Stingray – 16. Raptures of the Deep

Dream sequences are a staple of Supermarionation storytelling. They allow us to see adventures which couldn’t possibly take place in the reality of the series, and to gain a deeper and more visual insight into a character’s ambitions, desires, or anxieties than would normally be exposed in regular dialogue or action. Take a look at the episodes like Flight of Fancy from Supercar, or A Day In The Life Of A Space General from Fireball XL5, or even Alan’s bizarre encounter with Cliff Richard Jr. from Thunderbirds Are Go, and you’ll find that similar dreamy or nightmarish elements and tropes can also be found right here, in Raptures of the Deep. Perhaps what makes so many of the heroes of Supermarionation such interesting characters is the fact we get these extraordinary glimpses into how their mind’s work. And believe me, Troy Tempest’s oxygen-starved subconscious doesn’t disappoint…

Stingray – 15. Secret of the Giant Oyster

Over the course of these reviews, I have often been able to conduct research into the real life industrial, scientific, and cultural phenomena which influenced a great number of Stingray episodes. It’s been a lot of fun and incredibly interesting to research the history of things like weather ships and oil platforms and even our friend the Loch Ness Monster. So this week I did my homework on the topic of choice: oysters and pearls. I was rubbish at Biology at school so was hoping to redeem myself by seving up some hard hitting facts which demonstrated the science behind these fascinating specimens. I hope you will therefore appreciate how disappointed I was when I discovered that this episode is full of absolute nonsense on the subject. Now I’m not saying that makes the episode less enjoyable. In fact, it’s rather entertaining. But I’m just going to put it out there right now that it’s rather entertaining nonsense. So suspend your disbelief for a while as we uncover the secrets of Secret of the Giant Oyster.

Stingray – 14. The Invaders

I’ve always liked The Invaders in the past. I think the sheer ambition of the aliens’ plot and their successful attempt to capture Marineville (briefly) really fired up my imagination as a youngster. But, after the absolute cavalcade of excellence that the last few episodes have brought us, I found myself feeling a little underwhelmed when I watched The Invaders this time around. Maybe my enjoyment of this episode can be recovered, or maybe we can drill down deeper into why it didn’t quite float my boat today. Join me, won’t you?

Stingray – 13. Loch Ness Monster

“Find the Loch Ness Monster? What a crazy mission!” Troy pretty much sums up the entire premise of this episode in that one line, and how I wish I’d been a fly on the wall when that idea was originally pitched in the production office. It’s certainly one of the more “out there” concepts for the series so far but, like so many of the Stingray episodes we’ve explored, it was inspired by real-life areas of interest in the 1960s. There is a lot of history to cover when it comes to the legend of “Nessie”, but for the purposes of this review, all you really need to know is that sightings and excitement around the phenomena kicked off in the 1930s and culminated in the formation of the Loch Ness Phenomena Investigation Bureau in 1962, right around the time Stingray entered production. It’s all just the kind of thing an imaginative writer like Dennis Spooner could weave into a story and play for comedy, while trying to provide some kind of a satisfying explanation for the mystery…

Stingray – 12. Subterranean Sea

You know how it goes – you book a lovely holiday with your mates full of sun, sea, and surf, only for your boss to cancel it and send you on a mission to the centre of the Earth. Oh, what’s that? You’re not familiar with that issue? Well, this is Stingray, so you’d better get used to that sort of thing happening. Subterranean Sea is one of those points in the series when the production team have just had to throw up their hands and declare, “Who cares if it makes sense? Let’s just have fun with it and hopefully the people watching at home enjoy it too.” And, d’you know what? That sounds like just the right attitude to me.

Stingray – 11. Emergency Marineville

Emergency Marineville was chosen as the second episode of Stingray to be broadcast. The episode also formed part of the Aquanaut of the Year clip show at the end of the series, and the linking material which later became The Reunion Party broadcast in 2008. It was weaved into the compilation film Invaders From The Deep released in 1981. It was also among the first episodes to receive a home media release of sorts in the 1960s with a silent 8mm home movie reel from Walton Films. Clearly, from the very beginning, Emergency Marineville was considered something special and it’s been wheeled out time and again to be the flagship of the entire series. So, what makes it so darn popular? Well let’s get on with it and try to figure that out…

Stingray – 10. The Ghost of the Sea

The Ghost of the Sea offers us that rarest of opportunities in a Supermarionation series – the chance to learn just a smidge about a character’s back story and their life before the events of the show began. Now that isn’t to say character development is lacking from the Supermarionation shows, in fact quite the opposite is true. We learn a heck of a lot about our heroes from the ways they interact with each other and respond to crisis after crisis. But the biographical history of characters is a subject rarely touched upon outside of a few throwaway lines of dialogue here and there… until now that is…

Stingray – 9. Count Down

“Count Down” could be the secret service codeword for the Count from Sesame Street’s assassination. What? Oh yeah, Stingray. No, hang on a minute. Why is this episode called Count Down… surely it should be ‘Countdown’, as in the noun, referring to the countdown on the bomb at the end? To “count down” as two separate words suggests an instruction to somone just standing there reading off numbers as they descend. That would be much less exciting. Bloomin’ grammar. Anyway. What day is it? Half past two. Sorry the pills are still kicking in. Time for Stingray.

Stingray – 8. The Ghost Ship

This episode has a very special place in my heart for the very simple reason that it was, most likely, my first. Since before I was born, my family owned Volumes 4 and 5 of Stingray on Channel 5 VHS tapes for many years, before I then took on the job of tracking down the rest. So The Ghost Ship is the first in a batch of episodes from early-to-midway through the series which I watched an awful lot growing up, and would consider to be the golden era of Stingray. It’s certainly the period I have the strongest nostalgia for. But for this viewing I tried to remove my rose-tinted glasses and just appreciate The Ghost Ship on its own merits. I mean, it’s still a fantastic episode, rose-tinted or otherwise, but I just want you to know I tried really hard not to be swayed…

Stingray – 7. The Golden Sea

On paper, The Golden Sea has quite a lot going for it. After a short absence in prior episodes, we now have the return of Titan, X20, and Teufel, our principal baddies for the series. Plus, they’re joined by another geezer with a powerful new weapon to play with. It’s also the only time ever that we get to see one of Stingray’s Aqua Sprites in action, as well as Titan’s own personal craft. So this should feel like a fairly significant episode, right? Not just a bit of filler or a missed opportunity? Well, let’s see if we can draw some conclusions one way or the other over the course of this long-winded commentary…