Directed by Jonathan Frakes
Story by Peter Hewitt and William Osborne
Screenplay by William Osborne and Michael McCullers
Premiered 30th July 2004
Hi folks, Andrew Clements here! Security Hazard promised that they’d get the best person for the job in order to write this review (so I’m not sure how they ended up with me).
First off, it would be remiss of me not to thank Jack for his kind invitation to write this review. I, like so many of you, have been following his weekly Thunderbirds reviews with feverish interest and have loved each and every one of them. How could I not? They’re about Thunderbirds, they’ve got bags of detail and they’ve got pod-loads of humour – something I hope to bring to this review (fingers crossed!)
Unlike the previous reviews based on the television series, in which Security Hazard had a spacious 32 episodes and 2 films across which to expand and tease out details about characters, vehicles and other aspects of the lore, I’m going to have to explain a little about each of these ‘regular’ things as they appear. I’ll try to keep it brief and not go full ‘info-dump’ mode, but apologies if something slips thorough the net. I’m sure that Jack will proof-read and edit this where necessary anyway (if he’s as clever as I think he is).
Right then, to business…
Thunderbirds is a 2004 film adaptation of the classic 1960’s puppet television series, only without the puppets (and it’s not a television series either, obviously). It has a reputation that precedes it to an even greater extent than Parker’s nose precedes his face as he enters a room. It’s fair to say that quite a few people dislike the film for various reasons, some of which I’m sure I will cover over the course of this review.
Personally, I love the film. In fact I enjoy it more than either Thunderbirds Are Go or Thunderbird 6. But that is not to say that I think it is objectively better, and before any of you give up on this review, I must state that I adore the classic series and have done since I was very young, and I always will, so full respect to the team at Slough and the legions of dedicated fans that enjoy it as much as I do.
The idea of making a live action Thunderbirds project isn’t a new one, not even back in 2004 (which was a whopping 13 years ago, a fact that scares me more than The Hood’s beady eyes). Gerry Anderson had famously wanted to produce live action movies and television before he ended up being saddled with puppets, and decided to make the most of the situation by making the puppet stories as realistic as possible. There have been several rumored and talked about live action projects over the decades, both feature film and television versions, from plausible sounding concepts to ones that are downright odd.
One of the potential projects would have starred the Baldwin brothers as four of the Tracy brothers. Another would have seen Robert Redford in the role of Jeff Tracy. My personal favourite was the version that was very very close to being made, the 1998 film version. I’ve read the script and it is an absolute dream, the cast that they had planned would have been superb and the concept art is outstanding (examples above)…but sadly it was not to be.
Like virtually all films, there was also a much earlier version of the script that would become the final film. It follows an almost identical plot, but rather than The Hood appearing as the main villain, it would have been a highly eccentric character called Aristotle Spode as the man who takes over the island. The name can still be found in some press releases and info packs about the film. This version of the script, while 90% similar in terms of story was just plain…awful. The villain is a pantomime joke, there are moments of adult humour that are completely abrasive and out of place, it’s completely patronizing to the audience and in short, for those who don’t like the 2004 film and feel that it’s nothing like Thunderbirds, I can promise you that the original draft was much worse.
And with all of that cleared up, it’s time for the main event, so sing along if you know the words: “Five! Four! Three! Two! One! Thunderbirds Are Go!”
The film opens with an animated sequence (created by Nexus, of Catch Me If You Can fame) setting up the premise of International Rescue before hurling us into the opening countdown. While it’s not Peter Dyneley’s iconic voice, it’s exciting nevertheless. We’re told that International Rescue “go by the name they give their incredible machines – The Thunderbirds”. Personally, I have no issues with this, but it seems to drive some people bananas. Okay, fair enough – given the choice, I’d stick with International Rescue, but I can imagine that it’s plausible that if an organisation used iconic vehicles with a cool name, the general public would refer to the organisation by that name. Moving on…
The titles proper commence as the craft blast off and one of the characters is driven away in a prison transport vehicle. Wait, school bus. It’s definitely a school bus. Interesting.
The animated sequence continues with each credited member of the cast and crew having their name revealed or put to use in a clever way, as the rescue craft fly around saving people from disasters caused by an ominous looking symbol that resembles an eye.
The whole thing is accompanied by a new version of Barry Gray’s Thunderbirds March, scored by renowned Hollywood composer, Hans Zimmer. Zimmer, together with another hugely popular composer, Ramin Djawadi, produce an absolutely phenomenal score for this film, I’m going to state that for the record right now. It’s one of the film’s strongest aspects and I have literally listened to the soundtrack album well over 100 times. Director Jonathan Frakes states that for fans of the classic series, the Thunderbirds Theme is as iconic as the swimming pool retracting and the palm trees falling down, and he’s not wrong.
The sequence serves two purposes, it’s an instant homage to the themes of the classic series and it acts as an introduction to the premise for the members of the audience who have never seen the series (and as hard to believe as that is, those people do exist!)
About three quarters of the way through the sequence, two people are left trapped while everyone else is successfully rescued. Remember that, it’ll be coming back into play later, with a scenery-chewing vengeance…
Following in the footsteps of it’s illustrious predecessor, the title sequence ends on a musical crescendo accompanied by some flashy animated explosions and we’re into the film proper.
As the final credit to appear in the list is that of the film’s director, Jonathan Frakes, I would like to take this opportunity to get something off my chest:
You are allowed to dislike this film, that’s fine, I promise. Opinions are great things, and discussion caused by differing opinions is one of the fun parts of life. That being said, it really really irritates me when people who dislike the film blame it on Frakes. I’ve read comments saying “Keep Frakes away from Thunderbirds” and “That awful Frakes version” etc etc.
These sort of comments demonstrate a complete lack of understanding of how a film is made. Most people who dislike the film have issues with the story. Newsflash – the director didn’t write the film. The film also doesn’t belong to the director. The director is in charge of directing (the clue’s in the job title), and this is an area in which Jonathan Frakes’ work speaks for itself. Being an experienced actor himself, having worked with countless directors and directed features including two hugely successful Star Trek films, his direction is major highlight of the film. He obviously knows how to get the very best from the cast and crew, with a signature energetic directorial style, and there’s never a moment in which it feels like anyone is giving less than 100% of their talents to a scene.
Mini-rant over…thanks for listening!
“But in this family of heroes, there is one son left behind”.
Introducing 14 year old Alan Tracy, the youngest of the five Tracy brothers, as played by Brady Corbet. Firstly, before we talk about Alan, let’s clear up a few things right off the bat. Stay right there Alan, we’ll be back in a second. Just kill some time by drawing a picture of Thunderbird 1 in your Math book. As if…
One of the first things I often hear people say is “If Alan’s still at school, why is International Rescue in operation? Their first mission was to save Fireflash and Alan was already on the team by then.” Not kidding, I hear that a lot. Well it’s simple, the film is not a prequel to the television series. Yes, the characters are all approximately 6 years younger than their TV counterparts (I know some of you like to scrutinise the birth order and ages of the boys etc, so I’ll get to it I promise!), but it is not a prequel, it’s set in it’s own universe (and the same thing applies to ITV’s Thunderbirds Are Go!, which I’ll mention in passing later).
So Alan’s in Math class learning about the Pythagorean Theorem. It’s not exactly grabbing him, and I don’t blame him, so he decides to stare out of the window hoping that he’ll catch sight of the main titles that were out there a moment ago.
His teacher isn’t best pleased when she notices and the whole room goes dead. Only Fermat, Alan’s chum, has the heart to alert him to his slip up.
Fermat (Soren Fulton) is a new character that was introduced for the film, to round out the young leads along with Alan and Tin-Tin. He is Brains’ son, and like the Tracy boys, doesn’t appear to have a mother. Now until fairly recently, I assumed that Fermat’s mum had passed away, or was separated from Brains, or one of any number of reasons like that, until someone pointed out that Fermat could in fact be a genetic clone of Brains that the latter created himself. That’s a whole other issue for a whole other debate, but I just thought I’d throw it in while I had the chance.
Now having Alan’s attention once more, his teacher, a sarcastic authority figure if ever there was one, remarks that it was good of Alan to come back from outer space. Hurrah for the first in a long line of nice nods to the classic series, in this case obviously referencing the fact that Alan Tracy is International Rescue’s chief astronaut.
Amid Alan’s feeble protests, his teacher picks up his Math book to see that he has…drawn a picture of Thunderbird 1! Alan, I was kidding, sheesh! Rather hilariously, the image features Miss Garrett being toasted in Thunderbird 1’s rocket exhaust. My aching sides!
After receiving a 10,000 word (hey it’s shorter than this review) assignment to be completed over spring break, Alan narrowly avoids insulting Miss Garrett in the presence of the headmaster played by Lou Hirsch. Hirsch had previously portrayed Officer Romek in Gerry Anderson’s Space Precinct, to name one of his many iconic roles.
Incidentally, Wharton Academy is supposedly located in Massachusetts, but the filming location was Wellington College in Berkshire, England. As we’ll discover later, it wasn’t the only real life filming location in Berkshire.
Alan bemoans the fact that he can’t tell people that he’s a Thunderbird. Okay, I’ll admit it sounds weird when it’s said like that. Fermat reminds him that he isn’t a Thunderbird yet and if anyone discovered his identity, it could be really bad. Fermat shares a characteristic vocal stutter with his father, something that Brains’ original voice artist David Graham described as the effect of an incredibly fast scientific mind that the mouth can’t quite keep up with.
Just then another kid stirs up a fuss by running through the corridor and jabbering excitedly that the Thunderbirds are going to be on TV, and that they’re in Russia at an oil rig fire. Though he’s stuck in school while his brothers are on “another cool mission”, Alan and Fermat rush into the assembly hall with a hoard of other pupils.
Ding-ding-ding! Yes, I know, they’re going to be on TV, so doesn’t that rather contradict the original premise of “No photographs!” and “The only good publicity is no publicity!” just a tad? Well it does, but hear me out:
In this particular universe, International Rescue are world famous heroes to the masses. Their actual identities are a guarded secret, as is the location of their secret base, but they obviously don’t mind people filming them. In a way, this addresses one of my main gripes with the original series. The Hood was always trying to sell the secrets of International Rescue by photographing/filming the craft. He was always thwarted by the automatic camera detector or some such twist, but would having photographic records of the craft actually be any use to anyone at all? It’s not like you could build your own just by seeing the outside of one of the ships. I guess that’s why in this film it’s no big deal that the craft are caught on camera.
The TV news anchor passes over to the reporter on the scene Lisa Lowe, played by Genie Francis (wife of the film’s director, Jonathan Frakes). It’s worth noting (and nigh on impossible to miss) that the news is sponsored by the Ford motor company. We’ll come back to that.
Lowe reports that six men remain trapped on the rig, which is now a raging inferno and that an emergency call went out to the Thunderbirds just a few minutes ago, followed swiftly by their immediate arrival on the scene. How did they get from the South Pacific to an oil rig off Russia in a few minutes? Simple, they didn’t. Unlike the classic series, International Rescue don’t always wait for a call for help before taking action, in this case it’s obvious that they swung into action before the call was made. More on that train of thought later.
And here they are! Words really can’t describe the arrival of Thunderbirds 1 and 2 in the middle of a surging storm, partially silhouetted by the fiery mass of the oil platform and accompanied by Zimmer’s epic Thunderbirds theme. It was a hairs-standing-on-end moment for me in the cinema, and there was an audible cheer from the audience.
As promised earlier, I’ll try to avoid too much info dumping, and will spread the reviewing of the craft and characters as evenly as possible, so for now I’ll keep it to a bare minimum and wait for a break in the action to go into more detail.
Thunderbird 1 swings around to assess the situation, looking cool as heck in the battering storm. Scott Tracy (Philip Winchester) locates the men trapped on an inspection platform.
There are explosions aplenty as the rig gets into a ruddy poor state, recalling the fate of the Seascape drilling rig in Atlantic Inferno. This rig is called the Abramovich, named after the owner of Chelsea Football Club, Roman Abramovich. The rig itself looks spectacular. That is thanks in no small part to it being represented by a huge 40 foot scale model, filmed at 100 frames per second, comparable to the speed that the crews of the Slough Trading Estate would have filmed the original special effects shots at (rather than the traditional 24 for live action photography).
Thunderbird 2, with Jeff Tracy (Bill Paxton) at the controls, moves in to find a suitable approach angle.
Wait, what? Jeff?? Where’s Virgil?? We shall see in a moment, but yes, Jeff is out on a rescue rather than sitting back at base being a bit of a twerp (as he had been in Thunderbird 6). To be honest, I’m still completely gutted by the recent tragic news of Bill Paxton’s recent passing. He was an enormously talented actor, starring as countless well-loved and memorable characters and will be sadly missed. During the production of Thunderbirds, he treated the five actors portraying the Tracy boys as his own sons. On one occasion, when dining at a Chinese restaurant, he even introduced them as his children who were visiting London for the first time.
In this continuity, the assigned piloting duties of the Tracy boys are slightly different from the classic series. Scott and John still pilot/control Thunderbirds 1 and 5 respectively, and Virgil is the primary pilot of Thunderbird 2. We actually don’t see this in the film, but there was originally a scene of Virgil flying Thunderbird 2 to the oil rig before Jeff took over the controls. Like all of the scenes deleted from the film (some of which I will mention later), the whereabouts of the footage is a mystery, so give a loud shout if you know where any of the clips can be found! Gordon is the pilot of Thunderbird 4, which is the smallest and simplest craft to operate. He is currently in training as the co-pilot of Thunderbird 2 and the eventual primary pilot of Thunderbird 3, which is Jeff’s current assignment, being the experienced ex-astronaut that he is. That will of course leave Alan to pilot Thunderbird 4 when he comes of age. It’s heavily implied in the film that the four eldest Tracy brothers are capable of handling a few different Thunderbird craft, which makes perfect sense.
The rescue proceeds, with frequent cuts between the rescue operation and the spectators at the Academy (including that one kid who’s more interested in staring at the camera instead of the television). Lots of explosions, lots of noise, lots of danger. Yummy!
Ideally I’d have liked them to drop the spectators portion here and focus entirely on the rescue, but there’s a very good reason that they don’t. Despite his age, Alan clearly knows quite a bit about the mechanics of such a hazardous rescue operation, providing a running commentary to Fermat and setting up the idea that he’s not just the little kid his brothers believe him to be.
Thunderbird 2 lowers its rescue platform, revealing Virgil (Dominic Colenso) at the controls. Ah so that’s where he’s got to! The platform swings around like crazy and it’s all pretty hairy, so umm…rather him than me.
One of the rig workers makes a jump onto another part of the inspection platform, landing rather hard. Ouch!
Lining up his shot to a critical second, Virgil locks on and fires several rescue lines down to the stranded workers. I’ll take this opportunity to mention the lavish production design of the film in brief. Everything from the computer consoles to the wardrobe department is completely on point and rest assured I’ll be going into a fair bit of detail about that as we progress, but for now…look, shiny buttons!
With time against them, Virgil hoists the men off the rig, but the thermal updrafts are starting to make things very choppy indeed and the men smash into each other as the wind buffets them relentlessly.
Gaining control, Jeff reverses thrust and manages to haul the men to safety, bringing the rescue platform back on board, and giving Thunderbird 1 the order to commence “knockdown procedure”.
In a cool bit of what is almost overkill, Scott fires a missile at the centre of the blazing inferno, extinguishing it immediately. This is in fact a real life technique used for putting out certain types of fires (albeit without firing missiles from Thunderbird craft!). The principle is pretty sound – a calculated explosion will quickly rob the main fire of the oxygen that it needs to continue burning, and so it is snuffed out. There’s a bit more to it than that, but I’ll not bore you any more than I already am…
With the men rescued and the fire extinguished, the Tracy family leave the danger zone and the news report concludes, bringing the spectacular opening of the film to an end. However, it could have been very different. In one pretty late version of the script, the film would have opened with Alan dreaming about flying Thunderbird 1, but the dream becomes a nightmare when he crashes into a mountain with a giant effigy of Fermat’s face on it… I promise I am not making this up.
Here’s another version of the opening that was actually filmed, but then subsequently deleted, featuring Alan in a motorbike race with several friends. These surviving shots can be seen in one of the trailers for the film.
Now comes a little moment that I’ve never quite understood. A kid who obviously fancies himself as something of a bully or a ‘hard man’ makes a quip at Alan to the tune of “Ooo, I wish I could be a Thunderbird some day. Thunder-turd!” to which Alan replies “That’s another good one, diaper boy.” Cue raucous laughter.
But why are they laughing? Alan’s retort wasn’t especially clever, and unless it’s a reference to something specific from the kid’s past, the only other thing it could be referencing is Scott’s cry of “Who needs the diapers now, Dad?” during the rescue mission. Which of course none of the kids would have heard. So it makes no sense whatsoever…d’oh!
The laughter subsides rather abruptly when the headmaster yells Alan’s name. Then, in an ominous manner that implies the child catcher or the police have just arrived, he declares “There’s someone here for you…”
Introducing Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward, as portrayed enchantingly by the ever-wonderful Sophia Myles. Naturally she’s bedecked in a stylish pink outfit, one of countless stylish pink outfits that she’ll wear throughout the film. Seriously, there are a lot of them, so many in fact that I really wouldn’t recommend making a drinking game out of their appearances. Intriguingly, Rosamund Pike had been tipped to play the role back in 2002 prior to the start of production, and would eventually voice the character in Thunderbirds Are Go!
Penny explains that Alan’s father has been delayed and that she’s here to collect him instead. She asks if anyone else will be joining them and even Diaper Boy can’t help but be utterly thrilled at the prospect.
Lou Hirsch is less than amused by the little twit’s lack of control. His mustache is especially furious. Love the little American flag lapel pin, very patriotic!
Alan declares that Fermat will be accompanying him, and ‘er Ladyship approves. They head out to the car, Alan doing his level best to tell the world that Penny is actually a spy on a mission for Jeff. Wharton Academy’s Subtlety Studies course is obviously not worth a cent. Penny cautions Alan to be discreet before revealing…
…the biggest pinkest car I have ever seen. I mean it’s HUGE, it’s about 23 feet long if my memory serves me correctly. It would have some serious trouble navigating the tight turns of the average English country village, that’s for sure.
While many fans were disappointed that the car was not a Rolls Royce, but rather a Ford (where have I heard that name before?), the car itself is a pretty decent vehicle and fits the bill as a gadget-laden six-wheeled rolling arsenal.
Rolls Royce were indeed approached to design a car for the film, but declined. Ford stepped into the breach and designed the vehicle, basing aspects of it on the iconic Ford Thunderbird.
In fact Ford supplied practically all the cars and buggies in the film, many of which are featured hilariously prominently throughout. Even the news broadcasts are sponsored by Ford. Turn that into a drinking game if you want. But seriously don’t, I’m not advocating the practice of drinking games…yet.
And ‘ere ‘e is, the man ‘imself! The battiest of batsmen, the butleriest of butlers, the former safe-cracker and now reformed ex-con – Aloysius Parker! And you better believe that Ron Cook nails the role, every inch the character of the original series and just what the audience were hoping for.
Two little points of interest here. Firstly, Parker refers to Fermat as “Master Hackenbacker” – an allusion to Brains’ assumed name in Alias Mr. Hackenbacker. Now Security Hazard already covered this in that particular review, so we know that in that episode the name ‘Hiram K Hackenbacker’ was indeed an alias and not Brains’ real name. However, in both this film and subsequently Thunderbirds Are Go! the name Hiram Hackenbacker is applied to Brains as his real name. A nice reference for the fans, if perhaps a little lost in translation.
Secondly, Alan refers to Parker by his nickname ‘Nosey’, a moniker first coined in the classic episode Vault of Death.
Penny warns Parker not to run over any children, which in fairness would be a real tragedy unless the unlucky victim happened to be Diaper Boy or one of his cohorts.
From this angle, the throwbacks to the modern Ford Thunderbird are pretty obvious, and while not as striking as the iconic Rolls Royce radiator grill, there’s something pretty cool about this version.
Parker prepares to do…something. Whatever it is, it requires the use of this nifty flip-down cap visor screen. Add your own pun about “Parker seeing red” here.
Well, stone the crows – it flies!! While it perhaps doesn’t seem so amazing today, as FAB 1 regularly takes to the skies in Thunderbirds Are Go!, waaaay back in 2004 this was pretty darn cool. It also makes a lot of sense that International Rescue’s primary field agents would have their own means of getting to Tracy Island, rather that having to use Fireflash and a yacht to get around as we saw in the original series. Parker would probably gamble said yacht away anyhow.
Alan and Fermat are somehow sitting in the back with Penelope. I can’t work out how exactly. Yes, the car is huge, but the passenger compartment isn’t that big and there’s only one proper seat in the back. I’ve seen the actual car up close and couldn’t help wondering how all three actors fitted behind Parker’s chair. ‘Tis magic I tells ya!
Penelope announces that England have “won the football”, causing Parker to cheer and very nearly sending them plummeting to their untimely deaths as a result.
The dialogue in this scene received a subtle tweak between scripting and filming. Initially it was planned for the football team in question to be a specific London club. Tottenham Hotspur was mooted due to the club’s proximity to Wormwood Scrubs prison, Parker’s former accommodation (rather than the fictitious Parkmoor Scrubs mentioned in the series), but ultimately the production team felt that this might alienate part of the English audience, so the national team was chosen instead.
Here we are at San Francisco City Hospital. I know that’s where we are because it says so in both the on-screen caption and the sign above the door. It’s is most definitely not the Computer Associates building in Berkshire (except that it is, but shush, the medical staff haven’t been told).
Meet Panhead. I kid you not, this character is listed in the credits as Panhead. Look it up! I have no idea why they decided on such a ridiculous name, his parents must be very cruel people.
Speaking of Panhead’s parents, Panhead’s Mother (yes, credited as such again!) is played by none other than Nicola Walker, who has been in so many productions that I am astounded and slightly embarrassed that until recently I had never noticed that it was her. Maybe I’m the Panhead.
Panhead (seriously, can we just call him Ethan or something?) gets a real shot at standing in the spotlight (Ha!). His mother reckons that aliens have arrived (again, I’m forced to question her competence as a parent), but Ethan knows that it’s even better, it’s the Thunderbirds!
In a shot that makes the craft look ruddy impressive, and huge to boot, Thunderbird 2 arrives and lowers the rescue platform to safety, with Virgil evacuating the rig workers to the waiting medical personnel.
This is as good an opportunity to discuss the film version of Thunderbird 2 as any. It’s probably the craft that came under the most fire from fans when the film was released, thanks in no small part to how ridiculously awesome the original craft is and how fondly it has been remembered for the last five decades.
If you pushed me to it, I’d be forced to admit that this version of the craft isn’t anywhere near as striking or iconic as the original, and seeing it plastered all over the merchandising for the film just reminded me of how cool the classic version is by comparison. I’m not a massive fan of the position of the winglets, the over-sized tail plane or the squared off integrated boosters.
That said, however, this version does have a lot of features that I like. It feels properly huge, especially when shot from below. It’s got a nice smooth flying wing/lifting body shape, so looks as if it might be able to actually fly and there are additional VTOL thrust jets on the underside to aid with hovering and stability control. But most intriguing of all, and something I’ll go into in greater detail in the hanger bay scenes is the hugely variable pod system, so stay tuned for that.
I’m not really going to go into detail about the concept design of any the craft unless there’s anything particularly exciting, but I would highly recommend that you get hold of a copy of Thunderbirds: The Making of The Movie by Andrew Darling. Seriously, I’m not kidding, if you take just one thing from this review, take my advice and buy the book. At the time of writing this review, you can pick up a used copy on Amazon.co.uk for a penny plus a couple pounds postage. Yes, a PENNY! And for that shiny penny, you get 128 pages of lavish full colour photos, masses of insight from the crew and plenty of concept designs. I over-use superlatives all the time, but in this case it’s justified.
This shady looking fellow is Mullion (Deobia Operai), apparently one of the oil rig workers, but I wouldn’t trust him as far as I could throw a horsebox… What’s got his attention anyway?
Oh it’s Thunderbird 1! Scott’s just hovering in case he’s needed. Hovering, get it? Ah whatever…
A few brief thoughts on the Thunderbird 1 redesign while she’s here. I love this design. I really do. It’s got all the practically of the original, but it’s also got useful features like WINDOWS!!!
Sorry…got slightly excited there, but it makes a lot more sense for the scouting craft of the organisation to have nice big windows rather than relying entirely on one small porthole and a TV screen the size of an iPad. It’s got 4 seats in the cockpit now, so if Scott happens to rescue anyone from an exploding pyramid, they have somewhere comfy to sit. I also rather like the addition of a second VTOL jet amidships, and combined with the rotating engine nacelles at the back, it adds up to a much more convincing horizontal landing system than the original version had.
Minus points? Well, it’s pushing it to grasp at minus points for this craft, but I suppose the rather conventional landing gear that we’ll see in action later is a bit low tech compared to the nice big wing-mounted landing struts of the television version (complete with magic transforming wheels/pads).
Jeff gives the all clear to return to base, and we get our first half decent shot of Gordon Tracy (Ben Torgersen). Like I said earlier, Gordon will eventually become chief astronaut and primary pilot of Thunderbird 3, but for now, he’s co-pilot of both that craft and Thunderbird 2.
As you can see, the International Rescue uniforms have had a complete redesign for the film. Gone are the bright colours, sashes and hats (which were being phased out as the series progressed anyway). Instead, the standard uniform consists of a silver bodysuit, matching gloves and black boots. All three items are actually adapted from commercially available products in the Alpinestars race wear range.
Custom details that have been added include the word ‘Thunderbirds’ in cutout text down the left sleeve, IR insignia badge, International Rescue name patch and first name of the character on the left side of the chest. The craft numbers appear on the backs of the gloves and sides of the boots and each of the individual items that make up the flight suit are colour coded to the individual Thunderbird craft (TB1 – Blue, TB2 – Green, TB3 – Red, TB4 – Yellow, TB5 – Gold). One early plan for the uniforms was to include a cap as well, and color coded versions of these were produced, but do not appear in the finished film.
But wait, what’s this? Oh no, Mullion has just launched a small missile at Thunderbird 1 and it has been well and truly splatted by some nasty looking gloop.
I’m baffled by how the concealed missile and launcher were able to fit inside Mullion’s helmet and still leave room for his head, but that’s another issue for another time (just kidding, it will remain a mystery until the sun burns out).
The goo lets out an ominous bleep. Bleeping goo, who knew that was a thing? Because it is totally a thing.
If any submarine was able to pull off looking darned right evil, it’s this one. Apologies for the quality of this shot in particular, ’tis murky under da sea (resists urge to break into full Sebastian the Crab solo).
Gasp! It’s everyone’s favourite bald baddie, The Hood (Sir Ben Kingsley). Many people say that the Hood is just plain over-the-top, cheesy and verging on pantomime throughout the course of this story. But when hasn’t he been all those things? Sir Ben Kingsley clearly had a ball playing this role and it really shows. Trivia fact for Thunderbirds fans – this film marks the first time that The Hood has been named as such on screen. In the classic series he never actually had a name, and was only referred to as The Hood in publicity materials and comics etc.
The Hood’s fancy talking tracking system shows the location of Tracy Island, putting to bed an issue that has been plaguing fans for of fifty years. What a complete spoilsport.
Meanwhile, FAB 1 and its incredibly full back seat is approaching Tracy Island. The radar screen continues the theme of colour-coded computer graphics as it shows Thunderbirds 1 and 2 approaching. Let’s also take a moment to notice that Parker’s uniform has a light pink trim (seen around the ends of the sleeves here) and that the steering wheel itself is reminiscent of the design used by Thunderbird 2 and Stingray.
Scott waves as Thunderbird 1 overtakes the crowded pink blip in its path.
In the aforementioned abysmally awful early version of this script, Alan gleefully yells “It’s Virgil, and Thunderbird 1!” Why Virgil would be flying Thunderbird 1, I just don’t know. It was one of the many many flaws with that script. Shudders.
“I wish that was me…” sighs Alan.
It’s no great shock that the driving force of this film is Alan’s coming-of-age story, but this is the moment that really beats that notion into your head in case you were unaware of it. There’s an alternate take of this shot and the line in one of the film’s trailers.
There it is – Tracy Island, secret headquarters of International Rescue, and for me it is one of the absolute joys of the film. Out of the three main iterations of the island in the classic series, this film and the revived series, this is the version that I would want to live on. It feels like the tropical paradise that it’s supposed to be.
While the buildings in this shot are the work of famed effects company Framestore (who produced the major visual effects sequences for the film including anything involving the CG models of the Thunderbird craft), the island itself is in fact real – North Island in the Seychelles to be precise.
Jeff walks Brains (Anthony Edwards) through some post flight diagnostics, including an issue with excessive buildup of vibrations on Thunderbird 2 during the mission.
There are only so many ways that an actor can interpret the character of Brains as originally played by David Graham and for my money, Anthony Edwards gets it pretty spot on. There’s a slightly different dynamic with his character in this film as he’s a father and a bit older than his classic counterpart, but he gets some of the best lines in the film and is generally a joy to watch.
In a subtitle-related gaff, the film’s subtitles for this shot show Jeff referring to Brains as “Ray”, despite quite clearly saying “Brains”, singlehandedly leading some fans to believe that the character’s name is Ray Hackenbacker. Cool name…but it ain’t right.
After a lovely moment of reunion for the whole family, Jeff completely kills the mood by asking Alan how school’s going. Because any 14 year old kid would definitely rather talk about school than an insanely dangerous rescue mission he just saw his family pull off…
Joking aside though, I do enjoy these little family sequences, and while the characters of the television series are so memorable and clearly defined, it’s sometimes difficult to believe they’re related to each other and not just five guys taking orders from an older guy. The film rectifies this oversight to a degree, it’s just a shame that we don’t really get to see much of the other Tracy boys in this particular story.
Also of note in this sequence is the introduction of Onaha, Tin-Tin’s mother. A character exclusive to this film and more than likely brought on board to raise the stakes for later when… well you’ll see. Not a sign of Grandma Tracy though. I like to believe she’s living in a house near the Parola Sands racetrack keeping an eye on her neighbour, the elderly Duke of Royston.
Jeff tells Alan that there are no shortcuts to becoming a member of the team, no school means no rockets, and then asks why Alan’s not wearing his retainer. That’ll come back into play at a critical moment – you can bet your bottom on it. Not your bottom dollar, your actual bottom.
Aww, four bros just chilling, kinda warms the heart doesn’t it? Even if three of them are teasing the younger one.
Gordon references the fact that Alan may have ‘blown up’ his last school. For eagle-eared fans, this innocuous sounding line is actually an easter egg reference to one potential timeline provided in a Thunderbirds comic in which a young Alan Tracy caused damage to a school building when his experimental model rocket went out of control. I’m betting that the reference went over the heads of practically everyone, even those who say that the production team didn’t pay tribute to the source material…
The lavish varieties of colour on display in this set, and indeed thematically throughout the whole film is largely the work of production designer, John Beard. It makes the entire production so visually interesting and of course harks back to the retro feel of the classic series.
Alan, having more than his fill of the teasing, decides to naff off, dragging poor Fermat with him. The kid doesn’t even get to finish his lunch. That’s utterly disgraceful, it looks so very tasty too. Tough luck, it belongs to Scott now.
Here’s the first clear close-up shot we get of the famous Tracy Island swimming pool….errr…pools. Yup, count ’em, there are two, your glasses do not deceive you, unless you see four pools, in which case you need to change your prescription.
This set, like the majority of the interior sets, was constructed in Pinewood Studios in England. The reason that there are two swimming pools was that the production crew needed a way to convincingly move Thunderbird 1’s launch pad further away from the main house. After watching the classic series, they came to the conclusion that if Thunderbird 1 launched beside the house as it does in the series, then there would be severe damage to the building. The solution? Add a smaller diving pool between the house and the main swimming pool. An effect that was planned but never utilized for the film was that the diving pool was supposed to raise up, spilling water over the patio area as the main pool slides back underneath it.
Here’s Kyrano (Bhasker Patel), faithful manservant to the Tracy family and Tin-Tin’s father. He likes the odd bit of gardening and could probably give Parker a run for his money in a game of pruning the roses.
Penny receives some troubling intelligence from Parker. Her mobile phone ringtone is so familiar to me, but I can’t quite place it. This is the only scene in the film in which Penny isn’t wearing some variety of pink top. She’s still wearing a pink skirt though, so…yeah.
Alan casually breaks into Thunderbird 1’s hangar, having obtained the access code from…somewhere. Fermat is rather perturbed, and clearly doesn’t want to be there. Lesson number one kids, peer pressure is not okay.
Apparently the oil rig fire was no accident and Penelope will keep Jeff posted about any leads she receives. Call me crazy, but I have a hunch that there’s a little more going on between these two than meets the eye. But then they’re International Rescue, and secrets come with the territory. In the audio commentary for this scene, Jonathan Frakes hints that we might have seen more of this relationship in a sequel.
There’s a deleted scene between Penny and Jeff that would have fitted somewhere in the first half of the film, but since I don’t know exactly where, I’ll mention it here. Basically Jeff has a moment of uncertainty about the life that he has chosen for himself and his family. He questions whether it is right to for him to risk his sons lives and ask them to risk their own in order to rescue others. Penny reassures him that he’s doing the right thing.
Of all the deleted scenes, this is the one that I would most like to see. I want to see that vulnerability and humanity behind the man in charge, and I want to hear those very natural questions being asked.
Tin-Tin (Vanessa Hudgens) greets Jeff and Penelope with deference, before doing an incredibly poor job of hiding her annoyance upon hearing the news that Alan has returned for spring break. Look at her, she’s bloomin’ well cheesed off.
Penny suggests that Tin-Tin and Alan will get along when the time is right, basically informing Jeff that there’s a bit of a romance going on between the two. Jeff was unaware. Penny is not at all surprised.
Also in this shot Penny’s eyes are all over the shop! This is a common problem in the later series puppets and… Wait…sorry….it uhhh…..it’s just a badly timed frame grab. Carry on. Coughs.
This nifty transition shot takes us right down through the swimming pool and directly into Thunderbird 1’s cockpit, very swish!
Naturally none of the Thunderbird craft were built full size, largely being represented by computer generated models, and in the case of some shots of Thunderbird 4, a large scale miniature. However, along with fabricating the cockpit sets for the craft, the production team also created the entire cockpit and nosecone for Thunderbird 1, interior and exterior and hung it from a crane in certain shots that we’ll see as the story progresses.
So Alan has presumably decided to show his family that he’s not just a little kid and is perfectly capable of handling the fastest craft on the face of the Earth. To be fair, I would have preferred a few additional pointers as to exactly why Alan wants to do this, but I’ll let it slide.
Things don’t quite go to plan though and pretty soon there are alarms going off left right and centre. Alan wonders if the day can get any worse.
Jeff appears and summons Alan to his office. Fair to say the day just got worse. Sorry, kid. Fermat helpfully declares that Alan is so “busted”, a common parlance for the situation in which someone is caught doing something they shouldn’t be doing (including hijacking hyper-sonic rescue planes), but it’s also a cheeky nudge and wink to the name of the British band that provided the film’s theme song.
As they leave, the boys discover Mullion’s magical bleeping goo and to make things clear as muck, Fermat believes that it’s some kind of gallium electrolyte compound. Glad that’s cleared that up then.
Here’s a great shot of the practical Thunderbird 1 cockpit. The rest of the craft is hidden by the boarding gantry, but you can just about make out the port side tail fin at the bottom of the image. The ladder on the left looks like a rather strenuous way to get down there, and hopefully it’s only used in emergencies. This is not an emergency, so I guess this doesn’t qualify.
So Alan moseys up to Jeff’s office in the circular command centre above the main villa. Just look at that sunset over the ocean, it’s gorgeous!
Alan tries to tell Jeff about the goo that he and Fermat found, but Jeff cuts him off at the pass (a shame, as he could have saved everyone from a lot of trouble later if he had just listened for a couple of minutes).
Jeff berates Alan for his lack of concern about the secrecy of the organisation and for firing up a Thunderbird’s power systems without first engaging the anti-detection shield, two massive indicators that many aspects of International Rescue are indeed top secret, regardless of whether they allow their craft to be filmed or not.
Alan tries to argue his way out of it, but Jeff puts his foot down. Alan is grounded for the rest of spring break and is told in no uncertain terms that if he wants to join the team, he has to play by the rules. Alan is furious, accusing his father of not wanting him to join the team and storms out. Woe is Alan, imagine being grounded on a beautiful island, hundreds of miles from the nearest Money Supermarket advertising campaign. The poor chap.
Heated argument aside, the serene decor of Jeff’s office is very nice and like the original series, the exotic ornaments compliment the rather streamlined design of the circular room.
Speaking of set dressing, here’s the only image of Mrs Tracy to appear in any of the filmed adaptations of Thunderbirds. She isn’t named on screen, but it can be inferred from the apparent ages of the boys that this photograph was probably taken hours or days before she perished in an avalanche.
As the five boys are in the photograph, I might as well name check them and give their ages as of the photo (with current age in brackets). So from left to right we have:
Gordon age 8 (18), Alan age 4 (14), Scott age 14 (24), John age 12 (22) and Virgil age 10 (20).
The story takes place in the year 2020, not 2010 as many people mistakenly assume from the trailer. It actually says that in the year 2010, Jeff took the boys to the uncharted island to set up International Rescue.
As Jeff is musing over the photograph, he receives a call from John (Lex Shrapnel).
Out of all five Tracy brothers, Lex is hands-down the best piece of casting in my humble opinion. Maybe it’s because I’m not a huge fan of Alan in any guise, and maybe it’s because John gets slightly more development than the other Tracy boys, including this scene, which, short as it is, is one of the major highlights of the film for me.
Introducing Thunderbird 5 – solitary and ever vigilant. The space station has probably gone though the most radical design change of all five primary rescue craft, and with good reason. Don’t misunderstand me, I think the original Thunderbird 5 is great, very retro and such an unusual design.
However, this version is a heck of a lot more practical and believable as a space station, with it’s giant solar array and simplified shape.
Gee, got enough monitors there, John? Hope he’s got something else to occupy his time with, as he’ll get square eyes sitting there all day!
During the oil rig sequence, I mentioned that International Rescue swung into action before a formal distress call was made, explaining their almost instant arrival at the danger zone. This scene goes some way to explaining that, as John mentions that he is monitoring a forest fire in Vladivostok and a typhoon heading for Singapore, meaning that the equipment tracks disasters and potential disasters before they happen.
I have seen this film a minimum of 10-20 times and it’s only when I looked at this screen grab that I noticed the sliding rail at the base of John’s chair, which explains how he’s able to reach all those millions of screens. He probably likes to pretend he’s a train when nobody’s watching. Choo-choo!
The conversation between Jeff and John is a poignant one, with John supporting his father and letting him know what a great job Jeff’s done since the boys’ mother passed away. Paxton and Shrapnel really shine in this scene and it’s a nice quiet moment that stands out for me, as I said before, as one of my favourite moments in the whole film.
Although this relatively small control room is the only interior set that we see in Thunderbird 5, it effectively conveys the idea that the room is part of a much larger circular structure, thanks to the curved end of the set.
Another breathtaking shot of Tracy Island, illustrating that the main installations and launch complexes are housed on one particular corner of the island. This shot also serves to show the vast jungle that covers a large area of the island’s surface.
We’ll be seeing more of the jungle in a short while, so pack your insect repellent and sandwiches while you can.
Thunderbird 2’s enormous hanger bay, built in Pinewood Studios.
There are several items of interest in this shot. We get our first brief glimpses of the Firefly, the Thunderiser and the Mole, all of which were built for real. In the screen grab above, we can also see ‘B Pod’, containing two standard personal hovercraft stacked on top of each other and barely visible in the background is a futuristic forklift designed by original series designer Mike Trim.
In the shot above, the Thunderiser is facing towards the rear of Thunderbird 2 and is located in the aft port side pod. The mobile loading arm is currently positioned under the retracted aft starboard side pod.
One of the aforementioned reasons that I like this Thunderbird 2 is because of its unique pod system. Unlike the classic and Thunderbirds Are Go! versions that can select one of six pods/modules, this Thunderbird 2 has a fully configurable segmented pod bay that can be set up in any of the following ways:
- Three pods – one forward, one port side aft and one starboard side aft. In this configuration, three pod vehicles can be deployed at once, one exiting from the front and two from the rear.
- Two pods – one forward and one aft (connecting both sides of the aft pods)
- One pod – forward and aft pods are all connected together
- Rescue platform V1/V2 – winch platform and bay door pod in forward position and either V1 (two separate rear pods) or V2 (one large rear joined pod).
Once the desired pods and configuration have been chosen and punched into the computer, a system of automated robotic cranes lifts them onto the flat transporter in front of Thunderbird 2. The transporter then slides backwards under the craft and Thunderbird 2 settles down over the pods and transporter, ready to be wheeled out to its launch ramp.
Brains is especially delighted that Fermat has returned as the boy is the only other person on the island that understands Brains’ inventions. He decides to show off the neural net control system, which is basically a flashy shower cap with bits on…
Brains succeeds in telekinetically lifting a small phone off the worktop, unaware that he’s also causing the Mole to levitate too. Anthony Edwards certainly gives these rubber faces his full effort, making the rather silly sequence work quite nicely.
Fermat wants to talk about something and Brains is rather taken aback, assuming his son is having trouble with girls. Perish the thought, Fermat is equally put out at the very notion, revealing his discovery of the gallium compound on Thunderbird 1. They rush off to check out the magic bleeping goo, stammering away to each other in their excitement which is quite adorable.
Also of note in the background of this shot is one of several updated red videophones we will see in the film. Wonder if they have a “Sound Only Selected” option?
Alan’s taken some time to head down to the beach and skim some stones. Again you’ve got to feel sorry for the guy being grounded in such a tropical and remote setting.
Fun fact, it took quite a lot of effort to actually get the crab on that rock to move in this shot, but the crew finally managed it.
Not content with skimming stones by hand, Alan pulls out what appears to be a homemade high velocity stone skimmer and fires a stone far across the surface.
Unlike the aerial footage of Tracy Island, in which North Island doubled for the main island, the beach and jungle scenes were filmed on another one of the Seychelles islands, namely Praslin.
Alan’s stone skims out into the waves and then suddenly we zoom down this periscope to see…
…the scariest looking pair of eyes ever.
Here’s our first proper look inside the Hood’s submarine. The design is rather striking and certainly most unusual, with this area acting as the Hood’s own private meditation chamber. Well I suppose he doesn’t have a temple to do that sort of thing in, so…
Aha! Those mean looking eyes belong to Mullion, everyone’s favourite fake oil rig worker! He confirms that the island is in range of the submarine. Gosh, something’s definitely got his full attention.
I was not expecting this. Moving on.
The posterior belongs to Transom (Rose Keegan), the Hood’s cyber-genius, and the brains to Mullion’s brawn. By the way, for all you fans of clever names, mullions and transoms are elements used in the design of doors and windows.
The makeup team have done a fantastic job in making the classically pretty Keegan look exceptionally geeky and ever so slightly repellent for the role.
Mullion decides to preempt the Hood’s plan by suggesting that they target the island. The Hood is less than impressed and fixes Mullion with a hypnotic stare and holds him at bay with a finger. He spells out that they don’t need to force the Thunderbirds to leave, but by giving them a victim, they will go willingly.
Unlike the classic series, the Hood’s hypnotic eyes are red rather than yellow. This film is the last time (bar the Thunderbirds 1965 project) that the Hood uses any form of hypnotic control. The concept is discarded for Thunderbirds Are Go!
Transom commences targeting of Thunderbird 5 and, on the Hood’s command, fires a sea to space missile from the submarine. The missile streaks up through the atmosphere towards its target, ominous music paving the way with dread for what is about to happen.
Alarms blare, lights flash and John rushes to the alert console. There’s a 100% impact probability. I’m no mathematician, but I’m pretty sure that’s a very not-good thing.
Desperately John tries to contact base, although interestingly he actually refers to it as “Tracy Island”, something that was never done in the classic series.
WA-BOOM! In a spectacularly rendered effects shot, Thunderbird 5 is rocked by a huge explosion, showering John with debris and sending him flying towards the core of the craft.
Outside the damage looks extensive, with fragments of debris everywhere. Director Frakes kept asking the effects team to reduce the amount of visible debris both inside and outside Thunderbird 5 to prevent the audience’s focus being drawn away from the actors and the craft itself.
Smug Hood is smug…
The emergency red alert alarm sounds across Tracy Island, and Gordon very nearly spills the drink that Onaha has spent so much time preparing. The boys leg it to the command centre to see what the fuss is all about.
Brains and Fermat arrive in Jeff’s office, activating a hand-print recognition system, triggering the room’s transformation into the Tracy Island command centre. Handy, am I right? Handy? Hand…? Oh what’s the use…
The Hood’s submarine moves implacable closer. We never really get a half decent look at the sub, but there were several toy versions produced and marketed on the film’s release. It’s primarily dark grey and features red trim and generally looks as evil and threatening as the average British politician.
Mammoth blast doors seal across the window of the command centre. From this angle, we can see a big triangular hole on the underside of the island library, I wonder what the heck that could be for?
Jeff and the boys take up positions in the concealed elevators behind their portraits as Brains explains that Thunderbird 5 may have been struck by a meteor (something that once happened in the comics).
When they’re all in position, the lights in the elevators glow red (indicating Thunderbird 3 will be their destination), Jeff speaks that famous phrase “Thunderbirds are go!”, which appears to act as a verbal command to engage the lifts. So now the catchphrase isn’t just cool, it’s functional too!
The library starts splitting into thirds, revealing an even larger hole in the ground.
In the classic series, this building was the Thunderbird 5-shaped ’round house’. Something of a mystery, we never learned anything about it, nor even saw the inside of it. That tradition continues here, but at least it actually does something cool! Well yeah libraries are generally cool, but you know what I mean.
Jeff takes command in the centre seat, while Gordon and Virgil ride up from acting as co-pilots. Scott’s still a bit full from (probably) scoffing Alan’s cheeseburger earlier and decides to take a literal back seat on this flight.
As rocket cockpit designs go, it’s a good ‘un. Plenty of buttons, leavers, switches, shiny thingies etc. I have a bit of a soft spot for this set because I actually acquired Virgil’s co-pilot control console (just visible to the left of Jeff’s) a few years ago and it really is a very nicely finished piece of property. But then all the production design for this set was done by the experts at Pinewood Studios, so I’d expect nothing less.
I also managed to acquire a few other bits and pieces from the film that I’ll mention briefly later as they appear (purely for the sake of adding information and not at all for the sake of showing off…)
Maximum thrust is applied and the mighty red rocket blasts off accompanied by another reprise of the Thunderbirds theme. This track is slightly different on the soundtrack release (as is the section that features the theme music during the oil rig sequence). I can only assume that the finished film lacked enough uses of the theme and so some more was added at appropriate moments after the soundtrack CD’s had already been prepared.
As for Thunderbird 3 herself, what can I say? She’s an absolute dream. Hands-down my favourite ship in the film, favorite re-design and the way it’s shot is just breathtaking. It feels more streamlined than the original, those buttress supports look a lot sturdier and I really approve of the integration of the retro-rockets into the support pylons.
Incidentally, the launch shot is a homage to a very similar shot in Apollo 13.
The Hood watched Thunderbird 3 race away from the island. “There goes the cavalry…but who will rescue the rescuers” he muses. Nasty piece of work, isn’t he?
Alan watches the rest of his family head for space and is soon joined by Tin-Tin, and presently, Fermat, screaming that Thunderbird 5 has been hit. Alan tells him not to panic. Wait for it folks…
Boo! Yup, a big old submarine surfaces a few feet from their front door, so the trio decide their best bet is to run very fast in the opposite direction.
From this point until the beginning of the third act, a lot of people complain that the film essentially turns into a Spy Kids ripoff, featuring three kids running around an island. Never mind the constant impending sense of real danger and moderate threat, because that’s obviously just for show…
While preparing for this review, and re-watching the film collecting frame grabs, it occurred to me that this whole segment of the film is much shorter than I remembered it being.
There are intruders on this island and Brains is not okay with it. He tries to contact the crew of Thunderbird 3, but gets absolutely nowhere due to strong interference impeding the transmission.
Thunderbird 3 reaches orbit and heads for a speck of light in the distance.
The crew of the submarine disembarks and begins to make their way to the main house.
Alan freaks out that his earlier stunt with Thunderbird 1 has revealed the island’s location and caused this problem, but Fermat calms him down with the news that the bleepy-goo-magic-compound might have been some kind of transmitter.
So what they really should have done was get Grandma to whip up a batch of transmitter dissolver (ten points if you remember which classic episode that featured in).
John is not having a remotely good day, and obviously hasn’t bothered to tidy up for the imminent arrival of his guests. The lazy git.
Thunderbird 3 arrives and swings around so that Gordon can initiate docking immediately, using this oh-so-handy virtual representation of the craft.
In the old days, Alan didn’t need a flashy graphic, he did just fine with a level and some buttons made from Lego…
Thunderbird 3 docks with the space station, in a manner that is not only far more believable than the classic series, but also 90% less suggestive. The music is also wonderfully dramatic, woo!
Aww look, the centre console forms a giant ‘T’ shape, you know, for like Thunderbirds…and stuff…
Might as well mention that I have Scott’s flight suit from this scene and a pair of the Thunderbird 3 gloves too.
The Tracy’s enter Thunderbird 5 from some kind of giant electronic Kinder Egg.
Kidding aside, I really enjoy all of the Thunderbird 5 sequences, and Jonathan Frakes apparently had a great time filming them, due in part to the similarities to filming on the set of the Enterprise for Star Trek The Next Generation and the subsequent films.
Virgil tends to John, Gordon assesses the damage and Scott and Jeff tackle the fires in the control room.
The rescue party are all wearing rather cool dark grey helmets, complete with red ‘3’ markings and red areas on the rear. The production team also designed a unique helmet for John featuring gold ‘5’ markings and gold areas on the rear. For whatever reason it was never used in the finished film, but the inside of the prop still bears the label ‘Lex – John’. How do I know this? Yes, you’ve guessed it, it’s mine now and I’m wearing it as I type…mwahahahaha!
The landing party near the main house.
Is that a Ford vehicle I see before me? (Answer: yes, it is)
The Alankaline Trio (worst attempt at a pun name ever) scarper as fast as they can back towards the main villa.
Transom basically declares that the whopping great door that leads to the command centre will be ruddy difficult to open. Mullion isn’t phased. He likes a challenge, and cracks his neck in order to prove it.
Our heroes head into a convenient ventilation system under the patio area. Hopefully this will lead them to somewhere useful and not straight into a murderous air conditioning fan. That’d be a bit grim.
Brains very nearly convinces the audience that he’s remaining calm under pressure, except for three piffling minor details. His magazine is upside down, he’s shaking more than a lamb in a mint sauce factory and his whistling is ever so slightly entirely out of tune. But gosh darn it he tried!
The door regrets getting in Mullion’s way.
The Hood finally learns the identity of the Thunderbirds, confirming that Jeff Tracy is indeed a wealthy ex-astronaut who lost his wife in an avalanche. The way he sarcastically says “How tragic!” gets me every time. Ben Kingsley found the role of the Hood to be enormously releasing, relishing the opportunity to chew the scenery. Not literally of course…that’d just be plain weird.
Alan, Tin-Tin and Fermat have somehow managed to make their way into a section of the ventilation system beside the command centre.
That’s an awful lot of room for some small pipes, it’s almost as if it was designed for three children to skulk about in, but then not being an electrician or architect, who am I to judge?
Transom recognises Brains as Professor Hackenbacker, and breathlessly babbles that she found his work on neutrinos extremely…stimulating. Brains quite wisely moves as far down the couch as he can possibly get because of…
The Hood irritably reminds Transom to concentrate, whereupon she whips out a neat little tracking gadget that instantly locates the hand-print scanner.
I really wish I had one of these for my keys.
Suave Hood is suave. The diabolical mastermind asks Brains to activate the control switch in his oiliest, most persuasive tone. Brains disagrees. The Hood threatens to use some mind powers on Brains if he doesn’t do what he’s told.
Interestingly the Hood reveals that he has had his powers since birth. It’s not something that I’ve ever really wondered about, but it’s a nice fact all the same.
“Fu-Fu-Fu-no way!” exclaims Brains. I’m gonna be honest, I laugh every damn time I watch this scene. Partly the absurdity of a man of Brains’ intellect almost swearing in a PG rated movie, and partly the look of astonishment on the Hood’s face!
The Hood isn’t going to let Brains get away with that attempted swearing, so he telekinetically marches Brains over to the console in a very wooden manner, commenting “Like a puppet on a string!”
I think the classic series walks were slightly more convincing though…
The accompanying sound design for the Hood’s powers was created by Glenn Freemantle, so that even if the Hood was not on camera, the audience would associate the sound effect with the Hood’s psychic control.
Forced beyond his limits, Brains activates the scanner and the whole room once again transforms into the command and control centre, although this time we see the whole process occurring.
Decorations slide into the floor, computer consoles fold into place, the everyday photos of the Tracy family change into their International Rescue variants and the blast doors slide across the window.
In many ways it is like the reverse version of operation cover-up, another curious feature of the classic series. If secrecy is so important, surely the base should maintain operation cover-up 24 hours a day unless there is a rescue in process, rather than only activating the cover-up system when the island expects visitors.
The kids try to get a better vantage point and Alan pulls his best Justin Bieber face.
The situation of Thunderbird 5 is become severe, with warnings and system failures spreading. Jeff gives the order to abandon the station.
Gordon heroically tells the team that the locking mechanism is jammed. It is probably the most exciting thing he gets to do in the whole film and the line is delivered with such conviction that one wonders if Ben Torgersen had watched an episode of the series that very morning.
A familiar face appears on the monitor, intent on putting a real crimp in Jeff’s plans for the rest of the day.
Oooo I do love a good atmospheric lens flare, and this was before J.J. Abrams got hold of Star Trek too…
Transom complies with the Hood’s order to “warm them up”, although I suspect that this implies that she’s going to do something a bit more sinister than send up some auxiliary sleeping bags.
The gang are hanging out behind Scott’s portrait. Hanging out, right? Hanging? Oh for goodness sake, I give up…
Kyrano and Onaha are brought before the evil genius. Alan queries “Who’s the bald freak?” to which Kyrano says:
“You?” I’ve always amused myself by listening to it as if Kyrano is answering Alan’s question, implying that Kyrano believes Alan to be a bald freak.
Seriously though, Kyrano looks properly concerned and in a state of disbelief and shock. Tin-Tin is in for a bit of that shortly as well.
The Hood takes the opportunity to mentally torture Kyrano for no particular reason, not that he ever cared that he was doing it in the classic series either.
With Brains looking on helplessly, the Hood introduces himself to the stranded crew of Thunderbird 5 (in a rather whimsical manner) and then unveils his master plan. He plans to rob the ten largest banks in the world, starting with the Bank of London. The world’s monetary system will be thrown into chaos and the Thunderbirds will be held responsible.
Those who know anything about London, or banks, or both, will know that there is no such place as the Bank of London. The main bank in London is called the Bank of England, which popped up in Vault of Death. But then this is 2020 after all, maybe it’s had a re-brand.
Jeff demands to know why the Hood wants International Rescue to take the wrap for the crimes and the Hood declares “An eye for an eye, Mr Tracy”. Oooo, what could this mean?
I also rather like this shot as it switches focus between the video feed to the portrait of Jeff at the moment when the Hood refers to him personally.
The Hood catches everyone (who haven’t seen the original series) off guard by revealing that while Jeff may have forgotten the Hood, he surely remembers saving the life of the Hood’s brother, Kyrano.
Jeff pulls his best “Oh deary me” face.
Tin-Tin is having a rather bloomin’ hard time accepting that the bald freak in the dress is in fact her uncle.
The film differs from the series in this respect in that the Hood and Kyrano are brothers. In the latter, they were actually half brothers, making the Hood Tin-Tin’s half uncle.
In the stunned silence that follows, Fermat chooses literally the worst possible moment to sneeze incredibly loudly.
Brains has a brainwave (shut up) and thrusts a handkerchief to his nose. Brains my boy, you know that no one for even one tiny SECOND is going to believe that was your sneeze, right?
Oh they have. Carry on then.
The Hood begins to reminisce, saying that while his body was injured, his mind grew stronger. Then, in a very chillingly relaxed, almost completely apathetic manner, he decrees that the Tracy family will suffer, as he suffered, waiting for a rescue that will never come. He then silences Jeff’s attempts to stall him with a wave of his hand.
Thunderbird 5 begins to spiral out of orbit, and Scott reports that CO2 levels are rising. With little immediate alternative, Jeff orders the oxygen scrubbers to be wired to the emergency batteries in an attempt to clean the air.
Virgil has a pressing need to know how much time the last ditch solution will give them. John grimly replies that they have about four hours and Jeff loses a little bit of hope…
Fermat takes the opportunity to belt out another enormous sneeze, but this time Brains’ amateurish little bit of playacting isn’t fooling anyone (and I’m gobsmacked that it did the first time around to be honest).
Mullion suspects that there’s someone else there. No flies on this henchman…yet.
Things go very quiet as Mullion listens intently to the ceiling near the portraits. Then, in a moment that will surely scare the willies out of the younger viewers and wake up any napping adults, he thrusts his hand through the ceiling and grabs onto a leg!
Tin-Tin’s having none of it though, she’s already had a pretty rubbish start to the morning, learning that her uncle is a telekinetic psycho and all, and bites Mullion’s hand, freeing Alan.
The kids take a dive into one of the elevator tubes, planning to escape to the Thunderbird silos. The line about the silos was added during ADR to make it clear to the audience that they were planning to go there, and it wasn’t a total accident.
The Hood berates Mullion for not checking the rest of the island was deserted, then spots one of Jeff’s photos and asks if the men found any children.
I’ll admit I’m less sure about who’s who in this photo, but I would assume that left to right it goes Jeff (obviously), John, Gordon, Alan, Virgil, Scott.
Anyone like to guess what kind of car they’re in? That was a rhetorical question (not a potato).
Transom locates the kids in Thunderbird 2’s silo in the loading arm. The Hood promptly orders that they should be sealed in, and Transom complies.
Brains doesn’t like the way this day is going one damn bit.
The loading arm, aka the indoor fairground ride, appears to specifically designed to load two people into Thunderbird 2, but in this instance it’s being used to hurl three children around like a crazy wrestler. Tin-Tin is having way too much fun, Alan and Fermat look like they could hurl any moment, so good job their stomachs are empty…
It’s a slightly odd sequence in that there’s no clear reason provided to explain why they’re on the loading arm anyway. It doesn’t connect to the elevator shaft or anything like that, so maybe they were trying to stow away on board Thunderbird 2 and Transom overrode the controls before they could manage it.
Here’ s a lovely shot of the Thunderbird 2 hangar that we saw briefly earlier. Brains’ laboratory area has been tidied away in the interim.
As I mentioned before, this set was built in Pinewood Studios, and it looks very cool indeed. Everything in this shot is entirely practical, with the exception of Thunderbird 2’s fuselage, but its landing legs are in fact real.
For a nice set tour during production of this scene, check out this video that I recorded about a year before the film’s release: Thunderbirds 2004 – Calling The Shots
The gang dash for the rapidly closing doors to Thunderbird 3’s silo, but are seconds too late. They make a quick turn and head for Thunderbird 1’s silo, but again aren’t quite fast enough.
Logically, if they’d actually run to Thunderbird 1’s silo first, they’d have made it, but maybe the panic room in Thunderbird 3’s silo has comfier chairs.
Undeterred, Alan reckons that they can use the Thunderiser to blast through the door, and suggests Tin-Tin and Fermat delay Mullion and company with the Firefly. A bold plan, and one that pretty much works.
When Alan references both vehicles, there should be a cutaway shot to show them, but it’s missing, something noted by director Frakes in the film’s audio commentary. And speaking of which, if you get the chance to watch the film with the audio commentary, go for it. Jonathan Frakes is of course perfectly easy to listen to and his fascinating insights into the production of the film make for wonderful entertainment.
Fermat protests that the equipment is only to be used in case of emergency. Tin-Tin’s expression says it all. Fermat hurriedly decides that the present situation qualifies as an emergency and the team leap into action!
Mullion and his minions (not the little yellow kind, the tough imposing kind) are getting inexorably closer in the futuristic command centre elevator. Better get a wiggle on, kids!
Tin-Tin assumes the rear cannon position as Fermat powers up the Firefly and moves into position.
Initially I wasn’t overly fond of this Firefly design, but it has grown on me over the years. I think that my main gripes are that it looks far too small compared with the original, and it always bothered me that the operator on the turret was completely exposed. However, it’s possible that in the case of a severe blaze, the turret could be operated remotely from the cockpit. Mike Trim produced a concept design for a much beefier version of the Firefly, but ultimately the production team went with the version we see in the film.
It really is amazing to think that the Firefly and Thunderiser, along with the Mole, were all built for real and actually drive around. Sadly, after filming was completed, the Mole and the Thunderiser were dismantled. The Firefly survived in the hands of a private collector for years, but was eventually sold and cannibalized for parts by its new owner, which is a real shame.
Fermat’s regretting his decision to study microbiology rather than driver’s ed.
While Soren Fulton was filmed piloting the machine, in reality it was controlled by a concealed driver hidden in another part of the machine. The same thing applies to the other rescue vehicles.
Alan revs up the Thunderiser and it barrels out of the rear pod.
As pod vehicle designs go, the Thunderiser is simple, yet effective, and the bold red colour scheme really helps it stand out. It also has tracked wheels, and tracked wheels are cool.
The goons have stepped out of the wrong elevator at the wrong time and they’re about to pay for their mistake. Mullion yells at them to retreat.
Tin-Tin is quicker off the mark though, and fires several thousand gallons of green flame-retardant foam at the villains, knocking them off their feet and back into the elevator.
Given the force behind most high pressure fire fighting gear, they’re lucky that they weren’t cut in half by the foam, so that’s a major plus.
Seizing his chance, Alan targets a small area in the massive door of Thunderbird 1’s silo and lets rip with the Thunderiser’s awesome laser cannon. His “Time to Thunderiser” line seems to have been designed for use in virtually every TV spot and trailer for the film…
While some fans may think that the name Thunderiser is a bit of a cheesy name invented for the film, it actually dates back to a set of Somportex trading cards as the name given to the small booster mortar vehicle used in Edge of Impact.
Alan and Tin-Tin leap through the newly cut opening and implore Fermat to hurry up and join them.
Note the red classic car in this shot, again no prizes for guessing what type it is. It’s also not the first time that vintage automobiles have appeared in Thunderbird 2’s hangar as a few can be spotted beside the damaged craft in Terror in New York City.
There are also a couple of jet skis beside the car. One early draft of the film featured some jet ski-style craft known as Thunderskis rescuing people from a flooding bank vault during the Hood’s master plan.
The kids are quick, but not quite quick enough. Mullion spots Fermat running into Thunderbird 1’s silo. If he wasn’t mad before the foam incident, he sure as heck is now!
Our heroic trio try to escape through a service tunnel, but the hatchway is locked. Alan puts the others on guard duty and sets about trying to crack the access code.
Note that through creative use of some hanging scenery, the audience is tricked into believing that the massive bulk of Thunderbird 1 is hanging just overhead.
He’s behind yooooooou!
Yes the Hood is obviously fully bored of getting Mullion to do his dirty work, so he decides to do it himself. This scene is shot and played quite wonderfully. Each time the shot focuses on one character, the other is reflected beside them, leading to all sorts of nice metaphors for good being a distorted reflection of evil and so on.
The Hood tries to come off as being sympathetic to Alan, and then tries subtly to get Alan to rebel against Jeff, claiming the latter was directly responsible for Alan’s mother’s death. He claims that the Thunderbirds are Jeff’s way of dealing with his own guilt.
Alan is getting more sickened and confused by the second, but he doesn’t yield to the Hood’s trickery.
The Hood falls back on his tried and true old tactic of using his hypnotic powers to get what he wants, telekinetically unlocking the door. Alan tries to warn the others, but they’ve been headed off at the pass by Mullion and his foam-covered friends. The trio of heroes are now very much trapped.
Guys, it’s probably not a fantastic idea to stand directly under Thunderbird 1’s main engines. Guys? GUYS?!
Alan has a plan. It’s not the best plan in the world, but it’s a start. They position themselves over one of the blast doors on the floor of the silo. Alan takes out his stone-flinger and fires a rock in the Hood’s direction.
The Hood dodges the shot with ridiculous ease. “It’s not me you’re angry at, Alan” he gloats, with a smugness that pervades the whole chamber.
“It’s not you I’m aiming at!” counters the young Tracy, firing again, and this time the stone finds its target – the control for releasing the duct doors. Hold on tight folks, things are about to get hectic again! The trapdoor opens and the kids fall down into the exhaust duct.
Annoyed Hood is annoyed. “Get THEEEEM!” he screams impatiently.
I don’t often throw hissy fits, but on those rare occasions, I wish I looked this fabulous doing it.
Mullion orders Transom to fire up Thunderbird 1’s engines. Gee, I hope he’s smart enough to vacate the silo before Transom complies, otherwise that’s going to be messy!
With a sound like…thunder…the craft’s engines blast into life, sending a huge plume of fire down into the tunnel.
The detail on the rest of this panel is amazing, with several hidden easter eggs that you’ll never actually be able to see on screen. How do I know? Is it because I acquired this control panel too? No, don’t be ridiculous! I acquired the mirrored version that sits on the opposite side of the main control panel…
Some of the options mentioned on the panel include a communications link to FAB 2 (The Man From MI.5), pod selection options for the Domo (The Duchess Assignment) and Neutraliser Tractor (Move and You’re Dead) and a whole host of other little goodies.
The kids slide down the huge exhaust duct like three child shaped bullets, barely keeping ahead of the inferno that is hot on their heels. Flames jet out of the end of the duct, just above three sets of ripples on the surface of the sea.
This scene in particular is the main reason why the film was rated PG by the British Board of Film Classification, due to the fact that children are shown in mortal peril.
Transom scans the video monitors for any sign of the troublesome trio. There’s not so much as a singed hair to be seen.
Mullion is delighted and exclaims that they must have gone up like firecrackers, then laughs manically. Brains isn’t going to let that slide and very nearly manages to punch the huge man in the the face, but is stopped by the Hood’s powers at the last second.
Something is different this time though, the Hood seems to be having a little trouble in maintaining his influence. It’s still enough to send Brains to the floor clutching his temples, but even so this is intriguing…
Clearly even more fed up than he was before, The Hood orders Mullion to load the equipment needed to get into the bank and to cut out any further delays.
As Brains glares at the Hood with a mixture of pain and loathing, the Hood realizes that he’s displaying a rather weakened image and instantly snaps into a more dignified pose in a way that invites a giggle. Dignified Hood is dignified, after all.
Back on the beach, we find our three half-drowned chums staggering out of the surf having narrowly avoided a properly nasty toasting. While Fermat is the character who is having trouble swimming, in reality it was Vanessa Hudgens that required swimming lessons for the film.
The guys get awkwardly embarrassed when Tin-Tin catches them half dressed, though considering they probably wear this level of clothing for an average dip in the island’s swimming pool, it’s not really a problem.
A lovely panning shot around the Tracy Island relay station (disguised as the most believable palm tree in history). In the television series, the relay was a towering…ummm tower…located around the other side of the island, shown in Attack of the Alligators, but this version feels more economical.
Fermat suggests using the relay station to hack into the system and give control back to Jeff and the boys in Thunderbird 5. Alan comes up with a foolproof plan to navigate their way to the relay station. Foolproof, but for the fact that Alan’s sense of direction is about as accurate as that of a cat with it’s head caught in a toilet roll tube.
Tin-Tin corrects Alan’s directions, stating that they will have to go through the jungle. Fermat is horrified, as the jungle is off limits. Whether it’s off limits to the younger kids or to everyone, and just why it is off limits at all is something that remains a complete mystery.
The plan is set in motion and the would-be explorers start making their way through the dense jungle. Alan worries that they’re going to have to hurry to stop the Hood leaving the island, but Fermat pulls an electronic ace from his sleeve. He’s only gone and nicked the guidance processor from Thunderbird 2, essentially rendering the craft as little more than an incredibly attractive giant green brick.
What a splendid reveal of Cliveden House in Berkshire, or rather Lady Penelope’s Country Mansion. It’s an impressive building, very different to Stourhead House in Wiltshire that inspired the original series version of Penny’s stately home.
Nothing gets your motor looking it’s shiniest better than patented Parker breath. Of course, he’s bedecked in pink dungarees, because it would be insanity for him to be wearing anything else.
‘Er Ladyship requires Parker’s attention, summoning him into the manor. For a car as huge as FAB 1 to be dwarfed by the entrance to the building is quite a feat!
Bath time fun ensues as Lady Penelope multi-tasks with a bit of light research into Mullion’s criminal record. Parker enters with the obligatory tea service. Penny asks him to have a look at something.
Not knowing exactly where to look, Parker almost pretends that he hasn’t heard.
Penny moves onto Transom’s profile, exclaiming “Poor girl”. I’ve never taken the trouble to pause the movie and read the summary of Transom’s recent criminal activity, but for your enjoyment the list includes: extortion, sabotaging, kidnapping, fraud and grand larceny. That’s quite a CV she’s got there!
Then we get to the really interesting bit, the Hood has a real name! Trangh Belagant, apparently, and he’s wanted by all international agencies. Just look at those stats – risk level 10, caution rating 15, blimey!
Then notice that one of his many aliases is “Won Kee”. I am sorry, but I just couldn’t help guffawing when I read that. Sounds like that’s the alias he use when he’s had one nip too many of Fireflash brandy.
Penelope states that he was assumed dead when his illegal diamond mine collapsed in the jungles of Malaya. The Thunderbirds rescued over 500 workers in the collapse.
Sources don’t confirm exactly when this took place, but given that Gordon Tracy is still in training on the Thunderbird craft at the age of 18, it would make sense for the mine rescue to take place approximately 4 years prior to the events of the film. At that time, John, being 18, could have co-piloted Thunderbird 2 with Jeff and then Scott, being 20, would have still been able to fly Thundebird 1 (in this scenario, one imagines Thunderbird 5 was automated/controlled remotely from the island). The other boys would have all still been at school. It could have been even earlier, perhaps when Scott was only 18, but for a rescue operation of that size, having only Jeff and Scott on hand seems a bit of a stretch. Tell me your thoughts in the comments section!
Dun-dun-dun! The Hood’s brother was rescued at the same time, and turns out to be none other that Kyrano!
‘Kyrano’ of course having been the family name in the classic series, rather than the first name as it is here.
Penny asks for an update on her social calendar and after providing it, Parker mentions that there are several disasters occurring around the globe to which the Thunderbirds have not responded. He suggests that the media are awash in speculation regarding the situation. Brace yourselves…
Oh look who it is, IWN Ford! I mean IWN sponsored by Ford! You might think I’m blowing this Ford thing a little bit out of proportion, but bear with me a few more seconds.
How about now? Not only two Fords, with extra Ford logos, but the scene was specifically shot to uphold part of the product placement deal with Ford, who felt that their products weren’t featured enough in the film…argh.
Lisa Lowe comments on the increasing number of disasters and the lack of Thunderbirds activity, stating that only the Thunderbirds have the incredible resources necessary to stage a rescue.
Incidentally, this sequence was shot outside the famous 007 Stage at Pinewood Studios. Also, Lisa Lowe’s microphone survived all of her near-death experiences intact, I know this because it’s in one of my desk drawers along with a handful of unused IWN name badges.
Lady Penelope decides it’s time to send the emergency signal, so Parker obediently activates the concealed transmitter in her teapot, accompanied by a little motif of the Thunderbirds theme. The Creighton-Ward crest and motto is engraved on the teapot and reads “dulcius ex asperi” which seems to translate as something akin to “The rough is sweeter”
The actual activation of the emergency signal light for the teapot was controlled by remote, timed with Ron Cook miming pressing the top of the stopper. I know this is how it was done because I’m currently holding said teapot and checking the mechanism while typing with one hand. The prop itself is no good for brewing a cuppa as it’s full of servos etc, just FYI!
Tracy Island receives the signal loud and clear, but Brains can’t come to the videophone right now, he’s a little tied up…
Back in the jungle, Alan is trying to make sense of the Hood’s powers, feeling like the villain was inside his head and could control his mind. Fermat is skeptical at best, declaring that everything can be explained by science.
If Fermat’s so smart, maybe he can explain how the average bag of crisps seems to contain 50% less crisps and are 20% more expensive these days.
The guys are flat out exhausted and ask to stop for a breather, but Tin-Tin couldn’t give less of a fig for their discomfort. What a complete and utter slave-driver. I sure hope nothing bad happens to her, like winning a trip on the maiden flight of Fireflash or anything like that.
Lady Penelope is more than a little bored of waiting for her magic teapot signal to be answered, and decides that it’s high time to get out of the bath and take a firm hand with things. Just look at some of those fabulous clothes behind her! The late Marit Allen did an absolutely astounding job with the costume design in the film and it’s shown nowhere better than through Lady Penelope’s ever-changing costume choices.
FAB 1 departs from the manor, where it has been parked with two other cars, FAB 8 (a Ford Ka) and a modern Ford Thunderbird, the registration of which I can’t quite make out.
I rather like the idea that Penny might occasionally take herself off for a drive to Morrisons in FAB 8.
FAB 1 is off, bound for Tracy Island and a whole heap of trouble!
And the trouble is most definitely still brewing. Mullion wants to use the Mole to break into the bank vaults. Hardly subtle Mr Mullion, Sir. The Hood says as much and Mullion’s ill-spoken rebuttal earns him more than the average hard stare.
Looks like someone has turned the Firefly around since the little incident earlier. They haven’t bothered cleaning up the foam in the elevator though. Pfft, you just can’t get the staff these days.
Transom begins loading the equipment into Thunderbird 2. On the left of the image, we can see Thunderbird 4 in it’s pod being prepared for loading. It’s difficult to tell whether this is being done intentionally by the villains (possibly to rob a bank that is submerged) or whether it is part of an automated loading sequence that happens to include the Mole.
Whoever moved the Firefly earlier has also gone to the liberty of neatly parking the Thunderiser too. The Hood eagerly awaits the moment when the loading arm will carry him into Thunderbird 2. Unfortunately for him, he’s going to have to wait a while longer.
Transom discovers that the guidance processor has been taken, and Thunderbird 2 is going nowhere without it. It’s the same disappointed look that she uses when she finds out that there are only Toffee Pennys left in a tin of Quality Street.
“Clever Alan” mutters the Hood, almost sounding impressed, and explaining to Mullion that the children have the vital component.
Look how much Mullion disbelieves his boss. He reckons that the kids are all dead, and that no-one could have lived through something like the exhaust pit of peril… (Jack added that pun while editing, nothing to do with me)
Wrong thing to say to the wrong guy, Mullion! The Hood icily clarifies “I did”, then with menacing flair he tells Mullion to take whatever he needs to recover the guidance processor “before you lose your temper.” Another great delivery by Kingsley.
Deep in the heart of the jungle, where no soul had ever dared to venture (except that there are man-made steps leading up the hill), Fermat tries to wring the truth about Tin-Tin out of Alan. Fermat puts it to Alan that the latter has a crush on Tin-Tin and says that she’s ‘blossoming’. Make of that what you will. It’s been 13 years and I still haven’t worked out what the heck the kid’s going on about. However, after initially dismissing the notion, Alan reluctantly agrees that Tin-Tin is in fact not so bad.
As Tin-Tin and Alan make it to the summit of the steep hill, they’re reflected in what looks to be a pane of glass behind the actors, or a reflection from the lens of the camera back at itself. It’s so subtle that it’s actually impossible to see in a still frame, but this is the shot I mean. Never spotted that before!
The rest of their discussion is cut short due to an uninvited scorpion appearing on Alan’s shoulder. Fermat helpfully confirms that 0.25mg of its venom is fatal. Alan tries to remain calm, but the scorpion raises its tail to attack.
The scorpion itself is a visual effect, but it works reasonably well. The threat certainly feels real enough to be believable. Perhaps the jungle is off limits due to hazardous wildlife such as this?
Another big revelation! Tin-Tin grasps onto her necklace and concentrates. Her eyes glow yellow, causing the scorpion to stop, then to levitate and squirm, and finally to fall to the jungle floor and scuttle away. Alan presses her to explain, but she brushes it off and continues through the jungle.
This is the only iteration of Thunderbirds so far in which Tin-Tin has shared the same powers as the Hood. When using these powers, her eyes glow yellow, like the Hood’s eyes in the classic series.
Alan quickly works out that the powers must run in the family (gee Alan, what tipped you off?). He asks if Fermat still believes that everything can be explained by science. “Not girls!” Fermat replies cheekily. With charm like that, he’ll go far…
Back in the control centre, the Hood is meditating. Then, with an unsettling look at the camera and the sound of his telekinetic powers…
…a new alarm blares out in Thunderbird 5, just before…
…KABOOM!!! Another huge explosion rocks the ship, sending more debris flying everywhere.
This explosion is apparently caused by the Hood’s psychic influence, but in fact it was due to cutting short the shot of the Hood looking at someone who has entered the command centre.
Mullion and his Merry Men take to the jungle in a Ford Ex, a 2001 concept car. Looks like a fun sort of vehicle to go bombing around the island in.
The kids have reached the transmitter, but thanks to Alan’s incessant badgering, Fermat manages to short circuit the system. He claims that he can fix it, but requires something to solder it with. He actually says “sodder”, a common American pronunciation of the word, but something I was totally unfamiliar with as a young ‘un, so I didn’t know what he meant until a few minutes later. Silly me!
Alan thinks this is hysterical, rhetorically asking where Fermat expects to find such a thing in the middle of nowhere. Uh…Alan? Might want to close your mouth there. Alan? ALAAAAAN?
He screams as Tin-Tin and Fermat set about him to plunder his precious solder reserves as the audience are treated to a nice spiral helicopter shot. I’m not 100% sure, but I believe stand-ins may have been used in this shot.
Alan bites down on a piece of wood as Fermat yanks the metal from his retainer out of his mouth.
Why though? It’s a retainer, not a fixed appliance. It’s designed to be removed every day, hence why Jeff asked Alan why he wasn’t wearing it earlier!
Tin-Tin gets off more lightly, as Fermat borrows her necklace so that he can use it to focus the sun’s light and melt the metal of Alan’s retainer. Instant solder! Would this actually work? I have no idea, but it’s entirely possible.
Having completed the repairs, Fermat attempts to re-establish contact with Thunderbird 5 using a cool little portable video transmitter.
Thunderbird 5 has definitely seen better days, but it’s a testament to Brains’ engineering and design that the majority of the station is still in one piece.
According to the X-Ray Cross Sections tie-in book, Thunderbird 5 is armed with a multi-purpose cannon to shoot down incoming space hazards like old rocket debris and meteor fragments. One imagines that it wasn’t designed to counter a direct attack from Earth with only a few seconds warning. Pity…
Alan establishes contact and the Tracy family are pretty darn relieved that he’s okay.
Fermat proceeds with the final steps to restore full autonomous control back to the space station as Jeff and the boys stand by.
In the control centre, Brains is facing trouble of his own. Transom is using the deserted room for a bit of fun, and being totally infatuated with Brains, she straddles his prone figure and makes with the sweet talk. Edwards and Keegan are pretty hysterical in this scene and it’ll certainly raise a laugh or two.
Transom removes Brains’ glasses followed by her own and claims that they’re both so much better looking without their glasses.
Brains literally turns green as she moves closer to him, accomplished by clever post production trick with a bit of digital colour grading, which just makes the sequence even funnier!
Things get waaay too close for comfort as Transom leans in for a snog, but thankfully for Brains an alarm sounds, distracting Transom’s attention at the last critical second.
Here’s a map of the island, showing the three distinct peaks, and clearly indicating the positions of the main compound, the library and the satellite station. It’s no wonder the kids had been walking for so long, the transmitter is quite some distance away from the compound.
The Hood appears and tells Transom to jam the transmission and give Mullion the coordinates.
Now that’s the console that I mentioned earlier. If you look to the right hand side, you’ll see a sequence of yellow lights, some illuminated, some not. Fun fact – the lights that aren’t lit up were never designed to do so, as an inspection of the internal wiring reveals that those components aren’t connected to anything!
Transom commences jamming the signal, while some of the colour floods back into Brains’ face as he grimaces at his impossibly lucky escape.
Mullion races towards his new target.
The signal starts to degrade before Fermat can transmit the vital control signal. Alan tries to reassure Jeff that he’ll take care of the situation, but Jeff is adamant that the situation is too dangerous and tells the kids to follow emergency procedure and wait for Lady Penelope at the rendezvous point. Seconds later the signal fails altogether and the transmission is lost.
Alan throws the communications pad in to the jungle in frustration and then tries to pretend that he’s okay. Fermat and Tin-Tin do their best to empathize and share their feelings too.
Conditions on the island of Praslin may have been idyllic, but they were not without complications. Heatstroke was a common danger faced by the 200-strong crew on the island, and in some scenes, the actors do indeed look very worn out. Brady Corbet suffered severe heatstroke in this scene and production was halted for a day in order to let him recover.
No time for sitting around though, Super Mullion Mega Ford Ex Force has arrived, mowing down several defenceless shrubs in his path.
The trio make a dash for it, blindly stumbling straight onto a hidden steep slope that knocks them off their feet and sends them hurtling down into a pool of water at the bottom.
“Oh great, more water!” comments Fermat without moving his lips. See, these problems apply to real actors and not just puppets!
Alan tells Tin-Tin to slow Mullion down and to meet him and Fermat at the island junkyard.
I assume that Alan’s sending Tin-Tin because he believes that her powers will give her an advantage, not because he’s too lazy to go himself.
Alan then attempts to drown Fermat, probably in revenge for needlessly yanking his retainer out earlier. That’ll teach him!
Enigmatic Mullion is enigmatic, as he continues the hunt for his tiny prey.
“Yes sir, this beautiful machine had just one previous owner, who only used it to fly to the grocery store twice a week. Tracy Island Junkyard, your one stop shop for utter junk”.
It’s another pesky unanswered question, but why exactly does Tracy Island have a junkyard in the middle of the jungle? Wouldn’t it make much more sense to store this stuff in one of the hangars or Brains’ lab?
That question aside, it’s nice to see a hoverbike make a return to Thunderbirds. To date, this is actually the last time the vehicle has appeared, having last been seen in the first series of the classic show.
The junkyard scene itself wasn’t filmed on Praslin, but rather back in England at Pinewood Studios, with the area dressed with greenery to match the footage of the jungle shot in the Seychelles. The garage area is a heavily re-dressed version of the huge walk-in-freezer that we’ll see later.
While Alan and Fermat get to work, Tin-Tin spies something that might just slow Mullion down. A great big hornet’s nest. She waits for him to spot her, then takes up position, flicks a large tree branch into the nest and sends it careering into…
…Mullion’s FACE! And dear sweet goodness there are LOADS of them. Those hornets are angrier than an Italian motorist and they’re getting everywhere! You know how I said there were no flies on this guy earlier? Bet he wishes they were flies now!
The hornets, like the scorpion, are computer generated, but they still look exceptionally unpleasant.
Alan starts hooking up a hover sled to the hoverbike, determined that he’s going to do something. Tin-Tin joins the boys, but believes that waiting for Lady Penelope would be a much better idea. Fermat concurs, saying that he doesn’t believe the hoverbike and sled are safe. Alan responds like a complete and utter twerp, mocking Fermat “You don’t think anything is s-s-s-safe!”
The freestanding yellow console behind Alan in this shot is a re-use of the Rescue Platform control panel that Virgil uses at the start of the film.
Fermat and Tin-Tin give Alan the shocked looks that he really deserves. It was a cheap shot and he knows it. I hope he feels jolly well disappointed in himself.
Fermat declares that although he stutters, it doesn’t mean that he’s wrong and he implores that if they’re supposed to be a team they need to make decisions as a team.
Alan’s still being all high and mighty and says that he’s going anyway. Tin-Tin tells him that he can be a real jerk sometimes. Well said, Tin-Tin!
Mullion’s woken up from his nap feeling slightly angry, Make that very angry. Look at those sting boils and the hornets still stuck to him. This guy looks as if he could probably charge straight through a brick wall. Perhaps Tin-Tin’s plan was a bit flawed in hindsight.
And so the chase is on! Alan’s cobbled together hoversled versus Mullion’s car made by some company that I can’t quite remember. Zoooooom!
Against Fermat’s cries of “Alan, you’re going too faaaaaaast!”, the young Tracy continues the reckless acceleration. Something’s gotta give here and my money is on that really flimsy connection right there.
In fact Alan decides to take the craft above tree level, necessitating even greater acceleration, so he maxes out the throttle and, using a fallen tree as a ramp, blasts up into the sky.
Unfortunately, the hover sled carrying Fermat and Tin-Tin doesn’t follow, but slides back and thuds onto the ground. Even Mullion is gobsmacked at the sheer ridiculousness of what he just witnessed, and this is a guy suffering unimaginable pain, so it takes a lot to grab his attention. The goons grab the two kids. Oh no!
Alan’s under the cheerful impression that his plan worked, he’s really really pleased with himself. The jerk.
Yeah, see, not such a hot shot now, are we, Alan? As he watches his friends being led away, he does the only thing possible in the situation. He makes a run for it. Jerk Alan is jerk.
Oh dear… As the computer generated effects in this film go, they generally range from very good to flawless, but this one sticks out like a sore thumb. Maybe they should have just dangled a little miniature man on a bike in front of the camera…
Mullion introduces Fermat and Tin-Tin to the Tracy Island freezer, already stocked with Brains, Kyrano, Onaha and more Ben and Jerry’s ice cream than you could shake a spoon at.
Brains is looking very cold indeed. Mullion tells them to “cool off” and laughs maniacally. Cheesy as it may be, it’s only one cold pun. If you thought that was bad, steer clear of Batman and Robin, there are hundreds, and they’re the least of that film’s problems.
FAB 1 cruises into view, gracefully approaching the island like some kind of flying pink Ford.
Parker notifies ‘Er Ladyship that they’re approaching the island and is switching to aqua mode.
FAB 1 takes to the waves and continues its approach to the island like some kind of sailing pink Ford.
“Isn’t life fun sometimes?” muses Penelope.
“Rib tickling, M’Lady…” replies Parker in the kind of voice that implies that she should stop asking stupid questions and let him drive the car.
Note that Penelope is still wearing her pink jacket ensemble that she wore when they left the Manor. Keep that in mind.
The island’s radar picks up “an unidentified craft approaching the island at high speed” and Transom prepares to contact…someone…
Why is FAB 1 registering as an unidentified craft though? Wouldn’t Tracy Island’s systems be calibrated to recognise the car, given that FAB 1 itself shares the same systems and was designed by Brains as well? Perhaps Transom just can’t read and doesn’t want to tip anyone off to the fact…
Alan reaches a vantage point high in the rocks, having discarded his hoverbike (which in all likelihood broke down due to invalidation of warranty). He’s delighted to spot Lady P approaching the island though, look at his happy little face. Jerk.
FAB 1 powers towards the beach.
Here’s where we would have had another deleted scene. Remember when Transom looked as though she was about to speak to someone by radio a moment ago? It would have been the crew of the Hood’s submarine, who would have then engaged in a battle with FAB 1, the latter coming a cropper from a torpedo strike and being totally destroyed. Penelope and Parker would have managed to escape in an inflatable pink dinghy (part of the scene which survives at the very end of the film).
How this would have effected the climax of the film when FAB 1 ultimately returns is unknown. Perhaps it would originally have been absent from the climax altogether.
Thunderbirds 3 and 5 continue to tumble towards Earth, still looking very impressive, even when crippled. I love the way the sunlight reflects off the surface of the craft.
Jeff tries his best to keep the mood light, asking the boys to roll down a window as it’s getting a little hot in the control room.
It’s one of the reasons that I adore Paxton’s performance as Jeff. You totally buy that this is a man who has faced danger a hundred times and knows the importance of keeping calm. For all his bravado for the sake of his sons, it’s plain to see that Jeff is indeed getting more and more worried about their situation, even if he doesn’t want to admit it.
Virgil is less than chirpy as he reveals that they’re beginning re-entry in 37 minutes.
British actor Dominic Colenso was initially daunted by the challenges of pulling off a convincing American accent for the role of Virgil, and was advised by casting director Mary Selway to go away and work on it a little more after his first audition.
Ultimately Virgil, along with the older Tracy brothers, doesn’t get a heck of a lot of screen time, which is a real shame as the sequences in which he appeared are an intriguing glimpse into what he might have been like at the heart of the action.
Scott counters that they will be out of oxygen in 30 minutes and won’t feel a thing anyway. Yeah, way to really drag the mood down there, Scotty boy.
Montana-born Philip Winchester arrived at his audition with Jonathan Frakes having accidentally learned the lines for the role of Alan! He nevertheless went on to win the role of Scott Tracy, the eldest of the boys and has gone on to have a successful acting career, most recently with Chicago Justice.
Jeff snaps at the boys to stop being negative, reassuring them that there are people working to rescue them down on the ground.
Gordon retorts with “Alan? He’s just a kid!”
“He’s a Tracy.” responds Jeff, settling the matter.
Ben Torgersen remembers arriving at his audition with Jonathan Frakes, stopping dead in his tracks and asking “You look very familiar. Have we met before?”. Frakes jovially replied “Maybe – I’ve done a little TV.”
Spurred on by the arrival of Lady Penelope, Alan rushes back to the main compound.
Remember when I told you to keep Penny’s outfit fixed in your mind? Here’s the reason why: it’s changed! This is the outfit that Penelope would have worn in the deleted scene featuring the inflatable dinghy, so she evidently got changed out of her soaking wet clothes into this new clobber. Parker has to settle for staying in his uniform. Poor guy.
Penelope has a nose for danger and instantly knows something is amiss – the bougainvillea are absolutely parched and there’s a hideous hammock just sitting there for all to see.
Exhibit A – The Hideous Hammock
The Hood greets the British agents with a patronizing “Whom do we have here?”
Mullion jumps down, pulls some flashy martial arts moves and warns the duo about all the super duper techniques he’s skilled in.
Parker promptly lamps him in the face, breaking Mullion’s nose, much to the latter’s chagrin.
Then it’s fair to say that a bit of a ruckus kicks off, with Parker engaging Mullion and Penelope showing Transom the business end of some flashy skills. Witty banter and dialogue throughout – guaranteed.
The Hood finds the whole business ever so much fun to watch!
Oh that’s going to hurt!
Sophia Myles performed many of the stunts in this sequence herself, but gymnastic and martial arts stunt doubles were also used for some of the more dangerous maneuvers. Transom and Mullion also had stunt doubles for this fight sequence.
Mullion takes a high heel to the face, probably not the best thing in the world for someone who’s just suffered a broken nose. In fact probably not the best thing for anyone’s health regardless.
He’s soon back on his feet and ready to receive a frying pan in the face from Parker. It’s just not Mullion’s day, is it? CLANG!
The penny drops (oh I’m scoring myself 10 out of 10 for that totally unintentional pun) as The Hood realises who he’s dealing with. “Ah, Lady Penelope! Of course, he has his palace, why not his princess?”
The line was originally recorded as “why not his concubine?”, but was dubbed over in post-production as the studio thought that the younger members of the audience wouldn’t know what a concubine was. It turns out that it’s nothing like a porcupine.
The fight continues, with Transom breaking one of Penny’s nails. Penny doesn’t take too kindly to this and kicks Transom in the face.
The Hood realises that he probably should have invested more money into Transom’s combat training, aptly underscored when she…
…hides behind a decorative mask, pops her head up and yells “Boo!”
Oh good grief, this has all escalated rather quickly, avert your eyes kids!
Alan finally reaches the patio area in time to witness Penny and Parker gain a dramatic upper hand in the melee.
They must be very fit indeed to be able to flip over a sofa that size, with two grown adults sitting on it, using only their toes. To say that Mullion looks perturbed would be somewhat inadequate.
The Hood sees red (don’t say it) and using his powers, fires the sofa through a window in a display of irritated rage as glass showers everywhere.
At last, Alan susses out the Hood’s weakness – using his powers makes him weak!
The audience have of course suspected this for some time, so it’s nice that the characters have caught up with us. I do hope Alan puts this revelation to good use!
Another scuffle between a man who looks like Mullion and a man who doesn’t really look like Parker…
The Hood attempts to bring the fight to a close using oily flattery, complimenting Lady Penelope on being a formidable woman and “more than a match for most men”. The Hood’s been skipping those equality and diversity briefings again, hasn’t he?
Penny retorts with “That’s not saying much then, is it?” and promptly kicks Transon off the balcony ledge and into the diving pool.
Parker tries another patented nose-breaking punch, but his fist is stopped in mid air. Oh dear, I have a feeling that things are starting to go pear-shaped…
Penny accuses the Hood of committing a serious crime by trespassing on the island and attempts to teach him a lesson in manners using the gentle art of diplomacy (aka a swift kick to the face), but like Parker before her, she’s halted in her tracks. Oh double dear…
The Hood forces the pair back and reveals aloud that he knows Alan is watching, asking Alan to give up the stolen guidance processor. Alan refuses…
So the Hood starts crushing Parker’s brain….holy crap this got dark fast! Fully props to Ron Cook for making this agonizing scene 100% believable.
Parker bravely tells Alan not to pay any attention, but the Hood dials up the pain, forcing Alan to give in.
Alan tries to throw the guidance processor as far away as he can, but the Hood plucks it from the air with ludicrous ease. Alan, Penny and Parker are taken away while the Hood studies the component, trying to focus his vision after the exertion of using his powers again.
Penny yells “Put me down! This outfit is couture!”. Poor Penelope, maybe one day she’ll find out what a real problem feels like.
Up in Thunderbird 5, things are getting beyond critical. Jeff desperately tries to keep the injured John awake and focused while feeding him oxygen from a tank.
Artificial gravity has gone offline too, and everyone is floating eerily in the midst of a field of small debris. Things are definitely looking grim!
This visually impressive, though short shot above proved complex to complete, requiring the actors to be attached to poles and harnesses and filmed in front of green-screen using a combination of slow motion photography and appropriate acting. Bill Paxton, a veteran of zero gravity work from his appearance in Apollo 13, was able to help the crew achieve the acting technique they wanted to make the scene believable.
Alan, Penny and Parker are deposited in the freezer with the rest of the gang. Transom smiles at Brains, whose face briefly goes green again at the mere thought of her.
Penny takes point on coming up with an idea to help them escape. It’s obviously exceptionally cold in the freezer… just look at how chilly Parker looks.
Actually forget Parker, Kyrano is on the verge of starting his own ice age!
Alan apologizes to Fermat in a touching little moment that means I can stop calling him a jerk. Hoorah! If they weren’t all tied up, they could dig into some of that Ben and Jerry’s to celebrate.
Penny has the glimmer of an idea and asks Brains to confirm how long Jeff and the boys have left.
Brains can’t hear you now Penny, he’s re-living Frozen in his own imagination.
Transom re-installs the guidance processor, making Thunderbird 2 ready for liftoff. The Hood asks for their ETA and Mullion replies “Under an hour. Bank of London, here we come.” Goodness knows why he says it in an American accent though, given that he’s British for the rest of the film…
In case you missed it earlier in the film, here is another look at Tracy Island’s location, and a helpful route plan to find their way to London. Ain’t technology brill?
And so begins the cinematic re-imagining of the most famous launch sequence in television history, seen, for the first time ever, from inside the silo. Those are some seriously huge doors.
With an automated speaker system telling everyone in the freezer that Thunderbird 2 is launching, Parker gets into position.
Whose idea was it to put a speaker system in the freezer??
Penny loosens up her ankle and shoe. This…ummm…this doesn’t look like it’s going to be too scientific. I sure hope she knows what she’s doing!
The great green nose of Thunderbird 2 is bathed in light from the outside world, and once again it looks pretty ginormous.
Penny flings her shoe off, catching a large icicle in the ceiling, causing it to fall and shred through the ropes binding Parker’s hands together.
Just a moment, I know for a fact that icicles are very dangerous things, and could quite easily cut through the rope as shown. So what in the world were they THINKING? What if all of those icicles had come down? You’d have been cleaning bits of frozen mushy Parker off the floor for weeks, that’s what!
Parker’s taking the win quite well though, so I suppose that’s something.
Everyone’s elated! Onaha’s so pleased that she slaps her knee in delight. Of course that reveals that her hands have been free this whole time and she could have just untied everyone and spared Parker’s trousers from being soiled at the prospect of a potentially fatal impaling…
The doors open a little wider and the craft starts to move forward. The mountain peak in the distance is the location of the satellite relay station from earlier.
Thunderbird 2 rolls forward on it’s huge transporter trolley. It feels very menacing accompanied by the Hood’s villainous theme music.
Look at them all, they’re loving it! The Hood is practically having to restrain himself from making spaceship sound effects!
The cockpit set featured a blue screen outside the windows to enable the desired location to be added in post production.
The huge craft rolls forward as the iconic palm trees fold aside to provide clearance for it’s 167 foot wingspan.
Although this shot is a direct callback to the television series, the palm trees here fold down in a sequence of pairs, rather than all at once.
Powerful clamps lock the transporter trolley in place as the whole bulk of the ship is raised up on a very sturdy looking hydraulic ramp platform.
This sequence was planned to be longer than the finished version, but running time constraints dictated that it had to be trimmed down and the ramp raised faster than the original intention.
A couple of knocks on the door are all Parker needs in order to tell what kind of locking mechanism he’s dealing with. Penny loves it when Parker’s chequered past comes in useful (another nice nod to the character’s criminal past from the classic series).
Noted British writer Richard Curtis contributed to the dialogue between Lady P and Parker for their scenes in the film.
Parker reluctantly admits that he’ll need a piece of wire to access the mechanism. No problem, I’m sure Lady Penelope will be only too glad to supply a hair clip…
But no, because that would be playing things far too safe. After a brief pause to think, Lady Penelope Creighton Ward thrusts her hand up inside her top and sets to work.
Everyone else awkwardly turns their backs (Fermat tries to sneak a look, the cheeky so-and-so). Kyrano is obviously now only one hair’s breadth from turning into some sort of all-powerful ice-beast.
Penny retrieves the wire, checking with Parker that it will be suitable.
I think Parker’s face says all that needs to be said here, so I’ll let you make up your own caption.
“I didn’t actually need it anyway.” clarifies Penelope with a cheeky smile.
“Of course not, M’Lady” replies Parker cheerfully, and sets to work.
They’re really taking this one to the wire! (dodges flying tomato)
With an impressive surge of power and a huge billowing exhaust cloud slamming into the raised blast shield, Thunderbird 2 eases off the transporter and ramp, soaring into the air.
It’s a gorgeous shot, and I particularly approve of how the six vertical thrusters spring into life as the ship clears the edge of the launch ramp, as if they’re required to keep the beast in the sky.
Hurrah, they’re free! The magic bra-wire did the trick! Someone ought to patent that…
Fermat returns Parker’s hat as everyone piles out of the freezer of near-death and heads for the control room.
Thunderbird 2 banks in the sky and sets course for London. The Hood is of course feeling ridiculously pleased with himself by this point. Bask in the moment while you can mate, the gang are loose and likely to be on your tail faster than you can say “It will be a great disasda”.
Thunderbird 5’s control systems are very definitely still offline, better get in there and sort it out quickly folks!
The graphics on Thunderbird 5’s readout show the craft in one of its late concept designs with a couple of extra solar panels and a shorter antennae at the base.
If you look incredibly carefully here, you can see that the display actually refers to Thunderbird 6’s systems, in addition to the other 5 craft. That’s right, these filmmakers who supposedly “don’t understand the concept” even threw in a reference to Thunderbird 6! Get in!
Fermat does his level best to hack his way into the system and regain control of the crippled space station, while Penny tries to re-establish contact with them. There’s no answer…
The mass of tangled metal continues to move ever closer to the moment of re-entry. An ominous countdown clock reveals that there are just under 90 seconds until the craft both start burning up!
Fermat successfully accesses Thunderbird 5’s systems. Now all that is required is for someone on board to confirm the access protocol in order to transfer control back to the station.
Brains continues trying to raise Jeff on the radio.
Sorry Brains, Jeff can’t hear you right now, he’s on the train to Deathsville and will be arriving shortly. Please leave a message at the beep.
Panic starts setting in, Brains desperately requests an answer from Thunderbird 5. Everyone’s getting really worked up, and the tension is rising to the point that it’s palpable.
With 45 seconds until re-entry, Brains tries a last ditch effort and screams “DAMN IT JEFF, WAKE UP!”, scaring the heck out of his fellow islanders and most of the audience. A stunned silence follows, and then…
“I think that’s the first time you’ve called me by my first name, Brains”.
Jeff’s alive! Woo-hoo!!
Jeff congratulates Alan, and Fermat requests confirmation of the access protocol.
John eagerly confirms the protocol, bringing all of Thunderbird 5’s systems back online. Bless his little face, he’s delighted!
With artificial gravity restored once more, Brains advises the crew to put the craft into geostationary orbit immediately. Jeff complies and a few seconds later an automated message confirms that they have re-established geostationary orbit.
This annoys a lot of people as they will tell you that to have a proper geostationary orbit, the orbit has to be at a certain altitude, which is nowhere close to the point of re-entry Thunderbird 5 is at now. Fair enough, but is it really a stretch of the imagination to interpret it as they’re back on their way to geostationary orbit? Sheesh…
Anyway, smiles all round at the news that Thunderbird 5 is at/heading towards its proper position again.
Jeff requests an update on the Hood. On learning that he’s en route to London with the Mole, John clarifies that one of Thunderbird 3’s boosters is inoperative and won’t be able to get there in time to stop the Hood.
Since Thunderbird 3 launched without any problems, I guess the damage to it’s booster occurred during one of the large explosions on Thunderbird 5. Either that, or it was struck with debris during the fall towards the Earth.
Alan requests permission to go after the Hood, to prevent him from destroying everything that Jeff has built and everything the Thunderbirds stand for. Jeff is vehemently against the idea, stating that it’s far too dangerous.
Alan protests that Jeff knows that he can do it. Then, having a mini-epiphany by realizing that his friends are right beside him, he goes one step further and says that they can all do it.
After getting affirmative nods from John and Penny, Jeff agrees and says that the rest of the boys will meet the trio in London, finishing with “Thunderbirds are go!” and an excited “FAB!” in response from Alan.
I’m glad that no attempt was made to rationalize or explain what FAB stands for in the film. However, in the DVD box, there’s a promotional leaflet for a certain fast food chain that postulates it in fact stands for ‘Fancy A Burger?’
Thumbs up all across the board for Team Hackenbacker!
There’s just time to bid the young trio farewell as they race into action. They even earn a salute from Parker. Awwww!
The rescue party dart into Scott’s elevator and the light shines blue. No prizes for guessing where they’re headed this time.
I’ve just had a thought. John never gets to see a gold light in his elevator shaft as it will be a red one indicating travel to Thunderbird 3’s hangar. It’s yet another instance in which John Tracy gets the raw end of the deal. Heck, even Thunderbird 4’s pilot will occasionally see a yellow light as that craft can be launched into the sea on its own (see X-Ray Cross Sections book).
Oh hi Penny, guess you’re coming too then…
The boys start up Thunderbird 1’s systems, repeating the procedure from earlier in the film, but this time getting the sequence totally correct.
Have a look at this shot. That’s right, they went there. Freaking worth it.
Even Fermat and Alan exchange a glance to make sure that they weren’t just imagining things a moment ago. No fellas, it was real, carry on!
There are some glorious shots of the craft being made ready for launch with refueling arms and gantries being pulled away from the fuselage. She may be smaller than her big green sister, but from this angle, Thunderbird 1 looks the business.
Unlike both television incarnations, Thunderbird 1 is stored directly beneath the swimming pool at all times, rather than in a separate hangar bay.
There goes the pool! Hope they’ve got replacement patio furniture standing by!
And off they go!
ZOOOOOOM! The silver dart rockets into the wild blue yonder.
Here’s where the timescales get a tiny bit wobbly. Thunderbird 2 is preparing to land in central London. Their initial ETA was one hour. Does that mean that Thunderbird 1 launched an hour later, despite the fact that the gang escaped the freezer before Thunderbird 2 had even left the island’s airspace?
I have a theory to explain that and I’ll be hitting you with it in a moment.
Thunderbird 2 bears down on Tower Bridge, nearly causing heart failure in these two workers, who try very hard to “GET THE BRIDGE UP!”. As fast as they are, I really don’t see the bridge being able to raise in time to let the craft through, but this is a film and that kind of ruinous logic has no place in it!
Visual Effects Supervisor Mike McGee plays the bridge operator on the right, having asked Frakes to let him appear in the film.
Daring Hood is daring…though why he bothers flying through Tower Bridge is a complete enigma. Maybe it’s just because he can.
Zoom! The most famous rescue craft in the world narrowly squeezes through the most famous bridge in the world.
And it was done for real as well! Well, okay, Thunderbird 2 is a computer generated model, but they did actually fly a helicopter through the raised bridge to get the craft’s point of view. The amount of planning and permission it took to pull off a shot that lasts only a few seconds is mind-boggling. There’s a special feature all about the sequence on the DVD (which, incidentally, is chock full of behind the scenes goodies, and a brill way to pass a rainy afternoon!)
Brains contacts Thunderbird 1 with the welcome news that Thunderbird 3 is about to separate from Thunderbird 5 and return to Earth to join the pursuit.
Due to the way the Thunderbird 1 cockpit was attached to the crane and gimbal rig, the unsettling movement caused some of the cast to feel motion sick during the filming of these scenes.
Penny confirms that the Hood is on final approach to London, and a helpful map displays Thunderbird 2’s ETA as two minutes.
But didn’t we just see Thunderbird 2 in central London? This is where my theory comes in. It’s not an outlandish or fan-ish theory though. I reckon that the sequence of Thunderbird 2’s arrival in London that precedes this scene originally occurred after it, but was shuffled around in the editing process to improve the flow and heighten the drama.
During one of the close-up shots of Sophia Myles in this sequence, Brady Corbet was so exhausted he fell asleep in the pilot’s chair!
Alan reassures Fermat that he knows the Hood’s weakness and will be able to stop the Hood if they arrive in time. Oh goody, sounds like Alan’s got a half-decent plan this time (although any plan that doesn’t involve that hover-sled is a half decent plan).
Fermat cranks up the thrust and Thunderbird 1 surges forward to an insane maximum speed of 15,000 miles per hour. It certainly looks like it’s breaking some records!
Thunderbird 3 detaches from Thunderbird 5 and heads for Earth. Note that the starboard booster is indeed out of action.
Thunderbird 2 prepares to land in Jubilee Gardens.
There were at least 2 original ideas for this sequence. The first was that the mighty craft would have swept through other parts of London, including near the Houses of Parliament and also past the Mayor’s building, blowing all of its windows out.
The second would have involved a disaster centered around the London Eye, with the Mole severing a support and causing the whole wheel to lean forwards, submerging the lowest observation pods.
Both ideas were abandoned due to security concerns at the time, although Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer somehow managed a rescue sequence on the London Eye a few years later. Does anyone else still refer to it as the Millennium Wheel or is it just me? It’s just me then. Okay, good to know.
All three of these actors deserve 10 out of 10 for effort and conviction, even though they’re all looking in totally different directions. Thunderbird 2 is huge, but it doesn’t occupy THAT much of the sky, folks.
The ice cream vendor is played by Mark Nelmes, another of the film’s visual effects supervisors. Jonathan Frakes jokes on the audio commentary that this is the only instance of the classic Thunderbirds hat in the entire film. Guess this ice cream stall must be the highly secretive Thunderbird 6 then!
Phwoaaar, feel the heat of those jet blasts…
Run, RUN you terrified fools! Mwhahahaha! Except for that one lady who’s loving life right now and actually grinning from ear to ear. She’s clearly had one too many fantasies about having a near-death experience involving a giant green transporter aircraft. Tick if off the bucket list, girl, you’re done!
Thunderbird 2 touches down on it’s four sturdy landing struts, crushing the ice cream stall in the process (RIP, Thunderbird 6).
The landing legs, and indeed the landing sequence posed some serious issues for the design team, who felt that the original Thunderbird 2’s legs were rather flimsy, hence their re-design here.
Thunderbird 1 screams past a lighthouse, gaining rapidly on its bloated sister ship.
I’m pretty sure that this is the Godrevy Lighthouse, off the Cornish coast, which would make sense given that Thunderbird 1 is coming from the direction of South America and turns to starboard after passing it. Jack (aka Security Hazard himself) and I spent a pleasant 10 minutes Googling lighthouses to try and confirm it. This is the one we settled on (after my initial fears that the search term “Cornish Lighthouse” might be a euphemism for something).
Oh great, it’s you again. Nice newsroom you’ve got there, looks like a great place for all your friends to hang out (if you had any).
The IWN anchorman (who may also be called Ethan, there’s gotta be more than one of them) dramatically tells us that there has been some kind of incident in London involving the Thunderbirds. So of course that means that there could only be one particular reporter on the scene…
It is! It’s Lisa Lowe! HI LISA!!!! Still sponsored by Ford then? Aye, bet your life you are.
I’m not 100% convinced by the digital compositing in this scene, but it’s not terrible.
Lisa informs her dedicated fans/audience that no distress call has been reported in the area, so it’s unclear why Thunderbird 2 would be active here at all. She then goes to great lengths to check if we can see the freaking huge unmissable machine that Thunderbird 2 is unloading in the centre of the image.
Lisa, we love you, never change.
The Hood’s still on a total power trip, ordering Transom to set a course for the bank vault with the decadence of a man who doesn’t care that people think he’s a bald freak.
The Mole’s systems need a thorough check, because the location that indicates the Bank of London (fictitious as it is), is smack bang in the middle of The National Gallery. The real Bank of England is located a few miles to the North East.
RIP bike. We hardly knew ye.
With much noise and fiasco, the Mole burrows into the ground, sending dirt flying everywhere. That baby’s ice-cream is vanilla and mud flavour now, no doubt about it.
The new Mole took a while to grow on me. Like the Firefly, it’s much smaller than it’s TV counterpart and obviously the drill itself is much shorter. In terms of practicality, these are both plus points, but I do adore the original. Still, the fact that in the majority of shots the Mole is 100% real and tactile is awesome.
And speaking of practical effects, these poor bystanders really are getting pelted with dirt fired from launchers set in the ground by the effects team. It’s just another exciting adventure in the life of a film extra!
Never having seen the like of it, the Londoners and tourists race over to witness the Mole tunneling out under the Thames, heading straight towards the London monorail system.
Before you plan your next trip to London, I’ll point out that said system doesn’t actually exist, the underground proving to be as reliable as ever.
Despite Transom’s protests about the impending collision, the Hood orders that they stay on course. He wants the Thunderbirds to cop the blame for absolutely everything, the utter swine!
I’ve long been intrigued about the interior set of the Mole (not because I own part of it, I left that one to a friend). The rear of the set here seems to be circular, and approximately the same diameter as the exterior of the Mole, leading me to believe the occupants actually travel perpendicular to the direction of travel. The whole compartment is most likely on some kind of gyroscope or gimbal too.
There’s the old number 42, right on time as usual!
The monorail disaster sequence was created as an alternative to the aforementioned London Eye sequence proving impossible to film. The monorail itself is a nice homage to the futuristic monorail systems seen in the likes of The Perils of Penelope, and was visualized as being one of the mass transit systems constructed when London hosted the 2012 Olympic Games.
Those with a good memory will recall that London’s reveal as the 2012 Olympic Games host city wasn’t confirmed until July 2005, over a year after this film was released. Talk about predicting the future!
Things aren’t looking good for the occupants of that monorail car as the track sways and shakes violently.
The Hood really is mean as heck, isn’t he? At this point in time he’s not even aware that Alan and the gang are hot on his heels. He’s under the assumption that the people in the monorail are pretty likely to die at any moment. And he’s happy about it. Chilling…
Thunderbird 1 reduces speed and the boys program a three-point-landing sequence.
Sounds like the kind of basic flying maneuver they throw into your Thunderbird pilot’s test, hope they don’t screw it up. Remember chaps, it’s mirror, signal, maneuver!
Penny’s regretting her decision to join the crew…
The craft’s coming in awfully fast, lowering those conventional landing gear that I mentioned way back near the start of the review.
Fermat and Tin-Tin look like they have total confidence in Alan’s ability to get them down without creating a smoking gooey mess in one of London’s finest green areas.
I’ve never liked this shot. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s the angle. Maybe it’s the lighting. Maybe it’s the bloomin’ obvious Ford that draws your eye away from the action (and that I have literally just realised is Lisa Lowe’s perishing car, after years spent thinking it was a totally random one). Regardless of all that, Thunderbird 1 makes a bumpy, yet safe landing.
Here’s a good view of the front landing gear and also the rotated rear nacelles, used to slow the descent.
“Textbook, boys!” exclaims Penny. I reckon she’ll probably have to change after that landing though. I mean whether she made a mess in the suit or not. She just likes changing!
As the Mole nears the vault, Transom activates an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) to disable the bank’s security systems. Good thing that it’s one of those smart pulses that knows how to distinguish between electronic security systems and bog standard ceiling lights.
Lady Penelope contacts Parker (who has been following in FAB 1) and requests that he meets her at the Bank.
Penny’s customised pink flight suit looks great. It’s been adapted from the same gear as the other flight suits, but features different gloves, without any craft number or insignia.
Thunderbird 3 hits the atmosphere and starts a bumpy descent towards the danger zone.
The kids board Thunderbird 2, Alan declaring “We’re the Thunderbirds, our duty is to save those people”. He’s really turned it around from “That’s another good one, diaper boy” hasn’t he?
Alan brings Thunderbird 2 in low over the river, heading towards the stricken passengers.
Suddenly things get a whole heck-of-a-heap more dangerous. The monorail is falling! The stanchion is crumbling faster than Onaha’s apple pie!
This is another example of one of the intricately beautiful model shots created for the film, this time in the water tank at Pinewood Studios.
Powerless to prevent it, the crew of Thunderbird 2 watch in horror as the monorail car splashes into the murky river and starts to sink.
There’s worse news to come – those three buses have just shown up at once!
But there’s something even worse than that afoot – the broken stanchion has fallen on top of the monorail car, pinning it to the riverbed!