Stingray – 21. Tom Thumb Tempest

Directed by Alan Pattillo

Teleplay by Alan Fennell

First UK Broadcast – 28th February 1965

My first ever professional writing gig was an article on the Official Gerry Anderson website all about the ways in which the theme of miniaturisation is used in the Andersons’ Supermarionation work. Even back in 2014 I was banging on about back projection, rubber gloves, and The Investigator, so not much has changed. To be honest though, most of the article isn’t all that insightful. In fact it’s incredibly light compared to the starch-laden waffle I write today. But, the point is, I’ve always found the idea of the Supermarionation shows treating puppets as the size they really are to be a fascinating prospect. Tom Thumb Tempest sits at the end of a quasi-trilogy of Supermarionation episodes which see the puppet heroes standing on sets three times the size of them in some form of improbable danger – the earlier entries being Supercar‘s Calling Charlie Queen and the Fireball XL5 episode, The Triads. All three films were directed by Alan Pattillo. Clearly, this bizarre blend was considered his specialty. But does showing the puppets for the size they really are break the illusion? Or is it another one of those magical things that makes Supermarionation so special? Or does none of that matter because this is actually all just another trip into Troy’s subconscious where nothing makes sense anyway…

It’s just another ordinary morning at Marineville. This clock is apocalyptically wonky.

Troy is gazing thoughtfully through the fish tank in the Standby Lounge. Layers upon layers of foreshadowing going on here, right down to the fact the title caption is flippin’ enormous this week. For the uneducated scum among you, the title is based upon the diminutive character from English folklore, Tom Thumb, whose adventures were first published in 1621… and yes I did have to google that so just call me uneducated scum.

Phones and Marina are enjoying the quiet spell to catch up on their reading. Marina is staring at exactly the same publication she was examining in Loch Ness Monster. Troy is already being a pain in the backside complaining about how uneventful everything is. Oh yes, wouldn’t it be great if Titan could start a whopping great attack on Marineville – that would be a much better use of Troy’s time. Fortunately for Troy, Commander Shore soon starts ordering the Stingray crew to stand by for launch. Apparently it will be the biggest and most dangerous assignment of Troy’s career. Oh goody, he’ll like that. However, Shore is holding back on providing further details just to wind Troy up a bit more. That pleases me.

Troy is keen as custard. But poor Phones just wants to have a quiet morning reading the completely blank pages of his magazine.

Two hours pass, as demonstrated by this clock wipe over the clock. I mean, if you’re going to use a clock wipe, I suppose it might as well be during a scene heavily featuring a clock.

Marina has moved on to a new book, but Phones is still working on his empty magazine entitled ‘LARY’ which features illustrations on the front of a gentleman apparently learning to read for the first time. What I find even more alarming is the number of coffee cups and publications scattered all over the floor. This is supposed to be a room for leaping into action at a moment’s notice! You can’t be tripping over crockery during an emergency! Bunch of amateurs. Anyway, Troy is unsurprisingly getting a bit precious about the long wait for launch.

Troy compares his plight to that of a fish, trapped for the rest of its life in a glass prison. Phones being Phones manages to point out the positives to being a fish like having no worries and controlled water temperature. Sign me up for some of that. Gotta love our beloved heroes getting philosophical about fish. It’s the kind of casual banter between pals that you just don’t get from many other Supermarionation characters.

Phones decides to turn up the heating… or rather he moves his hand vaguely near a bottle cap glued to the wall to make it looking like he’s turning up the heating.

Troy simply will not accept that he’s being paid to sit around and do nothing for two hours, and decides to pester the commander over the radio for more information about the dangerous mission. Now, in Troy’s defence, I don’t know of many career-defining dangerous missions which can apparently be put on the back burner for two hours, but the man seriously needs to take a chill pill.

Then things start to get a bit strange. Troy is overcome by the heat all of a sudden to the point of feeling faint. He confirms that Phones is from “the sunny South,” just in case that was the type of thing you needed confirmation of. But seriously, how unwell is Troy that his body shuts down when the heating gets turned up a notch? Did he have bad Mexican food last night? Or does it have something to do with all the empty bottles on the table? Incidentally, the black case next to the missing alcohol is the same one used by Commander Shore last week in Marineville Traitor to communicate with Zero Red.

Despite his colleague’s very visible discomfort, Phones sticks to his guns and refuses to turn down the temperature of the room. Good for you, Phones.

Cue wibbly transition into dream sequence. Yes, for the second time in the series we are venturing inside of Troy’s subconscious. The last time was just a few weeks ago in Raptures of the Deep. Mercifully, he doesn’t sing or change into a skirt this time. So this is the second of three dream episodes to feature in Stingray. Is that too many? I don’t think so. It’s a pity a more imaginative way of shrinking the characters, or having them visit a land of giants, isn’t used. But “everything was a dream” gets us to where we need to go and allows us to have some fun so I suppose it’s fine.

So Troy, Phones, and Marina rush off for another adventure. Yes, Marina’s back! She’s had quite a reduced role for the last couple of weeks so it’s nice to see her joining in.

Stingray is launched, and apparently nobody gives a hoot about trip hazards any more because there are cables all over the floor of the cabin for no particular reason. Troy demands more mission details from Commander Shore in a tone not too dissimilar to how he probably talks to a waiter who’s delivered the wrong starter.

Shore claims he’s going to cut Tempest down to size. Get it?

The shot of Stingray entering and travelling along the tunnel are lifted from The Big Gun, while some very blue back projection is used to show the view through the window. I’m just going to put it out there now that a lot of the back projection in this episode looks… odd. It’s often blue or vaguely monochromatic when it really shouldn’t be. Maybe that was a deliberate choice because this is a dream sequence and it needed to look suitably surreal, but I don’t really dig it.

Troy is told to stop being the big man by Commander Shore, and then wonders why he’s being made to feel small. Are you following the incredibly subtle double meaning behind all of this dialogue yet? Of course, it’s very apt that Troy’s nightmare is a manifestation of how he hates to be treated like a small, insignificant individual. That is such a Troy thing to have a nightmare about.

Then, Stingray bumps into a sheet of glass. Presumably it’s the glass of the actual fish tank positioned in front of the camera to achieve the underwater effect. This is obviously a delicious bit of fourth wall (or fourth window, I suppose) breaking going on for those in the know, but to the average viewer it’s also a brilliantly shocking moment. There’s nothing leading up to Stingray hitting the glass, it just happens and it’s as bizarre and surprising for the characters as it is for the audience. I also reckon the model had to hit that glass for quite a few takes judging by the slightly scuffed state of Stingray’s nose.

Troy blames Phones’ driving… despite the fact they’re both holding a steering wheel. That is so Troy.

Now that I look at it, I wonder if the blue back projection was just supposed to convey that the scene is underwater. But hey, more importantly, the view from the window is of a giant dining room! Maybe it’s that dodgy Mexican restaurant Troy was at last night.

Super big close up on Troy as the penny drops, just to really sell the drama of the moment. That’s a lovely set of teeth he has there, just don’t stare at them for too long or it becomes a bit unnerving. I understand why Supermarionation puppets were given teeth, and it looks good when they’re speaking, but I think there’s a reason why the characters never just sit there with their mouths wide open for long periods of time.

Stingray is in an aquarium in a giant room. Or Stingray’s been shrunken down into an aquarium in a normal sized room. Six of one, half a dozen of the other I suppose. The point is, the whole thing is utterly bananas. There’s absolutely no logical explanation for how Stingray got from the tunnel into the aquarium, which perfectly captures the disjointed narrative of dreams. It’s not always clear in a dream how we get from point A to point B, and that same exact principle has been carried into this scene. Absolutely pitch perfect.

Stingray’s radio is dead, which is jolly convenient for the plot. So Troy decides that they need to surface and investigate the situation. My first instinct would be to look for that tunnel and get the heck out of there. But that’s why I’m not a brave aquanaut and Troy is.

Of course, a tiny version of Stingray being trapped inside a fish tank is an amusing take on what the special effects team were faced with every day, although Stingray was rarely actually submerged inside any fish tanks for shooting. And the same is actually true of this shot. There’s no water in the tank, just a sheet of rippled plastic or glass on top of the aquarium, covering all but the very front to allow wires through for flying Stingray in the dry. The effect is maybe completed by a thin film of water sloshing around on top of the rippled material to help light the scene convincingly.

The dining room is a full-size set, built underneath the puppet bridge at the AP Films studio. We’ll get to see the room from various angles throughout the episode, but it’s fair to say from these establishing shots that the art department did an absolutely magnificent job. The furniture has been exquisitely chosen to (spoiler alert) match the rest of X20’s house that we’ve seen so far in the series, and the details are all there on the dining room table.

A brief shot shows the little figure of Troy leaving Stingray on a monocopter, similar to the miniatures seen in episodes like Hostages of the Deep. The monocopter is likely emerging from behind the model of Stingray, rather than from inside of it.

This is a bit of an odd moment. The characters essentially have to grow from being teeny-tiny little figures to being one-third life size. In that dream-like disjointed way, we don’t actually see the transformation happen, but this shot of Troy and Phones flying in and out of shot is sort of like a mid-stage in their growth. Something has been done to make sure the puppets look smaller than normal in front of the wallpaper, but I’m not quite sure what it is. It’s either back projection, or some form of superimposing, akin to the technique used to shrink Matthew Harding in The Secret Service.

And now the characters are at, approximately, one-third normal size and interracting with the set. To demonstrate their reduced stature, the puppets are filmed in long shot much more than they normally would be. If you ever wanted a good look at Troy Tempest’s boots, now is your golden opportunity.

The Stingray crew immediately take interest in a “massive” television. How quaint. Now, you’re probably wondering what make and model of television from 1963 this television prop is. Well, hold your horses because I have a theory. Given that television sets weren’t exactly cheap at the time, and the actual television screen itself on this prop would have had to be gutted and replaced with a flat back projection screen, I think it’s more likely this prop was built by the art department using various components to merely look like a television set. I’ve searched high and low to find a model of television from the time that looks like this one and I can’t find an exact match. Even if an actual television set was used as the basis for the prop, the AP Films team will have had to heavily modify the unit to fit in the back projection screen. I could be wrong, of course, so if you or your parents or your grandparents had a television with this exact configuration of speaker grille and controls, do let me know! Puzzle number two: the newspapers on top of the television are worthy of a little detective work. The paper facing us has a few listings which are legible: ‘Tommy Cooper’, ‘Peggy Wilding’ and a separate listing for ‘Agents’. A quick search of the British Newspaper Archive indicates that this is likely the back page from a copy of The Stage dating around October to December 1963. Yes, it is that Tommy Cooper, as confirmed by the name of his manager, Miff Ferrie, appearing in the listing. Meanwhile, the lesser known Peggy Wilding was billed in her listing, “With a song, A smile, And a piano.” Also listed on the same page are big names like Harry Secombe and Bruce Forsyth. It’s such a tiny detail but it obviously tells us two things – the first being when this episode was likely produced – around October 1963, and second that copies of The Stage were easy to come by at the AP Films studio, despite the performers being puppets, and the locale of the Slough Trading Estate being about as far from the glamour of London’s glittering West End as you could get.

Troy tires of watching Phones struggle to turn on the television, and decides to use the power of his monocopter to kick the switch into submission. It’s a switch, incidentally, which is labelled as ‘BRIGHTNESS’ rather than ‘ON-OFF’.

Let’s start at the top of this shot and work our way down. The papers on top of the television have changed – the ‘Fifty-Seventh Variety Anniversary’ edition is now very clearly visible with the dates 1905-1962 – again, a taste of the showbiz atmosphere of the studios. On the television screen, reporting the disappearance of Stingray, is a puppet previously seen as ETV host, Johnny Jackson in the Fireball XL5 episode, Space City Special – I would love to say they’re the same character but sadly he’s voiced by David Graham here and not John Bluthal as he was in Fireball, so it’s an unlikely connection. As mentioned previously, back projection is used to show the news reporter, rather than actually playing the footage through a television screen – presumably for a clearer picture and because old televisions are notoriously difficult to film. Finally, I just want to note the fact that Marina has pulled out a drawer and is using it as a bench. How resourceful, although I’m not quite clear where she’s parked her monocopter. The change in the newspapers and that monocopter’s disappearance suggest this shot was re-staged separately from the rest of the dining room scenes, presumably because the back projection setup couldn’t be accommodated on the regular set.

Phones isn’t keen to watch any commercials and decides to kick the television off again. There’s a brief glimpse of what I believe might be a puppeteer’s hand on the left of this frame, but it moves way too fast to be sure. So the scoop is that Marineville lost contact with Stingray 30 minutes ago, and Commander Shore repeated to the press that the mission was basically suicidal, and he didn’t really expect the craft to return. Blimey, I know this is a dream but Shore is real cold sometimes.

Marina’s monocopter has reappearaed next to the television, but she doesn’t join Troy and Phones just yet while they fly over to look at the table. Hope she’s okay getting out of that drawer. It’s really quite surreal watching the puppets fly through a shot like this. Even though the set is massive, the characters still look like themselves, by which I mean they still have that magical Supermarionation illusion of appearing to be alive when they’re really just inanimate objects. Because the puppets are still being lit and shot cinematically, and operated expertly from above, it means they aren’t being lost against the large set. They’re still being filmed like people, not puppets.

The champagne on ice in the foreground suggests someone is in a celebratory mood. Despite parking their monocopters on a side table, separate from the main dining table, the lads still plan to go across and investigate the place settings, so there must be a dangerous leap from one table to the other that we don’t see.

Phones’ first observation is that the cigars are enormous… obviously. The box proudly advertises ‘Spencer Caronas’ – a fictional manufacturer who happen to have misspelt the word ‘corona.’

Troy has done some top notch detective work and found a name card on the table that he recognises. It belongs to Nucella, that shiny bloke from the episode Emergency Marineville (also written by Alan Fennell). The gang briefly recall the events of that episode in an unusual instance of a Supermarionation show referring to its own continuity. Of course, Nucella was taken prisoner at the end of Emergency Marineville, so how he’s able to attend a dinner party is a bit of a mystery. Maybe he was let out of jail for good behaviour.

Phones then points out that Gadus from Hostages of the Deep (yes, also written by Alan Fennell) is a guest at the dinner party too. Continuing the debate from that episode, Troy pronounces the name ‘gad-dus’ instead of ‘gay-dus’ because apparently we just can’t settle on a solution to that particular puzzle. Again, the events of that episode are recalled, but the trouble is that Tom Thumb Tempest was actually first broadcast before Hostages of the Deep, so the viewers at home wouldn’t have had a clue what was being discussed at the time. As a little nipper, I saw Tom Thumb Tempest on VHS before Emergency Marineville AND Hostages of the Deep, so I always just assumed these were off-screen adventures that the Stingray crew were recounting.

Marina has lost interest in the plot because she’s hungry for giant fruit.

Phones is starting to freak out. All of Marineville’s worst enemies have turned into giants, and they’re probably not throwing a birthday party.

To calm himself down, Phones grabs some nuts. Oh stop it.

It’s no surprise who’s running the show – Titan. Now, this is all a dream, but assuming there’s an element of truth to any of this, it does confirm that Titan has some kind of working relationship with the other guest undersea races we’ve seen in the series so far. Maybe Titan was employing Nucella to build rockets, or Gadus to kidnap Admiral Carson. The reach of Titan’s empire is not explored very much in the television series, but it inspired many stories in spin-off merchandise.

Choosing not to stick around for the arrival of their enemies, Troy elects to go back to Stingray. Just one problem – it’s teeny tiny so they can’t get back in. Yes, the weirdness of the dream has struck again and the Stingray crew have inexplicably outgrown their submarine. Of course, we all know that even a version of Stingray that was one-third life-size wouldn’t fit in an aquarium, so to be honest this is all just a bit of writing to explain why the Stingray model isn’t even close to the same scale as the puppets. Meanwhile, it’s worth pointing out that there are a total of eight seats at the table. The other name cards are difficult to make out right now but if you squint, one is a name beginning with ‘M’, and another beginning with ‘Z’.

There’s somebody at the door! Don’t answer it – it could be Johnny Swoonara flogging life insurance door-to-door after all the acting work dried up.

Here’s something you don’t see every day – Troy and Phones jump down from the table and run for cover. It’s remarkably well performed in my opinon. Shame about the ugly carpet.

Marina offers up the rather more sensible recommendation of using the monocopters to get away. Or maybe she’s planning to hide them under the table. Either way she’s got her head screwed on straight while the other two flail like a couple of clowns.

Later referred to as ‘Jeevesea’, this Aquaphibian has been promoted from guard duty to being a butler. That either makes him quite important, or he kept pointing his gun in the wrong direction and needed to be posted elsewhere for the safety of his colleagues. Back projection is used behind him so that the full-sized doors can be scaled down to puppet size – but for some reason the back projection footage is in monochrome to completely spoil the illusion.

Jeevesea takes a good look at the table to check everything is in order. He fails to notice the baby Stingray floating around in the aquarium but Aquaphibians are never the sharpest fish in the bowl so what can you expect?

The gang have taken cover in a chair at the other end of the table, and are watching Jeevesea leave the room, with his fins poking out the back of his jacket which gets funnier and funnier the more I look at it. I’m afraid I can’t make out the name card on the table in front of Marina, but it begins with an ‘E’.

The cliffhanger to part one of the episode is reached as the gang hopelessly ponder how on earth they’re going to get out of this crazy situation. Of course, we all know it will end when Troy wakes up, but for those of you who haven’t noticed that this is a dream I’m sure it’s genuinely quite exciting.

After the commercial break, Troy, Phones, and Marina look like they’re posing for the weirdest Britpop album cover ever.

Still trying to figure out what’s going on, Troy and Phones make for some top secret plans at the head of the table. Hilarity ensues when Phones bumps into some candles. Sometimes the writers lean into Phones as the bumbling, clumsy sidekick and comedy clown quite a bit and I’m all for it so long as it serves the plot, or at the very least is genuinely amusing.

Marina is grinning away like a lunatic for reasons that will become clear in a moment.

The top secret plans turn out to be diagrams mapping out Marineville. The floor puppeteer’s fingers can be seen helping Phones out with unrolling the documents. The only really meaningful details visible on the plans are a label for the control tower and another for Stingray’s pen, suggesting that the two are in relatively close proximity to each other which we already knew.

Marina does some more grinning and pointing before the thicky twins finally realise she’s suggesting they contact Marineville via telephone. Apparently X20 is so out of touch that, even in 2064, he’s still using an old candlestick rotary telephone with the appropriate number ‘LEMOY X20000’.

Troy and Phones recruit a pencil to help dial the number in a moment which is probably completely foreign to children watching today. And I’m not being an old git complaining about how easy kids have it today. Remembering and correctly dialing phone numbers was always a pain so I’m all for the time saved with numbers stored in smartphones. I grant you, Troy’s nightmare would have been over pretty quickly if he’d just pulled out his iPhone and texted Commander Shore his location from Google Maps.

The specially positioned phone which has been added to the control room just for this scene starts to ring. Shore and Atlanta look at it like the antiquated piece of technology that it is. Even they seem surprised that someone has their number.

Troy fills the commander in on what’s happening and he couldn’t care less. In fact he doesn’t believe a word of it. Even in his subconscious, Troy believes his commanding officer to be a cynical old fuddy-duddy.

It’s worth noting that after a string of more and more prominent appearances leading up to this episode, Atlanta just has the one line in Tom Thumb Tempest. I’m surprised Troy isn’t dreaming about her strutting into his bedroom talking about how serviceable and neat her uniform is.

Well, that plan failed. Something just isn’t adding up. Never mind that the room is huge and Stingray is tiny – someone refused to listen to Troy and that makes him sad.

But there’s no time to worry about that because someone’s coming in again! Troy and Phones hide behind the table remarkably quickly, although once again I’m not sure whether they’ve hidden their monocopters or not.

X20 makes his brief appearance in the episode to check on things. At this point in the series, Troy hasn’t actually met X20 on-screen (other than when he was disguised as a human) so wouldn’t actually know what he looked like in order to dream about him. Of course, it’s also possible that they’ve met in an off-screen adventure or the WASPs have a photograph on file.

X20 is not at all pleased about the state of the table, but the Stingray crew remain undetected. It looks no worse than the state of Phones and Troy’s apartment after yet another evening of drinking and dancing on the furniture.

Marina has taken cover inside the flower display which is pretty bloomin’ risky if you ask me, but I suppose the flower in her hair acts as camouflage.

X20 takes a delightful moment to comment on just how moronic the Aquaphibians are as a species. Oh yes, of course X20 is a massive underwater racist. He then finishes by commenting on the placement of fish knives and forks on the table, and how incredibly inappropriate it is to serve fish at an event such as this. I love it. First of all it suggests that the Aquaphibians are responsible for the catering which is a recipe for absolute disaster in itself. But also, the idea of fish people finding it reprehensible to serve fish during a momentous occasion is just such a rich detail to add into the culture of these underwater races. Is eating a fish the equivalent of us eating one of our distant ape ancestors? From the phrasing it sounds like eating a fish is unacceptable but only in specific circumstances. When does X20 consider it acceptable to commit a weird form of cannibalism some times and not others? And why are the Aquaphibians oblivious to this? So many questions but what a brilliant piece of dialogue.

As Jeevesea resets the tables, the name of one of the guests is revealed to be something like ‘Menenico’ although the cursive handwriting is hard to make out. Whoever it is, I don’t think we’ve met them on screen before.

By some miracle, Marina manages to remain undetected among the flowers. That must be one heck of a huge bouquet!

Jeevesea handles the nuts which have been left on the table delicately as he puts them back in place. Goodness me that table is dusty.

There’s a moment of unbelievable tension when our Aquaphibian friend goes to pick up the knife dropped by Phones earlier. It’s a really close shave but the Stingray crew maintain their cover and keep quiet. Julie from The Investigator needs to start taking notes – now there’s a niche reference for you.

With a really top quality job done of tidying up, Jeevesea leaves and closes the door once again. If you look incredibly carefully, you’ll notice that the hand closing the door is very human-looking, and is not the white-gloved live action double we were just watching. I’m a pedantic little freak, aren’t I?

Now comes the grand finale. Troy hatches a plan to burn the plans in order to destroy them and save Marineville from an attack. It sounds reasonable enough but can the thicky twins be trusted with naked flames?

Sure enough, the plan gets real stupid real fast when Troy decides they need brandy to fuel the inferno, despite the fact the plans are made of paper which really doesn’t need much encouragement to burn. They go completely overboard, emptying the entire bottle onto the table and the floor. Messy pair of old drunks.

Troy, by which I mean a floor puppeteer hidden out of shot, struggles to tear off a match.

Marina knows that this can only go badly and brings the monocopters up to the table for a quick escape. Really glad someone is putting some thought into this plan.

Do not try this at home kids. Troy’s fingers are noticeably whiter while holding the match, suggesting they might have been covered in some sort of fire retardent, or an adhesive to hold the match in place.

Needless to say, the fire doesn’t stay under control for very long. Who could have seen that one coming? The gang watch and realise that maybe they should get out of there. I know this is a dream and it doesn’t have to make sense, but how typical of Troy to start a fire with no regard for anyone else’s safety.

The flight path back to Stingray involves Troy and Marina being dangled very, very close indeed to the flames. It’s a glorious and nightmarish scene as the fire rages. Presumably these shots were taken at the very end of production when the set was no longer needed, although it’s also pprobable that the shot is set up very cleverly so that as little of the set was burned as possible.

Really quite a lot of fire now. Hope X20 is insured.

Because it’s a dream and the story needs wrapping up, the Stingray crew manage to get back inside Stingray without issue. Not gonna lie, that feels like a bit of a cheat but frankly if that’s the only issue I take with the logic of this episode I say fair enough. Phones highlights that the fire is causing the water in the aquarium to boil. Even in a dream, I can’t imagine boiling water does a submarine’s hull much good for a prolonged period. But don’t worry, Troy has another award-winning plan. He wants to break the glass of the aquarium and use the water to put out the flames. This lad does not think clearly under pressure.

Phones just goes along with it and fires two sting missiles because at this point he’d rather be dead than tell Troy what a thicky he is.

Glass breaks. Water on the floor. It’s all over.

Wake up, sleeping beauty, you’re supposed to be at work.

Yes, it really was all a dream, brought on by Phones turning up the heating to tropical levels. The Stingray crew are told to stand down because there is no longer an emergency for them to worry about. Now I’m curious what on earth it was all about, but we’ll never know. Marina is thrilled to see Troy is awake and just a bit sweaty. I assume that’s what she’s smiling about anyway. Either that or Pacifica’s just won the undersea basketball league or something. Aphony sure knows how to shoot some hoops. Anyway, what? Oh yeah, end of episode.

I can understand why people might not like Tom Thumb Tempest. It’s ridiculous, nonsensical, and the “it was all a dream” ending is a plot device the Andersons got a little too comfortable with using. In the wonderful world of Stingray, where all sorts of undersea phenomena exist, there could have been the possibility of doing a ‘land of giants’ type of adventure without it taking place inside a dream, so you could consider this episode a wasted opportunity. And yet, I love it. I think this is another episode which balances character work with intrigue and action beautifully. The puppets look great on the full-sized set and most of the time are shot just right to avoid looking like dolls being swung around in someone’s dining room. There was a danger of this episode looking more like a regular puppet show, but because the camera work remains cinematic in the hands of Alan Pattillo, it basically looks just as good as any other Stingray episode. And although dream episodes, and ‘land of giants’ themed episodes are nothing new to Supermarionation, it is great to see the writing team continuing to push the boundaries of the format to ridiculous places and daring to try something memorable and outlandish.

Next week, the world seems to be in the grips of a freak weather crisis. Can Stingray free the oceans of the globe from the clutches of the Pink Ice? Stay tuned to the Security Hazard blog for more!

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Further Reading 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.

Exploring miniaturisation: Supermarionation Gets Cut Down to Size by Jack Knoll. Published in 2014 by The Official Gerry Anderson Website.

The Stage – Thursday 17 October 1963

6 thoughts on “Stingray – 21. Tom Thumb Tempest

  1. This was one episode of all the Supermarionation series that I never liked. If you enjoy it, fair enough, but it’s not for me.


    1. I find this one to be rather good, but I always think that maybe it was bit early to play around with false perspectives and the sort of thing at the time. By the time they did The Secret Service, i think they had made something that was both believeable and amusing, great shame that there was only 13 was made of those.


  2. Great write-up, thanks! This is one of my most fondly-remembered episodes of the show – I loved this one as a child, and didn’t get to see it again until many years later – with Thames TV’s re-runs in 1987. Clever stuff!


  3. I’ve found this episode to be one of the funniest ever, if you like this one then The Secret Service is definitely worth watching! Gerry Anderson always did well with dream episodes, but this one just nailed it for me personally.


  4. Nucella (and possibly Gadus) could have escaped Marineville jail for the dinner party. However, as it’s a dream, things could be happening that don’t make sense and in reality, they are still held in captivity. Interestingly, the compilation film Invaders from the Deep implies that the alien races in each episode work for Titan due to a pre-credits sequence, the exception being Deep Heat.


  5. I found the episode moderately entertaining and quaint. I was particularly amused by the reference to ‘Jeeves and Wooster’.


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