Directed by Desmond Saunders
Teleplay by Alan Fennell
First UK Broadcast – 20th June 1965
Marineville Traitor is certainly an unusual episode. No Stingray. No underwater aliens. No big, explosive action set pieces. It’s an episode about espionage, betrayal, and duty, and you really have to concentrate to actually grasp what’s going on. This is not the stuff of frivolous Saturday morning cartoons, but of suspenseful drama for an adult audience. This is Stingray at its most grown-up, and you might even believe that there’s nothing to appeal to kids in this episode at all. Of course, I say that’s cobblers because kids are far more intelligent and attentive that folks give them credit for. But can Stingray successfully make that stretch to storytelling which is geared moreso towards an adult audience? Well, as is so often the case, that question can’t really be answered with a simple yes or no…
It’s Marineville in the middle of the night which means someone is almost certainly up to no good. Commander Shore’s bedroom hasn’t changed since we last got a good look at it in The Ghost of the Sea although this is the first time we’ve seen the tables, chairs and glass doors onto the balcony. Quite a fancy setup. On the commander’s table is a copy of ‘COOL’ magazine which I’m reasonably confident belongs to someone else. But why is Shore sitting out on the balcony looking so concerned? And, more importantly, why is he wearing Troy Tempest’s dressing gown from The Ghost of the Sea (which, incidentally, originally belonged to Preston in Sea of Oil)?
But here’s the real question. Since when did Phones and Troy bunk up together? In The Ghost of the Sea and Subterranean Sea, Troy has his own bedroom with a large double bed all to himself. Why did he swap that to share with Phones in a small single? Did the Marineville landlord put the rent up? Is Troy strapped for cash? After all, he does have some enormous gambling debts per The Disappearing Ships. Maybe he’s fallen on hard times. Or maybe Phones has night terrors and needs someone around to prevent harm coming to him… or at the very least to stop him throwing on a kilt and dancing a jig again. What’s truly odd about this arrangement is that Phones has that black and white photo of Troy from Marina’s apartment by his bedside. Even if my work colleague also happened to be my best buddy, I don’t think I would go as far as keeping a photo of them next to me while I slept AND insist on having them sleep in the same room as me…
Marina’s bedroom is suitably ornate. Aside from the stuffed dog sharing the bed there’s nothing unusual about the sleeping situation. That glittery curtain is a bit over the top but who am I to judge her interior design choices.
Atlanta’s bedroom is pretty much unchanged since its last appearance in The Disappearing Ships. The chair in the middle of the room has been swapped for a different one, and she also keeps that same black and white photo of Troy on her bedside table. If you look at the very left of frame, you’ll actually see that she has exactly the same makeup table that we just saw in Marina’s bedroom a few seconds ago. How wild is that? You can also spot that the floor pattern at the end of the bed is curling up slightly, suggesting that it’s actually wallpaper or something like that which has been used to suggest the tiled flooring. Quite a clever technique, just a shame the join is rather obvious.
Here’s a new establishing shot of Marineville. How exciting! We don’t get many of them these days. The camera rushes towards the tower, very clearly pushing a bush out of the way in the process. The Marineville gardeners won’t be pleased about that.
This is the hydroprobe. Apparently the hydroprobe is “negative” which we can all take to be a good thing. Not quite sure what all this means. Maybe we’ll find that out. Maybe it doesn’t really matter. Anyway, Lt. Fisher is keeping an eye on this generic-looking piece of equipment while playing a game of chess with himself. Apparently he’s winning…
Just to make his truly tragic social life even worse, Fisher gets whacked over the head by a mysterious figure cloaked in shadow. Poor boy really does have some rotten luck.
An alarm sounds and Marineville lights up like one of Phones’ drunken fry-ups. Atlanta, in yet another fetching night gown, rushes to her father’s bedroom which has already been vacated. For those of you still interested in such things, the makeup table which Atlanta did have next to the door during The Disappearing Ships has been replaced with a cabinet and some shelves. If you haven’t noticed, I find all these minor tweaks to various recurring sets fascinating. It’s little nuggets like this which paint a broader picture of the production. Sets and pieces of furniture were being shuffled around between the stages of AP Films all the time, and for one short scene, substituting one piece of furniture for another was probably no big deal. Maybe that makeup table was already repurposed into a different piece of set. We talk so much about puppets being reused and redesigned to go from starring roles to cameo parts, but the props and sets of Supermarionation go on a similar journey which I find equally worth charting.
Shore has already rushed to the tower, followed by Atlanta, Troy and Phones. The chaps have barely thrown their uniforms on. Shore and Atlanta didn’t bother getting out of their pyjamas so why Troy and Phones felt the urgent need to get dressed I don’t know. Maybe they sleep au naturel. Just in case I’m being too subtle for you, I’m really driving at Troy and Phones being romantically involved with each other. They’re not, but that won’t stop me driving at it.
So here’s the scoop. Fisher has a headache. Oh, and the new air-sea hydroprobe has been stolen, as demonstrated by the stripped out wires on show. It was a critical part of the WASPs’ long-range warning system and Marineville’s defences have now been weakened as a result of its disappearance. Such a vital piece of equipment probably should have been very firmly attached to a wall rather than sitting on a podium in the middle of the room for any idiot to steal or spill lemonade on. Troy, Phones, and Shore all have some very impressive five o’clock shadows on them, just to drive home that this is the middle of the night and they’ve all been stirred in rather a hurry. Shore announces that the hunt for the hydroprobe, and the traitor who stole it, must begin immediately. That’s the plot for this week established nice and quickly.
Later that day, dialogue from The Invaders is reused to request that all Marineville personnel remain in their quarters while the search is conducted. So with every member of the WASPs effectively in lockdown, now would be an excellent time for Titan to launch an attack. He won’t. He’s busy cleaning out Teufel’s fish tank to make way for a surround sound speaker system.
Atlanta is sent home by her father because she looks tired. This moment demonstrates that matching the hairstyles between different heads must have been extremely difficult on the female puppets. It’s still nice to see the alternate expressions get plenty of use though. I can imagine a director who’s up against a time crunch simply not bothering to swap the heads around all that often. Instead they stuck with the system and it pays off. Apparently, Atlanta is planning to have Troy, Phones, and Marina around for dinner… again. This lot sure do enjoy a dinner party. Curiously, to leave the control room, Atlanta exits through the doors to the Plotting Room. Maybe she has a spot of plotting to do on the way home.
For the first time, we get to actually see the Marineville Tracking Station. Previously just a disembodied voice in the ceiling, it turns out there are people who actually work there. The room is packed with equipment that we’ve seen previously such as the swingy-spinny-thing from Weather Station 4 seen in The Invaders, X20’s tape recorder from Countdown and Marty’s remote directing station from Stand By For Action. Lt. Misen wears a slight variation on the WASP uniform with different epaulettes and a new badge on his arm. The Automatic Message Interceptor unit on the wall is, of course, made up using some of the same components we’d later see aboard Thunderbird 5.
The button on the wall which Shore uses to close the blinds is a new addition to the set. He’s looking thoroughly up to something right now, as confirmed by the music. Live action close ups are used aplenty to show us exactly what he’s doing.
Inside Shore’s case is some form of communication equipment which looks rather snazzy. It walks a fine line between sophisticated and cobbled together using whatever pieces were available in the workshop. Under the codename ‘Zero Blue’, the commander is making contact with ‘Zero Red.’ That sounds a bit dodgy. Of course, all these codenames and traitors and secret communications are very reminiscent of the espionage involved in the Cold War which was, to put it mildly, going a bit bananas during the early 1960s. Ingenious ways of hiding radios were all over spy-fiction media at the time from 007 to Danger Man and everything in between.
The puppet scale version of the radio device doesn’t have all the same bells and whistles but is still a faithful recreation of the full size prop. I rather like these shots showing Shore doing his spy work but from behind as if we don’t quite recognise him, or this isn’t the real commander. It’s very subtle, but it’s just enough to alienate us. No longer is Shore a trustworthy and upstanding father-figure, but a shadowy figure using another name that we can’t even look in the face.
Zero Red, who speaks with a vaguely European accent and must therefore be a baddie, sits in a high back chair so we also cannot see his face or recognise him. The office is ornately decorated with X20’s bookshelves and chandelier as well as a bust, globe, and grand furniture to suggest that whoever this villain is, he lives decadently.
That Automatic Message Interceptor the commander just checked in on is doing its job. We learn that “the plans are vital to the operation” and “failure means danger to Atlanta.” The music, and David Graham’s ludicrous accent for Zero Red, do a lot of the heavy lifting here to suggest that this is all bad. Shore needs to obtain some plans or Atlanta will be in danger. What a predicament.
Apart from the commander, who is about to go back on duty, all the other characters are back in their casual oufits as seen in The Disappearing Ships. The Shores’ living room is also largely unchanged from what we saw in that episode but it’s shown here from a different angle. The record player is the same one which appeared in Marina’s apartment last week in The Man From The Navy, while the large frosted glass panel and shelving was seen just a few moments ago in Atlanta’s bedroom, suggesting her room is on the other side. The gang are discussing the possibility of the hydroprobe and the traitor still hiding in Marineville.
With an abrupt cut, Atlanta is suddenly standing by the record player ready to put on a disc.
Also making a leap away from continuity, Shore is now holding a cigar as he asks Atlanta to put on his favourite record.
They are interrupted by a call from Lt. Misen on the videophone. While Misen is busy beating about the bush, it’s clear that the back projection footage is having a hard time keeping steady as the film runs through the projector, as the image of Misen bounces up and down on the screen.
Shore’s earlier call with Zero Red is played aloud for his family and friends to hear. Inevitably they have a few questions, so Shore plays it off as a practical joke with a claim that he was playing both parts of the conversation. It’s fantastically awkward. Shore is seemingly a terrible liar. Of course, if you’ve seen this episode before you know he’s deliberately being a terrible liar, but it’s still painful to sit through. Again, the alternate puppet heads are critical to making this scene work. Troy’s frown indicates genuine concern, while Shore’s over the top smile succeeds in conveying his discomfort. Oh, and enjoy Marina’s appearance in this scene because she has absolutely bog all to do for the rest of the episode.
Atlanta puts on Barry Gray’s Formula Five tune from Fireball XL5 while this excellent shot plays out – Shore heads for the tower, frowning once again, and Troy watches from afar. All these little moments of doubt and suspicion are so well played and given time to breathe despite the limited 25-minute running time.
Troy is thoroughly perplexed by what just happened. Commander Shore doesn’t play practical jokes. In Troy’s experience, the man has the sense of humour of a newt. Atlanta, however, completely trusts that her father was play acting, even if she wasn’t entirely won over by his newfound funny bone.
Fisher is back on duty in the control tower, despite his nasty head injury. He has a map out on a table behind him. Hopefully he’s planning a nice road trip or a cruise or something.
The poor boy nearly has a heart attack when Shore turns up, ready to take over. Once again, he’s terribly insistent that Fisher goes home immediately. Presumably the little podium that the hydroprobe was connected to earlier has been thrown in a skip. So much for being a vital piece of equipment.
Shore checks in with Misen that the guard has been doubled. Why he checks that with the Marineville Tracking Station I don’t know. Surely the chief of security would be a better person to ask. I have a theory, by the way, that Misen is wearing one of Troy or Phones’ costumes. I can’t imagine the production team going to the expense of making a new WASP uniform when they could just cover up the epaulettes and badges of an existing one to create a new variant.
The next report from the tracking station is due in two hours time, so Shore checks the analogue clock on the wall, which gives me the opportunity to confirm that this ever-changing section of the set has not been altered for this episode. I’m sure you’re all relieved to hear it.
The security guards, played by Chuck from The Golden Sea and Lorado from The Ghost of the Sea, are doing their thing at the main gate. The security uniform has been modified slightly since it last appeared in Count Down. There is now a red stripe on the helmet, the insignia on the arm has changed, and the second guard is wearing a hat which may or may not have previously been worn by Mike Mercury in Supercar. It’s also worth highlighting that in the same way Misen has his own variant of the WASP badge on his uniform, the WASP security team also has it’s own version bearing the initials ‘MP’, presumably for military police.
Everyone is sleeping peacefully again, which probably means something is about to go wrong. This slight repetition of earlier elements does cause the episode to get a wee bit boring in places.
Uh oh. Safe busted open, and Shore napping or, more likely, knocked out. That’s turned things on its head hasn’t it? Included in the documents left behind by the thief is the file containing secret plans for Marina’s apartment from Count Down. Honestly not sure why those are still in the safe at this point. It’s hardly a secret. But otherwise I’m sure some very important stuff was taken. Who was responsible? Find out after the commercial break!
Troy immediately assumes it must have been a man who hit the commander. Sexist pig. Shore doesn’t have any answers but is very upset that some plans have been stolen. Atlanta orders her father to go home in a rather sweet exchange of dialogue between Lois Maxwell and Ray Barrett. I also love the design of Atlanta’s pyjamas. Far better than the ludicrously puffy nightie she’s worn in previous episodes.
Here’s a great little scene between Shore and Troy as they drive home. Troy asks why anyone would become a traitor. He plays it cool, trying to interpret and figure out the commander’s response.
Extreme close-ups are used to show the two characters having their very honest conversation. It exposes their vulnerability. Of course, were this live action, such a close look at a character’s face would reveal any twinge of emotion that chooses to appear as they try to lie or open up. With puppets, the expression is fixed, and yet just the movement of the eyes and head is enough to convey emotion. The moody lighting, and the fact the director has chosen to use close-ups in the first place, help enormously too. You can almost see the characters thinking. Which is ridiculous because they’re puppets. But, somehow, they have a soul. By shooting them like real actors, I believe the audience can subconsciously fill in the gaps where subtle facial expressions and performance nuances should be on these fibreglass faces. Just by looking at the two screengrabs above and not listening to the dialogue, you can get from the lighting, where the camera is positioned, and where the characters’ eyes are pointing, that they’re having a deep and personal exchange. Shore highlights that sometimes being a traitor is a matter of duty to one’s family and friends, which is probably an attempt to get the gears turning in Troy’s head as he reflects on the recorded call between Zero Blue and Zero Red from earlier.
Curiously, Troy is driving a completely different car this week. It’s actually Jacques Jordan’s car which we saw in The Man From The Navy, but with a roof added. Maybe this is the commander’s car and Jordan was just borrowing it last week?
Back at the tower, Troy puts his theory to the others that all evidence points to Commander Shore being the traitor, and Atlanta is understandably upset. The decision at the beginning of the series to make the Shores a family unit who work together at the highest level in Marineville really comes into its own with moments like these. It’s a theme which the Andersons would come back to again with the duty and loyalty to family clashing with the security and operation of a top secret organisation. It’s a tremendous recipe for drama, and the audience at home can easily relate. Lois Maxwell once again plays the scene beautifully, resisting the accusations before giving in to them. Maxwell really has got a good handle on the conflicting emotions involved in the situation and leads the puppeteer towards a richer performance. This is undoubtedly the benefit of the voices being recorded before the puppets were filmed, rather than the other way around. Now, of course, all this is playing out like a board room drama, not an action movie or kids cartoon. Does that make it a better or worse episode of Stingray than normal? Stay tuned. I still haven’t decided yet…
The next day, Shore is back on duty. The bandages have been removed which, as Troy suggested, probably means the head injury wasn’t that serious, or indeed real. He’s up to his old tricks again by raising as much suspicion as possible before making his call to Zero Red. To be honest, there’s quite a bit of repetition in this episode between people getting hit, things getting stolen, Shore closing the blinds to mysterious music, Shore making calls, people being sent home early – it all serves the plot but I can understand anyone who finds it a bit dull.
Now then, this I don’t have a good explanation for. Why the heck does the control room have two hidey-holes tucked away high up in the wall for this pair of clowns to spy on people? The slow reveal of their faces is just a bit too comical for this situation. Having them on the other side of the door, or bugging the radio call would have been much more effective given the gravity of the situation. All Shore would have had to do is look upwards at any moment, and their cover would have been blown. Master spies, Troy and Phones are not.
But, somehow, they get away with it and succeed in catching Shore red-handed. It’s a big moment with Troy pulling his gun and arresting his commanding officer, while Atlanta begs to just take him home and look after him. It’s really quite sad, and I would hope that all this drama wasn’t lost on first-time viewers who genuinely did believe that Shore had turned traitor. On repeat viewings, the moment obviously doesn’t have quite the same edge.
With Shore on his way to jail, and Atlanta being taken home (seriously, what is it with everyone going home this week?), Troy declares to the Tracking Station that he has taken over command of Marineville. Do you think he’s secretly enjoying it? Because I do. Don Mason plays the line with just a little bit too much pomposity in my opinion.
Misen acknowledges that Troy is now the boss. Gee, we sure have seen a lot of this Misen guy all of a sudden. I wonder if that’s relevant to the plot…
Shore is banged up in the Detention Block – the first time we’ve seen the jail facilities at Marineville. It looks suspiciously like a hamster cage but we won’t hold that against them.
Atlanta is upset but Shore refuses to explain himself for reasons that will become clear later. Troy arrives to check in and have Atlanta, you guessed it, sent home. On the wall are some ‘REGULATIONS’ which, if you look really, really closely, is actually a legal contract concerning the hiring of furnishings, no doubt lying around in Bob Bell’s workshop at the time the set was being built.
FINALLY, a new model shot for us to talk about. Yes, this episode has been really light on effects work and there are no underwater shots whatsoever. This close-up section of helicopter is quite a hastily put together build using, among other things, a cardboard tube painted silver, and the sprue from an airfix kit for detailing.
The WASP helicopter itself is a model based on a Kaman H-43B Huskie kit produced by Hawk which was designed to be motorized. I believe there’s a simple reason why the special effects team steered away from helicopters during the production of Thunderbirds in favour of futuristic helijets…
Helicopters wobble like crazy when flying through shot, and filming at high speed just can’t disguise it. It still looks great though, flying over the living quarters.
Phones and Atlanta watch Troy fly off with this lovely high angle shot. Atlanta really is in shock and is consumed by worry over her father’s fate. It isn’t stated outright, but there is a slight implication that, if he is found guilty, he will be executed. This is very heavy stuff indeed. But never mind that – Atlanta’s wearing her hat again and I still say it looks good on her. Phones goes back to the control room while Atlanta sobs her way indoors. I guess that puts Phones in charge of Marineville now while Troy is reporting to HQ? His parents will be proud.
We’re back in the World Security Patrol H.Q. which we haven’t seen for a long while. Not much has changed since the pilot episode. The British and American flags above the door have been tied together in a final attempt by Lew Grade to secure a network transmission of the series in the U.S. The table to the left of the door looks rather flimsy.
The WSP Commander seen in many previous episodes has once again changed his voice, this time handing over to Robert Easton. I have to stand by the notion that in the script, and during the voice recording sessions, all these different voices heard throughtout the series were supposed to be new characters, rather than all being the same bloke as the puppet department seem to insist upon. Commander Shore’s record of service is discussed but seen as no defence for his disloyalty. Ah well, guess Troy will have to be in charge of Marineville forever then. I’m sure Troy will be able to carry the burden of a salary increase.
Troy will be on his way back home soon to lord it over everyone. Phones says he’s going to leave the commander alone for a while… which is jolly convenient for the next part of the plot…
Shore has a visitor. It’s Misen. He’s arrived with a gun, and a plan to form an alliance with the commander and escape Marineville with the hydroprobe and the plans. He reveals that he is being employed by some “underwater buddies.” Could it be Titan? Nah, this plan is much too subtle for Titan. Anyway, all this means that Misen is the real traitor! Did you have him on your bingo card? I must admit, one of the few memories I have of watching Marineville Traitor for the first time as a kid, was the genuine surprise that Misen was the real villain of the piece. I don’t think young me every truly suspected the commander, but the plot twist that Misen was the enemy and not some sneaky alien fella, was an actual surprise. So I guess all that either means it was a good reveal, or I was an especially thick child.
Soon everything becomes clear. The commander attempts to arrest Misen, revealing that he is, of course, still one of the goodies.
Misen responds by giving the commander’s “buggy” a good kicking which sends him flying across the room and causes the gun to drop. It also looks like some furniture is knocked aside. That’s a powerful kick Misen has there. He should take up rugby rather than beating up old men in wheelchairs.
With a gun pointing straight at him, it would appear that the commander’s luck has run out. But with the press of a button on his chair, it seems he has one more trick up his sleeve. Incidentally, the buttons on the chair are labeled, ‘TRANSMIT’, ‘REVERSE’, ‘MOTOR’, ‘AIR.2.’ and ‘S/W’. Most of those are fairly self explanatory but if anyone has a suggested for what S/W stands for do let me know. My money is on Scotch Whisky…
Just in time, Atlanta and Troy arrive in the control room to hear what Shore has to say. It turns out that he was pretending to be the traitor, in order to lure the real traitor into the open. Hence the very fake head injury and the multiple calls which he would have known were being picked up on the Automatic Message Interceptor. Troy’s heard enough and legs it to the Detention Block. Meanwhile, Marina, who really has been inexplicably absent for the bulk of the episode, is far too busy to give a hoot about any of this and hasn’t bothered to get out of bed today.
Misen is ready to blow Shore’s head off. It’s really not looking good. This is pretty tense stuff! Shore reveals it was awfully hard to keep the plot secret from his family and friends, just in case one of them turned out to be the traitor. Apparently nobody was above suspicion in this investigation!
Thank goodness for Troy. He blasts the gun out of Misen’s hand with yet another killer line to inform Misen he’s “washed up.” That’s the way you might describe an out of work actor or a retired footballer with a drinking problem, not so much a lunatic spy working for the enemy. But sure, Don Mason clearly enjoyed delivering the line so who am I to stop him?
Shore makes his final report to Zero Red, who it turns out is “the big chief himself.” Troy receives a pat on the back for doing the right thing by arresting his commanding officer. A closer look at the big chief’s desk reveals an especiallly ornate WASP hat, and an ash tray pinched from the desk of Mr Jeff Tracy. On closer inspection, I would guess that the puppet portraying the chief is the same one seen as the 2nd WSP Commander in the pilot episode who sends the message to alert the World Aquanaut Security Patrol. Either that or Venus from Fireball has aged spectacularly badly…
Troy resigns from his post as Marineville’s commander, claiming to have not enjoyed it one little bit. I find that impossible to believe. Shore is clearly very pleased to be back, and you can really feel Atlanta’s relief that everything is back to normal.
For this final shot of Misen, it looks like some additional frown lines have been painted on between his eyebrows, just to convey that he’s a bit cheesed off about being in prison. So we never learn who was running the whole show and therefore Troy doesn’t get to run off in Stingray and blow up some aliens. The traitor plot is all nicely wrapped up and that will just have to be good enough.
So, what do I make of this episode’s angle on the flexible Stingray format? Overall, for a one-off, I think it’s great. But, when compared to other episodes, the pace is a little slow, and the lack of action is noticeable. It’s not necessarily a standout episode and if the series had continued in this direction I think a lot of people might have lost interest. Stingray is usually full of adventures in colourful locations with unusual alien characters and I think those elements are a big part of the show’s success. This episode swaps those clements for heaps of intrigue and compelling dialogue, which I also think is critical to the show’s success. So it’s just an adjustment in how those ingredients are balanced. Sometimes the scales are tipped towards a big, bombastic, swashbuckling adventure, and sometimes the emphasis is more on quieter character moments and morals. The truly best episodes of Stingray find the perfect balance of all those ingredients. But diversions like Marineville Traitor from the tried and tested format offer a refreshing alternative by introducing new elements to the series like the deeper exploration of Commander Shore, or a look at the Tracking Station, or a slight insight into the WASP power structure. Having knocked out some absolutely stellar episodes which defined the series like Emergency Marineville or Subterranean Sea, it makes sense that this is the point, halfway through the run, that the writers are now trying to bend the format and do new things with it. Marineville Traitor is quite a unique episode, and though it may not be a favourite, I’m grateful that we have it.
Next week, an episode which really needs no introduction but I’ll give it a try. Aquaphibians in tuxedos… X20 commenting on the ethics of eating fish at a dinner party… the Stingray crew walking across a dining table and spilling Titan’s massive nuts. Come back next week for Tom Thumb Tempest.
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.
The Models of Stingray by Marc J. Frattasio. First published in 1996.