Stingray – 33. The Cool Cave Man

Directed by Alan Pattillo

Teleplay by Alan Fennell

First UK Broadcast – 31st January 1965

The Cool Cave Man – not The Cool Caveman or The Cool Cave Men or The Cool Cavemen but The Cool Cave Man. And certainly not The Fancy Dress Party which was the title on the original script for this episode. Yes, from uncertainty over its title, to a bizarre blend of dreams and reality, to Troy Tempest constantly changing his head every five minutes, this episode sure is a baffling one. I’ve just watched the darn thing and I can’t decide whether I love it or hate it. Maybe a thorough inspection will help us to determine what the heck is going on…

This is reality – just thought that was worth pointing out. One of the freighters from The Disappearing Ships makes another impressive appearance in the series as the Shenandoah, transporting something that’s apparently dangerous and radioactive. It’s your standard issue Anderson plot fuel, basically. Escorting the ship by air, we have three Arrowhead jets, just like the plane Troy flew last week in Rescue From The Skies. The Shenandoah is named after a river in Northern Virginia. Looks like a pretty place to visit, and as far I can ascertain it is neither dangerous, nor radioactive.

Marineville. I tend to cut these establishing shots out of my reviews to avoid repeating myself. But I just want to say that I still think it’s a very lovely building.

Fisher, or a speccy, big-nosed, moustachioed gentleman who looks like Fisher, is monitoring the Shenandoah. That’s your early warning for the level of whimsy you can expect from today’s episode. Commander Shore, wrapped up in his paperwork, is keen to remind us all of the stakes high surrounding the Shenandoah’s mission.

Playing the fool so that the audience can have the plot set up for them, Fisher has to ask what’s so darn important about the cargo ship. Unfortunately, his amusing disguise doesn’t go down well with his commanding officer at all. In fact, Shore turns about as nasty as his spiritual predecessor, Commander Zero from Fireball XL5. He lays into Fisher for not focussing on the task at hand and for being intolerably ugly, hating on the very idea of the fancy dress party Atlanta is hosting tonight, insisting that they’re all there to work and should never have any fun, and then accusing half of Marineville’s population of looking stupid without the need for costumes. I’m not a fan of this portrayal of Shore. I don’t think it’s consistent with his previous characterisation which was much, much more nuanced. This scene presents him as a one-dimensional, totalitarian, fun-loathing, bossy, grumpy, killjoy. Yes, in the past he has been all of those things. But not all at the same time, and usually cut in with rational thought, or his nurturing, fatherly side, or a crisis of conscience. His blanket insult of the Marineville personnel, including Fisher, just doesn’t tie in with the respect – or at the very least the tolerance – he’s shown previously. This moment could have been plucked straight out of Fireball XL5, and it’s penchant for broad characterisation and dialogue. After so many triumphs with Shore’s character over the course of the series to balance his grumpiness with some likeability, it’s a real pity that his dialogue in this scene aims so purely for comedy that it forgets the richness of his personality, which extends far beyond the stereotype of the strict boss. Anyway, to set up the high stakes for the plot, we’re told that the Shenandoah is carrying radioactive cargo through the North Pacific current and therefore any accidents would be a bad, bad thing… so that’s that cleared up.

Despite her father’s Scrooge-like behaviour, Atlanta is excited for her party and already has her costume perfectly put together well ahead of time, which is actually very befitting of her character. Atlanta’s choice of traditional Arabian clothing as a fancy dress costume would probably be considered cultural appropriation nowadays, but in 1964 when this episode was produced the outfit would have been considered nothing more than glamorous and exotic.

Atlanta’s bedroom has once again had its furniture shuffled around a little for the benefit of the scene. The drawers have moved to the other side of the door to make room for a full-length mirror, while the rug has moved to the other side of the bed. The set has also gained an ornate bench at the end of the bed, probably intended to go with the Arabian theme. Atlanta ponders what her friends might be wearing to the party. Time for a mini montage I guess.

Marina’s bedroom seems to have changed quite a bit since it’s previous appearances in Invisible Enemy and Marineville Traitor, with the carpet changing and many of the more decorative features having been stripped away. Marina is attending the party dressed as a beatnik… I think… it might just be “generic westerner” to act as a counterpoint to Atlanta’s culturally-themed outfit. Incidentally, she’s wearing exactly the same shoes as Atlanta too. It’s a nice novelty to see Marina wearing anything that isn’t her sparkly green dress, and it’s also a treat to see her with her hair down. I can understand why Marina’s hair was kept up for most episodes – managing that amount of hair every day would have been a lot of work for the puppet department.

Phones has really pushed the boat out with a replica suit of armour. It’s a superb piece of craftsmanship from the AP Films costume department. It looks chunky and heavy without restricting the puppet’s movements any more than a suit of armour would restrict a real person. Even viewed in high definition, the metal looks authentic, even though it was probably made out of a considerably lighter material. Even the chain mail is in scale with the puppet. Also, is that Oink sleeping on the floor?

Silly Phones can’t quite manage with the helmet. It’s a very fitting and well-observed costume choice for our beloved, bumbling comedy character who would love to be the hero but sometimes lets his clumsiness get in the way. There have been some subtle changes to the bedroom shared by Troy and Phones since we last had a good look at it in Marineville Traitor – a lot of the knick knacks have changed, the shelf at the side has been repainted in green, and the bedside table has turned orange to match the new bed sheets.

Troy has come home – at least we assume he’s come home because it’s still not exactly confirmed that Troy and Phones are still living together. This set is the same living room (with a new carpet and curtains removed) that we see Phones waiting in during An Echo of Danger, which in turn was re-worked from bits of Commander Shore’s bedroom. So, back to the plot: Troy reckons they might not be able to go to Atlanta’s party after all because the Stingray crew – or Troy and Phones, at least – have been placed on stand by in case something happens to the Shenandoah. Phones comments that they’ve just come off duty, implying that he feels a tad put out. I don’t blame him. The WASPs seriously need to hire some more aquanauts and build some more submarines so that the Stingray crew can catch a break. I also can’t help but wonder that if it’s apparently so darn risky for the Shenandoah to be carrying radioactive material by sea, despite already having a fighter escort, then maybe, just maybe, an alternative should have been devised. In reality, maritime transport only makes up a small percentage of radioactive shipments worldwide because it’s a slow and geographically limited method of moving material around. It’s also a highly regulated practice and very few services are available that are willing to ship radioactive goods by water.

All that aside, Troy is quick to point out the limitations of Phones’ costume – namely that he can’t dance in it. Troy always thinks of the important things first. But what, I hear you cry, will Troy be wearing to the party?? He’s keeping it a secret. I’m on the edge of my seat. Anyway, Troy says he’s under orders to take a nap. Sounds like my dream job.

Later, at the Shores’ apartment, Troy, Atlanta, and Phones are enjoying some coffee and baked goods… or some pieces of cardboard painted to look like baked goods. Also on the table is a miniature box of Harlequin Cigars from Freeman & Sons, a brand introduced in 1962.

Lots of arm waving and figure pointing for this scene. Atlanta assumes that the Shenandoah’s voyage has been deliberately scheduled to conflict with her fancy dress party which is probably the dumbest thing she’s ever said. Continuing the theme of dressing up, Atlanta’s wearing a jumper previously worn by pop sensation, Duke Dexter in Titan Goes Pop. Agreeing that it’s terribly unlikely for anything to go wrong with the Shenandoah, the conversation turns back to Troy’s costume choice, which he continues to keep quiet about. But far more importantly than that, it’s time to once again point out the change in Troy’s head that has happened for this scene. Yes, this is the episode which sees the Troy puppet used on Christine Glanville’s stage swap back and forth regularly between his original head and the new one with an ever so slightly different paint job and a taller haircut. We first spotted it being used during a brief moment from Deep Heat, and ever since it’s been popping up for moments which presumably required re-shooting after principal photography was completed, and around the same time as scenes from this episode or later. As mentioned previously, we don’t know why the change occurred, or why it happened so sporadically over the course of several episodes and what that suggests about the shooting schedule. What we do know is that I’m far too invested in the mystery at this point to give up on mentioning it, so I’m sorry if that bothers you.

Discouraged by Troy’s teasing, Phones has decided to scrap the armour (pun hopefully very much intended) and come up with something “more original.” Whatever the heck that means. Also, I can’t help but notice that his eyes have gone a bit wonky. Once you see it, you can’t unsee it. I guess that’s the danger of carrying so much metal on top of your skull for half an hour.

Quick reminder that the Shenandoah is absolutely fine and still very much under the protection of three fighter aircraft. Also, this is still reality in case you were wondering when things were really going to kick off.

Fisher continues to dutifully track the cargo ship, which is surely a task a bit beneath a fully qualified aquanaut at this point? He’s also responsible for reminding Commander Shore to make phone calls because the poor lad really should have ‘mug’ tattooed across his forehead.

The cheeky chap has come around, trying out his court jester costume for everyone’s amusement. Sure, this does counteract my rant earlier about him being uncharacteristically uptight about the costume party, but there’s a bit of an unpleasant subtext to be interpreted from this scene if you’ll bear with me. Shore’s recently humiliated and reprimanded Fisher for wearing part of his costume while on duty. Now he’s nonchalantly thrown on his own costume – a joker of all things – to catch Fisher out and embarrass him further by having his own fun and not allowing his subordinates the same privilege. Basically, Shore’s the big boss so he can do what he likes at the expense of others. Honestly, who knew Marineville was such a toxic place to work. Now, you may be thinking I’m reading too much into this. And you’re right. I am reading too much into this… because the plot is so wafer thin and superfluous this week that I can’t do much else. Take this sort of overblown, ponsy, subtext examination away from me and you’ve basically got a shopping list of furniture and props.

Even though he was about to call Troy from the control room, Shore now appears to have the stone backdrop from his own dining room behind him. He’s advising Troy to rest up so that the lad is fully alert and ready to leap into Stingray at the first sign of trouble tonight. Let’s be honest, that’s all just a pretext for the call – Shore just wanted to freak Troy out with the costume and to play more mind games, the pig.

This is Troy’s present for Atlanta. You really shouldn’t have, mate. The gift is loosely based on the popular cymbal-banging monkey toy, better known as Jolly Chimp, who, among other noteworthy claims to fame, shared the screen with James Dean during the opening of Rebel Without A Cause. Why has Troy bought such a thing for Atlanta? Well, I guess it’s because she likes animals, as shown with the kitten in The Disappearing Ships and the toy dog that appears by her bedside in multiple episodes. So Troy’s just vaguely tied his gift in with that theme. How thoughtful.

The fact of the matter is that Troy hasn’t got a clue what to wear to the fancy dress party. Yes, “what will Troy wear?” is the overarching source of tension this week and I can’t decide whether that’s the writer really just wanting to have fun with the characters, or a sign of the ideas for stories running out. At the end of the day, there are only so many big dramatic stories to tell about Stingray’s crew meeting aliens who want to kill Troy, destroy Marineville, and/or enslave Marina. The series’ regular cast of characters and their personal motiviations should, quite rightly, be the driving force behind the stories at this late stage in the show’s run, provided it doesn’t stray too far from the core premise of underwater adventures. Should a fancy dress party be one of those scenarios? Well, regular people do have fancy dress parties, and do struggle to choose costumes, so it’s certainly relatable and amusing. Is it the job of futuristic Supermarionation shows for a family audience to be relatable and amusing? I think so. It’s probably not the primary aim, or the thing the Andersons’ work will be most remembered for, but it’s an important part of the appeal. Throw away the whimsy and you lose characters like Parker, Mitch the Monkey, and Father Stanley Unwin. But you also lose irritating twerps like Zoonie the Lazoon, or anything written by Roberta Leigh so maybe there are degrees to it. So, how does a fancy dress party fit in with the underwater adventures premise? Well, wait and see, but just know that it’s going to require a big stretch. Anyway, Troy has a big Pictorial History book to draw inspiration from for his costume. It’s on the same shelf as an upside down astronomy textbook which drives me potty because it’s so untidy. Cutting to the wider shot of Troy reading, the astronomy book has been flipped the right way up and a book about automobiles has been added to the shelf. Close inspection of the page Troy has open suggests he’s reading about something related to the United States and its national flag – now there’s a costume idea to appeal to the American viewers.

Meanwhile, Phones is trying to dream up a new outfit and Atlanta is choosing records for the party. I’m sure ‘Go Go Go’ is a funky number. Atlanta continues to ramp up the enormous suspense and intrigue surrounding Troy’s costume by interrogating Phones one more time about it. I know it’s subtle, but I do enjoy the slightly Type-A personality Atlanta has picked up that makes her want to know everything about everything so she can plan and organise her life effectively.

Troy’s bedroom features this rather glorious piece of artwork. I really enjoy the splashes of international art that start to crop up in the Supermarionation sets as we move towards Thunderbirds. I’m also liking the dark lighting to create the sleepy mood Troy is slipping into. His record collection includes a disc called ‘Jazz.. 3.’ which probably does what it says on the tin. There’s also a publication on the shelf called ‘Cool’ which is honestly the only reason I can think of for the word ‘Cool’ appearing in this episode’s title at all.

If Marineville Traitor is anything to go by, Troy is currently napping on Phones’ bed.

A glance at the pages shown in the live action insert shot reveals that the subject of the book is rather more scientific than historical. In fact, it’s Volume 3 of the 1953 edition of Compton’s Pictured Encyclopedia and Fact-Index (thank you to Andrew Pixley for researching that nugget of information so I didn’t have to).

An illustration of some cavemen has been inserted into the pages of the encyclopedia and is based entirely on the puppets we’ll be seeing later on…

For you see, Troy Tempest has nodded off. Yes, in order to tie together the fancy dress party with Stingray‘s general underwater adventures premise that I mentioned earlier, we have to enter the realm of dreams for the third time in the series – fifth if you count Shore’s nightmare from The Ghost of the Sea and Phones’ Scottish fantasy in Loch Ness Monster. But it’s the third episode of the series where a large chunk of the action takes place in Troy’s subconscious. Is that too many? Maybe. I’m not too upset by it, but I think in this particular instance a much cleverer way could have been found to bring all the plot elements together. Tom Thumb Tempest and Raptures of the Deep go pretty darn whacky and dreams are pretty much the only way to explain the visuals and the way characters behave. The dream we’re about to witness is rather less weird when compared to some of the previous reality-based episodes of the series that we’ve had to accept.

The transition into the dream is quite well executed with the image of the cavemen clearly having its influence on Troy, coupled with the sound of the drumming monkey blurring into the familiar signal for launch stations. It’s clever, but it is also makes it pretty clear that the drumming monkey was only brought into the story to serve that specific purpose because it’s otherwise a really rubbish gift that Troy ends up leaving at home anyway.

Either because we’re in dreamsville, or because Alan Pattillo just fancied the look of it, the camera has been placed at a dramatic Dutch angle as we move in for Commander Shore’s big reveal that the Shenandoah has, against all odds, managed hit some rocks and cause a nuclear disaster. Terrific. My compliments to the idiot at the helm.

I suppose this level of incompetence wouldn’t happen in real life, so the whole thing had to be a dream just so the plot could make sense. The ship has snapped in half, a surprisingly frequent issue in the real world when cargo vessels run aground or suffer strain from incorrect load placement. Apparently the radioactive cask was just hanging about, loose in the Shenandoah’s cargo hold with a bunch of other junk, and practically begging to fall into the water. The prop for the cask itself is quite an accurate representation of a real cask for transporting nuclear material, albeit this one is much smaller and more portable for the sake of the plot. One hopes that such a massive ship was being used to transport more than one tiny barrel of material. Then again, it’s just as well that it wasn’t. Then again, this is all inside Troy’s head so none of it matters anyway. Then again, this is all a work of fiction so let’s all just calm down and lighten up, okay?

Troy and Phones are off to investigate. Apparently Marina won’t be joining them because nobody could be bothered to write for her this week. The anti-radiation drugs offered up by Commander Shore look suspiciously like M&Ms. He claims that the isotope in question is EM27 and causes almost immediate, deadly sickness. EM27? Yeah, not real, and a bit nonsensical if we’re taking the name to refer to a chemical compound. Anti-radiation drugs? Yes, they are a real thing – see potassium iodide. Radiation that can kill you in a matter of moments? Yes, theoretically possible with a stupid high dosage – like licking a fuel cell. Of course, how the facts connect with what we see in the episode can’t be read into too deeply. Alan Fennell wasn’t a nuclear scientist, and in the 1960s the unknowns surrounding radiation were a topic for debate, but basically we’ve established that the script isn’t straying too far away from the realms of plausibility. So, anyway, Troy and Phones, aquanauts who probably have no proper training on how to handle dangerous radioactive material, are sent off to go and recover the lost container. Stingray is launched and the search begins!

Despite having a handy radioactivity meter fitted to this ship last week in Rescue From The Skies, this generic panel of instruments is how Troy and Phones are measuring the levels of radiation to track down the source. They reckon the cask has remained closed due to the relatively low readings. That’s a stroke of luck.

While Phones is honing in on the isotope’s position, footage and dialogue from the Stingray cabin in An Echo of Danger gets recycled, alongside the usual stock shots of Stingray sailing along. An Echo of Danger and The Cool Cave Man were both directed by Alan Pattillo, so I can understand why he might be tempted to save some time and not reshoot material that’s incredibly similar. Then again, is a little extra dialogue between Troy and Phones inside Stingray really that much additional work? Perhaps it points instead to a last minute change to the script and/or story during post production. Maybe the search was originally more extensive and needed to be cut down, or was only a matter of seconds and needed to be padded out… given how incredibly light and uncomplicated the finished episode comes across, I’d suggest the latter option to be the case.

“There it is!” Phones yells, like a man who’s just found a penny down the back of the sofa. Well, that was easy. I must say this is all very tame for a Troy Tempest nightmare. Where are the short skirts, musical numbers, and enormous dining tables?

Oh here we go. Underwater cave people. D’you see how all this ties together now? But here’s the thing that bugs me – given that Troy has previously met all sorts of shiny troublemaking aliens living underneath volcanoes, and a bloke with a candleabra sticking out the top of his head, why was this underwater race of fairly ordinary-looking cave people relegated to a dream sequence? Are they really that weird compared to some of the other folks we’ve seen living in the ocean?

When in doubt, poke it with a stick. Of course, another question is where the heck did these guys find cheetah skins in the Pacific Ocean? I don’t think Troy’s subsconscious has thought this through.

Here’s an adorable shot of three miniature cavemen interacting with the cask, as viewed from Stingray at a safe distance. The figures are remarkably well-detailed so that the puppet and model shots match.

Troy reckons that shining a spotlight will be enough to scare them off. The revealing costumes of the cavemen have been cleverly designed with special skin-tone sleeves and legs to cover up what would have been the very wooden-looking body parts of the puppets underneath. They also have leather straps around the wrists and high, fur-lined boots to cover up the joints at the feet and hands. Their hair and beards are suitably wild, disguising the fact that the older man, and the dark-haired man appear to use the same revamp heads as Jamie and Andy McGregor from Loch Ness Monster respectively. We’ll get a closer look at the chap with the brown hair a bit later.

Keen to avoid anyone smashing open the container with a pointy stick, Troy and Phones quickly get to their feet and prepare to leave Stingray. Phones has elected to stand up in the most bizarre way I’ve ever seen.

Towing the cask behind them, the cavemen retreat to their… well, cave. Footage of Troy and Phones leaving Stingray is sourced from Deep Heat, as Troy is briefly seen wearing the emergency tracking pack.

They pass a cave drawing of some kind of four-legged mammal with horns and a tail, which makes absolutely no sense seeing as these guys live underwater.

Swimming down the tunnel, the lads are surprised by how fast the cavemen can swim considering they’re basically just three beardy blokes. A clever thing is done with the camera to suggest Troy and Phones tilt upwards as they approach the surface of the water, ready to emerge in the cavern.

The puppets are shot at high speed as they come out of the water, slowing down the action in an attempt to make the splashing of the water look bigger. In reality it just looks like something that’s been filmed in slow motion. For similar moments way back in Hostages of the Deep, the puppets weren’t actually shown popping out of the water, with the camera instead panning over to them just after the fact.

Especially for the occasion, the cavemen have brought out their catapult in order to fling large rocks at the two aquanauts. What a friendly bunch.

Quick to react (in slow motion), Troy and Phones dive down to avoid their skulls coming into direct contact with the boulders. Now, if we’re going to get picky, cavemen probably didn’t have catapults, since the first evidence of such weapons only goes back as far as Ancient Greece. Again, we’ll have to forgive Troy’s subconscious for any historical inaccuracies.

Troy and Phones huddle together for shelter which is rather sweet. The plan is to just wait it out until the rocks stop being thrown. That’s a solid plan if I say so myself.

Right, I’ve been staring at this puppet for far too long and I only have one totally ridiculous theory about who he started out life as – Troy Tempest. Strip away the hair and eyebrows and beard and the only character that I think he resembles is Troy. Am I losing my mind? Or am I just stirring my brain cells around in a sea of speculation here? I suppose it’s perfectly possible that the original sculpt for Troy was used to make this guy, in the same way Marina formed the basis of the nurse from Invisible Enemy.

The older bloke is keen to crack open the cask and look at the treasure inside. The cavemen have a very convenient grasp of the English language when they speak, but apparently the words ‘DANGER RADIOACTIVE’ printed on the container don’t mean much.

Troy and Phones pop back up out of the water and make for the cave where the inhabitants appear to be chanting “doo-doo-hiyah” over and over again. Other, less fecal translations are available. The lads have got their guns out just in case they need to threaten the cavemen and definitely not because Troy loves starting fights with strangers.

I’m not sure what the chanting is supposed to achieve, but it’s all in the spirit of making these cavemen seem quite primitive. I’m sad to say that the WASP diving suits are looking a bit worse for wear by this point in the series’ production. The red trim has faded to pink and looks rather tatty, and part of Troy’s suit even has the purple stain on it still from The Master Plan.

Well that was unexpected.

At the bottom of what must be at least a ten-foot drop, Troy and Phones hit the rock hard, wobbling the set as they fall, and then get an absolute truck load of sand and dirt chucked on top of them. Phones manages to stay out of the way while Troy bears the brunt of it. It doesn’t look like stunt puppets were used here (such as Scott Tracy doubling for Eddie Houseman in the Thunderbirds episode, End of the Road). That’s the original Troy getting absolutely showered in sawdust and goodness knows what else. Could this be what finished off that version of the head and made the replacement necessary? Assuming, as with most film shooting, this episode was recorded out of sequence then that might be possible.

Somehow, the cavemen didn’t hear any of that…

Down in the pit, Troy and Phones have swapped corners to sit in, and look considerably tidier than they did when they first fell in, suggesting this was shot earlier – Troy still has his original head – and no, I won’t stop banging on about it! Things don’t look good for our brave aquanauts, who have been thwarted in their attempts to save the cavemen from radiation poisoning. Still, at least they haven’t conaminated the ocean so that’s something…

The cask has now been turned upright so we can read even more clearly that it’s radioactive and dangerous as we head into the commercial break. Thanks for making that nice and clear for us.

Troy and Phones have managed to tidy themselves up quite a bit since having all that dirt thrown at them and are now planning their escape. As Troy starts to climb out of the pit, the cavemen have discovered that chanting isn’t helping them much with opening the cask, and instead switch to gently tapping the top with a spear…

Apparently that worked, and here’s what’s inside – a glow-in-the-dark teacake. Now, seeing as this substance, EM27, is fictional we’ll allow it to look like whatever the heck it wants.

Troy calls out to the cavemen in the same way a patronising imbecile shouts at an elderly lady. Now, all he actually says is that they’ll die if they don’t shut the case… which could be misinterpreted as a threat rather than a warning.

I think it might have been misinterpreted.

Troy drops back down into the pit and narrowly avoids the spear. There’s a lot of projectile dodging involved in this mission.

Apparently falling flat on his bottom yet again has done Troy no harm. What a guy. I’d be screaming for painkillers if it were me.

Meanwhile, that immediate death from radiation exposure thing is happening to the old man. His chums (sons?) are a tad concerned. David Graham does a great job of voicing all three of the cavemen in the episode. We must be in a different part of the cave now as some more drawings have appeared on the wall depicting men with tools, fish, and an underwater antelope… presumably a food source for all those underwater cheetahs.

Desperate for an explanation, the cavemen interrogate Troy and Phones down at the bottom of the pit. They finally grasp that the “treasure” is dangerous and making the old man sick. Hopefully a couple of anti-radiation gloves… sorry, drugs… will solve that problem.

The puppet does a remarkably good job of throwing that rope. Presumably the rope was scavenged from a shipwreck, since it’s not exactly a prehistoric invention… maybe that’s where they got the catapult from too?

Time to climb out of the pit again, as the actress said to the bishop.

Not a particularly good lesson for kids here. If strange men come along with drugs that they claim is “magic food”, DON’T accept.

For pretty much the remainder of the episode, and for future episodes shot by Christine Glanville’s puppet unit, Troy has his new head on. The protracted transition has finally been completed. Now I can shut up about it.

Having popped the lid back on the cask to “shut out evil rays,” the gang just have to wait for the drugs to take effect and cure the old man. Again, this is all fictional nonsense so I guess the pills are supposed to starting working pretty darn quickly. But it’s not quick enough for the cavemen who then decide they’re going to throw spears at Troy and Phones to pass the time. Who needs a smart watch when you can tell the time by arbitrarily chucking objects at people? I measure an hour based on how many fridges I can drop from a motorway bridge… it’s seven.

The old man hasn’t given up on the whole death thing, so Troy and Phones end up with three spears each getting chucked at them. I think the effect of the spears hitting a precise part of the rock is achieved by the footage being reversed – the spears start in the rock and then gets yanked away by a wire. With the fourth spear probably heading for our heroes’ hearts, they come up with the ingenious plan of running away as soon as Troy gives the command.

But then they just sort of… don’t. When the final spear is thrown, the implication is very much that Troy has been wounded – although his agony noises are very similar to those of the old man so it’s not exactly clear. So, is this the end of Troy Tempest?

Well, no. The wibbly-wobbly effect is there to tellus that Troy has woken up from his dream. Yup, none of that actually happened. I think we can universally agree that out of Troy’s three big dreams from the series, that was the most boring one.

Okay, so I lied a bit about Troy’s new head becoming a permanent fixture. The original makes a brief return for this scene back in his bedroom – but it’s pretty obvious that this was shot alongside all the bedroom material from earlier in the episode, so give me a break. I want to highlight the attention to detail which has gone into the photographic backdrop visible through the window, which even has tiny little lights blinking away on the buildings to signify that it’s dark outside. Troy is amazed to find he has slept all the way until 10pm. Poor fella must have been tuckered out after a whole day of aquanauting.

Time for a totally unnecessary whip-pan transition as Troy moves from the bedroom to the front room. You can just about make out part of the control room through the blur.

In shots which are suspiciously similar to the ones from earlier, Commander Shore calls up Troy to tell him that the Shenandoah actually reached port ahead of schedule and managed to competently steer clear of obstacles on the way there. Thank goodness for that. The shot of Shore on the videophone appears to have been flipped to make him face the right direction. So with all that, just one thing is left to tie up… what will Troy be wearing to the party??? Forget the edge of my seat… I’ve left the room to make myself a sandwich I’m so excited.

Yes, apparently Troy can also magic up a cheetah skin out of nowhere. Don Mason’s delivery of the pretend cave-talk has got to be his most sublime performance ever. The way he says “icky-plick” and “wallah-wallah” is sheer poetry…

Atlanta is loving this. The enormity of the dent that Troy’s ego is about to receive is an utterly delicious concept to her.

I know you’re all excited for the dramatic reveal, but first I have to point out that on the chair behind Troy, next to the top hat, is a turban previously worn by Prince Hassan in the Supercar episode, The Magic Carpet. Pretty neat, don’t you think?

Oh dear. Fisher’s got the same costume as Troy! The drama! And my goodness that’s a lot of booze on that piano. Joining Fisher and Marina at the piano is someone who looks and dresses like Professor Burgoyne from the next episode, A Nut For Marineville.

Troy looks like a man who’s just watched a delinquent youth chuck a shopping trolley in a canal.

And it gets worse! Phones has swapped the armour for the caveman look too! Also joining them at the party is the nurse from Invisible Enemy and Steigo from Tune of Danger, neither of whom have bothered to change out of their uniforms. Larry Gray, the band manager from Tune of Danger is there as well, and is wearing the disguise that Fisher was using earlier. That’ll fool the WASP security team, no problem.

The final plot twist! Shore has also changed his costume at the last moment and copied Troy’s outfit. Seriously, does Marineville have a cheetah infestation or something? Where did they get all that fur from?! Shore is joined by his old friend Admiral Denver, who hasn’t bothered to change out of his captain’s outfit from Set Sail For Adventure. But Shore absolutely floors the room with his final gag to close the show, inviting Troy to “join the club.” Okay, all is forgiven – that whole episode was worth it just to set up that line.

It certainly cheered Troy up. It’s a satisfying end to the episode – probably the highlight of the whole thing. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that Alan Fennell must have started with that joke and written his script backwards.

Yes, The Cool Cave Man is a mighty odd episode of Stingray. As I just alluded to, the whole story is basically setup for the final scene and the hilarity of all the blokes turning up in the same costume. While I can’t deny that last moment packs a terrific punch, I don’t think the story is satisfying in its own right. The script is full of hoops that have to be jumped through like Troy falling asleep and dreaming up the cavemen, three scenes involving characters wearing unremarkable or impractical costumes, and the threat of a ship carrying radioactive material which wouldn’t normally be all that much of a threat. It’s rather convoluted. The dream sequence itself really didn’t need to be a dream sequence. Maybe there are early drafts of this episode that don’t use the dream as a framing device at all and everything happens for real. There are positives to the episode of course, with the funny moments with the characters being quite charming for the most part, and some dramatic action and stunts inside the cavemen’s lair. That said, I think the pacing is a little slow and padded out in places to make up for the shortfall in dramatic storytelling or genuine tension. Alan Pattillo’s direction is surprisingly lacklustre also, with only a few of his trademark dynamic camera movements at play. Overall, this is not a favourite episode of mine by any means, but it’s not all bad, and at least the joke that the story spends 25 minutes trying to tell ends up being a good one.

Next week, a couple of creepy crooks from under the sea have an indestructible submarine which they plan to use to completely destroy Marineville! Only one man can stop them. It’s guest boffin character – Professor Burgoyne! But will he prove his worth, or just turn out to be a bit of A Nut For Marineville??

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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.

Packaging, Transportation and Storage of Radioactive Materials. Published in 2014 by the U.S. Department of Energy.

Maritime Shipments of Radioactive Matieral by Stefan Hoeft. Published in 2010 by the Word Nuclear Transport Institute.

Freeman’s – farewell to a century of cigar-making by Paul Fisher, JR Freeman. Published in 2015 by the Grangetown Local History Society.

2 thoughts on “Stingray – 33. The Cool Cave Man

  1. For me this episode is okay, not the best and not the worse. I take it for what it is, I do like how Gray is disguised again at the party, maybe he is trying the destroy the WASPS again? And as for Shore and Denver actually being together again for a social event, I wonder how long they went befoe they were at each other’s throats? lol. As always Jack, great review. 😀 A Nut For Marineville is another favourite of mine, so I can HARDLY wait for that review! 😀

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  2. Not the best episode, but not the worst either. I find it interesting how David Graham voices all 3 cavemen and the idea of Troy’s dream being the the main plot for another episode is just a bit boring now. Great review, but meh episode.

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