Stingray – 16. Raptures of the Deep

Directed by Desmond Saunders

Teleplay by Alan Fennell

First UK Broadcast – 29th November 1964

Dream sequences are a staple of Supermarionation storytelling. They allow us to see adventures which couldn’t possibly take place in the reality of the series, and to gain a deeper and more visual insight into a character’s ambitions, desires, or anxieties than would normally be exposed in regular dialogue or action. Take a look at the episodes like Flight of Fancy from Supercar, or A Day In The Life Of A Space General from Fireball XL5, or even Alan’s bizarre encounter with Cliff Richard Jr. from Thunderbirds Are Go, and you’ll find that similar dreamy or nightmarish elements and tropes can also be found right here, in Raptures of the Deep. Perhaps what makes so many of the heroes of Supermarionation such interesting characters is the fact we get these extraordinary glimpses into how their mind’s work. And believe me, Troy Tempest’s oxygen-starved subconscious doesn’t disappoint…

But to kick the episode off, it’s just another ordinary day at Marineville. Commander Shore is yelling at two goofy-looking fellas called Frank and Joe – a couple of exquisitely realised guest characters who we’ll hear from in a moment. Unfortunately for them, Shore and Troy don’t think much of their ocean-going craft, and refuse to grant them a certificate of undersea worthiness. While it’s possible that this particular situation may have just been escalated to Shore, I refuse to believe he has the time to personally certify every privately-owned sub that hits the water and that surely there’s someone in admin that particular job could be delegated to. Maybe the Commander just enjoys the personal touch of yelling at people himself.

It turns out the reason why Frank and Joe want to take their tub on a deep dive is to visit a supposed forest of gems on the ocean floor. Shore thinks it’s a load of absolute cobblers. Troy thinks the rumours are worthy of an investigation. Keep in mind that last week’s episode was about a legendary giant oyster containing an extremely valuable pearl. We’re treading very similar ground here with Shore being sceptacble and Troy keeping an open mind, except this time Troy decides to be rude about the Commander’s age, and Shore absolutely won’t budge on the matter… so that’s good…

Frank and Joe are sent packing. Their uniforms suggest some sort of affinity for seahorses, but beyond that I think it’s safe to assume they’re not employed by a particular agency or organisation to study the gem forest. They’re just a couple of guys floating about and looking for treasure.

A whip pan transition hurtles us into the next scene, and once again we have the opportunity to take a blurry look at the studio itself. I can make out some scaffolding poles and maybe a door. Oh what glorious insight. Still, it’s quite a novelty that these transitions were achieved simply by spinning the camera around with no regard for what was in view at the time.

We’ll get a closer look at Hepcat itself in a moment. I’m far too distracted by the incredible dialogue between Frank and Joe. They are presented as a couple of stereotypical beatniks, members of the Beat Generation subculture of the 1950s and 60s which, broadly, stood for non-conformity, spontaneity, and bohemian hedonism to name a few fancy words. Frank and Joe are very much a satirical take on that stereotype because they talk funny and make a spur of the moment decision which nearly kills them.

So, throwing caution to the wind, Hepcat dives down and the title card is revealed. Phones will explain it towards the end of the episode, but the term ‘Raptures of the Deep’ is a genuine alternative name for nitrogen narcosis – the feeling of confusion or euphoria when nitrogen from air enters the blood at high pressure. It’s a pretty cool name for something really quite unpleasant.

Hepcat (a term also derived from the jazz and beatnik subculture), is a curious little craft. The shape is not too dissimilar to that of the enemy vessel seen in The Ghost of the Sea, so it could be the same model, but the alternative paint job and other modifications make it difficult to be certain.

The canopy on the puppet-sized Hepcat is borrowed directly from the puppet-sized Supercar. The distinctive round shape was notoriously difficult, and expensive, to produce in perspex at the time, so I’m not surprised the team tried to get as much use out of it as possible. A rolling backdrop is used to suggest Hepcat’s rapid descent.

It doesn’t take long for things to enter danger-ville as Hepcat’s hull creaks and bends. It looks like a section of the hull was rendered in a very thin material so that a technician could simply move their hand around a little underneath to convey the buckling metal. Water starts to flood into the cabin. That’s an MOT failure right there.

As Joe works to operate the pumps, I couldn’t help but notice a large clump of hair sticking out on the set between his right arm and leg. Yeah, yeah, I know, high definition is a curse, but consider how much effort must have been needed on a regular basis to keep the sets and puppets looking clean and pristine for every take. I’m surprised dust and muck doesn’t make its way into shot more often. Next time you watch Captain Scarlet in HD though, take a good look at Colonel White’s tunic – terribly grubby. Anyway… what? Back to the action? Okay.

Fortunately, Hepcat houses a radio marker for just this sort of emergency, which is remarkably sensible for these reckless young rascals. Incidentally, Barry Gray’s score for this episode is cool daddy-o, real cool.

Hepcat hits the bottom of the ocean with remarkably little fuss. Not even a puff of dust. Just a sudden cut to the two lads knocked out inside the cabin. What’s really interesting is that this shot reveals the Supercar canopy has been installed back to front. The front of Supercar’s canopy has a rectangular gap cut out of the middle to make room for the clear-vu monitor, while the rear is a smooth curve which is what we can see here.

The marker surfaces with a big satsifying sloosh of water and beeps away an S.O.S. call into the ether. A simple model, but perfectly serviceable.

Shore picks up the message back at Marineville and immediately gives the order to launch Stingray. He’s furious to discover that the call is coming from Hepcat, but a job’s a job and rescuing stricken vessels certainly falls under the WASPs’ ever-growing remit of marine responsibilities. It’s on the list next to litter-picking in the Mediterranean.

Stingray is launched to the usual fanfare. That never gets dull. Clearly the novelty has worn off for Marina though, who can be spotted doing some needlework in the background. Troy and Phones speculate the possibility of the gem forest’s existence. From his previous adventures, Troy has learned to expect the unexpected, which is quite the change in attitude from last week when he was telling Marina to keep her superstitions to herself. Must have been a quick lesson.

A clock wipe transition… well… that’s different. I guess if you want to clobber your audience over the head with the fact time is passing between scenes, that’s how you do it. I suppose it fits nicely with the off-beat nature of the episode.

Stingray arrives on the scene. On the left of this frame before the camera rushes in on Troy, you can spot the very wooden edge of the set for a split second.

Troy makes contact with Hepcat, while Phones is ordered to go and fetch the diving gear. An attempt is made to make it look like Phones is descending the ladder to the lower deck. It just about works. The Hepcat boys start to wake up. Of course, the illusion that they’re underwater is ruined slightly by the fact that the canopy has no roof in order to make way for the puppets’ control wires – it’s something only a hardened, sceptical and pedantic old fart would spot or care about though. Anyway, Joe refers to air as “life breeze” and I couldn’t be more thrilled.

Troy exits Stingray with a simple tube to pump in said “life breeze.” Marina keeps an eye on things because, let’s be honest, there’s a high chance someone is going to mess something up again and she’ll be the one who has to fix it. Again, the curse of high definition reveals that Stingray’s hatch is clearly made of wood and the nails holding the panels together are fairly visible.

When viewed in wide shot, Hepcat actually appears to be a fairly sizeable craft which just happens to have a pokey little cabin.

Troy hooks up the “life breeze” by plugging a thing into a thing. Unfortunately the font for the ‘AIR SOCKET’ label doesn’t quite match between the live action close-up and the puppet set – thus absolutely crushing my enjoyment of the entire episode…

Phones switches on a pump and Hepcat is soon floating again. I do love those landing skids. The colourful tail fins borrowed straight from a USAF Thunderbird kit are a nice touch too.

Troy bids Frank and Joe a good day and that’s the last we see of them. A fantastic pair of characters but criminally under-used. I wish we could have seen them again caught up in some other crazy scheme. Even better, they could have come to work for the WASPs and annoyed the heck out of Commander Daddy-O every week.

Uh oh. Troy’s seen something shiny. Have a medic on standby…

Having learned nothing from last week, Troy ignores Phones’ warning about his limited oxygen supply and decides to go back and investigate the shiny thing a little more.

What happens next is honestly a bit difficult to explain. There’s a noticeable cut, and Troy falls down a hole. He falls… underwater. Maybe an incredibly strong current pulls him down? Also, assuming Troy hasn’t started hallucinating just yet, those few gems on the sea bed look pretty real to me, and aren’t the plain, ordinary seashells which Troy reveals later. Or has the hallucination already started? This is probably one of those moments that read perfectly fine in the script but was a bit fiddly to demonstrate on screen.

Aside from the fact there’s clearly no water in the hole while Troy descends, the fall is very dramatic and expertly puppeteered. He doesn’t just look like a dead weight being dropped on the set, but a real person flailing around and trying to hold onto something. In an area on the east coast of Egypt called The Blue Hole of Dahab, divers frequently lose their lives because nitrogen narcosis caused by the sudden increase in pressure causes them to panic and struggle as they descend. Troy will soon be experiencing similar effects.

Phones starts rushing to Troy’s rescue because he’s a top bloke. Troy complains of a pain in the leg, lost buoyancy, and a lack of air. Narcosis is now taking hold and it feels very serious. This could be the end for Captain Tempest.

Troy officially enters dreams-ville by means of the camera losing focus and then re-focussing. It isn’t stated outright that Troy is now hallucinating, but it’s heavily implied without ruining the suprise for the kids watching. From an analysis point of view, I won’t keep up the pretence. We have now entered the disturbed subconcious of Troy Tempest and for that I apologise profusely. At first, all seems normal and Troy has just regained his faculties by pure luck.

But it doesn’t take long for Troy to turn into an egotistical maniac who considers himself above the need for air. It’s a fantasy which fits the character like a glove. He floats off with great elegance, thanks to Barry Gray who has shifted effortlessly from jazzy danger to dreamy wonderment.

Troy enters to forest of gems doing backstroke because of course he does. It’s quite a pretty set, but, dare I say it, they could have made it look a little bit more special. Other than the novelty of trees appearing underwater, it isn’t immediately obvious that this is a gem forest… or maybe that’s the point…

Troy’s loving life. It’s very irritating.

In the next cave, the gems are much more abundant and obvious. Once again, if you were a peasant unable to watch the series in colour, you were missing out. Troy picks up some jewels just to prove that they really are gems and not Christmas decorations scattered about all over the place.

Troy declares himself the richest man in the whole wide world and he is delighted. I’ve mentioned that the sun shines out of Troy’s backside haven’t I? Anyway, this is a nice place to stop for a commercial break. When we come back, we get to see the real Troy…

An absolutely gorgeous model of an underwater temple slap bang in the middle of the gem forest. I wonder who lives there…

Yup. Okay, where to begin? First of all, the set is absolutely stunning. The costumes, oh boy, the costumes are sensational. I’ve mentioned previously that the creative team at AP Films absolutely thrive on doing things that are out of the ordinary and historical in nature and this episode must include some of their best work. When you break down the elements, the set is actually fairly straightforward, but it’s dressed, lit, and shot absolutely perfectly to scream elegance and decadence. Now, is it disappointing that Marina and Atlanta’s sole purpose in life is to fawn over Troy the Great One? Yes. Is it exactly what you would expect Troy to dream about? Yes. And I’m not even being flippant about that. This genuinely is Troy’s personality and worst characteristics pushed to the extreme. It comes from a place of truth. We’ve seen countless examples of Troy mistreating Atlanta and Marina to get his own way. We’ve seen his arrongance and pomposity in play. This is just the ultimate, exaggerated version of that. And how marvellous it is that we have a hero with flaws which the writers can explore and poke fun at in this way.

I’m no historian, but I’m guessing Ancient Rome was an enormous influence on the look for this dream sequence. Or Ancient Greece. Something like that. I told you I was no historian.

Marina, who has finally received a change of outfit for the first time, is also an accomplished harp player in Troy’s fantasy. In reality, all the harp sections for this episode are being performed by Tryphena Partridge under Barry Gray’s direction.

There’s a moment of silence, allowing the audience to enjoy the music, watch Troy wave a grape around, and to take all this in. The pace of the episode has been pretty fast up to this point so it’s important for us to now have some time to slow down and just let this bizarre scene play out at a gentle, dreamy pace. It’s only interrupted by Troy reminding us how great it is that he’s rich… the twerp.

The good news is, Phones has arrived. The bad news is, Troy’s convinced him to wear a daft outfit too, and he’s also going around calling Troy the “great one.” Stingray is arriving from Marineville. Troy has apparently left his life with the WASPs behind him. Quite how he persuaded the others to do the same and live a life of service to honour the “great one” is left unexplained. It’s a dream, so such logic isn’t really required.

A control panel which looks like an explosion in a glitter factory appears from the wall and Phones gives Stingray permission to enter “Tempest Towers.” Yes, really, that’s what he decided to call it. Fits. Like. A. Glove.

Stingray arrives in the elegant airlock. But who is at the controls?

It’s Commander Shore. Guess Troy didn’t want his old boss to join him in his palace of pleasure. But Shore has come to persuade Troy to return to the WASPs because there is apparently a risk of all this decadence making him “soft.” That may be true, but I’m sure it also has something to do with the fact Troy is blatantly up to no good with the commander’s daughter.

Troy declares that he is the leader in his domain, and that he has no duty to the WASPs whatsoever. Can’t say I blame him. If it’s a choice between having everything you could possibly want, and going back to work in a tinpot submarine, I know which I’d choose. And oh my goodness Don Mason turns the pomposity up to eleven for his performance as Troy this week. It’s magnificent.

Just as he’s leaving, Shore has a cheeky word with Phones, who it turns out is all in favour of Troy going back to Marineville. Good old, Phones. Even in a dream he still thinks Troy is a stuck up child. “Traitor!” declares Troy. I cannot emphasise enough how absolutely pitch perfect this stuff is. Shore exits, promising never to return.

Troy makes a provocative suggestion to Atlanta that he has everything he needs right where he is, which strongly suggests that his carnal needs are very definitely being satisfied… the dirty blighter.

And now for something completely different. The one thing that Troy hasn’t been able to do is get Marina to talk. He feels so strongly about it that he spontaneously bursts into song. Yes, Troy performs the closing title theme ‘Aqua Marina’ to a specially recorded harp accompaniment. This effectively confirms Gary Miller as Troy’s official singing voice. When I reviewed Aqua Marina for the end credits of the first episode, I didn’t have a lot to say about it because, quite frankly, it didn’t fit Troy and Marina’s relationship at that time. Now we’re approaching the halfway point of the series, let’s take this opportunity to explore it again. The song is quite carefully worded to avoid stating outright that Troy is in love or romantically entangled with Marina in any way. He is simply “enthralled” by her and wants her to stay “close to [his] heart.” So basically they’re just really good friends. That’s how they get around any suggestion that Troy’s trying to date both Marina and Atlanta at the same time. It also highlights that Troy still feels a distance and lack of connection with Marina, and that she can never truly be close to him while she remains a silent, beautiful mystery. It sums up their relationship in the series pretty perfectly. Troy admires Marina in all sorts of ways, but it’s a bit of a stretch to say he’s in love with her because he doesn’t treat her as an equal, or really understand her as a person. Now, could that be because the writers chose to stop making much of an effort with Marina fairly early on in the series? I think that decision has almost certainly had an effect on the meaning of the song, which feels rather out of place by the end of the series, when Marina has very little to do with the plot of each episode.

At the end of the song, Troy gets a little surprise. It turns out that Marina can now speak to him via thought transference. It’s short lived, but it’s a significant moment for a number of reasons. It was believed back in Plant of Doom that Marina might have been able to communicate with her father, Aphony, in the same sort of way. Presumably there’s a reason why, in the real world outside of the dream, she isn’t able to communicate with her terranean colleagues telepathically. Then there’s the fact that this is a rare contribution from Sylvia Anderson as a voice artist for the series. Considering her prominence in Supercar and Fireball XL5 as main characters, and then later Thunderbirds, Sylvia’s absence from the cast of Stingray is noteworthy, but probably comes down to just how busy she was with the many other aspects of the production, including dialogue direction. Then there’s the fact she perhaps hadn’t quite gotten through to the writers yet that they could write some decent-sized roles for female guest characters. Finally, there’s probably one very practical reason why Marina speaks without moving her lips – the puppet probably doesn’t have a solenoid fitted which allows her lower lip to move, because 99% of the time she wouldn’t need one.

But never mind all that, there’s a visitor at the window. Can you see him yet?

There he is! Yes, the Aquaphibians, who haven’t been seen since The Golden Sea, have come to join the party.

As panic ensues inside the palace, a whole army of Aquaphibians open fire and begin their attack. The mood of Troy’s dream quickly turns to despair. Only two identical Aquaphibian puppets were created for the series, so to create the illusion of a whole troop of them, each soldier has a unique item of clothing so that we can tell them apart and believe there’s a large number of them. From shoulder pads, to an orange scarf, to a green cape, it’s fair to say the wardrobe department had possibly run out of time at this point, after creating all the wonderful outfits for Troy, Phones, Atlanta, and Marina.

Inside the palace, Atlanta is standing directly underneath a leak in the ceiling as the whole building starts to collapse along with Troy’s immeasurable wealth. “They’re trying to take it all away from me,” he cries. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, that boy needs a really good slap sometimes.

The visuals are absolutely stunning. The destruction is relentless and Troy is truly helpless. Fire, water, debris – absolute carnage. Every detail is shown crumbling and tumbling in excrutiating detail. All Troy can do is watch.

The mighty ocean annihalates what’s left of the palace as the final columns and walls explode and disintegrate. “We’re doomed!” What a fall from grace. I’m not laughing, you’re laughing.

As Troy begins to lose consciousness and his little empire collapses around him, Phones pops up with a scuba breathing mask – an intentionally anachronistic prop in this ancient palace of riches. It’s time to take the bus out of dreams-ville and back to reality…

The shots blur again in just the same way that they did when we entered the hallucination.

Troy is back aboard Stingray in bed, with Phones and Marina playing doctors and nurses beside him. Phones explains that Troy has been hallucinating as a result of those raptures of the deep we talked about earlier. Troy has apparently “heard of it.” As an experienced aquanaut I should bally well hope so. Marina confirms that she can’t speak or communicate via thought transference. Troy acknowledges that he wasn’t his best self in that palace and would much rather continue fighting the good fight aboard Stingray. Sure Troy, whatever you say. We all know what you really think.

One last thing to clear up. Troy is convinced that he did pick up some gems and put them in his belt. After all, we all saw those couple of shiny jewels on the ocean floor. Well, it turns out, we didn’t. They’re just sea shells. To be honest, I’m glad. I don’t need to hear Troy singing Diamonds Are Forever over the end credits.

So that’s it. Troy’s left with nothing and they head for home. Quite right too. Phones reminds us that they still need to tow Hepcat back to Marineville. Oh yeah, I remember those guys…

Raptures of the Deep is another one of those episodes which just does everything right. A straightforward premise but explored with such exquisite care and attention to detail. Even the simple rescue of the Hepcat crew is made memorable by the entertaining guest characters. Then, we enter Troy’s dream and the creative team at AP Films go to town from the voice artists, to the set dressers, to the costume department, to the musical score. Everyone brings their A-game. It all comes together to forge some seriously standout moments. And yes, it’s all a dream, but because there’s good balance between the fantasy elements and the fact Troy’s behaviour is not a million miles away from his real persona, the fact it never really happened doesn’t disappoint. We’re in on the joke the whole time but can just enjoy it for the spectacle and the fact we’re still learning things about our lead character. And hey, any excuse to sing along to Aqua Marina one more time is okay by me.

Next week, Hollywood comes to Marineville! It’s Swoonara vs. Tempest in a battle for the big screen. Who will win Atlanta and Marina’s affections? Will X20’s latest plot succeed? And how many times will Phones get to say… “Is he?” … Find out in Stand By For Action.

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Further reading:

www.filmedinsupermarionation.com by Century 21 Films Ltd.

Filmed In Supermarionation by Stephen La Rivière. Third edition published in 2022 by Century 21 Films Ltd.

Stingray: Adventures In Videcolor by Andrew Pixley. First published in 2022 by Network Distributing.

Diver’s Cemetery: The Blue Hole of Dahab by Ella Morton. Published in 2014 by Atlas Obscura on Slate.

One thought on “Stingray – 16. Raptures of the Deep

  1. As always top review Jack, i do like Troy’s dream in the palace and I do have one or two theories about Stingray being piloted during his dream, either Commander Shore demoted himself to captain without Troy knowing it or maybe Lieutenant Fisher was promoted. As for the two divers, Joe and Frank i love their whole hippy way of speaking and think they are hilarious supporting characters,

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