In order to kick off the second series of Thunderbirds just right, Atlantic Inferno gives us a disaster of epic proportions. The special effects team tackle the difficult task of filming both fire and water in ways which make them look far from miniature. The incredible production value continues to rise from where we left off… it’s almost as if the team were making a movie… well as a matter of fact they were. At the end of the last series, a two month or so break in shooting was taken. In that time all of the sets, models, and regular cast of puppets were revamped to stand up to the scrutiny of appearing on the big screen. On March 3rd 1966, filming began on Thunderbirds Are Go, a feature film starring International Rescue and the Zero-X crew. We’ll talk more about that later. It was deemed possible for the production team and the studios to split down the middle and expandeven further to tackle shooting the movie at the same time as new episodes of the television series. Generally speaking, the more senior members of the crew went to work on the movie while the juniors rose to the challenge of maintaining the high standard of the television series. The division of people and resources meant that the standard schedule of two units shooting two episodes every four weeks was no longer an option. They were down to one unit shooting one episode every four weeks. Let’s see how the changes implemented for Thunderbirds Are Go really affected the second series as we dive in to Atlantic Inferno.
With the schedule incredibly tight and the budget limited, the decision was taken to make the final episode of Thunderbirds’ first series a clip show recycling footage from four previous episodes. As a result, Security Hazard often gets a bad rap for rounding of series one with a fairly uneventful story. I won’t be able to blow your mind and convince you that Security Hazard is the best episode ever, but as clip shows go it’s a good bit of fun and has enough extra goodies in it that you should definitely still include this story in your Thunderbirds marathon regardless.
By this point in the production of Thunderbirds, in the final months of 1965, the team were on a roll. They were racing towards the finish line on the first 26 episode commission from Lew Grade. The series had been on air for several weeks now and the public were loving every minute of it. The pressure was on to keep the format fresh and the focus of the series was definitely changing based on the demands of the public, and the wishes of the producers. Those changes would become more evident in the next series but they’re certainly starting to creep at this point too. The Cham-Cham continues the trend of pushing the talents of the puppet department to the limit. The nature of the story makes it very clear that the puppet stars were basically expected to behave like human beings now. The Andersons and their team were truly attempting to compete with the likes of James Bond and the ITC live action adventure series with a movement towards more mature storytelling, lavish locations, and character-driven adventures.
Picture the meeting that would have taken place at the AP Films studio before this episode went into production, or possibly before it was even written. Alan Pattillo wants to write a story about International Rescue fighting giant alligators. The team decide they’re going to go for it. One can only assume that from a very early stage it was the intention to use real animals on the set. The stories of the production team working with these beasts are legendary. But of course, the alligators are only a part of what makes this episode stand out as an incredible piece of film making, so let’s explore Attack of the Alligators! in as much depth as possible to appreciate the hard work of the AP Films crew.