Directed by John Kelly
Teleplay by Dennis Spooner
First UK Broadcast – 6th June 1965
On paper, The Golden Sea has quite a lot going for it. After a short absence in prior episodes, we now have the return of Titan, X20, and Teufel, our principal baddies for the series. Plus, they’re joined by another geezer with a powerful new weapon to play with. It’s also the only time ever that we get to see one of Stingray’s Aqua Sprites in action, as well as Titan’s own personal craft. So this should feel like a fairly significant episode, right? Not just a bit of filler or a missed opportunity? Well, let’s see if we can draw some conclusions one way or the other over the course of this long-winded commentary…
Now here’s a mighty impressive-looking ship. Airfix girder bridge kits have been used all over this thing to create the various gantries and supports, plus detailing all the way along the hull. Also, it’s worth noting that according to the notes on the sleeve of the Blu-ray, the original negative for this episode is either wholly or partially missing, so an intermediate positive was used for the transfer. Somebody better educated on the subject than I can tell you what that actually means, but to me, the most unwashed of the great unwashed, it still looks great!
I love the B1 bathyscaphe. The detail on the model is superb, plus the big chunky shape is very appealing. This is one of the first guest craft in the series to really impress me because it’s clearly had some time put into giving it great screen presence.
We’re not the only ones admiring the arrival of the B1 though. Over on the Island of Lemoy, X20 is watching over the proceedings. We’re treated to the usual stock footage of the room transforming into a communications hub. Eagle-eyed viewers will notice some slight changes though between the material shown from the pilot, and the newly filmed shot displaying the B1’s arrival. The equipment shown to the left and right of the screen have swapped sides, which also happened in Plant of Doom – except this time a lot of the detailing on the units has changed as well. The unusual yellow gizmo above the screen has changed since the pilot too, but this change actually happened during Plant of Doom. In fact, while we’re at it, I’ll point out that the thing from the alien base in Sea of Oil that I said looked like a kitchenette is actually one of the same equipment units seen here. Boy, I really need to open my eyes and start writing this stuff down more frequently.
The continuity gets even more confusing now because the control panel on the left of the screen has changed again, this time matching the configuration shown in Plant of Doom. This would make sense though, seeing as this material of X20 boarding his subterranean elevator was present in the original script for Plant of Doom, but cut from the final episode, thus suggesting that some of those cut scenes from Plant of Doom were actually filmed, and we’re fortunate that a small slither was maybe, possibly, perhaps put to use here.
Commander Shore and Atlanta are aboard the B1 as guests. Shore really hasn’t had that much to do since the series started so it’s nice to see him getting out and about. The Professor Darren puppet later appears as Professor Cordo in the episode Trapped In The Depths, while Chuck is seen as a Marineville security guard in Titan Goes Pop.
Shore is so bored that he can barely be bothered to maintain eye contact with the two scientists. He’s been promised a demonstration of gold being extracted from sea water. Now, we layman may think that’s a pretty exciting prospect, but history suggests that such endeavours have been attempted many, many times before, but to little or no avail. So Shore is probably very familiar with the concept. His impatience and disinterest with the scientists is very amusing though, and it’s a theme which will be revisited later in episodes like A Nut For Marineville. Behind Shore in this shot is that thing previously seen in Sea of Oil which later forms an integral part of the Jet Air Transporter from the Thunderbirds episode Move – And You’re Dead. One day I’ll give that thing a name because it seems to crop up a lot.
The B1 is lowered slowly into the water, all while being watched by X20 from his craft. Said footage of X20 at the controls of his sub is lifted from Plant of Doom.
Now here’s a brave shot showing the B1 directly beneath the surface of the water. The effect of the ocean surface and its movement is achieved with a particularly glittery piece of fabric being flapped about. Underwater shots tend not to be shown from this particular angle very often in Stingray, because I imagine this shot was a right pain to set up, and it only works moderately well.
Some actual new footage of X20 now as he watches the B1 descend from a remarkably close distance. Seriously, this guy has some confidence in his spying abilities. But it’s easy to forget that X20 hasn’t actually screwed up once yet in the entire series. True, he’s not been given that much to do, but everything he has done, he’s completed expertly.
The B1 finally plops down on the seabed and after filling just a little more time, Darren begins the demonstration. I rather like his uniform with its gold trim… cos y’know… gold.
Stuff comes in, stuff comes out, and pumps make a satisfying squelchy-sucky noise for a bit as water becomes gold before our very eyes. Now, you can read all about what the actual process of getting gold from seawater would involve here, but the big takeaway is that in the real world, the Atlantic and Pacific oceans contain “1 gram of gold for every 100 million tonnes of sea water.” So getting huge lumps of the stuff after a few minutes is a pipe dream. But this is science fiction, so pipe dreams based on real scientific findings are the name of the game really. I’m actually very impressed that both this episode, and Dennis Spooner’s earlier script, Sea of Oil, are based loosely on real happenings in the ocean-going world.
And just like that, Commander Shore is a changed man, handing over all the resources Marineville has to offer. Even that old coffee pot Phones threw out last week.
In a sequence slow enough to rival the assembly of Zero-X, the B1 returns to the surface and gets dropped down on the deck of the FD7. All the while, X20 watches with interest. Curiously, the fins on the top and bottom of X20’s sub have been appearing and disappearing from shot to shot. Sometimes there’s a fin on top but not on the bottom, and vice versa, and sometimes they’re both back in position.
On the deck of the FD7, the gang are getting down to business. I’m not exactly sure where they are on the boat at this point – the B1 is bright yellow, and the wall they’re standing in front of is anything but bright yellow. Anyway, Chuck slips in a request for food deliveries to be brought down to them every month. For that amount of gold you could probably order takeway every night and have it delivered by special submarine courier, but sure, munching on monthly food rations like a sad old miser works too.
I know getting this close to X20’s face isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but just look at the detail in every line sculpted in his face. And the glass eyes are such a huge improvement on the painted ones used in previous Supermarionation series.
So it turns out that X20 can lip read, which in the Supermarionation world is obviously a rather comical concept. Anyway, he learns that the gold extraction project will be heading to the Kendrick trench tomorrow at dawn to start work, with Stingray turning up a month later to deliver supplies. An excellent bit of espionage from X20. Now, with that being said, I can’t help but wonder whether this whole sequence so far has been rather drawn out because of just how light the script is on plot. I often praise Stingray for keeping its stories simple but with plenty of punch packed in. We’ve certainly got the simple story, but I’m not quite sure I’ve seen the punch yet.
One moment to appreciate this live action hand insert which uses a silver rubber glove. Thank you.
We’re back in Titan’s throne room for the first time in a while and this chap has come to demonstrate his latest invention. He isn’t given a name on screen but is referred to in some sources as Sculpin, and apparently he’s Titan’s chancellor and a cousin of X20. You believe what you like, all I know is that Don Mason gives a remarkably un-Troy-like performance for this guest character and I rather like it.
Watch out, Teufel’s back. It’s his final appearance in the series because… well I don’t know why. Maybe there were disagreements with the Andersons over his fee.
Titan asks for Teufel’s opinion on the new gadget. Teufel’s opinion is not forthcoming. Heck, I know I came down firmly on the side of Teufel being an all-powerful god back in Plant of Doom, but now I’m back in the camp of him being a big fat fish trapped against his will by a madman.
Sculpin is invited to demonstrate his device again for our benefit. It may look like a baseball painted red with a yoghurt pot glued on top, but it’s apparently a device for attracting the “giant Gargan,” and Sculpin isn’t too keen on standing by the window for the demonstration. Titan insists though because, well, he’s a dirty rotter who loves to mess with people.
Now then, can I ask my readers to help clear something up for me? I’ve always, always, always, assumed that the Gargan was a mechanical device. The flashing lights, the lack of any moving parts, and the fact he gives off an electrical charge all rather suggested to me that this was a weapon that was cunningly designed and built to look like a fish. But apparently there’s a school of thought which suggests the Gargan is a wild, living creature whose power Titan has been unable to wield previously. Titan and Sculpin refer to Gargan as a “he”, Teufel can sense his presence (whatever that means), and many marine creatures in real life can, of course, generate electrical fields. So has Sculpin built the Gargan and just uses the sounder as a secretive control device? Or has Sculpin been conducting research on the Gargan beast and discovered the exact frequency his sounder needs to produce in order to attract this elusive, living monster of the sea? The episode, and the model of the Gargan itself, don’t do much to clear up this confusion so I’d like to hear your thoughts.
Either way, Sculpin is absolutely bricking it as the Gargan comes charging towards the window of Titan’s throne room, with all the spines of its pointy nose ready to do some serious damage.
Titan is certainly concerned by the strength of the impact against his window.
Teufel has lost his tiny, tiny mind.
Titan is absolutely loving it. There’s no doubt that Ray Barrett has found the meat and potatoes of his Titan performance this week.
I have no words for this ludicrous display. This was probably the moment that lead to Teufel being written out of the series for good. It wasn’t an issue with his fee. The Andersons fired him for hammy acting.
After a third attack, Titan has finally seen enough and can’t wait for an excuse to bring the giant Gargan out to play again soon. Now, if only there were a very good reason for Titan to do something nasty to someone, like setting a giant fish on them, coming up in the plot…
Fortunately, X20 is ready to report his findings to Titan. And blow me if the set hasn’t changed all over again. This time it’s gone right back to the way it appeared in the pilot episode, just to annoy me. Apparently Titan holds dominion of some description over the Kendrick trench, or at least the gold floating around down there, so he wants to put a stop to the expedition as soon as possible.
A whole new boat is now transporting the bathyscaphe to the site. The scientists are feeling pretty excited by the prospect of spending an entire month alone in a small yellow prison cell at the bottom of the ocean. Hope neither of them snores. This little scene ends with some inoffensive stock footage of the ocean.
Over at Marineville, Troy and Phones are finally making their first appearance in the episode. Commander Shore and Troy remind us of the plot all over again just in case anyone out there needed it.
Luckily, there’s also this delightful tomfoolery going on at the same time. Oink takes a real liking to a globe which has inexplicably been erected in the middle of the control room. His loveable seal antics don’t last long though. The “oinks” we hear are David Graham’s only contribution to the episode. Said “oinks” could easily have been borrowed from another episode recording, suggesting to me that David Graham might not have attended the session for this and the previous episode, The Big Gun, which doesn’t feature him at all. It’s only a guess mind you. Maybe he really did just turn up to say “oink” a few times and nothing more.
The time has come for Professor Darren and Chuck to say goodbye to natural sunlight and fresh air. Curiously, among the words dotted about all over the set, the scientists are apparently using the spelling “COMPUTOR” instead of “computer.” The B1 still looks magnificent as its lowered into the water, but my goodness is it slow.
From his own very ornate screen, Titan watches the operation of lowering the craft several thousand feet to the bottom of the ocean. Is that one of Marina’s dresses hanging up on the wall behind them? Dude, she’s gone, get over it and throw her stuff away.
Titan outlines his grand plan to Sculpin and Teufel, just in case Teufel still cares. He won’t just be attacking the B1 with the mighty Gargan, but Stingray too, “killing two fish with one stone”… cos y’know, they’re underwater so there aren’t any birds. Needless to say, that isn’t much of a surprise twist to the plot.
As the chains are released on the B1, we reach the end of the first act. The stage is now set for a thrilling episode. Just a shame we’re already halfway through it.
Back from the commercial break, it’s one month later and the Stingray crew are heading out to make their food delivery to Darren and Chuck. Atlanta reckons they’ll be glad to see Troy. I can’t think of anyone I’d want to see less than Troy Tempest after a month trapped underwater.
A brief shot, filmed or at least previously seen in The Big Gun, shows the full Stingray crew in the cabin. Oink is still on active service despite destroying Shore’s lovely globe. It’s interesting that the chair Marina uses to board Stingray often disappears after launch, but I’ve no idea where it goes.
Darren and Chuck clearly didn’t think through their storage solutions all that well when they set out on this expedition. You would think if you were going on an expedition to find gold, you would have a place to keep the gold other than strewn about in containers all over the floor of your limited workspace.
Stingray soon arrives with its landing skis extended for the first time in the series. I love the added detail of all the green slime on top of the B1, really selling the idea that it’s been standing on the seabed for several weeks.
Of course, it doesn’t take long for this gruesome twosome to catch a glimpse of what’s going on. I wonder how they’ve been spending the past month… either playing cards or running a dysfunctional, sitcom-worthy fish and chip shop together I reckon.
Troy returns to Stingray aboard the Aqua Sprite. It’s a neat concept for Stingray to have its own little shuttle craft, but I can understand why it wasn’t used all that much. The idea was probably borrowed from Fireball XL5 and Fireball Junior, but the Stingray crew rarely face situations where a small, slow, unarmed, slightly noisy, one-seater craft is the ideal form of transport. In fact, this is the only such situation in the series. If I spot any other appropriate uses for the Aqua Sprite throughout the series I’ll let you know. Anyway, Sculpin lurking around in the water outside doesn’t go unnoticed by our keen-eyed aquanaut, Troy…
He charges into the cabin yelling about seeing a “fish man,” a term which is a bit of an oversimplification and probably an insult to the many and varied underwater civilizations living under the sea. Unless they really are all directly descended from fish. That’s a bit of a rabbit hole we don’t have time to go down. Anyway, Troy’s hopping mad and immediately suspects foul play. Of course, said underwater person could have just been minding his own business and not threatening Stingray whatsoever, but I think at this point in the series the notion of their being nice undersea aliens out there has pretty much gone out of the window. With one or two exceptions, I think they’re all baddies from this point on.
The scientists have swapped their stacks of gold for stacks of food. Seriously, they need a cupboard or some shelves or something. Phones performs a very tense sound scan which fails to detect Sculpin sitting there quietly.
Luckily, Troy has a plan to draw the supposed villain out into the open. Marina agrees to be used as bait because she honestly hasn’t had anything particularly interesting to do for the past couple of weeks.
This time, Phones takes the starboard Aqua Sprite over to the bathyscaphe, with Marina and Oink swimming along behind. The single seat really is the downfall of the Aqua Sprite’s design. It needed at least two in order to be vaguely useful. The diddly little figures of Marina and Oink are cute though.
A nice P.O.V. shot indicates the Stingray crew approaching the B1. The amount of debris and dirt covering the bathyscaphe really does look excellent.
Meanwhile, Troy emerges from a lesser-used airlock somewhere at the rear of Stingray’s cabin. Hopefully the sea-bug is a bit more reliable than the one Phones struggled with in Hostages of the Deep. Stingray itself continues to look gorgeous.
Sculpin decides that now is the ideal time to plant the sound device, which Marina hears immediately and Troy spots from afar. Now I’m a little bit confused by this plan and how it’s worked out. Troy delivered the supplies to the B1 earlier and returned to Stingray. Had Troy not spotted Sculpin, I assume they would have just gone on their merry way, and Sculpin would have missed his chance to attack the Stingray crew. Or was it Sculpin’s plan all along to be spotted and therefore keep the Stingray crew around for a little longer? In which case, how could he then count on them all returning to the bathyscaphe, and not just blasting the heck out of him with a sting missile? The plan was always to knock out the B1 and the Stingray crew, so it seems to be through luck rather than judgement that the situation has worked out (almost) in his favour.
Titan’s personal craft arrives. Troy immediately recognises it, despite us never having seen it on screen before or since. It’s a ping-pong ball in a seashell… not exactly the greatest design but certainly unusual. It would seem that Sculpin was able to make his getaway after planting the sound device very quickly, and now sits beside Titan to watch the destruction, completely dry.
It doesn’t take long for the Gargan to arrive as Troy watches in awe and horror. The mighty weapon swings around magnificently as it prepares to strike the bathyscaphe.
The impact of those first few attacks is terrific. Titan cackles insanely as severe damage is dealt to the B1, sending our heroes flying. Water gets inside and the threat of total destruction is very real. It’s a memorable sequence, perhaps this episode’s only real claim to fame. It’s great to see a very different kind of action scene which isn’t just a chase or missiles being blasted at one craft or the other.
Phones has really had enough and demands Troy do something about this. The enslaught continues as Troy chooses to be a right scaredy-cat about using a sting missile against the Gargan. Apparently firing a missile isn’t safe – as if that’s ever stopped Troy before.
Finally, Troy springs into action. I can’t help but notice that the fish in the water tank on the puppet set are very active this week. Good for them, earning their pay cheques.
Now, as plans go, this one isn’t terrible. Troy races over to the B1 at incredible speed thanks to some more back projection footage. He picks up the sounder. Titan is immediately throwing a tantrum. With Troy now carrying the sounder, Gargan, with its flashing lights which definitely don’t look like real eyes if you ask me, is in hot pursuit. I can’t believe Sculpin didn’t forsee the possibility that the sounder would either be taken off the hull, or indeed just knocked out of place by the impact of the Gargan.
Troy approaches Titan’s craft. It really isn’t a very interesting design considering the immense status it should hold as a royal vessel. Again, I’m not surprised we never see it again. The Mechanical Fish is far, far superior.
With the sounder now in place on Titan’s craft, you can guess the rest. Lots of knocks and scrapes as Titan and Sculpin scream and yelp. The hull of Titan’s craft does stand up to the punishment considerably better than the B1 though, it has to be said.
Very fortunately indeed, Darren and Chuck fixed their airlock door in record time so Phones, Marina, and Oink can now leave. Quite how the Aqua Sprite docks with the B1 is never revealed, but we assume its parked just beyond the airlock door. Using a flipped version of the shot from earlier, Troy’s sea-bug launches him back towards Stingray.
And, well, that’s it really. Stingray naffs off, the B1 is left partially damaged, and Titan’s craft continues to be attacked by the Gargan. Excitement over, folks. There’s not much more to say about it.
Back at Marineville, Troy catches the Commander and Atlanta up on the plot. He refers to the Gargan as a “monster fish”, suggesting it actually was a real fish, despite how fake it looked next to the real fish swimming around in the water tank. For some reason it only just occurs to them that Titan is probably still exactly where they left him…
He is. And apparently he’ll be stuck there until the ship collapses or the sounder runs out of juice. Oh the hilarity.
Meanwhile, Darren and Chuck are presumably still aboard the damaged bathyscaphe, while an evil tyrant just sits in his craft getting knocked about. Can’t help but feel like the WASPs should come along and help clean up this situation a little more thoroughly.
The Golden Sea underwhelmed me, I’m sorry to say. I love the setup of the gold extraction, and even Titan’s unusual and original scheme to destroy the Stingray crew. But the actual action of the episode takes so long to get going and is over so quickly, that I’m left feeling unsatisfied. I guess it comes down to the fact that once you have Gargan whizzing around beating up a particular craft, there’s actually very few things you can do beyond watching it do its thing. So I suppose it’s a valid threat, but not one with a great potential for storytelling. Ah well, we never see Gargan or Sculpin again so one assumes Titan did something awful to both of them at the end of all this.
Next week, the Stingray crew are on the case to investigate a spooky galleon which has the Mary Celeste written all over it, but of course there’s a deadly twist! How will Phones and Commander Shore escape the terror of The Ghost Ship? Find out here on the Security Hazard blog!
www.filmedinsupermarionation.com by Century 21 Films Ltd.
Stingray: Adventures In Videcolor by Andrew Pixley. First published in 2022 by Network Distributing.