Stingray – 19. The Man From The Navy

Directed by John Kelly

Teleplay by Alan Fennell

First UK Broadcast – 15th November 1964

I love a good soap opera. That’s not to say I love soap operas in general. To be honest I think there are too many of them and a lot of the material is subpar. But when a soap opera is good, by thunder is there something magical about it. When you get the right combination of characters into a very messy situation, pour some petrol on the bonfire and light a match (and in the best cases, that’s literally what happens), it all makes for some absolutely outstanding television. Gerry and Sylvia Anderson have a particularly good talent for generating these messy but delicious situations between characters. Many of the best moments in Anderson series come about by matching one character with another, posing them with a tense situation, and letting the sparks fly. So, needless to say, the match up of Troy Tempest and Jacques Jordan with a whopping great missile and a love rivalry is a recipe for some delectable and disastrous interplay you just can’t look away from…

If, for whatever reason, dinner party squabbles don’t quite do it for you, then don’t worry, The Man From The Navy is also packed full of some exquisitely choreographed underwater chase sequences to get the blood pumping. The story opens with Stingray being tailed by another submarine marked ‘WN 27’. Of course, if you’ve watched this episode more than once then you know what the big surprise is, but for the moment, let’s all imagine we’re seeing this play out for the first time.

The sub fires a missile! WN 27 is a very submariney looking submarine with a subtle futuristic twist in the design, just enough to make us doubt whether its origins are human or alien. It’s a very nice model and constructed rather cleverly out of a toy midget racing car pointing backwards, with the conning tower stuck where the seat would go. The model was later repainted to appear as the enemy submarine in the Thunderbirds episode, The Man From MI.5.

Troy and Phones are seemingly quite alarmed by the missile, and begin to take evasive action. Navigation instructions such as “green nine-zero” come up a lot in the dialogue so we should probably dig in to what that means. To be honest, for many years, I thought this was just futuristic technobabble, but it actually only takes a little bit of knowledge of maritime navigation to figure out what’s going on. To avoid collisions, the starboard side of a vessel is always lit with green lights and the port side always with red. So those same colours are employed when giving navigational instructions – red to turn to port (left) or green to turn to starboard (right). The number is then simply the angle of the turn – nine-zero meaning 90 degrees.

Every twist and turn Stingray makes, the missile follows. That’s a pretty nifty bit of kit. There’s some more lovely back projection work for the views outside of Stingray’s front windows. The synchronisation of the puppets to match the turns is all very excellent too. This sequence was clearly quite well planned out.

The missile gets closer and closer. It’s all rather tense. Troy and Phones have their angriest expressions on to prove to us all that this is deadly serious. Stingray’s about to get blown up and we’re only a few minutes into the show! What a hullabaloo.

One satisfying “bonk” later and it’s all over. The missile doesn’t explode and Stingray is absolutely fine. “So what was all that about?!” I hear you cry… well, first of all, calm down, there’s no need for you to get so worked up.

So, it turns out that all they were doing was testing out a new marine missile for the navy. Now, obviously, it’s an Anderson show and we’re testing missiles here, so something is bound to go wrong later in the episode, but for now, all is well. Phones makes radio contact with Navy Sub 27…

The episode title sets Captain Jordan up as “the other” – a mysterious man about whom we know little except for the fact he’s from the other submarine service, and therefore he can’t be trusted because he’s not one of us.

Let’s not beat about the bush. David Graham has chosen to portray Jordan with an outrageous French accent. Although no actual reference is made to his nationality in the dialogue, this accent helps to push his otherness among this band of all-American heroes, as well as position him as a romantic threat to Troy what with the stereotype that the French are a nation of lovers. That, plus his name is Jacques, so even if the French accent wasn’t specified in the script, the direction was fairly heavily implied. His hair is dark and his face is handsome, so it’s pretty obvious we’re supposed to draw parallels between Jacques and Troy – or at least we will a bit later when things start getting personal.

WN 27 surfaces to the March of the Oysters tune from a few episodes back. Barry Gray already getting plenty of milelage out of that excellent track.

Oh dear. Sailing past the Island of Lemoy is just asking for trouble. If one compares this shot with a similar establishing shot of Lemoy from the pilot episode, one can’t help but notice that the cliffs look completely different. Those lumps of foam have probably been reused and repainted so many times in the production to look like other rocks that getting them to look exactly the same was probably deemed not really worth the bother.

Titan and X20 have a short exchange to let us know they’re up to no good. They don’t have a whole lot to do this week, leaving most of the dirty work to the Aquaphibians, but it’s nice to see them. I rather enjoy the fact that Titan is able to set up his video conferencing system to have one camera brought right in for a close-up, and another set up for a wide shot, and he chooses to cut between the two for dramatic effect. I should do that on my next Zoom meeting.

Jordan is joining the gang at the Marineville for the duration of the testing. Troy offers his congratulations and right off the bat, Jordan acts like a pompous twerp and starts to make his claims that the Navy is superior to the WASPs. Apparently Commander Shore has heard it all before. But let’s just state this very clearly right now – Jordan started it.

Down in the Standby Lounge, Marina has plans for a dinner party and wants Atlanta to invite the lads along including, “that nice Captain Jordan.” So we’re immediately setting up that the ladies almost maybe probably possibly fancy Jacques. They might not. They might just think he’s nice. But we’re probably supposed to think they do. Troy certainly thinks they do. By the way, it’s a bit curious that Marina decided to stay at home while Stingray was out on a mission.

Here’s a bit of an awkward scene showing Troy and Jordan walking down a corridor by means of them bobbing up and down while some back projection footage goes past behind them. A similar technique was used for the final moments of The Big Gun and, once again, I’m inclined to say it doesn’t quite work. It’s not earth-shatteringly awful, but it does look a bit artificial. The writers eventually learned to just avoid showing characters talking and walking for extended periods of time. Anyway, the scene is just Jordan and Troy bickering about the Navy and the WASPs. I get it, they’re both proud of their places of work. We can appreciate that the WASPs are important to Troy for the sheer number of times he’s risked his life for them. So his strongly held views aren’t just brought up for the sake of the argument. We know that if there’s one thing Troy loves more than dating two women at the same time, it’s his Stingray.

Phones must have been walking ahead of them because he’s now standing in the doorway of the lounge with Troy and Jordan too. Phones doesn’t take too kindly having his favourite boat called a “tub” either. Jordan calls Atlanta “honey” straight away too because apparently that isn’t a weird thing to say to someone you barely know.

It’s party time at Marina’s apartment. Presumably Marina’s home is the one on the end, and the Shores live fairly close by in the same block.

A record is playing, which I suppose is one of those anachronisms which actually doesn’t look all that out of place in 2022 what with the resurgence on vinyl as a music format. The music playing is, curiously, an instrumental version of I’ve Got Something To Shout About which we hear Duke Dexter singing much later in the series in Titan Goes Pop. Despite being fairly far apart in the production order, it does suggest that the episodes were scored quite close together. Jordan takes every opportunity he gets to wind Troy up and sign Atlanta up for the World Navy. We learn that the Marineville Tower has its own diner, which I assume is just an attempt to make “canteen” sound more American and glamorous.

Marina brings out the first course. She is once again wearing the silver and pink outfit introduced in Troy’s dream in Raptures of the Deep. Marina also keeps a well-stocked drinks trolley, and her kitchen is fitted with a double range so she can cook for an army.

Troy and Phones are keen to start eating and steer away from the conversation. The blue shelving unit in front of the colourful art piece is a new addition to Marina’s apartment, and the carpet is actually a slightly different pattern to the one seen at the conclusion of Count Down too. Guess Marina wasn’t totally thrilled with the decorating job that the gang did.

Jacques observes that Atlanta likes music. A real Sherlock Holmes this one. He claims that music is played on tape in all of the Navy’s submarines. That actually sounds quite annoying. I’m with Troy, better that they stick to business. I love the subtle bit of puppetry that’s being done as Jacques leans in towards Atlanta and lightly touches her hand. He’s really turning on the charm and Atlanta’s enjoying the attention. Someone get me a bucket.

Troy, you’re gonna need a bigger bottle.

Now Jacques is complimenting Atlanta on her new dress, and Atlanta remarks that he’s the first person to have noticed it. Clearly, whatever headway Troy managed to make last week in The Disappearing Ships with the new kitten and recovering the old candy box was all in vain, because Atlanta and Troy’s relationship looks to still be in fairly shallow waters.

Positively seething with jealousy, Troy almost chokes on a prawn. Troy is apparently the type of chap who doesn’t go in for all this public flirting and flattery. He likes to leave the women in his life wondering whether he’ll buy them a fluffy pet or risk their life to prove that an exotic flower is poisonous. If Troy hasn’t exactly done much to solidify his commitment to Atlanta, then I suppose she can enjoy whatever flattery she geets from whomever she likes. But it is, admittedly, something of a disappointment after the lovely ending to The Disappearing Ships last week which very heavily implied that the two were close to becoming an item.

Then Jordan pushes it too far and suggests that the WASP uniform is dull. Has anyone mentioned that the Navy uniform makes Jordan look like a charity shop Napoleon Bonaparte?

Troy is ready to flip the flipping table over.

Marina misses the peace and quiet of Pacifica.

Jacques refuses to be the bigger person and pushes on with the notion of Atlanta joining the World Navy because the uniforms are much more feminine. It’s obviously a petty thing to have an argument over and that’s what makes the whole thing so delicious. Jacques has deviously managed to get a rise out of Troy by targeting the two most important things in his life – Atlanta and the WASPs – but reduces the argument down to something trivial so that Troy is made to look a fool when he goes off on one. It succesfully makes Jacques look like he’s being perfectly reasonable but also painfully irritating. It also allows us to acknowledge that Troy is being a complete jerk while also feeling a bit sorry for him because he’s been backed into this corner. He cares a lot about Atlanta and his work but is attrociously bad at showing it.

Troy has officially had enough and storms out of the party because Atlanta clearly isn’t taking his side in all this. Atlanta’s frowner head comes on so we know things are serious. Troy is labeled as a spoilt child. That’s pretty fair considering the argument boiled down to “my navy’s better than your navy.” But Troy getting all the blame and Jacques getting away with continuing an upsetting conversation nobody wanted to be part of does sting a little.

Marina is distraught. Atlanta is at a complete loss to explain Troy’s behaviour. Jordan wants to get on with the party before anyone notices that he was the one who stirred the pot.

Troy sets off in his car. I’m not quite sure why he brought the car since Troy presumably lives in a Marineville apartment not very far away from Marina and the control tower. But for the purposes of this dramatic moment I suppose he needed to have a car.

It once again falls to Phones to try and make excuses for Troy and comfort Marina. On the surface, it’s understood that Troy has ruined her perfectly planned evening and that’s why she’s so upset. Of course, you could interpret it another way and suggest she’s really upset because Troy was so worked up about another guy hitting on Atlanta. I would counter that by saying the Marina and Troy romance has pretty much died out by this point in the series, but who knows, maybe there are still some feelings there.

Meanwhile, Jacques has taken Atlanta’s hand and they agree to listen to another disc and enjoy the rest of the evening. I like that Atlanta shrugs off Troy’s behaviour and is determined not to let it ruin the party. It’s just a shame Jordan is continuing to be a complete slimeball about it.

Even though the miniature is different, the puppet set for Troy’s car is the same one previously used for X20’s hovercar in Stand By For Action (and previously Steve Zodiac’s car). The coastal back projection footage is also the same reel used in Stand By For Action, albeit darkened to look like night time. Now it’s time for Troy’s infamous line, “And women! They’re just as fickle as the sea. Peaceful one minute, fighting like crazy the next.” Obviously, the generalisation about women is very old-fashioned, but I don’t think there’s a way to interpret this that makes a viewer say, “yes, Troy is being totally logical and correct right now.” He’s obviously angry and nursing a bruised ego. We’re not seeing him during his finest moment right now. We’re looking at him making mistakes and at his lowest point. Steve Zodiac made sexist remarks all the time in Fireball XL5, but that was often when he was being the hero of the hour, or the comedy genius – which is why those moments are so cringeworthy to watch now. Here, we know Troy is being a complete twerp, so anything he says is bound to be wrong. What he’s saying is still a bad thing, but the context in which he’s saying it has an enormous impact on how we interpret it and how we view him as a character afterwards. I’m not excusing Troy from being sexist, it’s just a slightly easier pill to swallow than Steve Zodiac saying something sexist and everyone thinking it’s such a great pearl of wisdom.

We silently watch some stock footage of the ocean for a moment. It’s the same footage we saw in The Golden Sea. I must admit, it doesn’t look much like a woman to me.

Down in Titanica, Titan is giving the Aquaphibians their orders. His goal this week is to gain vengance on Troy Tempest. Sometimes the goal is to capture Stingray or destroy Stingray or take over the land or blow up Marineville, so it’s good to double check what Titan would consider a win on each occasion.

Tomorrow is a new day, and it’s time to do another missile test. Troy and Phones are still in line to be target practice and, once again, Marina won’t be joining them. WN 27 gets into position with Jordan at the helm. Can anyone spot a little fishy hiding away somewhere?

As Troy and Phones descend towards Stingray, they discuss last night. Phones uses his detective skills to conclude that Troy was mad at Jordan. It brings us all up to speed I suppose. We do learn though that Troy regrets upsetting Marina and has sent her some flowers. This is good. With Troy at his lowest point in the previous scene, we really needed a little gesture like this to boost our opinion of him.

Marina is very pleased. Awww. It’s all quite sweet.

He’s not exactly a poet, but it’s the thought that counts.

But Troy is still absolutely furious with Atlanta. Although I can’t condone it, I do like Troy’s stubborn, self-righteous nature because it gives him some depth. He firmly believes that Atlanta is at fault and won’t forgive her until she rejects Jordan. This could have been a situation where Jacques was the enemy and the sole object of Troy’s rage. But the fact he lets his anger and jealousy spill onto Atlanta is very human and imperfect.

For a bit of light comedy, Jordan has sent Atlanta an enormous bouquet, much larger than the one Troy sent to Marina. The beauty of this is that we, the audience, are the only ones who get to enjoy the comical difference in size between the flower displays and the implications that come with that. The incredibly obnoxious enormousness and colour of the arragement are, of course, a reflection of Jordan’s character, showing off at any given opportunity. Atlanta just laps it up though, enjoying the attention and ignorant to the fact that Jacques is a living example of style over substance – something which is proven later on.

He’s even forked out more for the greetings card which has a gold border that was absent from Troy’s note to Marina. If someone thanked me for a “swell evening”, I’d vomit in the backseat of their car.

Stingray is launched, but things are about to go from bad to worse.

A quick crash zoom from the pilot episode is borrowed to indicate that the Aquaphibians are about to cause some trouble! It’s a great cliffhanger for the commercial break. The relationships between our characters are in disarray, a dangerous missile is about to be tested, and the big enemies are on their way to stir up even more trouble. Lovely stuff.

After a very perculiar conversation with Captain Jordan, during which he emphasised the words “LOADED”, “FIRE”, and “DEAD” in a suspicious manner, Troy hatches a plan to restore his ego and make Jacques look a fool.

But all is not well aboard WN 27. The Aquaphibians have boarded and are threatening Jordan with their big shiny guns. Jordan’s fancy submarine doesn’t look as flashy as he makes out. There are no comfy chairs, and I’m fairly sure that’s a vacuum hose running along the top of the wall. I do enjoy the Aquaphibians wrestling with the English language. It adds to the suggestion in their faces that they are, in fact, quite thick.

The missile is fired, this time with a warhead ready to blow. Troy and Phones set off and carry out more impressive navigation to avoid being hit. The camera leans along with the puppets to suggest turning on the set, while the model swings around rocks elegantly on the special effects stage. It’s another great sequence. The little model of the missile itself is just chunky enough to look impressive and threatening.

The Aquaphibians are confident of their success. Jordan tries to squeeze as many syllables out of the word “murderers” as possible. His cockiness has been diminished, so that’s something I suppose.

Troy’s plan to take down the missile is simple – drive Stingray straight into a wall…

Phones doesn’t like this plan. He’s so upset it’s made his eye go wonky.

You know the nick of time? Well Troy’s practically married to it. Stingray pulls up at the last possible moment before the missile can correct course. It explodes spectacularly into the rock. Poor rock.

It doesn’t take long for our dynamic duo to piece everything together. I mean, it takes them a bit of time, they’re not exactly Einsteins.

I know Troy isn’t entirely thrilled by the prospect of Jordan’s mutiny and attempted murder… but I sense he must be a little bit pleased that the smug twerp has made a blunder and is going to get the book thrown at him.

The Aquaphibians order Jordan not to respond to the radio. Yeah, I’m sure closing the curtains and pretending to be out will work a treat. According to Andy the Aquaphibian (remember him?), “Titan VERY angry.” Not sure whether he knows that, or he’s assuming that, but either way he’s clearly quite perceptive.

Back at Marineville, Troy reports in to the Shores with a hint of a “hate to say I told you so” tone about him. The commander apparently watched the whole thing on the Aqua-Scan… whatever that is. Atlanta is still defending Jordan, believing that this might have all just been a crazy prank… I must admit I’m beginning to lose faith in Atlanta as the voice of reason. But at least she admits her lapse in judgement at the end of the episode so I guess we can allow it. Commander Shore concludes that Jordan is a war criminal and must be treated as such. It’s terribly dramatic but I like it.

While Jordan is ordered to load up another missile, Don Mason hams up Troy’s declarations of war to the maximum. Troy is acting mad but he’s also really, really, really enjoying this.

Rather than sticking around to get blown up, the Aquaphibians decide in their own bubbly language to get the heck out of there. Either that or they need to go home for their tea.

So while Jordan surrenders, the Aquaphibians swan off. How they got aboard in the first place we don’t know. The Navy clearly has the same problem as the WASPs when it comes to securing their airlocks.

Jordan assures Troy that he is a friend, not an enemy. I had a friend like Jordan once. I poured custard over his head. Cold custard though, I’m not a monster. Actually, cold custard is probably worse.

This next part is a bit odd. Phones picks up the Mechanical Fish on the hydrophones and the lads are getting ready to attack while simultaneously giving Jordan his marching orders back to Marineville. Then the scene just ends. It feels like we’re about to have an exciting confrontation between Stingray and the Mechanical Fish but it just sort of doesn’t happen. Ah well, I guess we’ve seen that sort of thing before.

Commander Shore has put on his special hat to give the charity shop Napoleon a stern talking to. So far, no evidence has been found to prove that the Aquaphibians were involved, so Shore is going to ensure the maximum punishment is bestowed upon Jordan. We don’t know what that penalty is but I’m guessing it isn’t just sitting through one of Marina’s piano recitals. But Troy returns to Marineville in time to save Jordan’s backside and confirms that Titan’s goons were on the scene. Apparently Stingray destroyed the Mechanical Fish off screen. Definitely feels like some scenes might have been trimmed because I can’t believe we’d talk about a battle with a Mechanical Fish without showing it. So Shore concludes proceedings by giving Jordan a slap on the wrist for being a coward. That’s gonna hurt the big man’s ego.

Time for another party at Marina’s place. I’ve Got Something To Shout About is on the record player again because apparently everyone’s quite happy to listen to that on a loop. Despite nearly killing Troy and Phones, Atlanta’s still gone ahead and invited Jordan along, who repays them all by taking a dig at Troy’s temper. He really is insufferable.

But then he takes things too far by insulting Commander Shore’s authority. Atlanta gives him a warning, but more for the sake of the party than to defend her father’s honour. Nice outfit she’s wearing by the way… very gold.

On the shelf behind Troy is a framed, black and white photo of Troy that I’ve never seen before. He’s getting ready to go off on one again with apologies to Marina. She welcomes it with a smile. Turns out she doesn’t like Jordan much any more either. I’m still a bit perplexed that she wasn’t aboard Stingray for the missile tests. Oh, speaking of the tests, Jordan trying to strike Troy down with his big fat missile was clearly a phallic symbol and you won’t convince me otherwise. I’ve got an English Literature degree you know… well, half of one…

Don Mason turns up the fury, so David Graham turns up the French accent. He’s gone full Monthy Python. Your mother was a hamster, etc.

Jordan drives off with some needlessly dramatic wheelspin. I love the tiny little red lights that come on at the back of the car model.

Set to a lovely musical piece from the Supercar episode, Precious Cargo, Troy and Atlanta finally make up. Troy isn’t exactly apologetic for the way he’s behaved, believing he was right to put Jordan in his place. Meanwhile, Atlanta is quite upset and feels foolish for ever liking Jordan. It could be worse, but I’m not entirely comfortable with the implied lesson that it’s quite right to yell at people when they’re annoying you, and anyone who disagrees with that opinion should be ashamed of themselves. Then again, I don’t think we should expect perfect moral fables from these characters. It’s been proven time and again that they’re just humans and they don’t always get it right. Troy does have a high opinion of himself and Atlanta can be modest and unsure of herself. They’re flawed but that’s okay, it’s what makes them so endearing.

This scene is really beautiful. It’s big Hollywood romance, shot for the small screen on a trading estate in Slough. John Kelly doesn’t get enough credit for his Supermarionation direction because he really is very good. Like many of the directors at AP Films, his career at the studio started in the cutting rooms of Four Feather Falls and Supercar, before graduating to direct a good portion of episodes of Fireball XL5 and Stingray.

Jacques Jordan is forgotten, and Troy turns on his rather more subtle form of flattery to win Atlanta over. These tender moments are such a triumph. The characters are so perfectly written.

Just like last week, we end with Troy and Atlanta smiling towards the camera and all is well.

The Man From The Navy is another standout episode of Stingray for me because it’s one of the finest examples in all of Supermarionation of a story which lets the emotions of the characters drive the drama. Love, jealousy, cowardice, and more bubble away to get this story’s engine revving. All good drama needs to have an emotional energy at its core in order to be unpredictable and engaging and entertainment. The Man From The Navy proves that Supermarionation can compete with live action when it comes to delivering emotional storytelling, with the added bonus that the episodes can also be filled with exciting action and special effects. The balance of chase sequences to dinner party antics is just right in this episode. The more closely emotion and action can be woven together, the better, and The Man From The Navy nails it.

Next week, Commander Shore is up to his neck in trouble when he becomes the prime suspect in a deceptive case of espionage. But is he truly the Marineville Traitor? Find out next week!

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.

One thought on “Stingray – 19. The Man From The Navy

  1. I really like in this one seeing how rivalry plays out between the waps and the navy, it is quite interesting to see how Troy seems rather patriotic about what he does whereas Jordan just contually pushes all the wrong buttons. It is also great to see the aquaphibians carrying out Titan’s evil work for once and X20 getting a backseat makes me wonder if Titan has more faith in them than him.

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