Stingray – 5. Treasure Down Below

Directed by Alan Pattillo

Teleplay by Dennis Spooner

First UK Broadcast – 14th March 1965

I’ve been looking forward to this one. Treasure Down Below is chock-full of memorable moments and contains all the ingredients of a classic – salty seadogs, funky-looking aliens, love triangle drama – it’s all here! So no more hanging around, let’s get started! Oh, but incidentally, I thought it would be worth mentioning that we’re five episodes into the series and I’m still singing along to the theme music…

The episode opens with some very impressive shots of a ship sailing across the water. It’s a really beautiful model, only let down by its incredibly brief appearance. It looks like some sort of luxury cruise ship.

Here’s Captain Black. Now I could be boring and point out that this isn’t the same Captain Black who worked for the Mysterons and terrorised Spectrum, but my heart tells me that it’s more fun to pretend they’re the same character, and that things have just gone really, really, really wrong for the Mysterons. Anyway, he’s completely sozzled and singing the traditional sea shanty Drunken Sailor, which Barry Gray also masterfully weaves into the incidental music for the episode. Captain Black really is an excellent character and Don Mason goes all out, performing with a unique kind of west country transatlantic accent that just steals the show. Black brings us up to speed on the story so far – he’s found some treasure and stranded his own crew on an island. He’s a real swashbuckling pirate for the 21st century.

Unfortunately, his navigation leaves a lot to be desired and Black’s magnificent ship is heading straight for an iceberg. Now there’s no nice way of saying this – the iceberg looks like a big block of polystyrene and it doesn’t quite appear as big and threatening as it’s supposed to be. All that being said, I love that Captain Black is just looking in completely the opposite direction, guzzling down a bottle o’ rum. To be honest, if there really were a big block of polystyrene bobbing along in the water, Captain Black probably would have sunk his ship on that too.

The sequence of the ship actually hitting the iceberg is excellent. Back projection is used on the puppet set to show the iceberg getting very close to the window as Black is forced to the floor by the impact. There’s a terrific, albeit inexplicable, explosion just to highlight that Black and his ship really are a bit stuffed. In true pirate fashion, Black is only interested in saving his precious haul of gold… Mysteron gold.

Just for good measure, Captain Black gets doused in water as he goes down with his ship. It must have been such fun for the AP Films team to just throw buckets of water at the puppets after a long day of shooting.

What a great and intriguing opening to the episode! We’re chucked straight into the action with minimal exposition needed to establish that this story deals with sunken treasure, and that Captain Black is an absolute piece of work. According to the original script, the episode was planned to open with a shot of the aliens’ treasure room, over which the title caption would have been superimposed. In my opinion, the build up to the title reveal that we see here in the finished production works a lot better.

Meanwhile, Stingray is moored off the coast of Casablanca, Morocco for the evening. Gorgeous stuff – the lighting is exquisite.

Lots to unpack here. I’ll try and keep it brief. Oink is back as a member of the Stingray crew apparently. Fezzes are cool. Look at the Supercar book. Good? Right moving on.

Phones reports in to Marineville and it becomes clear that the Stingray crew are enjoying some shore leave. Well, Troy and Marina are enjoying some shore leave while Phones and Oink are stuck guarding the ship. Atlanta isn’t best pleased to learn that the two lovebirds have gone off alone – especially when she has a date with Troy planned for tomorrow. But never mind all that, the 24 hour clock on the wall of the control room is actually showing a time for once… albeit very, very briefly. Apparently the clock only shows the time for a split second before becoming four useless black circles on the wall again. But it’s 12:14 at Marineville which suggests it would be 20:14 in Casablanca, which it probably is. I love it when details like that are done right. Perhaps more curiously though, the sign for the 24 hour clock which was visible in the pilot episode is now covered by some buttons and a speaker grille. Considering the clock is only functional as a clock for a few seconds out of every minute of every day, I would have thought keeping a sign underneath explaining what it actully is would be quite helpful. The blue filing cabinets are new too. Well, newish, they actually came off the set of Supercar. Phones’ conversation with Atlanta is cut short, so he takes it as an opportunity to complain about women in general… which is rather out of character for Phones since he’s usually so nice about everyone.

This lavishly decorated set is the site of Troy and Marina’s secret little date. It’s the same spot we see them in during the end credits of every episode. But is it a date? Well we’ll find out later but they seem to be having a nice time. The proprietor of the establishment is a puppet that was last seen in the Fireball XL5 episode Space City Special as General Rossiter, and of course goes on to become Admiral Denver in later Stingray episodes. Said puppet still has its original painted eyes from Fireball, which were later replaced with glass eyes when the puppet became Denver.

Back on Stingray, Phones has been at the booze again and has passed out on a makeshift bed on the deck. One of the monocopters introduced in Hostages of the Deep is next to him, just in case he wakes up and needs to pop to the off-licence again. The original script suggested that Oink would also be seen snoozing away with Phones, but in the finished episode he’s probably busy looking out for dodgy characters sticking bombs on the hull like the absolute hero he is.

Okay, considering this is supposed to be the World Aquanaut Security Patrol, people seem to just be able to wander on and off Stingray as they please. First the creepy alien who snatched Atlanta in Sea of Oil, and now this guy. At least Phones has awoken from his drunken haze. One slight continuity misfire though – the hatch is now open when it was definitely closed in the previous shot.

Rather delightfully, this old seadog is given the name ‘Parker’ in the original script, where he’s described as having ‘shades of Robert Newton’, an actor who basically defined the role of Long John Silver in Treasure Island, and cinematic pirates in general. I mean, the puppet and the voice basically are 100% Robert Newton, there’s no shades about it. Phones is immediately sucked in to the sale of a mysterious treasure map for the princely sum of $500. The exchange between the two characters is pure gold. Parker, much like Long John Silver, treads a fine line between being villainous and utterly charming. You really can’t tell whether he’s conning Phones, or being genuinely sincere. But before Phones can make the payment for the map, he has to go and borrow some dough, a whacking $300, from the world’s most understanding man…

Yeah, Troy isn’t thrilled. But to be fair to him, Phones refuses to say exactly what he needs the money for. Troy is probably well aware of Phones’ intense drinking problem and has been on the receiving end of this type of conversation many times before.

Phones resorts straight to blackmail, indicating what a terrible colleague Troy is for forcing Phones to stay aboard Stingray during their shore leave. Then he seals the deal by looking straight at Marina, and choosing that exact moment to remind Troy about his date with Atlanta tomorrow. Troy gives in and Marina immediately starts to cry. Who knew that Phones could be such a stone cold ogre? I mean, wow, this is some serious drama going on. Marina’s tears make it very apparent that this was supposed to be a date which Phones has just ruined. It also suggests Marina was not aware that Troy was still dating Atlanta, and that Troy was trying to keep his date with Atlanta a secret… or he genuinely forgot about it, in which case, ouch. Basically, neither Phones nor Troy come out of this particularly well.

Marina makes a swift exit, understandably hurt. Troy also takes the opportunity to complain to the audience about women. Seriously, buddy? From a character development point of view, I really like how flawed and misguided Troy is in tandem with his heroism and natural charm. But dang does he deserve a smack in the mouth sometimes.

Back on Stingray, Phones hands over his blood money and gets the sea chart in exchange. So far, our loveable rogue is coming good on his deal. Interestingly, a scene following this in the original script shows him going to the café and trying to sell an identical sea chart to the waiter, thus confirming that he’s an outright conman. In the final episode though, this is the last we see of him, and the map does end up leading to some treasure, sort of, so we basically have to believe that this is all bonafide… which is rather nice, I suppose.

Troy’s having none of it though. Tensions are still high and he refuses to indulge Phones’ quest to find the lost treasure, choosing instead to hit the hay.

Phones at least regains some decency by apologising to Marina for upsetting her, before turning in too. Marina not only accepts the apology very gracefully, she also decides to do Phones a favour, and get a sneaky bit of revenge on Troy. She happens to think there’s some credibility in the treasure map, or at the very least thinks it’s worth checking out. The full size prop of the map is beautifully illustrated, and next to it on the table appear to be some pages which, if you turn them upside down, zoom in, and squint a bit, seem to have the title ‘FIREBALL’ at the top. After inspecting the map, Marina decides to take some action. The hand of a floor puppeteer can just about be seen removing the map from her hands before she stands up.

Oink watches on as Marina turns Stingray around and puts them on a course for the treasure. I really, really like Marina when she’s just had enough and decides to do what she likes. She can’t speak, so has to make her voice heard somehow. Maybe you could say she’s impulsive and irresponsible. I say it just keeps everyone on their toes, and ultimately her actions make for some exciting and unexpected plot twists and turns.

Troy and Phones are asleep in their bunks, as seen previously in Sea of Oil.

In the morning, it quickly becomes clear that Stingray has strayed from its original course, and is now quite near the predicted treasure zone. We don’t see Marina at the controls of Stingray very often, but it’s encouraging to learn that she’s had suitable training to set the craft on an accurate course if needed. Troy is absolutely fuming and assumes Marina and Phones have formed some sort of an alliance, probably to conspire against him. You know, because the entire universe revolves around Troy.

In a really bizarre move, Troy decides not to report in to Marineville about their new position. I mean, he’s protecting Marina which is nice, but surely he could have invented some other reason for the navigation failure and still kept HQ in the picture as to their whereabouts? I do enjoy the wry little exchange between Troy and Phones though, with Phones full of enthusiasm to find the treasure, and Troy just agreeing to go along with it to get his money’s worth. It’s just enough to soften the tension between the characters slightly, saving Troy from looking like an absolute monster.

Troy’s petulance continues as he asks Phones why they haven’t seen any treasure within the first few seconds of investigating the area. Someone hold me back because that face is ripe for a smack.

Rather quickly, things start to go south as Stingray gets sucked into a whirlpool and thrown out of control. The effect is rather brilliantly achieved with the backdrop whizzing past behind the Stingray model which is suspended and tossed about on wires. Then in front of the camera is the aquarium which is being filled with bubbles and sediment to indicate the rapid movement of the water. The Stingray model itself has taken some damage to the starboard rear and side fins.

Very poetically, Phones’ treasure map falls and spirals down to the lower deck, much like Stingray itself is doing, implying that Stingray’s little treasure hunt is going a bit wrong. Phones himself has been ordered to “go back and switch to emergency stabilisers.” Big question folks, and you probably know where I’m going with this already… why are the controls for the emergency stablisers kept at the back of the cabin? In an emergency situation such as this, when you need that little bit of extra stability, a crew member is probably going to be unable to get up and walk to the rear of the cabin safely. So, sure enough, Phones takes a big tumble, falls over the barrier, and hits the lower deck. That’s quite a significant drop and Phones doesn’t appear to have taken it well.

Fortunately, the act ends with Troy successfully steering Stingray out of the whirlpool, presumably without any help from the poorly positioned emergency stabilisers.

Turns out Phones is fine aside from a big lump on his head. Troy continues to be incredibly catty about the supposed special friendship Phones and Marina have struck up recently. Meow.

Stingray surfaces inside a lovely little cave complete with some very elegant stalactites. Such great detail for such a short moment.

Having inspected the cave through the window, via some more well-used back projection footage, the Stingray crew are off to investigate. Huzzah!

Meanwhile, at Marineville, a full scale search operation is already underway to find Stingray. Frankly this all just serves to show how incredibly irresponsible it was of Troy to keep their course diversion hush-hush. The World Map which is usually seen on the wall the control room has been covered by this special search map covered in flags and circles and other circles with lines through them and all things which indicate Stingray being missing for three hours is considered quite a big deal. Special search vessels are on patrol and communicating with Shore and Atlanta. Search Vessel 2 is initially voiced by David Graham when speaking to Atlanta, but then responds with Don Mason’s voice when ordered to search the Casablanca area… maybe there’s just two of them using the radio.

Troy, Phones, and Marina have stumbled upon the treasure! What luck! And it isn’t just a little bit of treasure, it’s a terrific hoard of jewellery, paintings, statues, gold bars, and curiously some of the green shiny material that was probably used to make the live action version of Marina’s costume in last week’s episode, Hostages of the Deep. All the very best that the AP Films prop store had to offer! Troy very much has to eat his own hat for being so anti-treasure earlier.

Hmmm, yes, now then, these guys. Let’s address the elephant in the room right away. Yes, it looks like a candelabra. Apparently when undersea aliens become ludicrously rich from a fantastic treasure haul, the first thing they do is surgically fuse themselves with their spoils. Or maybe the candelabra indicates rank? Ebron is fairly senior so gets a candelabra. Trall is still training so he doesn’t get any head lighting yet, but when he’s finally promoted to a lieutenant they’ll stick a tealight on his head or something. The admiral probably has a crystal chandelier balanced on his bonce. Anyway, the point is that its one of the series’ more outlandish character designs for an undersea race. There are still some pretty wild looks on our horizon, but these guys are on extreme end of things.

Troy’s getting real tired of this nonsense.

Locked in a jail cell, Phones has time to feel bad about his impulse purchase. Troy has no problem letting Phones take all of the blame, even though Troy really, really, really should have just told Marineville where they were.

Marina and Oink are locked in a cell next door, which is the same piece of set except for some swapped out furniture, and a suspiciously obvious stone cut out of the wall. Oink wasn’t present in the previous scene when the treasure was discovered by the Stingray crew, so either he was hiding or someone had to go back to Stingray just to take the little seal prisoner.

That suspicious bit of wall is now in use on the set of Troy and Phones’ jail cell as it becomes apparent that they have a visitor. It’s none other than the scourge of the sea, the terror of the tides, the man who puts the ‘racy’ in piracy – Captain Black. Turns out he’s been trapped here for three months digging holes and tunnels all over the place. From the sound of it he hasn’t exactly sobered up, but he’s excited to learn that the Stingray crew have a ship to get him out of there.

The search for Stingray isn’t looking good as Rescue Launch 8 calls in to confirm there’s no sign of the WASP’s flagship sub. This map is very confusing. First of all, I couldn’t actually tell you which area of the ocean it’s supposed to be showing. Secondly, Atlanta plucks the final flag from the wall which suggests it’s a very manual, physical piece of aparatus that they have to update themselves by hand. Then Shore preses a button and all the red slices of pie disappear (courtesy of a jump cut) which actually suggests this is some sort of electronic map. It’s very strange, particularly as Shore’s finger leaves a dent in the button he uses. Anyway, the search is going to start all over again because none of the search vessels or rescue launches have anything better to do with their time.

Black’s plan is simple. 1) Steal treasure. 2) Escape. What could possibly go wrong?

So apparently, Ebron and Trall have been living in their little cave with all their treasure for 300 years. They look good for it. But now they’ve been discovered it’s time to dispose of their prisoners. Ebron calls Marina a traitress… as in a woman who is a traitor… I didn’t know that was actually a word but apparently we English speakers need a special word to distinguish women who are traitors from men who are traitors…

Remember Captain Black’s really simple two-step plan? Well Troy’s forgotten step one, and decides to just escape. Black won’t leave without the gold because he’s still very, very drunk and snitches on the Stingray crew almost immediately, shouting out and pulling a gun on them. What a rotter.

Now, what happens next doesn’t exactly… ummm… work, unfortunately. Captain Black gets smacked across the face by Troy (I think). Said fist is weilded by a floor puppeteer whose fingers you can see in the bottom right of the frame. Black is knocked halfway across the set. Phones and Marina start to walk up the stairs at a normal pace, as opposed to sprinting, only to be stopped by Ebron and Trall at the top. Apparently, somewhere in all of that, Troy managed to get away but we don’t know which way he went or even see him move. Punching, negotiating stairs at speed, or running away don’t exactly come easily to a Supermarionation puppet, so putting all three of those things into a scene was quite ambitious, and its directed about as well as one could hope. In a deleted moment from the script, Captain Black getting whacked would have also caused his gun to discharge and blown a hole in the roof, thus warning Troy about how fragile the cave structure is… just to cram even more action into those few seconds. I can understand why it was cut.

In another part of the cave, Troy watches as Trall wanders around menacingly with his gun. The floor beneath Trall’s feet can actually be seen bouncing.

While Ebron and Trall discuss their plot to lure Troy Tempest out into the open, a pub called The Silver Swan gets some free advertising via the sign on the back wall. An effigy of The Silver Swan’s barmaid, Dirty Doris, is also present in the background.

Cunningly disguised as some treasure, Troy overhears the plan. That orange fabric draping over the front of the chest is the same material used to make Atlanta’s outfit from the final dinner scene of the pilot episode. Marina’s costume material is also dotted about all over the place.

Captain Black is rather put out by the fact the Stingray crew failed to follow his two-step escape plan, and so joins forces with the undersea aliens to do a lovely bit of medieval torture. This is the second week in a row that Marina has been tied to something while someone does a horrible thing to her in a cave.

One at a time, Captain Black attempts to stretch Phones and Marina on a rack. This is supposed to be a family show, so they really downplay how much this would absolutely hurt like heck. We’re talking dislocated limbs and loud pops and cracks as bones and ligaments snap. Extraordinarily unpleasant stuff, and Alan Pattillo takes it about as far as he can within the realms of decency for the family audience. Phones and Marina are visibly uncomfortable and I always remember thinking as a kid watching this that it’s probably one of the worst ordeals the Stingray crew have to suffer through – except for Troy breaking into song, but we’ll get to that.

Fortunately, Troy has a plan involving a whopping great cannon, which is jolly handy.

Roof goes bang, roof falls on Ebron and Trall, torture stops. Easy-peasy.

Phones congratulates his colleague and all is well. Troy gets to be the hero again even though he was a complete twerp for the previous 22 minutes or so.

With everything wrapped, Stingray returns to Marineville with the villains nicely tied up on the lower deck. Poor Captain Black. I mean, he was a complete blaggard who abandoned his crew, stole some treasure, got drunk, crashed his ship, sold out the Stingray crew, and willingly assisted in torturing them… but I still like the guy. Plus, y’know, he’s a Mysteron agent so what did you expect? Anyway, we watch Marineville re-enter the ocean door for the first time in the series.

Masterfully, this final scene puts right all the things that didn’t sit particularly well with me about the episode so far. Commander Shore gives Troy an excellent telling-off about not reporting Stingray’s location to base, scolding him for all the time wasted by the rescue squad that were deployed twice to try and find them.

Meanwhile, Troy and Atlanta are going on their date after all, but Phones is going to be paying the bill, all $300 of it. I can’t really forgive Troy for dating two people at once but Altanta seems up for giving him a hard time about it still, and Marina’s already had her revenge by taking Phones’ side in the treasure debate. So it all just abouts ties together happily at the end. And I’m glad because I really like this episode and it deserved a good ending like this.

What’s not to like here? A fantastic gang of guest characters, some more spectacular special effects, and development of the three core characters aplenty. Phones gets the spotlight for a change and continues to be as likeable, albeit slightly dense, as ever. The pirate adventure feel of the episode is absolutely nailed by all departments from the character design, to the sets, to the music. Everything comes together perfectly and a story packed with action and intrigue is told in 25 minutes. This is Stingray doing what it does best. It’s fun, but not silly or nonsensical, and it’s good honest storytelling driven by characters with a lot of heart. More please!

Next week, it’s a gun, and it’s big… it’s The Big Gun. A race of undersea beings is testing their mighty weapon to unleash a brutal attack on the land. Can the Stingray crew stand up to the pressure of the depths to stop the destruction of an entire continent?

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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 – 5. Treasure Down Below

  1. Awesome stuff Jack, I love Captain Black and the old man of the sea. I do wonder if the guy who sold Phones the map was maybe a bit drunk considering the price he offers since this is set in the future, or mabe value of money hasn’t changed much in any Supermarionation shows anyway. I’ve always enjoyed this episode a lot and it is a great laugh, keep ’em coming! 😀


  2. I really like the little bits of cross-promotion/sneaky references the APF/C21 team put in their productions – the Supercar book here is a nice touch.


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