Stingray – 1. Stingray (Pilot)

Directed by Alan Pattillo

Teleplay by Gerry & Sylvia Anderson

First UK Broadcast – 4th October 1964

I’m back, baby.

Oh yeah, I’m standing by for action alright. How’s about some serious high definition action courtesy of the 2022 release of Stingray on Blu-ray? I got the super deluxe version. Anyone else having trouble convincing family members it isn’t just an elegantly decorated shoebox?

The ‘An APF Television Production’ card introduced for the opening of the previous Supermarionation series, Fireball XL5, is re-used once again for Stingray. I always thought the dashes of black paint behind the logo looked a bit fishy so it works well.

In Videcolor? But so far everything has been…

Oh. I see what you did there. Yes, Stingray was famously the first British television series to be produced entirely in colour (as long as you don’t count those first three shots of the title sequence). And boy do they make full use of that colour from here on out, as showcased beautifully on this Blu-ray release. It really is the best that Stingray has ever looked.

Like Tex Tucker, Mike Mercury, and Steve Zodiac before him, the star of the show, Captain Troy Tempest, receives top billing. He’s a mighty handsome chap. In anticipation for the arrival of this boxset, I watched a handful of later Fireball XL5 episodes to take a look at what had come immediately before Stingray. Throughout these reviews I will likely draw many comparisons between the two shows and here is the first. The Stingray puppets look so, so, so much better than the Fireball ones. Don’t get me wrong, there are still some ugly-looking guest characters in Stingray, but when you compare the main cast of Marineville residents to the bunch of hideous trogladytes inhabiting Space City, the difference is like night and day. The Stingray puppets are beautiful creations. Troy was sculpted by Mary Turner to look like the actor, James Garner, and quite frankly she nailed it.

Here’s the other star of the show, the eponymous super submarine, Stingray. Designed by Reg Hill and built by Mastermodels, it is, in my vastly overrated opinion, the most gorgeous Anderson vehicle ever to grace the screen. Yeah Thunderbird 2 is a big, fun, loveable, green giant. Yeah the SPV is the toughest toughball in the west. Yeah the Eagle Transporter is… well to be honest I think the Eagle is a bit meh, so moving on. But Stingray gives me a special fizz inside when I see it. The design is elegant and sleek, yet colourful and full of energy. It looks fast. It looks fierce. It looks fantastic.

Many of the shots from the opening titles appear later in the episode or the series so I won’t spend too much time analysing them at the moment, but I wanted to flag this one now because it’s my review and I’ll do what I like. As Stingray exits the ocean door, it exudes a lovely jet of bubbles. Anyone who knows anything about Stingray will know that for underwater shooting, the models and puppets didn’t actually get wet that often. In a tradition going back to Supercar, an aquarium full of fish was placed in front of the camera with the vehicles and characters remaining dry and whizzing around behind that tank on wires. If bubbles had to appear in a particular position at a particular moment to match the action going on behind the water tank, air lines were rigged inside the aquarium, the camera was lined up, and the fish were directed accordingly. In this shot of Stingray setting sail, the air line inside the tank has been covered up with a painting of the rock-work to match perfectly with the set and render the air line invisible. This painting on the glass is fortunately or unfortunately made very apparent when watching in high definition. Unfortunate because a little of the miniature magic is now lost. Fortunate because we get to marvel at how incredible the artwork actually is. The fact such a good rendering was done for such a brief shot is a testament to the talent of those who made it happen. Also, one final note, it’s a shame about the one little fishy that can be spotted in the bottom right of frame swimming behind the painting…

Okay, sorry, time to spoil some more magic. As Commander Shore brilliantly declares, “anything can happen in the next half hour,” the camera crash zooms in on the Marineville Control Tower. When one slows down the footage the cut from the model to the puppet set becomes very clear, revealing that Shore isn’t initially at the window and indeed that the model building doesn’t have any interior detail. But you should ignore that because at a regular playback speed your eye almost certainly couldn’t detect such nonsense. It’s a bloomin’ magnificent moment.

The title sequence draws to a close, and wow, what a feat of editing and terrific Barry Gray musical genius. I might go ahead and say it’s the best opening to any Anderson series. Yes, I might.

Fade in, and already Barry Gray is fully immersed in water. I know that sounds weird, but what I mean is his music really has the floaty, mysterious, swishy, delicate feel to it that one would associate with water. I’m afraid that’s about as technical as I can get when it comes to music. Basically Barry Gray is on top form, as if that was a surprise to anyone. There’s no dialogue, but the sense of doom and dread is made very apparent as the huge fish is revealed. The high defintion makes a few more wires visible than there used to be on the mucky old DVDs, but it doesn’t matter because look at how lovely that shot of Sea Probe is as it passes through the water and ripples of sunlight penetrate the depths of the ocean. The sets are lavishly decorated with rocks and vegetation. I’m totally sold that we’re underwater right now.

I’ll admit this crash zoom transition from model to puppet isn’t quite so convincing as the one with Commander Shore in the opening titles, but that’s more than made up for in the sheer shock value. This ain’t a real fishy. But there are a couple of real fishy people standing around inside. Only ever referred to on screen as a Mechanical Fish (more popularly referred to in merchandising as a Terror Fish), this craft is something very unique in the Anderson universe. The eyes serving as windows to the cabin, and the mouth stowing the torpedoes, are just strokes of genius. It may not be the most impressive vehicle, but it’s certainly one of the more interesting.

The Aquaphibians are terrific creations. I think it’s fair to say the bodies are based on the menacing Aquaphbian creature previously seen in the Fireball XL5 episode XL5 to H2O, but the heads are new. Their facial expressions say it all really. They look a bit scary, but they also look a bit thick. Like that ten-ton meathead kid at the back of the classroom who looked like they fell off the back of a turnip truck. Aquaphibians never get a starring role in an episode, but are a constant, fairly manageable threat. Such is the charm of Stingray, that even the bad guys feel like a loveable part of the furniture.

In this carefully positioned shot, the Mechanical Fish opens fire. The missile is likely concealed behind the model, rather than coming from within.

Sea Probe goes up in a ball of flame which surges up out of the water. The surface explosion is a full colour version of the monochrome shot seen in the opening titles. The explosions in just this first episode of Stingray look a heck of a lot better than the out of control firework displays going on in Fireball XL5. Seriously, XL5‘s special effects are a blinding health and safety nightmare. In Stingray the pyrotechnic effects appear to be more carefully crafted, and ultimately look much more satisfying on screen.

Like many Anderson pilot episodes, this first installment bears no title caption. Unless you think WASHINGTON D.C. is a viable episode title. Someone out there probably does. Most of us normal people just call the episode Stingray based on what appears in documentation. Anyway, we’re at the World Security Patrol H.Q., which is rather helpfully indicated by a sign that they keep inside the building for anyone wanders in by mistake. Despite being the World Security Patrol, only an American and British flag hang above the door. Maybe the flag of Genovia was being ironed that day. As expected many props and pieces of furniture seen here were previously used all over the place in Fireball XL5.

Script page image courtesy of The Prop Gallery.

The surviving script for this episode indicates some cuts were made prior to the conference room scene which would have shown news of the attack reaching Washington via radio masts and frantic telephone switchboards. Probably fair enough that this cut was made – the surviving dialogue already makes us pretty aware of the gravity of the situation. That said, the WSP Commander does make a bit of a leap to assume that “this was no normal act of war”. Blowing up an enemy submarine sounds like a pretty run-of-the-mill act of war to me. Maybe everyone’s just a bit nicer to each other in the 2060’s.

Time for our first proper look at Marineville, the headquarters of the World Aquanaut Security Patrol. The control tower itself is instantly recognisable by it’s chequered red and blue colour scheme. Otherwise, the rest of the architecture wouldn’t look out of place on a British university campus designed in the 1960s. We’ll get to grips with the geography of the various installations over the course of these reviews but Marineville is essentially a model village (no pun intended) where aquanauts and operatives can live and work without having to leave the confines of the base. Like a prison camp but with a supermarket and its own jazz band.

The WSP Commander voiced by Don Mason in the previous scene is now being voiced by Ray Barrett. Don’t worry, there’s plenty more where that came from. But, to be honest, I’m more distracted by that so-called ‘Locator Compass’ on the wall next to the videophone. What’s it doing? What good is a compass that wildly swings from left to right while a dial of numbers rotates clockwise? Is it meant to be doing that? Whatever this compass is supposed to be locating it must be moving a lot.

The videophone shuts off, an effect achieved simply by cutting from a shot of the back projection screen being on, to a shot with the globe artwork in place. Note that said globe is focused squarely on the continents of North and South America.

I’m similarly distracted by the map on the wall which also positions the Americas towards the centre. Maybe this was done with the American audience in mind? Maybe it’s to draw attention to the Pacific Ocean where most of the action throughout the series will take place. There’s also a smaller map showing the ‘ACTION AREA’ to the right, and a fire extinguisher to the left which is helpfully labeled ‘FIRE’, just in case you didn’t know when to use one of those.

Troy Tempest is relaxing in the standby lounge by studying some fish. Talk about a busman’s holiday. Meanwhile Phones is drunk as a skunk and the empty liquor bottles are there to prove it.

With some final words of encouragement from Washington, Shore takes full command of the situation. Ray Barrett’s performance as the gruff head honcho of Marineville is notable for being more subdued in these early episodes, taking him a little while to find the character we know and love. Atlanta, Shore’s daughter and a WASP lieutenant, pushes one of the many toothpaste caps on the control panel to trigger another thumping drumbeat signifying launch stations. The use of different drum tracks to alert WASP operatives is pretty darn special and yet another memorable element of the series.

Troy and Phones are ready and waiting in the Injector Bay to lower their chairs down through the bowels of Marineville. Unfortunately the wobbly back projection footage showing various bits of junk and airfix kits whizzing past isn’t terribly convincing.

The aquanauts soon arive in Stingray’s pen. It’s Pen 3. That’s why Stingray has a number 3 on it. The series itself really doesn’t provide much more explanation than that for the numbering. Of course, fans can make up their own minds. The pen itself isn’t really explored much during the series. It’s just a big empty space full of water with an elevated platform in the middle. We don’t know if there are more pens exactly like it, more craft like Stingray, or whether they all connect to the same ocean door. Frankly, I wish they hadn’t bothered putting that number 3 on the wall or the tail fins so we could all go home early.

With a satisfying clamp, the aquanauts are locked in position and have successfully boarded the submarine without taking a single step – the true signifier of a Supermarionation launch sequence done right. Troy and Phones chatter through the standard procedures to get Stingray underway. Again, it’s your usual fare for an Anderson launch sequence, but it does so much to get the blood pumping and raise the excitement of the scene. Without it, this could be construed as a shot of a toy boat sinking into a puddle of water with the blub-blub-blub of some bubbles. But viewers take it seriously because Troy and Phones are portrayed as grown-ups doing a grown-up job.

I’ve always loved this shot of Stingray under the water. It’s a simple enough technique. The surface of the water is represented by a pane of frosted glass or plastic with a small amount of water sloshing about on top to create the right lighting.

As Stingray proceeds along the launch tunnel, Atlanta monitors its progress on the beautifully illustrated main panel in the control room. The fact that the ‘Stingray Pen’ is specifically labeled on the diagram does rather suggest that there is only that one pen connected to the tunnel. It also implies that Stingray is the only WASP submarine anyone pays any attention to when it’s launching. It’s rather a large control panel to dedicate to one vehicle. But maybe Stingray’s just that darn special.

With Stingray launched, Shore gives the crew a location to head for and a brief summary of their mission. It’s all so wonderfully straightforward. We hear Stingray’s engines whine as the sub accelerates to a whopping 600 knots (690 mph). For some context, the Soviet submarine K-222 reportedly holds the record for world’s fastest submarine at 44.7 knots. So Stingray’s making some serious waves. Troy and Phones are a couple of mighty handsome puppets, who wear the WASP uniforms well. On the scale of Supermarionation hats, the WASP hats are at the top. Those Air Terrainean hats that nobody even bothered to wear in the Thunderbirds episode Trapped In The Sky are somewhere near the bottom.

The chaps decide to go and take a break, so Atlanta and Commander Shore vote to do the same. I’m somewhat distracted by the ‘Plotting Room’ though. It sounds like the sort of place scheming villains would go to stroke their beardy chins, cackle to themselves, and come up with evil plans. Turns out it’s a common military installation for coordinating coastal artilery gunfire. Anyway, let’s talk about how fabulous it is that Lois Maxwell of Miss Moneypenny fame is playing Atlanta Shore. She really is very good at portraying the many facets to Atlanta’s character throughout the series. The entire voice cast is stellar, but Maxwell really makes the medium-sized part of Atlanta into something special, no doubt contributing to her increased role as the series goes on.

We’re treated now to a short but lovely scene aboard Stingray. The charmingly named automatic-bosun is taking Stingray to its destination while Troy and Phones sit as far away from each other as possible. Troy ponders a map of the area which triggers the sarcastic response from Phones, “I know there are people living under the sea, and I’ve got fairies at the bottom of my garden.” I love that line. Phones is just a regular guy who wants to get on with the job with a laugh and a smile. Troy is ambitious, daring, and adventurous, putting himself out there with wild theories and hunches that often turn out to be correct. It’s that kind of distinction which makes the characters of Stingray so interesting and well-rounded. As the series goes on the audience knows exactly who they can depend upon to react in a certain way. In a way it’s comforting. In another way it’s what sets this series apart from other Anderson shows where certain characters, particularly secondary characters, don’t have a lot going on to make them memorable.

Phones warns us about the Island of Lemoy threatening their navigation. Seems like a creepy little island with one old house on it. Think Tracy Island but if International Rescue were run by vampires.

Still, at least it looks deserted. Nobody here to cause any concern. Could be a nice place for a picnic. Maybe a spot of topless sunbathing. I’ll go get the factor 30. Will you do my back?

GAH! Put your clothes back on. Put the sandwiches away. It’s a peeping tom and he sure is an ugly looking twerp.

It’s the Island of Lemoy’s most charismatic fish-man, X20. Hands down, my favourite Supermarionation character. He’s a creep, he’s got ideas above his station, he’s treated like garbage and acts like it too. Also, I have to love this shot because the piano is the same one seen in the saloon in Four Feather Falls – a prop which survives to this day and I was fortunate enough to hold in my hands and carry into the exhibition hall at the Andercon 2015 event (there, I have a claim to fame now).

This episode really is packing in those memorable moments. For the first time we get to watch X20’s home transform into a wild control centre full of bells and whistles to contact Titan and do his evil bidding. It’s so silly but it’s also so incredibly brilliant. It’s sheer perfection the way the windows are sealed, paintings slide back, and furniture flips and swivels. Yes, it all seems ridiculously elaborate when X20 lives on a deserted island anyway. But who cares about that? It’s all about the spectacle. And actually, it isn’t just about the spectacle because X20 being able to disguise his house is impressively used as a plot point in more than one future episode.

Actor Claude Rains was used as the basis for X20’s face, while Robert Easton deploys his impression of Peter Lorre to provide the voice. The story of how Easton found that voice is well worth a watch here.

Thanks to X20’s warning, Titan has a Mechanical Fish standing by when Stingray reaches the site of Sea Probe’s demise. Back projection is used effectively to show the view from the cabin while we’re treated to more gorgeous shots of the hero and the villain submarines navigating the deep waters. The colours of the lush vegetation on the seabed really pop. There’s also some really clever lighting from John Read in the shot looking into Stingray’s cabin from the outside.

The tension builds as Phones hears something approaching on his signature hydrophone aparatus. Just look at the detail in his face. The realistic glass eyes, the freckles, the eyelashes, the teeth. The Stingray puppets really are works of art.

It isn’t long before the Mechanical Fish strikes and Stingray is thrown out of control. For the first time, a purpose-sculpted alternate head for a Supermarionation puppet is used here to show Troy’s frown. Some of the XL5 puppets had ‘blinker’ heads, and as far back as Four Feather Falls, temporary expressions could be fixed to the puppet’s faces using plasticine, but Stingray marked the introduction of a full range of expression heads. Directors and puppeteers could select whichever head they desired to fit the mood of a scene. Troy is, quite rightly, a bit cheesed off that someone’s shooting at his boat, so the frowner face is used to great effect.

When Stingray crashes to the seabed, the whole ship is tipped on its side. We cut back to the interior and as the smoke clears I genuinely can’t tell whether the camera is on its side or the entire set has been flipped up. I assume it’s the former, but it really is very convincing.

As we fade to black for the end of the first act, the Mechanical Fish looms over Stingray. The poor model team had to damage their brand new Stingray model by snapping the starboard fin off. Later on in the series, we’ll see that they weren’t quite so precious about doing some damage to the star submarine. And phew, what an action-packed first half. The scenes that got us here were all so short and sharp but don’t try to squeeze in too much unnecessary exposition. There isn’t an ounce of fat to be trimmed because we aren’t being told who people are and what they do – we darn well see it.

Back at Marineville, there is great concern over Stingray’s radio silence. Shore immediately suspects foul play. It’s refreshing that nobody in this episode is sucumbing to the trope of assuming that everything’s fine when it clearly isn’t. Just a shame that the ’24 Hour Clock’ on the wall isn’t plugged in.

WASP Spearhead Bombers scramble to investigate. These models were built based on Revell Convair B-58 Hustler kits.

Shore immediately orders that the whole of Marineville be placed at battle stations. A new drumbeat thunders out across the loudspeakers as vehicles rush into designated parking areas. The cars look so 1960s, but one of them doesn’t have wheels, so that makes it futuristic I suppose. Some jaunty angles and fast, dramatic camera movements lend the scene a bit of comic-book-style action. The Power Plant is called upon to commence battle stations. Gotta love those Marineville Power Plant guys – unsung heroes of the show if you ask me.

Just like that, various Marineville installations begin to slowly descend underground. And just like X20’s house, this is all about the spetacle. I can hardly think of any instances throughout the series where deploying battle stations actually proves to be of any use whatsoever, but gosh darn it looks cool and it’s an amazing idea. It looks like the Airfix girder bridge kit is used all over the shop to dress the underground bunker.

Time for us to slow down the action a little and get to the meat of the plot as we elegantly transition to Troy waking up in some kind of decadent underwater environment. Now, you can maybe see why this kind of overhead shot wasn’t attempted again very much in the rest of the series. It looks like what it is – a thin film of water, rather than the depths of the ocean.

As Troy’s vision comes into focus, he is silently greeted by a woman who is either a mermaid or a web-footed Strictly Come Dancing contestant.

Titan announces from his throne that this girl, nor any of her race, can actually speak. Again, Ray Barrett performs Titan with quite a bit more subtlety than we hear later in the series, but he’s still suitably menacing and powerful here. Once again, the puppet design is exquisite in all areas from the costume to the particular shade of metallic green chosen for his skin. Titan’s features were sculpted by Christine Glanville to resemble Laurence Olivier.

The high defintion picture quality reveals that Marina’s beautiful green wig doesn’t quite fit properly, as some of the netting can be seen covering her ear in this shot. Oh well, nobody’s perfect.

As Troy and Titan talk turkey, we’re treated to this magnificent wide shot of Titan’s throne room. It’s a stunning set designed by Bob Bell which takes full advantage of shooting in colour and uses all sorts of ornate features to break up what would otherwise be a large empty space. There’s also something quite theatrical about the design which rather nicely parallels with the theatre of the trial which follows later – oh aren’t I clever for making that wafer thin connection. Anyway, this is Titanica, an underwater city ruled by Titan. Troy is their first terrainean visitor. Titan is awfully suspicious of Troy, who nevertheless swears he’s only there to investigate. To sort things out, Titan offers to give Troy a fair trial… then follows this with an evil laugh… so take that “fairness” with a pinch of salt.

The search aicraft return to Marineville, having failed to find Stingray… which isn’t all that surprising seeing as Stingray is usually at home underwater and planes tend not to venture down there. Anyway, Shore gives Atlanta the said news. He’s about to blow Troy up with hydromic missiles. Once again, the situation has escalated very quickly indeed. No mucking about whatsoever.

The mighty rockets rise from ground, made even mightier by the sheer dread in the music accompanying them.

Here’s our first proper look at the city of Titanica. Sadly, we don’t get to see much of it beyond Titan’s throne room in the rest of the series. I’m sure there’s some cool stuff to explore in there. Maybe even a Nando’s.

So here’s how Troy’s trial is supposed to work. If the great god of the sea, Teufel turns away from Troy within one marine minute, that means Troy is an enemy and will be sentenced to death. The timer is watched carefully by Marina as red liquid fills a tube. It’s red liquid because we’re filming in colour, remember? Oh, and here’s the critical bit… Teufel is a fish who looks like an imbecile mated with Henry VIII’s pet haddock.

Now here’s why I think this scene is brilliant. Troy doesn’t say a word so we don’t really know exactly what he’s thinking. Obviously Teufel looks ridiculous and we already have our suspicions that Titan might have an agenda here because of his joke about the fairness of the trial. Marina gives nothing away because she just can’t. So is this a genuine conventional trial here in Titanica? Is Teufel truly respected as a deity despite looking like a moron? Or is this all an elaborate hoax pulled off by Titan on some mad power trip? It doesn’t matter. Troy’s life is on the line. So whether Teufel really does pass judgement on Troy, or we’re basically just rolling the dice here, the stakes are still incredibly high. And we genuinely don’t know which way this is going to go because Teufel is so menacing yet so very, very vacant. Is he a god or a fish? Is Titan genuinely seeking his guidance or just playing with Troy? Whose side is Marina on? And can Troy do anything at all to influence the result of the trial? I’m on the edge of my flipping seat.

The fish turns at the last moment. Whether this was all for real or not, the Stingray crew face certain doom as Titan gives the order for them to be escorted to Aquatraz (a pun on the San Francisco prison, Alcatraz) for execution. Absolutely pitch perfect.

Just three things to note about this quick shot (yes, really). First is the fact that the glass doesn’t break when it first hits the ground. There is an abrupt cut to a fresh copy of the picture with broken glass. You won’t notice that unless you’re a sad twerp like me though. Secondly, the fact that the photograph was originally monochrome but has been coloured with the uniform in green, matching Derek Medding’s original concept art. Finally, this is the first shot in Stingray to feature the use of real hands for a close-up. Not necessarily a significant fact in itself seeing as real hands had been in regular use in Supermarionation productions since Four Feather Falls. However, it is noteworthy because in previous series, the hands were covered by rubber gloves to make them look more puppet-like. From Stingray onwards the hands appear as naked as they day they were born.

This little scene between Atlanta and her father just offers a little nudge towards the fact that Atlanta cares about Troy. We’re not walloped over the head with a big romantic gesture, just given a sneak peek. It’s a nice touch and goes a long way to making these characters feel more realistic. They’re not just aquanauts and operatives and action heroes, they’re people.

Troy and Phones, accopanied by Marina and two Aquaphibians are being transported across Titanica by some sort of travel tube. Back projection is utilised with some passable wibbly-wobbly effects to simulate their journey. In the background, a prop which is something akin to two lampshades glued together on a stick. Phones is understandably cheesed off that just because his associate failed to maintain eye contact with a dumb fish he’s now getting sentenced to death too. That’s life, I guess.

They learn that while Marina is unable to speak, she can hear and understand what people are saying. We’ll ignore the fact that Phones calls her a ‘fish dish’. Although I do really fancy some fish and chips now.

The travel tube brings them to a Mechanical Fish which is standing by for launch. It really is a menacing machine which could so easily have looked really naff in the hands if designed and built by the wrong modelmakers.

To keep things interesting, Troy and Phones have swapped sides now that they’re aboard the Mechanical Fish. Just like the outside, the interior set of the craft looks nothing like a conventional submarine.

The moment Troy realises that Marina is untying them and wants to help is so glorious. You can almost see the hope come back into his eyes. The puppet faces can’t emote and yet there’s a magic to the way they’re shot which just lets you see what the characters are thinking. It’s some combination of the actor’s voice, the puppeteering, the lighting, and the camera which just brings it to life. I realise I’ve just described 50% of what goes into making any film successfully, but frankly that proves that Supermarionation is as legitimate a form of filmmaking and art as any other. When I watch any Supermarionation show done well (sorry The Investigator), I never forget that I’m watching puppets, but I frequently forget that I’m watching inanimate objects.

The Aquaphibians have a chat with each other in their own bubble language, which is made even more entertaining by the over-enthusiastic hand gestures. Translation suggestions on a postcard, please.

Marina launches her ingenious distraction technique of beeping, pointing, and nodding. Whenever you’re in a tight fix, just remember to beep, point, and nod… oh and kick one of your Aquaphibian captors straight in the plums. That’s a key step. As is threatening to shoot the ever-lasting frog spawn out of your other captor.

Poor Andy the Aquaphibian was just two days from retirement.

Meanwhile, at Marineville, the hydromic missiles are thirty minutes from launching and all hope appears to be lost until this young chap announces that an unidentified craft is approaching. You may know him as Lieutenant Fisher, but in the original script he was merely an unnamed relief officer. Gerry Anderson’s audio commentary on the episode indicates that he didn’t much care for the Fisher puppet. Whether Gerry held that grudge during the actual production is unclear, so for the moment we’ll just say it sucks to be Fisher and leave it at that.

After hurling an insult at Fisher, Commander Shore decides he doesn’t like the look of the approaching Mechanical Fish one little bit and decides to prepare yet more missiles to fire at it. Vicious-looking little blighters they are too.

Atlanta spots the tow line and Shore decides to put the pedal to the metal on his hoverchair, and charges across the room faster than X20 gets his binoculars out at a nudist beach. He applies the brakes just in time, barely avoiding a crash straight through the TV screen. Taking a closer look at the bottom of Shore’s chair, we see that it is on wheels.

Yes, the Mechanical Fish is indeed bringing the star submarine home. Poor Stingray itself doesn’t exactly fare too well in its debut episode. It pretty much launches, arrives at the trouble zone reasonably fast, and then gets blown up and dragged back to base later. Oh well, there’s plenty of time for it to be cool later.

Night has fallen and the team are enjoying dinner at Atlanta’s apartment. Curiously, Commander Shore cannot be seen at the table in the initial, wide establishing shot, but is present in the next shot. I suppose he could just be sat with Phones completely blocking him, but I’ll leave that with you to decide. The gang reflect on the whole experience, and the revelation that there are whole civilisations of people living in the oceans that they’ve never encountered before. It does make you wonder why Titan chose now to attack Sea Probe and start this war with the land people, when he was previously lurking underwater completely undetected. Maybe he was just bored. Of course, how nobody spotted the existence of Titanica before now I just don’t know – it’s lit up like a Christmas tree down there. Perhaps such sightings were previously dismissed as fantasy. Perhaps it’s just explained in an issue of TV21 I haven’t read.

Troy introduces Marina to the gathering, declaring her the latest WASP recruit. Fairly sure there’s some paperwork that needs to be filled in first, but sure, why not? I like her green nail polish.

The boys hardly know where to look and Atlanta can’t help but notice how attractive Troy’s new best friend is. Marina nods in agreement that the gals will have to fight over their lover boy until their final days. Of course, it objectifies Marina more than a little. A modern writer would probably take this opportunity to show there’s more to Marina than her looks, despite the fact she can’t talk. Fortunately, we have seen Marina show a little of her bravery and cunning earlier in the episode, and there’s plenty more of it to come. Anyway, one final thought before we fade to black: given the gravity of what Troy and Phones have been through today, and the implications of war being triggered between the land and the sea, it speaks volumes that this is the scene which is chosen to close the episode. Not some grand statement about good vs. evil, or Titan swearing to get his revenge. Instead we get a sweet little moment between some characters enjoying each others’ company over dinner, and greeting a stranger with smiles and jokes. That’s Stingray in a nutshell.

Of course, we finish with Aqua Marina, performed superbly by Gary Miller over the end credits. Melts my heart every time I hear it. But, in the context of this particular episode it sure comes out of left field. We’ve only just met Marina and all of a sudden Troy’s head over heels in love with her and taking her on romantic dates all over the world while Atlanta sits at home seething. The full extent of the relationship and the Troy/Atlanta/Marina love triangle is explored later in the series, but just for this first episode you kind of have to take Aqua Marina for what it is… just a nice song.

It’s great to be back. I’ve enjoyed reviewing this episode even more than I expected. This pilot episode of Stingray does everything right. The production might as well be considered faultless and it looks and sounds fantastic. It’s a tight, straightforward plot which doesn’t seem to leave any loose ends. The characters all have their parts to play and get decent introductions to who they are, what they do, and what they’re like as people. I’m hungry for more.

Next week, Titan is very, very not happy about the fact Marina galavanted off with the Stingray crew. Teufel, the great sea god who apparently isn’t just your common or garden chunky fish boy, shows the ruler of Titanica a plant which has the power to strike down his enemies. Stay tuned for episode two: Plant of Doom.

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Further reading: by Century 21 Films Ltd.

Stingray: Adventures In Videcolor by Andrew Pixley. First published in 2022 by Network Distributing. by The Prop Gallery Ltd.

5 thoughts on “Stingray – 1. Stingray (Pilot)

  1. Absolutely love this review and your Thunderbirds ones a few years ago. Your humour is top notch! Keep em’ coming!👍🏻


  2. So glad to see these reviews returning, the Thunderbirds series is one of my favourite review/analysis series I’ve read. The great mix of interesting frame-by-frame examinations and humorous observations is handled perfectly. Even though I’m not as well versed in Stingray as the other Supermarionation shows that came after, this will be a wonderful way to revisit and examine the show anew.


  3. Fantastic review as always! While Thunderbirds will always be my favourite Supermarionation show (not only being the first one I saw but also because watching “Trapped in the Sky” was my very earliest memory as a child), Stingray and Captain Scarlet both have a very special place in my heart as well.

    As for the final scene’s establishing wide shot, I think if you zoom in and look towards where Phones’ neck is, you can just make out Commander Shore’s hair and ear behind.


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