Stingray – 4. Hostages of the Deep

Directed by Desmond Saunders

Teleplay by Alan Fennell

First UK Broadcast – 13th June 1965

Hostages of the Deep was the 37th episode of Stingray to be broadcast. 37! This one really has the look and feel of an early episode so I don’t know who they were trying to fool by putting it so late in the run. I’ve never watched Stingray in broadcast order but it must feel so strange because the later episodes are just quite different from these early ones, and the progression in production and storytelling is pretty clear. Hopping from one end of the production order of the series to the other willy-nilly must be a bizarre experience for regular viewers. Or maybe I’m thinking about it too hard. Maybe the viewing public just opened their mouths and stuffed whatever Stingray goodness in that was served up to them without very much thought. Gobble gobble gobble. Anyway, what are we doing here? Oh yeah, Hostages of the Deep.

We fade in from the opening titles and, to be honest, the initial shot of the Island of Lull isn’t terribly impressive. I mean the model team have basically plopped some pebbles on the edge of the water tank as far away from the camera as possible. Then we cut to some stock footage. Thunderbirds viewers will, I’m sure, instantly recognise the last shot from its use in Trapped In The Sky. For me, stock footage from the real world just doesn’t gel with Supermarionation. It sticks out like a sore thumb even in live action shows, but the problem is magnified when cutting between stock, and puppet and model footage which is lit and shot in its own distinctive way. All the same, the Island of Stock Footage looks like a lovely place to go on holiday.

Now before I get carried away and say that obviously this house on this beach doesn’t look nearly as good as the villa on Tracy Island, let’s instead compare this shot to say, Venus’ beach house in Fireball XL5 episodes like The Fire Fighters, which would have been filmed just a few months prior to Hostages of the Deep. It’s definitely a step up from that, and I think that’s really important to consider, particularly when looking at early episodes of Stingray. This series is definitely the stepping stone from the rough and ready model shooting of Fireball to the big screen spectacle of Thunderbirds. So there are going to be hits and misses. The design of the house itself is perhaps rather modest considering we’re on a private island, but boy does it look like the 1960s architectural version of luxury.

Henry and Millie Carson are enjoying retirement on their private island. Henry is a former WASP admiral. He’s also a day drinker, and apparently loves to throw newspapers all over the floor. I want to take a moment to admire the puppet scale venetian blinds hanging in front of the window. How the heck did Bob Bell either find or make venetian blinds that were one third life size? They look so real.

Absolute top marks to David Graham and Lois Maxwell who are absolutely delightful as the retired American couple. I want to see a sitcom about these two getting into all sorts of scrapes. Their escalating panic throughout this scene is just perfect. The fact they keep calling each other by their first names is an exquisite detail in the writing. We’ve all seen those old married couples who have to say each other’s names out loud very clearly to ensure the other person is actually listening to them. Millie is right to be worried of course because there is definitely someone lurking around outside. There’s no build up to it at all. Not even a close up at the window. Either you see it or you don’t and that somehow makes it more disturbing. I especially love Henry emphasising how much dough he’s spent on this island 300 miles away from anyone. I see my retirement going in a similar direction.

Henry is sent to investigate which essentially involves him standing in the doorway and looking at some more stock footage of the island. I don’t much care for the pink and purple facade of the house, but you do you Mr and Mrs Carson – Stingray is filmed in colour after all and we wouldn’t want to forget that.

The strange footprints in the sand make it clear that Millie was right. I bet Millie’s always right.

Gadus makes his appearance. His name is pronounced gay-dus in this scene but that’s very much up for interpretation later, apparently. What a terrific alien. Ray Barrett definitely sounds like he’s pinching his nose to achieve the voice, but we won’t knock marks off for that because it sounds great. His outfit is decorated with spiny bits of dead sea creature. His face looks both fishy, and like someone tried to build a road down the middle of it. Gadus doesn’t hang around. He’ll kill them if they do something he doesn’t like. He hates all terraineans, wants to destroy Troy Tempest, and capture Stingray. End of story. This is a baddie who knows what he wants and is unapologetic about it. We don’t know whether he’s working for someone else like Titan, or wants Stingray for himself, but he is the first undersea creature in the series other than Titan to clearly express his desire for war with the land. One assumes that Titan is pulling the strings and has inspired a great many undersea races to rise up and try to bring down the WASPs.

I wish I was a student of architecture who could tell you all about the inspiration behind buildings like the living quarters at Marineville. It’s such an interesting building which very closely resembles brutalist architecture of the period (think of any library or university building from the 1960s), but that’s about as far as I’m prepared to commit myself without looking like a fool.

I think this is the first official confirmation we get in the series that Commander Shore and Atlanta actually live together. I bet the Commander insisted on having his rank put on the sign instead of his first name.

The ultra harsh lighting in the wide shot makes it look like the names have been printed on the sign twice.

Troy’s smiler head is rarely used in the series and I think it’s pretty obvious why. The extra-curved lower lip has a lot of trouble moving in sync with the dialogue – basically remaining open the entire time. It also just isn’t a face that looks particularly pleasant on camera. I recommend not staring at it for too long.

So Troy and Phones are sending a stuffed toy fish on wheels towards Atlanta’s door for some kind of prank. This scene always feels bizarre to me for a number of reasons. The first I’ve already mentioned – Troy’s murderous smile. The second is the fact it was cut from the compilation film Invaders of the Deep, so when I watch this episode in isolation now, it always catches me off guard. The third is just how rubbish the prank is.

So the fish speaks to Atlanta with a high-pitched voice. The lip flaps open and shut on a wire. Apparently the incredible Supermarionation electronic lip sync technology wasn’t going to stretch to a toy fish. It’s smiling heads all around which I can’t say I’m a fan of on Atlanta or Phones either. I think on all Supermarionation puppets I find the frowner heads to be generally more appealing on screen than the smilers. The neutral heads are happy-looking enough for me for most jolly situations.

The side-splitting hilarity is interrupted by an announcement from Commander Shore who calls the Stingray crew to the control tower immediately. The front of the Shores’ apartment looks quite different to what we saw of it in Plant of Doom. The wall is a different colour and texture, the balcony rail is a totally different design, there’s a garage door to the left of the front door instead of a regular door frame, the ornate bench outside the door is gone, and the door bell has gained a white button. Perhaps they moved to a new place after pointlessly fumigating their last apartment multiple times in Plant of Doom.

With no time wasted, Shore brings Troy and Phones up to speed. We learn from the Admiral’s message that “proceed with vigour” is a WASP code to warn of a trap. It isn’t used again in the series, but we assume it’s meant in the same vein as “P.W.O.R.” or “proceeding with orders received.” Maybe there are other codes too? “Proceed with chocolate cake,” might mean that Commander Shore is hungry and if you don’t bring snacks to the control tower immediately there’s a very real possibility that Lt. Fisher will get court-martialed.

Under Shore’s specific instruction, Marina is on this mission to offer her geographical expertise. This is the first time since the pilot episode that we’ve seen the launch of Stingray in full, and it’s the first time Marina has occupied that third chair in the Injector Bay.

The back projection footage behind Troy, Phones, and Marina here looks rather more neat and tidy than the junk which whizzed past behind them in the pilot.

Marina gets popped down in the back of Stingray. I’m not quite sure how that happens because up in the standby lounge, Marina was sat directly in between Troy and Phones, and not several yards behind them. There’s probably a very interesting explanation for that in a Graham Bleathman cutaway drawing.

Commander Shore then leaps to the assumption that Admiral Carson’s coded warning could mean Marineville is about to face an attack, so he calls battle stations just so we can all enjoy the magnificent spectacle of it. Most of the footage is re-used from the pilot except for this one curious shot of the parking ramp descending which is an alternate take to the shot shown in the pilot because the cars are in different positions, the big truck is missing, and the ‘Ramp 8’ sign has disappeared. Otherwise it’s exactly the same model set.

Stingray is on its way to Lull at rate six or 600 knots. Marina is keeping the toy fish company on the back seat. I can’t help but wonder how it got aboard when it wasn’t seen at all during the sequence of the crew boarding Stingray. Maybe Troy has more than one of the little blighters.

Something about this wider shot of the beach house on Lull is much more impressive than the one we saw earlier. The ocean actually being in view probably helps to complete the look.

While they’ve been waiting for Stingray to arrives, Gadus and the Carsons have obviously had time for a bit of a tidy up as Henry’s newspapers are no longer scattered all over the floor. You can just see where the edge of the set is in the bottom left corner. Gadus is very confident that Troy is doomed to die. I like that confidence. He’s certainly an ambitious amphibian. Try saying that ten times fast.

Thanks to the magic of television, the hour that Stingray spends travelling to Lull passes by in a matter of seconds. For anyone that’s still interested in this sort of thing – one hour at 600 knots puts Lull about 690 miles from Marineville as the crow flies. For the first time in the series, Troy makes use of the S.V.S. (Surface Video Scan) which a moment later he decides to call the S.V.C. instead. I assume that stands for Surface Video Camera but for goodness sake Troy just pick one abbreviation and stick to it.

With no visible signs of trouble, Stingray surfaces and Troy plans to go ashore using his secret weapon – the toy fish. Phones is baffled. Marina looks less than thrilled that she’s being left behind.

Meanwhile, parked around the other side of the island we have this… thing. Yeah the alien submarines really are a bit rubbish in these early episodes aren’t they? I thought the jet plane from Sea of Oil was bad but this might be worse for its sheer lack of detail and hideous paint job. They were going for weird and alien, but ended up with naff and ugly.

Back projection is used for the window/viewing screen of Gadus’ craft. The interior design is equally garish. What on earth is that frilly green cushion doing there? That red, blue, and yellow colour scheme on Gadus’ control panel sure gets used in a lot of places during the series so far. I know the production team claim to have had a lot of troube initially getting to grips with filming in colour, so maybe those primary colours were the ones they felt safest with.

Troy and Phones leave Stingray aboard their monocopters. Similar to the jet mobiles seen in Fireball XL5, and later the hover bikes seen in Thunderbirds, the purpose of the monocopters was basically to save the puppet having to walk anywhere over long distances. They also just look quite cool. Phones is clearly having some trouble balancing though while carrying that fish.

Curiously, as the tiny miniatures of Troy and Phones hover towards the island, it is clear that the uniforms on these figures are painted green. This ties in with the notion that Derek Meddings’ original art for the WASP uniforms was also green before it was changed to grey. Now I wonder why the figures seen in this shot are still in green…

As Troy and Phones approach, Gadus watches closely on the monitor and makes it clear that they are doomed – doomed I tell you! He mentions that killing the Stingray crew is his “mission” – perhaps suggesting that he has indeed been assigned to this job by someone like Titan.

The act closes with this gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous shot of Stingray.

Outside the house at a safe distance, Troy sends in the toy fish to investigate. Phones is still struggling to grasp the plan but all will soon be revealed.

As soon as the fish enters, the whole house goes up with quite an enormous bang. Troy and Phones are showered with debris. There’s even a very pretty little purple cloud of smoke which pops up. The fish itself doesn’t actually get obliterated because we see a brief shot inside the house of the toy getting engulfed in smoke. It’s fair to assume that Troy’s going to leave it for dead though. The monster.

Gadus isn’t too pleased that his trap has failed, so it’s time for plan B. He makes a run for it with the hostages. It’s a speedy little craft, I’ll give it that, but sadly even in motion it still looks a bit rubbish. Troy and Phones quickly deduce that Henry and Millie are probably aboard and rush back to Stingray to give chase.

The Admiral then receives a bit of a telling off from Gadus for warning the WASPs about the trap. But all is not lost for him. You see, he has a base. A base where he will be safe. And he’s all about that base.

Stingray dives in pursuit of the enemy craft, which enters a tunnel our heroes probably couldn’t squeeze down. How thoroughly inconvenient.

I love any shot of Stingray’s cabin taken from outside with the fish tank in front of the camera. It just looks very real.

Phones suggests that they use the Aqua Sprites to enter the tunnel – the rarely seen shuttle craft nestled in Stingray’s rear fuselage – but Troy is concerned about making too much noise. He remains very cautious when Phones suggests swimming up the mysterious tunnel. A sound scan of the tunnel reveals it to be about three miles long and well beyond the range of their potential air supply. So from that point Troy is done with the idea of saving the Carsons. Some hero. But Marina takes to the idea like a mermaid to water and immediately goes swanning off for a swim.

Oh wait, Marina’s gone so now Troy insists on risking their lives to save her. A respected senior member of the WASPs – not so fussed about whether he lives or dies. Someone from under the sea that he barely knows who is perfectly capable of surviving underwater – now there’s some rescuing to do. Troy absolutely cannot resist a damsel in distress, even when they’re not in any distress…

Marina swims into the tunnel, hair swirling around magnificently. Troy and Phones fumble around getting into the diving gear which we see here for the first time in the series. We see a miniature shot of Troy and Phones being dragged through the water by their sea-bugs. What’s curious about this is the fact air bubbles are seen billowing directly from their scuba tanks, which suggests the figures are actually in the water tank rather than suspended behind it.

At the end of the cave, right in the background of the shot is a puppet-scale suggestion of the enemy submarine which looks absolutely nothing like the little model we saw earlier.

Marina emerges from the water. I assume getting Supermarionation puppets wet isn’t too much of a problem. The heads are made of fiberglass after all, y’know, like a boat. Anyone who wants to take their Supermarionation replica puppets for a bath can let me know how it goes. On second thoughts, please don’t.

Gadus stands menacingly at the end of the cave, pointing a gun at Marina and unimpressed that Troy has sent a woman to fight his battles. Thankfully, we all know that Marina can make up her own darn mind about going into battle with spiky baddies thank you very much.

Further up the tunnel, it seems that the sea-bugs have had no luck keeping up with Marina. I mean, I’m not surprised that she’s a good swimmer and all, but you’d have thought WASP equipment would be able to keep up at least a little bit. But, rather unfortunately, Phones’ sea-bug is having trouble propelling him at a decent speed and Troy is too good of a friend to leave him behind. The use of back projection as the aquanauts slowly make their way along the tunnel is surprisingly effective.

Gadus has been joined by his buddy, Marran, to do a nasty bit of interrogation. They’ve chained Marina to a bloomin’ rock. Marran decides to play fast and loose with pronunciation by referring to his colleague as “gad-dus” rather than “gay-dus” as we heard earlier. I wouldn’t dare make that kind of mistake. I bet Gadus has a whole room of torture rocks to chain people to that cross him.

So here’s the situation. Gadus wants Marina to speak within ten marine minutes or the candle will burn through the rope and drop an actual swordfish through Marina’s heart. Troy and Phones better hurry up! Oh, one thing though, swordfish certainly don’t have jagged edges like that along their pointy noses, and don’t actually use their “swords” for stabbing. So could dropping one on a person actually cause a deadly injury? I mean, that swordfish looks bigger than Marina, so I’d say just the sheer weight of dropping it on her would do quite a bit of harm. The jury’s out on the stabby thing though. Either way it’s a very nasty thing to do to someone and not a very dignified end for the swordfish either.

So while Troy absolutely refuses to speed up and leave Phones behind, Henry and Millie are doing their bestest to try and save Marina themselves. Gotta love those two. Unfortunately things really don’t look good for Marina who only breaks the tiniest sweat when faced with certain death. Of course, this scene, and any other scene in the series where someone is trying to force Marina to speak, is made even more horrific if you know the truth behind her silence…

Come on boys, get a move on! Yes, Phones is on the brink of death but we haven’t got all day!

Phew! They made it to the cave. Oh great, now they need a minute to get their breaths back.

A full, live action body double of Marina is used to show her struggling with the chains. Who played this role? Nobody knows. It was likely a member of the production team. What happened to that lovely replica of Marina’s costume? Well we’ll be seeing it again next week… sort of…

Guys, seriously, get on with it! Interestingly, the rock that Phones is holding on to folds and buckles slightly as he gets up, suggesting it’s made of rubber.

Finally Troy springs into action and we’re treated to a terrific shootout. Barry Gray’s music really sells it, plus a couple of bangs and ricochets. The alien gun seen in close up appears to fire darts. It is a little bit odd that one of the guns sounds like an old man coughing. It’s also a shame that no flashes were added to the guns of Troy and Phones, so instead they just jolt their arms to indicate that they’ve fired. Eventually they pin Gadus and Marran down who are forced to surrender. Bravo!

Troy puts the flame of the candle out with his bare hand because he’s just so ‘ard like that. Also a puppet would look silly trying to blow a candle out.

Rather than taking a few extra seconds to just carefully tie the rope onto something, and thus secure the swordfish, Troy immediately goes to help Marina out of her chains instead, even though tethering the swordfish would have been a much smarter move to save her life. Check out those live action webbed feet though, if you’re into that sort of thing. Just in the nick of time, Marina escapes and the swordfish goes straight through the solid rock she was just laying on. Blimey.

Henry and Millie are quick to congratulate Troy and praise Marina for her resilience. Phones may have a gun pointed at the villains but he isn’t doing a terribly good job of actually watching them.

Now for a really soppy ending, during which I actually thought Troy was going to break into song. It’s quite sweet though, really. Troy is grateful to Marina for her bravery. Marina is grateful to Troy for coming to save her despite the dangers. Phones is there too, probably still recovering from the intense oxygen starvation. Who’s going to break the news that they now need to swim all the way back up that tunnel?

Overall, Hostages of the Deep, is a great example of an early Stingray episode. It’s simple but still exciting. The exploding beach house, the race to rescue Marina against all odds, and the big gunfight are all thrilling. Troy’s heroism, loyalty, instinct, and resourcefulness are all on display here. Marina, once again, tries to do her bit to save the day. It’s a ruddy good adventure with some engaging guest characters. Maybe the visual effects team have a few hurdles to get over still, but don’t worry, they’ll get there.

Next week – treasure is the name of the game and Phones wants a piece of the action. All Troy wants is a romantic evening with Marina, despite Atlanta waiting for him back at base. It all comes to a head when the Stingray crew get captured by aliens surrounded by gold! Stay tuned for Treasure Down Below, right here on the Security Hazard blog.

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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.

3 thoughts on “Stingray – 4. Hostages of the Deep

    1. Thanks, Nick! Part of the fun of doing these reviews is that I get to find new favourites, so I won’t commit myself to any right now – but I do have a lot of nostalgia and fondness for the episodes on Volumes 4 and 5 of the VHS tapes from Channel 5 video. We’ll see how they shape up this time around when I reach that point in the series!


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