Stingray – 31. Tune of Danger

Directed by John Kelly

Teleplay by Alan Fennell

First UK Broadcast – 27th December 1964

A jazz band and a forest fire… I think it’s fair to say those are not your typical ingredients for a Stingray story. Yet, here we are. There’s a real sense that, at this point in the series’ production, anything is possible. The writers have such a strong grasp on the characters, and the directors and producers are running such a well-oiled machine that no challenge seems beyond the AP Films team. Why not have some fun and push the boat (or submarine) out? We had our pop parody a couple of weeks back with Titan Goes Pop, it’s time to counter that with some jazz. Of course a show about a super submarine needs TWO musical episodes! And, as commented upon in last week’s review, while the flames were hotting up on Tune of Danger‘s shooting stage, David Elliott was next door chucking water around to create the epic storm scenes of Set Sail For Adventure. This is going to sound unbearably corny, but never has it been more true to say… anything can happen in the next half hour. There, I’ve said it. If I say it again I give you my full permission to ram a sting missile up my ocean door.

The episode opens with a rare opportunity to actually see part of the exterior of the Marineville Theatre. It looks like the band’s bassist is arriving for the show. His luggage suggests that he’s been to England. How glamorous.

Yes, the WASPs have their own Jazz band… it’s called “The Wasps”… which isn’t a particularly imaginative title. We actually saw the band briefly once before earlier in the series when they were performing at the Blue Lagoon in the episode Deep Heat. That aside, I don’t think much of the grammar in that last line: “World Aquanaut Securities Own Trio.” Fire that marketing intern.

“TONIGHT” is plastered across the poster which just subtly builds some anticipation for everyone watching at home. I know I’m excited.

As is common by now, the episode title lets slip that things might not go well with all this jazz lark. The ‘Graystein’ name of the live action piano is undoubtedly a nod to series composer, Barry Gray, who serves up some top notch jazz numbers for this week’s installment. The session to record Tune of Danger‘s jazz pieces was recorded on 19th February 1964 with Gordon Langley on piano, Allan Ganley on drums, and Joe Mudele on bass. Who is seen playing in these live action segments? Probably those same musicians but we don’t know for sure. Unlike the scores for most Supermarionation episodes, the jazz pieces would have had to be recorded before principal photography took place, so that the puppeteers could perform to them.

The band, and their instruments, appear exactly as they did in Deep Heat – which could potentially suggest that those brief appearances in that episode were actually shot during production of Tune of Danger. The Marineville Theatre set is the same auditorium last seen in Titan Goes Pop. Duke Dexter was even seen performing on one of those same raised platforms at the beginning of that episode. The Jackson Pollock-inspired artwork used across the stage is similar (though not identical) to the work produced by art assistant Keith Wilson for the Thunderbirds episode, The Duchess Assignment.

Oh boy, you know I love a good crowd shot. If you need me to tell you who’s on the front row then you might need to start paying more attention, but sat behind them is Sandy Gibson from Titan Goes Pop, Lt. Fisher, and the three WSP commanders who have appeared in numerous episodes. Then, making very blatant cameo appearances in the back row we have Commander Zero and Doctor Venus from Fireball XL5. Curiously, Venus is sporting a bright red hat… my theory being that her wig might have been borrowed for use on a different puppet.

An original script for Tune of Danger still survives although it differs very little from the final version of the episode seen on-screen. The script apparently names the pianist as Jake Monroe, and the saxophonist (who ended up becoming the drummer) as Buddy Vance. The bass player is either called Big Steigo or Vic Steigo depending on which books and articles you read, and how you hear the dialogue in the finished episode. I’ll call him Big because, based on the depth of his voice, I’d say they probably are. Now, let’s take this opportunity to do a quick jazz history lesson – and it will be quick because I don’t possess a music historian bone in my body. During the 1960s, the popularity of jazz music was, by and large, in decline due to the rise of pop music. Of course, there are a lot more complexities to it, but that’s the headline.

So, coming back to Stingray, consider the way in which pop music was presented in Titan Goes Pop, versus the way jazz is discussed in this episode. Duke Dexter was a clueless airhead, whose popularity completely baffled Titan, and the older members of the WASPs. His music was incomprehensible to Commander Shore, and the noise apparently so intense that it caused amps to explode. Duke’s manager, Sandy Gibson, was presented as arrogant and rude to the Marineville staff. In essence, Titan Goes Pop presents the popstar phenomenon as wild, uncivilised, and largely unwarranted because the people involved aren’t all that talented. Tune of Danger takes a vastly different approach when it comes to representing jazz musicians. The whole team at Marineville is united in their love of both the music and the people behind it. Larry Gray, the band’s manager, is highly respected, and the trio even have the honor of being an official part of the World Aquanaut Security Patrol. They’re a part of the furniture, and a presence which is universally enjoyed and appreciated – so much so that Troy is delighted when Atlanta reveals that the group are coming back to the Shores’ apartment after the show. So, it’s pretty clear which side of the pop vs. jazz argument the Stingray writers were on. Jazz is the best, and pop music is new and scary and not everyone’s cup of tea. It’s an odd choice considering how the Anderson series generally lean towards embracing youth culture to appeal to their young audience. Maybe some stronger historical context is needed to fully understand why the pro-jazz, anti-pop stance was taken. Maybe it was a stance more firmly aimed at the parents watching. Maybe there was a difference in British and American tastes which influenced the writers. Or, maybe, the writers were just out of touch.

We’re now in the new part of the Shores’ apartment which was introduced last week in Set Sail For Adventure and the gang are enjoying a record from the band. So, as I mentioned, the trio are fully qualified aquanauts who are signed up to the World Aquanaut Security Patrol for entertainment purposes, boosting morale by performing for the troops. Needless to say, this is representative of the strong ties between musical performance and the military – but because the WASPs are hip and with it, they have a jazz band rather than a ceremonial marching band. Troy is feeling particularly hip and with it today, describing the concert as “the end” and saying that “everyone was just crazy about it.” Yes, modern viewers will cringe at some of the dialogue in this episode, but it’s also charming.

Marina is asked for her opinion, which makes a change. She’s serving drinks in someone else’s house though, so it’s not exactly a victory for feminisim. Incidentally, Lieutenant Larry Gray is named after Barry Gray – a fact so brutally obvious I’m embarrassed to even point it out.

The universal appeal of jazz is fortified when Commander Shore is quickly put in his place for suggesting Marina’s father, Aphony, would hate jazz music because he’s too darn intellectual. Yes, apparently Marina and the people of Pacifica have never received the gift of jazz, despite being the cultural centre of the underwater world. So that sets us up with the basic premise of the episode – the WASP jazz band are heading to Pacifica to perform a concert. Isn’t that swell of them?

Gray is all too keen for the band to get some publicity from performing the first ever music gig underwater. Of course, he also happens to be a murderous slime bag with evil intentions, but we’ll get to that.

Commander Shore just wouldn’t be Commander Shore if he didn’t put up just a little bit of opposition to the whole idea, but he agrees to the whole thing without too much fuss. The entire gang is going to take a trip aboard the band’s own submarine for the journey to Pacifica, and Atlanta guesses they’ll be gone for a couple of days because, heck, why not make a holiday out of it? Unfortunately, Troy can’t attend. Someone fetch me the world’s smallest violin. Apparently he’s heading to H.Q. to discuss the Aquanaut Convention… which sounds about as much fun as clipping an Aquaphibian’s toenails. Lt. Gray also can’t make it because of showbiz reasons. How convenient. Atlanta then neatly sums up exactly who actually is coming along because it’s vaguely important for the plot to make it clear that Troy and Gray most definitely won’t be there. Also, I really like Atlanta’s choice of hair-do for the evening.

Gray makes his exit so he can grab some sleep, and definitely not so that he can do something evil.

Atlanta, keen to once again make everything crystal clear for us, points out how nice Lt. Gray is. So there’s no possible chance of him being the villain of the piece. Nope, that just won’t happen.

Having some trouble with those sunglasses, mate? I’m not surprised – they were previously worn on Troy’s massive head for the episode Subterranean Sea.

Time for a really nice interlude as the pianist starts to arrange a special piece of music for Aphony called Blues Pacifica, because these guys are musical geniuses and not one-hit wonders like that *spits* Duke Dexter. We get to hear the creative process at work right in front of us. The composition itself is based on a piece originally heard in Raptures of the Deep, but it gets broken down here so that we can essentially just appreciate how good Barry Gray is at coming up with music to fit the themes and tones of the series. In the background, it looks like one of the band members is really getting into it as we see a pair of legs dancing along with the music.

Taking up a temporary residence in Stingray’s pen is Downbeat… because apparently Marineville of all places doesn’t have any spare parking spaces to keep a visiting submarine. The sub is a new model for the production, beautifully detailed and dirtied down. It’s decorated with decals from a USAF Thunderbirds aircraft kit, and some ultra cool flames from a hot rod car kit. The beloved jazz band are so critical to the WASPs that they get to have their own custom vessel for sailing the world in.

But all is not well. Remember that nice Lt. Gray? Yeah, he’s a rotter and he’s put a bomb in the bass. Said bomb is the same sticker bomb retrieved by Oink (remember Oink?) all the way back in Sea of Oil. The upright piano aboard the ship appears to be the same prop from Bud Hamburger’s home in the Supercar episode, King Kool – rather than the Four Feather Falls saloon piano regularly seen in X20’s house.

Meanwhile, Blues Pacifica is coming along nicely out on Atlanta’s patio. Fortunately for all concerned, we learn that Steigo doesn’t think much of rehearsals, so we can confidently assume he won’t be touching his explosive bass again until they reach Pacifica. The pianist makes a side-splitting gag about Steigo needing a bomb behind him in order to rehearse, which is worthy of at least one eye-roll for all of us watching at home.

Over in the guest quarters, someone is up late…

Using Commander Shore’s secret briefcase radio from Marineville Traitor, Larry Gray (or Agent F721 if you prefer) is making contact with the people of Lemoy’s weirdest crush, X20. Gray’s luggage is embossed with his initials because apparently the prop makers were feeling extremely thorough that day. This set is essentially Commander Shore’s bedroom with the bed sheets changed.

For the sole purpose of confusing me, X20 is standing on the other side of his communications console today, facing away from the large screen instead of towards it. We learn that Gray is almost certainly in league with Titan, presumably operating as a surface agent in a similar capacity to X20. I suppose the unanswerable question is whether Gray is an underwater being in disguise, or a human traitor like Lt. Misen from Marineville Traitor. It then begs the question as to how exactly Titan went about recruiting terraineans to join his side. Money? Blackmail? A particularly delicious cup of seaweed tea?

Since its last appearance in Marineville Traitor, the Shores’ apartment has gained a particularly attractive flower display in front of the window. Atlanta wishes Troy a bon voyage. He’s back driving the car he was using in The Man From The Navy (having used a few different motors in Marineville Traitor and Invisible Enemy). The same car was most recently crashed by Lt. Fisher in Invisible Enemy which is somewhat apparent from the tatty state of the model.

Troy’s new head is back again! To recap my previous ramblings, this particular version of Troy’s head, with its distinctly taller hair, has popped up in brief shots during Deep Heat and Set Sail For Adventure for short moments that might have required refilming after principal photography had been completed. It appears slightly more prominently in this episode, and the next episode to be shot by Christine Glanville’s puppet unit – The Cool Cave Man – before going into full active service for Trapped In The Depths and for the remainder of the odd-numbered episodes of the series. So – what happened to the old head? And what was going on with the shooting schedule which caused the new head to appear so sporadically across so many episodes? We may never know for sure, but it provides a fascinating little window into how Stingray was made.

Back to the plot, and Troy has noticed something funny going on involving a strange radio transmission coming from the guest quarters. Either that or his car stereo hasn’t been the same since Lt. Fisher wrapped the vehicle around a lamppost. One thing worth noting is the fact that the original script differs ever so slightly from the finished episode, in that there is more detail given about how Troy identifies the source of the radio interference by driving past the guest quarters. It’s only a minor change, but it does throw up the vague possibility that this scene might have been re-shot, and therefore explains the use of the newer Troy head.

Troy gets to hear all the gossip between Agents X20 and F721. Downbeat’s radio has been knackered in a weirdly specific way to stop working after two hours. Then the really evil scheme is that the double bass will explode as soon as Steigo plays a particular note during the Pacifica performance, killing Aphony and the WASP representatives. X20 is very impressed by the competency of the plan. It’s just the sort of ridiculously outlandish thing he would have tried to come up with and completely bungled by ignoring all the important details.

Then Troy decides to do the most dumb thing he could have possibly done. He struts into the room, staggering around like a penguin who’s had one gin and tonic too many and declares, “So you’re an agent! You just forgot to mention that you’re one of TITAN’S AGENTS!!!” Maybe you should have stood outside for a little bit longer, buddy, and thought up a wittier put-down. Or, maybe, just maybe, considered a slightly more effective means of apprehending the villain that didn’t involve just blundering into the room and yelling like an old man looking for his pills.

Larry’s response: “So?” When that’s the reaction you get from the crook, you know your big arrest plan is failing miserably. Seriously, Gray couldn’t be any less threatened by Troy. I don’t blame him. If Troy came into my room right now and accused me of treason, I’d blow my nose and wipe it on his uniform.

Oh, look at that, Gray was perfectly well prepared for such an intrusion and knocks out Troy with one blast of sleeping gas. Look, I’m not condoning what Lt. Gray is doing, he’s obviously the baddie, but you’ve got to admit that Troy didn’t handle that situation as skillfully as he should have done.

Terrific. If you thought Troy was useless, the Marineville Security Checkpoint is here to prove that they haven’t got a clue how to do their jobs properly. They quickly detect that Gray is driving Troy’s car. As seen in previous episodes, the model of the car may have four wheels, but the puppet set has none, having been adapted from Steve Zodiac’s Fireball XL5 hovercar. Don’t worry, Gray has the perfect explanation for driving the car. He’s borrowing it. Fair enough – even I have trouble keeping track of who uses what car at Marineville. Then the questioning gets tougher – what’s on the other seat? I think every viewer at home has that one figured out already. Gray pulls a double bluff by telling the truth, that the suspiciously human-shaped and still very much breathing thing sat next to him under the blanket is indeed someone that he’s kidnapped for evil purposes. That incredibly inappropriate joke must at least raise an eyebrow from the guard, surely?

Nope, that’s all fine I suppose. I mean, would it have killed the guy to take one quick look under the blanket? This is the cherry on top of the icing on top of a very tall cake, my friend. That whole Marineville Security squad ought to be ashamed of themselves. Still, at least we get to see Marineville from a new angle with this attractive model set of the front gate.

I’m glad you’re sleeping through all this Troy because that was an absolute shambles.

Now then, here’s some scenery we wouldn’t typically see in an episode of Stingray. Far from the depths of the ocean, we have a picturesque and beautifully detailed forest road. Comparing these two shots side-by-side, it’s fairly obvious that the same bit of set has just been flipped around to shoot the reverse angle. It actually works remarkably well, and the dense foliage in the foreground is supplemented by a well-matched painted backdrop to make the woodland appear vast.

Even Gray is enjoying the scenery, which is presented via back projection on the puppet set.

This is the hideout. No high-tech secret entrances or subterranean lairs underneath volcanoes here. Just a good, old-fashioned, garden shed. Gray likes that classic psychopath vibe.

The next morning, Shore, Phones, Atlanta, and Marina are all a bit puzzled by Troy’s sudden disappearance. Atlanta is back in her outfit from Loch Ness Monster, while Marina is still in her glad rags from last night. Phones points out that not only is Troy’s car missing, but he never came back to the apartment – suggesting that the two of them are still living together, as shown in Marineville Traitor. Commander Shore dismisses all this worry and concern by pointing out that Troy is a smart guy who does everything for a good reason – so he must have driven to H.Q. instead of flying and left ridiculously early without saying goodbye. Atlanta doesn’t like it, but we’ve got to keep the plot moving so they’re heading off to Pacifica anyway.

Wakey, wakey, Captain Pugwash.

This clearer shot of Gray is delightfully menacing. The puppets aren’t filmed from low angles all that often because the sets aren’t built for it. However, a roof has been added to part of this set which allows us to look up at Gray as he looms over Troy and sits on his chair improperly. They’re apparently 100 miles from Marineville. So we’re talking about a Birmingham to London kind of distance. Just keep that in mind for later.

Time for a quick plot recap from Troy and Gray covering the kidnapping and the bomb plot, all of which culminates in the inevitable threat to Troy’s life so that he can’t share what he’s discovered. In the background are items like the drawing table and blue filing cabinet from Preston’s office in Sea of Oil.

Heading into the commercial break with Gray chuckling maniacally, and a final shot of the shack, I can’t help but wonder how on earth Troy’s car has managed to go off-road in that forest. The wheels already look thoroughly stuck. Gray should have pinched a Land Rover or something a bit more practical. Just a minor concern in the grand scheme of things I suppose.

Back at Marineville, Shore wants some answers. He’s ordered the security guard up to the tower for an interrogation, which I’d say is rightly deserved. And he wants Lt. Fisher up in the tower too because, well, he’s probably supposed to be working right now.

Down in Stingray’s pen, Downbeat is ready to depart and submerges into the water. The set for the pen has changed ever so slightly since new footage of it was filmed for The Master Plan, as some of the lights in the ceiling have moved – otherwise the details are unchanged.

Steigo is at the helm, with Phones helpfully reminding us that as well as being a killer jazz trio, they’re also all trained aquanauts. Now you don’t find too many of those in the WASPs. The interior of Downbeat is made up from all sorts of set pieces including the big metal arch from Commander Shore’s guard sub as seen in The Ghost of the Sea.

Shore opens the ocean door to let Downbeat out while the security guard arrives to explain where Troy has gone, or not gone. Unfortunately, he neglects to mention the charming joke that Lt. Gray shared about kidnapping someone, so they fail to piece the whole thing together.

Now it’s time for the shack to conveniently burn down with Troy inside… with a crate of dynamite sitting happily on the set too. That could get messy.

Detective Shore is still on the case, explaining to Fisher that Gray wasn’t on the flight to New York that he said he would be. The game is afoot!

Don’t play with matches, kids. Lt. Gray is now swanning off back to Marineville… not entirely sure why… presumably he thinks that would be less weird than him disappearing off the face of the planet like a half decent criminal should do…

Atlanta is terribly worried about Troy despite her father’s best efforts to figure out what happened. Atlanta has every right to be concerned. She’s probably the only person at Marineville who knows that the poor boy can’t even tie his shoes.

On Downbeat, rehearsals of Blue Pacifica are kicking off. But if there’s one thing we know about Steigo, it’s that he doesn’t do rehearsals. The poster on the wall at the back of the sub informs us that the W.A.S.P.S Jazz Combo performs every evening from 7-30 at the Trocoville Opera House. I’ve never been to Trocoville, but I’ve heard the Opera House is an absolute dump.

Alan Fennell’s script specified that the intensity of the music played in the rehearsal should be linked to the intensity of the danger Troy is facing, eventually culminating in Troy’s escape as Marina and Atlanta applaud. This doesn’t happen in quite the same way on-screen, but cutting back and forth between the fire and the rehearsal is definitely an intrinsic part of this sequence’s success. There’s a lot of people doing excellent work here. You’ve got the puppet stage under John Kelly’s direction and Christine Glanville’s supervision working with Troy on the smokey set with all of the difficulties that environment causes for filming. There’s also the live action footage of the piano to work into the mix, in addition to the puppet shots of the band’s rehearsal. On the special effects stage, Derek Meddings’ team are creating their own little inferno on the model set of the forest, as well as supplying model shots of Downbeat travelling at a gentle pace to juxtapose all of this intensity. The music, arranged by Barry Gray and edited by Tony Lenny (future Terrahawks director), has a critical role to play in driving the whole dang show. This is all brought together by David Lane (future Thunderbirds director) who is serving as the editor on this particular episode. And did I mention that David Elliott’s crew was filming a thunderstorm in the middle of the ocean next door to all of this?

It’s Troy’s original head being used for these scenes involving the fire… maybe it was irreparably damaged during the filming of this scene? I’m only guessing. Heck, I probably won’t sleep until I figure out what happened to Troy’s darn head.

Right, now here’s a thing I don’t quite get. Why is an alarm bell ringing in the Marineville control tower when the fire is a whole 100 miles away? I know forest fires are a big deal with widespread consequences, but is Marineville seriously the nearest place with an emergency crew who can help out? Shore offers up their services, but insists that Fisher keep one team at Marineville in case of an emergency… you know, one that isn’t 100 miles away. In the original script, a sequence would have followed actually featuring the Marineville fire tenders leaving an underground installation.

Fire really getting awfully close to Troy now. The model set in particular makes things look quite bad. Troy manages to stand up and hop over to a boarded up window. He confirms that there is indeed some fire outside. Maybe he just thought someone had turned the heating up again? He gives a cheeky look to camera as if to say, “Oh boy, how am I gonna get out of this one, folks?” Of course, they’ve actually been terribly clever on the puppet set because we can only see a hint of the flames through the gaps in the window and the boards. What really sells Troy’s peril visually is all the smoke being pumped into the set. Now I’m not saying that smoke was safe for the puppeteers to be breathing – I can almost guarantee that it wasn’t – but at least puppets weren’t being waved around in blazing infernos… yet…

Atlanta says the music is “real cool.” Oh my, what a hilarious juxtaposition. The genius of it just made me feel a bit queasy.

Having just spent the past several minutes trying to get up off the floor, Troy realises that his only hope is to get back on to the floor and then painfully hold his hands over a piece of burning debris in order to get free from the ropes. I get nervous blowing out birthday candles so I’ll give it to Troy, he’s got some bottle doing that.

Just as Troy manages to break free after an excrutiating ordeal roasting his hands, I can’t help but notice that a little bit too much of his left arm is showing, and we can see exactly where the hands end and the puppet body begins.

Getting his feet untied in a more conventional manner, Troy then manages to kick the door open heroically. Now we get to the dangerous bit where puppets are being dangled in front of big flames at close quarters.

Troy attempts to figure out the safest exit strategy, only briefly getting interrupted by actual fire appearing to blast his face. In reality though, clever trickery with the camera’s focal length or some such thing has been done to make all the fire on the set appear much closer to the character than it actually is. It’s a very good way of making the whole sequence feel far more terrifying and dangerous than it actually was to shoot – though I’m sure the puppeteer up on the bridge would argue it was still pretty bloomin’ scary.

Downbeat and the explosive bass are still happily making their way to Pacifica. Has anyone noticed that the bass is a lot heavier than it was before? And that it’s ticking…

Fast forwarding a little bit now, Troy is back at Marineville and has had his horrifically burned hands patched up. He was picked up by one of those fire tenders Commander Shore sent along to fight the blaze… 100 miles away… meaning Troy was still stumbling around in that burning forest for an hour and a half or so. Anyway, skimming over all that, Shore is now up to speed on the truth about Larry Gray and his scheme to attack Pacifica. Gray is being hunted, but with Downbeat’s radio now past its two-hour window of operation, the only way for the gang to be warned of the danger is by Troy and Shore going in pursuit aboard Stingray!

Stingray is launched, and Troy hasn’t even got time to change out of his tattered suit. Despite that, Commander Shore has found a moment to put on his special hat. Now he feels like a real aquanaut. Stingray is travelling three times faster than Downbeat, presumably at its top speed of 600 knots. That suggests Downbeat is cruising at a very respectable 200 knots.

Sure enough, the gang have reached Pacifica, making Troy and Shore’s chances of saving them all rather slim. Footage from Plant of Doom is reused as the sub approaches the underwater city, and Steigo is instructed to flash his lights three times to gain entry. He counts out loud like an ape. Then we’re treated to a new shot of Downbeat entering the city – this particular piece of set showing the hatch opening has had to be completely rebuilt to match the way it appeared in Plant of Doom, and is painted in a noticeably brighter and more glittery shade of blue.

Stingray continues on course, but they’re still an hour away from Pacifica. That may mean they’re too late to stop Steigo from playing, but on the bright side it will give Troy time to change into his uniform and maybe change the dressings on his crispy, crispy hands.

Fortunately, Aphony is in the habit of staging quite illustrious banquets for his guests, so that kills a bit of time. While this may not be the exact same dining hall that was seen in Plant of Doom, the pillars, floor, and walls complete with the rocky face sculpture are all borrowed from the original Pacifica throne room set from that episode.

The musicians are eager to start performing. That drummer sure is one ugly customer.

Aphony himself is completely unchanged since his appearance in Plant of Doom, though his hair, beard and eyebrows aren’t quite as shiny and vibrant in their greeness as they once were. Hanging up on a wall in the AP Films studio for several months will do that to a guy. After Plant of Doom had been filmed, it was presumably felt that there was a need to retain the Aphony puppet as it was, rather than revamping him into a new character for future episodes.

Stingray rushing really quite urgently towards Pacifica, making excellent use of all the speediest stock shots of the model. Troy still wearing his tatty and probably very uncomfortable suit there. I get it, he wants to look tough for the ladies.

It’s time for the show to start. No more delays. One or two alterations aside such as the addition of the giant seahorse statues, this is basically the same set that was seen as Aphony’s throne room in Plant of Doom – it’s certainly the same semicircular window. Steigo is given strict instructions when to start playing, just to ramp up the tension a little bit more…

As soon as the intro ends and Steigo raises a finger to his fiddle, Troy and Shore arrive in the very definition of the nick of time. Again, we’re looking at a slightly modified version of the set from Plant of Doom which includes the long corridor that characters walk down to enter and exit. You can barely make it out from this distance, but Troy has his new head on again.

Don Mason gets to have an argument with himself as Troy and Steigo. With Troy’s hands still all yellow and oozy from the poorly treated burns, he calls upon Phones for help getting the bass out of Pacifica.

Shore urges Atlanta to keep calm. That’s pretty much his entire contribution to the proceedings. Probably could have stayed home.

The shots of Stingray leaving Pacifica are lifted from Plant of Doom, meaning the hatchway has suddenly changed back to its original colour from that episode.

The bass gets chucked out of Stingray through some sort of hatch in the bottom of the craft. That space could be a cargo area… or it could be Phones’ secret hideout for polite company and impolite drinking.

With a terrific amount of what I’m going to coin as “comedy twanging”, the bass collides with some rocks and gently tumbles down a cliff, a different string being hit each time it bounces. Soon enough, the particular note which Gray chose to trigger the bomb gets struck and the whole thing goes up. The special effects team have a very good handle on underwater explosions now and have made sure there’s lots of extra dust lying around to produce big impressive clouds and make it look like it’s all happening under the water rather than behind it. That said, the detonation does end up spraying the glass of the water tank with debris, making it all appear to stick in mid-air.

And so, with Steigo’s beloved bass lost to the ongoing war with Titan and his agents, he’s forced to play on a suitably “oceaned-up” version of a bass, beauitfully crafted from a seashell. With everything as it should be, the performance can finally begin properly and boy is it swinging.

It’s nice that this is the first time the Shores have visited Pacifica on screen. Presumably the big diplomatic purpose of this whole thing is to suggest to all the underwater civilisations that terraineans aren’t so bad and if you’re terribly nice to them they’ll put on a free jazz concert just for you. I don’t know, I guess the purpose of it all doesn’t really matter at this point. It’s just a nice way to end the episode. Incidentally, Troy has his new head on again.

The episode ends with a final shot of Marina and Aphony enjoying the show. It’s rather sweet really. It was great for us to see Pacifica again this week after such a long absence. I know it’s a place which is explored a good deal more in comic strips and beyond, but it would have been great to get more stories in the series itself about Marina’s home city and Aphony’s alliance with the WASPs.

Tune of Danger is another episode which somehow cooks up a lot of bonkers ingredients into a story which just feels so Stingray. It balances a light touch with some pretty intense action and a deliciously unpleasant guest villain. A tale is told which simultaneously puts Troy at the centre of the action, but also keeps him frustratingly far away from it for the benefit of a dramatic build to the climax. Yes, quite a bit of screen time is dedicated to the musicians just doing their thing, but the plot is so tight and straightforward that none of it feels wasted. I don’t find myself desperately in need of more material from any character or scene. I can just relax and enjoy the show which somehow has incredibly high stakes and incredibly low stakes at the same time. It’s a jazz concert THAT MIGHT EXPLODE. Gray’s a charming band manager WHO WORKS FOR TITAN. Troy is driven through a quiet forest WHICH IS GOING TO BURN TO THE GROUND. And boy, that fire sequence never fails to get my heart pounding. It’s shot so well to look more utterly terrifying and extremely life-threatening, but still very real. I’ve complained previously that some of the special effects like fires and pyrotechnics on Fireball XL5 looked horrendously out of control to the point of being distracting and actually spoiling the illusion. The forest fire sequence in Tune of Danger proves that the production team have nailed down how to make effects look good on camera, not just how to make them big. Yes, bigger can be better, but striving towards realism is much more impressive in my opinion. It all serves as the perfect training ground for the next AP Films series which was destined to enter production just a few months later…

Next week, Lieutenant Fisher finally gets to star in his own episode. Step aside Troy Tempest, this week Fisher is in command of Stingray! But, will enemy forces take advantage of the situation, and push the inexperienced aquanaut to his limit? Find out in Rescue From The Skies

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Further Reading

www.filmedinsupermarionation.com by Century 21 Films Ltd.

Filmed In Supermarionation by Stephen La Rivière. Third edition published in 2022 by Century 21 Films Ltd.

Stingray: Adventures In Videcolor by Andrew Pixley. First published in 2022 by Network Distributing.

Jazz History: The Standards (1960s) by Chris Tyle. Published by JazzStandards.com

5 thoughts on “Stingray – 31. Tune of Danger

  1. One of the best episodes to feature music as a theme and I love how we get to see Pacifica again and Aphoney, I think the special effects done in the scene where Troy tries to escape the forest shack and the fire! It really adds to the tension and it is amazing to watch, I just hope Troy was checked out thoroughly by the medical team before he reported to Commander Shore. It is also great to see shore back at Stingray’s controls and it is always good to see him getting involved in the action more. As always Jack, great review, any idea whether other Supermarionation series might be reviewed by you in the future once this series is finished?

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    1. Thanks, Nick! I don’t have a timeframe for it, but I certainly think more Supermarionation reviews are on the horizon after Stingray. But we’ve still got a great batch of Stingray adventures to enjoy before it comes to an end!

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      1. I’m really looking forward to the last batch, there is definitely more Easter eggs in Stingray than I’ve ever thought was possible.
        I know for a fact that there is lots of stuff from Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons and Thunderbirds that are regarded as Easter eggs in Joe 90 and The Secret Service.
        I’m not trying to influence your decision btw, I’ve just noticed a whole load of trivia and goofs in those last Supermarionation shows, a lot of it is down reading through the Fanderson Close up books and also The Complete Gerry Anderson The Authorised Episode Guide. 😀
        The latter runs all the way from The Adventures of Twizzle to New Captain Scarlet, if you don’t have it in your collection I highly recommend buying it . 😉
        For such a rare book it is not too badly priced on here, either, https://www.amazon.co.uk/Complete-Gerry-Anderson-Authorised-Episode/dp/1903111978.

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  2. More continuity problems here on original broadcast: this episode was shown many weeks before Plant of Doom, so viewers already had been introduced to Aphony and the city of Pacifica before their proper introduction.

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  3. *ADDITIONAL*
    It’s just been pointed out to me that the ‘Graystein’ label on the piano in one of the opening shots is actually written in Barry Gray’s own distinctive calligraphy!

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