Stingray – 28. In Search of the Tajmanon

Directed by Desmond Saunders

Teleplay by Dennis Spooner

First UK Broadcast – 13th December 1964

I wouldn’t call myself a particularly scholarly author. I’m more suited to sniggering when a puppet goes cross-eyed or pointing out when a prop gets reused for the eight-billionth time. But, this week, in addition to my usual nonsense, I am going to put some modest effort into contextualising the decolonisation of Africa and its impacts on popular culture in the 1960s, because I think In Search of the Tajmanon provides some fascinating insights on the subject. I’m not an expert, but it goes without saying that the world was watching when 17 African nations gained their independence from European power in the year 1960, with many others following suit across the decade. The news in the mid-20th Century would have been chock full of Africa’s progress towards liberation from imperialist power. So, it’s not surpsing that western media reacted in a couple of different ways. They might have romanticised or gently glossed over imperialism (1951’s The African Queen, for example), or go the other way and start to celebrate African culture and heritage which was coming to prominence for the first time. It’s also worth noting that the epic British war film, Zulu, premiered in January 1964, depicting the Battle of Rorke’s Drift between the British Army and the Zulus in 1879. Around the same time, in early 1964, In Search of the Tajmanon was set to go before the cameras at the AP Films studio in Slough.

Stock footage of a real desert opens the episode. The Thunderbirds episode Pit of Peril also opened with stock footage showing the wild landscape of Africa. Note, Pit of Peril only entered production maybe ten or eleven months after this Stingray episode, was also directed by Desmond Saunders, and was also set in Africa. Saunders also directed the Thunderbirds episodes The Uninvited and Alias Mr. Hackenbacker which heavily feature the African desert. Maybe a coincidence, or maybe he was considered really good at directing in miniature deserts. Lots of the music for this episode is pulled from the globe-trotting Supercar episodes such as Amazonian Adventure and The Talisman of Sargon.

Search over. I can see it right there. Now, time for some pure conjecture from me so take it with an enormous pinch of salt. In 1961, the author of many spy thrillers, Graham Greene, published In Search of a Character: Two African Journals – personal accounts of two visits to Africa taken during the writing of his earlier works, The Heart of the Matter (1948) and A Burnt-Out Case (1960). While there are many works that use the term ‘In Search Of’ in their titles, I can’t help but feel like a book specifically about a spy writer’s quest to find authentic African characters might have appealed to Dennis Spooner when working on this script. Another more direct influence, or inspiration, for this episode would have been the time Dennis Spooner spent in Suez during his national service.

But when we’re talking about influences on this episode, the lightbulb moment happened for me when I was researching the design of these statues, and figuring out which African landmark might have inspired the design for the Tajmanon. Well, guess what? It’s time for a history lesson. The Abu Simbel temples, two enormous rock-cut buildings dominated by giant statues of Pharaoh Ramesses II, were constructed over 3,000 years ago in Egypt. In 1959, it became apparent that these important historical monuments were in danger from the rising waters of the Nile river, a danger which was to be caused by of the construction of the Aswan High Dam and the creation of Lake Nasser. So, the International Campaign to Save the Monuments of Nubia was launched to relocate Abu Simbel and other ancient structures to new sites clear of the water. The Abu Simbel temples were cut into large blocks, and moved 200 metres further inland and 65 metres higher up. The date that this all started? November 1963 – shortly before this episode entered production. So, not only is the design of the palace based on Abu Simbel, the entire flippin’ episode borrows the story of the site’s relocation!

So everything we just saw was a film presented by our guest star of the week, Professor Graham. He’s dragged in a projector the size of a Ford Fiesta, and a diorama the size of Phones’ drinks cabinet, to explain to the WASPs what’s going down with the Tajmanon. The projector prop is in fact a real AEI 702 model projector for presenting 16mm optical sound films. Shore is at the back of the room probably struggling to stay awake, while Atlanta is diligently taking notes and sporting some lovely new reading glasses. This room is the World Security Patrol H.Q. in Washington, even though I’m fairly sure we’re supposed to be at Marineville right now.

Atlanta seems to be a keen student who is dazzled by the prospect of all those slaves building the palace 5,000 years ago – putting what we just saw into context for the great unwashed sitting at home, or for the dumb-dumbs sitting around her.

Graham is apparently surprised by Atlanta’s knowledge which is either a sexist remark or he genuinely doubted her intelligence. Either way, it’s not looking good. He then proceeds to use the frankly over-sized model in front of him to explain that 40 years ago, a dam needed to be built across the river in front of the Tajmanon, and therefore the whole area had to be flooded. Assuming Stingray is set in the 2060s as various sources (including a later episode) suggest, then the dam was built around the 2020s, long after the Aswan High Dam in the 60s. Professor Graham was among the archaeologists permitted to survey the Tajmanon after the flooding. So it wasn’t going to be saved, but left at the bottom of the new lake. It’s worth noting that in real life, while Abu Simbel might have been saved before Lake Nasser was flooded, most heritage sites in the area were not so lucky, with at least 1,753 sites that are known to have been lost underwater in that area, with even more also submerged by other dam projects across Africa.

Graham plays back some film of the underwater survey, showing the camera dipping down below the edge of what would have been the AP Films water tank. The air bubbles, blown to suggest a craft or person diving, spill water over the glass in front of the camera. There’s a brief cutaway so we can switch over to the Tajmanon now sitting underwater, or rather to the model set positioned behind the water tank full of fish. What strikes me is that Professor Graham discusses the flooding of the palace very matter-of-factly, with not even a hint of upset about such an ancient building being left to slowly wash away. As will become more apparent in Thunderbirds, progress at all costs is the name of the game in the Andersons’ version of the future.

The film shows a much younger Professor Graham (I think it’s the same puppet with a dark wig) shaking hands with Sheikh Abdul El-Hamrah, whose family owns the Tajmanon. The puppet of Abdul will appear later to portray his son, Hassan. Incidentally, with a reasonable bit of deduction we can conclude that the name ‘Tajmanon’ is formed from ‘Taj’ meaning ‘crown’ in Arabic, and ‘Manon’ which is a predominantly French name for a girl meaning, among other things, ‘star of the sea’.

Troy declares that this is all very interesting… which means he’s thoroughly bored and has no further capacity for learning. He just wants the mission briefing with none of the context. That is so Troy, and also so typical of the series’ treatment of experts and boffins – they just need to shut up and get to the point. Fortunately for Captain Impatient, Professor Graham is ready to reveal a final piece of film from two months ago showing us what’s happened.

Atlanta is good enough to spell it out for us as she watches in horror.

No more Tajmanon. Yup, the whole building has gone. Now, I know water erosion is unforgiving, but I don’t think it’s that quick.

So with all that established, Commander Shore is finally able to tell us what the WASPs and Stingray are going to be getting up to this week. Admiral Denver, whose position as President of the Undersea Research Program was established previously in Loch Ness Monster, has given them a simple mission – go find that palace. It’s actually a plot not a stone’s throw away from Loch Ness Monster in fact. Yeah, you guessed it, Dennis Spooner wrote that episode too.

Here’s a nice opportunity to see the Stingray crew doing some maintenance. I’ve always assumed that unseen WASP technicians were responsible for such things, but no, it’s apparently up to Troy and Phones to perform the vital checks needed before Stingray can head off to Africa. Well, it looks like Phones is the one actually doing the dirty work. Troy, as you might have expected, is keeping a pencil behind his ear and holding a clipboard to make himself look important. They discuss the possibility of Atlanta coming along because she loves the Tajmanon so much, and because Marina is on leave… again. Yup, it’s that scenario… again. Remarkably, this is the only episode in the entire series that Marina is entirely absent from, not even making a background appearance. Why? I don’t know, but the intention is clearly to push Atlanta as the keen, intellectual, modern young woman who goes on all these daring adventures across the world. I guess there was a worry Marina might eclipse Atlanta simply by existing in this episode.

But before she can go on the trip, Atlanta has the dilemma of trying to catch her father in a good mood so that he’ll give her position to join the expedition. Unfortunately, Shore is caught up in the burdens of day-to-day admin and has just finished berating a gentleman responsible for supplies, before threatening to bring up the dreaded equipment situation at the next staff meeting. What an exciting life the commander leads. So, because he’s having a bit of a strop, Shore hasn’t checked the schedule to see if Atlanta can be spared in the control tower. I’ve said it before, but the commander desperately needs an admin assistant to handle this sort of nonsense for him. That being said, he has given Fisher his own desk next to the vending machine so he can work on routine reports. So at least someone is getting the paperwork done.

We’re then treated to this charming little domestic scene which sees Atlanta cooking a nice rare steak for her father in order to win him over. It jolly well works and there’s smiles all round, even from Troy and Phones who have been spying from behind a curtain the whole time like a couple of weirdos. I love this little moment. When a story whisks us off to an exotic new location, it’s great to have a reminder of how delightful homelife is too.

Well, this is awkward – check out this quick glimpse we get of Commander Shore’s very wooden puppet arm inside his sleeve, which I’m fairly sure is also being supported by a floor puppeteer’s fingers.

Stingray is launched and I suppose one very practical reason for Marina not coming along, aside from her being “on leave” is that we never see more than three beds aboard Stingray. Troy and Phones are in their usual bunks while Atlanta is sleeping in a completely different room to the one we saw her using in Sea of Oil – this one looks more like the room Troy wakes up in at the end of Raptures of the Deep. Note that Atlanta has brought the little red dog toy from her bedroom at home. Presumably due to the lack of beds, Professor Graham is forced to stay up all night and study maps.

Dating the episode ever so slightly, the close-up of this map shows Yugoslavia. The map also neglects to include Tunisia as well as any nations north of Italy, Yugoslavia, Greece and Turkey. In fact, other than a few major cities, this map doesn’t appear to show much of anything except where the Mediterranean Sea is which you’d hope a professor and some aquanauts would already know. But perhaps the most bizzare thing of all is what’s underneath – a map of the English county of Devon.

Stingray surfaces, and we know they’re in Africa because there’s a pyramid in the background. Of course there is. This is presumably where the Nile meets the Mediterranean Sea at Alexandria, Egypt. The famous Great Pyramid of Giza is over 100 miles away in Cairo, though there were of course hundreds of other pyramids built in Africa which weren’t so well preserved.

Now kitted out in their safari gear, which we saw earlier during the maintenance scene, Troy and Phones are navigating up the Nile. How long d’you reckon before Troy swans off and leaves Phones to do all the work?

Needless to say, the scenes of Katherine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart making their boat trip in The African Queen might just have had an influence on the production of this episode.

Oh look at that, Troy’s already given up on work while Phones is steering the ship. The gang are enjoying a sophisticated pleasure cruise, as suggested by the empty glasses on the table and their perfectly clean safari suits. Hazy back projection footage passes by in the background which doesn’t make the view look particularly interesting.

They spot more perfectly preserved pyramids on the banks of the river. While the Great Pyramid was certainly built relatively close to the Nile, it certainly wasn’t that close. But in a very, very general sense, this is the right area to find the pyramid, if you happened to be travelling up the river.

Troy feels a shred of guilt for Phones, and goes to relieve him so he gets an opportunity to take in the sights. See, Troy’s not all bad!

But Phones is too busy working to be a tourist. He’s in contact with ‘Africa 28’, presumably some sort of WASP-affiliated outpost in the area with lifting gear at the Tajmanon dam. Apparently they’re only 15 minutes away, so judging by the location of the pyramids that we just saw, the original Tajmanon site must be considerably further down the river from the Aswan High Dam which inspired this story.

The large Stingray model sure does look pretty as it cruises along the river. It’s quite exciting to see Stingray in such a different location to the norm. It would have been nice to get a few more episode of the WASPs exploring distant corners of the globe.

Stingray arrives at the dam. It’s certainly a *damn* nice model. Following its appearance here, the dam reappeared in the Thunderbirds episode, Path of Destruction as the incomplete San Martino Dam, albeit repainted and dressed with additional details. It also went on to become a part of Atlantica base in the Captain Scarlet episode, Flight to Atlantica. It’s even tucked away at the back of Vostula’s submarine pen in the Joe 90 episode, Arctic Adventure. That’s a lot of milelage from one dam!

Stingray delicately pulls into the bank. What a magnificent beast.

Once again, we’re in the same territory as Loch Ness Monster because its time for the super submarine to get hauled out of the water and plopped down on the back of a trailer. It’s briefly going to be transported by land up to the lake at the top of the dam. The crane which does the job is built out of a lifetime’s supply of those Airfix Girder Bridge kits.

Troy instructs the crane operator to place Stingray down GENTLY, in the same tone that a Jaguar driver might take with a valet parking attendant at the country club. Much like the Jaguar driver, Troy will find the keys to his motor flushed down the loo if he’s not more polite.

The vehicle tasked with yanking Stingray up the hill started life as one of the Granatoid tanks from the Fireball XL5 episode of the same name. It was later adapted into the form we see it in now for the XL5 episode Dangerous Cargo in order to play the truck which transported the eponymous cargo.

On the other side of the damn, there’s another crane waiting to pick Stingray up and drop it back in the water. I think it’s safe to say this is the same crane model we just saw but filmed from the other side.

Our beloved tub is back where it belongs. That was quite a long, drawn out model sequence showing every moment in excrutiating detail. I wonder if the Andersons will make more of those in the future… But here’s the real question – are those the same chains that were used in the Thunderbirds episode, Terror In New York City, when Thunderbird 4 was getting loaded and unloaded from the Sentinel? Well, no, they aren’t because I checked. But I had you going for a second there didn’t I?

Time for the actual work to finally start. Troy reports in to Marineville that they’re getting ready to leave Stingray and take a look at where the Tajmanon should be – like staring at an empty fridge after eating the last scotch egg. Atlanta is apparently going to be recording the entire thing, so nobody better call anyone a twerp over the radio.

As Troy and Professor Graham leave Stingray, it becomes apparent that a certain someone doesn’t know how to put their diving mask on properly, because it’s halfway down his face.

There are some smaller ruins left which surrounded the Tajmanon, and among those Graham finds some spears which Troy, unsurprisingly, doesn’t consider very significant when in fact they totally are. The props, like many other African artefacts shown in this episode, date back to the Supercar episode, Amazonian Adventure.

Awfully nice of someone to conveniently label their dynamite…

As the camera makes its way along the length of the cable for these explosives, you can spot a table and the edge of the set in the top left corner of this frame…

… and the edge of the sky backdrop in the top left of this frame. Sorry.

So, this chap wants to blow up our intrepid explorers. Is attempted murder really something you want to be dealing with, sir? Why not have a quiet word with them over a pint instead?

The ruins go up with a nice big bang, the shockwave of which is felt aboard Stingray by Phones and Atlanta. Things aren’t looking good for Troy and the professor.

Apparently he did all this to keep “the secret of the Tajmanon” a… well, a secret. Picking up the spears that were left behind probably would have been a better way to go about it. But I guess we’re supposed to believe that this guy is a right villain, which has nothing to do with the fact he’s wearing Middle Eastern clothing and speaks with a foreign accent… a 1960s television show definitely wouldn’t portray such a person as a villain right from the off… definitely…

After the commercial break, we’re back at Marineville with Shore and Fisher, just as the commander is popping off to bed. I’m glad that, for the most part, Shore treats his team with a decent amount of respect. The constant bickering between Commander Zero and Lt. Ninety in Fireball XL5 was awfully tiresome. The sort of polite chatter going on in this scene helps Shore and Fisher feel like real people who work together.

Back on Stingray, it turns out Troy and Professor Graham survived their ordeal, although Graham has earned himself a comically large bandage on his head which vanishes without a trace after this scene. With no idea how the explosion actually happened, the conclusion is reached that they just need to be more careful. To be honest, I was beginning to wonder what the point was of having the WASPs taking part in this expedition, but now there’s a bit of a risk to life involved it makes things somewhat more exciting.

Professor Graham wouldn’t be a proper westerner if he didn’t take some precious African artefacts home with him, so he’s gathered what he can from the ruins for examination. The big drum, and the staff with the skull on it, were also seen first in Amazonian Adventure. Expert anthropologist that he is, the professor has identified that only one tribe in the whole of Africa uses these particular items, but they reside in Central Africa, not the North-East where they are right now. So it looks like Stingray is going on a jungle cruise!

Troy needs to get permission from the commander for such a diversion, which means Fisher has to wake him up and provide an update. Shore instructs them to continue the search. The episode would have been over pretty quickly if he’d refused. Commander Shore’s bedroom hasn’t changed since it last appeared in Marineville Traitor, you’ll be pleased to know.

Back on the river, Phones, Atlanta and Professor Graham are admiring the wildlife… or rather some stock footage of it. Anybody out there happen to know the source of this footage?

Apparently Professor Graham doesn’t like crocodiles. Can’t say I blame him. But I don’t think he’d fare too well up against a hippo either.

Naturally, Troy doesn’t want to do all the hard work by himself for too long and he calls Phones back to the controls so that he can take some soundings of the narrowing river. Really Troy? Is there a union rule which says you can’t put on the headphones and do it yourself? Well at least it’s a good bit of geography – the river would be narrowing as they travel up it towards the middle of the continent.

Atlanta is worried that this jungle seems just a little bit too quiet. So some tribal drumming starts up in the distance to put everyone on edge. Why they immediately assume that drumming is something to be worried about, I don’t know. Is tribal drumming inherently a scary thing? Well, let’s just say that this is a 1960s television show which definitely wants to portray African tribes as good people… definitely…

Figuring that the tribe they’re looking for is nearby, Troy decides it’s time to park up at the shoreline and have a guard on watch. I suppose the explosion earlier was a fair reason to be on edge, but it also wouldn’t surprise me if Troy just decided hostility was the best option purely because of where they are in the world. Oh, and he elects Phones to take the first watch because, seriously, he doesn’t want to do any work today.

A slimey little plastic crocodile slides into the river completely motionless. It’s not terribly convincing. Maybe the special effects team should use real baby crocodiles next time? Nah, that would be silly…

Phones is ready with his gun. Ain’t no crocodiles or percussionists getting past him.

Oh Troy. You’re making this too easy for me you lazy twerp.

Well at least Atlanta’s taking it easy too, so that’s something. She’s reading about some new shoes apparently. No, she couldn’t be reading something academic or vaguely related to the job at hand like Atlanta probably would be, it had to be fashion because she’s a girl.

Phones hears a noise so decides to leave the ship and investigate. This is bound to go well. I love a POV shot that involves the camera brushing foliage out of the way as the character walks – I’m not sure why, I just enjoy it. The tension builds nicely as the drums grow louder and louder. Phones eventually gets run over by the camera following him. That was supposed to be a suggestion of him being attacked by someone, but I prefer to think it really is Phones getting chased by a giant camerman.

Troy has come to relieve Phones, which is frankly the biggest surprise of the entire episode, but the poor guy is missing from his post. For the benefit of the plot, Troy chooses to leave Professor Graham behind, and go looking for his lost colleague with Atlanta and a gun. I mean, Atlanta is a trained up member of the WASPs so it’s not a bad idea for Troy to bring her along, but Professor Graham probably knows a bit more about navigating the jungle than he does about guarding a submarine.

As they carrefully wander about through the jungle, Troy and Atlanta come across Phones’ gun, followed by a house full of all the same sort of tribal artefacts that Professor Graham pinched from the bottom of the lake. The skull which X20 practiced his speech with in Count Down is also out on display because obviously this is supposed to be a scary tribe of savage, murderous head hunters, as opposed to all the perfectly nice African tribes one might find.

Concluding that they’ve found the right tribe, Troy and Atlanta become concerned about a noise and some moving trees. Captain Tempest heroically saunters off into the jungle. Again, the drumming remains as some kind of constant threat which gets louder and louder to build the tension. Atlanta doesn’t wait for long before she follows Troy into the dense foliage, and then something happens off screen which makes her and the animals scream like I do when stepping into a cold bath.

Yeah, of course Professor Graham is going to do the dumb thing and wander off too, followed by inadvertently fall down a hole moments later. Classic Graham.

Somewhere between here and here, the professor loses his fancy safari hat during the fall. Never mind, it didn’t suit him anyway.

It’s fair to say that the situation has escalated somewhat.

Our friend from earlier casually lets slip that we are inside the Tajmanon. Y’know, the thing that went missing! The set is beautifully decorated with hieroglyphics, or at least artwork that resembles hieroglyphics at a glance because I can’t imagine the art department had a lot of time to research and draw too many accurate symbols on the walls. So this guy is going to kill Phones, Atlanta, and Troy because he assumes they’ve come to destroy the Tajmanon once and for all. He doesn’t actually ask them if that’s the plan, but he seems confident enough to murder them. Now, why does he make this assumption? Well, because if colonialism teaches us one thing, it’s that white people in safari suits turning up unannounced to look at your heritage sites doesn’t usually end well. Oh, and also because he’s a Middle Eastern guy in a 1960s television which definitely means his only purpose is to kill the heroes… definitely…

The big levers which operate the spikey death trap were seen last week on the set of the volcanic cave in Deep Heat. Some parts of this massive set were retained for the filming of the Thunderbirds episode, The Uninvited – specifically the artwork of the two Pharaohs seated on either side of the doorway is used when Scott Tracy, Lindsay, and Wilson run towards the exit of the pyramid before it blows up. Troy isn’t worrying about such things right now though, and is more concerned by the spikes which are inching slowly towards his beautiful face. It’s quite a novel torture device, but it’s more medieval than ancient Egyptian – a bit like an iron maiden but made of stone, and with room for all your friends.

Not particularly feeling like watching three people get stabbed and squashed to death, our friend goes for a stroll in the jungle and stumbles across Professor Graham stuck at the bottom of the pit. The two recognise each other. We learn that this gentleman is in fact Hassan El-Hamrah, the son of Abdul who was seen shaking hands with Graham in the film from all those years ago. What a stroke of luck. Hassan considers the professor a friend and agrees to help him out of the pit.

Troy has managed to remove the gag from his mouth, so his two colleagues are unfortunate enough to have to listen to him chatter away before they die. He’s hopeful that Professor Graham will track them down. Of course, that would require Professor Graham to find the Tajmanon first, and he’s been struggling with that job for a couple of months now, mate.

Sitting down for a nice chat, Hassan reveals that Professor Graham was previously trying to save the Tajmanon from flooding. I guess that counters my theory from the beginning of the episode that nobody seemed to care too much whether the place was lost forever or not.

Turns out, just like the Abu Simbel temples in real life, the Tajmanon was deconstructed and moved stone by stone to a new site under Hassan’s leadership. He got himself some undersea equipment and had the help of an African tribe to complete the work. There’s no specifics given about the equipment used because the logistics of the operation would take too long to explain here, and there’s no specific name given to the tribe because, let’s face it, western audiences couldn’t care less about that sort of detail. And, of course, we don’t actually see any of the tribespeople because Lew Grade, (or possibly an unnamed American television executive) famously didn’t want to upset the southern states of America by showing any black people in the early Supermarionation shows. Gerry Anderson frequently told a story about an issue which might have involved an episode of Supercar (possibly Amazonian Adventure) requiring a reshoot because of material featuring black tribespeoeple, but I suppose it’s also entirely possible that In Search of the Tajmanon was the film which was actually called into question. I’ve never quite understood that anecdote, which isn’t helped by the various ways Gerry told it over the years. Other ITC shows like Danger Man had featured black actors in minor roles (and white actors in dark makeup because that was still a thing), but there’s no history of Lew taking issue with those episodes – although maybe some local American TV stations did, but without looking at listings for specific areas that can’t be confirmed either. Maybe there was a miscommunication between Lew and Gerry, or Gerry was misremembering the incident, or maybe there was something particularly wrong with the puppets which might have caused offence.

Anyway, after explaining everything nice and clearly to us about the spears one more time, the penny finally drops that those nice people Hassan is trying to kill were in fact Professor Graham’s travelling companions. Suddenly he feels really bad about the whole thing. Incidentally, why hasn’t Troy chewed through the ropes now that his mouth’s free like a good little hamster?

Hassan and Graham start running through the jungle. When puppets were required to run, directors would be hesitant to show the legs in motion. Here, Desmond Saunders has elected not to show much of anything.

It’s a real race against time to save the Stingray crew! This story has been light on proper fast-paced action so far so it’s nice to get some now, albeit this is a very different climax to an episode than what we’re used to seeing in Stingray. No submarine chases or torpedoes launching here. All the action is happening on dry land which really gives this episode a different feel from the rest. The spike is dangerously close to piercing someone’s shirt. And they were doing such a good job of keeping it clean.

Just in time, the spikes are raised and our heroes are saved! I’m sure Marina will be thrilled to learn she missed out on some top-notch torture.

Back at Marineville, the gang have returned to the briefing room to share their latest cinematic epic.

A cheery wave from the bloke that tried to kill them.

It turns out Phones didn’t think he was such a bad guy in the end. Atlanta even thought he was cute. Even Commander Shore commends Hassan’s gift giving. Yes, apparently you really can forgive and forget when someone tries to drop a stone covered in spikes on you…

Especially when he lets you take the torture device home with you. Ummm… huh? Troy laughs it off as a souvenir from their adventure. Where the heck is he going to keep it? And how the heck did they drag it up from Stingray’s hold, into the control tower, and through the doors of the briefing room? Also, was it really a gift? Or did those pesky light-fingered colonial tendencies take hold of the Stingray crew before they left Africa? What a bizarre way to end the episode…

In Search of the Tajmanon is a pretty unusual episode of Stingray. I have a lot more respect for this story now that I know it draws so heavily on real-life events. Yes, there are issues with the way Africa and its people are represented – there’s no escaping that. But, at least the series was able to take us there and show us a story which has a certain amount of credibility because its rooted in reality. The desert and jungle sets are a welcome departure from the usual settings we might see in an episode of Stingray and are beautifully realised on screen. As I mentioned earlier, it would have been quite thrilling if more episodes had featured adventures in other countries, and allowed the AP Films team to flex their creative muscles. It’s a pity that Marina wasn’t featured, or that the team in the Marineville control room weren’t given a more prominent role. To be honest, none of the characters get very many opportunities to shine in this episode. Troy, Phones, and Atlanta don’t get to do all that much before they’re captured, which leaves Professor Graham as the most significant person in the piece and he’s not exactly the most memorable guest character we’ve met so far. Essentially, In Search of the Tajmanon is an episode we can all enjoy for the novelty factor of being set somewhere else, but I wouldn’t expect it to be a memorable favourite of too many people.

Next week, singing sensation Duke Dexter is coming to Marineville and Titan completely misunderstands how fandom and pop music actually work. Will Dexter prove to be a valuable weapon to use against the terraineans? Of course not, but let’s have fun with it anyway. Tune in for Titan Goes Pop

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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.

The Year of Africa by Katherine Everett, Emily Hardick, and Damarius Johnson. Published in 2020 by Origins: Current Events in Historical Perspective | The Ohio State University.

Dennis Spooner Biography by Anne Frost. Published by The Avengers Forever. Last modified in 2017.

The Relocation of Abu Simbel Temples by Kaushik Patowary. Published in 2020 by Amusing Planet.

OrientDams: The Impact of Dams on Cultural Heritage in the Middle East and North Africa by Nicolò Marchetti and Federico Zaina. Published in Friends of ASOR, December 2020, Vol. VIII, No. 12.

One thought on “Stingray – 28. In Search of the Tajmanon

  1. This episode is one that I have started to appreciate bit more over the years, I wonder how marina would get by while being on leave…….. would she need an interpreter or something? And Professor Graham, was he named after David Graham maybe?


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