Thunderbirds – 4. Sun Probe

Directed by David Lane

Teleplay by Alan Fennell

First Broadcast – 9th December 1965

Flying a manned rocket into space to collect a piece of the Sun may sound crazy, but Thunderbirds proved it could be done… with disastrous results…

Despite the fact I’ve been watching Sun Probe on DVD and Blu-ray for many years now, seeing the opening teaser montage still comes as a surprise to me. I first saw this episode when it was released on VHS as part of the Thunderbirds In Outer Space compilation film which paired Sun Probe with Ricochet to form one “story”. This process meant that the original opening titles were removed as well as a number of scenes. I basically watched Thunderbirds In Outer Space on a loop as a kid, so seeing Sun Probe in its original form is still something of a treat for me. It’s also worth noting that the shot of Brains moving away from Braman does not actually appear in the episode.


We dive straight into the episode title on this one, laid over the titular rocket on its launch gantry. The red tower structure on the right can also be seen (twice) in Terror In New York City. The whole set looks to be carefully pieced together from model kit parts. You only have to google the phrase “1964 Rocket Launches” to see some spectacular images of the real-life launches that clearly inspired this sequence.


Staring up at the dizzying height of Sun Probe, I should probably comment on the design of the rocket itself. As Thunderbirds guest vehicles go it’s a little bit vanilla, and certainly not as classic as something like the Fireflash. But for many it is the epitomy of a retro-futuristic space rocket with lots of fins and tubes and its name in big lettering on the side. Compare this to the something like the Telsat rocket in second series episode, Ricochet, and you can tell that the desire for vehicles to look like they could belong in the real world wasn’t quite there yet at the start of the series.

The elevator carrying the crew makes its way to the top of the ship. Can you imagine travelling in a lift at a slight angle, and for it to then go upright at the last moment? Seems a bit peculiar to me.


The launch controller, later named Colonel Benson, is wearing a mustard yellow shirt and trousers with a grey waistcoat. For some reason the puppets are able to get away with much more hideous fashion choices than a real person could. One thing about this whole sequence that you cannot unsee once you notice it is the fact that the monitor suspended in front of him keeps wobbling back and forth.


24 minutes to launch. I really like this clock.


The solarnauts Camp, Harris, and Asher are in their chairs. They’re all sporting badges from the Supercar Fan Club. I’ve only just noticed that for some reason Camp wasn’t allowed his own headset – perhaps he broke it. I love Harris’ first line “Solar module to Solar Control. Commander Solarnaut Harris reporting.” I’m getting the impression that the Sun has quite a heavy involvement in this mission. Interestingly, the word ‘solarnaut’ only appears to pop up in science fiction again with Roberta Leigh’s 1967 pilot film The Solarnauts. It didn’t turn into a full series and anyone who’s seen it will tell you why.


The Air Freight trucks seen here are adapted from some Matchbox toys which originally had the name ‘Cooper-Jarrett’ on them. Also, take a look at all the various kit pieces and off-cuts populating this set.


Colonel Benson sounds Amber Alert… which looks suspiciously like a doorbell button painted yellow.


Tension builds dramatically as the enormous thrusters fire up, eventually producing 20 million pounds of thrust. To put that into perspective, the Saturn V rocket produced around 7.6 million pounds of thrust at launch. Barry Gray’s score for this whole sequence is utterly brilliant by the way and captures the tense mood of a rocket launch perfectly.

The camera dramatically zooms in on the word ‘SUN’, just in case you weren’t quite clear where the rocket was going. Notice that the dirt in the foreground has suddenly disappeared and all the buildings, as well as the sky backdrop, are in a slightly different position to where they were before. I suspect that this shot may have been added at a different point, possibly shot to extend the sequence, or for Sun Probe’s re-appearance in The Perils of Penelope.


The fuel injectors are retracted. It looks like the fuel is named ‘Toxerlene’. I have a feeling there might be some seawater in that…


The launch structures on both sides are retracted ready for launch…


But then appear right next to the rocket again just before lift-off.


With the countdown complete, Sun Probe blasts away from the launchpad. Unfortunately we’re not quite treated to the inferno of thrust that a real-life rocket launch delivers, but after all the build-up one can’t help but be impressed. The question is, was this almost 5 minute long launch sequence part of the original half hour episode or was it shot later for padding purposes? I suspect that it’s a bit of both with the sequence extended ever so slightly with additional shots, some of which may have also been shot for this sequence’s altered re-appearance in The Perils of Penelope. The fact the red launch gantry re-appears in Terror In New York City, which was shot at around the same time as Perils suggests this, as well as the usual tiny continuity errors and some changes in lighting during the puppet shots. If you ever have time to sit and watch this sequence really slowly on repeat, and then watch it again in The Perils of Penelope, I thoroughly recommend it as a means of giving your head a good scratching. The good thing is, we get to do all this again when we come to review The Perils of Penelope!

Tin-Tin, Alan, Scott and Jeff are watching the whole launch on TV. We’re told it was filmed a week ago so for those of you who like to think The Perils of Penelope is some kind of prequel to Sun Probe, International Rescue are having a pretty busy week. For me personally, while it’s nice to think that the two episodes are deliberately linked, I get the feeling it was more for the convenience of the production than anything else. Anyway, the characters and furniture all move the teeniest, tiniest amount in between shots which you can compare above. It could mean the scene was extended! I bet you’re all sick of me pointing this stuff out by now.


We’re introduced to one, Professor Heinz Bodman. We’ll later see the same puppet playing Dr. Korda in Day of Disaster. Bodman’s also wearing a costume that we see Professor Borender wearing in The Perils of Penelope, as well as Professoner Holden in The Mighty Atom and Professor Wingrove in Day of Disaster.

We’re introduced to Brains’ loveable robot Braman, whom Brains considers much more important than watching the Sun Probe launch. Notice the little radio device on the table with the yellow bulb. We last saw it in City of Fire on top of the control panel in the Thompson Tower Control Centre with a blue bulb.

sunprobe00057Scott enters to try and tear Brains away from his love affair. Notice Derek Meddings’ original design sketches for (as they were known in pre-production) ‘Rescue 1’ and ‘Rescue 4’.

SunProbe00058.jpgBraman looks like he’s had one drink too many… When Scott leaves, Brains exclaims “Oh, dear!” I assume he’s referring to his disappointment in Braman’s progress, or he could be really unhappy that Scott’s forcing him to watch a boring old rocket launch… answers on a postcard please.

Professor Bodman explains to television viewers the incredibly mad idea of having the Sun Probe’s probe fly through a solar prominence in order to collect “a piece of the Sun.” Now we could go on all day about how fantastical that idea is but as a kid I totally bought it. Sometimes Thunderbirds is more about realising daring acts of imagination than being scientifically plausible. Thunderbirds shows us a version of the future where anything is possible with technology, and regardless of whether there’s any scientific point in trying to collect a piece of the Sun or not, the fact is that it makes for a cool story, and it’s a cool thing for space explorers to attempt to do.

We cut back to the television presenter (as seen on the left) who now appears to be lit differently and positioned in front of a different pair of curtains to what we saw earlier (on the right). One of them is probably additional material. The footage on the right matches what we see of the same presenter in the first half of Operation Crash-Dive. Make of that information what you will.


We’re told that 20ft thick protective walls surround the three solarnauts in the cabin. This diagram indicates that the cabin with said walls is in the very front of the ship… in the probe that’s going to be launched into the sun. The elevator we saw taking the crew up to the cabin earlier on stopped at the top of the main body which makes a lot more sense. In addition, if anyone knows who did these illustrations of Sun Probe, let me know!

Back in the cabin, Camp, Harris, and Asher are taking a look at the Sun. Camp worryingly suggests that if they miss their orbit they’ll “end up in the Sun”… as if no-one’s thought to work this flight out really carefully first…


They increase the refrigeration to take the edge off of the Sun’s 5,500°C surface temperature that they’re rapidly hurtling towards. Camp makes another morbid remark, this time about melting. He’s clearly the joker of the crew.


Meanwhile Brains and Braman have moved into a seperate part of the Tracy Villa Lounge to play chess. Brains even brought that little radio device with him. Except now it has a blue bulb (as seen in City of Fire) instead of the yellow one we saw in the last scene. I’m not quite sure why this happens. My assumption is that all scenes featuring Braman are additional due to his heavy involvement in the episode’s sub-plot.


The back of Brains’ neck gives away the fact the puppets’ necks were rounded at the bottom to sit in the bodies. The collar of his shirt is just a little too low and he tilts his head just a little too far forward.


Jeff interrupts Braman’s attempt at chess. Now he’s drunk again.

Meanwhile, the retros are fired on Sun Probe as it moves into the Sun’s orbit.


This happens despite the fact Camp doesn’t bother writing anything on his clipboard, instead of keeping track of the radiation figures. He also referred to Commander Harris by his first name ‘Frank’. How informal. This guy really isn’t taking the mission as seriously as the other two in my opinion. Interestingly, he’s voiced by uncredited actor, John Tate. Tate voiced a number of guest characters in Thunderbirds and is even referenced in the original promotional documentation for the series. What’s peculiar is that aside from this appearance in episode 4, Sun Probe, he then only voiced characters in episodes 22-28 of the series. This suggests that Tate re-dubbed the character of Camp during one of the recording sessions for the latter part of the first series.


The probe blasts off!

Meanwhile, Brains and Braman’s chess match continues. In between these two shots, a few of Brains’ pieces have been knocked out of place. Guess Brains really cares about chess.

The shots of the probe flying towards the Sun and through the solar prominence probably sounded a heck of a lot more dramatic in the script. I do like the lack of clarity in these shots though, very reminiscient of early space shots. The special effects team did a great job with such a difficult task.


The fact that Commander Harris has his ‘blinker’ head on for the entire episode does make it look like he’s rather sleepy at times.


This guy’s back again with his original pair of curtains, trying to confuse us about what is and isn’t additional material.


Viewers are shown a “tele-radio picture” of the probe docking with the main body. The music is rather haunting as everyone watches in silence. Either they’re worried something is going to go wrong… or they’re all slightly baffled that shots of the Sun Probe can be transmitted live from the Sun somehow…


“I don’t think they’re gonna make it.” Brains’ terrifying prediction is a classic moment from the episode. One wonders whether he always had this feeling that the Sun Probe project would fail. Maybe there’s some potential for back story here. It could be he worked on the project during the early stages but was kicked off for being a negative nancy…


We learn that the Sun Probe has indeed failed to alter course and is on a collision course with the Sun! Unfortunately the model shot shown just before the commerical break doesn’t demonstrate the disaster terribly clearly. Sun Probe only looks a few seconds away from its target and the Sun doesn’t look nearly big enough. The model of the Sun is actually pretty good, but doesn’t convey the star’s enormous size or heat. It features very little in the rest of the episode in favour of abstract lighting and camera effects.

Brains is forced to explain why firing a manned rocket towards the Sun could possibly go wrong, with the radiation affecting the control system at precisely the wrong time when the ship was collecting the probe. Alan smiles away as if it’s nothing and the others just look around and nod their heads without the faintest indiciation that they understand what they’re being told.


Colonel Benson broadcasts a live message on television to International Rescue requesting help. The puppet was last seen with David Graham’s voice but is now being voiced by Ray Barrett. How did this happen? Well it could be that the footage had to be re-dubbed when the episode was extended and Ray Barrett was accidentally given the part instead of David Graham. Or it could be that the ‘Colonel Benson’ character was supposed to be a different person to the launch controller we saw earlier who was never originally named, but the same puppet and set just ended up being used for both regardless of the different voices. It’s a bit of a head scratcher but voices and puppets do get mixed up every so often so one could believe that it was simply a mistake due to time constraints.


Alan watches as Brains wanders off during the emergency call. Notice he’s stopped smiling.


But when Tin-Tin agrees to contact Cape Kennedy, Alan is back to smiling again. Speaking of which, the name Cape Kennedy was only in place between the years 1963 to 1973 in honour of the assassinated President Kennedy. The name reverted back to Cape Canaveral because of the unpopularity of the change among Florida residents.


Brains goes back to playing chess with Braman… but something is different… that blue light bulb has changed back to being yellow! *bangs head against desk*

For the one and only time in the series, Jeff uses the tele-caller on his desk. There’s a very obvious jump cut between the ‘Sound Only Selected’ screen and the ‘End of Call’ screen as the machine moves slightly from where a technician has had to make adjustments.


To finish off this very confusing scene full of all sorts of continuity errors we get to hear the full force of Matt Zimmerman’s young and hip Alan Tracy. After all our investigation in previous episodes, it’s worth mentioning that the original half hour version of Sun Probe would have been Matt’s first job on Thunderbirds. In this additional moment he delivers the line, “Gee whizz! He sits there playing chess while those three guys in that spaceship are heading for disaster. I just don’t dig him.” I think I need a lie down after all that youthfulness. For people who have a problem with the new series using modern words like ‘selfie’, Thunderbirds was trying to use mainstream, modern-sounding words back in the sixties too.

The Sun Probe continues approaching a slightly more convincing rendition of the Sun while Barry Gray’s haunting electronic music strikes up and makes the whole situation look rather more threatening. The crew are desperately trying to get the retros working again, while Camp points out the obvious that the radiation level is too high for anyone to do anything.

Night has fallen on Tracy Island. Has anyone noticed that in close-up at night the house looks completely different to how it looks in the normal stock footage? The lower level looks almost exactly the same, but the windows have changed and the chimney has moved over considerably.


International Rescue are planning their strategy. Normally decisions about rescue operations are made quite quickly so it’s quite a treat to see the team debating the best methods for success. You can see that much coffee is needed for such a meeting… although it looks like Scott, Virgil and possibly Gordon might be on the wine…

You can tell because Virgil and Scott start getting a bit argumentitive about which of them has the better Thunderbird.


Meanwhile Alan and Tin-Tin look awfully cosy.


Ultimately it’s Gordon who has to be the voice of reason and suggests that Thunderbird 3 and Thunderbird 2 are launched and whoever saves the Sun Probe first with their radio beams is the winner. I like the idea of giving the rescues a competitive element. Of course, this scene was most likely added to introduce the new sub-plot of sending Thunderbird 2 to Mount Arkan which wasn’t originally part of the episode.


Another giveaway is the fact that Virgil is told to “get Grandma to organise some auxiliary clothing.” We have yet to be formally introduced to Grandma at this point in the series. She doesn’t appear on screen until the next episode, The Uninvited. Her formal introduction to the series doesn’t come until Move – And You’re Dead. It’s possible to assume that Move – And You’re Dead was originally intended to be her first episode, but she was added to some of the earlier half-hour episodes via additional scenes shot after Move – And You’re Dead. I guess the writers just sort of forgot that she was going to be introduced later. Of course some people will just tell you that Move – And You’re Dead is intentionally set before every other episode featuring Grandma. I’m more inclined to think of it as a slight error in the way the half-hour episodes were extended.


We get our first glimpse of Thunderbird 3 in the launch bay. She looks absolutely massive. This model of Thunderbird 3 was the largest produced and stood at around 6ft tall.

The camera pans around the lounge, with Virgil sitting quietly in the corner, as Alan, Tin-Tin, and Scott are briefed by Jeff. Alan looks absolutely thrilled to finally be taking his rocket out for a ride.


Tin-Tin is put under a considerable amount of pressure when Jeff reminds us all that it’s her first mission and she needs to get it right. I love her International Rescue uniform, although why she has to change into it before the boys change into theirs is unusual.

And they’re off! The couch descends into the floor and transports the crew to Thunderbird 3.


Virgil’s in charge of checking that the secondary couch goes into position.

When shown in miniature, Alan and Scott appear to swap seats. More of those tiny little roughly painted figures that I adore so much.


The couch rises up into the bottom of Thunderbird 3… oh matron…

The couch emerges in the lounge of Thunderbird 3. If you look very carefully, the floor around the hole comes up ever so slightly as the couch section moves into position. Also notice that the safety beam equipment is ready in place.


Alan rides the elevator up to the control room. We don’t get to see the Thunderbird 3 control room all that often. For such a complex spaceship, there don’t appear to be nearly enough buttons and switches on that panel. But I do like the idea that Brains has simplified the controls right down to make rescue operations easy to handle.

Alan opens up a compartment to reveal his and Scott’s uniforms. One assumes that there must be copies of each uniform stored in every craft. Over the course of the series Scott is seen in uniform in Thunderbirds 1, 2, and 3; Virgil is seen in uniform in Thunderbirds 2 and 3; and Alan is seen in uniform in Thunderbirds 1, 2, and 3 – in case you were wondering.

Thunderbird 3 blasts off through the Round House, as demonstrated by three seperate models… we can tell they’re three seperate models because the font and positioning of the lettering and numbers changes between shots. The power behind the boosters of Thunderbird 3 is pretty impressive though.


As Thunderbird 3 blasts away from the Earth, one might be a little confused why a bunsen burner is being held just above the camera. That’s supposed to be one of Thunderbird 3’s boosters. We menacingly move away from the Earth with some very dramatic and haunting music.

Alan instructs Tin-Tin to start work on the electronics, her biggest role in the series so far. Alan estimates that it will take about 65 hours to reach the danger zone. With almost three days to prepare, I don’t think Tin-Tin needs to rush too much. We never get to see the full range of Thunderbird 3’s resources for supporting three astronauts in space for several days at a time. It took 4 days for Apollo 11 to reach the Moon, and about a week for Sun Probe to reach its solar orbit, so Thunderbird 3 must be going incredibly quick to catch up with them.

Meanwhile, Virgil and Brains are supervising the loading of Thunderbird 2. It looks as though the set for Brains’ laboratory has been converted with the addition of the conveyor belt. As this scene would have been a later addition, it also implies that the earlier scene with Braman in the same set could also have been a later addition too, confirming that Braman was absent for the original half-hour episode. That light bulb thing is still a bit of a mystery though.

Nothing wrong with this box… it definitely has the mobile computer inside… not even worth checking… Of course, it seems laughable nowadays that a computer in a box that big could be considered mobile.


Thunderbird 2 rolls out on to the runway for take-off. Brains is just reading the manual for the Transmitter Truck.

After the commercial break, things are really hotting up in the cabin of Sun Probe. They have 24 hours before they hit the Sun. Obviously the ship would burn up long before that happened but it’s still something of a nightmare which Camp can’t help but mention. Although apparently this is some kind of recurring dream for Solarnaut Asher… in which case maybe he should have taken that as some kind of premonition that being one of the first men to fly to the Sun wasn’t the best idea.


They start to receive a radio message from International Rescue, and for some reason we’re shown a close-up of Thunderbird 3’s radio speaker, rather than Sun Probe’s.

After about a day or two in space, Thunderbird 3 is looking suitably weathered and the crew are ready for action. Alan says, “We’re going to try to fire your retros from space.” What a vague description of their location. Despite being two hours away from the projected transmission area, Alan wants to attempt using the beam now. Despite Scott whining about the cabin temperature increasing, he’s rather pessimistic that this will work and just figures it’ll demonstrate how short they are from reaching them.


Tin-Tin switches on the safety beam and Alan and Scott watch on a very simplified chart as the beam fails to reach the Sun Probe. The little drawing of the Sun Probe looks more like Thunderbird 1. Scott predicts they need to travel for another 4 hours to reach the Sun Probe. But can they take the risk?

We’re shown this rather sweet scene between Jeff and Kyrano. We haven’t seen Kyrano since Trapped In The Sky, so it’s nice to see him in a role beyond being the Hood’s *ahem* puppet. Kyrano states that he and Tin-Tin owe their lives to Jeff. Now there’s a juicy bit of back-story! It’s never explored further in the series but this little bit of information forms a good part of Alan Fennell’s The Complete Thunderbirds Story for the Fleetway Comics of the 1990’s.


Meanwhile, Thunderbird 2 arrives in the Himalayas and oh my goodness we get treated to some of the most majestic special effects shots of the entire series. Thunderbird 2 absolutely caked in snow against the cloudy sky and the blowing blizzard looks incredibly menacing.


I don’t think Thunderbird 2 has ever looked better than it does right here.


Virgil delicately lands the machine on a ledge which he can’t actually see. A Thunderbird 2 landing has never been more perilous.


Snow is blowing around outside on the puppet set. It’s a real shame that a proper, full-on disaster in the freezing snow and ice never came up in the classic series because the special effects team have done such an amazing job here.


You can just about make out that Thunderbird 2 is deploying Pod 6 for this particular mission.


Here comes the Transmitter Truck, a great machine which is just one variation of the model also seen as the Explosives Tractor from End of the Road and the Fire Truck in Security Hazard.

We get some gorgeous shots of the vehicle struggling up a snowy slope. Rather unusually it looks like the shot of the tracks spinning is handheld and works really well to convey the harsh wind.


Brains and Virgil are situated in the cabin with some lovely head gear. The XZ: 157 control panel used by Brains also turns up as part of Scott’s Mobile Control Unit and can be spotted in many episodes of the first series.


Brains operates a control to move the transmitter dish. You can spot a few specks of fluff and dust around it. The wonders of high definition.

Meanwhile, Alan patronises Tin-Tin a little bit by asking if she wants to get into an escape capsule. Seeing as they’re pretty far away from Earth at this point, I’m not sure that would have done her much good anyway. I can’t imagine the escape capsule is really built to be that close to the Sun either. Unfortunately the safety beam still doesn’t quite reach Sun Probe so they decide to travel another two hours to make contact.


Brains and Virgil make their first attempt to transmit a signal too. Have I mentioned how great these shots in the snow look? But even their radio beam isn’t strong enough.


Sun Probe itself is starting to smoke and smoulder. If they’re as close to the Sun as they say they are I feel like things should be a tad more dramatic than they are. But as I say, the effects team did the best they could with a pretty fantastical idea.


To make matters worse, Camp’s insisting on watching a TV channel dedicated to nothing but different coloured fire.


It looks as though the Harris puppet was given a ‘blinker’ head for the episode, while the other two solarnauts had to make do with some bits of plasticine over their eyes to convey weariness.

The Thunderbird 3 crew are really sweating now too. I’m assuming the blinker heads were deliberately made to look quite tired. I doubt we ever see a particularly happy blinker among the main cast. And yet again, the beam fails to reach.


But it turns out that the whole time Tin-Tin could have just turned the power up a bit. I mean I appreciate having it on high does drain a lot of power, but surely she could have at least whacked it up a little bit to save some time? It’s just a shame a slightly more exciting solution to the problem wasn’t found.

So the retros fire on the Sun Probe and the ship turns around. Asher and Camp look absolutely shattered. “We’re leaving the Sun! We’re gonna live!” That’s not a line you hear every day. And I reckon this is about the point where the episode ended originally in its half-hour form. But there’s more excitement still to come…

Alan goes to fire the retros on Thunderbird 3 and head back to base… but they don’t fire…

A very sweaty Alan and Scott despair as they realise their fate. For a pair of puppets they convey the emotion extremely well.


The TV presenter returns with a light shining rather annoyingly on one of his glasses lenses.


He also delivers the news that Thunderbird 3 cannot alter course and is now facing the same disaster and heading straight for the Sun. Jeff and Gordon are not happy. As with City of Fire, this is another great example of how to extend an episode. Placing the main characters in jeopardy allows us to learn more about them, which is particularly important in the case of Alan and Tin-Tin of whom we’ve so far seen very little.


It’s now up to Brains to solve the crisis.

After the commercial break, Tin-Tin and Scott aren’t feeling too great.


With a very masculine stance, Alan stands up to go down to the lounge. He’s figured out that the safety beam must have been left on and is draining all the power to the retros.

The TV presenter is being rather brash about the whole thing and telling everyone that Thunderbird 3 is completely screwed basically. Needless to say Jeff, Gordon, and Kyrano are a little upset about that. Kyrano is actually crying.

Brains and Virgil have decided to consult the mobile computer in order to calculate the frequency required to shut off Thunderbird 3’s safety beam by remote. As Brains walks in we can see the dish of the Neutraliser Tractor from Move – And You’re Dead and the puppet sized laser cutter from 30 Minutes After Noon.


Shock horror! They brought the wrong box! Surely Brains would have remembered which box he’d just packed Braman away in.

In this very dramatic scene, Alan comes down in the elevator to switch off the beam. His vision is blurred through a combination of unfocussing the camera, and something resembling cling film in front of the lens. Sweat pouring from his face, Alan eventually passes out with great drama.


Brains and Virgil try to figure out what they can do now. Behind Virgil’s head is the explosives pack seen in End of the Road.

They decide to try using Braman to make the necessary calculations. Rather oddly, Braman’s ‘on switch’ is in the middle of his face. He then asks Braman the ultimate question. “What is the square root to the power of 29 of the trigonometric amplitude of 87 divided by the quantitative hydraxis of 956 to the power of 77? Do you understand the question?” Unfortunately the terms “trigonometric amplitude” and “quanititative hydraxis” are completely made up, so Braman just makes a guess of 45, 969.

With no time to lose, Virgil and Brains rush back to the Transmitter Truck and send up a radio beam to Thunderbird 3.

Gordon, Jeff, and even Kyrano have their angriest expressions on. I believe this is the only time we see Kyrano’s angry face so enjoy it while you can folks!

The spooky noise of the transmitter swells as the light gets more and more intense. This is a rather surreal sequence. There’s a final burst of light…

The retros fire and Thunderbird 3 turns away from the Sun! Here’s our last shot of the burning Sun model. I really don’t think it’s as bad as people say it is.


Alan wakes up from behind the couch. It looks like he’s dribbled on his shirt a little bit, although it’s probably just supposed to be sweat.


The rest of International Rescue are thrilled that Thunderbird 3 is safe. Kyrano now has his happiest face on. Again, it’s the only time we get to see it for the rest of the series. He’s staring off into the middle distance rather creepily…


Back on Tracy Island… that bulb I was talking about earlier has turned blue again…  I simply cannot figure out what happened with that.


Braman has finally worked out how to beat Brains at chess. Clever robot!

It turns into a rather sweet moment with Alan, Tin-Tin, and Scott thanking Brains for saving their lives.


Even Braman! Oh that funny robot!


Brains rather milks the moment, but I do love the big smile on his face. And so the episode comes to an end. Warm feelings.

Fundamentally, the plot of Sun Probe is very silly and fantastical. But if you can accept the way space travel is dealt with in Thunderbirds, then this is an episode full of an awful lot of tension and character development. The additional sub-plot with Thunderbird 2, as well as Thunderbird 3’s own disaster, is almost seamlessly weaved into the episode. Sun Probe certainly benefits from having a bit more going on, otherwise I can’t imagine a plot solely featuring Thunderbird 3 repeatedly failing to save the Sun Probe being terribly exciting. Sun Probe is a classic and arguably Thunderbird 3’s best appearance. As one of the earliest episodes of Thunderbirds that I ever saw as a young lad, I can’t help but give it pride of place in my heart.

Next week, we travel into the depths of the Sarhara desert. Thunderbird 1 crash lands, and a lost pyramid is found. But what lurks inside? Stay tuned for The Uninvited!

15 thoughts on “Thunderbirds – 4. Sun Probe

  1. Love the episode I was watching it the other night I loved it I felt sorry for the solarnaughts with them getting to close to the sun and nearly passing out. But international rescue saved them
    What an organization =D


  2. The second set of curtains behind the reporter very literally represent “additional material” 🙂

    At no time does anyone in either Sun Probe or TB3 think to remove or even loosen their clothing…the mind boggles at the thought of Scott and Alan sitting around in their underpants (don’t even go there with Tin-tin).

    Silly question, but did they have cling film in 1965? I read somewhere that a standard method of achieving a blurred effect back in the day (i.e. before digital post production techniques) was to smear some Vaseline on the camera lens.


    1. I seem to recall there was a thing called “Mirrorlon” which was often used for distorting shots on 1960s Doctor Who. Unfortunately a Google search for the term primarily brings up the performance of Trinity Mirror on the LONdon stock exchange so it’s hard to verify if that’s even the right spelling, let alone if it existed this early.


  3. Perhaps Thunderbird 3’s mapping software simply doesn’t include a sun probe icon (it’s a brand spanking new spaceship that they’ve never interfaced with before, and I don’t know how computers in this world get device drivers. I don’t think there’s an internet in this version of the future, so they probably have to order physical discs or tape reels or something through the mail), and that’s just the generic “spaceship which isn’t Thunderbird 3” icon. Admittedly, using Thunderbird 1 as the generic spaceship icon could potentially cause unnecessary confusion, but as design mistakes go, it’s pretty understandable.

    Huh… do you think International Rescue has a graphic designer on staff to create all these computer interfaces they’re using, not to mention the nifty insignias?


  4. I’m wondering why the Sunprobe needed 20 milion pounds of thrust running several minutes before launch (and why the whole craft went to the sun rather than having a staged rocket).


  5. es de los episodios que más me gustan, solo tengo la duda ¿Porqué el camión transmisor no volvió a aparecer y el Thunderbird3 porqué solamente aparece en 3 rescates mientras en la serie del 2015 aparece en más? en la serie clásica el único rescate en el que participa el Thunderbird3 sin Thunderbird2 es Los Impostores mientras Thunderbird2 se agregó a este y al del Satélite Pirata en el episodio 31 o mejor dicho en el episodio 5 de la temporada 2


  6. As a child this was my favourite episode. The pure emotion of Thunderbird 3 heading towards the Sun, the fantastic soundtrack, the Bramen mistake, Alan passing out, desperate to reach the safety beam control, the agonising wait to see if he could do the calculation, the sound of the safety beams in T3 and the transmitter truck, I was utterly mesmorised.
    As an adult, this still enthrals me, with Trapped In The Sky an extremely close second for its amazing Elevator Car climax.


  7. It is suggested on the Danger at Ocean Deep review that John Tate may have revoiced Solarnaut Camp when he joined the cast. I wonder who the original voice might have been and why it was recast? Matt Zimmerman? Peter Dyneley?

    An episode that is fondly remembered for many reasons.


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