enjoy is that Stingray‘s alien civilisations aren’t bogged down by too much lore and lengthy exposition about who reports to whom, and where, and for how long. We just get the absolute essentials to hang the plot on. If you want deeper insight into all that business, there are comic books and spin-off merchandise available, and for everyone else we just get a half hour of exciting telly.

Stingray is back in business. Not sure whether Troy actually managed to repair the hole but I’m sure it’s fine.

Troy plonks himself down in his chair and there’s a bit of a jarring cut as he starts to feel faint. He complains about the temperature… again. Seriously, this guy is so sensitive to changes in heat. Sipping a cup of hot cocoa must be a traumatic experience for the young fella.

And he’s out. Once Troy is down, the eyes on the blinker head struggle to remain shut. But it’s a great dramatic moment. Titan’s devious plan appears to be working…

Blimey. This is a pretty grim sight. Troy isn’t just a little bit unwell, he’s in a coma on the brink of actual real death. It’s incredible just how serious the situation is. This is far from being a puppet show for kiddies. This is a character we love and care about receiving intensive care. Once again we’re looking at a great advancement in the storytelling potential of Stingray and Supermarionation. The puppets can offer grave, emotional moments on the same level as an actor in a live action drama.

Our family of heroes have gathered at Troy’s bedside. Troy’s face has been made pale, and the oxygen sack next to him is inflating and deflating to suggest supported breathing. Joining the team for this sad moment is an unnamed doctor, who will make return appearances later in the series. He gets straight to the point and lets us know that Troy is dying. The news is delivered with all the warmth of an undercooked pie, adding to the bleak atmosphere.

Atlanta doesn’t hold back her distress. The emotion of this scene is so raw and believable. In my opinion it isn’t hammed up or exaggerated. The reactions feel human. It’s the same level of performance that the voice actors would have given in a prime time television drama, and the puppeteers successfully match it.

The characters are all at their most vulnerable. Once the conclusion is reached that Troy was sprayed by an unknown, underwater poison and the hopelessness of the situation becomes apparent, everyone hits the pinnacle of their emotional outbursts. Commander Shore, the tough and demanding leader essentially orders the doctor to find an antidote at all costs, with failure not being an option. Atlanta completely breaks down at Troy’s side, her heart overwhelmed by sadness and grief. Marina silently weeps for her lost friend, powerless at this moment to save the one who rescued her from slavery. And Phones, Troy’s fiercely loyal friend and the voice of reason and good humour in most situations, is the one to quietly but furiously swear revenge on Titan. There was never any doubt that Troy was a beloved figure in the lives of all our main characters, and their reactions to this tragedy are absolutely pitch perfect.

Titan enjoys an evil chuckle to celebrate the success of the first part of his plan, a chilling contrast to the sullen tone of the prior scene. Part two of the plan begins now as X20 arranges for Titan to make direct radio contact with Marineville…

Shore arrives in the control room, still weary with grief, just in time to hear Titan’s message. Fisher is back again this week, and I think at this point we can consider him a series regular. Titan relishes making his declarations over the radio like the mad emperor he is.

The bargain is simply to exchange Marina for the antidote to the poison. Shore’s instincts kick in and he doesn’t even consider accepting. In a lovely bit of dialogue, he accuses Titan of having a “waterlocked mind,” which is an excellent ‘on brand’ metaphor.

Shore, Atlanta and Phones all agree that handing Marina over to save Troy is not an option. It’s really quite a heartwarming moment when you consider how much certain characters distrusted Marina in the early episodes. They’ve come so far together since then.

But Shore goes one step further. He actually acknowledges that Marina would willingly sacrifice herself to save Troy, but argues very matter of factly that making a deal with Titan is a bad idea. Compare this moment to the many infuriating moments just a few weeks ago in The Disappearing Ships, when Shore could not wrap his head around Marina making her own choice to remain in a hazardous situation just to help Troy and Phones. I argued in that episode review how incredibly backwards it was of Shore to continue ordering Marina over and over again not to get involved in the situation when she was clearly capable of helping. But now we have an acknowledgement from Shore of Marina’s feelings and her bravery. He shows an admiration for her undoubted willingness to go back to Titan in order to save Troy. But then, he offers the very reasonable counter argument that playing into Titan’s hand would not end well. It’s a real step up in the quality of the dialogue and the discourse between the characters. Shore isn’t barking orders just because he’s the boss. He’s making rational decisions while also taking the feelings of his team into consideration. It doesn’t take up extra screen time or require additional special scenes to do this sort of character development. As long as the dialogue is true to the characters, and works with the plot rather than against it, everything can keep on moving while we enjoy the great depth of our heroes.

The heartbreak continues as Shore contacts the hospital, this time speaking without any anger or bullying, to inform the doctor very plainly that there are no alternatives left to save Troy beyond what the doctor can do. There’s almost a sense of optimism in Ray Barrett’s delivery of the line, with Commander Shore actually putting faith in his scientific boffins for once, when he normally doesn’t have a lot of patience for such people. However, the doctor remains incredibly pessimistic, suggesting Troy only has a few hours left to live. This is all extremely heavy, and graver than any Stingray episode has been before. It’s a shift which needed to happen for this episode to be successful. Troy has been in life threatening danger pretty much every week up to this point and he’s been able to shrug it off and defeat the bad guys. It’s a given at this point that Troy will live to fight another day. This time, we needed something to happen to break the mold. It needed to really feel different if this master plan of Titan’s was going to have any impact on the audience. And I think they’ve nailed it.

Phones is still ready to fight Titan. He’s running on nothing but anger and adrenaline, and with very little thought proposes taking Stingray to Titanica for a showdown. Shore quite rightly refuses the suggestion. Titan’s plan has been carefully thought through and uses our characters’ weaknesses against them, so Phones’ counter plan based purely on a visceral desire to bring Titan down is clearly not the smart move in this particular chess match. Shore remains strong in his leadership by continuing to place his trust in medical science, and not by risking the lives of his team any further.

X20 also demonstrates his intelligence by pointing out that Marina would never be allowed by the WASPs to return to Titanica. I’m really enjoying how smart all the characters are this week. Even though X20 isn’t keeping up with Titan’s plan, he is still asking all the right questions which come from a place of logical reasoning, rather than him just being too dumb to grasp what’s happening. But Titan is smartest of all, and has remained one step of everybody else so far. He reasons that Marina will make up her own mind about whether to hand herself over. This is genius, of course, because it plays on two factors. Number one, it has been proven in episodes such as Hostages of the Deep and The Disappearing Ships that Marina’s bravery knows no limits. She is not afraid to disobey orders and put herself at risk to save others. So the viewers at home can understand that Marina would be self-sacrificing enough to return to Titanica if it lead to Troy’s survival. But number two, Titan has not underestimated Marina’s bravery. As I mentioned earlier, Marina’s heroism in the past as often been mischaracterized by others as defying logic, and acting out of sheer foolishness rather than reasoning. But Titan respects Marina enough to know that her heroism is actually rooted in her intelligence. He has presented her with a clear, logical problem to solve – in order to save Troy she has to hand herself over to him. There is no alternative, therefore she reasons that this is the only option. If Titan had dismissed Marina as an emotional, irrational being who acts without thought, he would not have needed to construct such a meticulous, pre-meditated plan to recapture her. This plan really is masterful not because it’s ridiculously grand and bombastic, but because it’s clever, more clever than any villain has been in the series so far, and that’s a truly frightening prospect.

Sure enough, Marina is at the coast, ready to start her journey to Titanica. But she is hesitant and fearful. She is visibly weighing up the odds and thinking things through, and she is quite rightly afraid of Titan, and what he might do next. This beach scene is filmed against back projection footage which we’ve seen previously in the series. An additional tree has been added in the foreground to create a sense of depth.

By the way, I know I’ve been praising Titan’s genius for a little while now, but let’s be clear about one thing… his fashion sense is still attrocious. That collar with that pointy hat? What a clown.

This shot of Marina swimming is instantly recognisable from the final moments of the end credits for each episode. It’s a great cliffhanger to end the first part of the episode. So much has been packed into one half of the episode. Troy’s poisoning has set us up with the most serious crisis the Stingray crew has ever faced, and Troy, our trusty hero, isn’t able to solve it himself. Then the dilemma has just been escalated further by Marina putting herself in danger to save Troy. All this while we understand that the villain’s plan is playing out exactly as expected with victory easily within his reach. How the heck are they going to get out of this one? Find out, after the break.

News has reached the control tower that Marina has gone, and the conclusion is all too clear. Shore doesn’t respond with surprise, because he knew Marina had it in her to make such a bold act of bravery.

Atlanta is back at the hospital, no doubt desperate for any sign of improvement. The tape machine seen in episodes such as Count Down is once again visible in the background. Atlanta almost lets slip that she loves Troy, but quickly changes an ‘I’ into a ‘we’ so that the sentiment carries a different meaning. While Atlanta has been known for big, emotional outbursts, this is one of many examples where she shows restraint in order to protect her own feelings. I believe she changes that ‘I’ to a ‘we’ so that she doesn’t have to admit to herself that she’s about to lose the man she loves more than anyone else. She shows similar restraint in Marineville Traitor in refusing to accept the gravity of her father’s apparent betrayal, and at the end of the The Man From The Navy when she acts modestly in order to avoid feeling foolish about her attraction to Jordan. Phones still speaks softly and quietly when he enters the room. Our happy, optimistic sidekick is trying to walk in Troy’s shadow and be the hero who takes action without fear or hesitation, but the weight of the situation is too much for him. He is defeated in his attempts to reassure Atlanta, and gives in to her opinion that Titan is unlikely to send the antidote now that Marina has returned to him.

Then, the episode gets shaken up a bit more with the sudden appearance of a missile launching from beneath the ocean. It’s an appropriately jarring nudge back into the type of thing we normally see in a Stingray episode, and serves to highlight just how much Troy’s condition has shifted the tone of the show and the effectiveness of the Marineville team. The missile which blasts out of the water is ever so slightly different to the model seen in flight. The shot of the rocket in the water is new and slightly too silver, while the footage of it in the air is actually lifted from Emergency Marineville. Despite the grief, Marineville is soon placed on high alert.

Shore is quickly brought back to reality and calls for battle stations immediately.

We haven’t seen all the business of Marineville descending below ground for quite a while – not since The Invaders. It’s another one of those set pieces which feels integral to the show without being over-used.

Just before a counterattack can be launched, the Marineville Tracking Station is able to report that the missile is not carrying a warhead. This is obviously some sort of missile detection aparatus they were not in possession of when Troy’s disarmed rocket was fired in Emergency Marineville. So the harmless missile is allowed to crash straight into the ground with a big puff of dirt, with more footage lifted from, you guessed it, Emergency Marineville. Fisher is ordered to go down to the crash site and organise the trusty rocket investigation squad. Maybe they’ll let him push a button on the crane if he’s a good boy.

The familiar security checkpoint and guard are here for another appearance, with a nice new sign in place to let everyone know the rocket squad are hard at work. That group sure do get a lot of work. Of course, the footage of them actually working on the rocket is lifted from… well… you don’t need me to tell you which episode it is at this point.

Atlanta is understandably put out by all this missile business, but Fisher has good news. The rocket was carrying the antidote to the poison! I suppose a missile is faster than shipping with Royal Mail. I also don’t doubt that Titan took immense pleasure in firing a missile at Marineville and making everybody panic. I’m surprised he doesn’t do it more often.

The doc is astounded that the antidote is the real deal, and Troy’s breathing begins to improve. Don’t worry, Doc, I’m sure there’ll be another medical emergency for you to be downbeat about again soon. The message that came with the antidote explains that Titan is a “man of honour” – which is exactly the sort of title a ruthless dictator would put on their memoirs. It also confirms that Marina has indeed returned to Titan, which neatly throws us into the next part of the plot. This episode does not give up for a moment!

Not wasting any time, Troy is sat up in bed and ready to jump into Stingray to save Marina. Of course, because this episode is all about being smart and calculated, he’s ordered to stay in bed and rest while they come up with a better plan. It would appear that Troy has once again moved house. He is not in the bedroom last seen in Subterranean Sea, or his shared room with Phones from Marineville Traitor. Maybe he’s staying in someone’s guest bedroom or another part of the hospital while he recovers. Troy being Troy doesn’t love the idea of waiting around for a couple of days to get better while Marina is in danger. He’d much rather bravely swan into Titan’s throne room, get bravely dizzy from the exhaustion, and cough up a lungful of poison bravely.

The only real danger that Marina’s in is from inhaling too many soap bubbles. I jest, of course, it’s actually quite sad to see her right back to being Titan’s slave, working on her hands and knees. I might argue that this all might have been a bit more effective if she’d contributed more to the WASPs though. To see a capable operative who has risen to a position of great expertise and trust in the organisation reduced to this would be quite moving. But outside of tagging along for the ride and ocassionally having to save everyone else’s skin, her contributions as a member of the Stingray crew have been fairly minimal, particularly in recent episodes. She was literally sat there playing chess earlier. Scrubbing floors could be considered a promotion. Incidentally, the floor is clearly made of paper which moves as she cleans it. Then there’s just the fact that no amount of soap and water will shift all that sand. Who keeps sand in their throne room anyway?

With Troy very much alive, X20 asks another perfectly sensible question – why did Titan send the antidote to his sworn enemy? I’m fairly sure this scene was filmed at the same time as the earlier throne room scene which is why X20 still has eyes which look up slightly. Titan calls out X20 for being a blithering idiot… which is a bit harsh but I get it. He wants Marina as his slave, Troy Tempest as his prisoner, and Stingray as his royal yacht. Not sure what he’d do with Phones yet but I imagine he would fall somewhere on the slave or prisoner spectrum. So the next part of the scheme is simply waiting for Troy and Stingray to turn up at Titanica to rescue Marina. Once again, Titan has 100% accurately predicted how Troy would react to the situation, and had Troy been allowed to get out of bed, Titan’s plan would have been a success. Of course, Troy wasn’t allowed to get out of bed which means the cracks in the master plan are beginning to show…

Marina is ordered to go and make some seaweed tea. I doubt this was the intention of the writer, but seaweed tea just so happens to be an East Asian delicacy. Holding Marina in place as she stands up, you can just about spot a floor puppeteer’s hand grabbing her feet.

Speaking of tea, they’re drinking some in the Marineville control room. With biscuits, of course. I’m sure our all-American hero, Troy Tempest, likes to dunk a hobnob in his builder’s brew. He’s back to feeling fit as a fiddle after just two days. It’s almost irritating how fired up he is. The time has allowed them to come up with a plan, but unlike some previous episodes where everything gets explained before it happens, we aren’t going to be spoon-fed the rest of the plot this week. The audience is going to watch the plan unfold as it happens, and we’ll have no way of knowing whether it’s going as intended or not.

The surprises start immediately when Troy and Phones suddenly make a joint effort to do an impression of an Aquaphibian. We’ll talk about that in a moment. I want to drill down into the specifics of how the effect of Troy blowing air bubbles into the glass of water is achieved. He’s a puppet so it’s very unlikely that he’s using his own lungs. It’s difficult to tell for sure but it does appear that the bubbles are coming straight from the straw Troy is using and not some additional air-line that’s been sneakily introduced. So here’s a mad theory. The air-line is being run through the back of Troy’s smiler head, into the puppet’s mouth, and out between the lips. Maybe because Troy’s smiler head is used less often it was easier to modify? I don’t know, it sounds nuts but I can’t think of how else the effect was done without being incredibly obvious. Anyway, more importantly, how the heck did Phones manage to learn the language of the Aquiphibians?

Shore is astounded by the sudden lack of professionalism. He doesn’t like impressions. The commander could barely contain his rage when Atlanta turned up to work one morning dressed as Margaret Thatcher.

But no, this is all part of the plan to get in to Titanica. It involves pretending to be Aquaphibians. They are going to need a LOT of green make-up. But with that, Troy and Phones are off. What could go wrong? Well, we don’t know, that’s why this episode works so well.

Well goodness me, there’s a Mechanical Fish where Stingray should be! I’m not sure why they have to use Stingray’s pen when Marineville clearly has more than one submarine pen. This is the first new material to be shot on this particular model set since Count Down, and it’s largely unchanged since then, although the wall to the rear of the craft has had a few details switched here and there.

So, this Mechanical Fish has apparently been constructed by the WASPs within just two days. It’s slow and unarmed. Despite this, the interior decorating and most of the controls are a perfect match. Yes, I do find it slightly hard to believe that the WASPs were able to build an entire submarine in two days… and it begs an important question. Do they still have the genuine Mechanical Fish which was captured at the end of the pilot episode? If so, why didn’t they just use that? If not, how else were the engineers able to produce such a faithful replica without referencing an original? Okay, so when one thinks about it too hard, this plan is nonsense, but the core idea is quite clever. Sneaking into Titanica aboard a Mechanical Fish is a much more subtle and smart way of going about things, but still dangerous enough to create some tension.

The Mechanical Fish is launched, but from the reconstructed ocean door set like the one seen in The Invaders, rather than what we usually see in stock footage of Stingray launching that was originally shot for the pilot episode.

So Troy and Phones are on their way to Titanica, hoping that they have the element of surprise on their side. I suppose this plan isn’t a million miles away from the Trojan Horse ploy… the Trojan Fish? No wait… let’s see what species of fish the Mechanical Fish most closely resembles… *three minutes of intense googling later*… the Trojan Hatchetfish?

Okay, now I don’t know where the WASP engineers are getting their design plans from. The gold spinny thing in the background of this shot was a part of the set for the travel tube car in the pilot episode, not the Mechanical Fish. BUT, it did then make an appearance on the Mechanical Fish set in Plant of Doom, but that wouldn’t have been the fish captured by Troy, Phones, and Marina. So what in Teufel’s teeth is going on here?! It’s almost as if I’m a little too fixated on this sort of thing…

The entrance to Titanica is monitored by two Aquaphibians, so I’m sure security is top notch.

Troy and Phones begin their improvisation. I have to just assume Phones is talking nonsense because you can’t convince me the team managed to build a replica submarine AND learn another language in two days. But never mind all that because I have more questions about Troy’s ability to blow bubbles. This time, the face has been more heavily modified with plasticine to make Troy actually look like he’s pursing his lips. It’s also a slightly different straw to the one we saw earlier. Which version was filmed first is anyone’s guess, but I’m continuing to believe that the air-line is being run through Troy’s head to blow the bubbles in the water. What an extraordinary modification to make to a puppet for just a few seconds of screen time. But such is the attention to detail of the AP Films team!

Andy and his mate, er… Greg, decide to let the approaching Mechanical Fish into the base. They do seem confused by the unexpected arrival of the craft, but confusion is also just a natural state of being for an Aquaphibian. Also, if Phones was just making up the language as he went along, it puts the Aquaphibians at a new level of stupid than we’d ever suspected before, in that they don’t actually understand what they’re saying to each other.

Titan’s control room has become a dining room and Marina is unwillingly serving up some culinary delights from under the sea. Of course, we all know X20’s stance on eating fish, so he just appears to have a plate of sausages and some cheese in front of him. Titan is anticipating the arrival of Stingray very soon. I’m not sure what sort of time frame he’s been looking at seeing as it’s been two days since he sent the rocket and Marina arrived, but he’s also sitting down to dinner rather than preparing for a fight. So maybe by “very soon” he means in the next week or so.

The travel tube car leaving the Mechanical Fish is simply reversed footage of the car arriving in the pilot episode. The set of the car and the blue back projection footage is all faithfully reused from the pilot also. The only change is that the chairs are missing their backs and look considerably more worn down, the rounded walls wobble quite a bit, and the entire back wall is missing and has been replaced with another window showing more of the back projection footage of the tunnel.

Titan is just beginning to wonder where his guests have got to. Marina looks so done with this.

Look who’s here! So Titan’s control room connects directly to his throne room. It’s hard to keep track. Also, the guns that Troy and Phones are carrying are completely different to the standard WASP pistols we saw them holding in the previous scene.

A seriously epic gunfight breaks out. Considering there are just two Aquaphibians up against Troy and Phones, it feels like the battle to end all battles. The editing is so fast and the special effects are so dramatic, plus this has all been a huge surprise. The whole plot has been building and building to this big climax but we didn’t know when or how it was coming. All Titan and X20 can do is cower while the attack continues.

Greg the Aquaphibian is dramatically gunned down in a carefully choreographed movement which requires the puppet to drop its gun, spin around, clutch his wound, and fall to the floor – all in one shot. It looks remarkable.

It’s not quite so dramatic, but after a few more gunshots, Andy the Aquaphibian suffers the same fate. He died in the line of duty, several months after he was supposed to have retired.

With the guards taken care of, it’s time for the final showdown. Troy versus Titan, with Marina literally caught in the middle. This is Stingray at its purest and my word it is fantastic.