Stingray – 29. Titan Goes Pop

Directed by Alan Pattillo

Teleplay by Dennis Spooner [credited to Alan Fennell]

First UK Broadcast – 6th December 1964

We begin with a mystery! An original script for Titan Goes Pop is known to survive and it credits Dennis Spooner as the episode’s author, contradicting the on-screen credit which suggests Alan Fennell was the writer. It’s not unheard of for the on-screen credits on Anderson shows to be inaccurate, but I suppose it’s also plausible that Spooner’s name was printed on the script in error. My gut feeling is that this is a Dennis Spooner tale, as it’s laced with his trademark satire and humour. But this mistake in the on-screen credits begs the question – were there other Stingray scripts erroneously credited to the wrong writer? Come to that, I’m almost certain that there were scripts for which the primary authorship is unclear – I can sense the hands of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson in their capacity as script supervisors getting stuck in to some episodes more than others. Of course, this is all speculation because there aren’t many Stingray scripts that are known to still exist… unless someone awfully naughty out there has all that documentation stacked in the back of their wardrobe along with the mythical three hour director’s cut of Trapped In the Sky… you didn’t hear that from me…

If the episode title is to be taken literally, we’re about to be treated to some sort of gritty and gory tale of terror which culminates in the evil Titan’s vital organs spontaneously combusting and showering the walls of Titanica with fish guts. Or it could be a pun about pop music. The red light and ‘On The Air’ sign on the wall indicate that we’re in a television studio. Either that or Troy Tempest has an unusual taste in bathroom decor.

The news reporter from Tom Thumb Tempest makes another return to our screens as the host of whatever the heck this is. Sandy Gibson stands behind him, checking his watch and/or nursing a broken wrist. In the background, Thompson from the episode Invisible Enemy is just there, doing his thing, being a bit creepy. The giant pharaoh statue borrowed from In Search of the Tajmanon suggests that this television studio is home to vast a range of productions… either that or the director just needed a place to store his personal hoard of Egyptian artefacts.

The set is inspired by ladders. Y’know, that great marvel of design. All the best set designers are looking at their ladders and thinking, “gosh, I’m so inspired.” Maybe it’s a metaphor, maybe there was a musical act at the time performing on an equally bizarre set, or maybe Bob Bell was looking at all the ladders in the AP Films art department and thought, “hey, those are pretty neat.”

So, this is Duke Dexter. He’s essentially a cross between Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley, Adam Faith, The Beatles, and probably a whole bunch of other singing stars of the Swinging Sixties. In case you were in any doubt, this whole episode is a parody of Beatlemania and pop culture’s general trend towards idolising musicians and the hysteria they induce. Duke is supposed to be impossibly handsome and therefore hugely popular, despite the fact his actual talent probably doesn’t lie in music at all, but moreso in having an exceptionally shiny chest.

Much like his chest, his guitar is a beautiful work of art. Right down to the Duke Dexter monogram and wafer thin strings. The song he’s performing is I’ve Got Something To Shout About which is another one of Barry Gray’s great pop tunes. The instrumental version of the song was first heard all the way back in The Man From The Navy. The vocals here are being performed by Ray Barrett, who also provides Duke Dexter’s speaking voice. Some sources give the credit to Gary Miller but that’s likely a mix-up with an unreleased commercial recording of the same song. Ray Barrett’s performance obviously has a huge amount of tongue-in-cheek. We’re not supposed to take Duke terribly seriously as a popstar and we’re probably supposed to find the song itself a bit naff. But if, like me, you have no musical taste whatsoever, you’re probably still going to enjoy singing along.

Apparently Fireball XL5‘s Commander Zero has retired from the World Space Patrol and has found himself a job as a camera operator. He’s also stolen one of Troy’s fluffy jumpers.

Enjoying the show from the comfort of their living room on their glorious colour television set are Atlanta, Phones, Troy, and Commander Shore. Atlanta’s sparkly gold outfit is the undershirt she normally pairs with her shiny gold catsuit, while her father has borrowed a blue pullover previously worn by Thompson at the end of Invisible Enemy. As for Duke Dexter’s fashion choices, well, I don’t think there are words for what we’re seeing. However, I will be terribly boring and practical by pointing out that his blue scarf is likely there to cover up the join between the puppet’s neck and body.

In order to give Duke’s teeth that glamourous gleaming whiteness, it’s actually the puppet’s lower lip that has been given some extra white paint, since the puppet’s actual teeth are a bit difficult to see. Of course, when I say “actual teeth”, we all know that puppets don’t grow their own teeth. That would be a truly nightmarish scenario.

In order to achieve a full range of spectacular dance moves, you might notice that the puppet has been specially wired up at the feet to get some of that toe-tapping action in gear.

Duke Dexter’s amp is the same red speaker grille often shown inside Stingray but turned upside down. It’s starting to smoke which, to be honest, I find to be a bit of an ambiguous joke. Does it mean the volume is too loud? Does it mean Duke’s singing is so bad it wants to self-destruct? Or does it mean Duke’s singing is so darn good it can’t handle the intensity? Whatever it means, apparently the fumes go completely unnoticed. Now, the original script specifies more clearly that Duke is singing and playing at a volume so loud that he cannot be understood. There is also an unused gag in the script about Shore and Troy watching at home, exchanging a clueless shrug, and Troy’s glass smashing when Duke sings a high note. An additional note in the script advises the director to speak to Gerry Anderson himself for consultation on the glass smash. Since the glass smash never made it to the screen, it’s possible that Gerry vetoed it… or nobody felt like talking to Gerry that day so they just skipped that bit.

The puppeteer really is nailing a lot of those classic dance moves and poses. It’s a very well-studied performance from all involved. Regarding the original script, it also appears that the name ‘Duke Dexter’ was a late addition, with revisions to the first two pages indicating that the character started out life with an unknown, different name.

The amp finally explodes and apparently the crowd is too wrapped up in Duke to care. In fact, Duke himself is quite happy to be enveloped in a cloud of smoke. Probably happens to him all the time, the daft-haired twerp.

Commander Shore is not a fan. He is unable to finish what was bound to be a magnificent statement comparing Duke Dexter’s singing voice to the cries of a wounded animal. That’s a bit rich coming from a man who sounds like he eats nothing but gravel and rusty paperclips. Atlanta somewhat bypasses the issue of Duke’s singing abilities by pointing out she was looking as well as listening by watching the performance on television, implying that the visual spectacle of the bare-chested star is just as important as how well he can hold a tune. She justifies herself further by pointing out just how darn popular Duke Dexter is because Atlanta is the sort of modern young woman who follows pop culture for the sake of it, regardless of quality. Obviously the themes of this episode aren’t a million miles away from the earlier Dennis Spooner script, Stand By For Action, which used the character of Johnny Swoonara to poke fun at Hollywood stars and the public’s perception of them. There are some noteworthy differences in how our characters respond to Duke versus Johnny though. Atlanta isn’t nearly as dumbstruck by the mere sight of Duke as she was by Johnny. Troy, as a result, has his jealousy well under control this time. But Commander Shore appears to be far more irritated by Duke Dexter than he was by Johnny Swoonara, whom he actually wasn’t all that fussed about. As for Phones, well he just shares a charming little story about his niece from Denver who managed to tear off an item of Duke Dexter’s clothing. It’s a lovely little character moment, made all the more brilliant by Shore and Phones both being equally bewildered by the premise. I adore Phones’ humility. Then Commander Shore makes the mistake of setting up the plot for the rest of the episode by indicating that Duke Dexter is unlikely to ever cross paths with Marineville…

Lt. Misen from Marineville Traitor has been offered yet another role in the WASPs, this time posing as a special messenger. The black leather uniform has a touch of the Gestapo about it. The helmet is the same one worn by the bomber pilot in Emergency Marineville. The back projection footage is similar to what we see of Marineville’s coastline in Stand By For Action. The original script featured a scene prior to this one involving the conference room at World Security Patrol H.Q., with the three familiar WSP Commanders exchanging documents in top secret, and agreeing that Commander Shore should be briefed by means of a special messenger. I imagine that this scene was cut for timing reasons, since it basically just establishes what we go on to see play out on screen anyway. That said, it might have helped to further embelish Duke Dexter’s importance.

On the Island of Lemoy, X20 observes the messenger with keen interest. Unusually, the surface agent now appears to have spy cameras set up around Marineville itself. X20 also highlights that a special messenger is a rare sight. That means two things – the first is that X20 can easily recognise WASP messengers which is a bit of a security concern – the second is that X20 is familiar enough with the comings and goings at Marineville that he knows who is and isn’t an unusual visitor. So, all in all, top marks for X20 as a surface agent, but minus a billion points for the WASP security team who just let all this spying happen without a care in the world. Also, for anyone who still cares, the control panels on either side of X20’s big screen have swapped sides yet again – just when I thought that particular continuity blunder was behind us.

Thunderbirds fans will recognise the hover bike as the smoke unit belonging to the special effects technician in the episode Martian Invasion. The back projection footage shows the bike sailing past the Marineville Hospital. Then, just to prove once and for all that the security team at Marineville are useless, the guard just raises the barrier and flails around helplessly as the messenger zooms past, failing to show any identity papers or authorisation. Seriously, what is the point? Also, why the heck is a director’s chair from Stand By For Action just sitting next to the gate?

Shore has been summoned to H.Q. That’s it. That’s the message. There’s no doubt about it, this episode is really going over the top and we’re all just going to have to accept that this is a bit silly.

Commander Shore’s helicopter takes off from his apartment building. This footage was likely filmed for Pink Ice but only the shots of the chopper landing were used in that episode. X20, yet again demonstrating the ineffectiveness of Marineville’s security, has a camera pointing straight at the apartments and comments on the fact that this is Shore’s special helicopter. How does he know that? Well, because X20 basically seems to have free access to Marineville’s operations at this point.

Fortunately, while X20 may be able to intercept the coded message to H.Q., he can’t figure out what it means. Still, it’s not a bad day’s work for our otherwise inept surface agent.

In the conference room, which is in fact the Marineville conference room, not the one at Washington H.Q., Commander Shore has to be shown a small black and white photograph of Duke Dexter in order to fully grasp what’s happening. But hush, it’s a secret! Yes, even in the WSP conference room (which I’ll remind you again is actually the set for the Marineville conference room), apparently they’re not 100% confident in their own security. I don’t blame them. The familiar WSP Commanders are gathered. Their voices are exactly the same as they’ve always been… nah, just kidding, they’ve changed again. The chap with reddish-brown hair is called Jim apparently – not Admiral Jim, or Commander Jim – just, Jim. Anyway, all of this adds up to the main plot of the episode being explained to us, which is that Duke Dexter is going to be performing at Marineville as part of a recruiting drive for the WASPs. Particularly in the United States, the crossover between celebrities and military recruitment was and is something of a win-win scenario. The military can claim to be endorsed by a popular personality, and the celebrity can look brave and supportive of the troops without doing anything too taxing – although it’s worth noting that Elvis Presley bucked the trend by serving as a regular soldier in the army, rather than as a glorified entertainer receiving special treatment. For Marineville, it’s clear that Duke Dexter’s visit will need to be kept a secret or they’ll be overrun by fans. Good thing WASP security is so darn good…

Oh terrific. Oh well done, everyone. Yes, contrary to the demand for secrecy, the news has reached the front page of the Marineville Observer. I’ll admit, it’s pretty neat that Marineville has its own newspaper. More material cut from the script would have shown communication masts and telelphone switchboards full of chatter to indicate how widely spread the news was being circulated. Most of the fine print on the newspaper is too small to make out in this shot, but there is an advert in the top left for ‘TWIST NOD every Thursday’ at an address on Peascod Street in Windsor, Berkshire – likely pinched from a real newspaper local to the studio, seeing as Slough is also in Berkshire. Assuming this is an advert for some sort of music club event, it’s worth noting that Peascod Street was home to the first Ricky-Tick club night in 1962, which was influential in the careers of The Rolling Stones, The Who, Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd and many more.

Down in Titanica, X20 is offering Titan all the latest gossip, fresh from the pages of the Marineville Observer. As I’ve mentioned in earlier reviews, Titan doesn’t have a lot of time for culture and is completely oblivious as to why Duke Dexter would be considered important. Regardless of that, he wants the singing star brought to Titanica. Unlike The Master Plan, in which Titan is always one step ahead of his foes, it would appear that on this occasion, Titan has got a clue what he’s doing. He wants Dexter captured, but doesn’t even know why. I get it, this is all for comedy so Titan just has to be a bit thick to serve the plot, but I do miss his more menacing portrayal from episodes like the pilot, Plant of Doom, or The Master Plan.

As you probably expected, things aren’t going terribly well for the Marineville security team. They’re facing the threat of screaming fans in the hundreds all wanting to catch a glimpse of Duke. Specifically, it’s the Hartsville Duke Dexter Fan Club. That particular group is famous for their obscene violence. Then, Don Mason, doing his best Don Mason impression, voices a sergeant who demands that the National Guard be sent for, fearing an attack from the fans. Again, this is all a big joke about the wild hysteria of fandom which was prevalent in 1960s pop culture.

Atlanta, Troy, and Phones are back in the Shores’ living room to watch a television interview between Duke and his manager, Sandy Gibson. The set for the interview uses elements from the set of the screening threatre from Stand By For Action. A piece of dialogue in the original script was cut from this interview, featuring Duke discussing a big new movie role in a “smellie.” No, it’s not a film about flatulence. Just like “talkies” had taken over from silent movies, “smellies” were an experimental motion picture experience which combined moving images with odors released into the threatre to match what was happening in the scene. Yes, that’s real life Smell-O-Vision. The system was most famously used for the mystery-comedy film, Scent of Mystery (1960). Needless to say, it didn’t catch on, and the whole thing was probably an outdated reference even when Spooner wrote it into this Stingray script a few years later.

Oh yes. We’ve peaked. It’s X20 in his greatest disguise yet. I demand that ‘I LIKE DUKE‘ badges be printed in their millions. The haircut is somewhere between beatnik and an accident at an electrical appliance shop. And that jumper which dares to combine poo-poo brown with vibrant racing stripes could only be found in Titanica’s finest charity shop bargain bin. I have no words for the lollipop sign. A scene was cut from the script showing X20 applying his make-up and I’m glad it was deleted because that would have spoiled the reveal of this magnificent outfit.

Our favourite security guard is on the case to make sure nobody gets into Marineville without authorisation. That makes a change.

Sandy’s pass is thoroughly detailed with a photograph, a hand-drawn WASP insignia, finger print, height, weight, color of hair, eyes and a space for distinguishing marks.

The guard shares that all the crowds have moved to the side gate because the weirdo with the sign told them all to do so. Who knew X20 could be so persuasive?

The intrepid surface agent then dares to break through security himself. Will the guard be fooled by the astonishing disguise and made up cover story? I think we all know the answer to that.

X20 has his own security pass. Yes, it’s exactly the same prop as Sandy’s security pass but with the ever-so-cunning use of a thumb to cover up the photo. Obviously this is appalling on two levels. The fact that X20 was able to obtain or produce a WASP pass in the first place is a shameful lapse in security, but the fact it’s just a clone of Sandy Gibson’s which the guard just accepts with barely a glance at it has got to be grounds for dismissal. Of course, it may not have been intended by the AP Films team for this pass to be recognisable as Sandy’s, but at this point I’m not prepared to give the WASP security team any more credit than they deserve.

And so, “X” of special security is allowed to walk straight in to Marineville. Regardless of any security privileges, I don’t think I would ever let someone who looked like that through my front door. Speaking of security, it looks like a page from a contract of some kind has just been slapped up on the noticeboard in the background with a red border drawn around it hastily in red marker pen.

Meanwhile, this absolute twerp is terrified by the sound of the fans returning to the gate. Might as well let them in at this point, mate. Anyone with some common sense is going to fire you soon anyway, so why bother fighting it?

X20 catches up with Sandy outside the Control Tower, the sign for which is on the wall in the background. Also parked outside is the messenger’s bike from earlier. X20 has no trouble convincing Sandy of his credentials. In a way, it’s total genius. X20’s disguise is so bad that he’s decided the only way to convince people is to play it off as just that… a disguise. Even so, he knows that Commander Shore will see straight through it, and instead sends Sandy off with promises of special security for Duke.

As if Commander Shore needed any futher irritation this week, Sandy asks to see some identity papers, threatening to call in some sort of unnamed General who is presumably Shore’s superior. Atlanta finds this dreadfully amusing which is rather sweet. So, with everyone now fully aware of who they are, Sandy reveals that Duke will be arriving by helicopter, but a decoy will be needed to distract the fans. Say, has that Troy Tempest bloke had anything to do in this episode yet?

Hogging the limelight so he can be falsely adored by thousands of fans? Yeah, that’s a job for Troy I’d say.

Puppets can’t run. And they especially can’t run when they’re obviously completely stationary waving their arms and legs around in front of a rolling backdrop which makes them look about ten feet up in the air. Now sure, the production team have done their best to make it work. I’m not sure what else they could have done. But, frankly, Spooner or the Andersons probably should have made a tweak to the script to maybe have Tempest ride on the back of a truck or something, akin to how Johnny Swoonara arrives in Stand By For Action. Still, at least Troy’s athleticism is on display, so that ought to stir something in his three fans watching at home.

Meanwhile, a WASP helicopter is being flown to Marineville. The footage has been darkened to try and make it look like nighttime. It doesn’t.

The model set shown here is very similar to the one which represents the back of the film studios in Stand By For Action, in that the building for Stage 2 is on the right, and the Black Rock Laboratory from Supercar is in the background.

Troy must be sweating buckets running at that speed in that jumper.

News of Troy’s encounter with the crowds is interrupted by the successful arrival of Duke Dexter in the control room. Now there’s a man who can pull off white knitwear. But, more importantly, those darn filing cabinets have reappeared on the set for the first time in weeks.

I have questions. If the fans got close enough to Troy’s face to plant a big fat kiss on his cheek, surely that means they were also close enough to figure out he wasn’t the real Duke Dexter. Now, difficult as it might be to believe, it’s possible that the fans just decided to snog Troy anyway because he’s a handsome man in his own right. Alternatively, Troy might not have been kissed by the fans at all, and Phones popped some lipstick on just outside the door in order to boost Troy’s ego at the end of his long run. Putting that lovely mental image aside, it is rather amusing to have Troy playing second fiddle to Duke Dexter. Unlike the Johnny Swoonara situation, however, we actually have some sympathy for Troy because he isn’t behaving like a spoiled brat today.

So, that’s Duke successfully smuggled in to Marineville. As Sandy remarks, nothing can possibly go wrong now… except perhaps…

Ooo nice map. Sorry… except perhaps…

This guy. What a nightmarish way for us to head into a commercial break.

Oh yeah, remember Stingray? Here’s a pretty shot of it in case you were missing the star of the show.

Once again, Troy and Phones have been brought straight into X20’s house on Lemoy and don’t have any bad feelings about it whatsoever.

Duke has been sat down in a chair at the back of the room while the grown-ups do some talking. X20 claims that the owners of the house are away, so special security has taken over. At this point, Troy and Phones should have asked whether the old man was a creepy old wizard, as seen in Stand By For Action, or an Einstein-impersonating psychiatrist, as seen in An Echo of Danger. Speaking of An Echo of Danger, it appears that X20 failed to keep making loan payments on his grand piano, and switched back to the old prop from the saloon of Four Feather Falls when the larger instrument was repossessed.

And, safely assured that Duke will be safe on his own in the house with a weirdo, the Stingray crew set off for home. This is quite a nice model shot taken from the unusual perspective of X20’s window.

Apparently, Duke would love to have his own craft just like Stingray. Bless him. He’s a few Aquaphibians short of a Mechanical Fish, isn’t he?

X20 invites Duke to sit down for a meal. So far, the meal consists of a bowl of fruit and a slab of bread. I’m sure the next course is coming soon.

There’s no easy way to say this… I think X20 might have had a wee in that glass.

Just to keep things interesting and to vaguely serve the plot, Stingray has a fault with its stabilisers. What that translates to is Troy and Phones doing some dodgy steering for a few seconds while the camera shakes around and Sandy struggles to remain standing up. The fault clears itself and everything is basically fine. Phew. What a tense moment.

The cup of X20’s wee has done its work.

Next up, a comical scene. The pompous Sandy chatters away on a fancy radio-phone without any regard for the vital work he’s interrupting. Shore is past getting angry at this point and has moved on to sarcasm and self-belittling. It’s a mood that suits the commander well.

Sandy attempts to call Lemoy but there’s no response. Look at the state of X20’s wallpaper. The telephone prop was previously seen in the control room for Troy’s call with the commander in Tom Thumb Tempest.

That wee must have been powerful stuff.

Failing to get an answer at Lemoy, Sandy is immediately concerned and demands action. Blimey, nobody leave Sandy on hold at a call centre, he’ll have the S.A.S. sent over. Shore and Phones briefly confer to check that Stingray won’t crash on its way to Lemoy. Apparently it won’t, which almost certainly means that it will.

Stingray is launched (again) and within a matter of seconds, Sandy is already checking his watch. Seriously, this guy needs to take a chill pill… or a glass of X20’s wee.

Commander Shore fears for the future of his career. I sympathise to an extent, but he also probably should have had second thoughts about sending anyone to Lemoy.

There’s no sign of Duke. Who’d have thought that something weird like this would happen at that house where all that weird stuff happens…

X20 reports in that he is one hour away from Titanica with Duke Dexter. Does it seriously take X20 an hour to get to Titanica? That’s a pretty rubbish commute. Now I can see why he works from home.

Back at Marineville, Fisher spots an unidentified craft leaving Lemoy, so Stingray is given orders to intercept despite its faulty circuit. Gee, having another craft at the WASP’s disposal sure would be handy right about now. Some further dialogue was cut from this scene with the Marineville security team reporting in that there were still crowds of fans outside threatening to attack, which Shore promptly dismissed as the least of his problems.

Stingray sets off in pursuit of X20’s craft, with Phones listening in carefully. This is about as close to a tense action sequence as the episode gets. Action isn’t really the name of the game when it comes to stories like Titan Goes Pop, but I wouldn’t have minded a little bit more of it. We’re sort of given a new shot of Titanica, as X20’s sub approaches and that weird glowing thing which perches high up on the rocks can be spotted. The rest of the Titanica model had probably been thrown in the bin or repurposed by this point in the series’ production, so the editors would have been dependent on stock shots from the pilot episode.

Then, as we were all anticipating, Stingray goes wrong with a ridiculously large cloud of smoke filling the cabin, and the craft eventually plopping down on the ocean floor. That trip all the way to Africa last week must have really tired out the poor thing.

With Duke trapped in Titanica and Stingray stuck, Commander Shore is starting to have kittens over his career prospects. I’d just take early retirement, mate, it’s not worth losing sleep over.

So here’s what the whole episode has been building up to. Titan finally gets to meet Duke Dexter and gets totally confused between pop culture and terrorism. It’s an easy mistake to make.

We learn a little more of the struggles that Duke Dexter faces every day, mostly involving people screaming and tearing his clothes. Titan thinks it’s brilliant. That’s the big punchline of the whole episode, really. It lands pretty dang well, but I think we all wanted to see more banter between Duke and Titan. Just a something extra to really sell the premise that Titan has missed the point, and Duke is too dense to object or ask any reasonable questions about why he’s in Titanica. Instead, the conversation just comes to an end with the offer of octopus juice, which is different from octopus ink because it involves Titan grabbing a live octopus out of the water with his bare hands and mashing its brains in with a ladel until juice dribbles out of its ears… or at least that’s what I’ve heard.

Titan is convinced that Duke Dexter is working on their side, although in some deleted lines of dialogue, he admits that Duke didn’t actually say anything of the sort, Titan just has a really strong feeling based on how much Duke’s so-called fans delight in attacking him. X20 probably couldn’t care less either way as long as he gets paid at the end of the week.

And with that, Duke is going to be drugged once more (with octopus juice this time, not wee) and returned to the land. Well Titan, whatever the heck you were planning to do this week, I hope you feel like you’ve accomplished it.

Back at Marineville, the loose threads of the plot all just get wrapped up suspiciously quickly. Stingray has been fixed, and while that was going on, someone else apparently went to Lemoy and found Duke Dexter back where he was supposed to be. Oh, and that secret agent “X” guy wasn’t a real secret agent. That paricular point probably should have been checked from the very beginning but, to be honest with you, I don’t think Commander Shore’s heart was really in it this week. He doesn’t even believe Duke’s story about being captured, which is jolly convenient because it means we can all get on with our lives.

The Marineville Theatre (or Theater I suppose since we’re in the U.S.) is the same set used as the lecture hall in Count Down, as well as the Fireball XL5 episode, Space City Special. Assembled in this crowd shot we have Commander Shore, Phones, two of the WSP Commanders, Sandy Gibson, the Wadi Captain from Star of the East, Professor Matic, Commander Zero, and possibly Lt. Ninety from Fireball XL5, Troy, Atlanta, Thompson from Invisible Enemy, and that darn TV presenter again.

For the close-up shot of the crowd, there’s been a few swaps. Marina is now seated next to Troy, making her only appearance in the episode here – she is sat where Commander Zero was in the previous shot. Lt. Fisher has joined the audience, having borrowed Commander Shore’s seat who I think is now sat behind them in the third row. According to the program Atlanta is holding, the show is simply entitled It’s Duke!

Troy enjoys a smug smile at Atlanta while I’ve spotted that Atlanta is now no longer sitting next to Thompson but someone in a WASP uniform, probably her father. Blimey, nobody can just stay in their seats can they?

I’ll admit it – if my chest looked like that, I’d be showing it off too.

In a remarkably cosy corner of Titanica, X20 and Titan are watching the performance on television. I can just imagine Titan sat in here binge-watching Netflix until 2am with a pint of seaweed ice-cream. Titan and X20 are dancing along, but perhaps more amusingly, the Aquaphibians on guard are also feeling the beat. I guess even if Titan doesn’t understand pop culture, at least he seems to get some sort of primal enjoyment out of pop music and its catchy rhythm. Above all else though, Titan feels confident that Duke’s power for inducing hysteria will enable them to successfully conquer the terraineans very soon indeed. Of course, Titan never follows up on this, but it’s a funny thought all the same – Aquaphibians marching on Marineville to the tune of I’ve Got Something To Shout About in the hope it will drive Troy and his friends into such a frenzy they surrender immediately.

Duke finishes up his song without any explosions this time. Remember that all this was in aid of boosting recruitment for the WASPs. So I hope any youngsters watching will sign up right away and can’t wait to work with the likes of Troy Tempest… maybe don’t mention that in the brochure.

I’ve seen Titan Goes Pop described as a classic and essential Stingray episode. Many readers of this very blog have said that it’s their favourite episode. There’s a lot to like here. The comedy moments are some of the series’ best jokes. The parody of fan hysteria and stardom is played to its fullest potential. Duke Dexter is a well-drawn character who perfectly encapsulates that empty-headed celebrity stereotype with inexplicably great star-power. But here’s where things fall down a bit for me, I’m sorry to say – I think Stand By For Action does a better job of poking fun at celebrity culture because the main characters have more direct contact with the star figure of Johnny Swoonara, and discover he isn’t all he’s cracked up to be. In contrast, Titan only gets to meet Duke very briefly and essentially tells him to keep doing what he’s doing, allowing Duke to go about his business like nothing happened. A lot more fun could have been had if Titan had remained true to his character and turned hostile, or done something to really turn Duke into a powerful weapon against the terraineans. I’m not against the lighter touch that this episode takes, but it needed a stronger conclusion to let the punchline pack more of a punch, rather than fizzling out in the way that it did. It’s a fun episode of Stingray, I won’t deny that, but I don’t think it rates as highly for me as it does for others. Now if you’ll excuse me, X20 has just delivered me a hot cup of wee so I think that means I’m about to be kidnapped and tortured for hating on a beloved Stingray episode…

Next week, Admiral Denver is back with another crazy assignment! This time, he wants to sail the seven seas in an old-fashioned ship and do everything just like the good old days. But will a terrible storm turn this voyage into a nightmare? Find out in Set Sail For Adventure

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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.

Stingray: Script To Screen by Ian Fryer. FAB Magazine: Issue 68 published in March 2011 by Fanderson.

The Berkshire club that was the launching pad for acts like the Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton by Kirsty Bosley. Published May 18, 2021 by Berkshire Live.

3 thoughts on “Stingray – 29. Titan Goes Pop

  1. Hilarious review ,Jack. Loved every minute of it! i find this episode one of the funniest of all,Titan really is deluded beyond belief!


  2. Interesting that the writing credit is incorrect on screen. When Alan Fennell edited thr 1990’s Fleetway comics for the Anderson series, episodes that he wrote tended to be serialised within the comic but I don’t think this was one of them.


  3. A writer credit error appears on the Captain Scarlet episode “Noose of Ice” where the end titles erroneously credit Tony Barwick as the writer when it should really be David Williams and Peter Curran.

    I know you’re reviewing the series in production order but I’m surprised you didn’t break the mould by reviewing A Christmas To Remember like when BBC2 showed the festive episodes at Christmastime.


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