Stingray – 34. A Nut For Marineville

Directed by David Elliott

Teleplay by Gerry & Sylvia Anderson

First UK Broadcast – 25th April 1965

A Nut For Marineville is another one of those cases where, on paper at least, we should be set up for a solid gold episode: Gerry and Sylvia Anderson themselves have made an unprecedented return to scripting the show themselves for the first time since the pilot episode; the story is a race against time to defend Marineville from the most formiddable threat it’s ever faced; and a new guest star in the vein of fabulous boffin characters such as Supercar‘s Doctor Beaker, or Professor Mattic from Fireball XL5. A return to the ingredients which launched Stingray and Supermarionation’s overarching pedigree for action and memorable characters… surely? Or, despite supervising the scripts for the entire series, have the show’s creators gotten a little rusty on the basics of putting a story like this together?

The episode opens in quite a familiar fashion with a World Security Patrol submarine trundling through the ocean minding its own business – the same submarine which was attacked by Titan’s Mechanical Fish in the pilot episode. New footage of a similar model submarine has been combined with shots from the pilot to form this sequence, which becomes obvious when you spot the name ‘Sea Probe’ appearing and disappearing from the hull between shots. Then, just like the pilot episode again, a strange submarine floats up from the depths, this time from a large hatch.

I absolutely adore these guys. Their names are Grupa and Noctus (or some variation on that spelling), and their faces are as eccentric as the voices that David Graham and Ray Barrett have chosen for them. The interior of the submarine is filled with all the usual gubbins you’d expect to see in an alien sub from Stingray – the spinny shuttlecocks glued together on the right are always a staple feature.

The exterior of the sub is… interesting. It’s certainly an unusual design, which I suppose checks out given its alien origin, but it does look a bit like random bits and pieces have been stuck together, which isn’t necessarily the aesthetic you want for what proves to be a craft which is super tough and able to withstand tremendous attacks.

I think the widely set eyes are what really sets the design for these guys apart from other alien characters we’ve seen… that and the whacking great flippers stuck to their faces. Unfortunately, it’s time for me to weigh in with my first major criticism of this episode’s script – the dialogue can be quite dull. It’s become a bit of a trope that Anderson shows are chock full of lengthy sequences of slow build-up where characters will say nothing to each other except for routine business like “check trim… checking trim” and “left-left two degrees, right-right three degrees.” I’d argue that most of that stuff comes from the scripts of Gerry and Sylvia specifically, and while it definitely has its place to build tension, there is also a part of me that just wants them to get on with it. The strictly-business dialogue definitely gives some scenes a lot of gravitas, but boy does the back and forth feel unnecessary sometimes.

Now here’s something to get us all intrigued – Grupa has given the order for a missile to be fired which deliberately misses the WSP sub. Well that’s… different. What could possibly be the intention behind this dummy attack? Bad guys always try to make good guys go boom… that’s the format… why bad guys no want to make good guys go boom?

We don’t get to see the crew of the WSP submarine, but I’m sure they’re jolly cross right now, and so turn around to give Grupa and Noctus a serious talking to with the aid of some torpedoes. But our alien friends are just sitting there, nervously awaiting the inevitable attack. Noctus is keen to highlight to his colleague that this is a terribly unorthodox strategy. This dialogue is a bit more like it – some genuine interplay between the pair which clears up who the maniacal boss is and who’s the snivelling worm – see Gerry and Sylvia’s scenes between Masterspy and Zarin during Supercar – they love a double act.

Despite a direct hit from a big, fat missile, the alien sub survives intact… sort of… to be honest the model doesn’t look like it’s in tip top condition after that pyrotechnic went off.

The spinny shuttlecocks and a few other control panels have been knocked about quite a bit, but otherwise Grupa and Noctus are unharmed and deleriously happy that they have a built a craft which can stand up so well to enemy firepower. Some of the dialogue is a wee bit unnatural and expository for the audience’s benefit, as Grupa explains that the sub is built from a new metal which has proven to be indestructible. Apparently they weren’t sure of that before leaving their base which is an odd move… surely the strength of the hull could have been rigorously tested in a controlled environment before putting it up against an actual enemy vessel?

This time, our underwater alien nasties don’t miss, and completely destroy the submarine – which conveniently allows for shots of the destruction of Sea Probe from the pilot episode to be flipped and re-used. Squeezing every penny.

With the test successfully completed, Grupa and Noctus are now on their way to Marineville to destroy that too. Solid plan. Shame they don’t have the element of surprise on their hands any more having just blown up a WSP submarine and put everyone at Marineville on red alert… at least I hope they’re on ruddy red alert.

I’m quite a fan of this unusual episode title because it carries quite a few meanings. The most obvious is for ‘nut’ to mean a crazy or eccentric person, which is how Troy describes the visiting Professor Burgoyne later on. ‘Nut’ could also refer to someone’s head, which would therefore be a reference to Professor Burgoyne’s intellect. And finally, ‘nut’ can be taken to mean ‘a hard problem or undertaking’ which is certainly what Marineville is facing from the enemy craft.

Lieutenant Fisher and Commander Shore are in the control tower watching the instruments as the enemy sub approaches Marineville, courtesy of an update from the Marineville tracking station. We haven’t heard from that guy for a few episodes so it’s nice to know they’re still around. Shore and Fisher don’t discuss the destruction of the WSP submarine from earlier but I sure hope they’re vaguely aware of it. But what I’m perplexed by is Shore committing to calling Fisher “Lieutenant” three times in one scene, and Fisher in turn calling Shore “sir” three times too. Once again, a little bit too much dialogue is creeping in which is just shooting business-talk back and forth. There’s only two of them in the room and they know each other quite well, so I don’t think they need to keep on referring to each other all the time – heck, the audience at home should be pretty well acquainted with the characters by this point too. All the radio communications back and forth do the same thing with constant declarations of, “this is Marineville Control” to make everything sound terribly important. It’s all so by-the-book and a bit cold. The constant need to name everything and everyone in the dialogue might have been a necessary evil back when the pilot was scripted, but Alan Fennell and Dennis Spooner dispensed with all that ages ago because of their total comfort with writing dialogue between the characters. Gerry and Sylvia seem to be a few steps behind.

Troy and Phones are enjoying a box of Corn Flakes together at the breakfast table. I think that pretty much confirms they’re living together now. That rock sculpture and surrounding wall decoration is certainly a bold design choice for a couple of bachelors to keep in their dining room.

“This is Troy, Commander, what’s happened?” is followed immediately by, “This is Lieutenant Fisher here, Captain Tempest.” Can everyone stop overusing each other’s names already?! We know who you are! Interestingly, the very 1960s looking box of Corn Flakes has had its Kellogg’s logo covered by electrical tape because how DARE Supermarionation characters be used to advertise a specific brand of breakfast cereal. Troy’s also using his rarely seen communnicator watch only seen previously in The Ghost Ship and Deep Heat, but which would have come in jolly handy during other episodes. We learn through the very, very expository dialogue that Marineville has a subway to connect the control tower to the apartment blocks so that personnel can still cross from one to the other during battle stations. Quite how that actually works, I can’t say. There’s also a 90 second warning before battle stations starts which is a helpful delay for anyone who doesn’t want to be stranded on the surface during an attack.

Enemy craft still very much on its way to Marineville, folks. Sure is a weird-looking thing.

Shore calls for battle stations, making absolutely sure once again to refer to the Lieutenant as a Lieutenant when he gives the order just in case any of us have forgotten who he is. Aside from a previously unseen shot of the apartment block under the surface, battle stations proceeds exactly as we’ve seen it previously. It’s actually surprising how sparingly the procedure is used throughout the series. It’s such a big set-piece but is only shown in 7 out of the 39 episodes, A Nut For Marineville being the last, and there’s been quite a considerable gap since it was previously used in The Master Plan. At least to me, it sticks out as a nice gimmick which the Andersons would have dreamt up for the pilot, but that the other writers might have decided to drop for reasons of timing or predictability or simply because they were telling stories that didn’t require it. Seeing the sequence played out in full during such a late episode, and after a long absence, is actually quite an odd experience. There’s a small feeling that, really, the series has moved on from this kind of spectacle for the sake of spectacle, and become much more character-driven. But with Gerry and Sylvia clearly drawing on the pilot episode for this script, we’re back to the roots that they originally set up back at the beginning of the series, when the emphasis was more focused on visual spectacle to compensate for characters we didn’t fully know yet.

Atlanta arrives to let us know that she was in the Marineville supermarket, which doesn’t sound as terribly modern now as it might have done in 1964. But Commander Shore has had enough of this womanly domestic speak – get to work, and let me use the word Lieutenant for the millionth time this week… can you tell I’m not a fan of this script?

Having run through battle stations, it’s now time for launch stations AND the preparation of Marineville’s defence missiles. We really are going back through all the set-pieces this week. Troy and Phones are going to be joined by Marina which I can’t believe I have to point out, but she gets left at home so much these days I feel its noteworthy when she actually does come along for the ride. The underwater rockets are new while everything else is stock footage from the beginning of the series. Is it possible this episode was deliberately written just to re-use as much old material as possible to pad out the runtime?

Oh dear! The enemy craft has opened fire before we were ready. Probably shouldn’t have spent so much time running through all that stock footage.

There’s tension in the control tower as it becomes apparent Stingray won’t be fully launched in time. For all the criticism I’m giving of the dialogue and reliance on old set-pieces, David Elliott is doing a cracking job with the direction, cutting quickly between dramatic close-ups to really get the blood pumping.

The underwater interceptors are launched and Troy is forced to make a quick manouever to keep clear of the strike, a course change which is repeated straight back to him by Phones to make it sound more important. The enemy missiles have been blown up successfully before hitting… whatever they were planning on hitting…

Time for another action set-piece now, with Stingray setting off in pursuit of the enemy craft to bring its attack to a definite conclusion. All your favourite stock shots of Stingray are combined with new footage of the enemy sub swooping around all over the place. With a positive fix, Troy gives the order to fire the sting missiles. The poor guy isn’t going to like what happens next…

The craft comfortably survives two direct hits one after the other…

And decides that now is the perfect moment to naff off home…

Phone is confused. Troy is confused. Marina is confused. But none of them are as confused as I am. They’re all just worried about why the craft wasn’t blown to bits by the missiles. I’m much more concerned by the whacking great, bright orange, glow-in-the-dark, siren-blazing, burning, steaming, wailing, bone-crunching, enormous hole in the plot. Why oh why oh why did Grupa and Noctus decide to turn around and flee instead of continuing to attack? You cannot tell me that they only brought one missile (or possibly two depending on which shot you look at) to the party and now need to go home and grab some more. The objective was to destroy Marineville so they must have brought a ton of armaments. Commander Shore even pointed out how threatening the missiles looked on the videoscan. If Grupa and Noctus’ missiles getting blown up was an unforseen setback, why weren’t they built out of the same material as the submarine, and why didn’t Grupa and Noctus just give the WASPs the runaround until they ran out of defensive measures and then pressed on with the attack afterwards? It wouldn’t have taken long for them to knock out Stingray or any other craft the WASPs threw at them. That was the whole point of building an indestructible submarine. What did they go home for? Did they leave the gas on or have an important bobble hat they needed to finish knitting?? AND, why does Troy assume that Stingray couldn’t catch up with the enemy sub? IS 600 KNOTS OF PURE ACCELERATION TOO SLOW ALL OF A SUDDEN? All this totally illogical business really boils down to the fact that the sole purpose of everything we’ve just seen was to give the heroes a glimpse of what they were up against so that they still have a chance of winning at the end of the episode. This is infuriating because prior episodes have, for the most part, been written so much more intelligently, with clear motivations in place from the characters which therefore trigger the events of the plot. Here, the motivations were stated and then flat out ignored so that the goodies still had a chance at victory like they’re supposed to. Maybe some detail was removed from the episode in the editing process which cleared these inconsistencies up a bit? But I find that difficult to believe given how much recycled material we’ve just sat through to pad all this out. An alteration to the planning of the episode could have so easily rectified the problem, but it’s clear from the clunky dialogue and the messy structure that Gerry and Sylvia didn’t make use of another script editor when they were working on A Nut For Marineville. It also leads me to believe that A Nut For Marineville might have been hurriedly scripted at the last minute to make up for a shortfall, or to replace another script which was even more broken. There’s something really quite bizarre about such a seemingly fine-tuned writing operation and production process like we’ve seen on Stingray to suddenly come out with material from the show’s own creators which lacks the finesse of previous installments. Rant over. Sedatives administered.

The Andersons love a good conference room scene, so here’s one absolutely pumped with cigar smoke. Apparently, the WASPs have been able to collect a sample of the enemy craft’s metal for analysis – we’re not actually told this detail in the dialogue but there’s a lump of scrap on the table which is trying to hold the plot together for us. You know the dialogue is broken when the very first word to come out of Commander Shore’s mouth in this scene to address the room is “gentlemen.” Marina is sat directly in front of him and clearly taking an active interest in the mission. The conference room set is once again the one from the Washington H.Q. complete with the world map from Pink Ice, even though I’m pretty sure this is supposed to take place at Marineville. Shore declares that they need to develop a new nosecone for their missiles which can penetrate the seemingly indestructible metal of the enemy craft. Then Troy apparently points out that Shore has missed out an important detail – “what about the new nosecone for our missiles?” He JUST said that. Turns out Troy is now in charge of bringing a “top scientist” to Marineville who I guess is going to be taking care of the problem. Why just one scientist? Why not a whole team of scientists? And why doesn’t Marineville already have its own scientists? And why does Troy of all people need to go and pick the guy up? Have I slipped into a coma? Fisher arrives with a note, which successfully distracts me from punching a hole in the wall.

On the right of this live action insert shot, a basic agenda on a notepad indicating that the meeting is taking place at 2300 hours in the month of March (March 1964 probably being when this episode was shot). On the left, some notes which are in some very messy handwriting but may or may not include the phrase, “pretty well sloshed at the time.” Probably the production crew describing the state of the scriptwriters.

The message reads: “Official Cable…. To….. Commander Shore, Marineville, Message: Professor Burgoyne.” Stingray, like other Supermarionation series, takes place in a world which still uses telegrams. Bless ’em. So that’s the name of the scientist settled. Bit of a weird way to share that information with us all but what would you expect?

Travelling via stock footage… sorry, I mean WASP Spearhead aircraft… are Troy and Professor Burgoyne. For a bomber jet, the Spearhead sure has a comfy passenger lounge. Troy has just finished giving the prof a full account of the situation and is just reminding him of the urgency involved. That’s nice, I’m glad he hasn’t resorted to explaining the whole plot again. Unfortunately, Burgoyne has nodded off without Troy noticing… even though they’re sat directly in front of each other. When people fall asleep in front of me I tend to notice… and then slap them with a wet haddock.

Exasperated that someone would choose to ignore him, Troy explains in a fourth-wall breaking monologue that he’s just spent an hour telling him the entire situation… which we already knew based on the tail end of what we’ve just heard. The important detail though is that Troy thinks the sleeping man must be a nut. Yes, Troy, because anyone who falls asleep whilst speaking to you must be insane, that must be it.

Uh-oh! He wasn’t asleep. He’s heard everything! Oh my, what a social blunder from Captain Tempest. Professor Burgoyne is a rare example of a guest character with a blinker head. It’s another great-looking character from the puppet department with some excellent details like the receeding hairline and the big spectacles. David Graham is spot on with the voice too.

Burgoyne claims to not be wasting any time… and then takes a moment to recap everything he’s just been told, and we’ve previously been told, about developing a new nosecone. Definitely no time being wasted there, and I guess we are going to re-state the plot after all. What follows is actually quite an amusing piece of misdirection when Professor Burgoyne explains that he’ll need a piece of equipment called a S.A.R.C. Mk. 6. Troy, desperate to please after his faux pas, says he’ll organise one as soon as they land. But, all along it turns out Burgoyne was referring to a machine he himself would be needing to invent, having only previously gotten as far as designing the Mk. 5. It’s a tad labored but I do like the miscommunication between the two characters. Troy’s eagerness to solve a problem straight away clashes with the slower, more logical mind of Professor Burgoyne which needs to examine the steps involved in completing a task much more closely. It’s a well-observed bit of character work, and sets Burgoyne up nicely as a memorable guest star for the week. Troy’s silent reaction to making yet another mistake is also rather priceless.

Meanwhile, Grupa and Noctus have apparently dealt with whatever the heck they needed to deal with earlier and are on their way back to Marineville to restart their conquest. Now lads, just double check you’ve done everything you need to do before you leave so there’s no need to turn around again. Locked the back door? Turned the oven off? Filled up the dog’s bowl? Unplugged the electric blanket? Watered the plants? Packed a spare set of missiles?

Philippines Station 178 reports in that the enemy submarine has been spotted again. That was easy. Nice for the WASPs to have plenty of warning that the attack is coming. Assuming the Philippines Station is… well, in the Philippines… that would place Grupa and Noctus’ home on the other side of the Pacific Ocean from Marineville. That makes a certain amount of sense given how bloomin’ long it takes them to get there the second time around. Although now it makes even less sense that they would leave their home located somewhere near the Philippines, blow up the World Security Patrol sub, sail all the way across the Pacific to attack Marineville, give up on attacking Marineville for no reason whatsoever, and sail all the way home again to somewhere near the Philippines, only to now cross the Pacific one more time to return to Marineville with the exact same battle plan. Those morons sure have a lot of spare time on their hands.

The camera dramatically crashes in towards Shore as he expresses his desperation to find out how much time they’ve got before the next attack. I wouldn’t worry too much mate, they’ve probably got to do the weekly shop, go the bank, drop in at the post office, and buy some flowers for Great Auntie Fish-Guts before they arrive.

We head into the commercial break with quite an effective shot of the craft looming over the camera as it journeys towards Marineville. I grant you that from the right angles, it does look quite threatening… but from others it looks flimsier than Troy Tempest’s chastity belt.

It’s time for more absolutely attrocious dialogue so strap yourselves in. Grupa and Noctus explain for our benefit that they’re a whopping 800 miles away from Marineville and that it’s going to take them 24 hours to get there… hang on a minute. The distance from the Philippines to the west coast of the United States is somewhere in the region of 7000 miles. Assuming Grupa and Noctus were anywhere vaguely close to the Philippines when they left, and it takes them 24 hours to travel 800 miles, that means their entire journey across the Pacific has taken them over a week! Which means more than a week has passed between this scene and the one before it! Which means Troy and Professor Burgoyne have been travelling for all that time and nobody has worked on the missile! Which also means it’s been multiple weeks since the first WSP submarine was destroyed at the beginning of the episode! Which also means their sub has a top speed of just 33 mph!! Which means Stingray could have caught up with the thing after the previous attack with its engine barely ticking over!!! Why in the flying hoo-hah were these precise numbers and locations put in the script when they don’t make any realistic sense?!!!! And why oh why did someone think it would be a swell idea to cut from Grupa, mid-sentence and being voiced by Ray Barrett, to Fisher, mid-sentence and also being voiced by Ray Barrett?! It just doesn’t work. And then, just to send my blood pressure into the stratosphere – Commander Shore decides to repeat the phrase “24 hours” over and over again while he explains that 24 hours is indeed how long they have to develop the new metal for the nosecones because Troy and the Professor are just arriving. Oh really?! You hadn’t mentioned needing a new metal for the nosecone. Why not explain it again?! And I thought we had five and a half marine-centuries to develop the new metal for the nosecone to destroy the new metal of the enemy craft. But if it’s 24 hours like you keep flipping saying it is then I suppose it must be 24 hours. Because it’s 24 hours until the enemy craft arrives which means it’s 24 hours until they attack which means it’s 24 hours until the missile with a nosecone made of the new metal to destroy the new metal of the enemy craft needs to be ready which means it’s 24 hours until I pass out from a stress-induced dialogue examination fit of blind rage.

ANYWAY, Shore then makes the same social blunder that Troy made earlier by being rude about Professor Burgoyne while the man can clearly hear everything that’s being said. I like the joke that Commander Shore often has run-ins with egghead types because it fits his character. I also like the prospect of the big military guys at Marineville being repeatedly more socially awkward than the nerdy science guy, and that they’re actually quite intimidated by him. I’ve commented before on Stingray‘s lack of boffin characters compared to the other Supermarionation shows and it’s quite a treat for one week only to see how the dynamics of the group get thrown off dramatically by the presence of a greater intellect.

Commander Shore nervously patrols the control room, awaiting the arrival of Burgoyne. Atlanta is very amused by her father’s anxiety. This shot gives us an opportunity to spot some of the cables running underneath the main control desk which power all the lights and such.

Shore launches into a glorious rant about how he’s developed a special way of handling academic types who are men of words rather than action. Burgoyne, intentionally shushing Troy with a gesture, overhears everything yet again and is keen to pounce on this opportunity to assert his authority.

The direction and subtle puppetry work in this scene is amazing. Atlanta indicates that Burgoyne is in fact entering the room with the sort of sideways glance a real person might give in the situation. Shore spins around with his face turning from fury and upset, to cham and smiles in an attempt to cover his embarrassment and appease the man he’s just insulted. Burgoyne maintains his neutral expression and tone of voice so that Shore has nothing to work with. The commander hasn’t a chance of pleasing the professor, but he also doesn’t seem to be angering him all that much. It’s delicious to see Commander Shore, the natural leader so decisive and in control, left stumbling over his words when presented with an ordinary man in a suit.

Shore makes the same mistake as Troy in attempting to offer up everything that Burgoyne could possibly want, even though he doesn’t actually know what he’s offering. The S.A.R.C. Mk. 6 rears it’s ugly head in conversation again and Burgoyne can’t even be bothered to go over the issue with Commander Shore, which really puts the professor in the driving seat of this situation. Obviously it’s a repeat of the same joke but that’s in order to aid the comedy. It’s funny precisely because Shore is falling into the same trap as Troy did earlier. Shore also fails to please his academic nemesis with the offer of a luxury, modern laboratory conveniently housed in the control tower, when Burgoyne in fact asks for an old building as far away from the tower as possible.

More exquisite non-verbal stuff going on here as Atlanta and particularly Fisher really enjoy watching the big boss getting stitched up by the man he was earlier claiming would be eating out of the palm of his hand.

The cherry on top of this scene comes when Burgoyne leaves the room and, rather than maintaining his stiff upper lip and suggesting that he handled that interaction well, Shore confesses that he is indeed more scared of the professor than anything else! It’s a heartwarming moment because it says so much about who Shore really is. When his tough exterior has been punctured, he actually has a good sense of humour, a lot of humility, and a great deal of dignity in defeat. He could have so easily continued spouting his academic-bashing bravado, but his strength as a likeable character comes from a softer side which can take a joke like a real human being and then carry on with the job.

Grupa and Noctus are still on course, with 16 hours to go until they reach Marineville. 24 hours down to 16 means that, yes, that was 8 hours that just flew by during those scenes. Grupa is off to bed and sets the automatic controls, insisting that Noctus call if there are any problems… which he never does so from our point of view its all a bit of a superfluous thing to say. Dang it, and the dialogue was doing so much better in the last scene. There’s a startling contrast in the quality of the writing in some scenes over others. Normally, Gerry and Sylvia’s scripts are so tight and consistent. This one is swinging wildly from one extreme to the other like a crazed chimp.

An unusual wipe is used to transition us from one scene into the next, as Marineville’s main building returns to the surface. After all, the enemy are still 16 flippin’ hours away so why live underground in the dark the whole time?

Despite looking directly at him while talking, Shore insists on using Lieutenant Fisher’s name to make it absolutely crystal clear that it’s Fisher who is being talked to. He also makes the rather bizarre statement, “although we have a problem with Professor Burgoyne.” What problem? And what’s all this “we” business? Your failure to communicate effectively with him was your problem, mate. And anyway, in your last scene you humbly admitted that it was your own issues that were getting in the way. Why are you suddenly talking about it like some kind of formal crisis? And why do you then go on to compare it to the issue of the enemy submarine on its way to Marineville? And heck, why are you re-stating that threat again?! I think the point of this dialogue is supposed to be Shore admitting that his personal quarrel with Professor Burgoyne shouldn’t get in the way of him having everything he needs to combat the larger issue with the enemy threat… it’s all just worded absolutely terribly.

Shore, who’s been puffing away on a cigar much, much more than usual, is quick to remind Fisher that Burgoyne wanted to be as far from the tower as possible. He says it in a manner to strongly imply that keeping Burgoyne at a safe distance is probably better for everyone. So all that talk of humility and dignity I was going on about earlier has turned straight back into animosity towards the professor. And there was I hoping for some nice character growth consistent with the rest of the series. Never mind.

Night has fallen and we’re introduced to a new part of Marineville that we haven’t seen before. Of course, when I say new I mean old because, just in case you needed reminding one more time – Burgoyne asked for an old building. The watchtower in the foreground looks like it might be part of the oil rig seen in Sea of Oil, and/or quite possibly goes on to appear in the explosive finale of the Thunderbirds opening titles.

The edge of the puppet set is visible in the bottom left corner. Keen to re-state the same material one more time, it is established that this building is indeed the oldest building in Marineville and is far away from everything else. Have you got that?

Shore continues to feel intimidated by Burgoyne as he runs down everything that was required, which ultimately just leads to the professor thanking the commander, and the commander lashing out at Lieutenant Fisher in an amusing outburst. Among the equipment in Burgoyne’s laboratory is the timer part of the bomb seen in Count Down. Presumably, all of this is apparatus of the S.A.R.C. Mk. 6 we’ve heard so much about. I sure hope so. The building itself is the “cooler” or the Marineville Jail. Now, keep in mind that we’ve seen the Marineville Jail in previous episodes such as Marineville Traitor and Star of the East. Why would the jail of all places be the oldest building in Marineville? Wouldn’t the whole Marineville facility have been built around the same time specifically for the WASPs? Or did the WASPs build around a site with established settlements that they adopted?

Once Shore and Fisher have left, Burgoyne has a quick natter to himself while enjoying a cracker from what appears to be his packed lunch. He reckons it’ll take a total of 10 hours to complete his work. And the enemy sub is 16 hours away. And they had 24 hours in total. And my head is absolutely spinning from all this.

Then, Shore immediately complains to Fisher that it’s been 4 hours since Burgoyne started work, and that the enemy craft is still bearing down on them. Give me strength.

All the men are smoking like chimneys while they wait. Atlanta has borrowed part of Marina’s costume from the fancy dress party in last week’s episode, The Cool Cave Man. Unusually, there’s a bit of a problem with the audio track for this episode. It was an issue on the DVD and it would appear it couldn’t be corrected on this blu-ray edition either. For a few scenes, the volume of the dialogue and music tracks waver considerably, making it difficult to make out exactly what’s being said at some points. A stark reminder that Stingray is an almost 60-year-old show, and we’re lucky that 99.9% of the time it looks and sounds absolutely glorious.

Troy looks as rough as I feel. He’s frustrated that there’s only 4 hours left. Wait… ugh… has Burgoyne been working for 4 hours or do they have 4 hours until the attack? If it’s both then that doesn’t add up, unless the 10-hour estimate Burgoyne gave was inaccurate… which it could have been but honestly who gives a hoot… this is interminable.

The audio over this scene is particularly badly muffled, but basically, Shore is unnecessarily grumpy with Fisher again and has just checked to see if there’s any activity over at the cooler.

So he ends the conversation by going back to the window to check again if there’s any activity… even though that’s what he was just doing… what the heck is in that box of cigars he’s been smoking?

It’s Phones’ turn for a look out of the window. Because nothing else of any interest is happening, I’m going to point out that there isn’t any glass in those windows, because then all you would see is a reflection of the camera. So there’s some handy trivia for you. I’m losing the will over here.

Oh thank Teufel for that. Derek Meddings and his crew have come along to cheer us all up with a massive explosion. I was wondering why the model of the building looked especially flimsy and temporary. It was built for destruction and I like that.

The shockwave is felt far and wide across Marineville. That was quite a big bang.

Phones and Atlanta feel the weight of certain doom now crashing down upon them. It’s suitably dramatic given the circumstances. After all, there’s an enemy craft bearing down on Marineville and it’s only 4 hours… no, 6 hours… no, 4… no… help…

It looks like the sun is up now, and the Marineville emergency crews are still working to put out the fire. The fire truck is an adaptation of the rocket disposal crane vehicle shown in The Master Plan and Emergency Marineville, which in turn was built on the body of the Telsada Trans-Continental Express coach toy. The ambulance which pulls up is also seen in the rocket disposal scenes from The Master Plan and Emergency Marineville. The burnt out shell of the building is incredibly realistic – well done model makers!

Troy, Phones, Atlanta, and Commander Shore all line up to pay their respects to Professor Burgoyne, who is presumed dead. Fisher is manning the control tower. Marina couldn’t be bothered to turn up. It’s genuinely quite a sad moment. We were given enough good material to become quite fond of Professor Burgoyne as an audience, and the voice cast commit to playing the situation totally straight.

But he ain’t dead. He was just hiding from the chain reaction created by his sciencey-boffin stuff. Has he been taking cover all this time? It was dark when the explosion happened and its now daylight. What about the time it took for the emergency services to arrive on the scene, not to mention for Troy and the others to put on their uniforms and get down there? The ruined building is at least a mile away from the base so it’d take everyone a short while to arrive. Did Burgoyne really stand behind a wall the whole time? Look, I’ll allow it because the surprise reveal is quite effective for playing with the tension of the situation, but the timing of this episode needs some serious work. Also, Burgoyne was presumably anticipating some kind of big explosion when he was asking for an old building at a safe distance from civilisation… so why didn’t he just warn someone of the potential for mass destruction ahead of time?

Fisher informs us that there are 55 minutes left… and there were 4 hours left just before the explosion… so Burgoyne stood behind a wall for three hours? Whatever, it’s finally time for some action. The trusty rocket disposal squad need to pull the nosecone out of the building debris, and then it’s time to go get ’em! Quite how the explosive chain reaction to create the metal also managed to turn it into a perfectly sized and shaped nosecone is one of the many questions I will be taking to the grave this episode has dug for me.

Whip pan transition. Nothing exciting to see this time, but now that I’ve started sharing all of them in these reviews I’d feel weird about leaving one out.

Stingray is launched, and Troy and Phones start chasing down the enemy sub with great efficiency. The puppet set for Stingray’s missile ejector tubes is quite impressive, as is the puppet-sized sting missile. Professor Burgoyne is carrying out “final alignment” which is a fancy way of saying he’s tightening his nuts.

Grupa and Noctus are looking good for two guys who’ve been travelling for weeks on end in a tin can without a change of clothes. They are well aware that Stingray is approaching them but, funnily enough, feel quite good about their chances seeing as they’re indestructible. Where was this confidence earlier, guys?

With just a few seconds left, there’s nothing else for it but to load the missile. Mind-numbing as this has all been, there is some genuine tension now over whether the new nosecone will work or not. The Andersons always know how to ramp up the drama when the time is right.

With terrific grandeur, missile SR 3002 slowly edges forward into the tube, ready for firing. I couldn’t tell you why the heck this is so satisfying to watch, but as the powerful weapon is thrusted towards the tight opening… oh… oh I get it now.

With the baddies almost ready to open fire, and final confirmation that the missile is ready, Troy gives the order to attack. Say, did Burgoyne happen to make enough nosecones for more than one shot at this? I’m guessing not but boy, that’d be lucky if he’d thought of that.

Phew. I was worried Grupa and Noctus were going to turn around and go home for another 2 weeks. Glad we’ve actually been able to see it through to some sort of conclusion this time.

Weren’t expecting that were ya, lads?

With all the dignity of a ham sandwich slapping a kitchen counter, the enemy submarine tumbles down a ditch and stops dead. Top work everyone.

Back at Marineville, Commander Shore is taking a moment to wrap the episode up in a reasonably satisfying bow for us. Apparently the craft was damaged but not totally obliterated, which is why Grupa and Noctus were able to escape with nothing but some grubby tunics to show for it. They’ll be serving a jail sentence for their crime… presumably not in the Marineville Jail because Professor Burgoyne just blew that up… Then, despite attempting the complete destruction of the civilised world as we know it (Shore’s words, not mine), they’ll apparently be free to go back home after the sentence is served. These chaps did destroy a submarine at the beginning of the episode, y’know? Presumably they murdered a whole crew of people and wrecked a valuable piece of World Security Patrol property. That’s gotta be a life sentence, surely? Well, whatever, Shore finishes his speech with a reminder that the WASPs are there to be the good guys and ultimately want peace with the underwater world – another example of harking back to the ideals established in the pilot episode that have gotten a little bit lost along the way.

Burgoyne shares a few final words of wisdom with us, making the shocking revelation that he initially thought Shore was a nut… no kidding. The two reconcile with the sentiment that “it takes all sorts to save a world.” That’s not the phrase but I see what you were doing there. And I guess it pretty neatly sums up the underlying theme of the episode that different people have different ways of solving problems and if everyone pulls together it can create positive results. Which is quite nice.

I’ve had a lot of bad things to say about this episode, probably more than any episode so far. I’ll focus on gathering all the positive aspects together first though. There’s some excellent, sophisticated comedy in this episode which I enjoy. I love the idea of Professor Burgoyne coming into this volatile situation and somehow making Commander Shore and the rest of the team feel even more nervous, despite getting straight to business and being perfectly mild-mannered. The way that situation plays out and gets resolved is a great thread to the story because the characters go on a journey from having certain prejudices, to allowing actions and events to change their minds. David Elliott, the puppet team, and the voice actors really breathe extra life into those comedy scenes like Troy and Burgoyne on the plane, and Shore meeting Burgoyne for the first time. Professor Burgoyne, Grupa, and Noctus, all thrive as memorable guest characters thanks to simple but effective characterisation work. There’s also some good, albeit familiar, action set-pieces which add excitement to the story.

Now, I’ll try to restrain myself because I’ve already been fairly explicit about my negative criticisms. In summary, there are two major issues: dialogue and structure. The dialogue is cold, repetitive, and suffers from some downright bad writing practices at times. Characters constantly stating each other’s names, and re-telling the plot over and over again shouldn’t and doesn’t happen in a polished production like Stingray. Considering the comedy scenes I’ve just mentioned have some really excellent dialogue, I can only guess at why the more serious, plot-focussed scenes are so tedious and lacking in any charm or characterisation. Speaking of the plot – the second problem is that the structure of the story leaves some illogical gaps as a result of decisions that make no sense. The testing scene at the beginning, which shows the WSP submarine getting attacked, isn’t mentioned at all by anybody after the fact, when it probably should have served as the warning to the WASPs that they needed to improve their missiles and started preparing for an attack. Then, Grupa and Noctus could have made their way to Marineville for a final, much more intense battle with Stingray. The middle bit of the show with the enemy just giving up after Stingray fails to attack them was utterly baffling, as was the destruction of the WSP sub during the opening having no impact on the rest of the story. With all that being said, why am I being so harsh on this episode in particular? Well, Gerry and Sylvia Anderson are quite rightly held in high regard for their scripts. There’s a reason the likes of Trapped In The Sky, The Mysterons, and of course, Stingray‘s pilot episode, all pack a great punch. The Andersons usually manage to expertly establish new characters, locations, and situations, while keeping the plot driving forward to tell a satisfying, complete story that’s extremely tight. So it’s desperately disappointing that in this bloated script for a well-established series, A Nut For Marineville has been allowed to struggle with telling a coherent story and fails to deliver well-written dialogue in some scenes. I think we can agree that not all episodes can be winners, but this one should have had a much better chance than most.

Next week, I cheer up a bit, Stingray gets captured, and the crew are left stranded and in danger. All Atlanta Shore can do is watch it happen from the underwater fish farm of Professor Cordo. So how will Troy, Phones, and Marina survive when they become Trapped In The Depths? Tune in to find out!

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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.

4 thoughts on “Stingray – 34. A Nut For Marineville

  1. Not a bad episode, I’d say, the fact Gropa and Noctus just turn away after the rest firing to return to their base is a more than bit odd to say the least.
    Overconfidence-maybe?
    The drama and comedy is good as well, and Prof. Burgoyne and Shore’s exchange of dialogue and the whole vibe between them is great, why hire just one bloomin’ scientist though??
    Surely the more people there are to the job the better for obvious reasons.
    As for Gropa and Noctus in the next episode, would that indicate this episode is set after or before A Nut For Marineville, now that sure is mind boggling!
    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again Jack, great review, if there was ever a Gerry Anderson convention in my area, i’d know who to contact mate! 😉

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  2. The plot hole could have been avoided if Stingray’s first encounter came while investigating the destruction of the WSP vessel rather than protecting Marrineville from an assault. This would better explain why the enemy returns home; to regroup and plan to destroy Stingray’s base and obtain more missles to do it. As it is retreating in the face of success is very odd. Professor Bourgoyne is a great character and one of the main reasons to enjoy the episode.

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    1. His dialogue with Commander Shore is just classic and I love the character design, I do wonder if they took inspiration from anyone for it. I agree with you about WSP vessel’s destruction not having proper investigation, although perhaps maybe there are agents in World Aquanaut Security Patrol that gather information in the same way that Spectrum Intelligence Agency do in Captain Scarlet and The Mysterons.

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  3. The thing that struck me about Professor Burgoyne is his sculpt – it’s so much less caricatured than previous Stingray guest humans, much more in the vein of the rapidly approaching Thunderbirds.

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