Stingray – 36. Eastern Eclipse

Directed by Desmond Saunders

Teleplay by Alan Fennell

First UK Broadcast – 7th March 1965

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?

As with Star of the East, the foreignness of El Hudat and his brother, Ali Khali, are brought front and centre for the audience to supposedly have a good laugh at. Once again, the exact location of their country, Hudatvia, isn’t disclosed but we gather that it’s vaguely in the East, and therefore totally alien to our heroes representing the West. The episode title, Eastern Eclipse, presumably builds upon the metaphor of El Hudat being the aforementioned ‘Star of the East’, and this week he’s being overshadowed by someone or something – probably his brother. Calling Ali Khali an “eclipse” could also be a terrible fat joke.

I’m sorry folks but it’s time to resurrect the discussion about Troy’s head. I thought it was over too, but I was stunned to find that this first scene, and many others throughout the episode, see Troy swapping heads back and forth again. To recap, in earlier reviews we established that a new puppet head for Troy was introduced on Christine Glanville’s puppet stage which appeared sporadically during Deep Heat, Set Sail For Adventure (an episode shot by Mary Turner’s puppet unit), Tune of Danger, and The Cool Cave Man before becoming the permanent replacement for the Glanville unit’s Troy for Trapped In The Depths. We assumed that this puppet was used to film additional scenes for all of those episodes after prinicipal photography had wrapped. So why has it popped up again in Eastern Eclipse, this time on Mary Turner’s puppet stage? And why does it keep switching back and forth between the new Troy and the standard Troy used by the Mary Turner unit? Well, for once, I actually have an answer. According to Andrew Pixley’s book, Stingray: Adventures In Videcolor, production on Stingray concluded not with the shooting of the final episode, Aquanaut of the Year, but later on June 18 & 19, 1964 with Alan Pattillo directing not only the Japanese linking material (more on that in the near future!), but also additional footage for one of Desmond Saunders’ episodes – almost certainly Eastern Eclipse – which was running under length by some 300-feet of film (several minutes). Since Alan Pattillo worked exclusively with Christine Glanville’s puppet unit throughout the production of Stingray, it would therefore make sense for him to use them to shoot the Japanese linking material and any other pick-up shots he was responsible for on episodes originally helmed by other directors. So, the reason Troy’s head switches back and forth throughout Eastern Eclipse, and perhaps even during the earlier instances we’ve recognised, is because scenes featuring the new head were indeed filmed later by Alan Pattillo and Christine Glanville’s puppet unit. Needless to say, I nearly fell off my chair when I finally figured this out.

Anyway, the plot. Commander Shore, Troy, and Fisher have received a radio call from an approaching aircraft using the call-sign of “Eastern Star 2” which, you guessed it, represents Ali Khali, the president of Hudatvia and brother of El Hudat – we’re getting positively whacked over the head with that “Star of the East” symbolism. Fisher instructs the pilot, whose voice sounds very familiar, to land using Runway 29 – which is an eerie thing to hear from a Stingray script given that we now know this episode was finally completed immediately before Trapped In The Sky went into production. In case, like me, you’ve ever wondered how runways get their numbers, I did some googling so you don’t have to: “Runway numbers are determined by rounding the compass bearing of one runway end to the nearest 10 degrees and truncating the last digit, meaning runways are numbered from 1 to 36.” So now you know.

Just to get viewers up to speed in case they aren’t familiar with the plot details of Star of the East, Troy and Shore share a chat to remind us that Ali Khali overthrew his brother while El Hudat was being carted off to the Marineville Jail, which means the pair aren’t exactly on speaking terms. I know if my brother pinched my country from behind my back I’d be a bit miffed too.

An in-depth discussion begins about what kind of plane Ali Khali might be using because he’s stinking rich. It’s safe to say that this chat was one of the moments extended by Alan Pattillo, seeing as Troy switches heads and gets noticeably taller partway through. The Commander Shore puppet also switches, though the difference is much more subtle. The photographs of the Supersonic 101 Airliner and the Vertical Takeoff Jetmaster are models built by the special effects team using existing aircraft kits of a Boeing 727 and 707 respectively. Both aircraft went on to feature in the background of Thunderbirds episodes such as Trapped In The Sky, but the 101 also had a role in the later Stingray episode, The Ligthouse Dwellers.

It would appear that Ali Khali maybe isn’t doing as well as Commander Shore and the others would have us believe. What a delightful little model.

Here’s Ali Khali. Unsurprisingly, he’s an exact doppelganger of his brother, El Hudat. Same voice, same clothes, same everything. The puppet set of the busted up old biplane is glorious.

Piloting the plane in the rear cockpit is this delightful chap. Everyone must know the voice by now so I’ll spoil it for you – it’s that master of disguise, X20, having the time of his life dressed up as some dashing RAF fighter pilot complete with twirly moustache. Why is he flying Ali Khali to Marineville? Well, he indicates that this will be Khali’s final trip with the emphasis heavily on some kind of unfortunate accident taking place.

Marineville is just about visible from the coastline, as demonstrated by this gorgeous shot combining the water tank with a model set of the cliffs and a painted backdrop of the horizon. Way back in The Big Gun, we learned that Marineville was ten miles inland, so either visibility is extremely good (despite the thick clouds in the sky), or Marineville has been moved, or coastal erosion is taking place alarmingly quickly.

Ali Khali and X20 have a discussion about what’s going to happen next. Khali, whose face is suddenly much cleaner, is shot in close-up to avoid showing too much of the set. Meanwhile, X20 is suddenly in a much taller, squarer version of the rear cockpit. Yes, it’s quite likely that this moment was filmed later by Alan Pattillo to extend the scene. As we’ll see, the set for the biplane gets pretty beaten up, so any re-shoots must have required an especially quick bit of rebuilding to take place.

Cutting back to the full-size set, Ali Khali drops his bag overboard as he stands to declare a state of emergency over the radio. There’s a gap in the wing in the top left corner of this frame, through which you can just about see the roof of the AP Films studio… just about.

Comparing this shot of the speaker grille in the control room to the one we saw earlier, you might notice that both the left and right knobs at the top on either side have changed. A further indication that some scenes were shot at a later point than others. Shore and Fisher are baffled by the entire situation. The commander declares that they can’t intercept the plane… but I’m not entirely sure why they can’t do that. Maybe all the WASP pilots are on strike or at a weekend retreat…

The plane, very much starting to catch fire now, quickly zips past the island of Lemoy, recognisable immediately from the sight of X20’s house on the cliff. This is yet another new model of the island which differs from the one seen in the pilot episode and the later version constructed for The Man From The Navy. Needless to say, the sound of Ali Khali wailing as the plane flies past is absolutely hysterical.

As X20 prepares to disembark, part of the hull which appears to be patched up with tissue paper gets ripped away by the wind. This sequence is full of excellent details like that to really sell the idea that this plane is falling apart in the air.

No prizes for guessing where the name “APF1” might have come from.

With Ali Khali left to fly the plane himself with absolutely zero expertise, we’re set up for some real comedy gold. It’s an incredibly silly sequence, but the attention to detail, and the hard work put in on both the puppet and special effects stages, make it a really fine piece of Supermarionation film-making. The whole thing is incredibly ambitious and there’s not a lot of trickery involved in bringing it to the screen. The plane is genuinely crumbling, and is genuinely being rocked around by a couple of floor technicians. The troublesome engine actually looks like it’s working because there’s an actual spinning propellor attached to it. This is all being done as close to the real thing as possible with no expense or effort spared.

Unable to bail out due to the lack of a parachute, Ali Khali instead gets a massive explosion to the face from the failing engine. He flies over the water upside down, barely a few feet from getting wet, so I’m not quite sure why he would even need a parachute. It’s fair to assume that the shots of the puppet set upside aren’t actually being filmed upside down, but have instead been flipped in post-production. However, the set has been filmed from a low angle and from the other side in an attempt to fully sell the fact everything is the other way up.

There’s a brief cutaway to what I’m guessing is a shot of some real ocean taken from a real plane. Either that or a camera was yanked on a dolly track down the length of AP Films’ largest water tank quite amazingly fast.

Here’s a moment which is most definitely done for real. The entire puppet set is flipped almost 180 degrees with the Ali Khali puppet still inside and fire shooting out of the engine. How the heck was this done? Well, if you watch carefully, the puppet doesn’t actually move, and his lip doesn’t operate in sync with the dialogue, so it’s fair to assume that its wires were cut and the body made as rigid as possible so that it would stay in place while the entire set was being flipped. It’s a remarkable shot, and because it only lasts a couple of seconds, the effect is totally convincing and nobody would notice that the puppet is completely motionless unless some twerp pointed it out on his blog.

Ali Khali’s voice getting drowned out by the noise of his dying aircraft is so very funny. This shot really puts me in mind of Thunderbird 2 being attacked in the Thunderbirds episode, Terror In New York City. Stingray was most certainly the training ground for the special effects team to craft some extraordinary flying shots which served them well on Thunderbirds.

Commander Shore still hasn’t grasped the fact that Ali Khali might not be in a fancy jet airliner with multiple crew aboard. Don’t worry mate, you’ll be brought up to speed real soon.

Another glorious shot which combines the water tank, the flying miniature with live pyrotechnics attached, a model set of the coastline, and a painted backdrop of the sky and mountains. No wires visible. No edge to the water tank visible. No knowing how close the model set is to the camera. It’s a stunning illusion and it’s all done in-camera.

The penny finally drops when Troy spots the aircraft approaching. For the shot through Troy’s binoculars, it looks like a teeny, tiny model of the plane has had to be used. Because such a plane is so unbecoming of a legitimate president, Commander Shore assumes that there has been yet another revolt in Hudatvia, and Ali Khali had to flee with some urgency. In my review of Star of the East, I mentioned the constant need to satirise the instability of Middle Eastern governments, because the West finds political uprising so thoroughly unsettling. Rioting, protesting, and striking against the government just isn’t cricket in the United States and United Kingdom which is why it absolutely, definitely, never, ever, ever happens there because the government is perfect and everyone is free and loving it immensely…

The conclusion is reached that El Hudat must be president once again, despite being stuck in jail. But what has that got to do with X20 trying to kill Ali Khali by abandoning him in a busted up old aircraft? We shall see. For now, just take a close look at Troy’s wrists in this shot, and the provocative sight of bare, wooden puppet arms. Phwoar.

Outside, we get to enjoy the landscape surrounding Marineville. Nothing but wide open countryside. Again, the model set is blended seamlessly with a painted backdrop. The top of the control tower is a new, large model which attempts to enhance the details seen on the main model of the building seen throughout the series. Something about it doesn’t quite look right – probably the white slats between the windows not coming up high enough, and the blue paint being far too pale. An attempt has also been made to replicate some of the interior details from the puppet set, although since the main control room is on the side of the tower currently facing the plane and not the camera, what we’re actually seeing through the windows is the unseen other half of the control tower’s interior.

Ali Khali now believes he is in complete control of the aircraft, which is why he utterly fails to slow down for a landing on Runway 03 (instead of Runway 29 like Fisher previously suggested). The model set of the airfield looks to be a development of what we saw Troy’s jet take off from in Rescue From The Skies.

The bumps and scrapes of the failed landing are replicated on the puppet set as Ali Khali’s plane overshoots spectacularly.

Someone’s taken Troy’s car out for a spin again. Seriously, he’ll let just about anybody drive that thing. Probably Phones sneaking down to the off-licence. Ali Khali expertly flies the biplane between two trees at high speed, which is a stunt I don’t think I would be brave enough to attempt.

At this point, you may be starting to think that this sequence has been going on for quite a while now. We’re almost a third of the way into the episode’s running time and the only thing that’s happened is Ali Khali has failed to land at Marineville, and there’s still a lot more of this business to go. I’m inclined to agree that while this whole piece is a great display of comedy, puppetry and particularly special effects, it is quite drawn out. And it’s obviously supposed to be drawn out to a certain extent since that’s part of the comedy, but I think we’ve gotten the message by now. We know, of course, that the episode was under-running so extra padding was needed on what was already a pretty light script in terms of plot complexity. When viewed in this context, the extended flying sequence is almost certainly a product of that desperation to find a way of filling out the episode’s duration. Funnily enough, Alan Pattillo and the rest of the AP Films team would find themselves in a similar situation with the early episodes of Thunderbirds about 6 months later.

Back projection is put to good use for this view through the window of the plane approaching the control tower, while Troy and Shore dive for cover.

Majestically, the entire puppet set for the aircraft comes flying towards the camera. You can just about spot the large plank of wood at the bottom of shot which is being used to carry the set, but it still looks fantastic.

Fortunately, our expert pilot manages to pull out of the collision course and flies straight over the tower. Fisher is relieved, although there’s a hideous amount of the puppet’s neck visible as he looks up. He should probably ask a doctor to take a look at that.

Meanwhile, the island of Lemoy is being represented by footage from the pilot once again, and X20 is consulting with Titan. I’m sad to announce that this episode marks the final appearance of our two main villains in the series. But boy, what a great plan they’re going out on. X20 was responsible for starting the revolution which drove Ali Khali out of power so that El Hudat could be reinstated, broken out of jail, and serve Titan in his conquest of the land. Yes, X20 is smart enough to play in politics. He also devised the plan to kill Ali Khali by leaving him to die aboard the beaten up remains of APF1. It’s a brilliant scheme, only ruined by the assumption that Ali Khali would definitely die in that plane crash. But this is all on a level of deviousness that we’ve seen from Titan before. And heck, X20 is on top form with his disguises again so he’s clearly working at his peak too.

The chaos continues at Marineville as Ali Khali tries and fails to land on Runway 03 again, this time shaving off his undercarriage in the process – definitely go and see a doctor about that too. A comedic shot of a smoking wheel rolling past looks to have been shot on some real grass and concrete, presumably filmed outside at the back or front of the studio.

The entire puppet set flies past camera once again, this time extremely tight so as not to reveal how the craft is being hauled through shot.

The same set for the road that we saw a few moments ago has been re-used but this time a billboard advertising ‘Fly Superjet From Marineville’ is positioned in a prime position for Ali Khali to fly straight through it. He then crashes through the positively explosive security checkpoint at the main gate, which is frankly overdue because those lads in there are all useless. Next, a radio mast of some kind gets chopped in half, and the plane has somehow managed to pick up its discarded wheels again for another attempt to land at an airstrip close to the control tower. It’s delightful to see all these new parts of Marineville mixed in with familiar elements like the main gate and the tower. Presumably, the destruction of the main gate was the last scene to be filmed on that particular model set – even after the snow-covered version of the set that we’ll see next week in A Christmas To Remember.

The gang inside the tower are having a delightful time diving to the floor and getting up again as Ali Khali repeatedly threatens to crash straight through the window before changing his mind. I must admit, I think the joke has run its course, but at least the shots were varied enough to not get too tiresome.

Despite some misplaced optimism, Troy, Fisher, and Shore sense that the end is near as they sheepishly watch the plane turn towards the tower for the final time. Our heroes are utterly defeated by this demon of the sky and I’m loving it.

This time it isn’t back projection. The dilapidated full-sized puppet set of the plane is hurtling towards the control room for real, with Ali Khali still in the pilot’s seat.

The explosion is also done for real, but carefully avoiding doing massive amounts of damage to the set. When similar scenes were required for the finale of the Fireball XL5 episode A Day In The Life of a Space General (worst title ever by the way), they were reportedly held back to be the very last scenes filmed for the series. Although the same thing hasn’t been confirmed for the moments of destruction shown here, it’s worth noting that the control room isn’t seen at all in new footage for Aquanaut of the Year, or the Japanese linking material, so there’s a vague possibility that the real set was deemed out of use and ripe for a final destructive scene just a few weeks after principal photography on Eastern Eclipse was completed.

Only minimal damage is done to the large exterior model of the tower, meaning parts could be re-used again, most notably forming the tower of the London Heliport in the Thunderbirds episode, Vault of Death.

The puppet set gets a real beating.

I think it might be fair to assume that this was indeed the end of the line for the Marineville control room set, and these shots were either taken during production of The Lighthouse Dwellers where the set was used for the final time, or later during Alan Pattillo’s final two days of shooting for other additional material required for this episode.

Ali Khali considers the landing a complete success. Sure buddy. Remind me never to ask you to parallel park.

Seemingly unhurt despite getting absolutely buried by debris, Shore and Troy wait to hear Ali Khali’s explanation. Considering the enormity of the incident that’s just taken place, they have a surprisingly non-chalant chat about Ali Khali’s escape from the revolution, and El Hudat’s status as a prisoner. Ali Khali quickly proves himself to be as volatile as his brother, even going as far as to blame the WASPs for sponsoring the revolt.

Time for a change of scenery after all that excitement. We’re inside the Marineville Jail and the cell of El Hudat and his associate, Abu. It’s a totally different cell to the rather medieval one seen at the end of Star of the East. X20 has joined them in yet another brilliant disguise. He sure is pushing the boat out today. Because of all the confusion caused by the crash, and because the Marineville security team are histortically quite incompetent, X20 has just been able to wander into the base posing as an attorney. El Hudat stands in front of a list of ‘Regulations’ which is actually a page from a rental contract with “The Old Times Furniture Company”, and was previously shown on the wall of the jail in Marineville Traitor. The Old Times Furniture Company had a long history of manufacturing furniture at their workshop in Westminster and hiring it out to film and theatre productions. While much of the furniture for Stingray and the other Supermarionation series was custom made at one-third life size, presumably some full-sized items were needed for live-action close-ups and, more specifically, sets such as the large dining room from Tom Thumb Tempest.

X20 is suffering from the same afflication that Fisher was earlier by showing far too much neck above his collar. He is keen to make sure that El Hudat sticks to the plan of allowing the undersea races to conquer the land in exchange for a taste of freedom. Only El Hudat would be enough of an egotist to sacrifice the continued existence of humanity for a chance to one-up his brother. X20 and Titan certainly have a good grasp on human nature at this point in the series.

The discussion is interrupted by the arrival of Commander Shore and Ali Khali. This particular jail cell set (there have been several in the series), would go on to become Parker and Fred’s jail cell in the Thunderbirds episode, Vault of Death. The brothers are not particularly thrilled to see each other, especially as Ali Khali is supposed to be dead under the wreckage of his aircraft right now.

It’s a tight squeeze to get everyone into the cell, but I’m glad we have this shot to prove that there were indeed two indentical puppets constructed of El Hudat and Ali Khali so that the twins could interact with each other directly. They also have identical costumes which doesn’t make much sense when you think about it but obviously helps the credibility of the plot enormously. X20 introduces himself to the commander as El Hudat’s legal advisor. Sure, Ali Khali almost recognises the man as his kamikaze pilot from earlier, but X20 is such a pro he just styles it out.

Shore agrees to X20’s supposed plan to let the brothers resolve their differences in a private conference. Good on X20 for turning a tricky situation to his advantage. And shame on Shore for once again failing to recognise the creep.

Shore toddles off obediently. The threshold above the door is kept out of sight so that the puppets can enter and exit easily.

The intense political discourse begins with the special Hudatvian brand of stereotypical, vaguely Middle Eastern sounding insults hurling back and forth.

Abu doesn’t get much of an opportunity to protest against the hostilities. X20, with the help of a floor puppeteer struggling to keep their fingers out of shot, knocks Abu over the head with the same club Shore was wielding at Atlanta’s fancy dress party in The Cool Cave Man. And that’s Abu’s contribution to the episode over. He just disappears after this scene, presumably left to rot in the Marineville Jail. Poor bloke. Apparently the comedy double act established in Star of the East between Abu and El Hudat wasn’t worth continuing.

Some cross-eyed comedy goodness is accompanied by a small additional musical contribution from Barry Gray. Since there was no known recording session especially held for these miniscule music cues, I would guess that they were performed at the same time as the festive tracks for A Christmas To Remember. I’m sure a Barry Gray aficionado can correct me in the comments if I’m wrong.

X20 then goes ahead with knocking out Ali Khali too, with enough force to send his fez flying into orbit. Where the heck was X20 keeping that club?

Needless to say, people’s eyes don’t actually do that when they sustain a serious head injury. I’d be far more concerned about the state of their skulls and brains. But hey, it’s a show for kiddies who definitely won’t go around hitting their siblings trying to make their eyes go all funny.

With that, it’s time for El Hudat to leave the jail pretending to be his brother. Lucky that as well as sharing the same military uniform, they also have the same stripey jacket which, incidentally, went on to become the basis of Alan Tracy’s shirt in the Thunderbirds episode, Move – And You’re Dead. I guess all three of them use the same tailor.

According to X20, negotiations have failed. “El Hudat” and Abu are sulking. Commander Shore tells “Ali Khali” to wait in the VIP lounge with his lawyer… except X20 said earlier that he was El Hudat’s lawyer, not Ali Khali’s. Shore probably wasn’t listening at that point. The point is, X20 and the real El Hudat are able to waltz right out of the jail. Top marks for our favourite surface agent and absolutely nothing for Commander Shore.

It’s only when Ali Khali and Abu fall over hilariously that Shore suspects something might just be amiss. Probably feeling a bit dumb for forgetting whose lawyer was whose now…

The first part of the episode comes to a dramatic conclusion as Commander Shore yells at the door, declaring a jailbreak. It’s taken quite a long time, but it finally feels like the plot is getting going. Also, that’s an enormous machine gun sitting by the wall on the left of frame…

Thanks to the devastation of the control tower, the most important technical equipment has been salvaged and dragged over to… the Shore’s apartment. Yes, apparently that’s the emergency procedure when the tower is out of action. I’m willing to bet Commander Shore just couldn’t be bothered to commute anywhere else. It does make me wonder whether the intention in the script was actually for the equipment to be moved to the Standby Lounge, rather than the Shores’ lounge. The use of Troy’s new head once again gives away that this was shot which was filmed later by Alan Pattillo. It’s worth noting that this scene is Atlanta’s only contribution to the episode, after taking a starring role last week in Trapped In The Depths.

Anyway, the plan is pretty simple. Get Ali Khali back to Hudatvia before El Hudat can claim the presidency. Marvel as Troy attempts to put on a hat. He’s so talented.

Stingray is launched at full speed. Troy’s managed to keep his hat on. Clever boy.

X20 and El Hudat have made a pitstop at Lemoy to update Titan on the situation. Rather than continuing the journey aboard X20’s sub, Titan sends a Mechanical Fish to pick up El Hudat from Lemoy. I guess now that X20 has made it home safe and sound he can just relax. Maybe organise his disguises and send the ones he doesn’t need to a charity shop. I hear there’s a bloke in Malaysia who might have use for them pretty soon…

Footage from the pilot episode is used to show the Mechanical Fish launching, while X20 and Titan discuss the plan for their final conquest of the land. Titan estimates that it will take three months to obtain a quarter of the surface world. The exact details of how he intends to conquer such a vast empire so quickly are sadly glossed over, but I don’t doubt that he’s capable of making it happen.

The only thing El Hudat cares about is the fact he’s outwitted the WASPs. He does make the faux pas of calling X20, “X-Twenty” instead of “X-Two-Zero” which is pretty painful to listen to at this point in the series. Could nobody be bothered to correct David Graham? Or was it a deliberate error to make El Hudat look dreadfully ignorant. Because that’s what it is – dreadfully, dreadfully ignorant.

Troy and Phones take a quick moment to discuss who might be running the show. While they’re having that brief chat, it’s just occurred to me that with Ali Khali destroying the Marineville control room in the plane crash, Titan and X20 have inadvertantly been responsible for their first successful attack on Marineville… which is tragic because that wasn’t even part of their plan.

Nevertheless, Titan claims to be an expert in organisation. He watches as the Mechanical Fish approaches Hudatvia. He’s also forecasting a high pressure weather system moving in and light showers in parts of East Sussex. Also, we all know where Titan was going with that “puppet prime minister” gag and we don’t appreciate it.

Back on Stingray, Ali Khali is dribbling over Marina because she doesn’t answer back. Yeah, we’re still doing this old routine.

New Troy pops up again for some additional dialogue which points out just how old this routine is. Troy claims that Ali Khali has “the same line of patter” as El Hudat, which is a polite way of saying he’s an objectifying, egotistical twerp.

Apparently Ali Khali has gone full Lady Penelope with his diamond-encrusted cigarette holder. He refers to his brother as the son of a pig… missing the obvious fact of their shared parentage.

Aboard the Mechanical Fish, El Hudat is enjoying some chicken and a snooze. Where did the Aquaphibians manage to find an underwater chicken? Or did El Hudat bring his own chicken? If anyone carries personal chicken, it’s El Hudat.

The Aquaphibians converse in perfect English because it’s episode 36 dammit and nobody can be bothered with the weird language anymore.

Meanwhile, back on Stingray, Ali Khali is in a similar state of exhaustion from over-indulgence. Fortunately, someone has pulled out Stingray’s supply of overly-ornate pillows to make a bed for him. Comedy gold has been struck with the cloth over Ali Khali’s face flapping about as he snores, something which must have been carefully rehearsed by the puppeteer tugging a wire since puppets can’t, y’know, breathe.

Troy and Phones are trying to enjoy some downtime too, but apparently Ali Khali makes more noise than a herd of camels… despite the fact I don’t think Troy has ever encountered a herd of camels, and he’s probably just being a bit racist. They have one hour until they reach the harbour. Hudatvia’s exact location is unknown, but it’s fair to say the whole journey has taken them somewhere between a bit of time and quite a bit of time. I can’t be more accurate than that I’m afraid.

Watching the Mechanical Fish’s progress like a hawk, Titan reminds the Aquaphibians not to screw up the plan, and to prepare El Hudat for their arrival at the harbour. It turns out that El Hudat isn’t terribly fond of the Aquaphibians and calls them ugly. There’s no need for that.

Titan is pleased as punch with how everything is going. He’s on the cusp of victory. It’s actually quite a significant moment when you consider that this is his final appearance in the series. If things had gone differently, Stingray could have concluded with a final showdown between the WASPs and Titan’s forces, with the underwater races having overwhelmed Hudativa and the surrounding nations. It could have been an epic battle. However, Stingray wasn’t in the business of focusing on the nastiness of the war between Titan and the WASPs, so instead the evil ruler’s final appearance is shrouded in a comedy of errors.

Stingray, or something that’s supposed to look like Stingray, shows up on Titan’s display. Well, it’s either Stingray or Supercar.

Titan is fuming. Getting chased by Stingray was not on the cards apparently. I’m not entirely sure why he thought swapping Ali Khali and El Hudat would go unnoticed though. Realistically he’d have been lucky to get a five minute head start. Behind Titan are the spinning gold shuttlecocks of doom, and his table map complete with baby Mechanical Fish. The chair he’s sitting on was previously seen in Atlanta’s bedroom during The Cool Cave Man – because apparently those two shop at the same discount furniture warehouses.

Phones has to interrupt Mr Fancy Pants while he’s shaving because the Mechanical Fish has turned to launch an attack on Stingray! Cue all your favourite stock shots of the two craft doing battle once again.

Stingray has taken so many beatings by this point in the series I’m surprised it still passes an M.O.T.

Ali Khali takes great interest in watching Stingray blow up the Mechanical Fish, having switched from his elegant cigarette holder back to smoking a cigar. Marina has vanished because, let’s be honest, she probably wasn’t in the episode originally and was just given that scene earlier to fill the time.

Troy is planning to hang around and pick up survivors, which isn’t a very Troy thing to do. Is it Christmas? No wait, that’s next week.

The Aquaphibians are probably fish food, but apparently El Hudat was smart enough to find an escape hatch. In typical El Hudat style, he doesn’t put any actual effort into fleeing, he just floats there and expects the ocean to do all the work.

The reception commitee is waiting…

Oh bravo. A squirting El Hudat water feature is the gift that keeps on giving. The edge of the water tank might just be visible in the top left corner.

Ali Khali is prepared to get dunked in the name of revenge. Phones has never seen 400 pounds of muscle move so fast.

Gerry and Sylvia Anderson are regarded by many as some of the greatest film-makers who ever lived. They pushed the boundaries of what was possible with puppetry, and what could be achieved in the field of special effects. Their stories inspired generations of children and set the gold standard for family entertainment to this day. But what is the pinaccle of their work? The jewel in their crown? Their magnum opus? Surely, two fat men flailing around in the water attempting to kill each other like walruses fighting over a dead halibut has to be up there. The great struggle as David Graham grunts and wails in stereo. The battle between two brothers locked in a common goal to knock each other out with their own expansive stomachs. This is art. This is what it means to be alive. And I’m sure those were the exact words going through the puppeteer’s head as they launched Ali Khali into the water with the grace of a brick.

Apparently this was a scene which also needed extending, so we have a brief cutaway to Troy and Phones commenting on the spectacle. Phones bravely volunteers to dive in, but in a manner which doesn’t particularly sound like he really wants to.

I’m not sure who’s winning. I don’t think it’s either of them.

Troy can barely maintain his professionalism as the brothers simultaneously pass out. You may laugh, but fighting in water when you’re carrying a few extra pounds is genuinely exhausting… so I’ve heard… I wouldn’t know.

Is that a bath one of them’s been tied to? That’s sick.

Phones struggles to tell them apart like this is some sort of Shakespeare comedy.

I can tell these two apart though, no sweat.

Shore is thoroughly amused by the dilemma, failing to grasp the seriousness of the fact that one of these guys should be president (if you discount the revolution), and one is a convicted criminal. So he comes up with a very childish solution to figuring out who is who.

A short and sweet whip-pan transition. Because you know how much I love my pans to be whipped.

Commander Shore arrives at the Marineville Jail looking thoroughly pleased with himself.

Sure enough, he’s gone and put both brothers behind bars to make absolutely sure that El Hudat is in prison, even if that means Ali Khali has been wrongly incacerated. The law of the WASPs is a brutal beast. Of course, in the same way that El Hudat was locked up for damaging WASP property back in Star of the East, Ali Khali probably deserves a similar sentence for blowing up the control tower… so it probably all works out just fine. A judge and jury should probably decide that one though.

And so the episode concludes with the two brothers yelling “I’m Ali Khali” back and forth to just unceremoniously rip off the 1960 film, Spartacus.

Commander Shore leaves them to argue… and to go and find Abu… seriously, where did he end up?

Eastern Eclipse is a wafer thin idea for a story which could have been told in a few minutes. Any complexity and nuance is brushed aside in the name of big comedy. This is not a plot to be taken seriously. It’s a fluffy piece of fun designed to make people laugh. The script in its original form must have been incredibly short because so much padding has been added to bring the episode to its full length. Sequences either go on for several minutes or last a few seconds. A story like this badly needs a subplot to add some kind of depth to it. But I do love this episode for the great ambition behind its production. The sequence with the biplane is criminally underrated as a piece of Supermarionation film-making. But I can also understand why some audiences find Eastern Eclipse grating or lacking in substance compared with other episodes. The broad humour isn’t for everyone, and it means El Hudat and Ali Khali are difficult to take seriously as villains. Star of the East expertly portrayed El Hudat as a dangerous egotist who can and will shoot to kill when provoked. He was funny, but he was also a credible threat. But in Eastern Eclipse, he barely does anything and his motivations are unclear, while Ali Khali is shown to be a bit irascible but basically a harmless imbecile. Titan and X20 don’t get to see their plan through so their threat is diminished also. Meanwhile, Troy and Stingray are reduced to being a taxi service, so don’t get to be particuarly heroic either. The episode has very little to drive it forward which is why the pacing is so haphazard. So for me, Eastern Eclipse is a simple case of style over substance. And it’s got some great style, so it’s not all bad.

Next week, Christmas has come early to the Security Hazard blog as we get festive and full of cheer for Stingray‘s Christmas special! When an alien craft requires further investigation, little orphan Barry Byrne is brought along for the ride, giving the young lad A Christmas To Remember. See you next week for that, and don’t forget the crackers!

Want to catch new reviews as soon as they’re published? Subscribe to the blog for email updates, and follow Security Hazard on Facebook and Twitter. You can also buy me a coffee if you liked this article.

Further Reading 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.

7 thoughts on “Stingray – 36. Eastern Eclipse

  1. Great laughs all round in this one Jack, did you notice this is the only we see Troy with Phones’s headphones by the way? So maybe Troy can take soundings just as well as him.
    I really have wondered what became of Abu after this episode, maybe he was let out for good behaviour! lol 😛
    Titan, X20 and the Aquaphibans all put ina great performance as well and the damage to Marineville’s control tower is not to different to General X’s mansion in Martian Invasion, (although it goes without saying) and they even re-used music cues in that Thunderbirds episode and one or two from Supercar I believe. 😉
    Another favourite episode, I can hardly find anything to rant about here and it is certainly one of the funniest!. 😀


  2. One of the funniest episodes ever!
    I think it is a great that they made this a sequel to Star of the East, smashing stuff as always, Jack.


  3. Barry Gray afficionado here, present and correct! The unique comedy cues heard in this episode and no others are actually not new material. Music from Four Feather Falls episode Chance of a Ghost was reused, including use of the ‘comedy villain theme’ heard in numerous other episodes of that show. It was the only time FFF music was reused outside of one more occasion in Thunderbirds’ Operation Crash-Dive when Scott visits the farm in Ireland and returns having milked the cow (the cues coming originally from A Little Bit of Luck).


    1. Correction, I’ve just discovered a third use of Four Feather Falls music, when a cue from The Ma Jones Story was reused in The Secret Service episode Errand of Mercy (just as all the interceptor jets are taken down, right before Father Unwin and Matthew arrive at ‘Bishopville’). Interestingly enough none of the soundtrack guides for either series mentions this reuse, unlike the other two cues which have their reuses mentioned.

      Thus concludes this rather random interlude on a post about Stingray, but hey, you asked for afficionados after all 😛


  4. X2-Zero reveals that El Hudat has been in prison for the past year. Does that mean A Christmas to Remember should precede this episode or could the show’s timeline be set over the course of two years or so?


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