Stingray – 38. The Lighthouse Dwellers

I have a casual fondness for lighthouses. Not in a, “I can name all the components of the whatchamacallit 7800 Fresnel lens” sort of a way, or even in a “I can probably name a few lighthouses” sort of a way. I just think they’re pretty neat. I enjoy the romanticised version of lighthouse-keeping, where a lone group of vaguely Victorian-type people are stuck out at sea on a stormy night, living and working in cosy conditions to guide ships home with their beacon of hope. Sounds nice doesn’t it? Anyway, I’m not actually sure what any of that has to do with The Lighthouse Dwellers and my opinion of it because, to be honest, I don’t think I’m particularly swayed one way or the other when it comes to initial opinions of this episode. As one of the last “new” episodes I ever saw, I don’t have particularly strong childhood nostalgia for it or anything like that. Right now, I would say my level of enthusiasm for The Lighthouse Dwellers is about the same as my enthusiasm for lighthouses in general – I’ll take a good long look at it if I come across it, but I won’t go out of my way to seek it out. So there’s a fairly banal observation for you. Not all my introductions to these reviews can be gold I’m afraid.

Stingray – 37. A Christmas To Remember

Compliments of the season to you! Yes, the season is mid-February at the time of writing but c’mon, you need to get better at accepting compliments. Now what could be more festive than a Stingray Christmas special?! I love Christmas telly and more specifically, sci-fi Christmas telly. I get an extraordinary amount of pleasure thinking about the poor writers slaving away to try and find an excuse to whack a Christmas tree in the middle of the super serious futuristic life and death business. Some downright strange things start to happen to our most-respected characters around the festive season. Need I remind you of Jeff Tracy insisting that a young boy call him Santa when the man was clearly intensely hungover from the night before? Festive specials can come off as lazy, tacky, and ill-fitting attempts to rely on the tropes of the season to fill the required time slot in a manner vaguely satisfying to the turkey-gorged viewership. But there are other production teams which see it as an opportunity to really push the boat out by celebrating and producing a spectacle of magic and excitement, successfully combining familiar elements of the show with some Christmassy goodness in an original way which remains faithful to the series’ format. Could A Christmas To Remember be one of those fortunate examples? Probably… otherwise what has this lengthy introduction been building up to?

Stingray – 36. Eastern Eclipse

Eastern Eclipse serves as a sequel to Star of the East, which was the first episode to feature the tyrannical El Hudat. Most Supermarionation stories are standalone installments and it’s unusual for them to draw upon a previous episode for inspiration. So what was so special about Star of the East that it was deemed worthy of a follow-up? Well, since that particular episode was absolutely dominated by one character, I think the answer is pretty obvious – El Hudat. And how better to celebrate such a standout character than to introduce his identical twin brother who looks and sounds and behaves exactly like him? What could be more entertaining than one El Hudat? Two El Hudats. This idea happens to come with the added bonus for the production team that no new guest characters were required and the back story for the writer, Alan Fennell, was already in place. What could be better than a script which was destined to be a hit from its very conception and wouldn’t require too many new ideas?

Stingray – 35. Trapped In The Depths

Did anybody else have a VHS tape from Polygram video which combined this episode with the Captain Scarlet episode, Place of Angels? I couldn’t tell you why those two particular installments were put together for a release because they don’t exactly have a lot in common. Presumably it was an experiment to see if random combinations of Anderson shows could be sold on one tape to serve as tasters, and cross-sell the rest of the series. Not a bad idea, at a time when folks had to invest quite a lot of time and money into collecting VHS tapes of a full series. Of course, I was never thinking about Polygram’s business choices when I was a child collecting second-hand VHS tapes from car boot sales on a sunny Saturday morning in a Kentish field. I just saw a stall with a VHS tape containing an episode of Stingray I hadn’t seen before with an episode of Captain Scarlet I hadn’t seen before, and handed over my pocket money. Simpler times. Anyway, none of that has anything to do with this review of the episode, I just thought I’d share that experience for anybody else who, like me, is fresh out of their quarter-life crisis and already planning their full-blown mid-life crisis. I wonder if I can get a cheap VCR from somewhere…