Directed by Alan Pattillo
Teleplay by Gerry & Sylvia Anderson
First UK Broadcast – 27th June 1965
We’re going to do things a little differently for this week’s review. Unless you’ve been living on another planet that never transmitted Stingray (also known as hell), you’ll know that Aquanaut of the Year is a clip show, comprised of classic moments from earlier episodes from the series. There’s only a few minutes of new material for us to dissect. Ordinarily, I’d take the opportunity to put my feet up and enjoy only having to write a short review this week. Heck, you’d probably appreciate that too. Imagine a blissful week not having to endure my load of old waffle… well, tough because that’s not what you’re getting. Aquanaut of the Year is Stingray‘s final episode so it felt remiss of me to just end this 39-week odyssey of articles with a dramatically shorter piece than usual. Instead, once we’ve taken a look at Aquanaut of the Year in the usual manner, we’re going to hold our own award ceremony. Since the episode is all about prizes and trophies, I have a few of my own to hand out as a way of celebrating the series as a whole. Then, at the very end of the article, I’ll be revealing something special that I have in store to round off our Stingray adventures on the Security Hazard blog. So dress up, prepare your acceptance speeches, and get ready to party like it’s 1965!
Oh the smugness. So smug. So very, very smug. Yes, Troy Tempest – Marineville’s answer to the question, “can a man be so full of himself it makes his eyebrows go wonky?” – has been decorated with the jumped up title of “Aquanaut of the Year” – complete with a ceremony which apparently had him saluting in front of the US flag like George Washington riding an eagle while eating a hot dog. Remember that all-important American market Lew Grade needed to sell the series to? Well, I suppose this was Gerry & Sylvia Anderson’s last chance to butter them up. In the bottom right corner of the frame, you might notice someone sleeping – which is the correct reaction to Troy looking smug on your television screen. Of course, we do have to ignore the fact that there aren’t all that many aquanauts around to hand out the this particular award to – apart from Troy, Phones, and a trainee Lt. Fisher, we can’t have met more than a handful of other people capable of steering a submarine during the series. The “Aquanaut of the Year” concept was likely pinched from the Fireball XL5 episode, Space City Special, which saw Steve Zodiac decorated as “Astronaut of the Year.”
The newsreader seen previously in Tom Thumb Tempest, as well as the TV host in the aforementioned Space City Special, is conveying the news of Troy’s accomplishment in front of a world map. Said map just so happens to be showing the American continent and nothing else.
The sleeping individual is Commander Shore, who apparently has not lost his fondness for the Mr. Punch puppet he was wielding in The Cool Cave Man. The television report continues with the revelation that Troy threw a party last night to celebrate his achievement, which one assumes Shore is sleeping off right now. Apparently Commander Shore’s Punch and Judy shows are a huge hit at social gatherings.
Over at Troy’s apartment, things are messy. Real messy. From the top hat on the antique vase to the drinks all over the piano which previously belonged to the jazz band in Tune of Danger, it’s clear that things got out of hand last night. Personally, I’m just surprised Troy has so many friends.
Here’s a nice, weird moment. The camera tracks through to Troy’s bedroom by showing us the edge of the dividing wall between the two sets. It’s not uncommon for film and TV shows to do that for a satisfying transition between scenes – I just find it peels back the curtain a little too much.
Troy’s bedroom appears to have been obliterated by the party. Another top hat sits atop a decorative item, as does Professor Graham’s safari hat from In Search of the Tajmanon. I can’t help but notice that Troy and Phones are no longer sharing a bedroom, as shown in Marineville Traitor. There’s only one bed in the room, so it’s not just Phones choosing to spend the night in someone else’s company – he’s actually moved out, either to another bedroom or another apartment. Hope Troy and Phones are still buddies. Note that it’s 7 o’clock according to Troy’s bedside clock.
The kraken wakes. Troy is feeling rougher than my Aunty Muriel’s unshaven forehead. On his bedside table we see the clock which suddenly has no hands, a medal – presumably the big important one he received yesterday, some keys (one for the apartment, and one for Stingray’s ignition), a watch which almost certainly doesn’t contain a wrist radio, and a note under the clock labeled ‘URGENT’ which probably means it’s… well, urgent. Science has proven, however, that you can write a note in the biggest handwriting you like, it won’t have the power to wake someone up.
Troy finally picks up the note, which turns out to be a reminder from Atlanta to get up early for a surprise. Troy doesn’t sound thrilled, so it’s probably nothing kinky.
Meanwhile, the Shores are also getting up early. Apparently the commander isn’t used to being awake at the unearthly hour of 7 am which is, needless to say, quite surprising for a dedicated military man – hangover or not. Atlanta is serving coffee and not having any of her father’s whining, as she reminds him that the TV company asked them all to get up early for reasons unknown to them all. Well, actually they asked Atlanta to wake everyone up early because apparently she’s everyone’s mother now. Anyway, Commander Shore just wants to watch the news on the telly to start his day off right…
Meanwhile, Troy is keen to emphasise what an absolute state his apartment is in when the doorbell rings. He hopes it’s Atlanta coming to help clean up. Again, she’s everyone’s mother this week. Troy also complains that he’s having to “get up in the middle of the night” which I think we can universally agree is a bit melodramatic seeing as his clock still reads 7 am.
“They’re not my drugs, officer, I swear.”
Oh yes, Troy is such a big star now that he’s been selected to appear on This Is Your Life – the conceit which has been dreamt up to turn this episode into a clip show. It’s a truly bizarre clash of reality and fantasy and probably puts this one up there as the most surreal of all the Anderson clip shows. A quick history lesson – This Is Your Life was a television show in America which moved from radio to television in 1952 and was hosted by its creator, Ralph Edwards, until the end of its regular run in 1961. The basic premise was for each edition to feature an unknowing guest – usually a celebrity or person of interest – suddenly being presented with a look back on their lives with family members and friends from the honoree’s past making surprise appearances. The symbol for the series was the red book which hosts would read biographical details from – the redness of the book presumably not holding much significance until the advent of colour television, which is why the detail wasn’t carried over into Aquanaut of the Year. Across the pond in the United Kingdom, the British version of This is Your Life, hosted by Eammon Andrews and later Michael Aspel ran with great success from 1955 to 2003. Unfortunately for Stingray and Aquanaut of the Year‘s first broadcast, 1965 was one of the few years that This Is Your Life was off the air in the UK following its cancellation by the BBC, with the show not coming back until 1969, produced by Thames Television. Meanwhile, the US version of the show had ended a few years prior in 1961 and never quite managed to get going again after several attempts to reboot and revive the show by Ralph Edwards and others garnering varying levels of success. Nevertheless, the Andersons obviously felt the format was popular enough in the UK and the US to feature in Stingray. Anyone born after 1995 probably won’t have the slightest clue what’s going on.
One quirk of the show which I wasn’t aware of (as someone who was born right at the 1995 cutoff), is that it was originally broadcast live, as so much television was in the 1950s and 60s. I always assumed that in this case the television people were just being particularly cruel to Troy. Of course, why they were broadcasting live at 7 o’clock in the morning is a bit of a mystery. Notice that Barry Burn has left his model of Stingray behind on the Shores’ bookshelves, having been shipped back to the orphanage after the events of A Christmas To Remember so that he could be ground up and made into stew.
Atlanta couldn’t be more delighted that Troy has been honoured with his own This Is Your Life show. Shore can tell that Troy is less than enthused about it though, triggering Atlanta to go into mum mode once again and march over to Troy’s apartment to clean up.
So, broadcasting live from Troy’s trashed living room, the host begins to tell a story which he considers one of Troy’s most startling adventures – the events of Emergency Marineville.
Stingray – 11. Emergency Marineville
Emergency Marineville was chosen as the second episode of Stingray to be broadcast. The episode also…Keep reading
You too can take this opportunity to re-live Emergency Marineville via my earlier review of the full episode. As stated in that post, it’s easy to see why Emergency Marineville was chosen to include in this and many other compilations of the series. It’s the story which probably most closely demonstrates the pure format of Stingray, and is packed with all the typical ingredients you might expect from one of the WASPs’ adventures. For Aquanaut of the Year, the story has been trimmed down considerably to focus on Stingray’s arrival under the island, the crew’s interrogation by Nucella and Chidora, Troy sabotaging the next missile, and the eventual destruction of the island. The gaps are filled by narration from the television host, while the only other modifications to the material are some tighter cuts to bring down the duration, a wipe transition following the rocket crash, and some altered musical cues to match the new edits.
Back in the apartment, it isn’t quite clear whether the viewers of This Is Your Life have just watched the same clips we’ve experienced, or whether the story has just been told to them by the host. Such is the crisis of the clip show format. Atlanta has made it over to Troy’s apartment during the Emergency Marineville segment to start cleaning up, but stands next to Troy in order to show her tray full of empty drinks from the night before on camera. Troy is asked to share his most unusual experience with the viewers. He decides to recite a dream sequence which is a bit of a cop out as far as unusual experiences go. Nevertheless, a wibbly-wobbly transition effect takes us into the events of Raptures of the Deep…
Stingray – 16. Raptures of the Deep
Dream sequences are a staple of Supermarionation storytelling. They allow us to see adventures which couldn’t…Keep reading
Yeah, I bet Troy couldn’t resist re-living this particular memory. Raptures of the Deep is another solid pick for inclusion in Aquanaut of the Year. It demonstrates the more fantastical aspects of Stingray and also allows for a close-up and personal examination of Troy’s character and his relationships. Sure, most of what we see is just a dream, but as a memorable moment from the series there’s none finer. At least there’s no pretence made about it not being a dream or anything like that. Troy narrates the sequence, but tells a big fat lie by saying he’d been sent to investigate the forest of gems – he hadn’t, he was actually sent to rescue Hepcat, which gets no mention in the flashback. We do, however, learn that the story took place close to the fictional Petroma trench. The focus is very much on Troy’s unconscious state and his dream palace getting destroyed by Aquaphibians during the episode’s thrilling climax. Troy’s rendition of Aqua Marina has been cut – make of that what you will. Again, various musical cues have been re-edited to match the faster cutting of the flashback.
Apparently Troy spent absolutely ages telling that last story because he’s managed to change into his uniform (on camera presumably), Atlanta has finished tidying the apartment, and Phones, Marina, and Commander Shore have all arrived to enjoy their 15 minutes of fame. Big smiles from Shore and Marina which is just plain cute. Attention now turns to the question that’s been on all our minds since the first episode… are Troy and Atlanta doing it? Yes, it’s no accident that Troy’s romantic endeavours have been a subplot to many episodes, and it falls to Atlanta to explain what they’ve been getting up to. Nevermind that her father and the girl Troy may or may not also fancy are sitting in the same room and this is all being televised, our host wants the gossip. The official line given is that they “have a lot of fun together” and that Troy’s “not the marrying type.” Funnily enough, Alan and Tin-Tin’s relationship is summed up in a similar sort of manner by Gerry & Sylvia Anderson in Thunderbird 6. Steve and Venus’ relationship in Fireball XL5 is also left fairly ambiguous, while Commander Zero and his wife Eleanor are left to demonstrate that married life isn’t exactly peachy all the time. I guess it was the 60’s, and our Supermarionation heroes would be more appealing to viewers as eligible bachelors who aren’t burdened with a traditional family life. After all, look at how Ed Straker’s relationship turned out in UFO. Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself. Atlanta wants to share an example of when a romantic notion of hers got fowled up by the pressures of serving in the WASPs – the holiday she missed due to the events of Subterranean Sea… yeah I’m not surprised she’s bitter about that one.
Stingray – 12. Subterranean Sea
You know how it goes – you book a lovely holiday with your mates full of…Keep reading
A decent amount of the story from Subterranean Sea story is recounted by Atlanta and Troy, probably because it’s a relatively simple episode. Wipe transitions are used to speed up the action and get us to the main thrust of the flashback which is Troy, Phones, and Marina exploring the desert/ocean. The purpose of this episode’s inclusion in Aquanaut of the Year is likely to demonstrate the other exciting ingredient in many Stingray stories which is the exploration of strange and unexplained undersea phenomena, as well as the whole bit about Atlanta getting left out of the holiday. It’s not a bad choice, but I might have preferred to see a story which either focused a little more on the Troy, Atlanta, Marina love triangle such as Treasure Down Below or Plant of Doom, or a story featuring Stingray’s overseas exploits which had heavily featured Atlanta – Loch Ness Monster or In Search of the Tajmanon. I guess Subterranean Sea is a happy medium.
Atlanta jokes, “You see what I mean!” See what? The story you just told specifically about you getting left behind while your mates go on holiday? Well yeah, we all saw it, that’s how a clip show works.
Troy is presented with his absolutely wafer thin This Is Your Life book. Seriously, has Troy achieved so little that it barely fills a pamphlet? But now it’s time for the most important moment of all – the thing that the entire series has really been building up to. Troy reflects on the question of his romance with Atlanta, and declares that the time is right to…
Battle stations and Lt. Fisher appearing on the TV crew’s monitor manage to interrupt Troy’s romantic gesture. Fisher’s short moment looks like it was filmed on the set of the conference room, rather than the control tower as you might expect – which is intriguing when you consider what I’ve mentioned previously about when exactly the destruction of the control tower for Eastern Eclipse might have fitted in the filming schedule. So Troy doesn’t get the chance to say whatever he was about to say. No mushy stuff allowed and his bachelor status is safe. It’s a tease towards a happy ending but it doesn’t happen. It appears that getting married just isn’t particularly cool in Gerry & Sylvia’s version of the future…
Right, let’s get this caption for Ralph Edwards out of the way. It’s a jolly unusual thing to see on a Supermarionation show. There simply wouldn’t have been the time or the space to squeeze Edwards’ credit into the usual end titles sequence, so putting up a special caption during the episode proper was probably the most time and cost effective way of making it happen. Either that or the caption’s prominence was a condition of the Andersons being allowed to use the This Is Your Life format. Or perhaps the Andersons just really wanted to show off the fact they knew an American celebrity.
But what we also have here is probably the most definitive actual ending to any of the Supermarionation series. It’s not much, but so many Supermarionation finales just conclude like any other episode because, after all, who the heck knows what order the series will end up being broadcast in. Endings just aren’t the done thing, regardless of the fact the show also had a future in the pages of TV21 comic. But Shore’s remark of “whether you like it or not, this has got to be the end,” feels like it has an enormous double or even triple meaning. Yes, he’s announcing the end of the This Is Your Life broadcast, and he’s also cleverly announcing the end of this particular episode of Stingray, but with Troy’s declaration of love getting cut short like that I’d be very definitely inclined to consider this final line a reference to the series ending as a whole. Could Gerry & Sylvia be apologising to their audience for a clip show serving as the series’ finale? Probably not, though I’m sure many would love to think so. I think it’s just meant as one last, cheeky sign-off. Nothing big, but just a quick goodbye included for the heck of it. By the time Stingray‘s last few episodes were being written, the Andersons already knew what they were going to be doing next with pre-production on International Rescue (the working title of Thunderbirds) already in its early stages. Stingray was soon to be a thing of the past. After Aquanaut of the Year was in the can with a simple two-day shoot on Tuesday 26th and Wednesday 27th May, 1964, only a few little bits and pieces were left for Alan Pattillo’s team to capture for the series during June before it would all be over – bits and pieces which we’ve discussed previously during reviews of Eastern Eclipse and A Christmas To Remember. It’s easy for modern viewers hooked on serialised dramas to forget that Stingray was just a family show with a commission for 39 episodes. Once those 39 episodes were done, having been screened in any order the broadcaster fancied, they were done. The Andersons certainly wouldn’t have felt much of an obligation to wrap the whole thing up in a satisfying finale. It was just business for the most part – show business, but business none the less.
To the folks who get upset about flashback episodes like Aquanaut of the Year serving as the final installments for so many Anderson shows, I understand your pain but I don’t agree with it. Yes, obviously the practical purpose of re-showing edited down versions of old episodes has been made redundant by home media allowing you to watch old episodes whenever you choose. But Stingray was repeated regularly across the various ITV regions so it was probably fairly redundant back in the 60’s too. The fact of the matter is, the AP Films team just needed a way of hitting their episode count when the punishing schedule had set them back and the budget was running a little low. And when you look at it like that, I’d say Aquanaut of the Year is rather good. The This Is Your Life framework is a little bit bizarre and outdated to today’s audiences, but it’s certainly good fun. Aquanaut of the Year still offers us a little slice of life with Troy’s wild party, and the fact he’s been decorated as the WASPs’ top aquanaut. We get to learn what Troy and Atlanta at least consider to be their most noteworthy adventures, and we even get tantalisingly close to Troy and Atlanta making their relationship official. That’s not a bad record for two cheap and cheerful days of filming on the puppet stages at AP Films.
But now, for your enjoyment…
Security Hazard, in association with the World Aquanaut Security Patrol, is proud to present…
Sorry, it was the best title I could come up with.
Anyway, as the Marineville team take their seats in the auditorium, allow me to introduce our show. For the rest of this article, we’ll be taking a look back at some of our favourite Stingray moments, characters, and more, and handing out awards in a variety of categories.
The worthy nominees and winners have been chosen by the sad twerp who’s been watching Stingray for the past 39 weeks and written far, far, far too much about the show – yes, he’s here tonight, Mr. Security Hazard himself – Jack Knoll! Don’t worry, you get used to the smell.
But, we have added an exciting twist to our awards ceremony, because this is going to be an interactive experience! Ooooo!
I didn’t hear you say “ooooo” at the back.
You see, as the nominees are announced, you, the readers of the Security Hazard blog will have the opportunity to decide if you agree with our selections! Beneath the image of each nominee, you will find an applause button asking you to clap for your chosen winner, adding your appreciation to the total for each nominee. We may find that there are some controversial arguments to be had in certain categories between Jack’s winner and the readership’s combined opinion! Why not try practicing your applause right now with the button below?
Got the hang of it? I knew you could do it! You can clap as much or as little as you your heart desires… it won’t change the result, but at least you’ll feel like you’ve contributed something, which might make you feel more accomplished… or remind you of the pointlessness of existence…
Don’t forget to stay tuned until the end of the article for an announcement about next week’s final, special chapter in the Security Hazard blog’s Stingray chronicles…
Now, without any further ado, let’s jump straight into the first category!
The Best Dressed
Elizabeth Coleman’s wardrobe department at the AP Films studio was responsible for every piece of costume worn by a Stingray puppet, and my word there were some spectacular pieces on display. From uniforms to formal outfits to casual wear to fancy dress costumes, there was no item of clothing that couldn’t be made for a Supermarionation puppet. The nominees are:
And the winner is…
Troy Tempest for his golden Ancient Greek/Roman ensemble from his own dream sequence in the episode, Raptures of the Deep!
Everyone looks fabulous in this episode, but Troy has to take home the prize for the outfit which reveals not only his legs, but also, his true colours.
The Best Recurring Moment
Stingray is famous for sprinkling every episode with a touch of drama and spetacle, and there are some moments which we just have to see again, and again, and again! This award is for those recurring moments that we just can’t get enough of. The nominations are:
And the winner is…
Battle Stations! A staple of the series which saw all the buildings and installations of Marineville descending below ground whenever they were threatened with an attack. A surprisingly useful trick for an organisation that mostly deals with attacks from under the ocean.
The Best Celebrity Guest
It’s not all life and death for Troy and the gang – the WASPs have dabbled with the glitz and glamour of show business on more than one ocassion with mixed results! This award is dedicated to the stars who shone the brightest during their stay at Marineville. The nominees are:
And the winner is…
“The WASPs” Jazz Band from Tune of Danger! A cooler collection of catfish you never did meet. Steigo and the gang are welcomed at WASP bases all over the world for their special brand of smooth jazz and easy-going banter. Be sure to get your tickets for their next show at Pacifica!
Their last manager was a fire-starter, but don’t let that put you off.
The Best Action Scene
Each week, Troy, Phones, and sometimes Marina, face increasingly dangerous situations which test their skills to the limit! These fast-paced action sequences are some of the best-remembered moments from the series, and we can only nominate three of them… it’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it! The nominations are:
And the winner is…
Stormy Seas from the episode, Set Sail For Adventure! Yes, there were many moments to choose between and I’m sure you all have your own favourites, but Admiral Denver’s disastrous voyage in an old-fashioned galleon has to be at the top of our list. The giant waves flood the ship as the rain pours down from the heavens to produce an apocalyptic sequence directed by David Elliott. Fisher, Phones, and Denver are desperately struggling for control of their ship while the elements punish them relentlessly. On the special effects stage, Derek Meddings and the team are close to flooding the studio with all the water splashing and sloshing around. It’s carnage and it’s spectacular to watch.
Anyone need a towel?
The Best Alien Ship
Obviously, Stingray is top of the tree as far as ships are concerned. And, also obviously, the Mechanical Fish from Titan’s fleet is a brilliant piece of design too. But what about all those other guest submarines that stole our hearts? The nominations are:
And the winner is…
The Solarstar Missile Ejector from the episode, The Big Gun! Withstanding the pressure of the depths and crewed by the brave (and pompous) Mauritimus of Solarstar, this little sub packs a big punch. The missile ejector was capable of destroying entire landmasses with a single blast… until Stingray blew it up… twice…
I still think it looks like a thingy though…
The Best Comedy Scene
Stingray isn’t just a show about keeping tyrannical underwater aliens in their place – it’s also full of warmth and charm and good humour. These are some of the moments which gave us the most laughs over the course of the series. The nominations are:
And the winner is…
El Hudat and Ali Khali’s fight from Eastern Eclipse! If I could have nominated an entire episode for this category, it probably would have been Eastern Eclipse. From Ali Khali crashing into the control tower to X20 whacking people over the head with a club, this is a story full of hilarious comedy moments. However, they all culminate in the twin rulers of Hudatvia taking to the water for a final battle which ends with no winners except for the audience laughing along at home.
I will never claim to have a sophisticated sense of humour.
The Best Supporting Character
Some Stingray characters are destined for greatness, while others choose to stay out of the limelight and get on with the job without too much fuss. Well, actually they do make a lot of fuss but we just don’t see them very often because either the writers ran out of things for them to do, or they’d hi-jack the whole show given the opportunity. The nominees are:
And the winner is…
Admiral Jack Denver as seen in Loch Ness Monster and Set Sail For Adventure – with an additional cameo appearance in The Cool Cave Man! Rude, self-important, and thick as a brick, the admiral uses his friendly rivalry with Commander Shore as an excuse to spend tax payer money on ludicrous adventures for the Stingray crew to endure. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.
I would invite Admiral Denver up on stage to say a few words, but I don’t want to accidentally sign myself up for an expedition to find the lost city of Atlantis.
The Best Guest Villain
One of the secrets to Stingray‘s success is its constantly rotating roster of underwater alien ne’er-do-wells who share a mission to obliterate Marineville, capture Stingray, and/or kill Troy Tempest. They might torture Phones and Marina too if you’re lucky. Why do they always come in pairs? Because it makes failing miserably at an evil scheme twice the fun. Here are the nominees:
And the winner is…
Grupa and Noctus from the episodes A Nut From Marineville and Trapped In The Depths! They were up against some stiff competition, but this pairing just have something special about them. Maybe it’s their widely set eyes, or the fins sticking out of their faces, or their receding bright green hairlines, but whatever it is, these guys like to think big. Their first plan to blow up Marineville from the comfort of their indestructible submarine may have suffered from some poor time management, but with the help of Professor Korda the second time around they successfully stole Stingray! They’re also the only undersea criminals to get clapped in irons for a spell in the Marineville Jail, and then come out the next week still fighting fit. Wonderful chaps, both of them.
Tall, silver cousins of the Oompa Loompas, perhaps?
The Baddie of the Year
Right folks, things are starting to get serious. We’ve had our fun with the joke categories, and the guest categories, and the categories which will probably be trimmed out of the broadcast version of this so we can maximise on advertising time, but now we’re on to the big ones. Some bad guys are more dedicated to the cause of wiping out all terrainean life than others. They come back, week after week, with a new plan to bring down the land-hugging brutes. I guess technically the winners of the last category should fit into this one but shuuuush… The nominees are:
And the winner is…
Surface Agent X20! X20’s commitment to the cause is pushed to the limits by the pressures of the job. Sure, Titan’s the guy in charge, but X20 is the one getting his hands dirty, dreaming up plans of the utmost nastiness, and being thwarted by the WASPs every single time. X20’s hobbies include classical music and dressing up as old men. He has a room that spins around in a creepy old house on an island. Disregarding his many, many failings for a moment, consider some of X20’s greatest victories. He kidnapped a famous pop star from under the WASPs’ noses in Titan Goes Pop. He smuggled himself into the heart of Marineville itself in Rescue From The Skies. He reduced an oil consist to a blazing inferno on Stingray’s watch during An Echo of Danger. X20 may be a comedy sidekick, but he’s also a capable villain in his own right. Robert Easton’s vocal performance has you hanging on his every snivelling word, and the Claude Rains-inspired face sculpted by Christine Glanville is a glorious caricature which perfectly crosses evil with wretched. In my books, X20 is quite possibly the best Supermarionation character of all time.
The man of a thousand very similar faces that the WASPs repeatedly fail to recognise.
The Other Aquanaut of the Year
Sure, we all know that Troy has been handed that so-called “Aquanaut of the Year” award. And sure, I guess he’s done some pretty brave and memorable deeds during his career dedicated to protecting humanity from underwater threats. But I would argue that Captain Troy Tempest would be nothing without his support network of friends and colleagues who work alongside him at Marineville to defend the land masses from Titan and his evil-doers. So, let’s dedicate our final award to the member of the World Aquanaut Security Patrol who should stand alongside Troy to receive some recognition for their valiant service over the course of the series. The nominees are:
And the winner is…
Good old Phones – Stingray’s hydrophone operator and Troy’s backup in just about every scrape they face together. He’s loyal, good-humoured, sharp, humble and heroic. Phones enjoys a simple, easy-going life away from Stingray and nobody has a bad word to say against him. Any time he faces a tough challenge, he trusts his friends and colleagues to pull him through. He respects authority and can always be relied upon in a crisis.
That isn’t to say that a lot of the other nominees don’t have some of those qualities. But I also wanted the winner of this award to reflect the hard work that went into developing the characters of Stingray, which I would consider the show’s finest achievement. Over the course of the series, viewers are truly invited in to the lives of these characters to observe the complexities of their relationships, loyalties, and personal challenges. When done right, the nuances of the characters become what drives the plot of each episode forward in a way that just feels proper.
The key to that is consistency, and Phones is the most consistent character out of the regular cast. At the end of the day, Fisher joined the game too late to make a big impression and, Marina was tragically faded out of the series when the writers shifted their attention elsewhere. The Shores were trickier to eliminate from this decision, since both grow a great deal as characters as the series evolves. They don’t have a lot to offer in the earliest installments because of how isolated they are in the control tower while Stingray is out on adventures. But then episodes like The Ghost of the Sea and Loch Ness Monster started to bring them into the fold, and suddenly all this depth emerged in Commander Shore and Atlanta which was built upon more and more as the show went on.
But Phones came ready-made from the word go. From the moment we catch sight of that cheeky Southern fella snoozing in the Standby Lounge during the pilot episode, we know we’re going to like this guy. But we also quickly find out that he isn’t just the comedy sidekick, but a capable hydrophone operator with an important role to play aboard Stingray. He also proves to be a loyal friend and colleague to Troy, Marina, and basically everyone else at Marineville. And every choice he makes for the rest of the series is built upon that foundation. Even when he makes bad choices like purchasing the treasure map in Treasure Down Below, or buying into X20’s trickery in An Echo of Danger, Phones comes out of those situations having learned something and his position is ultimately strengthened as a result. That’s the key to good storytelling and good characterisation in a nutshell.
Overall, he’s just a really nice guy.
And that my friends, was The WASPies. Hope you enjoyed the show! I thought about giving out an award to the best episode but I’ll be damned if I can figure that one out. Reviewing every Stingray episode over the past 8+ months has taught me that, just like Phones’ characterisation, the overall quality of the series is incredibly consistent. Even the episodes which I shot down for their plot holes are still really strong in other areas such as characterisation or production design or a miriad of other factors. What’s more, the series stays fresh by mixing up the format aplenty while retaining the key ingredients that still make it Stingray. The characters are strong enough that they can guide us through some pretty surreal storylines, and we still get totally invested in the drama of it all. It amazes me that Stingray was able to confidently bring us (in no particular order) a Hollywood satire, a PTSD-triggered ghost story, a trek down the Nile, a global climate crisis, a love triangle, a swashbuckling sailing adventure, a hospital drama, a mental health inquiry, a Christmas special, and two fat blokes jumping in the ocean to slap each other silly. And they were all so, so good because they were led by characters we adored, and were produced by a film studio heading towards the top of its game with no signs of stopping.
The answer to the question about my favourite Anderson series essentially flickers back and forth between Thunderbirds and Stingray constantly. I’m drawn towards Thunderbirds because of how entwined it became with my childhood and with popular culture in general. I’m drawn towards Stingray because of its sharp writing and consistent production values. Essentially, I think it boils down to my heart loving Thunderbirds and my mind loving Stingray. Now that I’ve reviewed both series in such depth, I can see the messiness of Thunderbirds so clearly – all the excess flab of the run-time extension and the chaotic production schedule – it shows up really vividly to me when I watch it. I love that mess because, in a way, it’s a puzzle to solve. There’s stuff in there that shouldn’t work, but it does and that’s intriguing to us all at a high level. By comparison, Stingray is so neat and tidy in the way it toes the line between sticking to the format and daring to try something a bit different each week. It’s blindingly obvious why Stingray works, and that might be why it isn’t talked about so much. There’s no mystery to solve, and no secret to its magic. Stingray just has everything it needs to succeed from beginning to end and never drops the ball. Stingray is the AP Films team setting themselves ambitious goals across all departments and achieving them in a structured, well-oiled, collaborative environment. And they did it all in glorious colour.
Next week, Security Hazard presents Stingray: Tales From Marineville. We might have watched all 39 episodes of the television series together, but we’re not quite done yet. The Reunion Party. Into Action With Troy Tempest. A Trip To Marineville. Marina Speaks. The Incredible Voyage of Stingray. Invaders From The Deep. We’re covering all of them in a special review unlike anything that’s gone before. Well, someone’s probably reviewed something similiar in the same kind of way before… but not on the Security Hazard blog! Be sure to tune in at the same time next week for all that goodness!
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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.
Big Red Book by Tony Lee.
2 thoughts on “Stingray – 39. Aquanaut of the Year”
A clip show usually became the trend from here to conclude the Supermarionation series. Aquanaut of the Year is probably considered the best one as it’s a more fitting ending than what the other shows got.
I don’t honestly mind this episode as clip show, it is a bit tongue in cheek and also some nice breaking of the fourth wall towards the end and I love the mini albums! So they will be great to review. 😀