Stingray – 32. Rescue From The Skies

Directed by Desmond Saunders

Teleplay by Dennis Spooner

First UK Broadcast – 10th January 1965

Troy Tempest thunders down the snowy Alps at 80 mph. At the bottom of the mountain, his beloved super-submarine, Stingray, has inadvertantly caused a major disaster in the middle of an icy lake. The collision with a tourist yacht full of executives from the Swiss flooring industry had come as a result of Phones enjoying a particularly indulgent liquid lunch. Marina had put out a distress call over the radio through a combination of frantic tapping and holding the microphone out the window to pick up the cries of drowning middle managers clutching the latest in luxury vinyl plank technology which wasn’t as waterproof as they had claimed. Troy was approaching the scene fast, navigating the difficult slalom using all his rusty but surprisingly useful WASP winter sports training. But there was one challenge left for Captain Tempest – the unthinkable 200 metre jump from a 30 degree ramp which would launch him clear of the mountain, over the water, and towards his stricken crew… hang on a minute…

Oh… oh I see where the mix up might have happened. That makes much more sense.

The Marineville control tower is a hub of activity today. Atlanta is consulting her checklist and receiving radio communications. Commander Shore is taking charge of operations with his trademark level head. And Troy Tempest is studying a map because he’s finally worked out where China is.

Yes, Troy is confined to the tower while Lieutenant Fisher is in command of Stingray and its crew! Not so long ago, Fisher was an excitable kid undertaking his first unofficial mission in An Echo of Danger, and now he’s running the show with utter professionalism. Marina looks more than a little concerned but frankly I’d say her chances of getting tied up and kidnapped are currently the lowest they’ve ever been since she joined the WASPs.

Yep, Fisher is in charge of this mission, and Troy admires his leadership more vocally than Commander Shore can bear to put up with. Seriously Tempest, keep your mouth shut. Atlanta very much enjoys Troy being put in his place… I think we all do.

Anyone else think this back projection looks a little more… back-projection-esque than usual?

Uh oh! Phones has picked up a sounding which almost always means trouble. Troy immediately panics but gets a reminder to keep his trap shut. Mate, nobody cares what you think. It might say ‘Starring Troy Tempest’ in the titles but this week you’re basically surplus to requirement.

The enemy has been spotted. For reasons that will become clear in a moment, this standard issue stock shot of the Mechanical Fish which zooms straight in to the two Aquaphibians in the cabin doesn’t make a whole lot of sense in context.

Atlanta points out to Troy, and therefore to all the audience at home, that this will be Fisher’s first “taste of action” which is a polite way of saying these are the first Aquaphibians he’ll get to turn into fish food. Fisher immediately orders the firing of a sting missile, but the darn thing won’t engage. Don’t worry, it happens to a lot of men.

Purely to aid the drama for the viewers at home, because again it doesn’t make any sense in context, we get to see the enemy counting down to firing their missile. The dialogue is simply laid over the stock footage which is why neither of the Aquaphibians actually open their mouths. The attack launches successfully and strikes the Stingray crew with terrific force. Marina is knocked off her feet by the blast. Why no shots of Stingray itself? Well you’ll see in a moment, unless you’ve seen this episode before in which case you already know, and the fact I’m being so coy about it is probably incredibly irritating to you…

Commander Shore insists on taking over the radio so he doesn’t have to talk to Troy anymore. A big cloud of smoke and a scary new ‘Radioactivity’ meter indicate that something alarmingly radioactive is happening. Yes, Stingray is powered by an atomic reactor and we all know what happens to those in Anderson shows.

I like that boulder. That is a nice boulder.

The final collision knocks Phones to the floor just before he can put his big, silly radiation-proof hat on. Of course, that conveniently saves us the embarrassment of Phones not actually being able to put the hat on himself due to his puppet wires getting in the way.

Shore is really putting his drama school training to good use today, as he desperately tries to maintain radio contact with the Stingray crew. Atlanta and Troy exchange a quick glance at each other in the background. It’s either a look which says, “this isn’t going well,” or it’s a look which says, “let’s have spag bol for supper.”

Aside from Fisher putting his big, silly hat on, the rest of the crew are fully suited up in their anti-radiation gear. It’s not exactly Marina or Phones’ best look, that’s for sure. The outfit is a combination of Count Binface mixed with Alan Tracy’s hideous tracksuit from the Thunderbirds episode Day of Disaster. Fashion taste isn’t the only thing that’s failed spectacularly today – apparently Stingray won’t start moving again.

With no chance of rescue, the mood becomes sombre. It actually does all feel quite final. Of course, it’s the beginning of the episode so we know it probably isn’t, but lets pretend that it could be the end of Stingray.

Fisher seems to feel genuinely disappointed in himself for letting down his crew. It’s a needlessly dramatic moment given what we’re about to discover about this whole incident, but I still think it’s a great bit of insight into Fisher’s character. He obviously cares a great deal about the people he works with, and carries the responsibility that the role of Stingray’s captain requires. Despite being a junior ranking member of the team, Fisher has risen to the level of his colleagues, having previously been a little bit outside of their close-knit circle. For a character we’ve really not seen a whole lot of in the series so far, he still feels like a part of the furniture. Dependable, polite, dedicated, and always trying to do the right thing. Sure, those may not be particularly unique qualities, but they still make Fisher a likeable character, even if he isn’t one of the most memorable that the series has to offer.

Troy decides to be the twerp in this situation and point out that Fisher might not have been ready for command. You can take this two ways. Either he feels that Fisher was a liability – which was certainly his attitude during their shared mission in An Echo of Danger, or Troy might be taking a dig at Commander Shore, who pushed Fisher into this situation without adequate training. Whichever way you look at it, the point is supposed to highlight for us at home that Fisher is not an experienced aquanaut, and Troy is big-headed enough to assume that if Stingray had been under his own watch, the disaster might have been avoided… even though it wouldn’t have been… Anyway, very matter-of-factly, Atlanta and her father discuss wrapping up Stingray’s mission log and call it a day.

Yes, the dramatic reveal is that the whole thing was a simulation. Probably quite a novelty for viewers back in the 1960s but something of an overused trope in science fiction nowadays. That said, let’s dive into the history of simulation a bit. The first flight simulator developed in 1910 consisted of two wooden barrels halves – a bit primitive to say the least. The real breakthrough came with the Link Trainer in 1929 which relied on inflatable bellows and a vacuum motor to create the pitch, roll, and yaw cues of an aircraft, but on the ground. The Link Trainer was the primary means of training U.S. pilots during World War II, and under its cover the trainees were able to rely on accurate instruments to simulate flight. From there, the technology advanced so that full replica cockpits could be built, with the first commercial aircraft simulators rolling out in 1954, and the 1960s brought the introduction of digital computer systems to calculate aerodynamic forces and further the realism of motion in the simulators. The use of specially built, digital computers became essential when NASA were creating simulators for the Gemini program around 1964.

So, in line with the contemporary technology, it appears that the WASPs have built a full replica of Stingray’s interior with working instrumentation which syncs up to realistic motion and visuals, creating an experience which, funnily enough, is just like commanding the real Stingray. Of course, what we’re actually seeing here is the real puppet set of Stingray bolted on to a simple wall and floor to represent the entrance to the simulator. Nevertheless, it is very effective.

The fourth wall is well and truly smashed as it becomes apparent that back projection is being used by the WASPs for the purposes of the simulator, and by the AP Films team. Was this the production crew finally throwing up its hands and saying, “look, we know back projection isn’t terribly convincing.” After all, use of the technique in Thunderbirds is considerably reduced compared to previous Supermarionation series.

Just as Stand By For Action offered us a glimpse at the AP Films studio, Rescue From The Skies proudly presents us with the actual 35mm projector used in Stingray‘s production, and the dark corner of the studio that it sits in. Note the impressive collection of fire extinguishers on the wall. The large unit on the right of the frame is likely housing electrical equipment in case you were wondering.

Shore and Fisher discuss how the training exercise went. Apparently, all of that was a test of Fisher’s nerve, rather than his combat training. I think we can all agree that he kept his cool pretty dang well. Of course, the trope of the unwinnable training simulation is quite commonplace now, but surely this is one of the earliest examples on television – predating Star Trek‘s infamous Kobayashi Maru test.

We are looking at the doors to the Marineville conference room, as seen in An Echo of Danger, and not the doors to the room shown in Set Sail For Adventure which were actually from Washington H.Q. because who the heck cares about continuity at this point. The tiny little easel, however, is borrowed from Set Sail For Adventure.

Just to mess with me some more, the interior of the Marineville conference room has switched, yet again, to the one shown at the Washington H.Q. in episodes such as Titan Goes Pop and Pink Ice. Maybe Marineville has multiple conference rooms which do or don’t replicate the one in Washington because the architects and interior designers just couldn’t make up their flamin’ minds. Anyway, the chaps are discussing Fisher’s final training exercise which will see him taking the real Stingray out to sea. That’s the end of the meeting though. I guess we arrived late. There’s a very elegant painting of a Mechanical Fish at the back of the room which we’ll learn more about later.

Shore has a quiet word with Troy before he leaves. Immediately assuming it’s all about him, Troy starts to apologise for his outbursts during the previous exercise. Shore tells him to shut up with the kind of smile reserved for a gangster who extracts immense pleasure from performing impromptu dental work on his victims. But, in stark contrast to that grim picture, Shore is actually showing Troy his rarely-seen fatherly side, asking Tempest to “adopt” Fisher during the final, difficult steps in the aquanaut training program. Of course, Rescue From The Skies is ripe for comparison with the Fireball XL5 episode, Flight To Danger, which sees Lieutenant Ninety being put through his paces to earn his astronaut’s wings. Commander Zero is quite a bit less compassionate towards his young apprentice than Shore, but otherwise the basic structure of the story is exactly the same – first a successful training exercise, then a relaxed party interlude, followed by a second training mission which goes dramatically wrong and requires a rescue from the show’s true hero. I guess it’s a tried and tested formula! Before you have to check, Alan Fennell is credited with writing Flight of Danger, while Dennis Spooner was responsible for Rescue From The Skies. Did they share notes though? Probably.

The scene closes out with Shore commenting on the need to tighten up security arrangements for the training exercise. That’s encouraging to hear. Security has been so monumentally bad among the WASPs in recent episodes that it’s about time something was done about it…

Oh no. Trust those berks at the security checkpoint to let the side down yet again! The transporter truck shown here is another one of those Telsada Trans-Continental Express coach toys, just like the vehicle which carried Stingray across Scotland in Loch Ness Monster.

Recognise the back of that truck? It was later adapted into the back of The Hood’s truck in the Thunderbirds episode, Trapped In The Sky. For its appearance here, it looks like the vehicle has even been given a special Marineville number plate. In addition to the enormous Mark V-I computer crate, the truck is also transporting a very suspicious-looking bottle of liquid which I’m guessing is either explosive, alcoholic, or both.

Still, at least our friend the security guard does a thorough check. He asks the driver, Joe, what’s inside the truck, comments on how weird it is that the control tower is getting another Mark V-I computer delivered so soon after the last one, and then lets the truck in regardless without studying the contents, checking the shipment’s point of origin, or listening for the sound of someone breathing inside the container. I know the guy has ‘MP’ printed on his helmet, but even the House of Commons might not be ready for this level of incompetence.

Commander Shore is less than impressed by the arrival of yet another Mark V-I computer and orders its immediate removal. Apparently it’s just one of many problems you get to deal with on a daily basis at Marineville. Management sure is a tough job.

What’s the point of a code if you’re going to print it on the side of the box? Also, that removable panel in the middle of the ‘O’ isn’t fooling anyone. The gap in the wood is clearly drawn on in pencil on that particular piece. The rest of the wood is presumably the same material used to construct the puppet set of the wooden shack for Tune of Danger.

I’m half-convinced that this scene was exclusively written around the fact that X20 has some of the most haunting eyes of any Supermarionation character, and framing them up in this way was always going to look threatening on-screen.

The peep hole is pretty unnecessary but it’s good fun. The real sting in X20’s tail this week is that he’s smuggled in a tape recorder to record exactly what Troy and Shore are planning for Fisher’s final training assignment. It’s quite an extravagant way of obtaining the information in secret, but that’s X20’s specialty. Sure, posting a simple bugging device to the control tower would have been simpler, but mailing himself and a mass of recording equipment directly to the heart of Marineville’s operations is an indulgence X20 couldn’t possibly resist. Best of all, I bet the WASPs are paying all the shipping costs.

The adventure won’t last long though because Shore is insistent that the extra computer be picked up by the supply crew tonight. Hopefully X20 makes it home in time for Eastenders.

Later that evening, Fisher is incessantly ringing the doorbell of Marina’s apartment. The exterior of the apartment is exactly the same set as the outside of the Shores’ apartment, although the curtains across the window have been switched out to a material which very closely resembles Marina’s dress. I guess she probably makes napkins and underpants out of the same stuff. Curiously, the dialogue during this shot is completely out of sync with the movement of Fisher’s mouth, suggesting some last-minute alterations to the script, perhaps?

The Marineville security team stay true to form, with the guard suggesting Fisher just wander into the unlocked home.

It’s a surprise party! There’s cake, sandwiches, and enough booze in the kitchen to bring down a rugby team. The layout of Marina’s apartment has changed ever so slightly with the record player now in front of the arch leading to the balcony. Troy is wearing the same off-duty clothing we last saw him in at the beginning of Set Sail For Adventure, while Atlanta is back in her jumpsuit from The Disappearing Ships, and Marina is sporting the orange skirt she pinched from El Hudat in Star of the East.

Those sandwiches look like the sad remnants of a picnic organised by the Grimsby Double Glazing Appreciation Society.

Fisher didn’t need much encouragement to help himself to a drink, as he expresses his supreme confidence in the Stingray crew to aid in his final exam successfully. Shame that the Marineville security team have already let the side down by allowing X20 to listen in on the whole plan.

Over on Lemoy, X20 has managed to unpack himself and is reviewing the tape recording of Shore and Troy’s conversation about the training exercise. I have questions. Who was courteous enough to drop the crate off back at Lemoy, and carry it into X20’s front room? And why was that courier not at all suspicious that this Mark V-I computer was being returned to the front room of an abandoned house on Lemoy previously occupied by an old hermit, a psychiatrist, and was the spot where Duke Dexter was kidnapped just a few weeks ago? Anyway, X20 compares his ingenious plan to that of the Trojans and their famous horse. And now I’m sad X20 didn’t ride into Marineville inside a giant wooden fish.

Stingray is launched, carefully avoiding any stock footage from the launch sequence that might feature Troy because he has once again set up shop in the control room. For some reason, Shore starts the scene with his frowning head on – I guess he’s just concentrating really hard on the details of the day’s activities.

Shore outlines that Stingray will be heading for the WASP Missile Range and attack three targets, then head for home. Sounds simple enough for a final test. Presumably Fisher has had quite a few other lessons in things like taking soundings, pulling off tactical manoeuvers, and finding out where Stingray’s toilets are. I’m not sure what Marina is doing with the equipment in the background but it’s nice that she’s finally found a job to do aboard Stingray – it’s only taken 32 weeks.

Oh, I wonder what X20 might be planning to do with all those explosives. That’s certainly quite a collection of dynamite he has there.

He parks his sub right in front of the sign for the clearly labeled WASP Missile Range, making his craft look like a short-sighted elderly fish struggling to read. The range itself looks like a scaled up shooting range mixed with a Thunderbirds-esque monorail. Such places as missile ranges do sort of exist in real life – the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico was the site of the first test detonation of a nuclear weapon in 1945.

Wasn’t Shore going to talk to someone about tightening up security at the missile range? It must have slipped his mind. The targets are beautifully painted 2D replicas of Titan’s Mechanical Fish. And if you instantly recognise the typeface that those numbers are printed in, then you’re as much of a sad twerp as I am.

The plan is clear. X20 is going to plant some explosives on the third target which will cause a bang big enough to nobble Stingray. A special, larger painted fish has been produced by the art department for target number three which is just as impressive as the smaller models. And so we head into the commercial break with X20 cackling away like the mad lad that he is.

Back at Marineville, Troy is terribly concerned that it’s taking Stingray far too long just to get to the missile range. We can’t all be boy racers like you, Captain Tempest. Keep your reckless driving to yourself, you maniac.

Under the constant watch of X20, Stingray does eventually arrive at the missile range, under Fisher’s cool-headed command. I wonder if he’s been daring enough to adjust Troy’s seat or re-tune the radio to Radio 1 instead of Jazz FM.

The concentration on Shore’s face is intense as he moves the first target into position. It’s pretty neat that he can control the operations of the WASP missile range from the comfort of the control tower. Shame they didn’t also install CCTV cameras.

With the tension building nicely, Shore releases the first target and Phones immediately has it tracked down as they prepare to give chase.

Fisher gives it the beans, and follows the course directions suggested by Phones. The target whizzes along the rail like a stabbed rat. It looks like a fun ride. Maybe once they graduate from the WASP academy, new recruits get to sit on top of the speeding targets during a drunken hazing ritual.

The camera crash zooms on Fisher as he gives the order to open fire. It’s probably the most exciting bit of camera work we’ve seen so far this week. The rest of the direction has been, to be honest, a bit average. The target blows up with a satisfying bang and I think we can all agree that was a job well done.

Congratulations are in order for Fisher but he’s eager to keep up the good work and get on with it. Shore is quick to pounce on the enthusiasm as he contemplates the settings for target number 2. Also, that’s not the same telephone we saw in Tom Thumb Tempest.

Quick work is made of taking out the speedy second target. After all, the rest of us watching at home are just keen to get on with the plot and see what X20 has in store with the third and final target.

Oh he is loving this. Also, how is this the first I’ve noticed X20’s bedazzled control stick?! It’s fabulous

Lots of slow tension building as target 3 moves into position, with the dynamite secured in position on a clearly marked rectangular section.

Keen to play an active role in the episode before being put out to pasture, Troy advises Fisher to get as close as possible to the target because number 3 is usually the fastest. Two things – Fisher probably could have worked that one out for himself, and also Fisher probably should have worked that one out for himself because part of the training exercise is anticipating the speed of the target for a successful interception. If enemy vessels were going to be kind enough to radio in with hints about how fast they were going to travel, the WASPs would have a much easier job. Troy really is a control freak.

Fisher thanks Troy for the tip in the same manner that one thanks a grandmother for the book tokens they bought as a birthday present.

Nice big close-ups of the control tower team to drive home the intense concentration and anticipation. The tension is being milked for all it’s worth and I’m more than okay with that.

Finally, the target is launched and Stingray begins its pursuit. A section of the track is being supported by parts from the trusty girder bridge model kit we’ve seen previously. Fisher doesn’t have time to admire such attractive scenery because they’ve got a fish to catch!

Phones and Marina are becoming quite concerned about how close they’re getting to the target, looking at Fisher like he’s lost his marbles before he finally gives the order to open fire. These close-ups are such subtle little moments of chracterisation but they make all the difference.

Although sting missile 3 is heard firing, we don’t actually see it.

The explosion is big but perhaps not as big as it should have looked compared to the two previous targets. A shot of the shockwave actually knocking the Stingray model off course probably would have helped to sell it a bit more.

Nevertheless, the shockwave clearly has hit Stingray as the crew are thrown around inside like three packages on the back of a FedEx truck. The craft eventually comes to a stop as it slides down a steep incline and gets buried in some conveniently placed dirt. So, Stingray’s crashed again has it? There’s a surprise.

At Marineville, Atlanta senses that something isn’t quite right, and Shore is apparently already aware that the explosion was far bigger than it should have been. Maybe they do have cameras around there? Maybe this knowledge is something to do with that magical “aquascan” device which was mentioned in The Man From The Navy? While X20 is on his way over to Stingray to “finish them off,” the emergency lighting has kicked in for Phones, Fisher, and Marina. But things aren’t looking good as it becomes clear they’re trapped aboard and need help.

The camera operator then attempts the tiniest little whip-pan transition you’ve ever seen. No big, revealing (but blurry) shots of the studio or other sets here. It looks more like they fell off their chair and took the camera with them. Still, it does the job I suppose.

At Marineville, Troy declares that Fisher’s 150-yard distance from the target should have been safe under normal circumstances. Troy probably would have gone for 15 yards if it meant another glorious opportunity to endanger everyone’s lives.

X20 has arrived, and parked his submarine ridiculously close to Stingray. Seriously, how do they not spot him through the windows? He quietly swims up to the stricken craft and pops a bomb on the hull. Yes, it’s your favourite and mine – the sticker bomb prop from Sea of Oil. Despite completely failing to spot X20 through the windows before he leaves, Phones does manage to identify the bomb just by listening to the timing mechanism on the hull. I suppose that’s why they call him “Phones” and not “Binoculars” or something.

Troy spells out the rest of the plot for the slow ones at the back – the bomb could explode at any time and that would be a bad thing. Commander Shore immediately calls upon the Air-Sea Rescue squad with a plan to drop an expert swimmer from a Arrowhead jet as soon as possible. Apparently the WASPs don’t possess a submarine fast enough to reach the area in a realistic time. I guess it’s fairly sensible not to build your missile range dangerously close to your base, but having an emergency crew nearby in case something bad happens with all the explodey things probably would have been a smart idea. Atlanta contacts Air-Sea Rescue by telephone because apparently using the radio like everyone else is just too good for them. Also, Troy says the title of the episode in this scene which is always a novelty.

Lots of dirt smeared over Stingray to make it look tired and worn out. It also appears to have had its starboard tail-fin snapped off.

Fisher has a plan but it’s not a particularly good one. He wants to open a hatch, but they can only do that on the surface. They can only get to the surface by emptying the ballast tanks. They can only empty the ballast tanks with a hand pump because there’s currently no power. Marina is conveniently absent for this conversation so she doesn’t get volunteered for any manual labour.

Apparently not one single pilot in the entire WASP Air-Sea Rescue team is a swimmer capable enough to dive down to Stingray and rescue them. Look, I’m not saying that diving is easy – but I would hope against hope that if you sign up for the WASPs in any capacity you’re prepared to do at least a little bit of swimming. Fortunately, Troy is a jack-of-all-trades and knows a morsel about flying from lessons during his basic training program, in between the pottery and the archery classes. So they taught the aquanauts how to fly but they didn’t teach the pilots how to swim? Shore has very little confidence in Troy’s ability to fly an Arrowhead, but they don’t have a lot of choice. Trust Troy to make an episode all about Fisher all about himself instead.

The Arrowhead taxis on to the runway. This is the same craft which was seen escorting Commander Shore’s flight back from H.Q. in the episode, Pink Ice. The far side of the runway is littered with Spearhead Bombers. Marineville’s aerial operations and capabilities are expanded upon in much more depth through tie-in books and such but those would appear to be the two main types of aircraft in their fleet.

Atlanta and her father watch as Troy attempts to do something vaguely resembling a take-off. The special effects team have the tricky task of making the plane’s movements look simultaneously realistic but also rubbish.

Troy just about manages to dodge the control tower as he sets off. Then again, planes seem to fly dangerously low over the tower all the time so I don’t think we can knock points off for that.

I think Shore’s final verdict is basically, “so bad it’s good.”

Troy furiously struggles with the plane in a slightly bizarre shot which sees the set wobble around all over the place while the sky backdrop remains completely static. The puppet set for the aircraft’s cockpit goes on to appear in The Lighthouse Dwellers and with a few alterations as Interceptor One in the Thunderbirds episode, Trapped In The Sky.

Shore wasn’t kidding about the Arrowhead’s speed – the thing sure moves fast despite the inexperienced pilot!

Meanwhile, Fisher and Phones are pumping away with each other, groaning and struggling with the tremendous physical strain of emptying Stingray’s giant load…

It’s quite tantalising to see the special effects team practicing flying shots against a sky backdrop. Lots more of those coming up for them in the near future.

Either it’s time for Troy to bail out or Shore’s watch has stopped.

Clouds are puffed into shot and the rolling sky backdrop turns to create the illusion of flight while the model hangs in a stationary position.

Options available to Troy right now include the following: 1) Barfing, 2) Passing out, or 3) Screaming “Mummy, Mummy!” at the top of his lungs. I’d go for a combination of all three myself.

The ‘U.S. AIR FORCE’ marking from the original Aurora Northrop F-5 Freedom Fighter kit used to make this model are fairly visible in this particular shot, as the plane begins to tumble out of the sky.

Troy’s figured out how the parachute works which is rather helpful.

Big, big, big explosion as the aircraft hits the water. Send the bill to the WASP security team.

Or perhaps not, as the Arrowhead actually appears to be perfectly fine and floating on the surface of the water after the detonation.

Now if you’re looking at this shot and thinking, “hey, that looks a bit like the Thunderbirds episode, Operation Crash-Dive,” you wouldn’t be far wrong. While this piece of footage wasn’t actually used in that episode, it does look like the same little figure and parachute were re-used for the moment the saboteur bails out of Fireflash 4.

Troy’s back in familiar territory now as he dives down into the depths of the ocean. The parachute harness that’s strapped to him isn’t particularly flattering but that’s made up for by the great use of air bubbles which puff up in front of the camera to suggest Troy is actually entering the water rather than being dropped behind the glass tank.

Fisher and Phones take a break, with Marina presumably still avoiding them until all the hard work is definitely over. They’ve managed to get Stingray to start floating off of the sea bed. Nevertheless, they’re still probably very, very deep down in the ocean so Troy’s got his work cut out for him tracking them down. We’ll gloss over the fact that most of the Pacific Ocean is deeper than a single human could ever possibly dive and just assume the WASPs have that one figured out.

It doesn’t take Troy too long to find Stingray floating just above the ocean floor. We switch to a point of view shot as he approaches the craft, which looks more and more like a toy as the camera approaches it and the depth of field becomes less and less.

Back to the pumping, and look who finally turned up to watch. Marina can hear Troy working his magic as he removes the bomb with a firm tug.

While Troy carries the bomb away to somewhere safe, all the Stingray crew can do is wait in silence until the inevitable explosion. Of course, said explosion could have happened at any time but it just happens to go off a few seconds after Troy managed to recover the bomb. A few cheery knocks on Stingray’s hull signal that he’s totally fine.

Fisher is relieved, and can’t wait to get back to Marineville. Yes, being an aquanaut is all well and good, but I don’t think he’ll be leaving his cosy desk job any time soon after this little incident.

Night has fallen back at Marineville and the music of the WASPs jazz band is in full swing.

Marina is throwing another party at her house (which Phones and Shore have actually been invited to this time), in order to celebrate the safe return of the Stingray crew and Fisher’s great achievement of becoming the WASPs’ newest aquanaut. Rather bizarrely, some voices can be heard at the party which don’t belong to any of the characters on-screen. Maybe this scene was originally scripted to take place in the Blue Lagoon bar with a few more people. Or, maybe David Graham is hiding in Marina’s kitchen doing extra voices to freak everybody out.

Fisher is happy to step out of the limelight and give all the attention over to Troy for being the real hero of the day. I’m sure he’ll love that.

He’s been stunned into silence ever since he took off in that jet, but Troy has a drink in his hand and another next to him on the table just in case he needs it, so he’s happy. Maybe the end of the episode should have focused on Fisher, but Troy’s the star of the show, and I guess viewers might have needed a solid reassurance that Fisher wasn’t going to replace him aboard Stingray or anything like that. Although I’m sure it’s nice for the commander to now have that option…

Rescue From The Skies is… serviceable. It doesn’t have a lot of standout moments, or a huge amount of ambition behind it compared to recent installments. The plot follows a tried and tested formula borrowed from Fireball XL5, and while it’s nice for Lt. Fisher to get a big role in an episode, he doesn’t get to be much of a hero at the end of it or do anything especially memorable except for leading the Stingray crew fairly compentently. X20’s appearance is probably the most unusual part of this episode and it’s far from being his most impactful role in the series. All the ingredients are there for a decent adventure with all our favourite characters, but the writing and direction lacks some of that flare to push it into the higher tier of memorable Stingray episodes. If the novelty and unique selling point of Rescue From The Skies was supposed to be Troy flying the plane, then that sequence should have been milked a bit more. If, however, it was supposed to be Fisher’s struggle to complete his aquanaut training, then we should have heard a little more from him about his nerves or unwarranted confidence. Fisher is so nearly there with becoming a fully-fledged character, but none of the writers commit to getting him over the finish line and that’s a bit of a shame. He has his moments of unique charm, but they’re inconsistent. But, maybe Fisher needed to sink a little so the other characters could swim, pushing Fisher aside to gain more screen time to develop their relationships further. There’s also the practical consideration that there was seemingly only one Fisher puppet shared between the two units that were shooting simultaneously, while the other regulars at Marineville all had duplicates made. Then there’s the rumor that, like his natural successor, John Tracy, Fisher was disliked by Gerry Anderson and therefore kept out of the action for that reason… although I have to say it’s a reason which sounds more like an excuse thought up after the fact than an explanation.

Next week, Troy falls asleep again. I’m not quite sure what the reason for his drowsiness is this time, but it means he’s about to have another wild dream. Cavemen and a radioactive isotope prove to be a recipe for disaster that only Troy’s subconscious can wrestle with! Stay tuned for The Cool Cave Man

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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.

What Do You Know About the Evolution of Full Flight Simulators? by Dominykas. Published in 2017 by Aviation Voice.

Computers in Spaceflight: The NASA Experience by James E. Tomayko. Published in 1988 by NASA History Office.

Unwinnable Training Simulation by TV Tropes.

4 thoughts on “Stingray – 32. Rescue From The Skies

  1. What’s Titan doing while X20 is carrying out his scheming? Then again, Titan doesn’t appear in Tom Thumb Tempest and Tune of Danger, even though his Surface Agent does.

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    1. Maybe he is just so fed up with his incompetence that Titan doesn’t give a damn about whether he completes a mission under his orders or not.

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  2. Without a doubt, this episode was always a firm favourite of mine. Lieutenant Fisher was always a very humble character who knows his place very well and it is great to see him moving up the ladder to aquanaut. There is great comedy and drama in this episode and I think it was only right that Troy gets to save the day, one thing Jack that i was wondering for some time…..given how Fisher plays the Target 1 pilot in Trapped In The Sky and is voiced by Ray Barrett do you make anything of that? Could he have left the WASPs and joined the air force or is this a completely new character? I’d say he left Marineville myself.

    As always great review and really enjoyed reading it, if they ever do A Stingray close-up book like Fanderson did with the other shows I’m sure that you should be behind it. 😀

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