Stingray – 38. The Lighthouse Dwellers

Directed by David Elliott

Teleplay by Alan Fennell

First UK Broadcast – 17th January 1965

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.

And here’s the lighthouse. A beautiful miniature filmed in the middle of a stormy sea with thunder and lightning all around. If I knew more about about lighthouses I could probably tell you which specific one(s) this model was based on. I can’t, so I won’t, but I do have some lighthouse related trivia for you which I came across in an unusual way. I was sitting in a waiting room here in Oregon, USA where I’ve lived for a number of years (in Oregon that is, not the waiting room), when I spotted a gorgeous old-timey looking map on the wall illustrating the lighthouses covering the coast of the Pacific Northwest. As I looked closer, I identified a place called Cape Arago which did indeed have its own lighthouse and was almost certainly the inspiration for the name of the Arago Rock lighthouse in this very episode. So I guess that’s my personal connection to The Lighthouse Dwellers. Pretty flimsy, ain’t it?

The interior set of the lighthouse is a general interpretation of the real thing, featuring this simplified version of a Fresnel lens lamp.

That silver piece of technical gubbins on the back wall started life as a Sooper Snooper periscope toy – the same items were used in the launch bay of Thunderbird 1 – and now you’ve noticed one you won’t stop seeing them for the rest of the episode. This chap, dressed up in a standard-issue woolly lighthouse keeper jumper is… well, he’s the lighthouse keeper… if the jumper didn’t give that away then the grey hair, beard, and the fact he’s currently keeping a lighthouse should have done. His name is Frank Lincoln and he’s about to be made homeless in the name of modernisation. How cheerful.

Frank has a thoroughly miserable chat with Commander Shore over at Marineville as he prepares to leave his home for the last time and shut off the lighthouse. As well as another Sooper Snooper, there’s also that framed set of “Regulations” seen most recently on the wall of the jail in Eastern Eclipse.

That’s a pretty spacious lighthouse Frank has there, as lighthouses go. The guy could quite happily squat in there after the light has been put out. Who the heck would come and bother him about it?

With a little help from a floor puppeteer, it’s time for Frank to shut off the power. This control panel with different labels on the levers was previously seen in Professor Kordo’s control room from Trapped In The Depths for operating the air lock and filter system.

Well, that’s that. I’m sure nothing bad will happen as a result of these events…

Right, here we go, time for me to kick off. Lovely plaque though it is, why the heck is it hanging up in the Marineville conference room? Are the WASPs in some way responsible for maintaining lighthouses at this point? Do they not have better things to be doing? And even if they are in some way involved with the lighthouse, shouldn’t the plaque be on the lighthouse itself? I don’t keep the plaque commemorating my collection of antique kitchen mops in the office at the kitchen mop factory – it stands proud next to all three of my mops… I’m a bit of an amateur collector but I like the plaque. Next up, the current year is established as 2065 – one hundred years after the episode was first broadcast in January 1965, and following the pattern established in the setting of Fireball XL5, Captain Scarlet, every issue of TV21 comic and yes, I’m going to say it, Thunderbirds – bite me 2026 die hards. Yes, I know 2026 is shown up on a wall in Thunderbirds just like 2065 is being shown up on a wall here in Stingray so I don’t have a leg to stand on but… no, no, I’m not getting into this. I retract my previous statement. Set Thunderbirds and any other Anderson show in whatever year you like. I don’t care. Space: 1999? Could be Space: 100,000 BC for all the weighty brown lumps I give.

Not that it particularly matters at this point but today we’re in the WSP conference room shown in the pilot episode as being in Washington, not Marineville, but its moved back and forth so much throughout the series I don’t know where the heck this scene is taking place. Our friendly little WASP family is decked out in medals, and Commander Shore has thrown those frilly epaulettes over his shoulders to make him look really snazzy. One-hit-wonder Admiral Frendor is giving a speech about the lighthouse which has been operating for 175 years. It’s probably time for some historical context. Starting in the 1960s through to the 1980s, a big push was made towards automating lighthouses so that they could continue operating as navigational beacons without a crew inside. Therefore, the notion of Frank Lincoln still being a lighthouse operatior living at Arago Rock in 2065 is a bit silly, but in the context of when the episode was first broadcast it makes sense. The real Cape Arago Lighthouse in Oregon (which was probably just selected by Alan Fennell for its name and nothing more) was first built in 1866, automated one hundred years later in 1966, and was then finally decomissioned in 2006. That’s a timeline typical of most lighthouses. At the time of writing, all lighthouses in the United States have been automated, with the sole exception of the Boston Light, which law dictates must have a keeper, and the incumbent since 2003 has been a woman named Sally Snowman.

Conversation in the conference room turns to paying tribute to Frank Lincoln for living and working at the lighthouse alone for 40 years. Atlanta is sympathetic to Frank having his livelihood taken away from him. Admiral Frendor, a puppet previously seen as Professor Graham in In Search of the Tajmanon, objects most strongly to keeping Frank happy. Charming. I’m paraphrasing but that’s basically what he says. Frendor and Phones explain for the benefit of the audience that the lighthouse has been shut off in order to prevent confusion for aircraft landing at the new Arago Point airbase constructed on the nearby coastline. Yeah you bet I’ve done my research (5 minutes of googling) on that assertion. So far I’ve not found any cases of real lighthouses being decommissioned because of nearby runways. That doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened, it just means I couldn’t find a real-life example. Airway beacons, or aerial lighthouses, were built in a similar manner to marine lighthouses during the 1920s and 30s but have since been shut down in favour of more useful navigational aids like radio signals. Now, I’m no pilot, but I would have thought quite a considerable amount of training would go into recognising runway lights, and even in poor weather the pilot would still have other navigational aids to fall back on like. So though it’s not impossible, it seems unlikely the Arago Rock Lighthouse would have caused all that much confusion to approaching aircraft. I think it’s far more likely that Frank’s lighthouse would have simply been automated like all the others. Or if the lighthouse had been decommissioned completely, there’s no reason Frank couldn’t have carried on living there – provided he didn’t mind living under a flight path. Anyway, instead Frank’s going to get a medal and a party and I’m sure he won’t be bitter about that at all.

A small miniature wooden boat is seen departing the lighthouse (a model which survives to this day), but on the puppet set Frank is being tossed about in the blue boat used previously by Admiral Denver in Loch Ness Monster and Thompson in Invisible Enemy. The reason for this mismatch is unclear, seeing as a miniature of the blue boat did exist and was used on those prior episodes. Frank mournfully says farewell to his lighthouse as the wind and rain howls around him. It’s a really great scene with the emotion of David Graham’s performance just getting sentimental enough without overdoing it, and combining nicely with the wild ride Frank is having to contend with as the waves crash against the boat.

The first aircraft approaches the air base. It’s the same model which previously portrayed the Supersonic 101 Airliner in the reference photographs viewed during Eastern Eclipse. It’s not the most interesting aircraft ever seen in an Anderson show, but it’s decent enough.

The pilot of Sky Eagle 127 is portrayed by the puppet of Lieutenant Misen from Marineville Traitor. The cockpit is the same set Troy was sat in for Rescue From The Skies. The pilot’s helmet was previously worn by the bomber pilot in Emergency Marineville and includes a round grille component which you might recognise as Braman’s speaking hole, as seen on Brains’ robotic pal in the Thunderbirds episodes Sun Probe and Edge of Impact. The pilot’s voice is Don Mason trying to swallow a walnut. Sorry.

But oh, flippin’, no! The lighthouse has mysteriously switched itself back on just as the aircraft is preparing to land. Frank immediately realises the danger and starts yelling frantically. David Elliott sure directs rain and storms good because the moment feels positively apocalyptic, as per his earlier episode, Set Sail For Adventure.

The pilot gets ever so confused when he’s told to land on the ‘B’ marker and decides that the light in the middle of the ocean must be it because he can’t see any other lights through the heavy rain. The air traffic controller doesn’t correct him or anything. Surely she has radar readings which she must be checking because otherwise what’s the point of being an air traffic controller? By the way, that’s Lois Maxwell getting to do a rare guest role in case that wasn’t obvious.

The sight of the plane hitting the rocks adjacent to the lighthouse is pretty spectacular as the lightning and the high winds continue the rage on.

Frank can only watch as the pilot crashes in the water. That yellow mac looks a bit cheery given the circumstances. We aren’t actually shown the very final moments of Sky Eagle 127, which perhaps adds some more pathos to the scene.

A flare goes up, suggesting that the pilot survived, so that’s something. Frank feels a duty to head back to the lighthouse to find out how the heck it got switched on again. I guarantee he won’t get paid extra for it, but sure, go be the hero, Frank.

Back at Marineville, the gang are discussing the incident and we learn that the pilot was indeed absolutely fine despite the crash. They’re all baffled by the light mysteriously switching itself on again, and assume that Frank is taking his sweet time getting back over there to sort it out. Have you guys seen the weather out there?! I’m not surprised it’s taking him a while. If I were Frank I’d still be at the harbour on the mainland enjoying a pint and a packet of crisps.

Lieutenant Fisher is attempting to radio the lighthouse with no success. It’s worth noting, after all the episode reviews we’ve been through together, that the microphone sticking up in front of Fisher is totally adjustable and is seen in a variety of positions on the console throughout the series. There’s probably a whole bunch of other changes that go on with the main control panel as the series progresses that I haven’t pointed out previously, but honestly, I won’t be losing sleep over it… unless you come to my house and kick me out of the bed to watch the series all over again with my nose pressed up to the screen to spot every dial and toothpaste cap that’s out of place… please don’t do that.

Frank’s boat, or rather the miniature that looks nothing like Frank’s boat, is moored back at the lighthouse which has a beautifully detailed concrete foundation and entrance.

Presumably those are the original stairs of the lighthouse…

But Frank has an elevator. In reality, the only lighthouse in the United States with an elevator is said to be the Charleston Light on Sullivan Island, South Carolina. Nevertheless, Frank’s lighthouse has one because Frank is:
a) old.
b) in a hurry.
c) a puppet.

That back projection probably looks familiar to you because it’s actually the same footage which plays out behind the Stingray crew as they are lowered down the injector tubes, but obviously reversed to show Frank ascending instead of descending. It has the unfortunate side effect of basically making the lighthouse appear completely hollow inside with nothing but random gubbins between the ground floor and the light at the top.

The radio is chattering away but Frank doesn’t have time to talk to Marineville – he’s a man on a mission.

Is handholding too intimate for a first date?

It was at this moment that Frank realised it was truly the right time to retire from the lighthouse game.

Yes, making their third appearance in the series as “generic underwater alien race,” it’s the same puppets who portrayed Nucella & Chidora in Emergency Marineville and Torata & Fragil in Deep Heat. This bloke is one of their glittery green lighthouse dwelling cousins, known as Lorif.

Meanwhile, Shore, Troy and Phones get bored listening to Fisher endlessly yammering into the radio and so decide to go and investigate the lighthouse themselves.

The scene cuts off rather suddenly as it fades into the next, which could suggest some additional dialogue was trimmed during post production. If you have an original script for The Lighthouse Dwellers in your collection, please do share it publicly, along with those film cans full of missing Twizzle episodes which you’re no doubt using to prop up your shelves full of screen-used Four Feather Falls puppets.

With no fanfare whatsoever, Stingray has already been launched and arrives at the lighthouse with the storm still raging. Marina is joining the crew for this particular mission, having only been working part-time in recent weeks. She has, however, been relegated once again to watching the action from the comfort of Stingray while the boys go out to have all the fun.

So with Frank’s boat moored up and the big light still on, Troy volunteers himself to investigate because he’s such a swell guy. Marina stands up to wave goodbye… either that or she’s sat on a thumb tack.

A teeny tiny little figure of Troy in his grey uniform stands rigidly on Stingray’s deck while Phones attempts to get him over to the ladder. The water sure is sloshing about plenty!

Troy makes it across, although he’s now wearing a yellow mac that the miniature version of him didn’t appear to have. I won’t deduct points for that though.

Phones is asked to get clear but stay close in case Troy needs back up. You’ve gotta love good old, trusty, reliable Phones.

Troy enters through the front door as any polite guest should do… unless your name is Aunty Muriel in which case you’ll kick your way through the nailed up cat flap just to prove you’re still a lithe specimen after thirty-eight unhappy years of marriage and an even more unhappy teacake obsession. The strong wind blows the door shut behind Troy which I guess we’re supposed to be spooked by but, c’mon, it’s pretty stormy out there, I think the door slamming was inevitable.

Troy boards the elevator and… wait… is that… no… please, no… we cannot keep doing this… it’s Troy’s new f***ing head again. Look, if you’ve read enough of my reviews you’ll be a perfectly qualified student in the art of figuring out why the heck Troy’s head changes for this brief shot in the elevator. The short answer is Alan Pattillo probably filmed it later. The long answer is too tedious for anyone to still care about.

Troy steps out of the elevator at the top of the lighthouse, which is filmed at almost the right angle to not reveal the gap in the top of the elevator’s frame that allows Troy’s puppet wires to pass through… but not quite.

If you’re now thoroughly distracted by the sight of that periscope toy stuck to the wall, then you are not alone.

As Troy goes to shut out the light, he also gets a visit from Mr Touchy-Feely who threatens him with a gun and apparently already knows Troy’s name without any formal introductions. I guess Troy’s got a bit of a reputation among the underwater civilisations, good and bad.

Phwoar, that’s a nice shot.

Phones is unable to reach Troy over the radio now that his wrist communicator has been pinched by Lorif. Meanwhile, Commander Shore is refusing to remove the gold nonsense from the shoulders of his uniform whilst enjoying a cigar, a cup of coffee, and a slice of cake. He orders Phones to head inside the lighthouse since Troy is obviously in trouble. Sure, because sending a third person in there to turn off the switch when two people have clearly failed is obviously the right course of action here.

So we head into the commercial break while Phones grabs an umbrella.

Back from the commercial break. It’s still raining.

Same old story. Marina stuck on Stingray with nothing to do except wait until she’s useful to the plot.

Will Phones have better luck with shutting off the power?

HI-YA! No creepy hand grabbing from Lorif this time but Phones jumps out of his skin and flails his arm around with a very inaccurate karate chop.

Lorif takes Phones back down to the ground floor while Marina continues watching the rain on the windows like she’s in some kind of moody music video. As the elevator descends, there’s a brief moment where Lorif’s feet leave the floor, presumably because synchronising the movement of the two puppets and the elevator itself wasn’t always easy. Then, Lorif guides Phones over to a secret elevator in the floor which is about the only spot in the room that isn’t covered in discarded junk. Seriously Frank, you couldn’t have tidied up before you left?

Phones is told by Lorif that they are now beneath the ocean. Thanks Einstein, couldn’t have worked that one out for ourselves.

The lair of Lorif and his colleague, Chroma, is finally revealed. It’s pretty much exactly what you might expect from a subterranean base belonging to two Stingray villains with pointy faces. The main control unit Chroma is standing next to is the same one Titan had in Titanica during The Master Plan but redecorated. And standing by the wall in some slightly kinky manacles are Troy and Frank. Troy quips that Phones has taken his time reaching them, which is a bit flippin’ ungrateful.

Troy hasn’t heard the monologue full of exposition yet so doesn’t have a clue what’s happening. But once Phones has been chained up with his pals we soon get to learn more. They are about to be sentenced for trying to exterminate Lorif and Chroma’s civilisation… which only consists of two people that we actually see, as per usual. Apparently, extinguishing the “great light” would kill them off within a week. I find that hard to believe given the grandeur and splendor of their taste in interior design. Pretty sure someone down there would have enough cash to buy a generator if the situation were desperate.

Pay attention folks, this is going to be one heck of a lecture. A panel of lovely artwork slides back to reveal a window to the ocean which as you can probably guess is in fact an aquarium.

When the lighthouse’s beam passes over the sea anemones outside, they open. When it’s dark, they close. There are thousands of them surrounding the underwater city and the energy of the anemones opening and closing has been harnessed using tiny little generators inside every single organism. That energy provides power for the entire city’s heating and lighting. Hence why the terraineans shutting off the lighthouse would apparently destroy them… Yes I did furiously google all this as well. So let’s start with the basics – yes, sea anemones do open and close based on lighting conditions, remaining closed at night to conserve energy and protect themselves from predators. We also have to accept that the beam from the lighthouse is powerful enough to reach whatever depth of the ocean they’re at right now. Let’s then give these anemones the benefit of the doubt and say that over the past 175 years that the lighthouse has been operating, they’ve adapted and really do open and close every few seconds, regardless of whether it’s day or night time; or maybe the power system has been adapted to only require charging at night when the lighthouse beam is their only energy source. Now, the bit about each anemone operating a generator with its movement to generate power… well… there’s a different solution that’s a lot less fiddly but much more scientific. I’m no expert but here’s the version for five-year-olds: super smart scientists recently discovered that sea anemones and brine shrimp eggs make magical molecules which create an electrical current when introduced to this nifty thing called a bio-electricalchemical cell. I cannot stress how very much more complicated it is than that but just understanding it at that level made my head hurt. But, overall, Alan Fennell’s headline that anemones fed by light energy from the lighthouse are being used to generate electricity for this city is basically sound – science just needed a few more decades to come up with a decent explanation for it.

All that aside, Lorif and Chroma assume their prisoners’ intentions were entirely hostile so plan on getting shot of them. Apparently Frank had no idea that there was a city under the lighthouse. Presumably the elevator on the ground floor was installed before Frank moved in forty years ago. What I have a harder time buying is the fact that Troy and Phones didn’t spot the city when they were approaching the area in Stingray, surrounded as it is by thousands of anemones getting lit up quite brightly.

Meanwhile, the disadvantages of leaving Marina alone on Stingray in charge of the radio are made painfully obvious once again. But Commander Shore and Atlanta are seasoned professionals at the microphone tapping thing by this point and quickly learn that the light is still on and the lads haven’t been seen for a while. The plan? Shut off the power to the lighthouse from Marineville and send Rescue Launch 8 to go and assist. Now, I don’t need to describe the tremendous irritation I felt when I realised Marineville could have switched off the light any time they fancied. I’m sure you can feel my blood pressure rising from where you’re sitting. I suppose there’s still an argument for Stingray to go out and investigate why the light got switched back on, even if the immediate issue of switching off the light itself can be done remotely. However, considering the lighthouse had just been decommissioned, I would have thought completely cutting the power to the entire structure would have been at the top of the to-do list anyway, so it should have been done as soon as Frank left.

Troy promises that the light will stay on until an alternative power source is found for them. Lorif and Chroma believe him. Then the light goes out. Boy, that’s unfortunate timing. Troy and Phones immediately figure that Shore has cut the main power from Marineville… which doesn’t explain why there are still other lights on in the windows of the lighthouse – probably just a continuity blunder. Phones literally points out that there’s nothing they can do if the main power is cut, implying that the tower should have no power running to it at all. It also implies that the lighthouse doesn’t have its own power source inside, or if it does it can be controlled remotely from Marineville. In either case, its clear that some level of remote operation is possible, so I struggle to believe that the lighthouse hasn’t been fully automated like every other lighthouse was beginning to go through in the 1960s. Alan Fennell is making a noble point that relics like the lighthouse are worth keeping around for other roles they can serve to benefit the modern world, but he also sort of proves why automation and modernisation of the lighthouses was a sensible idea given how quick and easy it was for Shore to turn the thing off himself. Anyway, Troy starts telling lies again by claiming Frank can fix the lighthouse in order to save them.

Troy, Phones, and Frank confer not-so-secretly while Lorif and Chroma decide to believe Troy and go along with his plan… the fools.

So, while Troy and Phones continue to be held hostage, Frank has “250 light flashes” to sort everything out before they’re executed… because apparently marine minutes weren’t a convoluted enough way of telling the time underwater. Troy reckons 250 light flashes is 30 minutes… yes, he can just do that math on the spot apparently. That’s 7.2 seconds per light flash if you want to count along at home.

Back at Marineville, it’s just after 3 o’clock (in the morning presumably), and Shore is ordering Rescue Launch 8 to recover Troy, Phones, and Frank. Rescue Launch 8 was also mentioned in Treasure Down Below so I guess those are the go-to guys when Stingray’s in trouble… which it often is.

“You’d better not be lying this time.” As if Troy would do such a thing…

Back up top, Frank has a bit of a challenge on his hands getting over to Stingray because its mooring has broken. That rather begs the question as to how one would actually moor Stingray in the first place. It doesn’t, as far as I can ascertain, have an anchor or anywhere that one could attach something as crude as a rope.

Frank hops down the ladder to his boat which once again transforms from blue to timber-coloured between the puppet and model stages. I do have to praise the skill of the puppeteers for operating the puppets as well they did in those choppy waters – it must have been like trying to neatly slice a banana on a roller coaster.

Marina hears a tapping at the window. I’m sure she’ll be delighted to have visitors.

Hey, it’s Frank! Loveable Frank. Charming, dependable, trustworthy Frank.

If looks could kill. Yes, apparently nobody clued Marina up on what Frank looked like before they took off, so she immediately suspects the strange beardy man to be an enemy. I suppose she was wise enough to close Stingray’s hatch when the baddies showed up in Deep Heat, so automatically assumes that’s the best approach in any circumstance. Okay, Frank clearly isn’t an undersea alien, but he could still be a wrong’un and Marina’s having none of it.

Half the time is gone already but, at least for this close-up, Phones has had his neck manacle loosened, as you can see from the large gap at the back.

Frank, like any good lighthouse keeper, always carries a biro and a notepad in his yellow mac for emergencies just like this.

Marina reasons that it’s written down so it must be true, and therefore goes to let Frank inside.

Troy is getting terribly impatient, what with the upcoming execution and all.

Frank and Marina’s relationship gets off to a rocky start when it becomes apparent she won’t talk, and he doesn’t understand why. If only Frank had a biro and a notepad in the pocket of his yellow mac which could help them communicate. Nevermind, Frank’s just got to figure out which control he needs to operate all by himself. As time ticks away, we know things are getting serious because Chroma is shown in extreme close-up at a wonky angle. That, plus the lads are sweaty.

It’s like watching your great-grandparents trying to use the internet.

With just seconds to spare, Frank finds the switch to operate Stingray’s floodlights which, despite pointing in completely the wrong direction, have the same power as the lighthouse to make the sea anemones open and close. Radioing Marineville to switch the power to the lighthouse back on probably would have been a better idea but sure, I guess this works too. Troy and Phones’ lives have been saved. Huzzah! Kinda nice for Troy to be on the receiving end of one of those pant-wettingly last minute rescue operations for once. And even Lorif and Chroma are relieved that they don’t have to kill anyone today, but only because they’d have been dead within a week too… which I still don’t buy but okay.

Time for Stingray to head for home. All the lights in the lighthouse are off now, so I guess the power has been cut for real.

Frank and Marina continue to work on their communication issues in the back while Phones and Troy set course for Marineville…

And as Stingray leaves, the penny drops that the city’s only light source is being taken away, thus sentencing Lorif and Chroma to a week without power and eventually death. Someone find me the world’s tiniest violin. Seriously, there must have been a point in the last 175 years when the lighthouse was out of action for a short period and their civilisation didn’t die out. Heck, during the Second World War quite a few lighthouses were shut down or only operated intermittently. What did Lorif and Chroma’s people do for all those years? Sorry guys, you don’t have my sympathy because it was a dumb means of powering your city in the first place, and you should have made yourselves self-sufficient as soon as you possibly could, and if you’re going to die within a week without power you probably didn’t plan for emergencies terribly well.

Back at Marineville, everyone is dressed up for Frank’s party except for Frank, who’s just put on a slightly different jumper – the same one Troy wore to go ice-skating in A Christmas To Remember. Frank has been awarded a medal by Admiral Frendor, which Frank will no doubt have to sell on eBay soon to cover the cost of an apartment or something now that he’s homeless.

But don’t worry, Frank has been given a job at the good old Marineville Tracking Station operating the signal lights… because apparently Frank’s skills pretty much exclusively extend to industrial-scale lighting. But Frank’s thrilled, so Atlanta declares that it’s time to start the party. She’s back in part of the outfit she wore to the dinner party at the end of the pilot episode, while Marina is in the silver version of her regular costume which is typically reserved for swanky ocassions such as this.

Troy appears to be drinking a glass of cough syrup. Frank is more concerned that the city, which we finally learned is called Prisma, will die without his lighthouse operating. Commander Shore and Phones are stood behind them pretending to have a conversation, while Troy explains to Frank that a convenient solution has been devised by those clever boffins in white coats. A solution which will ensure Prisma forever has a source of eternal light… maybe it’s the one that shines out of Troy’s backside.

The next day, Stingray carries the special device back to Arago Rock. I guess Stingray has some kind of magnetic grab or clamp or something underneath it which has conveniently never been needed in any of the previous episodes.

Stingray drops its gift. Is it an atomic generator? Is it a self-contained geothermal plant? Is it a year’s supply of AA batteries? No, it’s a flashing light. Yup. Instead of being dependent on the lighthouse to flash and power their city forever, Prisma now gets to be dependent on an underwater lighthouse to flash and power their city forever. What an improvement. And the best part is, this new light is much, much closer to the sea bed so it won’t cover anywhere near as wide of an area as the old lighthouse somehow managed.

Nope, apparently that’s all fine and the chaps are pleased with their new flashing light which they were apparently incapable of engineering themselves. It turns out they weren’t evil-doers threatening to kill Troy and Phones at all, but nice guys who are grateful to the terraineans for looking after them, and believe that all humans are basically good.

So on that cheery note, Stingray is able to return to base with its mission accomplished and the episode can end.

There’s a bit of an elephant in the room which I need to address – this is the final full episode of Stingray. After this, we’re into clip show territory and we’ll get into how that serves the end of the series next week. So here’s what I think The Lighthouse Dwellers ultimately has to offer as far as closure. The episode very successfully offers us one last typical adventure for Stingray and its crew. It’s got many of the standard ingredients we like to see in a Stingray plot from the pair of villains living underneath something they shouldn’t, to Troy and Phones getting captured, to a race against time, to a dinner party in a happy family atmosphere, to a satisfying enough resolution which benefits all concerned. I may have picked some holes in the premise, but ultimately I still consider The Lighthouse Dwellers to be a perfectly acceptable and entertaining bit of telly and a worthy addition to the series. It’s comfortable viewing because it relies on the tried and tested format set up by many other Stingray episodes before it. Plus, the inclusion of a lighthouse gives the episode that flair of originality it needed, and creatively used real-life events surrounding the redundancy of lighthouse keepers to tell a story with a sci-fi fantasy flavour. The atmosphere of the episode is superb, with the storm scenes proving that, once again, Stingray offers up some of the most effective and ambitious scenes ever produced by AP Films. In terms of storyline and its position in the so-called arc of the series, it probably isn’t right to view The Lighthouse Dwellers as a finale. But for charting the development of the Supermarionation process and the craftmanship of the AP Films team, I think it’s fascinating to look at where Stingray started, and where it is at this point. Everything, both on the puppet and special effects stages, is being produced at the highest possible standards. The detail of the models, the sophistication of the puppets, the ambition of the camera work and the slickness of the editing is all on fine form in The Lighthouse Dwellers, and it’s easy to see how the same studio behind this episode, were just a few months away from embarking on Thunderbirds‘ debut episode, Trapped In The Sky.

Next week, it’s awards season and you can guarantee Troy won’t be missing out on the fun. But the morning after the night before offers up another special surprise waiting at Troy’s front door. Stay tuned for Stingray‘s final episode, Aquanaut of the Year, PLUS an in-depth reflection on the series as a whole. Don’t miss it!

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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.

Cape Arago Lighthouse by Cameron La Follette. Last updated October 19, 2022 by the Oregon Historical Society.

Lighthouse Keepers. Last updated September 19, 2019 by the United States National Park Service.

A Guiding Light: The Airway Beacon Tower by Roger Connor. Published in 2019 by the National Air and Space Museum and Smithsonian.

Charleston Light – Sullivan’s Island. Last updated August 11, 2022 by the United States National Park Service.

Direct Electricity Production from Nematostella and Arthemia’s Eggs in a Bio-Electrochemical Cell by Yaniv Shlosberg, Vera Brekhman, Tamar Lotan, and Lior Sepunaru. Published in 2022 in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences.

5 thoughts on “Stingray – 38. The Lighthouse Dwellers

  1. This episode for me is a great one, nice to see that there was a good reason to shut the lighthouse off and give Frank a new job, but why build a runway near a lighthouse anyway? Seems a bit risky, it’s ok with Tracy Island for Thunderbird 2 to be launched from and Thunderbird 4 in emergencies ,I guess.
    I love how we see Shore in a different uniform to usual, could be his normal one modified maybe. And Chroma and Lorif are really the first aliens to have a real battle with their consciences over whether to Troy and Phones or not.
    Overall, I can’t find much to fault in this episode, not much to laugh over but hey, not complaining. 😛
    I don’t know where I stand with Aquanaut of the Year to be honest, Jack, for me clips shows are not terribly interesting for me, but if you’re looking for trivia and goofs then there’s a good reason to review it and I suppose best adventures episodes are good for newly joined fans.
    Do you know if you will be reviewing Reunion part by the way, or is it not reviewable? Lol, it’s not a request, I just know that it’s an episode often overlooked by fans.


      1. Ok fair enough, how do you feel about the compilation episodes such as that, like, dislike or indifferent?


  2. You’ll find out 🙂 Take a look at my review of the Thunderbirds episode Security Hazard if you want an idea as to how I might approach it.

    I appreciate your enthusiasm for all things Stingray!


    1. I’ve read your review of Security Hazard, out of the best adventures compilations I must say it is a real favourite of mine because I watch that more than any of the others, eg- The Inquisition, The Birthday, Aquanaut of the Year, etc.
      Although I’m never 100% on episode like those, I think that the linking material is interesting to look at and I do find there is some interesting to look at as well.

      Liked by 1 person

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